End of a Brief Affair? The United States and Iran

Policy Brief 14
Daniel Brumberg

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Summary

After the September 11 attacks, relations between the United States and Iran looked more and more hopeful. The two countries' common goal of eliminating Afghanistan's Taliban seemed to be an opportunity to build on progress seen since the election of Iranian reformists. However, President Bush's inclusion of Iran in an "axis of evil" now calls into question the likelihood of a true rapprochement. Moreover, Iranian hard-liners' growing opposition to any reconciliation with Washington, ongoing development of nuclear technology, meddling in post-Taliban Afghanistan, and relentless support for Palestinian terrorists all are stumbling blocks to improved relations. Some security issues call for the threat of sticks, but the United States must also seek to engage Iran by offering it carrots-cooperation in Afghanistan and an end to economic sanctions, in return for a commitment by Iran's leaders to cease support for terrorism and back a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Danial Brumberg is associate professor of government at Georgetown University and a visiting scholar with the Democracy and Rule of Law Project at the Carnegie Endowment. Mr. Brumberg is the author of many publications on political and social change in the Middle East, including Reinventing Khomeini: The Struggle for Reform in Iran (University of Chicago Press, 2001).

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