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The right way to talk to Iran

The first step is for Obama to reach out to Iranian Americans.

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It has been a busy month for US-Iran relations.

Iran recently launched its first satellite into orbit in what The New York Times called, "a shot across the bow of American diplomacy," and US President Barack Obama passed along a secret letter to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in an attempt to enlist the Russians in an international effort to contain Iran's nuclear program, all while Iranians prepare to head to the polls in June.

While numerous campaign contenders debate the success of President Ahmadinejad's rhetoric and policies, thousands of nuclear centrifuges continue to spin.

Mr. Obama was quick to insist that the US will pursue "constructive dialogue" with Tehran, while Ahmadinejad alluded to opening talks in an "atmosphere of mutual respect." These are promising first steps to forging new US-Iran relations. However, now is not the time to engage Iran directly. The perception of American meddling during Iran's election season will only play into the hands of hard-liners.

Postponing the offering of a grand bargain until after the elections does not mean that the US is without options in the interim. There are ways to encourage positive relations.

The Iranian regime describes the US as "the global arrogance" more frequently today than the old epithet, "the great Satan." The perception that America does not respect Iran is shared among the simple shopkeepers, courageous reformists, and vitriolic clerics alike. A change of perception among the people is key to any progress in relations.


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