In the Arena

Is Iran Coming Around?

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The BBC–hat tip Laura Rozen–is reporting that the Iranians have agreed to resume negotiations about their nuclear program next month. This follows the Iranian appearance, and expressed desire to cooperate, at a meeting of Afghanistan’s neighbors in Rome last week (indeed, the Iranians–who played a positive role in the contact group effort to stabilize Afghanistan in 2001–apparently are very serious about the stablization of Afghanistan’s porous western border, through which heroin is flowing in great quantities).

The Obama response to these initiatives has been tough-minded and correct: Along with the other members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany, the Administration is preparing a more demanding nuclear fuel swap proposal–to reflect the past year’s uranium enrichment in Iran. The Administration has also let the Iranians know that while it welcomes the cooperation on Afghanistan, that will have no effect on the non-proliferation talks or the lifting of the economic sanctions.

As always, the Iranians may be stalling for time. But this time the world has made clear that the mere willingness to talk is insufficient. The Iranians will have to take meaningful action in the nuclear sphere before any reciprocal gestures are made by the United States and our allies.