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The Iranian Stall Continues

You knew this was coming:

Facing increasing momentum behind a U.S.-backed bid for new sanctions against it, Iran is launching a broad diplomatic offensive aimed at persuading as many U.N. Security Council members as possible to oppose tougher punishment for its nuclear program.

Iran wants to focus on reviving stalled talks about a nuclear fuel swap to build trust on all sides, according to politicians and diplomats in Tehran. But leaders of Western nations say that unless Iran alters its conditions for the deal, they will refuse to discuss it again. Under the arrangement, aimed at breaking an impasse over Iran’s uranium-enrichment efforts, Tehran would exchange the bulk of its low-enriched uranium for more highly enriched fuel for a research reactor that produces medical isotopes.

Mind you, the sanctions at issue are not the sort of crippling ones that might actually influence the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions, but the Iranians’ diplomatic offensive will no doubt spur some more compromises and more watering down of the already thin-gruel sanctions under contemplation. And we can hear the knees already buckling: “Brazil and Turkey already have said they are wary of imposing additional punishment on Tehran. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, visiting Iran on Tuesday, announced that his country is ready to mediate on the uranium swap proposal and other nuclear issues.”

This is the endless loop of “engagement” and the problem with signaling to the Iranians that there is no downside to perpetually stalling. Had we adhered to any previous deadlines or talked up, rather than down, the potential for a U.S. military strike, we might be in a better position. But for now, as Gates noted, we have few options. And the Iranians seem to have endless time.


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