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An easing of tensions

The joint US-Russian Motion on Syria's chemical weapons and talks between the US and Iran mar important steps forward

UN security council agreement on a joint US-Russian motion on Syria's chemical weapons stocks and the talks between US and Iranian representatives mark important steps forward.

Neither initiative could have taken place but for Washington's belated recognition that it could not resolve either situation through military force.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Levrov's dogged determination to reject every proposal from the US and its allies that contained an automatic trigger for aerial bombardment played a role in staying the hand of the serial bombers.

But his stance was strengthened by the knowledge that most people in the US, Britain and France are opposed to their governments' plans for mayhem.

The Obama administration was wrong-footed by the British Parliament's decision to rule out involvement in bombing raids on Syria, most strenuously demanded by former colonial power France and its "socialist" President Francois Hollande.

Britain's example encouraged growing numbers of US Congress members to resist the blandishments of President Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry and, in so doing, to respond to the demands of their constituents. This left Hollande isolated since Paris was only ever going to take military action as part of a US-led operation.

If bombing Syria is off the agenda, at least temporarily, unleashing the dogs of war against Iran is even less likely since it presents a more formidable military challenge than its ally.

In addition, an assault against Iran would be likely to involve the entire Middle East region in a war of inestimable scale and ferocity.

In this context it is worth noting the contrast in statements and demeanour between the current Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and those of his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.

Rouhani's firm declaration that Iran will never seek nuclear weapons and his readiness to discuss his country's civil nuclear programme open the way to a reduction in tension and possible progress towards peaceful resolution of the region's most pressing problems.

Key among these is the ongoing denial of national rights to the Palestinian people and Israel's inexorable colonisation of the West Bank, including east Jerusalem.

Linked to this is the West's double standards towards weapons of mass destruction, seeing Iran's potential for building nuclear arms as more alarming than Israel's unacknowledged but certainly existing nuclear arsenal.

Iran's pledge never to acquire nukes and Syria's undertaking to verify its chemical weapons and have them destroyed are positive steps.

However, they cannot be seen in isolation. There is no justification for any state holding on to weapons of mass destruction and, indeed, a treaty on nuclear non-proliferation has been in operation since 1970.

Tehran has indicated its commitment to the treaty and Rouhani urged Tel Aviv, the only nuclear weapons state in the Middle East, to follow suit to create a nuclear-free region.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu responded with bombast, accusing Iran of denying the Holocaust even though Rouhani had specifically referred to the nazi slaughter of European Jews.

The US and its allies, guided by public opinion, have finally chosen the UN route to seek to resolve important questions of war and peace, of peaceful coexistence.

The UN route cannot be an option to be dropped according to perceived convenience.

The long-delayed justice for the Palestinian people, including their own sovereign state, is as important as the issue of WMD and must be tackled honestly and constructively under UN auspices.


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