Monday, October 22, 2012

Iran Talks Set Stage for 2nd Term Sellout

by Jonathan S. Tobin

The New York Times is reporting that for the first time the United States has agreed to direct talks with Iran about its nuclear program. Obama administration officials speaking off the record confirmed the announcement but at the moment the White House is publicly denying it. The one-on-one negotiations will, the newspaper says, not commence until after the presidential elections. While the Times says the delay is at the request of the Iranians, that time frame also works well for the administration. It allows the president to boast that he is doing everything to try and persuade the Iranians to abandon their ambitions during the election campaign while leaving him room should he be re-elected to exhibit the “flexibility” to strike a compromise with Tehran after November that could leave the Islamist regime’s nuclear capability intact.

While it can be argued that any opportunity to talk sense to the Iranians should be explored, the problem here is twofold. On the one hand, for the past decade the Iranians have shamelessly exploited every Western diplomatic initiative to buy time for their program to get closer to weapons capability. On the other, given the refusal of the Obama administration to contemplate setting down “red lines” that would set clear limits to how close the Iranians could get to a nuke, there is a very real possibility that any deal they strike will allow the ayatollahs to retain their nuclear program. Such a deal would be represented as a victory for diplomacy that would avert the danger of an Iranian weapon. But the odds are it would only serve as an excuse to lessen the pressure on Tehran and allow it to eventually circumvent any agreement in much the same manner the North Koreans made fools of the Clinton and the Bush administrations’ efforts to spike their nuclear program. Assuming that the Iranians even choose to talk or agree to even the most generous deal before inevitably breaking their word, the direct talks set the stage for a second Obama term sellout of Israel.

The arguments in favor of the talks, such as those put forward by R. Nicholas Burns, an undersecretary of state in the George W. Bush administration, are that before the U.S. even thinks of tightening the screws further on Iran, let alone contemplating the use of force, it must pursue every possible diplomatic avenue. That makes sense, but the weakness with this piece of conventional wisdom is that it ignores the fact that the West has been trying to talk with Iran for years to no avail. Every negotiation, whether it was the talks that were conducted by the Bush administration via German and French surrogates or the Obama administration’s comical attempt at “engagement” with Iran or the subsequent equally unsuccessful P5+1 talks held this past year, all had the same purpose and the same result. The Iranians sought to drag out the talks for as long as possible without ever budging an inch on their nuclear goal. So to pretend, as some of those who defend this latest initiative do, that diplomacy must be tried, is more than a bit disingenuous. There is no credible reason to believe that the Iranians will fold this time.

That is especially true since they are so much closer to achieving their objective. The latest reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran have showed that the Iranians are doubling the number of centrifuges enriching uranium at their underground bunker at Fordow. Within months, it is more than likely that they will have compiled enough enriched uranium to make a bomb practicable. Nor is there any reason to think that Western intelligence agencies that have failed to sabotage the Iranian program (despite illegal leaks to that effect from the administration aimed at puffing up the president’s image during his re-election campaign) will be able to give sufficient notice prior to the assembly of such a weapon from this material.

The talks should also set off alarms among those who fear that the administration’s goal is a deal that will leave the Iranians with some sort of nuclear capability. This is something that both Israel and the Mitt Romney campaign rightly oppose since any restrictions on enrichment could easily be violated once the international sanctions on Iran are dropped and the world loses interest in the problem. The only acceptable solution to this threat is Iran’s decision to give up its nuclear capability. Anything else will simply make a repeat of the North Korean fiasco in which that rogue regime went nuclear despite signing agreements with the West.

Talks are always better than war, but little good can come from negotiations that only serve the interests of a regime like Iran that plots genocide and sponsors terrorism. Given the track record of both Iran and the Obama administration, the announcement of post-election negotiations is an ominous portent of what the president might do in a second term.

Jonathan S. Tobin


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