US-Iranian Diplomacy Almost Worked. Let’s Try It Again

Daniel DePetris

Defense One

January 6, 2020


Direct talks may be too much to ask for at this stage, but tension-reduction measures promoted by third parties are still very plausible.


It seems hard to believe, but the United States and Iran were recently on the verge of a diplomatic breakthrough. Powered by the mediation of French President Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of last year’s U.N. General Assembly, Presidents Donald Trump and Hassan Rouhani were reportedly a phone call away from signing a plan to prevent further escalation. In exchange for the suspension of U.S. sanctions, Iran would reenter the 2015 nuclear deal in full, stop provocations in the Persian Gulf, and agree to discuss a more comprehensive regional security accord.


However, the French proposal collapsed at the last minute. The dynamics between Washington and Tehran have only gotten more heated in the months since, with the continuation of the U.S. maximum pressure campaign clashing with Iran’s strategy of maximum resistance. U.S.-Iran relations were deteriorating months before a U.S. drone strike killed Qassem Soleimani, the powerful commander of Iran’s Quds Force. Today, Tehran is pledging retaliation, the U.S. embassies in Baghdad and Riyadh are warning Americans of a heightened risk of Iran-directed violence, and Tehran formally announced that it no longer feels compelled to abide by any technical limits in the nuclear deal, the situation is on the precipice.


In the aftermath of Soleimani’s death, a question neglected by the commentariat is whether striking him helps or hurts the negotiations President Trump has claimed to want.


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Bugs Marlowe

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