Other world powers weighed in, too. Significantly, both Brazil and Turkey—who last year sought to restart the October 2009 fuel swap plan with an initiative of their own—said that they’d keep at it. ‘My country will exert more efforts with an eye to ensure that the negotiations continue and that they yield concrete results, despite attempts to downplay initiatives that come from Turkey,’ said Turkish President Abdullah Gül, obviously still unhappy that the United States failed to endorse the Turkish and Brazilian effort last spring. Brazil’s foreign minister backed Gül, saying, ‘We are keeping channels open.’
But most important, of course, were the reactions of the United States and Iran.
In the United States, various hawks, neoconservatives and Republican hardliners seized on the failure of Istanbul to achieve a breakthrough by calling for a suspension of the talks, for more sanctions and for overt military pressure on Iran. The Washington Post, in a peevish editorial, called on Obama to reconsider his policy of engagement with Iran and urged Obama to push for regime change in Iran. ‘By doing more to support the Iranian opposition, the United States could pressure the regime where it actually feels vulnerable.’Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
But the Obama administration wasn’t listening. Speaking to reporters after the end of the Istanbul round, a senior US official said: ‘I think it remains to be seen whether the Iranians are serious about engaging in practical steps to get from where we are, and I don't think we are going to figure that out in one or two meetings. I think there is still time to test that.’ Significantly, by noting that there’s time to seek an agreement, the official was backing off from the panicky urgency that has so often motivated discourse in the United States. Indeed, there’s a growing realization in Washington that Iran isn’t on the verge of being able to build a nuclear weapon even if that is its intention. Despite the pressure from the hawks, the United States reaffirmed its commitment to Obama’s engagement policy.