The final phase of negotiations to end Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons program started on Tuesday in Vienna. Iran’s regime has shoe-horned the United States into protracted talks, permitting the Mullah Regime to win the best of all possible worlds: Additional time to build a nuclear weapon coupled with as much as $20 billion in sanctions relief for its cash-starved economy.
Last month, the Dutch ambassador to Iran, Jos Douma, summed up in a pro-Iran tweet where things are headed: “speeddate sessions to meet business[es] interested in Iran.”
Douma’s tweet represents Europe’s rush to provide an economic lifeline to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
All of this helps to explain why Iran’s fiercely anti-American leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared the talks will “lead nowhere” but he is not “opposed to them either.” His strategy: engage in delay-based bargaining and hope the country’s economy stabilizes.
Khamenei’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif mirrored his comments about Iranian recalcitrance, saying “Iran’s nuclear technology is non-negotiable and comments about Iran’s nuclear facilities are worthless and there is no need to negotiate or hold talks about them.”
Europe’s chief diplomat Catherine Ashton went as far to propose talks without a deadline. Time was always Iran’s ally. After all, the Iranians have spent twenty years working on the development of their nuclear weapons program. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani knows the West is severely fatigued and wants a deal without new sanctions targeting Iran’s economy (or other forms of confrontation).
For Iran’s regime, the U.S. and its EU allies are cardboard figures. Iran continues to wage low-intensity warfare against the United States. The Wall Street Journal reported today that “infiltration of Navy computer network [by Iran is] more extensive than previously thought.” Moreover, Iran refuses to release three innocent Americans held in the country’s crude penitentiary system.
Iranian Admiral Afshin Rezayee Haddad announced earlier this month that warships are on their way to U.S. maritime borders.
Obama has levers of power through which he can exert pressure—including non-military forms of crippling sanctions—on Iran to dismantle its atomic weapons program. In light of the futility of nuclear talks and Iranian jingoism, why is the Obama administration pursuing a strategy of seemingly endless diplomacy?
— Benjamin Weinthal is a Berlin-based fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow Benjamin on Twitter@BenWeinthal