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Balancing Iran
U.S.-Iran Nuclear Talks Imperiled by Middle East Chaos

Many writers on this site have been making the case for some time that the Obama administration’s failure to deal effectively with the geopolitical environment in the Middle East—especially the growing consequences of the Syria meltdown—would sink the administration’s signature Middle East diplomatic effort: the attempt to get a permanent nuclear deal with Iran. That position gets new support in this NYT story this morning:

“The Iranians desperately needed leverage,” one European negotiator said Wednesday after weeks of arguments over how many centrifuges Iran would be permitted to keep spinning, and how fast the sanctions that have so crippled the economic lives of ordinary Iranians could be lifted. “They clearly think the American fear of getting sucked back into Iraq may be just the thing, at just the right moment.”

Iran is trying to use the flameout to get additional leverage to force the U.S. to make concessions on the nuclear deal, while traditional U.S. allies’ fear of Iran has sharply risen as the regional meltdown strengthen’s Iran’s position. The space for a deal—which anyway was never very large, as the gap between the 50,000 centrifuges Iran wants and the 3,000 the US thinks it should have is hard to finesse—seems to be shrinking. The deadline for finalizing the deal is July 20; it now looks as if an extension of the current limited arrangement so talks can continue is the best the Obama administration is likely to get.

If an extension is all that the U.S. gets, that won’t be the big win the President needs to challenge the growing consensus in the U.S. and abroad that the White House has lost control of events. The failure to develop an effective Syria policy looks more expensive every day.

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  • Curious Mayhem

    By the looks of it, this development is no bad thing. A “final deal” with Iran would probably be catastrophic. We can do without it.

    • Andrew Allison

      Does anybody except our government really think that Iran isn’t working toward nuclear capability? That concessions will do anything but hasten the day that it achieves the objective? That once achieved, the capability will be used. At least Israel seems to get it, and has both the means and the will to do something about it.

  • Fat_Man

    I don’t know why you think that Iran needs leverage to get what they want from Obama. He is perfectly willing to give it to them without being asked.

  • ChangeIranNow

    it is certainly not a good ides got the US to cooperate with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps — an organization that has been responsible for attacks against U.S. targets stretching back more than 30 years. We have seen in Syria how Iranian-backed forces go about putting down a Sunni-led insurgency. More than 150,000 people have already been killed in the Syrian civil war and millions more uprooted from their homes. The Assad regime has become notorious for dropping “barrel bombs” on civilians and even using chemical weapons.

    Iranian-backed groups used equally brutal methods in Iraq during the height of the fighting after al-Qaeda’s bombing of the Samarra mosque in 2006. Shiite extremists became notorious for kidnapping and torturing Sunnis. Those same groups stand on the front lines today of Shiite resistance to ISIS.

    The United States would be making a historic error if it were to assist such an Iranian-orchestrated ethnic-cleansing campaign with air power or even with diplomatic support. Not only would this be morally reprehensible, it would be strategically stupid because it would convince the region’s Sunni Muslims that the United States is siding against them with Iran and its regional allies. This could lead Sunni states such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates to support extremists such as ISIS, further feeding the growing sectarian conflict across the region.

    • Curious Mayhem

      Definitely. A major mistake was made in 2010, when the Obama administration backed Maliki after the Iraqi elections that year — this in spite of the fact that the less sectarian incumbent (Allawi) was the winner.

      While a Shi’ite, Allawi was trusted by the Sunni tribal chiefs and Kurdish leaders in a way that they can’t trust the Iranian-backed Maliki. What’s happening in 2014 is a result of that 2010 mistake and the 2011 mistake of not helping the non-jihadist native opposition in Syria. The whole conflict has now been overtaken by those free-floating “foreign fighter” jihadists — we saw that in Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s, when it was actively encouraged by Pakistan; then again in the 1990s and 2000s in Sudan, Somalia, and Chechnya; then again in Iraq in the 2000s.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Please, there was never going to be a deal as the Ayatollahs want nuclear weapons more than anything. Their talking is a strategy to buy time until they can finish development and fielding their nuclear weapons.

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