The talks with Iran have now concluded, at least for the time being, after meetings in Istanbul, Baghdad and, most recently, Moscow that failed to make any substantive progress. The Iranians showed no willingness to give up their nuclear weapons program or even to admit its existence. This might cause some observers to write off the talks as a failure. Au contraire. They were a major success, if you assume (as I do, cynically) that their major goal was not to stop the Iranian nuclear program but to stop (or at least delay beyond November) an Israeli strike on Iran.
Only a few months ago talk was reaching fever-pitch about the likelihood of an Israeli strike this summer, calculated to occur at a time when President Obama would be forced to back Israel if only to avoid losing pro-Israel votes in the election. Now the conventional wisdom is that, as the Wall Street Journal puts it, “Israel is unlikely to launch a strike on Iran as long as sanctions on Tehran intensify and diplomatic efforts continue, despite the failure of international talks in Moscow this week.” The article quotes an unnamed Israeli official on the talks: “As long as the international community is willing to continue, Israel won’t say, ‘Stop.’ That’s unthinkable. If the negotiations don’t bring Iran to concessions, at least there will be a clear-cut case showing that Iran does not want to cooperate.”