Reaching Out to Iran Has Helped the U.S.

Critics say that the Obama administration's recent outreach to Iran is a waste of time, but it has in fact created an international consensus for coercive action, write Brian Katulis and Samuel Charap.

Critics argue that the recent International Atomic Energy Agency report proves that the Obama administration’s policy of engagement has been a waste of time, allowing Iran to make progress toward a bomb without feeling the pain of tougher sanctions. But this myopic view ignores the fact that engagement has created an unprecedented international consensus on the need for coercive action.

By offering an outstretched hand directly to Tehran, the Obama administration clearly exposed the Iranian regime’s erratic behavior to the rest of the world and legitimized its eventual move to pursue punitive measures. President Barack Obama’s direct outreach to the Iranian people in a series of speeches and media appearances sent the message the United States wants to move beyond what in his Cairo speech he called the "tumultuous history" between the two countries. Concrete offers to support a civilian nuclear program, such as the proposal earlier this month to help Iran purchase medical isotopes on the international market, deprived Iran of excuses for its behavior. These steps also garnered additional support for U.S. leadership on Iran from other countries.

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 (Brian Katulis)

Brian Katulis

Former Senior Fellow