After more than a year of negotiations between the United States and Iran, the two sides have failed to reach an agreement by the agreed deadline in July. They have agreed to continue negotiating, but the failure to meet the deadline was clearly not caused by the lack of time.
To understand why the talks have remained deadlocked, it is necessary to review the Obama administration's stance on diplomacy with Iran in the context of the long US history of favouring "coercive diplomacy" over traditional negotiations in managing conflicts with adversaries.
Reliance on coercive diplomacy is deeply imbedded in the strategic culture of US national security institutions. It has evolved over decades of US military and economic dominance in international politics, which has allowed the United States to avoid genuine diplomacy repeatedly.
Based on that military supremacy, the United States avoided negotiations with its communist adversaries up to the early 1970s, when Henry Kissinger courted China and launched his détente policy with the Soviet Union. But that brief period of serious negotiating came in the wake of political pressures for reducing US military spending and foreign military presence during the long and exhausting US war in Vietnam. It soon gave way to renewed reliance on coercive diplomacy during the Reagan administration.
The concept of coercive diplomacy emerged from the belief that the United States could use the threat of force to leverage favourable outcomes in international conflicts, as the United States assumed – wrongly, as we now know - that the threat of force by the John F. Kennedy had forced Khrushchev to back down in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.