There are two schools of thought regarding the the Iran talks. One takes the “happy talk” coming from the negotiations at face value. The other considers the entire exercise a dangerous charade.
The “happy talk” promoters are personified by the Council on Foreign Relations’ Ray Takeyh, who has declared: “I think there is perhaps a new atmosphere. By that, I mean that all of the parties involved, and particularly the United States and Iran, and to some extent, probably even Israel [which is not a party to the talks], would like to take a step back and relieve some of the tensions that have surrounded this Iranian nuclear issue in the past couple of months. Everyone wants to calm this situation down a little bit, and the best way of doing that is to have a process that you can point to and express some degree of optimism about the prospects for that process. So this actually reduces tensions in some ways.”
Is the purpose of these talks to “reduce tension” or to persuade the Iranians to give up their nuclear weapons program? When the diplomats characterize the “atmosphere” as improved and talks to be “constructive,” rest assured nothing concrete is happening.
But what of the five-week delay before the next meeting? Ah, not to worry. Jeffrey Goldberg assures us: “Five weeks is not too terribly long, and President Obama (who, I get the sense, [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is back to mistrusting) has said explicitly that he’s not going to allow the Iranians to stall. But again, we’re back to the phase of this drama in which Netanyahu feels that Obama, who desperately wants to avoid the economic disruption he fears would ensue if Israel attacked Iran’s nuclear program (that is to say, he doesn’t want the economic disruption before November), is stringing along Iran, and stringing along Israel.” Really, how in the world could Netanyahu think he’s being strung along?
The skeptics take an entirely different view of things. Ruthie Blum, writing in Israel Hayom, voices the sentiment of those who’ve seen this routine all too often from the Iranians and who sense that indeed “reducing tensions” is the goal:
For the past three years, Washington has been clinging to every straw of hope that warnings and half-assed “sanctions” (along with Israeli computer expertise and intelligence on the ground in Iran) will make it unnecessary to take any serious action to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities. Nor is it only military action that the Obama gang has not been prepared to undertake. Even undermining the regime in Tehran by giving substantial aid and support to the rebels was too much for them to handle. And, when the opportunity did arise, following the 2009 [Iranian] elections — when there was a popular uprising ignited by Ahmadinejad’s stolen victory — Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said they did not want to interfere in the internal “democratic” process of the Iranian people.
Reuel Marc Gerecht posits that real success is almost certainly unattainable and would require that Iran “(1) Stop all uranium enrichment to 20 percent purity, which is near bomb-grade; (2) ship abroad the entire stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium; (3) close the Fordow enrichment facility, which is buried under a mountain near the clerical city of Qom; (4) allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency immediate and unfettered access to any suspected nuclear site; and (5) permit the IAEA to install devices on centrifuges for monitoring uranium-enrichment levels. [Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei is, to say the least, unlikely to agree to this.” But even the failure to obtain what the administration has previously deemed essential isn’t likely to “provoke the White House to do anything more bellicose.” Because, in the skeptics’ eyes, Obama’s aim, not unlike the mullahs, is to avoid confrontation and hinder unilateral action by the Israelis.
The “happy talk” gang and much of the media have bought off on the notion that sanctions are “forcing Iran to the table” and making the chances of a “deal” more likely. That, however, doesn’t account for the heightened enrichment activity in Iran. The happy talkers are unlikely, even in the event that meeting No. 2 two leads only to meeting No. 3, to be convinced that their hope of Iranian capitulation is fanciful and ignores the nature and aims of the Iranian regime. The problem with the “happy talk” believers, not unlike that of the “peace process” cultists, is that they can never accept failure. There is always another meeting to be had, you see. It’s just a matter of trying harder and finding the precise formulation to persuade the other side to fulfill our conditions.
Unlike the administration and the gullible American media, Israel can’t afford to live in a world divorced from facts.At some point before the U.S. elections in November, the Jewish state is quite likely to act. Slate columnist Fred Kaplan, who is among those who don’t think Iran’s possession of a nuclear weapon is “urgent,” acknowledges that “If [the Israelis] started an attack and needed U.S. firepower to help them complete the task, Barack Obama might open himself up to perilous political attacks — for being indecisive, weak, appeasing, anti-Israel, you name it — if he didn’t follow through. It could cost him the votes of crucial constituencies. If the Israelis tried to pressure the United States into joining an attack after the election, Obama would have (to borrow a phrase from another context) more flexibility.”)
And so we’ve come full circle. The administration and its defenders, clouded in a fog of “happy talk,” insist nothing need be done beyond continuation of the sanctions (Swiss cheese-like, though they may be) and more diplomacy; Israel’s leaders insist they must defend the Jewish state. Obama is unlikely to be persuaded to do more than, well, stall; Israel won’t be stalled much longer. Happy talk is not a luxury the Jewish state can afford.