February 27, 2013

You don’t suppose the Iranian mullahs are taking their cues from the Obama administration? We better hope not. If they did, they would see that it now includes a defense secretary who has been overtly solicitous of their regime, opposed to unilateral sanctions and hostile toward Israel, as well as a president who is more than willing to cut national security to extract more money from the rich. They might also observe a complete military abandonment of Iraq and a premature pullout from Afghanistan. They would, to be blunt, be foolish not to take these as encouraging signs.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Caren Firouz / Reuters)

So it should come as no surprise that the latest meeting of the Iranians and the P5+1 should end in agreement to have another meeting. Josh Block, a longtime Democrats (decidedly not a Hagel Democrat) and head of the Israel Project, tells me, “It is distressing to watch Iran continue to use the pretense of talks to make alarming advances in its ability to make nuclear weapons.” He observed, “Just today we learn that Tehran is beginning to use its plutonium path to nuclear weapons fuel, and [this] comes on the heels of the IAEA’s report confirming that they are dramatically boosting the speed at which they can make highly enriched uranium. As policy makers in Washington are making clear behind closed doors, time is running out for Tehran.”

Others are highly suspicious of what State Department nonproliferation advisor Bob Einhorn and undersecretary for political affairs Wendy Sherman (who was instrumental in the disastrous efforts to engage North Korea) are up to behind closed doors. A senior Senate aide knowledgeable about the Iran issue remarks, “Wendy Sherman and Bob Einhorn are up to their old tricks, as if enabling a nuclear breakout in North Korea wasn’t enough for their résumés. Wendy and Bob are so desperate to keep the Iranians talking and prove themselves worthy as negotiators that they are now negotiating with themselves – driving down demands and driving up the sanctions relief offer.” He asserts, “This is outrageous and the American people need to lash out before the Wendy/Bob show give us an Iranian nuclear weapon.”

There is good reason for concern. The Hill reports, “The six parties have abandoned previous demands that Iran shut down a secretive uranium enrichment plant at Fordo that was discovered by Western intelligence agencies in 2009, as long as enrichment is suspended. They also said Iran would be allowed to keep a small amount of enriched uranium, which Iran says it needs for medical research.” Why wouldn’t the Iranians keep saying no? The deal gets better by the day.

Even more alarming is the willful naivété displayed by our negotiators. The New York Times reports that Western diplomats conceded that “Iran had not in fact responded to the proposal of the six and that real bargaining had not yet begun”:

A senior European diplomat was even more skeptical, saying that the technical meeting was essentially to explain the proposal to the Iranians once again, and that Iran may very well come back in April with an unacceptable counterproposal that swallows the “carrots” of the six and demands more.

The senior American official said that as a first step toward confidence-building and reducing the urgency around the issue, the six were demanding that Iran “significantly restrict” its accumulation of uranium enriched to 20 percent — which can quickly be turned into bomb-grade material — and limit its production to what is needed for fuel for the small Tehran Research Reactor to make medical isotopes. …

“The official denied that there was any “softening of our position,” citing further constraints on Iran, but conceded that Iran was being offered some more sanctions relief in response to its concerns and in an effort “to gain traction for these talks.” [Emphasis added.]

Thunk. Reason to worry? You bet. Congress should get senior officials in front of the relevant oversight committees pronto and get to the bottom of what is going on. The administration, it seems, is setting the world up for a phony deal that puts a fig leaf over its abject failure to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.