After months of optimistic reporting and rumint, it looks like the P5+1 talks with Iran are sputtering just short of the July 20 deadline for an agreement. Gee, I wonder why.
Reportedly, talks are sticking over Iran’s enrichment capacity and over the length of time any agreement will need to be in place before the Islamic Republic is allowed back into the good graces of the world. Interestingly, the heavy water reactor at Arak is considered an easier hurdle to manage. So what’s the problem, and why does the US once again need to parachute in Deputy SecState Bill Burns, who is credited with getting the initial Joint Plan of Action in place last year?
Here’s a theory: Like the appalling bargainer it is (viz Bergdahl, Israel/Palestine etc), the Obama administration gave everything up front. Continued enrichment? Iran got that. Missile development? Check. Military applications for nuclear program? That’s the IAEA’s problem. Past history of nuclear program? Please, what’s past is past. Regime security? Implicit. Support for terrorism? What terrorism. Bribery to get to next level of talks? Think billions of dollars paid over recent months. Serious sanctions enforcement? “Iranian oil exports on course to blow past limits”.
Now, it’s not that the Iranians have done nothing. They’ve done most of what they’ve been asked. That’s the point; they weren’t asking for much. And the non-partisan Institute for Science and International Security says that the JPA has increased Iran’s breakout time by at most 1.2 months. That’s progress like being told you have an extra month to live.
Now the Iranians, who have proven themselves adept at managing their foreign interlocutors, are holding out for a better deal. Enter Burns for direct talks. Wanna bet they get one? Yeah, me too.
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