July 22, 2008

Patience is a virtue

This past Saturday, Ambassador William Burns traveled to Geneva, Switzerland to meet with one of Iran’s top nuclear negotiators, Saeed Jalili. This meeting was the first since 1979 between a top US diplomat and an Iranian representative. So evidently, this was a tremendous breakthrough in US-Iran relations – a relationship that has been almost non-existent under the current Bush Administration. However, even with this great first step, people still appear to be disappointed. The Washington Post, the New York Times, and many other news sources reported that the Americans were not completely pleased with their meeting.

The Washington Post wrote on Saturday July 20th: “European officials said they were disappointed by the Iranian response. ‘Jalili did not respond directly to Burns’s presentation, but simply responded with generalities,’ one official said.”

My opinion about this is simple: negotiations take time, and it will not happen in one meeting. Yet, I do believe that this meeting exemplifies what US-Iran relations can look like in the future – without military threats or unilateral sanctions – just talking. However, for this to happen, patience is needed from both countries. Jalili left the meeting in Geneva optimistic about future US- Iran relations, but the US and European officials were not as pleased. To have honest and serious negotiations lead to an actual solution, it is essential for the United States and the European countries to be patient. If not, Western participation in diplomatic negotiations will not be seen as credible in the eyes of the Iranians and the rest of the world.

Negotiating a critical issue such as Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, which has been highly criticized by various countries around the world, is a sensitive and delicate matter. The United States and Iran are not going to reach a common understanding in a single meeting, instead we should realize that this is a process and it will require long-term relationship before results are reached.

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