Obama White House Briefing Room 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama formally reminded Congress this week that
relations between the United States and Iran are not normal.
relations with Iran have not yet returned to normal,” the US president wrote
bluntly in a short letter, extending an executive order signed in 1979 that
classifies the relationship as “in emergency” for yet another
Perhaps this was an exercise in presidential
The two governments – at odds for more than 34 years over
neocolonialism, hostage-taking, terrorism, theocracy and other matters – have
only recently made direct contact
, prompted by months of quiet diplomacy that
resulted in a 15-minute phone call between the leaders of the two
Since that cordial chat, contact between the two governments has
been less than positive.
That is to the surprise of no one. This week, US
Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif
brought the crisis relationship into the 21st century by trading barbs over
as to who was to blame for the failure to reach an interim agreement
over Iran’s nuclear program.
“Doesn’t the tweeting take the gravitas out
of it?” John Stewart, host of the popular satiric The Daily Show
Central, quipped on Tuesday night, calling the tweet a cheap breakup
“‘The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them
lit again in our lifetimes,’ he tweeted. Hashtag persevere,” said
The deal, nearly reached in Geneva over the weekend, would have
achieved a six-month pause in Iran’s nuclear enrichment work in exchange for
modest relief from an extensive and punishing international sanctions regime led
by the US.
“You don’t negotiate a deal with terrorists that lasts six
months, unless you’re raising the debt ceiling,” Stephen Colbert, host of The
, joked on Tuesday.
There are signs of progress: the United
Kingdom took steps to normalize relations with the Islamic Republic on Sunday,
just days after Iran’s annual Death to America rallies
took place in the
Congress is responding to the president’s crisis
extension in unison: more sanctions are required, a bipartisan group of senators
insist, in order to force the mullahs in Tehran to capitulate on their atomic
“This is not a vote for or against sanctions; this is a vote
for or against diplomacy,” State Department Jen Psaki said in a briefing to
reporters on Tuesday.
No doubt, members of Congress are aware of the
risks posed by the imposition of further pressures. But after so many decades,
perhaps conflict is the only option that registers in Washington when it comes
“The mistrust has deep roots,” Obama explains. “The suspicion is