September 20, 2013
Hassan Rouhani (Presidency Office, Rouzbeh Jadidoleslam/Associated Press)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
(Presidency Office, Rouzbeh Jadidoleslam/Associated Press)

While the media is abuzz with what is being characterized as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’scharm offensive,” what’s truly important is that there now appears to be a potential for a U.S. opening with Iran that is almost on historical par in its significance as the opening with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985-86.

It seems that, for economic and broader international reasons, Iran’s political establishment has decided to pursue an opening to the United States that could lead to a nuclear agreement, make Iran a constructive partner in securing the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria and in arranging a negotiated settlement, help bring about an Israeli-Palestinian peace with its positive influence on Hamas and stop the rush toward sectarian war in the Middle East. President Obama, who wrote directly to the Iranian president (contents of letter still unknown), now has a historic opportunity — one firmly in the United States’ national security interests — to craft an accord with the country’s new leaders. Yet it remains an open question as to whether, given his foreign policy team and the fractious politics of Washington, he will be able to do so.

The days ahead will reveal if President Obama acts boldly and constructively to take steps that could redefine — some might say salvage — his second term. As the Syria crisis demonstrates, if the United States is to achieve a lasting resolution to the Middle East’s security challenges, it must test and seize all diplomatic and political solutions.