NBC News reports that today’s talks between the P5+1 and Iran in Geneva, Switzerland, have ended, and, according to a senior U.S. official, all parties have agreed to a second round of talks by the end of the month. The sessions, which focused on Iran’s nuclear program, reportedly did not break any major new ground, though Undersecretary of State William Burns reportedly spoke “bilaterally” with Iranian representative Saeed Jalili during a lunch break.
Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton tells NRO that he is unimpressed. “I’m sure the Obama administration will describe the decision to meet again before the end of October as significant,” says Bolton. “All I can say is that I’m stunned that they would call that significant, just to show that their open-hand policy is working. It’s in Iran’s interest to have negotiations. It buys them time, legitimacy, and reduces the possibility of sanctions. The Obama administration may say that sweetness and light broke out in Geneva, and that’s the problem. It’s a fancy.”
“I think the Obama administration sees these talks as a way to get some breathing space,” says Bolton. “We have been through this pattern repeatedly with Iran. When some information Iran has tried to conceal comes out, it causes another round of negotiations, but no real halt to their nuclear-weapons program. It’s just Groundhog Day, over and over again.”
“Once the Iranians wrote the letter to the IAEA, inspections were inevitable,” says Bolton. “The question of when the inspections would take place, under what restrictions, is another question. By agreeing today to another meeting, that’s a huge step forward for Iran. It buys them time with the IAEA, and lets them say to the world that ‘we’re open for inspections,’ even though they now have time to remove anything that they want to conceal.”
“In President Obama’s mind, these talks are his proof that his open-hand philosophy is working,” says Bolton. “As I say in my National Review cover story this week, you’re never going to chit-chat Iran out of their nuclear-weapons program. Negotiations work in Iran’s favor.”