The Iranians are observing the President’s regional trip with a raised eyebrow. Viewed from Iran, the administration’s words and actions in Riyadh seem hypocritical. Standing next to Saudi FM Adel al-Jubeir, who represents a country that puts Tehran to shame when it comes to human rights violations, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson only had eyes for Iran, calling for it to respect “the rights of Iranians to freedom of speech, to freedom of organization, so that Iranians can live the life that they deserve.”

Meanwhile, Iranians were quick to point out, that unlike Saudi Arabia, their country had held elections, rejected hardliners, and one of its poorest provinces had elected hundreds of female city and village councillors.

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Against this reality, all the criticism of President Obama concerning his minimalist approach toward the region seems misplaced… the president’s instincts on the politics of the region are largely correct. When people are engaged in high-stakes struggles over basic questions of identity, citizenship and nationalism, it is up to them and their leaders to discover a formula that will make their societies successful. (more…)

There are parts of me right now that feel defeated. Yes, there have been calls for peace and the denouncing of extremism in Israel, but such calls feel as though they have been drowned out by those still craving revenge. And as Shalev notes, this isn’t an isolated incident – this is the result of a real shift in Israeli society concurrent with the ongoing occupation. (more…)

There are two overriding reasons for a bold US response. First, Iran’s opening is a reflection of the democratic will of its people, as expressed in the June elections, which demonstrated that Iranians want to rejoin the full international community and develop their economy unhampered by the sanctions they have endured for a decade. But there are limits to this popular support for constructive engagement and to the leadership’s embrace of it. It is conditional on US acceptance of the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic and its right to a peaceful nuclear program. And it is limited by the fact that hard-line regime elements would be happy to use a lack of US good faith as a reason to roll back this democratic-based opening. (more…)