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Posted at 10:32 AM ET, 01/23/2011

So why keep talking to Iran?

By Jennifer Rubin

It's no surprise that the latest round of nuclear talks with Iran have collapsed. There was zero progress toward halting Iran's march toward nuclear capability, an outcome that could have been predicted by anyone seriously assessing the regime's behavior. European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton released a statement on the talks that included these remarks:

We came here with specific practical proposals which would build trust. We put forward detailed ideas including on an updated version of the TRR fuel exchange arrangement and ways to improve transparency through IAEA monitoring measures accepted by the international community. We came without preconditions, and made every effort to secure agreement.

We have had a series of meetings with Iran, including a separate meeting of the Vienna Group countries with Iran.

We had hoped to have a detailed and constructive discussion of those ideas. But it became clear that the Iranian side was not ready for this, unless we agreed to pre-conditions relating to enrichment and sanctions.

On the possibility of removing sanctions, Ashton told the Iranians that "it remains our united position that this would accompany the re-establishment of confidence in the Iranian nuclear programme rather than be a precondition for discussing it."

But she invited the Iranian regime to try again:

This is not the conclusion I had hoped for. We had hoped to embark on a discussion of practical ways forward, and have made every effort to make that happen. I am disappointed to say that this has not been possible. The E3+3 reaffirmed their continued commitment to pursuing a diplomatic solution. We expect Iran to demonstrate a pragmatic attitude and to respond positively to our openness toward dialogue and negotiations. The door remains open, the choice remains in Iran's hands.

I have made personally clear to Dr Jalili that our proposals remain on the table and that we are ready to start talking without preconditions the moment Iran is ready.

There are substantial grounds for questioning why we should be continuing this tactic. A senior congressional staffer put it this way in an e-mail yesterday:

We have been ratcheting up the pressure on the Iranian regime on the assumption that, when a certain level of pressure is achieved, they will decide to negotiate seriously. There's a possibility that this assumption may prove mistaken. It's possible that, at some point, we may need to conclude this particular regime simply isn't capable of negotiating seriously - that no level of pressure that we are able to generate will translate to the strategic shift we are hoping for.

Conservatives, of course, have been arguing from the get-go that the Obama team's assumption was false. Now, it is not merely "possible" that the administration was wrong and its crtics right; it is a near certainty.

Instead of talking to an Iranian regime that has shown no interest in negotiations -- and, at the same time, derives legitimacy from the negotiations -- maybe there are more fruitful actions that we and our allies could be taking. These would include: stressing that the military option remains on the table; making regime change the official policy of the U.S.; working to isolate Iran from international bodies and heightening the focus on Iran's human rights abuses. As the congressional staffer put it, if the original premise of the Obama administration was wrong, then "the aim of our strategy shouldn't be to change the behavior of the regime, but, rather, to change the regime itself." Too bad Obama didn't have this insight at the time of the Green Revolution.

Now, however, the administration has time to try something that might actually work. But first, it has to stop trying to engage a regime that refuses to be engaged.

By Jennifer Rubin  | January 23, 2011; 10:32 AM ET
Categories:  Iran  
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Comments

If the Obama administration truly believes that negotiations with the Iranians is going to directly result in their dismantling of their nuke program, then Obama & Co are hopelessly naive.

Perhaps, as is the liberal mindset, Obama & Co see talks and negotiations as an end in themselves. That's embodied in the statement from that congressional staffer - "We have been ratcheting up the pressure on the Iranian regime on the assumption that, when a certain level of pressure is achieved, they will decide to negotiate seriously." There should be more talk about upping the pressure to force the mullahs to dismantle their nuke program, not to merely force them to negotiate. The rhetorical high ground has been ceded to the mullahs already.

However, going through the charade of "negotiations" may have its benefits. If it ever comes to the point where we have to use military means, perhaps we'll have the political support of others around the world. We can say we tried to negotiate in good faith, but Iranian intransigence squelched any possibility of a peaceful settlement.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | January 23, 2011 11:56 AM | Report abuse

"Conservatives, of course, have been arguing from the get-go that the Obama team's assumption was false. Now, it is not merely "possible" that the administration was wrong and its crtics right; it is a near certainty.'

Obama strategy = continuation of Bush strategy = Bush strategy was wrong

"As the congressional staffer put it, if the original premise of the Obama administration was wrong, then "the aim of our strategy shouldn't be to change the behavior of the regime, but, rather, to change the regime itself."

Regime change = invasion of Iran = third nation with which we would be concurrently at war.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 23, 2011 12:10 PM | Report abuse

ritchiemmons wrote:

"If the Obama administration truly believes that negotiations with the Iranians is going to directly result in their dismantling of their nuke program, then Obama & Co are hopelessly naive."

= Bush administration was hopelessly naive

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 23, 2011 12:13 PM | Report abuse

I just read an alternative analysis of why the recent nuclear talks between Iran and the West failed in Istanbul at the follwing link:
http://www.irandiplomacywatch.com/2011/01/iran-p-51-nuclear-talks-conclude-in.html?utm_source=BP_recent

Posted by: Golest | January 23, 2011 12:15 PM | Report abuse

So Rubin's suggestion is to basically repeat Iraq?

Neocons have no shame. They think we forget.

Posted by: wpost16 | January 23, 2011 12:40 PM | Report abuse

So Rubin's suggestion is to basically repeat Iraq?

Neocons have no shame. They think we forget.

Posted by: wpost16 | January 23, 2011 12:41 PM | Report abuse

This analysis is nonsensical since it never considers the root cause of the dispute. Iran is entitled to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes by its NPT membership. There is ZERO evidence that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. Anyone who disagrees, please proved references. So, the question is: what justification is there to demand that Iran stop its enrichment process. The answer is: NONE.

Thus, it is clear that the nuclear issue is simply irrelevant. It is an excuse. The real motive of the US and its lapdogs in Europe is to stop the prevent the economic and military growth of Iran in order to preserve the hegemony of the US and Israel in the Middle East. Everything is just smoke and mirrors. Also, any talk of regime change and military action is utterly without merit. No country has the right to interfere in the internal affairs of another country. And, no country has the right to attack another country, except in self defense.

Posted by: quinterius | January 23, 2011 1:10 PM | Report abuse

C'mon johnmarshall5446, what Bush admin "negotiations" are you talking about? Sending Nicholas Burns from the State Dept to "attend talks" about Iran's nuke program?

And even if the Bush admin was truly negotiating, my bet is that they'd be doing so only for political posturing just to grease the political skids if military action became necessary. I can't see people like Bush or Cheney truly believing that the mullahs would give up their nuke program unless they were forced to do so.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | January 23, 2011 2:28 PM | Report abuse

ritchie wrote:

"I can't see people like Bush or Cheney truly believing that the mullahs would give up their nuke program unless they were forced to do so."


Ok, but then you'd have to believe that the Bush administration was full of complete foreign policy fools who dismantled Iran's greatest enemy into cardboard and had absolutely no plan to stop Iran's rapid advance into a nuclear power.

Come to think of it, I think your interpretation is probably much more accurate!

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 23, 2011 4:44 PM | Report abuse

According to NPT, Iran is entitled to enrich Uranium as much as it wants.
According to article 10 of NPT, Iran is entitled to leave NPT and build nuclear weapons if its government deems it necessary to defend its supreme interests.
So basically Iran has done nothing wrong.
Iran has 60 tonnes of enriched Uranium which is sitting confiscated in France. Iran has paid for hundreds of tonnes of enriched Uranium fuel to Germany and has not taken delivery since 35 years. Iran owns 10% shares of Eurodif Uranium enrichment plant since 34 years but has not yet received even one gram of its produce despite being legally entitled to it. The question is with this track record, why should Iran trust west?

Posted by: SharpDiamond | January 23, 2011 4:57 PM | Report abuse

"Ok, but then you'd have to believe that the Bush administration was full of complete foreign policy fools who dismantled Iran's greatest enemy into cardboard and had absolutely no plan to stop Iran's rapid advance into a nuclear power."

johnmarshall5446, I beg to differ. Getting rid of Saddam will pay huge dividends for the West in the long run in my opinion. The proverbial rock thrown in the pond. Also, leaving Saddam in power was no guarantee of keeping the mullahs from getting a nuke. Moreover, if that Stuxnet worm was created by us (or at least with our knowledge and assistance), you have to think that the Bush admin DID have a plan to stop Iran's rapid advance to nukes. I don't think such sophisticated computer hackery could be implemented in just the time of the Obama admin.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | January 23, 2011 6:53 PM | Report abuse

Ritchie:

Getting rid of Saddam has already paid huge dividends . . . for Iran.

From what I read it was the Israelis who created it and we may have hand in implementing it. Of course the truth may be the opposite, not likely we will ever know until years from now.

I actually thought very highly about stuxnext, until I read a piece in this month's Popular Science. I'm certainly not qualified to say, but it seems many in the field are worried that since the worm has escaped outside Iran, it may prove an architecture on which other nations and terrorist organizations can piggyback toward their own goals.

Anyway, thanks for the reply, enjoyed the discourse, back to football!

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 23, 2011 8:28 PM | Report abuse

The title of this article should be "So why keep talking to the West". Iran in 2003 suspended uranium enrichment for promisses of better economic relation and help in nuclear technolog under NPT. But they received a loly pop instead. Why now, Iran should take the west seriously. Over 30 years ago, Iran paid US and France over for nuclear rods to be used in a small Tehran research reactor for medical purposes. As of today not a single rod has been delivered. Do you expect Iran begging or waiting for help forever? All sort of obstecles have been thrown before Iran's nuclear technology, from faulty devices, nuclear sabotage, assassination, etc. Yes, you need to talk to Iran, because there is no other logical choice. There has been enough bloodshed from both sides, it is to think force is not the answer. If the west wishes to have a logical dialogue with Iran, then they should start to understand Iranian culture first. Iran won't submit to no one under no circumstances. Eight years of imposed war by the west through Sadam should have thought a lesson. Iranian fought 8 years with bare hands, when Sadam used chemical weapons supplied by German company killed so many innocent Iranian Kurds.

Posted by: abraham3 | January 23, 2011 11:43 PM | Report abuse

Jennifer Rubin wrote "We came here with specific practical proposals which would build trust."

Where was the west's TRUST in 2003 when Iran suspended uranium enrichment for two years for bunch of promisses that never materialized? Talking about short memory.

Posted by: abraham3 | January 23, 2011 11:48 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | January 23, 2011 11:56 AM

"If the Obama administration truly believes that negotiations with the Iranians is going to directly result in their dismantling of their nuke program, then Obama & Co are hopelessly naive."

This is not an issue of any liberal mindset. Sadly, that describes US foreign policy for the past decade. Expecting Iran to give up enrichment is hugely hypocritical, not to mention a violation of the NPT. Iran is a signatory and has satisfied it's commitment under teh NPT, while Iran, Pakistan and Israel are rewarded doe building a nuclear arsenal.

Is anything wrong with this picture?

All that the US is achieving is to demonstrate to the world that the NPT is worthless and should be abandoned.

"There should be more talk about upping the pressure to force the mullahs to dismantle their nuke program, not to merely force them to negotiate.""

That would make the US look even more ridiculous and incompetent. Bush and Obama have both recognizes that Iran has a right to a civilian nuclear program. Yet the US is demanding that Iran give up enrichment for that program.

It's contradictory hypocritical and illogical.

What's more is that the US is losing political support around the world, not gaining it.

"We can say we tried to negotiate in good faith, but Iranian intransigence squelched any possibility of a peaceful settlement."

What intransigence? Do we uphold the NPT or don't we? We can;t have it both ways.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 24, 2011 1:45 AM | Report abuse

"But it became clear that the Iranian side was not ready for this, unless we agreed to pre-conditions relating to enrichment and sanctions."

So let me get this right. The US wanted Iran to agree to a revised 3rd party enrichment deal (which the US itself rejected last year having proposed it), and still accept the sanctions to remain in place.

Is this the Twilight zone or what? What was the purpose of the sanctions if the US refuses to agree to discuss them, even after Iran accepts Washington's proposal?


Posted by: Shingo1 | January 24, 2011 1:50 AM | Report abuse

Need to do more than just stop talking to Iran. See here:
http://timespost.wordpress.com/2011/01/24/delete-the-un-restart-a-new-and-better-one/

Posted by: Orientalist | January 24, 2011 7:13 AM | Report abuse

As usual bias of mainstream media like Washington Post will make it a relic in 5-10 years as more and more people wake up.

Why is the US/Israeli foreign policy demonizing every country with resources. Why are so many of you apologists for evil. Is war and destruction and surveillance all you have left in your heart.

Israel never signed NPT, why ?

When will Washington Post report details of that?

Posted by: kyle341 | January 24, 2011 9:16 AM | Report abuse

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