While extremists in Congress were hijacking the government during the shutdown, State Department diplomats were pursuing much more productive work a world away in Geneva. With surprisingly little fanfare, American and Iranian negotiators launched long-awaited talks over Iran’s increasingly advanced nuclear program. They described their first meeting as “substantive and forward-looking.” In diplo-speak, that means they had a surprisingly good start.
President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry rightly view Iran’s nuclear challenge as America’s top international priority for the year ahead. If they can reach an agreement leaving Iran well short of a nuclear weapon, it will be a major achievement. To succeed, they will need to keep two opposing strategies in balance.