There is at least one reason why the Obama administration has been trying hard to keep the details of its negotiations with Iran under wraps: it is engaged in an effort to craft a deal that looks and smells like capitulation.
The administration has been signaling that it is no longer interested in rolling back and dismantling Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The proposal reportedly being discussed in Geneva is a half-measure that cedes to Tehran core elements of a robust nuclear weapons capability and breathing room to continue refining key elements of that capability. According to a senior administration official, “what we’re looking for now is a first phase, a first step, an initial understanding that stops Iran’s nuclear program from moving forward for the first time in decades and that potentially rolls part of it back.” According to the outlines of what the “initial understanding” would entail, it appears that the full cessation of uranium enrichment, the dismantling of its nuclear weapons fuel production capability, full cooperation with the IAEA regarding its covert weaponization program, or any of the other steps Iran needs to take fall outside the bounds of the objective laid out by the senior official.
The administration has also given Iran pre-emptive sanctions relief even before negotiators sat down yesterday in Geneva. Senior officials, including Vice President Biden, spent last week persuading members of the Senate to delay passage of new sanctions legislation. This unilateral concession supposedly gives negotiations “a chance to succeed” (the Iranians provided nothing in return). It is the act of an overeager party desperate for a deal.
The Obama administration may be on the verge of formally accepting and living with a nuclear weapons-capable Iran. If it forges ahead with the bad deal that has been emerging over the last few months, no amount of spin will be able to disguise it.
Follow AEIdeas on Twitter at @AEIdeas.