The news that the US is tentatively exploring contacts with Iran, despite President Bush's rhetoric, is surely a sign of hope in a conflict-ridden region.
It also reflects movements in the complex balance of forces in Iran itself. There is a good article about this on the ever-stimulating OpenDemocracy website: Axis of Evil vs Great Satan: wrestling to normality  by Nasrin Alavi , who spent her formative years in Iran, attended university in the UK and worked in London, and then returned to her birthplace to work for an NGO for a number of years. Today she lives in Britain.
See also Jihad: idea and history - by Patricia Crone.  The notion of jihad is one of the most contested in the modern Islamic and political lexicon. In a four-part essay, Patricia Crone makes it comprehensible: by identifying its textual sources, examining how early Muslims translated it into practice, asking how they made sense of it ethically, and exploring its contemporary relevance.