As the administration tries to strong-arm senators into holding off on more sanctions, the Iranian have stepped forward to make it so much easier for lawmakers to tell Secretary of State John F. Kerry to buzz off. It is a peculiar situation where the Iranians are more helpful in assessing the situation than the happy talk coming from the U.S. negotiators, as reports demonstrated:

Secretary of State John F. Kerry (Alastair Grant/Associated Press) Secretary of State John F. Kerry (Alastair Grant/Associated Press)

Top Iranian officials now say that they will only continue negotiations if the West agrees to first lift the crippling economic sanctions that originally pushed Tehran to the bargaining table. The developments came on the same day that Iran’s top nuclear official announced that the country would not be reporting a host of new nuclear facilities to international nuclear inspectors. “We can negotiate about suspending part of our nuclear activities only if the entire sanctions program is annulled,” said Ahmad Salek, chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s Cultural Commission. Iran’s right to enrich up 20 percent grade uranium has been set by the country as a non-negotiable “redline,” according to Salek and multiple other Iranian officials.

Just as the Iranians were candid about why talks broke off (France nixed an awful deal) so are they more honest about their determination to remove all sanctions. It is with this in mind — and with a deep appreciation for how clueless negotiator Wendy Sherman was in comparable talks with the North Koreans on their nuclear weapons program — that members of Congress should decide on the wisest course. Giving the White House a green light to nix sanctions would make Congress complicit in what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls an “historic mistake.”

It is mind-boggling that Kerry now claims additional sanctions would wreck the only chance for a deal. Sanctions, of course, were part and parcel of the administration’s Iran policy and just a few weeks ago heralded by Sherman as the key to bringing Iran to the bargaining table. It is almost like Kerry will say anything to avoid confronting the reality that Obama’s Iran policy has utterly failed and the options are now to either capitulate or to hold firm and make the military option credible.