A historic conversation

A 15-minute telephone conversation is historic when it breaks more than 30 years of ice, after a long, conflictive relationship like the one between the United States and Iran.

The repercussions of the dialog between presidents Barack Obama and Hassan Rouhani have been as disparate as anticipated. In both nations there are those who praise the action as a masterful move, on par with Richard Nixon’s opening up to China, while others consider it as traitorous—or naïve—as a deal with the devil.

And with good reason: the history between these ations has left deep scars that must be overcome through a new dialog.

Thus, the recent contact between the two heads of state should be viewed through the prism of bilateral relations. Iran has many reasons to distrust the United States, and the religious leaders, or mullahs, who have the last word in the regime, are also responsible for turning Iran into an international pariah. Especially after the delusional reign of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Rouhani is a moderate on the Iranian political scene, voted in by a people eager to open up to the world, hard hit by an economic crisis caused by global sanctions. From the start, the new leader initiated a more friendly discourse as if seeking out a new relationship with the U.S.

Improved bilateral relations also pose a concern for many friends of Washington in the region, from Saudi Arabia to Israel. It is important that the rapprochement not entail a relaxation of the current policy opposing a nuclear Iran.

Time will tell how historic that telephone conversation really was, depending on its outcome. But there is no doubt that direct dialog will contribute to understanding, and in diplomatic terms, that is a good thing, even between enemies.