Obama Faces Long Odds on Iran Diplomacy

The president is trying to reach out to Iran, but it's hard to figure out what the regime really wants.

By + More

But Obama may not be the only reason Iranian leaders are considering some gestures of their own. The plunge in oil prices has hit hard; 80 percent of Iran's foreign income comes from oil. Sanctions and pressure from the West have shrunk new investments in energy and spurred capital flight. With Ahmadinejad blamed for high unemployment and inflation and facing a tough re-election contest in June, he may be looking for a diplomatic victory.

Still, it is a near certainty that Obama will need more than a little perseverance on the Iranian nuclear talks. Whether it is the Saberi case, vitriol from parts of Tehran's sparring elite, or future Iranian moves, disputes apart from the nuclear challenge will almost certainly be intruding. To stay on track, says Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, Obama will have to decide that "a rapprochement is a key U.S. objective that cannot be allowed to be derailed."

  • Read Obama's Strategy for Reaching Out to Iran.
  • Read Why the Obama Administration is So Worried About Pakistan.