In the face of Iran’s refusal to comply with its international nuclear obligations, President Barack Obama has been pursuing a two-track policy: offering to engage with Iran’s leaders to solve the nuclear issue diplomatically; and, in the absence of compliance or progress on engagement, exerting pressure on the Iranian regime through sanctions to persuade it to engage with the international community and address concerns regarding its nuclear program.
U.N. Security Council sanctions imposed on Iran and national sanctions adopted by the United States and countries around the world have, by all accounts, taken a toll on the Iranian economy.
In February, after months of silence, Iran responded to an offer for talks that had been extended in October by Catherine Ashton, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, on behalf of the P5 + 1 countries –- Britain, China, France, the United States, and Russia, plus Germany –- who have negotiated in the past with Iran about its disputed nuclear activities.
The P5 + 1 group has now formally agreed to accept Iran’s offer to resume talks.
In a statement, Catherine Ashton said, “Our overall goal remains a comprehensive, negotiated, long-term solution which restores international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program, while respecting Iran’s right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.”
At a news conference in Washington, President Obama noted how Iran’s leaders have now signaled a willingness to return to the negotiating table. “We’ve got the opportunity,” he said, “to see how it plays out”:
“We are going to continue to apply the pressure, even as we provide a door for the Iranian regime to walk through where they could rejoin the community of nations by giving assurances to the international community that they’re meeting their obligations and they are not pursuing a nuclear weapon.”
President Obama emphasized that he remains committed to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
“It is my belief,” he said, “that we have a window of opportunity where this can still be resolved diplomatically.”