President Barack Obama on Thursday effectively placed his presidential legacy in the hands of Iranian revolutionary clerics who've waged a proxy war against the U.S. for three decades.
With a framework deal to halt Tehran's nuclear program, Obama moved closer to the kind of staggering diplomatic breakthrough with the Islamic Republic that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
If the political agreement reached in Switzerland turns into a genuine pact honored by both sides, Obama will be entitled to a place in history as the leader who defused an intensely bitter estrangement with Iran.
But he also took personal ownership of a fraught negotiating process full of false starts and deep divisions, one that hinges on the sides' ability to hammer out a host of devilish details by a June 30 final deadline in the face of vocal opposition from domestic and international critics.
If the deal falls apart, it will be hard to refute charges by critics that Obama's insistence on negotiating directly with U.S. enemies -- a tactic at the heart of his political philosophy -- is deeply naive and futile.
"The nuclear flaw in this agreement is the fact that we will not be able to go anywhere, go anytime," said Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. "The IAEA is going to have to work with the Iranians. What the Iranian government has shown over decades is the ability to defeat the IAEA with stonewalling, delay and deviousness."
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