Jay Solomon is an expert in international diplomacy, nuclear weapons proliferation, counterterrorism, and Middle Eastern and Asian affairs. Mr. Solomon was the first American journalist to uncover the secret meetings between the U.S and Iran, leading the official coverage on the nuclear negotiations for the Wall Street Journal from 2012-2015. Mr. Solomon is the chief foreign affairs correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and has been nominated for three Pulitzer Prizes.

Mr. Solomon began by addressing why President Obama was fixated on improving relations with Iran. After all, previous U.S. administrations have considered Iran to be part of the "axis of evil," a term Iran has used to create a counter-alliance in the region called the "axis of resistance."  President Obama, wanting to redeem the United States’ legacy after Iraq, pivoted to Iran and chose to extend a diplomatic hand. Mr. Solomon argued that President Obama did an admirable job redeeming the United States’ legacy and changing the perception of U.S. power that was established during the Bush Era. For example, President Obama was the first U.S. president to accurately refer to Iran as the "Islamic Republic of Iran."

Despite his respectful, diplomatic approach, Mr. Obama remained wary of Iran’s nuclear intentions and feared nuclear proliferation efforts. Mr. Solomon argued that Iran was forced to the negotiating table because of the crippling effects of economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. and other members of the international community. 

Mr. Solomon also highlighted the costs of reaching out to Iran. He argued that reaching out to Iran could have prevented an opportunity for internal political change, an opportunity that could have been very useful in improving future relations. Additionally, cooperation with Iran might have, according to Mr. Solomon, prevented the U.S. from taking a more prominent role in Syria. 

With the current administration’s attitudes towards Iran and diplomacy, it will be interesting to see what developments occur in U.S.-Iranian relations.  

-Claire Van Fossen

Contact the John Parke Young Initiative on the Global Political Economy
Johnson Hall

The McKinnon Center for Global Affairs