To defuse this crisis the US must start talking to Iran

Guardian | : Once again Iran is the focus of attention for Washington’s foreign policy hawks – and by extension for the rest of us. Donald Trump says he doesn’t want a war with Iran, but his national security adviser, John Bolton, has despatched warships and bombers to the region while the US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has been sharing worrying intelligence about Iranian intentions with close allies and congressional leaders.

What’s going on? It’s now a year since Trump tore up the nuclear deal with Iran negotiated in 2015 by the Obama administration along with Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the EU. Since then, egged on by Israel and the Gulf states, he has announced new sanctions, despite Iran’s full compliance with the terms of the deal, and tried bullying the Europeans and others into applying US sanctions in order to deny Iranians the economic benefits they were promised.

After a year of waiting to see if the other signatories would make the deal work without US cooperation, the Iranians announced earlier this month that they would no longer fully comply with the uranium and heavy water restrictions of the agreement – and that, unless the Europeans could help with oil and banking within 60 days, more drastic measures would follow. Western governments sometimes forget that the Iranian government is not a monolithic entity, and that the officials they are used to dealing with, such as president Hassan Rouhani and foreign minister Javad Zarif, are under constant pressure from hardliners who point to the lack of any return on the investment Iran made four years ago.

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