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Obama’s Year of Iran

PRINCETON – As US President Barack Obama begins his second term, he will have to devote much of his attention to figuring out how to get America’s domestic finances in order. But foreign-policy issues loom large as well, and, notwithstanding the ongoing conflict in Syria and the possible spread of war across Africa’s Sahel region, the consensus in Washington is that 2013 will be the “year of decision” on Iran.

Obama began his first administration with an offer to engage with the Islamic Republic; as he memorably put it in his first inaugural address in 2009, “We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” He repeated that commitment, although much more obliquely, in his second inaugural address: “We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully – not because we are naive about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.”