The noises emanating from diplomatic sources in Geneva this week continue to assure the world that they are close to a breakthrough that will resolve the standoff between the West and Iran. How close they actually are remains a mystery as Secretary of State John Kerry and his colleagues are discovering the same truth about negotiating with Iran that their predecessors discovered long ago: those who make concessions to the ayatollahs are rewarded with more prevarications and delay, not signed agreements. Nevertheless, the Obama administration is still playing the optimist card in their attempts to beat back critics of their effort to craft a new era of détente with Iran. That was evident in their response to Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who spiced up a week of negotiations by giving a televised speech that abused both the U.S. and France but reserved, as usual, his main vitriol for Israel, which he described as “an illegitimate regime,” led by “untouchable rabid dogs.” While the French responded angrily to this provocation, the U.S. was unruffled and answered with the mildest of reproofs:
A senior Obama administration official was more circumspect Wednesday night in responding to the ayatollah’s speech, which also assailed the United States and France. “I don’t ever like it when people use rhetoric that in any way talks about the U.S. in ways that I find very uncomfortable and not warranted whatsoever,” said the senior administration official, who cannot be identified under the diplomatic protocol for briefing reporters.
“There are decades of mistrust between the United States and Iran, and we certainly have had many people in our society say difficult things about Iran and Iranians,” the official added. “So I would hope that neither in the U.S. nor in Iran would leaders use rhetoric that may work well in a domestic constituency, but add to the decades of mistrust on both sides.”
To term such a response to hate speech by a world leader seeking nuclear weapons as spineless would be an understatement, especially when the same administration is so fearful that actions by Congress could spook the Iranians away from the talks. But the main problem here isn’t so much the obsequious manner with which President Obama and Kerry are breathlessly pursuing a deal with Iran. It is that the deal they are seeking to entice the Iranians into signing would ensure that Tehran would have the chance to get the weapons the U.S. is seeking to deny them.
That conclusion flies in the face of the spin emanating from the administration and its defenders who continue to claim that their proposed deal with Iran will make this scenario less likely. But as Reuters pointed out in an analysis of the current situation, the best Kerry and company can claim is that they will “reduce” the threat of an Iranian nuclear breakout, not eliminate it.
What this means is that the deal Kerry is advocating as saving the world from Iranian nukes will preserve Iran’s “right” to enrich uranium and allows them to hold onto all of their centrifuges and the rest of the nuclear infrastructure they have created during a decade of stalling futile talks with the West. That means that they will still possess enough nuclear fuel to build bombs and the capacity to “break out” and, within a relatively short period of time, take their non-weapons grade uranium and bring it up to the level needed for military use.
Supporters of the deal are unfazed by this possibility because they assume the West will always have time to react to an Iranian breakout. But this is a convenient fallacy for those whose main object appears to be to end the dispute with Iran rather than actually ending the threat of an Iranian bomb. Once an accord is signed and the U.S. can transition away from focusing on Iran and sanctions are lifted, the chances are that any shift to cheat by Iran will be dismissed by Western leaders who will not wish to be drawn back into a confrontation. Nor will there be any appetite to re-impose sanctions that neither President Obama nor Europeans desperate for Iranian oil and business wanted to enforce in the first place. Like the North Koreans who laughed at the West as they violated signed agreements to create their own nuclear breakout, Iran will have little trouble deceiving the West and will not worry much about a response from an administration that is more concerned about the Israelis than the ayatollahs.
Any nuclear deal with Iran that stopped short of a complete dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program, as President Obama promised during his foreign-policy debate with Mitt Romney last year, is a guarantee of future trouble. But an interim accord that started loosening sanctions even before Iran gave up any of their nuclear toys will make it all but certain that the peril will have not been averted.
While Washington is hoping to celebrate their détente with Khamenei, it’s hard to blame Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for railing at this seeming betrayal. Responding to Khamenei’s speech, he had this to say:
“This reminds us of the dark regimes of the past that plotted against us first, and then against all of humanity,” Mr. Netanyahu said at a meeting with Russian Jewish leaders during a visit to Moscow. “The public responded to him with calls of ‘Death to America! Death to Israel!’ ” Mr. Netanyahu noted. “Doesn’t this sound familiar to you? This is the real Iran! We are not confused. They must not have nuclear weapons.”
Unfortunately, President Obama and Secretary Kerry are confused. Whether Iran signs this week or makes them wait some more while continuing the drive to achieve their nuclear ambition, they are the big winners in a diplomatic process that is now set up to fail to achieve its supposed goal.