Gary Sick

Iran Cooties: Will Obama Meet with Rouhani Tuesday?

In international diplomacy, gestures matter. This is particularly true for efforts to promote real diplomacy between the United States and Iran.

For three decades, the United States has mostly pursued an "Iran cooties" policy. We can't meet with Iranian leaders, because someone might interpret that to mean that we think that the Iranian government is "legitimate." OMG! We might get Iran cooties!

It sounds ridiculous, and it is. And it has a real cost in human lives. Because of the "Iran cooties" policy, it's harder to use diplomacy to help end wars in the Middle East, like the Syrian civil war, or the war in Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, President Obama has a historic opportunity to end the "Iran cooties" policy. Iran's newly-elected, pragmatic, pro-diplomacy President Hassan Rouhani is going to be addressing the United Nations General Assembly. So is U.S. President Barack Obama.