Brief Thoughts on the Istanbul Talks

While the bar was deliberately set low, the talks with Iran in Istanbul went as well as they could: Both side engaged sincerely, both agreed to a second meeting within five weeks, and both agreed on a framework for continued talks -- the non-proliferation treaty with all its rights and obligations.

If the progress continues, all sides will credit their policies to this point -- the U.S. will credit its sanctions, Israel its threats and Iran its nuclear advancements. None will credit their concessions. But the reality is that progress was made in Istanbul precisely because of mutual concessions -- the Iranians engaged on the nuclear issue without preconditions and agreed to a process to curb their enrichment, and the West in essence accepted that limited enrichment will continue on Iranian soil, under strict inspections.

The real challenge will come in the ensuing rounds of talks, where these principles of engagement will have to translate into concrete steps. It is at that point that we will see if the two sides are ready to pay the domestic political cost of compromise. This applies to the West as well, whose ability to lift sanctions will be as instrumental for keeping diplomacy alive as Iran's willingness to curb its enrichment activities above five percent.

As the talks continue, it is important to expand the agenda to go beyond just the nuclear issue. While the nuclear issue is viewed as the most pressing issue in the West, it is not the only issue of concern. The mistake of turning progress on the nuclear issue into a precondition for talks on other pressing matters should not be repeated. Regardless of the immediate results on the nuclear issue, the agenda should be expanded to include both regional security as well as the dire human rights situation in Iran.

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