Incremental approach to diplomacy with Iran has historically failed
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Moreover, that is why the predictable recommendation of eminent persons’ groups on how to improve U.S.-Iranian relations—an incremental, issue-by-issue or step-by-step approach—entirely misses the point. Tactical cooperation with Iran on specific issues where American and Iranian interests converge has been tried by successive U.S. administrations: by the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations in Lebanon, the Clinton administration in Bosnia, and the current Bush administration in Afghanistan. In all cases, such cooperation could not be leveraged into a broader strategic opening; usually this was because U.S. policymakers allowed domestic political considerations or other foreign policy interests to undermine diplomatic initiatives toward Iran. To assume that an incremental approach somehow can resolve the current standoff between Iran and the West over Tehran’s nuclear activities ignores the lessons of this history.