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An Important Opportunity to Support US-Iran Talks
Submitted by Megan Iorio on 11 July 2013 - 10:56am
The recent Iranian presidential election marks an important opportunity to promote US-Iran talks. Hassan Rouhani was selected in a decisive first-round vote. Rouhani ran on a platform of engaging with the world and has promised to “pursue a policy of reconciliation and peace,” saying that both the US and Iran “need to think more about the future and try to sit down and find solutions to past issues and rectify things.”  
A bipartisan group of representatives led by Republican Charles Dent and Democrat David Price are seizing this opportunity by gathering signatures on a letter urging President Obama to reinvigorate US efforts to engage in diplomacy with Iran. Tell your Representative to sign on today.
Some in the media and Congress have been saying that Rouhani's election doesn't mean anything and that it shouldn't affect US engagement with Iran. While it remains to be seen whether Rouhani will be a boon to US-Iran relations, there are reasons to be optimistic. For one, President Ahmadinejad's rhetoric was often used as an excuse for US disengagement, so a change of guard deflates many anti-diplomacy arguments. And although the highest authority in Iran remains Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Rouhani's landslide victory over his "hardline" rivals-he garnered 51% of the electorate, compared to 17% for the runner-up, in one of the highest voter turnouts in an Iranian presidential election-is being seen by many as a mandate for a more moderate government perspective, both at home and abroad.  Ignoring the pro-diplomacy results of the election would undercut those in Iran who want a diplomatic solution and embolden those who want confrontation.
There's also Rouhani's diplomatic experience: he was Iran's lead nuclear negotiator from 2003-5 when the country made progress in talks with the EU-3, temporarily suspended uranium enrichment, and voluntarily implemented the Additional Protocol.  His platform of engagement, his proclaimed willingness to "show more transparency" on the nuclear front, and his open opposition to a nuclear-armed Iran provide the West with an opening that should be tested.  
Of course, there are those in Congress who would squander this opportunity, to continue to ramp-up sanctions and ignore diplomacy.  But as the Dent-Price letter recognizes, there needs to be a realistic expectation that sanctions can be lifted in negotiations. If sanctions are not designed with the potential to be waived at some point in the future, and if the US is not willing to engage in diplomacy at such an integral moment, sanctions lose whatever utility they are purported to have.
It is rare that we have the opportunity to support a bipartisan initiative in Congress promoting diplomacy with Iran, so let's get as many signatures on this letter as we can. Write to your Representative today and tell them to sign the Dent-Price letter calling for the US to reinvigorate efforts to engage Iran.
Thank you for all you do to help bring about a more just foreign policy,
Megan Iorio, Chelsea Mozen, Sarah Burns and Robert Naiman
Just Foreign Policy
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1. “Reformist Rowhani surprises with Iran election win,” Victor Kotsev and Jabeen Bhatti, USA TODAY, June 16, 2013, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/06/15/iran-election-hasan-...
2. “Rouhani: Iran could open talks with U.S. if it quits bullying, respects nuclear rights,” Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN, June 17, 2013, http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/17/world/meast/iran-rouhani-news-conference
3. You can read the letter here: http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/node/1431
4. "Iran's new president hails 'victory of moderation,'” Zahra Hosseinian, Reuters, June 15, 2013, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/15/us-iran-election-idUSBRE95C1E1...
5. “Rouhani May Offer Way Out Of Nuclear Tensions With Iran,” Paolo Cotta-Ramusino and Saideh Lotfian, Al-Monitor, June 30, 2013, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/06/iran-hassan-rouhani-wa...
6. “President-elect Rohani says Iran ready to show more nuclear transparency,” Reuters, June 17, 2013, http://news.yahoo.com/president-elect-rohani-says-iran-ready-show-more-1...
7. “Rouhani's Opposition to the Bomb: The Iranian President-elect's 2006 Letter to TIME,” Ishaan Tharoor, TIME, June 17, 2013, http://world.time.com/2013/06/17/rowhanis-opposition-to-the-bomb-the-ira...
8. See, e.g., HR 850, http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d113:h.r.850: and "Royce, Engel, Committee Members Urge President to Increase Pressure on Iran," Jul 1, 2013, http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/press-release/royce-engel-committee-memb...