Reaching Out to Iran

David Ignatius in the Washington Post:

America’s opening to China had its ping-pong diplomacy. Detente with the Soviet Union featured the Bolshoi Ballet. Perhaps in the new diplomatic dance between the United States and Iran, a similar people-to-people role will be played by an immunologist named David Haines and his project to study Iranian victims of Iraqi chemical weapons.

Haines first told me his unlikely story several months ago, as he was seeking U.S. government approval for his effort to bring an Iranian scientist to join him in his work at the University of Connecticut. The urgency of his project became obvious after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced Wednesday that the United States is willing to join direct talks with Iran for the first time in nearly three decades. Perhaps Haines’s project can be a model for broader educational and scientific contacts if a U.S.-Iran dialogue can begin.

Haines’s tale features many of the strands that are knotted together in the current Middle East crisis: weapons of mass destruction; the aftershocks of Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime; the legacy of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks; the need to prepare for future WMD attacks by terrorist groups. You may doubt that all those themes could converge in the work of one scientist, but read on.

More here.  [Thanks to Samad Khan.]