It's the latest in faith-based foreign policy fads: The idea that the nuclear talks with Iran that began today would be a first step toward "a new relationship between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran," as President Obama put it.
Politicians and pundits have for weeks trumpeted the idea that getting Iran to agree to freeze elements of its nuclear program that could be used to build a weapon would somehow encourage Tehran to be more accommodating to international concerns about other aspects of its foreign policy, such as global support for terrorism, its unrelenting hostility toward Israel and its interference in the politics of neighboring countries.
Here's the ever-optimistic Thomas Friedman in his Nov. 19 New York Times column, summarizing what has become an article of faith for the Washington foreign policy establishment:
"The only lasting security lies in an internal transformation in Iran, which can only come with more openness. [Secretary of State John] Kerry’s deal would roll back Iran’s nuclear program, while also strengthening more moderate tendencies in Iran. Maybe that will go nowhere, or maybe it will lead to more internal changes. It’s worth a carefully constructed test."
The trouble is there's no proof such a deal would moderate any of Tehran's other tendencies. In fact, there's no evidence the Iranians would concede anything that isn't specifically part of the negotiation.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, poured cold water on the idea today when he called Israel "the rabid dog of the region" in a speech, and suggested there were limits to his country's willingness to negotiate.
A senior administration official called Khamenei's remarks "uncomfortable." That must be what it feels like when reality bites.