Geneva: Victory for Everyone?

The Geneva meeting — despite the furious anti-Iranian spin by the Western media and the House vote for gasoline sanctions against Iran right before the talk — turned out to be, for once, a happy surprise: it resulted in an agreement that all sides can hail as a victory for them.

Iran claims that it has valiantly defended its right to uranium enrichment and autonomous development.  The hard-line Kayhan declares: “Geneva was not just a win for Iran; it was a victory for all countries with aspirations to utilize peaceful nuclear energy in order to secure their future renewable energy requirements.”

The West claims that Iran has made a significant concession by agreeing to ship much of the already enriched uranium to Russia for further enrichment to the level necessary for medical isotope production, thus allaying its professed fear of weaponization (which is in truth a fear of change in the balance of power in the Middle East that would result from Israel’s loss of nuclear monopoly in the region).

China and Russia can pat themselves on the back, thinking that they have moderated both sides.

Even embattled reformists of Iran and their overseas supporters got something: the National Iranian American Council notes: “Members of the Iranian-American community are particularly pleased that the issue of human rights in Iran was also raised during the talks.”

The only unhappy camp appears to be the regime-change-obsessed US neo-con types: e.g., “In fact, just two days ago, the buzz in Washington was that tough economic sanctions against Iran were on their way.  As of Thursday evening, that became yesterday’s news” (Henry Sokolski, “Blinking on Iran,” National Review, 2 October 2009).

This happy surprise may be only temporary — the West can block the potential path to détente glimpsed at Geneva, by continuing to push for a “freeze for freeze” instead of offering a concession of its own in return for Iran’s concession or, worse, get back to W’s path of using the conflict over uranium enrichment first and foremost as pretext for “regime change, by any means necessary” — but it certainly buys time for all sides to think through the costs and benefits of escalation and de-escalation of the conflict.