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How to Engage Iran

What Went Wrong Last Time — And How to Fix It


Members of the Iranian air force re-enact Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's arrival to Iran in 1979. (Courtesy Reuters)

Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, two major schools of thought have influenced Iran's foreign policy toward the United States. The first maintains that Iran and the United States can reach a compromise based on mutual respect, noninterference in domestic affairs, and the advancement of shared interests. Those who hold this view acknowledge the animosity and historical grievances between the two countries but argue that it is possible to normalize their relations. The second school is more pessimistic. It deeply distrusts the United States and believes that Washington is neither ready nor committed to solving the disputes between the two countries.

Having worked within the Iranian government for nearly 30 years, and having sat on the secretariat of Iran's Supreme National Security Council for much of the decade before 2005, I was involved in discussions about both of

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