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The Diplomacy Option

DENVER – A senior Russian diplomat, in contrasting North Korea and Iran, once said to me: “The North Koreans are like neighborhood children with matches. The Iranians are who we really need to worry about.”

Whether the talks between the “P5 + 1” (the United Nations Security Council’s five permanent members and Germany) and Iran, which concluded in Istanbul on April 14 and are due to resume in Baghdad on May 23, have any chance of succeeding remains highly uncertain. The smart money is most likely being wagered on failure. But those of little faith need to understand a basic, but sometimes-elusive point about such negotiations: they are conducted for two purposes.