Bridging rifts:

Nearly three decades have passed since the US embassy in Tehran was closed, after American diplomats were taken hostage in the early days of Iran’s Islamic Revolution. During that time, Iranians have been deprived of US consular services, and US diplomats have lost direct contact with Iran. But in an encouraging turn, the State Department plans to open an American interests section in Tehran.

There are times when nuanced diplomatic gestures foretell major policy changes. The plan for an interests section should be only the first of many moves toward better relations with Iran. Iranian citizens are generally the most pro-American people in the larger Middle East. Yet if they want visas to visit family members or study in the United States, they must first travel to a small office located in Dubai.

The foreign service has become woefully short of Farsi speakers with a background in Iranian affairs. Washington has to rely on diplomats from Britain and other allied countries for information about the complex politics of Iran. The State Department needs to have its own people in touch with Iranian politicians, students, journalists, and dissidents. A US interests section in Tehran won’t by itself resolve conflicts with Iran, but it could prepare the way for a better future. — The Boston Globe