Critics, including myself, have argued he appears to be leaning away from the region and its myriad, complex problems. This week at the United Nations he said, “The danger for the world is that the United States, after a decade of war, rightly concerned about issues back home, and aware of the hostility that our engagement in the region has engendered throughout the Muslim world, may disengage. I believe that would be a mistake.”

Now, it seems, at a time when the president has seen his foreign policy approval numbers hit new lows, he has reverted to his old idea of actively speaking to our enemies as the best way to prove he is not turning away from the region. He has collaborated with circumstances to choose this option in Syria–and Iran.

It is risky. Both situations defy easy solution. The Iranians have changed their tone but must go a long way to prove they are changing their intent, embracing transparency and adhering to international standards. Even if they do, if they continue to support terrorist groups like Hezbollah they will be at loggerheads with the United States.

But as Winston Churchill said, “To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.” If talks come with the skepticism they deserve–and a tough timeline that doesn’t let Iran use them as a stalling tactic to further develop weapons programs–they are a risk well worth taking. And they may just demonstrate that the best adviser of the new Obama is the old Obama.