Many in Washington, Tehran, and elsewhere are deeply skeptical about the latest stab at Iranian-American dialogue, but Ryan Crocker thinks there's reason for optimism. "Although most Americans may be unaware of it, talks with Iran have succeeded in the past—and they can succeed again," the ex-ambassador writes in the New York Times today. In the aftermath of 9/11, Crocker sat down with the Iranians to discuss ways they could combat common foes like al-Qaeda and the Taliban. He found them "constructive, pragmatic, and focused."
"They even produced an extremely valuable map showing the Taliban's order of battle" before the US invasion of Afghanistan. Things continued going well until George W. Bush's famous "Axis of Evil" speech. "Real cooperation effectively ceased after the speech, and the costs were immediate," with Tehran freeing an Afghan warlord in response. Still, the experience proves that diplomacy is possible. "The Islamic Republic is clearly an adversary, but it is also a rational actor," and the outlines of a deal lifting sanctions in exchange for nuclear concessions "are already clear." Click for Crocker's full column.