Andrew Gilligan

Washington must talk to Tehran

Andrew Gilligan says that this time we would all benefit if America took the diplomatic lead

Last November the Iranian people were privileged to watch perhaps the year’s most bizarre presidential home video, in which the new President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, described how a divine glow of light had played around him as he delivered his first address to the United Nations. ‘I felt it,’ the President recalled. ‘All of a sudden the atmosphere changed there. And for 27 to 28 minutes, all the world leaders did not blink…. It’s not an exaggeration, because I was looking. They were astonished, as if a hand had held them there and made them sit. It had opened their eyes and ears for the message of the Islamic Republic.’

The real reason for the glazed looks of the assembled world leaders that day at the UN was almost certainly rather simpler. It was, as one official put it, that they simply couldn’t believe what they were hearing. Mr Ahmadinejad spoke in messianic terms of Iran’s struggle against Western ‘state terrorism’, its ‘logic of the dark ages’, and called on the Divinity to ‘hasten the emergence of your last repository, the Promised One, that pure and perfect human being’.

Even within Iran itself, Mr Ahmadinejad’s words were seen by some as sacrilegious. But last week, as it resumed its nuclear research programme, the Islamic Republic took a clear step towards having its very own capability to produce a divine glow, a sudden change in the atmosphere, and a hastened departure for us all to the Promised Land. The EU3 — Britain, France and Germany — have ended, as pointless, the talks which aimed to broker a deal. A UN Security Council reference looms. (Iran, of course, claims that its work is for peaceful power-generation — but since it has the world’s fourth largest oil reserves, that feels like a new form of what we might call Holocaust denial.)

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