Iran: Peril and Opportunity

President George Bush’s address on the dangers of an ‘axis of evil’ included North Korea, Iraq and Iran. Iran’s position is more complex than this implies, but there are certainly very real risks ahead, as well as substantial opportunities.

The World Today Updated 23 October 2020 Published 1 March 2002 6 minute READ

Fred Halliday

The west is clear in broad terms what it wants from Iran: an end to support for terrorism, improved human rights, responsible criticism of the Arab-Israeli peace process and nuclear non-proliferation. Iran, for its part, would like to see a lifting of US sanctions, recognition of its strategic and economic importance in west Asia and an acknowledgement of past, imperialist, actions against Iran.

More specifically, there are issues on which Iran has legitimate security interests, where western policy formulation and understanding are needed. In particular, on Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon, on a shared security system in the Gulf and on Iran’s need for a strategic deterrent. It is certainly possible to envisage reasonable, and lasting, understandings on all these. It is far from clear, given the prevailing political situation in Tehran and Washington, and the volatility of the region from Kabul to Tel Aviv, whether this can be achieved or, if achieved, sustained.

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