Surprise, surprise: talks between Iran and the P5+1 (the US, Russia, China, France, UK, and Germany) broke down over the weekend with no agreement and no plan to meet again. The NY Times reports:
Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, who led the talks for the six powers, said that after two days of “long and intense discussions,” the sides “remain far apart on the substance.”No future negotiations were announced, and Ms. Ashton said she would be “in touch very soon” with the top Iranian negotiator, Saeed Jalili, “in order to see how to go forward.”Mr. Jalili offered a sharply different summary, saying at a briefing that the next move was up to the big powers, and that they needed more time to digest a new proposal from Iran. He said the proposal was largely based on a plan first put forward in Moscow in June and aimed at addressing some of the international community’s concerns.But he also adopted a strident tone in reiterating Iran’s view that it has a right to enrich uranium for civilian purposes.
Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs and Intelligence Yuval Steinitz responded on Sunday, saying it was time for Iran to face a “military threat, a form of red line or unequivocal ultimatum” from the entire world, particularly the United States. Iran should be threatened with military action within “few weeks, [or] a month” if it fails to stop its nuclear program, he said, according to Voice of America.VM has no inside information and no telepathic power to know exactly what the mullahs intend to do, so we do not know the full story. But the collapse of negotiations on Saturday looks on the surface like Iran is playing for time. Elections loom ten weeks away, and Tehran seems to think it can continue enriching uranium to a certain level without actually building or testing a nuclear bomb or crossing any red lines that would provoke a military strike from Israel or the US. Delay, distract, proceed cautiously ahead.The basic problem stalking President Obama’s foreign policy remains. The administration wants to disengage from world crises and downshift American leadership to a lower and, it hopes, more sustainable level. But the world isn’t cooperating, and history is refusing to behave. Between the Middle East in flames and East Asia on the boil, life isn’t easy for a White House seeking a quiet life.[Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili grins like a cheshire cat—in 2008. Getty Images.]