Stop me if you’ve heard this before. The talks between Iran and the P5+1 group over Tehran’s attempts to create nuclear weapons have stalled again as the Iranian negotiators escalated their demands for sanctions relief. Instead of phasing out sanctions — after several large concessions on economic pressure just to get Iran to the table — the Iranians now demand an end to sanctions at the front end of the deal.
The West has balked at the demand. For now, at least:
The U.S. and its European allies are demanding the U.N.’s sanctions be suspended or terminated in a phased time-frame over years.
They believe sanctions relief should only come after Iran addresses concerns about its past nuclear work and is given a clean bill of health by the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The Iranians “say it’s a deal breaker. They don’t want it at all,” said a senior European diplomat involved in the Lausanne talks, referring to Iran’s position on the U.N. sanctions. “There’s no way that we would give up on that…. No way.”
The official said it would take much more than a year or two for U.N. sanctions to be lifted.
“If you’re talking about the IAEA certifying that the Iranian program is clean, I think it will take years by any measure,” the European official said. U.S. officials on Thursday voiced the same position.
Welcome to Iranian Negotiations 101. This has been going on for more than a decade, and the only people who don’t grasp what Iran is doing are in the White House. Iran pretends to negotiate for a while, and then finds reasons to stall talks and blame the West for the impasse. Then, while the West spends several months trying to find incentives to restart the process all over again, Iran has time to continue its progress on developing nuclear weapons.
Besides, the West has to be nuts to be talking about lifting sanctions at all. Those should get lifted only when the Iranian regime stops sponsoring terrorist networks like Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and Hamas. They ship weapons to the latter that end up getting fired at the civilians of our ally Israel. If sanctions get removed, all of the cash that the Iranian mullahs get will go straight into the pockets of terrorists. Iranian nuclear weapons are not the only threat from Tehran, even if the White House pretends that Iran isn’t a terror sponsor.
Yet despite that history and the legacy it has left, I think Iraq and the coalition forces are making considerable progress against the Islamic State. In fact, I would argue that the foremost threat to Iraq’s long-term stability and the broader regional equilibrium is not the Islamic State; rather, it is Shiite militias, many backed by — and some guided by — Iran.
These militia returned to the streets of Iraq in response to a fatwa by Shia leader Grand Ayatollah Sistani at a moment of extreme danger. And they prevented the Islamic State from continuing its offensive into Baghdad. Nonetheless, they have, in some cases, cleared not only Sunni extremists but also Sunni civilians and committed atrocities against them. Thus, they have, to a degree, been both part of Iraq’s salvation but also the most serious threat to the all-important effort of once again getting the Sunni Arab population in Iraq to feel that it has a stake in the success of Iraq rather than a stake in its failure. Longer term, Iranian-backed Shia militia could emerge as the preeminent power in the country, one that is outside the control of the government and instead answerable to Tehran. …
The current Iranian regime is not our ally in the Middle East. It is ultimately part of the problem, not the solution. The more the Iranians are seen to be dominating the region, the more it is going to inflame Sunni radicalism and fuel the rise of groups like the Islamic State. While the U.S. and Iran may have convergent interests in the defeat of Daesh, our interests generally diverge. The Iranian response to the open hand offered by the U.S. has not been encouraging.
Iranian power in the Middle East is thus a double problem. It is foremost problematic because it is deeply hostile to us and our friends. But it is also dangerous because, the more it is felt, the more it sets off reactions that are also harmful to our interests — Sunni radicalism and, if we aren’t careful, the prospect of nuclear proliferation as well.
Clearly, we aren’t being careful at all. Instead, we’re rushing headlong into a deal with Tehran that will give them enough economic power to dominate the region and threaten nations who had been our allies. That’s not just Israel, but also the Sunni nations who assumed we understood the Iranian threat. Maybe Barack Obama should take a lunch with Petraeus sometime soon.