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Iran Talks Break Down

After two days of futile talks in Moscow between Iran and representatives of the six world powers, it appears that Tehran has no interest in striking a deal any time soon. The negotiations had been hailed by many diplomats as the best chance in years for a breakthrough that would halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions without resorting to a military strike. The Financial Times details the lack of progress in Moscow:

[T]he meeting ended at the lowest end of expectations, with Catherine Ashton, the EU’s High Representative, saying there was “a long way to go” before a successful outcome could be attained.

The only agreement reached in Moscow was that “technical experts” from Iran and the international community would meet on July 3 to examine prospects for a deal that would see Iran scale back its programme. This will be followed up by telephone calls between senior diplomats from the EU and Iran.

The failure to strike a deal in Moscow also means that the U.S. and EU will likely implement their full range of sanctions, beginning July 1, and which are expected to cost the Iranian economy $4.5 billion a month in lost oil revenues. That’s not chump change, and once the full effect of the sanctions kick in there might be some movement on the Iranian side. But if, as appears increasingly likely, Tehran has made the calculation that it is willing to do whatever it takes to acquire a nuclear weapon, then no amount of pressure will force Iran to fold its hand.

The biggest loser from the failed talks, next to the long suffering people of Iran, may be the Obama administration. The White House wants to look tough on Iran but it does not want to alarm its base by threatening war. That will be harder to achieve now; Iran’s refusal to bargain constructively leaves Washington with fewer, and uglier, options than it wants.

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  • Anthony

    At what price do we actually think Iranians will trade away strategic leverage – nuclear ambitions – while consciously noting U.S. elections in November. Tehran has no interest in jettisoning its nuclear program.

  • Greg in Denver

    Who, just who, could have predicted this? Obama got rolled again? Shocked!

    I blame this of course, on George W as our fearless leader must have been… misled, bamboozled, run amok, we-weed-up, lied to, forgetful, stoned, [on drugs], Jarrett’ed, or simply the Clintons again pulled a fast one.

  • Cunctator

    #1 Anthony — that is exactly the question to ask and, more pointedly, to ask the Obama administration. If ever a policy has been doomed to fail, the Obama-Clinton approach to Iran was it. No one with even a single functioning grey cell should be surprised at the outcome.

    Now, we are in the end game. Now, we will see just how gutless the West will be in dealing with the number one international security threat. With Obama-Clinton, Cameron, Hollande and Merkel driving the policy, I have absolutely no hope that the tough decision to take out the Iranian programme, or as much of it as can be done, will be made. Instead, I fully expect more temporising, more hands in the air gesturing surprise, and more blaming of previous administrations. Then, when these leaders are gone, collecting royalties on fat volumes of boring memoirs, Iran will enter the nuclear club.

    All eyes must now turn to Jerusalem.

  • thibaud

    A realist would argue that any Iranian government, monarchical-traditional or religious-radical, will pursue nukes in line with the interests of Greater Persia.

    Russia will gut sanctions just as they and ChIrak gutted the sanctions against Saddam in late 2002.

    The military option is emerging as the most realistic option.

  • hass

    Why is it that Iran is being accused of intransigence in these negotiations? Iran was willing to offer compromises that went well beyond its NPT obligations as long as the US recognized Iran’s rights under the NPT. Is it too much to ask the US to recognize and abide by an existing international treaty?

  • JM Hanes

    “The White House wants to look tough on Iran but it does not want to alarm its base by threatening war.”

    To be fair, such alarm is not confined to the President’s base. There has never been a magic bag of tricks here, but, alas, this Administration has squandered both traditional tools and unprecedented opportunities.

    On the traditional front, the idea that Iran would negotiate away its international trump card has always been wishful thinking. What possible carrot could be more appetizing than the prospect of joining the world’s superpowers on the nuclear stage? The ability to make a credible threat of force might once have proved a decent deterrent. Unfortunately, no one would now take such saber rattling seriously, unless troops were actually en route. The fallback reliance on sanctions is yet another triumph of hope over experience. Imposition is a win/win for the Russians & Chinese, who treat sanctions as a competition-free business opening, if sufficient inducements are not forthcoming for their support. Once imposed, as we saw in Iraq, sanctions are as likely to cement the power of a dictatorial regime over an increasingly vulnerable populace as they are to dilute such control. The Administration’s incoherent approach to all three has only taken us from bad to worse.

    On the opportunity side, Obama was emblematically defunding organizations like the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center at the very moment the Green Revolution started looking like the closest thing to a potential tipping point we’d seen in decades. If this Administration didn’t confuse diplomacy with alternating politesse and tepid opprobrium, I am still convinced we could have played a pivotal, relatively low profile, supporting role.

    The single most game-changing opportunity lost, however, remains the least recognized. Driven by domestic political concerns, Obama was determined to exit Iraq as soon, and as thoroughly, as practicality allowed. A gigantic embassy cannot compensate for Presidential antipathy, nor confinement in Baghdad substitute for the active engagement which nurturing a skittish ally requires. Obama effectively washed his hands of a potentially paradigm shifting alliance vis a vis Iran. Cross-border influence can flow both ways! We left, instead, a weakened Iraq which must, perforce, cosy up to Iran, and I have zero confidence that this Administration has come to any substantive arrangements which would extend our own reach — whether by human intel gathering or insurgencies of all sorts. Obama’s high profile handling of the Status of Forces negotiation (which virtually guaranteed the outcome) was some of the stupidest “diplomacy” I have ever witnessed (and shouldn’t, in fact, have witnessed at all).

    So, here we are, trying to wield our much reduced influence from a remote location and peering into an almost empty toolbox — with a conflagration we were uniquely positioned to derail more than once looming ever more dangerously on the horizon as a result.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    Sanctions have never worked against an Authoritarian government like Iran. Smuggling will become very efficient in Iran, just like it did in Iraq under Sadam.

  • Cunctator

    #6 – I do not understand why the US cannot offer a credible military solution to the Iranian problem. Air and sea power are sufficient. There is no need to conquer the country. Rather the need is to destroy as much of its infrastructure involved in nuke production as one can (all is not necessary) and set the programme back by a few years, buying time for other options. And, if need be, to further punish the country by eliminating any and all Iranian military capability that might interfere with the US use of force against the nuclear programme. Itr seems to me that the US has far more than adequate capabilities to do that.

    And, I would add, Iran should be very clearly warned that any use of terrorism or any attempt to expand the confrontatioon would invite a broadening of the target list inside that country.

    But it requires guts, determination and real leadership to undertake this type of hard-edged policy. I do not think there is any Western leader who has those qualities: nor any in the wings that I can see.

  • Walter Sobchak

    The NoKos have proven that tyrannical governments are willing to make their subjects eat grass, if that is what they need to do to obtain nuclear weapons.

  • Walter Sobchak

    Prssed the button too fast.

    I have no reason to doubt that the Mad Mullahs of Tehran are less fanatical and cruel than the Kim family.

  • JM Hanes

    Cunctator @8:

    We certainly have the capacity to wreak havoc, although I think there is general agreement that selectively targeting the Iranian nuclear “infrastructure” would actually be a very difficult proposition.

    You’ve laid out your immediate objectives, but beyond a vague notion of “buying time for other options,” you make hardly a mention of the aftermath. How do you see the regional and global consequences playing out? And how would advancing beyond stage one affect those equations?

  • hass

    Cunctator @8:

    You can start wars, you can’t finish them.

  • Kris

    “Tehran has no interest in striking a deal”

    Fine; let’s deal a strike.

  • Cunctator

    #12 – I am not certain what you mean. Does every war have to end with the total surrender of an adversary, an outcome at odds with most of human history. Wars can be conducted simply to coerce a different policy from an adversary, or to inflict such harm that he (and others) will be deterred from any such action in the future.

    #11 – I am not sure havoc is what I was suggesting. Pain and enormous damage to the Iranian regime and its nuclear seems reason enough to go. No war is ever final, and so I am not so vaive as to assume that there will not be negative consequences. But, in the long run, US interests would be enhanced by taking out the Iranian programme, even if only for a few years.Regionally, the consequences of doing nothing could be far greater than what I am suggesting.

  • rkka

    Hass @5, @12

    Netanyahu hath decreed that Iran may not enrich Uranium. At all. For any purpose, the NPT notwithstanding. Therefore, to Mead and his amen chorus, the Iranian refusal to abjectly submit is sufficient cause for war.

  • Alex Lieber-Alessie

    Strike now. Israel must take action against Iran’s nuclear sites and utterly destroy them. Any retaliation must be met with overwhelming force to put a quick top to it.

  •!/adamhollandblog Adam Holland

    Iran will inevitably continue to do what North Korea has done. They will develop nuclear weapons while stringing the U.S. along with ultimately meaningless negotiations. It’s hard to argue with the success of this strategy (from the point of view of the Iranian and North Korean regimes) based on the North Korean record. The U.S. will continue, under Obama, to do with respect to Iran what it did under Bush with respect to North Korea. They will do their best to impede Iran’s nuclear program and maintain the face-saving illusion that nuclear proliferation can be prevented via economic incentives and disincetives, and with the threat of U.S. military action. In the end, however, U.S. and Israeli military threats will come to nothing, and other regimes seeking nuclear weapons will be further encouraged to follow this path.

  • hass

    Adam, Iran cannot be compared to North Korea in any way — least of which when even US and Israeli intelligence agencies say there’s no nuclear weapons program in Iran and not even any indication that the Iranian government has decided to seek nuclear weapons. North Korea threw out inspectors and made a bomb. Iran suspended enrichment for 3 years, voluntarily implemented the stricter inspections required by the Additional Protocol even though it is not a party to that treaty, allowed more inspections than the NPT requires (even the site at Parchin was already inspected in 2005 – twice – though Iran was not legally obliged to allow any inspections there at all) and has repeatedly made compromise offers that the US has summarily rejected or even actively undermined. Iran is not the problem, Israel and the US are the problems.

  • http://TheAmericanInterest Nancy Breland

    Israel is the apple of God’s eye. This turmoil with Iran could lead to WW111. The end of it all!!!! The U. S. could implement air strikes and end it all in Iran. Time will tell. EVERYONE NEEDS TO PRAY TO GOD THROUGH HIS SON.

  • thibaud

    @ Nancy #19: why would I pray through my son?

    That’s putting an awfully big burden on a 10 year-old, no?

  • Rob

    Why don’t we tell Japan that we won’t charge them for all their junk that threatens our most beautiful coastline if they send their best Ninja’s over their and take that fool out? The US is in a most embarrassing situation where we can’t do squat with what we have and from where we are. The Bush family “Legion of Losers and Liars” have permanently placed us on a moral popularity level as Hitler, Khrushchev and Amin and made us the laughing stock of the universe. Wow… I’m really pissed at that family. What a disgrace!!

  • Auth

    quite so, Cyrus.kooshy, on closer rednaig, there are several serious flaws in Avnery’s article.He writes that the child threatens to kill the bully unless someone else holds him back.That’s not really the situation: Israel is threatening to kill Iran, but it is NOT doing nothing to the bully, it is pinching, biting,’ kicking, and slandering, all the while demanding not that the world’ hold him back, but that the world join him in pinching, biting, kicking, and slandering, and also in attempting to kill the purported bully.Avnery glosses over the effects of sanctions, in effect saying that the pinches did not cause an arm to fall off and the bites did cause blood poisoning, so, hey, no problem.But the people of Iran have suffered from the pinches and bites of sanctions imposed on them at Israel’s insistence. Just as former AIPAC agent Keith Weissman has claimed that sanctions did very little harm to Iran (tho they did harm US interests), Avnery says that sanctions may inflict some marginal damage on Iran. Tell the thousands of young people who have no work because Israel blackmailed foreign nations against investing in Iran that their problems are only marginal. Unlike Ahmadinejad’s reckless rhetoric, these actions were not harmless bloviating, they were actual deeds that caused actual suffering to actual people. And they were unwarranted. Civilized societies conduct themselves in accordance with a rule of law, the most fundamental of which is, Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Avnery uses childhood tales; fine. As a parent, I would not tolerate that my child would be pinched, bitten, kicked, and insulted, and be expected to be grateful that he was only pinched and kicked but not killed. Civilized societies do not raise their children that way (tho perhaps I should mention that my older son is a pretty fierce boxer, and that he beat the tar out of a mugger who stole his wallet. oops.) and mature societies do not conduct their relations with global neighbors based on principles of childish thuggery.I also take issue with Avnery’s blase9 treatment of the campaign of demonization that Israel’s leaders have undertaken, deployed most intensely upon Jewish Israelis, as well as the rest of the world.What Israeli leaders have done is called lying. It is not an unserious act. James Madison wrote: “A popular Government, without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” Accurate knowledge and information is the sine quā nōn of democratic self-rule. To deliberately distort information is to threaten the foundation of the democratic process. To return to Avnery’s child’s tale, what is a child to think of his parent who has lied to him about his place in the world? If a parent would lie in that instance, what other lies has the parent told? In Israel’s case, the identity of the Jewish Israeli people is posited on the notions told to them in words, in deeds, in the very landscape of their territory and institutions. If those notions are lies, what is the nature of Jewish Israeli identity?Avnery takes a feather-duster to that question. He writes: Some scholars believe that the Jewish religion was profoundly influenced by the ethical teachings of Zoroaster. Wow. The people of the Book share the ethical foundations of the people of Zoroaster, whom Karen Armstrong has called the prototype for Jewish and Christian ethical standards. That should be cause for celebration, like finding a long-lost cousin. But because Israel’s parents’ have lied to Israelis, they have been taught to despise and fear this people of the prototype.Avnery concludes that if Israel renounces some territorial claims and makes peace with Palestinians, peace can be achieved, the child will no longer threaten to kill the bully and the bully will be neutralized. It’s a good start it keeps the bully’ alive but in the final analysis, it is a childish conclusion, because it avoids society’s demands for justice that misdeeds be acknowledged and punished, and that lies be exposed and abjured; for restitution; for self-examination and reconsideration; and for a fundamental reframing of Jewish Israeli identity. Today President Obama once again held back’ child Israel from killing bully Iran. In doing so, he enables the child to continue his childish tantrums, he validates the lies Israel’s leaders tell to Israelis, to Americans, and to the world about Iran, lies which threaten not only Israel’s self-identity but the very foundations of American democracy. He proposing sinking teeth even deeper into the Iranian body politic with the hope of drawing blood and sickening the body until its head falls off, and urges other antagonists to join him in pinching and kicking and insulting Iran.I can’t compose a closing sentence. It’s too horrible.

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