The deadline for an Iranian response to the opulent package of incentives the regime was offered two weeks ago passed on Saturday, and was accompanied by three answers:
1. Iran will not give up “a single iota of its nuclear rights.” That is, Iran will never voluntarily abandon the pursuit of nuclear weapons.
2. Iran says it tested a new anti-ship missile, and the head of the Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Ali Jafari, said that “Enemies know that we are easily able to block the Straits of Hormuz for unlimited period.” (I am highly skeptical of both claims.)
3. According to the AP, Ahmadinejad yesterday said that “diplomacy is the only way out of his country’s standoff with the West over its disputed nuclear program and insisted he was serious about negotiations.”
It would seem obvious today — it’s been obvious for several years now, hasn’t it? — that there is not an incentive in existence that Iran would be willing to accept in exchange for the cessation of its nuclear program. So who is still working under the fantasy that fruitful “engagement” is still possible? Ahmadinejad’s calls for diplomacy must be intended to provide cover for someone, right?
One such person is the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, who was on the phone today with Iran’s nuclear “negotiator,” Saeed Jalili. What is the extent of Solana’s desire to keep the West in suspended animation? It appears unlimited:
Iranian state-run television reported that in the telephone conversation, “both sides agreed to continue talks.”
‘They also emphasised that preserving this path (talks) needs a positive and constructive atmosphere,’ the television report said without elaborating.
This is unsurprising. Javier Solana has always had only one weapon in his arsenal — phone calls — and his interlocutors know it. It has also long been evident that Solana’s actual goal in his talks is not the prevention of Iranian nuclear weapons, but the prevention of the cessation of talks about Iranian nuclear weapons. This is tautological diplomacy at its finest, in which the maintenance of talks has itself become the purpose of diplomacy.
I can think of another important person who remains unmoved by the failure of diplomacy, and who insists that if talking was employed just a little bit differently, perhaps at a higher level of representation, and if the diplomacy was also both “tough” and “smart,” the Iranian nuclear bomb could be defused. That person of course is Barack Obama. In terms of his stubborn unwillingness to allow plain facts to interfere with his foreign policy prescriptions, the failure of diplomacy with Iran should be added to Obama’s refusal to acknowledge the success of the surge as reason for skepticism about his suitability for the presidency.