The Vienna lesson

Ultimately, Israel must look after its own interests, chief among which is preventing uranium enrichment by its arch-enemy.

March 22, 2014 22:44
3 minute read.
iran talks

Iranian FM Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) and EE foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton at nuclear talks in Vienna March 19, 2014. . (photo credit: REUTERS)

Just about the only semi-newsworthy report to have emerged out of the latest round of negotiations in Vienna on Tehran’s nuclear project is that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif canceled a dinner with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

The cancellation was apparently Ashton’s punishment for, according to the Iranians, breached protocol by hobnobbing with opposition representatives on her recent trip to Tehran.

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Viewed against the supposed big picture this is a negligible item. Yet, as such, it is highly significant. It almost goes to show that there is really no big picture.

Supposed talks with Iran continue sporadically and constitute the pretext for relaxing sanctions on the rogue regime’s nuclear ambitions. But in truth, nothing is actually happening.

To make things worse, the strategy of employing stringent sanctions to force Iran to give up the program that would enable it to develop nuclear weaponry is a thing of the past. As European firms rush to close deals with the Islamic Republic, the residue of the pressure on it becomes a derisive reminder of unkept promises and hollow declarations.

Although we certainly hope the talks achieve what the US and the EU have proclaimed as their goal of stemming the nuclear program, Iranian representatives, newly confident and insolent, show no inhibitions in thumbing their noses at their pro forma interlocutors.

They have ample reason to be cocky. They know the show of negotiating at Vienna will draw out the process and in the interim Tehran will regain legitimacy.

In all likelihood, its nuclear threat will be increasingly pooh-poohed while its centrifuges keep on turning and enriching uranium.

Easing fears about Iranian intentions while failing to abrogate the atomic-bomb scheme is, however, only the preliminary sham.

Iran’s standing has been radically enhanced via the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Moscow has throughout been Tehran’s main backer in the international arena.

Now that Russia is at loggerheads with America and Europe over Crimea, there is even less incentive for Russia to cooperate with the Western effort to curb its leading protégé in the Middle East, to put it mildly.

Since the bark of the Obama administration and its European sidekicks appears to be considerably worse than their bite, the Russians are hardly deterred by the ludicrous punitive measures adopted against them.

Moscow’s fundamental geopolitical interests far outweigh denial of entry visas to its VIPs. The hectoring from Western capitals is as an irritating mosquito sting.

It does no real harm but the agitation it provokes is nothing to scoff at.

A vexed Kremlin means even less accommodating Russian negotiators at Vienna, and they were hardly obliging partners to begin with.

There is little incentive for them to keep up previous pretenses. The Americans’ shortsighted 2009 unilateral retreat from establishing a missile shield over Poland and the Czech Republic had already cast US President Barack Obama in President Vladimir Putin’s eyes as a paper tiger, and Putin has not spared Obama recurrent humiliations.

The upshot is that the apparent diplomatic offensive against Iran’s nukes is fast evaporating. Even top American experts concede there is no chance for real success.

Cementing Iran’s status as a nuclear-threshold state has evolved into the best-case scenario. How nightmarish things have become.

The ostensible pressure on the ayatollahs was to start with spurred by Israeli threats to deal with Iran by itself and by military means. As Israel’s warnings lost volume, so they lost effectiveness.

The international community’s prime motivation to lean on Iran was gone. Reviving it is, perhaps, the logic behind Defense Minister’s Moshe Ya’alon’s assertion last week that Israel cannot rely on Washington to thwart Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

Ultimately, Israel must look after its own interests, chief among which is preventing uranium enrichment by its arch-enemy. We can only hope that our primary ally, the United States, together with the EU, will ultimately lead the international community in stopping Iran.

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