The statement released by the White House on Friday regarding the extension of nuclear talks with Iran is a case study in spin and delusion. Iran’s nuclear progress, the statement reads, “remains halted during the negotiations.” Except that Iran’s operational centrifuges continue to churn out enriched uranium every day. And that the Iranians are continuing to advance research and development work on next-generation centrifuge machines that will exponentially increase future enrichment capacity and allow them to build smaller covert facilities with fewer machines.
We are assured that “there is a credible prospect for a comprehensive deal” that “will resolve” Iran’s nuclear threat. Such assurances are the basis for carrying on for four more months; there is no mention of the $2.8 billion that the Iranians will receive in additional relief. Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani and others have been crowing about the unraveling of the sanctions regime and the explicit acceptance by the US and P5+1 of an Iranian enrichment program, and by extension a weapons fuel-making capability.
In the real world, the Iranians have shown every indication that they are intent on maintaining and eventually expanding their nuclear weapons capability. That is precisely what the standard of “190,000 SWU” declared by Iran’s leader was about, which I recently explained. Unless the regime’s leadership has a strategic change of heart and decides to walk away from its nuclear ambitions, then the only prospects are that of a collapse of talks or negotiated American acquiescence to Iran’s nuclear weapons capability.
How about the administration’s assertion that “Throughout this process, we have consulted regularly with Congress?” One would think that members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) would be worthy of consulting. Yet, Sen. John McCain observed that, perhaps, his invite to a briefing “was lost in the mail” and Sen. Marco Rubio lamented “They don’t consult us…They’ve shown no interest in involving the congressional branch with any sort of input with regard to what the ultimate deal is going to be.” And what are the sentiments of those who the administration appears to have sought out for consultation? SFRC Chairman Robert Menendez said yesterday that he is “increasingly worried…that we are continuously moving in a direction in which [a] bad deal may very well be viewed as a good deal” and that the negotiations are on ground that is far from what the Congress would deem acceptable.
Yet the farcical process of negotiations with Iranian diplomats will continue. Tehran’s entrenched position very clearly indicates that it is not yet feeling the type of pressure that translates to a significant change in its calculus. It will continue holding out for a rubber-stamped approval of its nuclear ambitions and the type of sanctions relief that will allow it to more aggressively pursue broader strategic aims that are destabilizing the region from Gaza to Syria to Iraq.
Follow AEIdeas on Twitter at @AEIdeas.