One year ago, President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani came close to ending the decades-long freeze on face-to-face meetings between their countries’ leaders.
Next week both men are scheduled to again be in New York for United Nations meetings but expectations for even a handshake are more muted than they were last fall. While lower level officials from both countries are now in regular contact, deadlocked nuclear talks — as well as the complexities of the fight against terrorists in the Middle East — are clouding the prospects for an elusive leaders’ meeting.
“The state of play between the United States and Iran is too fragile to endure what would be the shock of a direct meeting,” said Robin Wright, a joint fellow at the Wilson Center and the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington.
An in-person meeting between the two leaders would mark a substantive shift in the way the U.S. has dealt with Iran for decades and could eventually open the door for talks on matters beyond Tehran’s disputed nuclear program. It would also mark the fulfillment of a pledge Obama made as a presidential candidate when he said he would be willing to talk to America’s adversaries without pre-conditions.
Obama and Rouhani will both arrive in New York early next week for meetings with world leaders and speeches to the U.N.
A series of secret talks between officials in both countries also paved the way for nuclear negotiations with the international community. The parties reached an interim agreement late last year,
But the talks have stalled over intense disagreements between Iran and the negotiating coalition.