William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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I'M SHOCKED, SHOCKED – AT 10:55 A.M. ET:  Once again we're on a roller coaster with Iran.  We've been averting our eyes, forgetting that the Iranian nuclear program remains one of the greatest threats to the United States and our allies.  Two nuclear devices sailed into American harbors in the the holds of cargo ships, and set off by suicide crews, would do unspeakable damage.

The Iranians recently promised to return to the negotiating table, to discuss the future of their nuclear program, as if this is such a big deal after years of failed negotiations and stalls.  But even that promise is now fading.  From WaPo:

TEHRAN — Four weeks after agreeing in principle to nuclear talks, Iran has gone silent about its plans for the negotiations, baffling U.S. and European diplomats while also signaling internal discord over what analysts on both sides see as the best chance in years for a nuclear bargain with the West.

I want to see the outlines of that "bargain" before I call it a bargain.

Prospects for the talks — which U.S. officials last month described as imminent — have grown more uncertain after Iran declined to respond to at least two proposals for meeting dates, Western diplomats said. Iranian and European Union officials discussed logistical issues by phone on Monday amid hopes that a meeting could still occur before the end of the month.

But with progress at a crawl, officials and analysts on both sides expressed concern that the chances for a deal were being undermined by political divisions, in Tehran as well as in Western capitals. Hard-liners in Iran have spoken publicly against making any nuclear concessions, while in the United States, conservatives in Congress have warned against a deal that would allow Iran to retain any ability to enrich uranium, even for nonmilitary purposes.

COMMENT:  I fear that Obama, Kerry and Hagel will look for some deal with minimum cover to avoid taking any serious action against Iran.  It will be Obama's Neville Chamberlain moment. 

I don't see any realistic prospect that Iran will give up its nuclear program, only that it will put some cosmetic touches on it to give the West some respectability in making a bad deal.  I hope I'm wrong.

January 17, 2013