Monday, 16 September 2013

The US and Iran? Really? What brought that on?

The US might soon be talking to Iran. 

Just writing those words feels a little weird. It’s like saying that Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington have decided to meet at a café near Waterloo, to see whether they can’t patch things up over a good bottle of French White and a plate of snails.

Not that, if the US-Iran meeting takes place, it’ll necessary mean getting together in a room and talking round a table. No, that would be far too big a step for this early stage in proceedings. It’s possible that the US delegation might run into the Iranian delegation in the corridors of the United Nations building in New York, on the fringe of the General Assembly meeting, and stop to pass the time of day.

‘Good Lord! Hold on, hold on,’ Obama will say, ‘don’t tell me – it’s president Rouhani, isn’t it? I was sure I knew that face...’

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran: will Obama recognise him?
Well, the smile's hard to miss

‘President Obama,‘ Rouhani will reply, ‘big fan. Always wanted to meet you. Did you see that we had a woman competitor in the Triathlon World Championships in London? See? You can talk to us now. We’re civilised.’

Shirin Gerami
first woman for Iram in an international tritathlon
wearing the Islamic clothing that did so much for her chances

Personally, I’d be perfectly satisfied with their having a casual encounter in a corridor. I’m a great fan of The West Wing and some of the best decisions in that spellbinding and realistic series were taken while stalking along White House corridors.

Actually, any kind of encounter would be welcome. It would be the first meeting between the heads of state of the two countries since the fall of the Shah. The first step towards calming tempers since they got hot eleven years ago, over the Iranian nuclear programme. For years we’ve lived with the prospect of possible war between the two greatest powers of a tinderbox region, Israel and Iran, if not between their sponsors, the US and Russia. 

Any kind of talk to release tensions has to be good.

Let’s hope it happens and let’s hope it leads to greater things. And if it does, let’s remember what was at the start of the process: the decision not to launch missiles at Syria.

let’s not forget what was at the start of the process that led thereJust for the fun of it, here are the events that brought us the Syria breakthrough which may be gradually thawing US-Iranian relations today:
  1. Ed Miliband, leader of the British Labour Party, decided to oppose the government over action on Syria
  2. Miliband took the Labour Party into the ‘No’ lobby against joining an immediate US-led missile attack
  3. The British Parliament voted not to join that action
  4. Obama decided not to launch missiles until he’d consulted Congress himself
  5. Syria’s ally Russia took advantage of the delay to propose that Syria put its chemical weapons under international control preliminary to their destruction
  6. Syria agreed to UN control over its chemical warfare stocks
I bet Miliband had no idea that he was starting anything quite so big, when he decided that it was time, at last, to stand up to David Cameron.

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