November’s Diplomatic Harvest

MADRID – Jihadism is flourishing. Tensions with Russia are flaring. Agreement between Iran and the “E3+3” (Britain, France, and Germany from the European Union, plus China, Russia, and the United States) remains elusive, with domestic politics in all of the negotiating partners introducing additional complexities into an already complicated process. US President Barack Obama, having suffered a severe midterm election defeat, must now deal with a Congress under full Republican control. In the eurozone, economic growth remains anemic, causing leaders to look inward.

One could easily conclude that the world is being sucked into a vortex of instability. But the past month featured some hopeful moments, and pausing to study them is imperative to avoid succumbing to pessimism.

Concluding a deal with Iran on its nuclear program remains an unfinished item of global business. The negotiations in Vienna failed to produce a deal that is critically important to both regional and global stability. But the atmosphere is positive: Iran fulfilled its obligations under last year’s interim agreement, and the E3+3 showed a willingness to end sanctions. The deadline to finalize negotiations has now been extended to June 2015.

The West has a unique window of opportunity. Achieving a deal is essential to avoid a new – and potentially catastrophic – conflict in the Middle East. Negotiation and diplomacy are the only way to resolve the Iranian nuclear question in the long term and to normalize Iran’s critical role in regional security.