The Post reports: “Two days of talks between Iran and six world powers over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program concluded late Thursday with an agreement to meet again in Moscow next month. There was no sign that any of the many differences over how to address world concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions had been bridged. But, according to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, it was a sign of progress that Iran had agreed to attend further talks.”
This is an utter farce. Iran is simply getting cover month by month to proceed with its weapons program. It is long past the point at which we should have declared both sanctions and the current round of negotiations a failure.
Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams tells me: “From press reports, it seems the Iranians are playing a game of chicken in the hope and expectation that the P5+1 will not allow the talks to collapse and will make concessions to avoid that happening. I hope that’s wrong, for we are playing from a position of strength. They have to know we will walk away from the table if need be. We should make demands and stick to them or this will degenerate into an endless ‘Iran process’ that drags on while their nuclear program progresses.”
Clear-headed Democrats are also fed up. Long-time pro-Israel Democrat and former AIPAC spokesman Josh Block e-mails me: “For over 10 years now Iran has been blatantly lying and covering up their pursuit of nuclear weapons capability. Five UNSC resolutions demand full suspension of enrichment activity and complete transparency, and Iran’s response has been to thumb their nose and flip the world the bird. Judging by the reports coming from Baghdad, Iran has no interest in ending their illicit nuclear activity, much of which is on military bases and in secret undeclared facilities.”
Block contends that all peaceful means of stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program are virtually exhausted. “As the Obama Administration has said there is a very narrow window for Iran to come clean, relinquish its enriched stockpiles, and comply with the demands of the international community. If they continue to stonewall and delay and blame the west, they can expect more crippling sanctions, and an increased likelihood of non-diplomatic means to retard their ability to achieve their nuclear ambitions.”
Even those who usually support keeping negotiations alive see what is happening, according to The Post article:
“The West can’t give enough on sanctions, and Iran won’t concede enough on the nuclear side — at least not yet,” said Aaron David Miller, a former senior adviser to the State Department on Middle East issues. In the meantime, he said, the talks are being kept alive as a “management exercise driven by Iran’s vulnerability and need for sanctions relief and the West’s fear of war.”
Precisely. President Obama has no stomach for a military option, and the Iranians know it. So why give any ground?
What comes next? Certainly, the Israelis have every reason to consider the “just one more meeting” outcome a failure and proceed with necessary unilateral action.
Meanwhile, Obama is likely to receive pushback on Capitol Hill. A senior aide involved in sanctions issues says lawmakers concerned about Iran’s uninterrupted progress toward nuclear weaponization are “dumbfounded” by the idea that the only outcome is another meeting to discuss further “progress,” which in all likelihood will require another meeting. Obama, the aide says, has presented his congressional allies with “nothing deliverable” with which to defend the administration’s approach.
Presumably, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will be under pressure to move ahead promptly with the conference committee on the Iran sanctions bill that has passed the House and Senate. But will that be sufficient?
Frankly, the time it will take to pass the new oil sanctions, implement them, evaluate their impact and see if that changes the Iranian regime’s calculus may very well take us into the “zone of immunity,” the point at which Israel’s military can no longer successfully disable Iran’s far-flung nuclear weapons sites.
Isn’t it time to stop the charade, call the administration’s approach what it is — a failure — and put the question squarely to the administration: Is it prepared now to use all options to stop Iran’s nuclear program or are we imply slow-walking toward acceptance and “containment” of a nuclear-armed Iran?