By Ray Fleming

WHAT is President Obama planning to do about US relations with Iran? In three weeks the newly elected President Hassen Rouhani takes office and what may well be the last opportunity to prevent the US-Iran situation going from bad to worse will open. However, last weekend Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu appeared on the US Face the Nation TV show and described Iran as “this messianic, apocalyptic, extreme regime that wants to have its own bombs.” He said that sanctions should be stepped up and if they don't work Iran “has to know that you'll be prepared to take military action. It's the only thing that gets their attention.” Obama has ignored Netanyahu's overblown threats before and should do so again but that is not enough. Even if there is some truth in Israeli accusations it is essential to assume that President Rouhani may be very different from his recent predecessors and will be ready to seek a way out of the difficulties they have created for the Iranian people.

Last week a letter to Obama from 29 former senior White House office holders called on him to re-energize diplomatic efforts to resolve the stand-off over Iran's nuclear programme.

Cross-party Congressional resolutions have shown similar sentiments and stressed the need to avoid provocative actions. Obama's reaction to Rouhani's election was unnecessarily cool. He must not let this opportunity slip.

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