WASHINGTON – Iran and the United States are making plenty of friendly gestures, but real progress is going to be harder. A notable first meeting between the two nations’ presidents suddenly seems possible, but without nuclear concessions the U.S. is unlikely to give Tehran what it wants: an easing of punishing sanctions that have resulted in soaring inflation and unemployment.
President Barack Obama and Iran’s new president, Hasan Rouhani, both will be in New York next week for the U.N. General Assembly. And a recent flurry of goodwill gestures has raised the prospect that they will meet face to face.
As part of the effort to cast a promising outlook on Iranian diplomacy, Rouhani touted his commitment to “constructive engagement” in a column published Friday in the Washington Post. He wrote that nations spend a lot of time, perhaps too much, discussing what they don’t want rather than what they do want.
The U.S. and other world powers are seeking reductions in Iran’s uranium enrichment, real-time monitoring of its nuclear facilities and scaled-back production at its underground Fordo facility. Not likely, Iran experts say. At least not yet.
White House officials said Friday that no meetings between Obama and Rouhani are scheduled, but they left open the prospect of a direct exchange.
“We’re always open to diplomacy if we believe it will advance our objectives,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser.