The Nuclear Negotiations
Iran Talks: Absolution Without Confession

Secretary of State John Kerry, making his first public appearance since he broke his leg, suggested that sanctions on Iran may be lifted before international inspectors are able to find definitive proof on whether prior Iranian nuclear research was aimed at developing a nuclear bomb. Secretary Kerry’s argument appears to be that Iran’s confession isn’t necessary because American intelligence already knows everything: “We have no doubt,” he said. “We have absolute knowledge with respect to the certain military activities they were engaged in.”

Experts warn, however, that this latest apparent cave-in not only undermines IAEA inspectors before they’ve even started their monitoring role, but also sends a strong signal about just how badly the United States wants the deal, weakening its position. “If the U.S. government knows so much about Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” the president of the Institution for Science and International Security said to the New York Times, it “should publish openly a detailed history of Iran’s nuclear program, including names, dates, activities and places.”

The Administration, though, is prepared to offer absolution without confession. This might not be so concerning were it part of a true grand bargain. If, however, it is yet another major concession made simply for the purpose of keeping the ball rolling—if, as the Administration’s critics allege, the negotiations have become their own end—then it paints a very different picture. It suggests that U.S. diplomats may have started to see a bad deal as better than no deal at all.

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