Berlin — The nuclear negotiations between Iran’s regime and the Obama administration, including U.S. global partners Russia, France, China, the United Kingdom, and Germany, have come to embody a kind of repetitive motion disorder. In short, these talks have become compulsive rituals that have done little to induce Iran’s rulers to end its illicit nuclear weapons program.
The most recent bargaining sessions on Friday and Saturday in Istanbul produced no concessions from the Iranians, mirroring last December’s failed talks in Geneva. A new negotiating session has not been scheduled. And that is how it should remain.
When dealing with odious regimes like Iran and North Korea, there is a misguided departure point for U.S. State Department diplomats, particularly European diplomats and political leaders, namely, it is better to discuss than not to discuss. Plainly said, following this logic, negotiations for the sake of negotiations with Iran’s pariah regime are the best strategy.
Yet the United States and its partners are negotiating with themselves rather than with Iranian decision makers. Eight years of dialogue and bargaining with Iran has permitted the tyrants in Tehran to secure much-needed time to develop its nuclear technology and missile program. All this means that it makes sense to call for a negotiating time out and significantly ratchet up the sanctions pressure. As Amir Taheri noted in last week’s Wall Street Journal, sanctions are taking an enormous toll on Iran’s economy and nuclear program.
The only cure at this stage is not more negotiations, but sanctions, more sanctions, and even more sanctions. Key European countries like Germany and Italy need to sever their booming trade relations with Iran. Just last year, both EU powerhouses conducted 10 billion euros worth of trade with Iran, including a massive 90 percent increase of Italian imports of Iranian crude oil.
Iran’s population, like Tunisia’s, is starved for economic and political freedom. Working-class Iranians see President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and company as responsible for the mismanagement of its economy. Rising economic frustration among Iranians might very well contribute to the demise of the Iranian regime. The Tunisian experience is right around the corner. Repetitive-motion negotiations — without vastly intensified sanctions pressure — are only solidifying the regime’s iron-clad rule.
— Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.