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When enemies become friends and friends become enemies

In his 2008 inaugural address, Barack Obama challenged governments ‘on the wrong side of history’ that ‘we will extend a hand, if you are willing to unclench your fist.’ During his first weeks in office he reached out to Russia, Cuba and a number of other countries, including the US’ long time adversary, Iran. The unsettling events that have unfolded in Iraq in recent weeks, with the rise and brutal influence of ISIS, have been a further catalyst for the US to extend the hand of friendship to Iran. For a country long treated as a pariah by the international community – and described by a former US president as part of ‘an axis of evil’ – being courted in this way illustrates a sharp change in diplomatic direction by the West.

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