The Catholic University of America

Dr. Suzanne Maloney with CUA law professors Robert Destro and Marshall Breger, the creators of Catholic University's Middle East Religious Dialogue Program.

An Open Moment for Talking

After 30 years of threats, accusations and mutual hostility, the stage is setting for a new scene in the long-troubled relations between America and Iran.

"Today we have the endorsement of all of Iran's senior leadership for a dialogue with the U.S.," said Dr. Suzanne Maloney, senior fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

Invited to speak on March 30 by the Columbus School of Law's Middle East Religious Dialogue Program, Maloney remarks, titled "America, Iran and the Prospects for Diplomacy," focused on the most recent developments between the two countries and what they may imply for the future.

Maloney called President Obama's recent videotaped message to Iran's leaders and its people, the warmest U.S. message in 30 years of hostilities, "useful, something that clearly found its mark." In the message, Obama urged Iran to "start again" in shaping a new relationship with the United States.

Maloney cautioned against unrealistic expectations for a quick reset of relations, however, noting that the future direction of Iranian policy toward the U.S. will be heavily influenced by the outcome of its elections in June. Internal Iranian politics, explained Maloney, are muddled, confusing, treacherous and very difficult for a Westerner to read accurately.

"It's anyone's game as to who wins in June," she said.

Regardless of who the next president of Iran turns out to be, said Maloney, Americans should understand that despite internal divisions, "Iranians don't believe they should be a pariah state." Maloney, a former member of the State Department's policy planning staff, covering Iran, Iraq, the Gulf States and broader Middle East issues, thinks that Iran will always react with hostility to attempts by other nations to shape its government.

Dr. Maloney directed the 2004 Council on Foreign Relations Task Force on U.S. Policy toward Iran and is the author of a forthcoming book on Iran for the U.S. Institute of Peace.