Iran promise to send nuclear fuel abroad: A major concession?
The real test, caution some, is whether Iran follows through on the tentative nuclear deal that would effectively prevent Tehran from developing a bomb.
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Juan Cole, a Middle East expert at the University of Michigan and a sharp Bush critic, borrowed a phrase from online gaming culture in his blog Friday, saying Obama had "pwned" former President Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney with their "axis of evil" rhetoric. (For an interesting side-story on the word 'pwn' and how it came to be, see the Urban Dictionary.)Skip to next paragraph
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"Obama... got more concessions from Iran in 7 1/2 hours than the former administration got in 8 years of saber-rattling,'' writes Dr. Cole, though he added "the steps outlined... are only pledges on Iran's part, of course, and we have to see if they are implemented."
Gary Sick, a senior research fellow at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, took a similar view. Dr. Sick, who served on the National Security Council under three US presidents and was the senior White House aide on Iran during the country's 1979 Islamic revolution, wrote that "by all accounts, instead of being a food fight leading to a total breakdown, the Geneva talks were serious, businesslike, and even cordial... this was a historic moment after thirty years of mutual recriminations and hyperbole. "
"Both sides evidently came prepared to behave civilly, to make some small but important concessions, and to initiate a process of negotiation that has been on ice almost since the moment that George W. Bush decided, for arcane reasons of his own, to declare Iran (which had just finished working closely with the United States to establish a new civil government in Afghanistan) a charter member of the Axis of Evil," he wrote.
But he also cautioned, like Solana, that this was only the beginning. "One swallow does not a summer make, and it would be a mistake to think that the results of the Geneva meetings were anything more than the first baby steps along a perilous and unpredictable path," Sick said.
The Wall Street Journal's editorial page was less congratulatory, saying the concessions were "surprisingly modest" and that in exchange a "respectability" was conferred on the Iranian regime that "Mr. Ahmadinejad could only have imagined amid his vicious post-election crackdown."
It also said Iranian commitments should not be trusted. "On long evidence, the regime has no intention of stopping a nuclear program that would give it new power in the region, and new leverage against America."