Sign of things:

State Department officials commonly complain that without an embassy in Iran, the US cannot decipher the opaque workings of the Islamic Republic. This may be true in a general way, but no classified intelligence sources are needed to grasp the importance of last week’s lopsided election of Ali Larijani to the powerful position of Parliament speaker. The pragmatic Larijani, a former chief of Iran’s National Security Council and lead nuclear negotiator, has been an outspoken foe of hard-line president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His ascension spells a promising power shift within Iran’s faction-ridden political system. Larijani is very much a devotee of that system, but one who makes no secret of his belief that dialogue and deal-making with the West offer the surest means to secure Iran’s national

interests. This tilt toward Larijani suggests that the supreme leader of Iran has begun to respond to popular disenchantment with Ahmadinejad.

The best news is that Larijani’s elevation may foreshadow Ahmadinejad’s defeat in the presidential election scheduled for June 2009. If he is replaced by Larijani or another pragmatist — and if the United States, too, has a pragmatic president by then — a

bargain may be struck to keep nuclear weapons out of Iran. It will take deal-makers to make such a deal. — The Boston Globe