Toward the end of a lively question-and-answer session at Cambridge, Massachusettes, on Monday, Mohammed Khatami, Iran’s former president, let slip a revealing remark. He had been talking about the need for his country and the US to follow the “path of negotiations,” observing earlier that it was harmful for Iran’s hardliners to revile US as “the Great Satan” and equally damaging for US officials to characterise Iran as part of an “Axis of Evil.” Then, as if deliberately mimicking out-of-office politicians everywhere, he said with a smile, “You won’t have me and Clinton to kick around anymore.”

As the people around his table laughed, Khatami added: “And Bush and Ahmadinejad are cut from the same cloth.”

Khatami’s visit here has embodied the spirit of dialogue that he preaches. The decision of President Bush to grant Khatami a special diplomatic visa for his visit reflects a wise, if belated, realisation that the former Iranian president represents a reformist current in Iran’s politics.

Ineffective as Khatami may have been at protecting and defending Iran’s reformists during his time in power, he is utterly different from Ahmadinejad. The best hope for Iran’s future and for peace in the larger Middle East may depend on the survival and nurturing of the reformist current in Iran. — The Boston Globe