The season for rapprochement with Iran

Robin Wright writes: In her title role on the CBS television drama “Madam Secretary,” Téa Leoni has achieved what Secretary of State John Kerry yearns for — a deal with Iran which eases the thirty-six years of tensions that have afflicted six Presidents. Leoni’s character, Elizabeth Faulkner McCord, goes to Tehran as part of the diplomatic process, and a fictional Iranian President visited Washington.

Neither is likely to occur offscreen anytime soon. But the United States and Iran, backed by five other world powers, are scheduled to begin nonstop negotiations this week for a prospective June 30th agreement that will prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

“There’s no reason we shouldn’t get it,” Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, told me in New York last week. We spoke at the residence of Iran’s U.N. Ambassador, in the elegant second-floor parlor where Zarif had hosted Kerry two days earlier. That meeting had been a first; technically, Kerry was on Iranian soil.

Other officials involved in the talks have told me that diplomacy is further along than was indicated by the so-called blueprint for a deal, which was announced in Lausanne on April 2nd (and enumerated in a four-page U.S. fact sheet). What is more striking, after eighteen months of negotiations, is the changing climate, whether in popular culture, public opinion, or diplomacy. In the case of “Madam Secretary,” an American TV drama dared to build a whole season around rapprochement with Iran. It began with the Administration uncovering a rogue U.S. coup attempt, along the lines of what the C.I.A. and British intelligence carried out in Iran in 1953. The premise throughout the season was that Washington no longer supports regime change in Iran — which has been true of both the Bush and Obama Administrations but is still anathema to many in Congress. Rotten Tomatoes gives the “Madam Secretary” season an approval rating of eighty per cent among the public, a sign that its Iran plotline is considered realistic or acceptable. Several of the show’s episodes have drawn more than ten million viewers. The season ended last night, with Secretary McCord subpoenaed by a Senate investigation trying to discredit her and sabotage U.S. diplomacy for political gain. (Not in Washington!) But in the end she prevails, and wins a (fictional) poll showing that eighty-two per cent of the public supports her stand. [Continue reading…]

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