The New York Times reports: “Scrambling to avert failure in the talks on Iran’s disputed nuclear program, diplomats for Iran and six world powers agreed on Tuesday to extend the negotiation’s life by holding a round of lower-level meetings next month, despite little visible progress toward a compromise and clear frustration and mistrust on both sides.” This is ludicrous. The talks have failed.
Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams told me Tuesday afternoon: “The fact that these talks ended without another session being scheduled suggests that they have reached the end of the road. The ‘experts meeting’ seems like artificial respiration for something that is expiring. As there is no basis for the delegations to meet but they are unwilling to be candid about the stalemate, they call for ‘experts’ to meet — and then of course the delegations will have to meet to review what the experts have done — following which experts will have to meet again.”
The talks are seemingly aimed at President Obama saving face and keeping the Israelis at bay, rather than achieving our objectives. As Abrams observed: “This drags the talks on and on through the summer despite the lack of progress and substitutes process for substance. The relationship between these talks and the real world appears to be increasingly tenuous.”
A senior Senate aide following developments carefully said: “The egg timer is up on these failed talks. It’s time for Congress to hit the Iranian economy with another biting round of economic sanctions and impose a near total economic embargo on the regime. House and Senate leaders need to send the president a bill that prohibits companies around the world from doing business with, providing services for or underwriting activities of all Iranian entities whether operating inside or outside of Iran.” That seems increasingly likely to happen, given how adamant both Republicans and Democrats were in their letter to the president last Friday.
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) released this statement: “Once again, a P5+1 meeting with the Iranians has failed to yield any substantive progress, due to the Iranian refusal to take the first, most basic steps to give up their pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability. And yet despite the glaring lack of progress, more meetings with the Iranians have already been announced for the weeks ahead. The only thing the P5+1 and Iran can agree upon, it seems, is to keep kicking this diplomatic can down the road. It’s obvious why such a strategy serves Iran’s interests, as Tehran will use this time to install more centrifuges and enrich more uranium, expanding and hardening its nuclear program. But the current approach is no longer in America’s interests. It is time to acknowledge with regret that, because of Iranian intransigence, these talks have reached a dead end. Rather than continuing to meet in a futile effort to agree to confidence building measures that do not even address the totality of Iran’s illicit nuclear activities, we should turn our attention towards ratcheting up economic sanctions, including the measures that the United States and Europe will soon implement.” Other lawmakers are likely to echo his comments.
The Obama administration will be spinning furiously, unwilling to admit that this entire exercise is a failure. One can speculate that this is the reason for the umpteenth leak, describing a super-secret (not any more) “sophisticated computer virus nicknamed Flame that collected critical intelligence in preparation for cyber-sabotage attacks aimed at slowing Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon.” The obvious purpose of this disclosure, neatly timed for the collapse of the talks is: We have time!
It is impossible to know how effective “Flame” has been or will be or how close to the “zone of immunity” (the point at which Israel’s military will no longer be able to strike Iran’s weapons facilities) is the Jewish state.
In any event, there is virtually no reason to delay imposing oil sanctions. Israel’s patience should and will be limited. If the United States won’t act, Israel will.
In the meantime, the entire Obama approach to Iran (engagement followed by middling sanctions followed by more talks) has proven entirely insufficient. Obama’s refusal to acknowledge the jig is up suggests he is in no mood to act swiftly or decisively.