Leading article: A welcome change of tack by Washington

Share
Related Topics

The surest reason for believing that America really has reversed its policy on Iran, to the pursuit of face-to-face negotiations and the establishment of a US office in Tehran, is the outrage it has caused among hardliners in Washington. It is, according to John Bolton, George Bush's former ambassador to the UN and a noted hawk where Iran is concerned, a "sell-out" and an abandonment of a policy of forcing Iran to stop its nuclear programme through military threats and trade sanctions.

Washington's change of approach towards the prime member of Mr Bush's original "axis of evil" is no such thing, of course. What it amounts to is a sensible move from war-war to jaw-jaw at a time when talks between Iran and the European UN members over Iran's nuclear ambitions appear to be making some headway. True, the White House has to date always said it would refuse to sit down in negotiation with Iran until the latter ceased its uranium enrichment activities (although it has sat down with Iranian representatives in talks about Iraq). It is true, too, that the White House has, until now, believed that only the threat of military action would pressure Iran to halt its nuclear programme.

But the mood has changed, in Tehran as much as Washington. In the first place, the threat of war has proved largely counter-productive, playing into the rhetorical hands of Iran's firebrand President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The more the option has been discussed, the more the sheer practical problems of carrying out an effective strike that would disable Iran's plants without producing a conflagration, have loomed large, as a steady stream of generals has declared in public.

The threat of further sanctions, on the other hand, does seem to have produced a more positive response from Tehran. The precise intentions of Iran's government are always hard to determine, given the opaque nature of its leadership. But there have been signs that, beset by popular unrest at rising prices and besieged by sanctions, the supreme ruler Ayatollah Khamenei desires to step back from outright confrontation. Iran should be enjoying an economic renaissance with the high price of oil, but it isn't and its public wants to know why.

It is fruitless to argue about which side is blinking first. Neither has done more than express a willingess to talk. But we have two forces coming together. On one side is a US President who, in his final year, is moving back to the paths of traditional diplomacy, not just with Iran, but North Korea and the Middle East. On the other side we have an Iranian President who is coming under restraint from Iran's old establishment. It doesn't make a summer but it does make a fluttering dove.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

March On Cancer™ - Local Marketing and Promotions Volunteer

This is an unpaid voluntary role.: Cancer Research UK: We need motivational vo...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Maths Teacher - Evening session

Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: I am looking for a qualified experi...

Teaching Assistants

£50 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Rapidly developing and growing ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: odd pub names, final polls in Scotland and war historians

John Rentoul
 

i Editor's Letter: We are winning the fight against extreme poverty and hunger. It's time to up the ante

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week