Adam Garfinkle has another excellent essay up on where the roller-coaster that is the Obama administration’s Syria policy is at right now. He wonders aloud whether the uptick in reports of back-channel dialogue between Washington and Tehran has anything to do with President Obama’s series of swift pivots on whether to punish Assad for his use of chemical weapons. Hmmmmm:
There is reason to believe that some senior Administration decision-makers have believed in the past that if the U.S. government does nothing to interfere with Iran’s getting its way in Syria, the Iranians will toss up a nice quid pro quo and agree to negotiate over its nuclear weapons program in good faith. This is delusional and dangerous thinking, but perhaps the election of a new President in Iran has brought this particular delusion back into play. […][I]t seems to me clear, insofar as anything about this mess can be clear, that the President’s reluctance to actually strike Syria, after having gone forward to prepare it, was affected, perhaps decisively, by this Iranian showing of ankle. The question thus forms itself: Are the Iranians really suddenly serious about negotiating, or did they do what they did, starting about three weeks ago (no doubt with Russian assent and support), mainly if not exclusively to prevent a U.S. attack on its Syrian ally?
Perhaps needless to say, Adam thinks there’s nothing new really going on in Tehran, and that the U.S. is being played:
So the Syrians may offer up a report on their chemical weapons stocks that passes the laugh test, but it won’t matter because it is hard to see at this point how the UN monitors can get authorized in a way that both U.S. and Russian sides can agree on. So it is entirely possible that by this time next week we will be back where we started: no operable political deal, no prospect of a ceasefire, no likelihood of stopping the war, and no deterrence of another chemical attack. If that happens, the soft fuzzy noises the Iranians have been making about a nuke deal might, just might, softly disappear in a cloud of suppressed laughter in Tehran. They will note U.S. concessions for the record and move on, just as they have before.
As to the predictions, we shall certainly see. But please do read the whole thing. And bookmark Adam’s blog if you haven’t already. It’s worth adding him to your reading repertoire.