Secretary of State John Kerry appears before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to discuss his budget and the status of diplomatic hot spots, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 8, 2014. Lawmakers' questions focused on Russia, Ukraine, Iran and Syria. Kerry, a former chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, threatened Russia with tougher economic sanctions if it fails to back down from its chaotic involvement in Ukraine. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Secretary of State John Kerry (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

The administration has to ignore an awful lot of evidence of Iran’s unwillingness to give up its nuclear weapons in order to keep up the pretense that negotiations between the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia — plus Germany) and Iran are useful. The president and his advisers choose not to see the connection between Iran’s increased support for terrorism and domestic repression and its nuclear ambitions. (Hint: They are evidence of Iran’s determination to remain a revolutionary state.) The president and his negotiators don’t flinch when Iranian officials publicly declare they will not dismantle their weapons program.

So don’t get your hopes up that this Wall Street Journal report is going to shake John Kerry out of his stupor:

A senior cleric delivering a nationally televised sermon urged a crowd that included former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the head of Iran’s nuclear energy organization to observe sexual piety, aid the poor and support Iran’s development of nuclear power.

“This technology is progressing our nation,” Ayatollah Imami Kashani said at weekly Friday prayers at the University of Tehran. “Our enemies are against such progress.”

The sermon, like other speeches and television appearances by senior leaders recently, offered few signs the government is conditioning Iranians for any major limitations on nuclear work. But in talks Iran is pursuing with world powers, U.S. and European officials are aiming to significantly scale back Iran’s nuclear capabilities to guard against development of nuclear weapons—something Tehran denies that it seeks.

To reach a deal that would ease international sanctions, the clerical leaders will have to make significant concessions. But by defining the program as one of its signature achievements, U.S. and European officials worry the regime is making it harder to accept the limits the West is demanding.

Worrying that it will make it harder to reach a deal. Oh good grief. Perhaps they should conclude that it is evidence that they don’t want a deal and will never accept the limits the West is demanding.

Even the “easy” issues are nonstarters with the Iranians:

 The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, said Wednesday that Tehran was prepared to redesign its heavy water reactor in the city of Arak, “so that its production of plutonium will decrease drastically.” However, his overture appeared to be undercut by his statements on Sunday that Iran would need to build 30,000 more centrifuges, according to state media.

U.S. diplomats involved in the diplomacy said Arak was probably one of the easier issues to solve. They said it remains far from clear whether Tehran will dismantle thousands of centrifuge machines, as Washington demands, and agree to scale back its missile program.

All of this is important for one critical reason: When there is no final deal by July 20, Kerry will plead with Congress for more time because progress is being made. Congress should be clear in its response: There is no sign of progress at the table. The only progress is in the recovery of Iran’s economy. It’s long past the time for those crippling sanctions — the ones that might have coaxed more concessions from Iran had they been enacted in December.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s stalling game at the behest of the White House should end, and Congress should begin considering how to overtly assist Israel in the event it must act militarily, as it is increasingly likely will be necessary. This won’t be to the White House’s liking, and it won’t sit well with right-wing isolationists who are mulling a containment strategy for Iran, but the vast number of lawmakers understand the talks are a joke and the window for even sanctions to work is closing fast.

 

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