Talks begin tomorrow between the P5 + 1 (the five permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany) and Iran. Today, the P5+1 group is having a prep meeting. Talks with Iran are destined to fail, not because I want them to, but because every piece is in place for failure:
1.) There is disagreement among the P5+1 (but particularly between Russia, China, and the rest) about what Iran needs to do to have sanctions lifted and avert a strike by Israel.
2.) Israel, the theoretical sword of Damocles hanging over Tehran’s nuclear weapons program, is not a party to the talks, even on the sidelines.
3.) Europe is more hard over Iran than the Obama administration, which has quietly signaled it will accept a flawed offer from Iran in order to push off the Israelis and claim victory prior to the November presidential election.
4.) Iran has no intention of caving on its core nuclear weapons program; at best, it will offer concessions that allow Tehran to pocket the gains made thus far, continue enrichment of uranium, and reserve sufficient uranium enriched to 20 percent to allow it to build plenty of nuclear weapons.
5.) Iran’s demands cannot be met by the West — or even by Russia and China — as they involve a requirement that sanctions be dropped before any concessions are made. And while Russia and China might be willing to do so, neither has any serious sanctions in place to actually drop.
How do I know these things? Because Sergey Ryabkov, the Russian deputy foreign minister said so. Because Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi made it clear in his op-ed in today’s Washington Post. What’s wrong with Salehi’s piece?
1.) The United States never agreed to allow Iran to set up a complete fuel cycle on Iranian soil.
2.) Iran only agreed to exchange an amount of 20 percent enriched uranium after substantial sanctions were imposed, and refused to exchange ALL of it, which was the requirement of a deal offered to Iran by the international community at the time.
3.) The IAEA suspects a military dimension to Iran’s nuclear program, has said so specifically in its last report, and lacks the definitive proof otherwise because Iran refuses to allow access to certain facilities or interviews with particular scientists.
4.) Iran wants “the concerns of all sides” to be addressed, coded language for the lifting of sanctions, an a priori demand made explicitly in Iran’s recent talks with Russia.
5.) Iran’s stance against weapons of mass destruction has been “put to the test”; Iran is believed to have used them during the Iran-Iraq war, and certainly continues to produce chemical weapons.
6.) What about the heavy water reactor at Arak? The Fordow enrichment facility? The nuclear weapons research at Parchin? Not worth a mention.
What is the purpose of Salehi’s piece in today’s Post? Simple: He wishes to set up a negotiation with the West in which Iran agrees to cease enriching uranium to 20 percent, a level easily upped to weapons grade. Barack Obama has already signaled that such a deal might be acceptable. Iran will then pocket its large existing stockpile of LEU, continue its other illicit nuclear activities and achieve nuclear weapons status within months.
What have we learned?
1.) One side of the talks is at loggerheads over the purpose of the talks.
2.) Iran is in the driver’s seat in these negotiations.
3.) The United States is threatening Iran with Israeli military action. Any American action appears to be off the table.
4.) Because of irresolution among the “good guys,” because Iran smells desperation in Washington, a deal is almost impossible, and a military strike by Israel is all the more likely.