Events are still far too fluid to predict the immediate future but Joe Klein sets out the options persuasively here:
The truth is, Iran's government is a conservative, defensive, rational military dictatorship that manages to subdue its working-class majority softly, by distributing oil revenues downward. (On June 23, Ahmadinejad announced that doctors' salaries would be doubled, for example.)
"The Iranian government has been weakened and tainted by the events," an Arab diplomat told me. The international implications of that weakness are unknowable, for now. "I could give you very convincing arguments either way," an Obama Administration official told me, speaking of the prospects for negotiations with the regime. The prevailing view was that the Iranians would withdraw for a time and attempt to get their house in order. But it is also possible that the regime will move aggressively toward negotiations with the U.S., in order to convey the impression of stability and international legitimacy to its people. If that happens, the Obama Administration may be in position to gain concessions from the Iranians in the area where the Khamenei-Ahmadinejad forces were least willing to negotiate Iran's nuclear program.
"Under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, they have to reveal all their nuclear activities, which they haven't done," a senior Administration official told me.
It is not impossible that a weakened Iranian regime might be willing to engage on these issues especially if, as the Iranians insist, they are not attempting to weaponize the uranium they are enriching. Such negotiations would be a diplomatic risk worth taking. They would be a significant political risk, however with McCain and others screaming appeasement. Whether or not to negotiate, now that the Iranian government has disgraced itself in the eyes of the world, is sure to be a defining moment for the Obama Administration.
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