Th most fascinating aspect in the lead up to the resumption of the “P5+1” talks with Iran is the bipartisan and widespread fretting that President Obama will give away the store. The latest indication of the lack of confidence in the president comes in a statement from Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). It reads:
[The] P-5+1 meeting in Baghdad is the latest in a decade-long string of opportunities for the Iranians to reach a peaceful settlement with the international community by abandoning their pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability. We hope they will seize this chance. Given the Iranian regime’s long track record of delay and deception, however, we remain extremely skeptical about its willingness to engage in good faith diplomacy. For this reason, we also believe that it is critical for the United States and our partners to be guided by four principles in these talks, which we outlined in a letter to the President earlier this year:
The Iranian regime has come to the negotiating table only because of increasingly crippling pressure from sanctions. Therefore, any hope for real diplomatic progress depends upon a continuing and expanding campaign of economic pressure on the Iranian regime.
The pressure campaign against Iran should continue until there is a full and complete resolution of all components of the Iranian nuclear problem.
We should expect that the Iranians will seek to buy time and fragment international unity by offering partial measures that fail to address the totality of their illicit nuclear activities. Such tactical maneuverings are a dangerous distraction and should not be tolerated.
Given the Iranian regime’s pattern of deceptive and illicit conduct, it cannot be trusted to maintain any enrichment or reprocessing activities on its territory for the foreseeable future — at least until the international community has been fully convinced that Iran has genuinely decided to abandon any nuclear weapons ambitions. We are very, very far from that point.
We agree with President Obama that the window for diplomacy is closing, and that it is a vital national interest of the United States to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. No option should be taken off the table in order to achieve this goal.
Now if the lawmakers had perfect confidence that Obama would be immune to Iranian gamesmanship such public line-in-the-sand drawing would not be needed. But the lawmakers, and I would suggest wisely so, think the president needs some spine-stiffening.
If they are listening to former Obama adviser Dennis Ross they might want to sound some more alarm bells. Josh Rogin reports:
Don’t expect any breakthroughs with Tehran at the six-power nuclear talks beginning Wednesday in Baghdad, the Obama administration’s former top official for Iran Dennis Ross said Tuesday, despite a recent flurry of reporting suggesting otherwise.
“I don’t believe that we should be looking at tomorrow as being a make-or-break meeting where if there isn’t an unmistakable breakthrough then the process isn’t a real process,” Ross said on a conference call. “One doesn’t need to see a breakthrough in these talks. That’s unrealistic at this point. The idea that you have a breakthrough after only two rounds, I think, given everything going on, is just not realistic.”
There isn’t unlimited time to strike a deal with Iran, Ross cautioned. But in order for real progress to be made, he said, the talks have to continue on a regular, predictable schedule.
“There needs to be an indication that the talks really do have a kind of intensive ongoing character and they’re meeting on almost what I would describe as nearly a continuous basis,” he said.
Oh good grief. This is precisely the sort of foot-dragging that will give Iran cover to proceed merrily along with its nuclear weapons program. Notice how Ross seems content with a leisurely schedule:
“If you’re really into a process that’s designed to produce understandings or become clear that that’s not possible, month-to-month is simply not realistic. Look, in the past, oftentimes when proposals were given to the Iranians it took them months on end even to respond or to digest,” he said.
“I think the key here is you want to send a signal that we’re serious, but we’re not desperate for an agreement . . . we’re not pushing prematurely to try to produce an outcome before you’ve had a chance to have the kind of discussions that are credible enough to determine whether such an outcome is possible.”
That kind of elongated schedule is precisely what Israel fears and what we should be worried about as well. Ross’s comments are virtually a prediction that talks will take Israel beyond the point when its military can effectively disable Iran’s weapons program. That, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed, won’t happen. Israel’s timetable won’t allow for U.S.-Iranian dawdling.
If you noticed we are right back to where we started with “engagement” at the onset of Obama’s term, but with one major exception: Iran is much further along in its nuclear weapons development, and we now know sanctions may hobble the Iranian economy but won’t slow that progress.
After three plus years, the Iranian regime has weathered the Green Revolution, pushed human rights off the table, demonstrated sanctions don’t inhibit its weapons program and proven it can endlessly string along an administration more nervous about an Israeli strike than Iran’s progress toward achieving nuclear weapons capability. Obama’s Iranian policy is “working” — but not for the West.