Saeed Jalili, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, in 2010. (Valentin Flauraud / courtesy Reuters)

As U.S. and Iranian officials prepare to face off in Istanbul this weekend to negotiate the future of Iran's nuclear program, stakes are high and expectations are low. The meetings will mark the first direct talks on Iran's nuclear program in nearly 15 months. The hiatus has been anything but quiet. Since the two sides last met in Istanbul in January 2011, the Arab Spring has thrown the region into upheaval, international sanctions have choked Tehran's finances, and Israel has led the charge for military attacks on Iranian nuclear sites.

Come Monday, there will be no durable resolution to the controversy, uncertainty, and concern surrounding Iran's nuclear program. Even so, Washington and Tehran might not emerge from the weekend empty-handed but with modest confidence-building measures demonstrating that there is still room -- and time -- for debate. 

In the run-up

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  • SUZANNE MALONEY is a Senior Fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.
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