Rouhani on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, September 2018
Brendan Mcdermid / Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump has lost faith that his campaign of “maximum pressure” against Iran will bring that country to its knees. Trump’s firing last week of John Bolton, the latest of the administration’s national security advisers, signaled as much. And the recent attacks on Saudi oil sites suggest that Bolton’s approach, which was supposed to bring about Iranian capitulation, may instead have begotten Iranian counterescalation and a short brush with war.

By firing Bolton, Trump has telegraphed a possible willingness to ease his Iran sanctions, in order to secure at least one foreign policy success before his reelection campaign kicks into full gear. But the success of any U.S. outreach will depend on how it is received in Tehran, where an intense debate has raged for several months over whether to engage Trump directly or not. 

Thus far, Tehran has resisted negotiations so long

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