Iran – which insists that its program is intended solely for peaceful purposes – would almost certainly be required to ship its stockpile of 20-percent-purified uranium out of the country, while opening up its facilities to an intrusive international inspection regime, nuclear experts say. Iran will seek an easing of tough international economic sanctions – sanctions the US is likely to add to in the run-up to any negotiations – in return for any steps it takes. One possible stumbling block: Israel wants no easing of sanctions until Iran gives up all enrichment activity.
Some US officials continue privately to hold out hope for a "grand bargain" between the US and Iran that would add restored diplomatic relations to a resolution of the nuclear issue. But in the eyes of most regional analysts, Obama will face a tough enough time reaching an interim nuclear deal with Iran before pressure for airstrikes – and what could become a disastrous Middle East war – becomes irresistible.
When Obama hastily dispatched Secretary Clinton to help broker a cease-fire in the Gaza missile conflict at the end of November, some regional analysts took it as a sign of the administration's postelection reengagement in the Middle East and the harbinger of a more robust US role in ending Syria's 21-month-long civil war.
That may have been wishful thinking on the part of pro-intervention forces. Obama may indeed try to demonstrate increased support for the rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad, but that seems unlikely to include any rush to arm the rebels with the more sophisticated and high-powered weapons they seek.