Eighteen months into his term as President, Barack Obama still hasn’t quite figured out that Iran wants to build a nuke and not a friendship with the US. David Ignatius at the Washington Post reports that Obama has once again decided to offer the “open hand” approach that has worked so well since Obama took office that Iran has felt free to brutally oppress its opposition and subvert NATO ally Turkey:
President Obama put the issue of negotiating with Iranfirmly back on the table Wednesday in an unusual White House session with journalists. His message was that even as U.N. sanctions squeeze Tehran, he is leaving open a “pathway” for a peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue.
“It is very important to put before the Iranians a clear set of steps that we would consider sufficient to show that they are not pursuing nuclear weapons,” Obama said, adding: “They should know what they can say ‘yes’ to.” As in the past, he left open the possibility that the United States would accept a deal that allows Iran to maintain its civilian nuclear program, so long as Iran provides “confidence-building measures” to verify that it is not building a bomb.
The renewed opening to Iran also included a proposal for talks on Afghanistan. Obama said he favored a “separate track” for discussion of this issue, in which the two sides have a “mutual interest” in fighting the Taliban. He urged that, as part of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s push for “reintegration” with the Taliban, Iran should be included in regional talks about stability. “Iran should be a part of that and could be a constructive partner,” he said.
Ignatius thinks that the time is ripe for another such effort, because sanctions are now “beginning to bite” Tehran. Even the administration doesn’t really believe that, as Ignatius concedes. They have never seen sanctions as a way to get Iran to end its nuclear program, but merely part of a “cost-benefit analysis.”
That makes sense only if one believes that the Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons has a rational basis. It doesn’t; the Iranians want it for non-rational, messianic-belief reasons. The contemporaneous economic cost only matters to them if it destabilizes the regime to the extent it will collapse, but otherwise nothing will deflect Iran from its purpose in gaining nuclear weapons.
In fact, this is well known to almost everyone but the White House. Even the Associated Press gets it:
As Iran and world powers prepare for new nuclear talks, letters by Tehran’s envoys to top international officials and shared with The Associated Press suggest major progress is unlikely, with Tehran combative and unlikely to offer any concessions.
Two letters, both written late last month, reflect Iran’s apparent determination to continue the nuclear activities that have led to new rounds of U.N., EU, and U.S. sanctions in recent weeks over fears that Tehran might be seeking to develop nuclear arms. …
Iran insists it want to enrich uranium only to make fuel for a planned reactor network and denies accusations that it will use the program to make fissile warhead material.
But international suspicions are strong. Tehran hid its enrichment program until it was revealed from the outside. And it acknowledged constructing a secret nuclear facility last year to the International Atomic Energy Agency last year only days before its existence was publicly revealed by the U.S. and Britain.
According to the documents, Iran has enriched much more uranium than previously thought, and to a higher degree as well. Transferring the amount proposed last year will still leave Iran with more than enough enriched uranium to produce at least one nuclear weapon and maybe more. Clearly, time is running out on stopping the mullahs from their doomsday pursuit, and open hands to the regime have hardly been effective over the last several years, including the last eighteen months. Either we need to get serious about other options or concede that we’re not serious at all.