Commentary Magazine


Constructive, but for Whom?

How did engagement with Iran go on Monday? We get this report:

Iran offered contradictory positions on its nuclear stance on Monday, using domestic media to appear to back away from a prior promise, even as it sat down for talks at the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran had agreed to ship much of its stock of low-enriched uranium abroad, a move that should temporarily curb its ability to build a nuclear weapon. On Monday, Iran’s official news agency said France would be excluded from countries that could sell enriched uranium to Iran because Tehran said France hadn’t kept a promise to deliver 50 tons of UF6 gas, and could no longer be trusted.

Gosh, must be kind of frustrating to deal with a regime that seems to be jerking the other side around, right? Oh, not at all! With no hint of humor (or embarrassment), “the IAEA’s director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, said Monday’s talks were constructive and focused on technical issues.” It’s hard to imagine what an unconstructive session would be in ElBaradei’s eyes.

But get used to this game. The on-gain/off-again, did-they-or-didn’t-they-agree nature of these get-togethers is familiar to anyone who followed the North Korean nuclear-talks gamesmanship. This is what secretive regimes with interests antithetical to the West’s do. The notion that we could have a prompt resolution of issues, or even tell what issues were up for discussion or had already been resolved, is revealed, once again, to be nothing more than wishful thinking.And when will it end? Hillary Clinton says the time isn’t right for sanctions. But of course not. There are many more constructive negotiating sessions ahead.