Following three decades of mutual verbal attacks and threats to resort to violence, Tehran and Washington are reviving hope for diplomatic talks. This is not the first time that Tehran and Washington chose diplomacy since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979, as the two resorted to talks during two international crises; the first was during the war on Afghanistan in 2001 (wherein the two countries admitted to limited negotiations within the scope of the so-called war on terror and battling Al Qaeda activities), and the second was concerning Iraqi security, where the two countries’ ambassadors met in Baghdad for talks which did not yield any results.
The United States and Iran often come to the negotiation table over a specific issue, normally an American demand. For example, their negotiations over Iraqi security came as a direct result of the Baker-Hamilton Report  which stressed the important role played by Iraq’s neighbors in Iraqi security and called on Washington to pay attention to certain countries, namely Iran and Syria. Washington sent William Burns to a meeting between Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, and the European Union in July 2008,  but no actual connection was established between Burns and Jalili, or none was reported.
What’s noteworthy in American-Iranian relations after the Islamic Revolution is their escalatory nature due to each country’s perception of the other – a situation which led to lack of trust and a widening gap between both countries. Consequently, even considering diplomacy as an option has alarming prospects on the political and security levels in both countries – so much so that the NIC report  issued in November 2007 — which confirmed that Iran has halted its military nuclear activities– did not succeed in changing the general political mood in Washington. This fear of diplomacy can be better illustrated if we remember two important factors: firstly, the prerequisites set by each party which prevented comprehensive talks (the American condition that Iran halt all its uranium enrichment activities before negotiations can start, and the Iranian demand of a change of American comportment toward it and the return of all Iranian deposits withheld by Washington.) Second, setting high expectations for elections and linking election results to talks; consequently, if results do not appeal to either party then talks are dismissed. This chronic fear of diplomacy was further intensified by the countries’ inability to achieve much through talks and their mutual feeling that each party is being inflexible – all of which led to frustration.
What should also be noted regarding previous American-Iranian talks is that they were bilateral or hosted by a third party which did not enjoy true political leverage to broker agreements, which leads us to ponder about the role that can be played by a third party in Iranian-American negotiations.
This paper proposes the hypothesis that the United States and Iran have, even if temporarily, managed to look beyond their prejudiced and negative perceptions of each other, and that they are serious about pursuing a diplomatic course to solve their disagreements. The paper will first tackle American-Iranian disagreements, then move on to analyze the importance of the timing of their negotiations, and whether or not they should wait until after the Iranian elections in June 2009. Thirdly, it will analyze the caliber of a potential diplomatic mediator between the two countries, and will end with some recommendations.
http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/07/16/us.iran/index.html, 16 July 2008.
 http://www.dni.gov/press_releases/20071203_release.pdf, November 2007