It is official. Iran is suspending its brinkmanship on nuclear affairs and is ready to engage with the world on fresh terms. Although the country’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, had made noises to the same effect during his own appointment earlier this month, his emphatic statement about Iran’s revision of foreign policy at the appointment of Iran’s new foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, is a more pointed appeal to the international community to restart dialogue. What has prompted Iran’s change of stance is undoubtedly public opinion reflected in the mandate against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his shrill nuclear campaign that has invited international sanctions and obstructions to Iran’s trade — all of which have radically affected the buying power of its petrodollars. Iran is, however, not willing to dump everything and run. Mr Rouhani has made it a point to mention that he is bending to the wishes of the nation and that the compromise will be only on “methods, performance and tactics”, and not on principles. That is, Iran will not unscramble its nuclear programme, but is willing to re-negotiate, as before, on specifics, provided the embargoes are lifted. Iran’s upholding of its “principles” also means that the international community cannot expect it to sacrifice its interests in preserving the religious status quo in the Middle East by giving up its support for the regime in Syria.
Irrespective of the negative undertones, Mr Rouhani’s stand brings the world to another starting point in the management of a regional crisis that could take on an international dimension. Not without reason, the European Union has shown its unwillingness to back sanctions on Iranian companies and the United Nations security council has refused to support allegations against Iran’s violation of sanctions. Many in America’s House of Representatives, too, see dialogue with Iran a better alternative than forcing it into a corner from where it can fight back only by upping its nuclear ante. But Israel continues to play spoilsport, as does Saudi Arabia and its allies. Their reasons may vary, but together they are trying their best to close this window of opportunity.