Tehran may try to rebuild bridges with US

IRANIAN LEADERS reacted with predictable fury yesterday to President George Bush's State of the Union speech, which picked out Tehran as a sponsor of global terrorism.

But, as the country prepares for presidential elections in June, the signs are clear that the favourite, the former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, may be preparing the ground for rapprochement with the United States.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, responded to President Bush in a defiant televised statement, claiming that "the Islamic Republic of Iran, because of supporting the oppressed and confronting oppressors, is being attacked by the global tyrants".

But allies of Mr Rafsanjani say that the former president may be planning to seek a "grand bargain" with Washington, offering concessions on Tehran's nuclear programme, terrorism and Iraq if he wins the election in June. Mr Rafsanjani seems to believe that rapprochement is in the best interests of Tehran, after the recent stream of hostile rhetoric from Washington. Press reports have also said that US special forces are already in Iran, and its air force has flown sweeps to pinpoint air-defence systems.

"Rafsanjani thinks he must resolve the problems with the US," said a close ally of the former president, in an interview with The Independent. "We should create opportunities for dialogue. On some regional issues such as Iraq, Afghanistan, al-Qa'ida and Palestine, we have seen we can have direct and co-operative talks."

The mercurial Mr Rafsanjani, the grand old man of Iranian politics, is believed to have tried to reach out to the US before. Among his supporters are many businessmen, diplomats and administrators who believe Iran's split with the US over the 1980 hostage crisis was a huge strategic mistake. They favour renewing diplomatic ties and encouraging American businesses to come to Iran.

The former president's ally listed the problems that need to be addressed in one of the world's most emotionally fraught political relationships, including accusations that Iran supports terrorism and that it has a nuclear weapons programme. He also questioned how long Iran could continue to be more radically pro-Palestinian than most Arab states. Tehran is still in principle committed to destroying Israel.

During the former president's first two terms, he was caught in a constant battle with conservatives, who opposed his more liberal social and economic policies. Many of his critics believe he would face similar, or greater problems, during a third term. Some analysts also believe it is possible that renegade hardliners could try to sabotage warming relations by mounting attacks in Iraq and elsewhere.

In the absence of a genuine reformist candidate in the election, Mr Rafsanjani will aim to attract the votes of young people who are thought to prefer a more liberal candidate but who fear the rise of a genuinely conservative president. Some newspapers are already tipping him to win a third term and several opponents have signalled they would not run against him.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine