Britain has decided to reopen its embassy in Tehran after pulling out of Iran three years ago.
The news comes as both Britain and America look to the Iranians to help them restore order in Iraq, currently in the grip of an offensive by ISIL Sunni militants.
Direct military co-operation appears unlikely. Iran has already sent troops into Iraq to protect key Shi’ite shrines.
“Iran does have the capability to play a more positive role across the region. It has played, for many years, a divisive and sectarian role through supporting divisive or often terrorist groups in other parts of the region. We look to it to desist from that,” said Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague.
It is quite a turnaround, brought about by the emergency situation in Iraq, and a subtle political change in Tehran, which is sounding more moderate.
“Maybe hearing the name of Britain brings back bad memories but resuming relations could help us in some fields such as contributing to sanctions relief and improving our economic conditions too. In my opinion it is all in all a positive move,” said one young man.
In 2011 angry crowds trashed the British embassy after sanctions were imposed on the country over its disputed nuclear programme. Older Iranians see the UK as the “great satan,” not the USA, and mistrust is likely to remain high.