Thursday, April 19, 2012

Iran, Syria, North Korea: Is the world sitting on a tinderbox?

With Iran forced into nuclear talks, Syria’s ceasefire barely holding and North Korea snubbing the West, could these rogue states threaten global stability?

The conference centre was cleared of alcohol, a prayer room prepared and female officials advised to dress with a special touch of modesty. When Iran’s negotiators are in town, the challenge of hosting them without offending their fragile sensibilities follows in their wake.

These black-clad, silver-haired men came to Istanbul yesterday to do verbal battle with the world’s leading powers. With hardened realism, a diplomat warned beforehand that a wise observer would set his sights low.

Nonetheless, Iran is back at the negotiating table, formally meeting its adversaries for the first time in more than a year. Not only is the Islamic Republic talking again, but its leaders have quietly dropped a raft of preconditions and begun discussing their nuclear ambitions.

Incredible as it may seem, Iran refused to talk about its nuclear programme – the crux of its confrontation with much of the rest of the world – when the last negotiating session was held. Read More