Negotiations are set to resume in September between Iran and the P5+1 countries -- the five permanent U.N. Security Council members along with Germany -- with an eye to restarting a diplomatic process that might lead to a resolution of the stand-off over Iran's nuclear program.
The question is whether something akin to the 2003 Libyan breakthrough is possible -- or even desirable. By that scenario, Iran would stop all of its efforts to achieve a nuclear weapons breakout capability -- notably, the ability to enrich uranium. In return, the U.S. and its Western allies would agree to lift sanctions and extend de facto security guarantees as well.
Some of the preconditions for a Libya-style settlement are falling into place. The passage of a new set of U.N. sanctions, in addition to the package of measures that the United States, the EU and other countries are preparing to enact, does put some additional pressure on the Iranian regime. The Iranian government's "social contract" with the core of its rural and working-poor supporters depends on a sufficient level of income derived from energy exports. Without the ability to not only develop new assets but to ensure that Iran's creaky infrastructure can continue to function, the Islamic Republic's internal stability could be negatively affected.