Ambassador Chris Hill on Iran, Iraq and the value of diplomacy

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DENVER -- One of the most successful diplomats of his generation, Christopher Hill told FOX31 Denver Sunday morning that domestic politics -- in the U.S. and other countries -- is often the biggest obstacle to achieving major diplomatic goals.

Hill's interview on FOX31 Denver's #COpolitics: From The Source comes just as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif are continuing talks ahead of Monday's deadline in hopes of achieving a deal to limit Iran's nuclear weapons program in exchange for the easing of economic sanctions.

As the Obama administration looks for a signature foreign policy accomplishment, hard-liners in Congress are concerned about the U.S. agreeing to a deal that won't go far enough in curtailing Iran's nuclear program.

In Iran, Zarif faces similar opposition from a public skeptical about making any concessions to the U.S. and opening itself up to more engagement with the west.

Hill, who led the Six-Party talks aimed at limiting North Korea's nuclear weapons program in the second George W. Bush administration, writes in his new memoir that diplomacy, while it "doesn't work everywhere or in every circumstance...it was hard then and is just as hard now to understand what the alternative is."

Now the dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, Hill also tells FOX31 Denver that the Obama administration's recently announced agreement with China to limit carbon pollution in the two countries, the world's two largest polluters, is a major diplomatic achievement.

"To get China into a major agreement like this is really important," Hill said.

Hill, whose last assignment was a one-year term as Ambassador to Iraq under President Obama in 2009-10, harshly criticizes the neoconservatives within the Bush administration who took the country to war without making its goals clear.

"The failure of neoconservatives and their fellow travelers to explain what they were trying to accomplish in Iraq remains one of the most disgraceful performances by a foreign policy class in America," Hill writes at the end of his memoir, Outpost: Life on the Front Lines of American Diplomacy.

"They bear much responsibility for reducing America's own discourse on foreign policy to little more than a barroom brawl."