A few days ago, a top UN official announced a new round of talks with Iran over access to restricted nuclear sites.
The talks are the latest in a diplomatic effort to engage Iran over its nuclear program, reflecting recent optimism that a negotiated solution is possible. Only a few weeks ago Catherine Ashton, the lead negotiator for the P5+1 talks in Baghdad, confidently expressed her desire to secure “the beginning of the end” of the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program. Both parties left Baghdad empty handed, though faith in a diplomatic way forward remained, as both parties agreed to meet again in Moscow on June 18th.
While misguided, this latest bout of optimism over diplomatic engagement with Iran—nowhere to be found only a few months ago—is not entirely unwarranted. The latest round of comprehensive sanctions from the U.S. and Europe has had crippling effects. Crude oil exports—Tehran’s lifeline— were down as much as 1 million barrels a day in April. The IEA (International Energy Agency) expects that sanctions, once in full force, will curb Iran’s oil exports by 50 percent. A frenzy of panic, moreover, has thrown the Iranian currency into a free fall. In just six weeks, the Iranian rial lost half its value.