Like Hannes, I am simply blown away by this news. I really don't know what to say, the turnabout is so huge, so significant. It's almost a Nixon-goes-to-China moment. (For reasons of realpolitik I doubt it, however, as Bush just isn't as shrewd a statesman as Nixon, for all his other faults, was.) The fact that this administration, which only a few months ago seemed to be ready to bomb the Iranians back to the stone-age is now not only not denying the news coming out of Tehran about an interests section but discussing it publicly, especially in the context of 'people-to-people' exchanges a la ping-pong diplomacy is stunning. Really, I know there are a lot of emphatic words here, almost superlatives, but it's a shocking turnabout. And one I, in particular, am thrilled to see happening.
I know Iranians and have friends who live there. I've visited the place, as you all know. As I have said, time and time again, engagement with the odious regime in Tehran is the key to its downfall, not 'regime change' by force. I made the argument time and time and time again on the radio with Jack Riccardi and Chris Duel and Col. Ken Allard. The key, I would always say is "to engage the regime like we did the Soviets get them to put there money where their mouths are, in a sense. Engagement will bring about the downfall or moderation of the regime once they feel less threatened." This occurred with the Soviets and my bet is, if this can be pulled off and there is still a lot of doubt, that the same can happen with the Mullah regime in Tehran. I feel tremendously vindicated, just as I did when the Bush administration finally talked with the North Koreans. While serious and substantive issues remain, it appears as if full and verifiable inspections will be a reality in Pyongyang. Of course, they (and right-wingers in general) argued I was wrong. But that's by the by now.
It's simply the most unadulterated good news to come out of this administration ever. Dare I say they've done something right?
Lastly, Obama (and Edwards even more so for calling the War on Terror the fraud it truly is) is to be applauded by having the courage to call for negotiations with the 'baddies' and thus open up this key, critical domestic space. Were it not for Edwards and Obama I doubt we'd be where we are.
If things continue in this fashion the war in Iraq might even be over much sooner than we think and in a fashion many of us could scarcely have dreamed possible.
Much remains to be done, but for some reason imagination and courage seem to have temporarily triumphed over narrow ideology.