The title of the English-language text had two mistakes. “The Modality for Comrehensive Negotiations (None paper),” it read, according to a copy obtained by The New York Times. (Diplomatic jargon for an unofficial negotiating document is “nonpaper.”)
For the six powers — the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany — the paper’s substance was just as disappointing as its style. Sergei Kisliak, the Russian deputy foreign minister, could not suppress a laugh when he read it, according to one participant…
[B]oth in their paper, and throughout the talks, the Iranians did not discuss the [proposed western] formula, called a “freeze for freeze.” As a result, they left the impression that they wanted to lure the parties into an open-ended, cost-free, high-level negotiating process.
“The paper calls for a huge exercise in talking,” said one senior European official. “If you were to try to implement it, it would take a minimum of several years.”…
The Iranian document also seemed to suggest that there could be no discussion of the main issue of contention: some sort of limit on Iran’s production of enriched uranium, which can be used to make electricity or to fuel bombs.
Note the detail near the end of the Times piece about how far Iranian diplomacy has degraded since 2003, when the nuclear tango first began. That’s partly a consequence of Ahmadinejad — who has no real power within the regime according to Obama acolytes, remember — replacing the old team leading the negotiations with his own halfwit cronies. But don’t fret. The clock is ticking as we speak on a new two-week deadline for an Iranian response, with a most dreadful penalty indeed in the offing if they fail to come through: another round of meaningless UN sanctions.
More and more it looks like Bush is prepared to punt this issue to the next administration, in which case read this open letter to Barry O at TNR by Yossi Klein Halevi. He wants the same thing I’ve been asking for in half a dozen previous posts: “We worry … that the sanctions will be inadequate and that the Iranians will exploit American dialogue as cover to complete their nuclearization. Unless stopped, Iran’s nuclear program will reach the point of no return within the early phases of the next administration. We need to hear that under no circumstances would an Obama administration allow the Iranian regime to go nuclear — that if sanctions and diplomacy fail, the U.S. will either attack or else support us if we do.” Don’t hold your breath.