The Iranians have upped the ante in the talks with the West over their nuclear program. Or at least they think they have, as Reuters reports today. Although the State Department denies it, other sources tell Reuters that the Iranians are warning the West that a failure to achieve an agreement — on Iran’s terms, presumably — will mean the end of Iranian president Hassan Rouhani’s political career and his “moderate” initiative (via Allahpundit):
Iran’s foreign minister has warned the United States that failure to agree a nuclear deal would likely herald the political demise of pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani, Iranian officials said, raising the stakes as the decade-old stand-off nears its end-game.
Mohammad Javad Zarif pressed the concern with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at several meetings in recent weeks, according to three senior Iranian officials, who said Iran had also raised the issue with other Western powers. Zarif’s warning has not been previously reported.
Western officials acknowledged that the move may be just a negotiating tactic to persuade them to give more ground, but said they shared the view that Rouhani’s political clout would be heavily damaged by the failure of talks.
And … so? At least for the moment, Rouhani’s not the West’s concern, or shouldn’t be anyway. The concern is stopping Iran from being able to build nuclear weapons, and to contain and curtail their support for terrorism. If Iran doesn’t reach an agreement with the West that achieves that objective, then Rouhani’s political career will be near the bottom of the list of foreign-policy worries.
Besides, the only value of Rouhani’s alleged moderation is to actually moderate the extremism of the Iranian mullahcracy. Nothing in this long, drawn-out stall campaign suggests that is happening, or even that Rouhani is actually interested in that outcome. The mullahs hand-picked Rouhani in their rigged election process to offer the appearance of moderation, but Rouhani is still part of that ruling clique in Tehran that has worked to build nuclear weapons in secret for nearly 20 years now.
Iran could have had a deal any time in the past ten years if it wanted one. They could have one now if they agreed to the restrictions on nuclear research and development laid out in the Non Proliferation Treaty, under the supervision of the IAEA. Instead, they have dragged out the talks across a decade to give themselves time to achieve their objective — to become a nuclear power and to use that as leverage to extend its hegemony over the entire region.
And that strategy seems to be working. The West keeps offering more concessions, and Iran keeps demanding even more. The P5+1 group hasn’t fared well in these negotiations, retreating from a demand for strict compliance with the NPT to a series of temporary slowdowns that leaves the infrastructure of a nuclear-weapons program in place. We’re at the point now where John Kerry and the P5+1 are almost begging Iran to use its power in the region.
This faux-hostaging of Rouhani is just the tipping point into parody for the whole exercise. It’s akin to the scene from Blazing Saddles, where Cleavon Little holds the gun to his own head to escape the hostile crowd — only in this case, the crowd can’t keep from offering even more enticements than ever.