Iran negotiations ‘train wreck’ ahead

Hassan Rouhani, Iran's president, speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 23. (Jason Alden/Bloomberg)
Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president, speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 23. (Jason Alden/Bloomberg)

The last time a liberal (Sen. Max Baucus of Montana) warned about an Obama administration “train wreck” (regarding Obamacare), he was prescient. There is a good chance now that CNN’s foreign policy pundit and Post columnist Fareed Zakaria, usually very much in tune with the administration’s foreign policy, hit the nail on the head following an interview with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Zakaria surmised that the Iran negotiations are facing “a train wreck . . . a potentially huge obstacle because the Iranian conception of what the deal is going to look like and the American conception now look like they are miles apart.”

There is good reason to believe Zakaria. His conclusion was based in large part on his interview with Rouhani, who candidly described his country’s views on dismantling its nuclear weapons program: “Not under any circumstances.”

Zakaria’s conclusion, even without Rouhani’s admission, is also bolstered, as we have noted, by the independent Institute for Science and International Security report’s description of the vast changes Iran would have to make — far in excess of anything it has suggested in the past — to meet the bare minimum requirements even the U.S. negotiators say are required (already watered-down from the United Nations resolutions).

Given everything we know, it is hard to fathom how the Obama administration, as feckless as it is, could possibly believe the Iranians are willing to do what we are demanding.

Josh Block, a Democrat and executive director of the Israel Project, e-mailed, “It is deeply troubling but not at all shocking that Rouhani says Iran will never step back their nuclear pursuit. The America people know Iran is lying when they say they aren’t building nukes.” He continued, “Congress knows they are lying. But if the Administration wants to leaves Iran enriching uranium — after Rouhani himself said if they can enrich to 3.5% they can make a bomb and now declares they will never dismantle their centrifuges — clearly they would be putting our fate in Iran’s hands.” Or put differently, Obama seems willing to continue a ludicrous process and/or accept any deal to avoid the United States having to take matters into its own hands.

Rouhani’s comment, coupled with the refusal to release publicly the entire text of the so-called implementation agreement for the interim deal, suggests either the White House is misleading the public (i.e. it knows negotiations can’t succeed) or is delusional in its expectation that a deal anywhere in the ballpark of acceptability is in the offing. (In the same way Secretary of State John Kerry is convinced a peace agreement for Syria can work out, abject fear of failure is a powerful narcotic.) The White House is obsessively focused on shutting down Senate legislation and on tamping down the push-back it has received from allies and pro-Israel groups here. No doubt the White House drones are buzzing with resentment that their handiwork is being revealed to be a smoke screen for containment. (You can hear it now: There is nothing to be done. We tried. Do you want boots on the ground? Do you?) The Obama gang has infinite time and energy to attack Israel for making trouble, label sanctions supporters as war-mongers, spin the media and its supporters (I repeat) and plot to block congressional action, but it has no stomach for dealing with the real world.

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), a co-sponsor of current and previous sanctions legislation, regards Rouhani’s admission as more than enough reason to push ahead with the only leverage we have at this point: more sanctions. He told Right Turn, “A continued policy of appeasement will lead to a world with Iranian nuclear weapons and unnecessarily risk a nuclear war in the Middle East.  The overwhelming majority of the House and Senate support the bipartisan Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act.” He pointedly added, “It’s time to schedule a vote on the bill to give the American people the diplomatic insurance policy they deserve.”

A sanctions bill, however, is stalled. That’s because for all their fine words about Iranian danger and the beneficial effect of sanctions, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his fellow Democrats are, above all (and to a degree not fully comprehensible to Republicans, who have no problem squabbling among themselves), partisan loyalists. Knowing the president’s outlook is foolish and wrongheaded, they nevertheless refuse to move forward. The best you can say for the cowering Democrats is that they figure, like Zakaria, the talks will collapse anyway so the president can get his comeuppance from the Iranians rather than from Democrats. (Given the choice between defying the White House’s bleating and waiting for things to take their course, it is an easy choice for those in a party for which support for Israel is optional.)

To be clear: The president doesn’t want to acknowledge a diplomatic impossibility and accept responsibility for decisive action against Iran. The Dems in Congress don’t want to admit publicly that the White House is in fantasyland and accept responsibility for implementing sanctions that might force Iran to be more forthcoming. As a result, Rouhani brags. The centrifuges spins. And Israel is left to contemplate how and when it will need to act in its own defense and in defense of the West.

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