Iran’s semi-official news agency Fars reports that the Supreme Leader is supremely uninterested in making any deal with the West on the regime’s illicit nuclear program:
Khamenei said on Wednesday that negotiations with the United States “don’t have any benefits” for Iran and rejected the prospect of further discussions.
“Relations with the U.S. and negotiations with that country, except for very specific cases, don’t have any benefits for the Islamic Republic and it is even harmful,” Khamenei told Iran’s diplomatic corps, according to Fars.
Recent negotiations between the United States and Iran on its nuclear program have proved that no issues “will be settled,” according to Khamenei.
“Some people pretended that if we sit to the negotiating table with the Americans, many problems will be settled; of course, we knew that it is not correct but the events during the recent years has now proved this reality several times,” he was quoted as saying.
Nuclear talks “proved futile” and only “emboldened the U.S.” to make demands on Iran, according to Fars.
“Generally speaking, it was revealed that despite the imaginations of certain people, negotiations won’t help anything,” Khamenei said.
So long as economic sanctions remain in place on Iran, negotiations are “unjustified,” Khamenei said.
This suggests that for all the nice words from the “moderate” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the regime is fundamentally unwilling to give up its nuclear capabilities — and feels no particular pressure to do so. Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies tells me, “[Khamenei] loathes America and doesn’t appear to share Rouhani’s fondness for using diplomacy to divide Europe and the United States. In his view, bowing to Westerners is a sin. The same is true for the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, who aren’t clever but are powerful.” Dubowitz acknowledges that this may be blustering, but it is also very possible that “Khamenei believes that continued intransigence involves no cost and that he has no interest in any kind of compromise. The White House’s palpable fear of conventional conflict, which Khamenei regularly mocks, and the West’s track record of giving ground in talks and eroding its negotiating position by de-escalating the economic pressure, probably proves in Khamenei’s eyes the strategic wisdom of his nuclear aspirations.”
It is likely this will have no effect on the president, whose main purpose appears to be keeping the talks alive and thereby any demands for action at bay. What we should do — and what Congress can certainly set in motion — is a shift in the cost- benefit analysis for Iranian intransigence. Increase sanctions, begin interdiction of Iranian arms shipments to its surrogates, coordinate with our Sunni allies and transfer bunker-buster bombs and other offensive equipment to Israel so as to increase the threat of a military strike on Iran. And rather than lend a helping hand to Hamas, Iran’s surrogate, we should forcefully insist on disarmament of Gaza, back continued Israeli action if needed against Hamas and put an end to any “war crimes” investigation of Israel by threat of defunding it and the entire United Nations Human Rights Council. A more forceful U.S. approach also means robust action to provide training and military assistance to the Free Syrian Army in its two-front battle against Iran’s junior partner, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and the Islamic State.
Israel, it seems, is the only country on the planet willing to stand up to Iranian-inspired aggression and draw red lines that its enemies respect. That suggests less talk with Iran and more talk with Israel and other allies about a military option. Iran won’t believe President Obama will ever act, but it might figure out that Israel is fully capable of a robust attack that would deeply wound Iran’s economy (and perhaps undermine its hard-line leaders) and set back Iran’s program a number of years. That may buy enough time for a new U.S. president to change our Iran policy and to convince the Iranians the choice is between regime survival and giving up nukes. By the way, what does Hillary Clinton favor at this point? Just asking.