Conventional wisdom has it that the last days of second-term presidencies are a sorry sight to behold, and the Bush administration seems determined to prove the old adage correct. Yesterday, news broke that the White House was sending Undersecretary of State Bill Burns to the upcoming talks with Tehran in Switzerland this weekend. Burns is the highest-ranking member of the U.S. government to meet officially with the Iranian regime in twenty-eight or so years, and his participation in the discussions of the new “5+1” package is a major diplomatic coup for Iran. It is also marks a significant walking back of the dog by the administration, since the deal proffered by EU foreign policy czar Javier Solana to Iran last month does not expressly ask Iran to freeze its uranium enrichment entirely as a precondition to dialogue, but simply to freeze it at current levels. That distinction makes all the difference in the world, since even notorious skeptic Mohammed ElBaradei is now giving a one year estimate on Iranian nuclearization. Burns’ participation, therefore, is tantamount to an implicit American acceptance of the idea of a nuclear Iran — a fact that has certainly not been lost on folks in Tehran.
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