As tensions rise between America and Iran, both sides need to step back
The drums of war are beating once again. An American aircraft- carrier strike group is steaming towards the Persian Gulf, joined by b-52 bombers, after unspecified threats from Iran. John Bolton, the national security adviser, says any attack on America or its allies “will be met with unrelenting force”. In Tehran, meanwhile, President Hassan Rouhani says Iran will no longer abide by the terms of the deal signed with America and other world powers, whereby it agreed to strict limits on its nuclear programme in return for economic relief. Iran now looks poised to resume its slow but steady march towards the bomb— giving American hawks like Mr Bolton further grievances.
Just four years ago America and Iran were on a different path. After Barack Obama offered to extend a hand if Iran’s leaders “unclenched their fist”, the two sides came together, leading to the nuclear deal. That promised to set back the Iranian nuclear programme by more than a decade, a prize in itself, and just possibly to break the cycle of threat and counter-threat that have dogged relations since the Iranian revolution 40 years ago.