ANOTHER OPENING, ANOTHER SHOW – AT 8:35 A.M. ET: This is the big day for Iran talks. They've gotten underway in Baghdad between the Iranian regime and the Western powers. The subject is Iran's nuclear- weapons program. The key question is whether Iran will actually give anything of significance, or just play the stalling game, attending a meeting to plan another meeting.
The big three of national defense in Congress, Senators McCain, Graham and Lieberman, warn in a Wall Street Journal piece about the risk of the grand illusion in dealing with Iran:
A negotiated settlement that verifiably ends Iran's illicit nuclear activities and prevents Iran from possessing the capability to assemble a nuclear weapon quickly is desirable and possible. But we must not allow these talks to become a movie we've seen before, in which success is defined less by the outcome of negotiations than by their mere perpetuation.
The Iranian regime's long record of deceit and defiance should make us extremely cautious about its willingness to engage in good-faith diplomacy. And its nuclear pursuit cannot be divorced from its other destabilizing actions—support for violent extremist groups such as Hezbollah and the Taliban, threats against Arab governments and Israel, attempts to assassinate foreign diplomats, and lethal assistance to the Assad regime in Syria.
In fact, Iran's new-found interest in negotiating is almost certainly a result of the strong pressure that the regime now faces from economic sanctions. Most important of all have been U.S. and European Union efforts to obstruct Iran's ability to derive revenue from international oil sales—a campaign whose full brunt won't be felt until later this summer.
Based on its past behavior, we should expect Iran's government to use the talks to buy time, undermine international unity, and relieve the mounting economic pressure it faces. The U.S., in turn, must work with our partners to make clear that there will be no diminution of pressure until the totality of Iran's illicit nuclear activities has been addressed.
COMMENT: The problem is that we have a weak president whose main interest is re-election, and who doesn't want to risk anything that would disrupt the flow of oil before he is safely back in the White House.
Of course the Iranians are playing for time. Each day brings them closer to a nuclear weapon, and each day brings more hardening of their nuclear facilities, making them much more difficult to attack.
It shouldn't take long before we know whether this negotiating session is real, or another stall. Beware statements of false optimism.
May 23, 2012