Secretary of State John Kerry testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in the hope of persuading Congress to not forge any new economic sanctions on Iran that could break the recent historic agreement that would end Iran’s progress toward weapons-grade uranium. The deal struck in Geneva prohibits the Obama administration from introducing new sanctions for six months. Iran's foreign minister has said any new package of commercial restrictions would break the agreement. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Secretary of State John F. Kerry (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

The nuclear negotiations between Iran- and the P5+1  — that’s the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany — started up again yesterday, this time in Vienna. (Did the diplomats run out of good restaurants in Geneva?) News reports stressed the negotiations would be “long,” “months long” and “slow.” Reuters quotes a “senior administration official” as saying the talks would be a “complicated, difficult and lengthy process.” Slow. Long. Hmm, does this sound like stall to you?

One official in a pro-Israel group says bluntly, “Iran has said they will concede nothing, dismantle nothing, and nothing has changed about their march to the bomb. Just listen to their own words. Those who endlessly play along with this rope-a-dope are desperately and naively leading us down a blind alley.”

Meanwhile, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which recently backed off its sanctions push (which was frozen by the White House and Senate majority leader), is shifting to a recap of what the administration itself says must be accomplished at the talks. In a memo to its members, AIPAC recounts:

President Obama has said any agreement must “make it impossible” for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. In order to achieve this objective, the United States and its partners must insist that Iran discontinue elements of its current illicit program and dismantle existing capabilities to prevent it from developing a nuclear weapon. Unfortunately, in the run up to Vienna, Iran’s leaders have publicly rejected dismantling any part of its program. Tehran must dramatically alter its position if the Vienna talks are to have any chance for success.

AIPAC quotes the secretary of state: “Clearly, in a final agreement, we intend to make this fail-safe, that we can guarantee that they will not have access to nuclear weapons.” And the White House spokesman: “As part of the comprehensive agreement, should it be reached, Iran will be required to agree to strict limits and constraints on all aspects of its nuclear program, to include the dismantlement of significant portions of its nuclear infrastructure in order to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon in the future.” Why the helpful reminders? Critics of the administration suspect either the talks will never end because it is impossible to conceive that Iran would do this or the president will try to peddle a phony deal that does none of these things in an effort to claim success.

So the administration is back to its fundamental problem. It has carefully delineated what Iran must do, a standard less than the United Nations but higher than anything Iran would remotely do. The administration has lessened sanctions and made clear it doesn’t want to use force (“destabilizing”!). Oh, and it doesn’t want Israel to act militarily. So what’s the game plan, fellas?