Less widely noticed, Robin Cook recently became the first Foreign Secretary to meet his Cuban counterpart since the Castro revolution in 1959, while in June Britain re-established normal ties with Sudan (though these were only severed after Mr Cook had foolishly supported America's wanton missile attack on a Khartoum pharmaceutical plant, on the erroneous grounds it produced chemical weapons).
The moves are welcome for two reasons. First, by seeking to engage rather than isolate potentially hostile countries, we are increasing our ability to convey our point of view and, however marginally, to influence events. This goes especially for Iran, whatever we think of the clerics who long shaped its anti-Western policy.
The other advantage is that by establishing dialogue, we are differentiating ourselves from the US. As Sudan showed, Britain too often comes across as an American cat's-paw, the faithful ally desperate to preserve its special relationship with the lone superpower. The fact that we are back on normal terms with Tripoli and Teheran can only enhance our credibility throughout the Middle East. And one final thought. If we are once again doing business with Iran and Libya, is it not time, after eight years, to re-examine a manifestly bankrupt policy towards Iraq?Reuse content