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Oct. 18, 2013

The Never-Ending Story, Continued

Another round of talks over Iran's nuclear program.

Nuclear talks with Iran

Iran and the P5+1 (USA, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany) concluded their latest round of talks on Wednesday in the long-running standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. Both sides issued the usual meaningless make-nice statements that always seem to follow these talks. But there was a worrisome note of naïve optimism coming from some Western officials who should know better. Have they been seduced by the alleged “reformist” nature of Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani? It’s worth remembering that this is the same Rouhani who was present at the creation with Old Whiskers himself; who had to be vetted by the regime before he could run for president; who has bragged in Iranian media about fooling the West; and who led Iran’s Supreme Council for National Security and was Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator from 2003-2005, when Iran’s secret weapons work was revealed.

Adding to our concern is the lesson Iran learned in watching the Obama administration bumble its way into a Syria “deal” that effectively kept Bashar al-Assad in power while depending on the good will of Russian President Vladimir Putin to hold Syria to its obligations. The lesson for Iran? Obama is so desperate to avoid using force that he will clutch at any political straw offered him. So what straw will Iran offer?

Iran could offer to stop enriching uranium to 20%, which sounds important but in fact is meaningless. Such a concession could be reversed at any time, without delay and probably without detection. Iran could allow inspectors access to Iranian nuclear scientists, but only in tightly controlled interviews with government handlers present – again, meaningless. It could even allow inspectors onto the grounds of the former weapons research site at Parchin. The facility was razed in 2004 and likely offers little if any tangible evidence today. In return, Iran would demand the relaxation of sanctions that have squeezed its economy, even before Iran’s good behavior can be verified. It would likely seek some U.S. affirmation of Iran’s right to nuclear energy (which is not in dispute; only Iran’s compliance with its Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations is disputed). And Iran would likely seek a U.S. pledge not to attack Iran as long as political negotiations continue. Would the Obama administration fall for such a ploy? Given its performance during the Syrian crisis, it’s certainly possible.

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