Iran-US rapprochement Print
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Considering that the relationship between Iran and the US has been characterised by deep mistrust since 1979, normalisation of ties will be a long, difficult process. But the fact that both sides are engaging regularly is a hopeful sign that the rivalry may one day give way to mutual acceptance, if not friendship. In this regard, Sunday’s meeting between Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and US Secretary of State John Kerry in Munich was welcome. Iran’s top diplomat reiterated the need for a permanent solution to his country’s nuclear dispute with major Western powers. Indeed, the breakthrough made last November would be wasted if the temporary sanctions relief for Iran does not give way to normalisation of ties between the Islamic Republic and the West. It would be particularly distressing if the earlier hostility witnessed between these two camps were to resume after this period of thaw. Both sides need to keep talking. The US and its allies in Europe must not further antagonise Tehran by adding to the suffocating sanctions regime. That would be sure to scuttle all progress. On its part, Iran must satisfy the global community that its nuclear programme is peaceful; this can best be done by giving the IAEA full access to Iranian nuclear facilities. Care must be taken, however, not to allow hardliners in Washington and Tehran to throw the détente off track. Equally important was Mr Zarif’s peace overture to Saudi Arabia in Munich. Rapprochement between Riyadh and Tehran would have a significant impact in the Arab and Muslim world. Right now, the Saudis and Iranians find themselves supporting opposing sides in Syria and Lebanon, while both are also vying for influence in Iraq. Syria could well be pacified if Saudi Arabia and Iran convince their allies  the rebels and the Assad regime, respectively  to cease attacks and negotiate a settlement. Elsewhere in the Muslim world, sectarian fires could be doused significantly if the world’s most influential Sunni and Shia states extend a hand of friendship to each other. Pakistan would benefit on numerous fronts from a Saudi-Iranian thaw. The Saudis would do well to take up the offer and work towards normalising ties

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