If the Islamic Republic of Iran has one trait that worries me, it is overconfidence. After all, wars in the Middle East are caused not by oil or water, but rather by one side fundamentally underestimating the capacity of its adversary to respond. That was the case, for example, with the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War. After that conflict, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah commented that had he known how Israel would have reacted, he never would have launched the cross border operation to kidnap the Israelis in the first place.
Sometimes that overconfidence can have a silver-lining, however.
Last week, former Iranian nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani gave an interview in which he bragged about Iran’s negotiating strategy:
We did not decide the nuclear goals of the country; they were decided by the regime. When I was trusted with the responsibility of the nuclear team, two goals became our priorities: The first goal was to safeguard the national security, and the second goal was to support and help the nuclear achievements…
When I was entrusted with this portfolio, we had no production in Isfahan. We couldn’t produce UF4 or UF6. Had Natanz been filled with centrifuges, we did not have the material which needed to be injected. There was a small amount of UF6 which we had previously procured from certain countries and this was what we had at our disposal. But the Isfahan facilities had to be completed before it could remake yellow cake to UF4 and UF6. We used the opportunity [provided by talks] to do so and completed the Isfahan facilities… In Arak we continued our efforts and achieved heavy water…
The reason for inviting the three European foreign ministers to Tehran and for the Saadabad negotiations was to make Europe oppose the United States so that the issue was not submitted to the Security Council.
Several years ago, I penned a piece for The Wall Street Journal highlighting other revealing instances in which Iranian officials acknowledged their own insincerity. Alas, neither Iranian statements nor actions appear enough to force the State Department to face reality. Talk will not resolve the Iranian nuclear challenge. Rather, talk is a tactic the Iranians use—and now admit using—to run down the clock.