Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif addresses a news conference after a meeting in Vienna November 24.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The last round of nuclear talks in Vienna between the P5+1 and Iran, which were meant to be the final round culminating in an agreement, ended once again in a draw after two earlier extensions.
In the West, including in Israel, a sigh of relief is being let out, expressing satisfaction in the belief that no deal is better than a bad deal.
This is a poor man’s celebration, as all Western parties involved agree that the desired result was an agreement that would permanently neutralize Tehran’s nuclear weapons development capabilities, preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power. A good agreement is better than no agreement at all, and different conduct on the part of the P5+1 would have led to the signing of a good agreement.
The deadline for the talks was postponed by a further seven months. In these seven months, the Iranians will continue withdrawing and using $700 million a month from their frozen assets in the West, and this without a single concession regarding the nuclear capabilities they have fraudulently acquired so far, in defiance of the entire international community.
Failure to reach a good agreement extends the strategic uncertainty in the Middle East, increasing the prestige of the ayatollahs, who have succeeded, despite Iran’s economic weakness and many internal problems, to manipulate the world powers, especially the United States.
Failure to sign an agreement also provides a boost for Iran’s allies – Bashar Assad’s Syria and Hezbollah, who may be fighting Islamic State, but are no less dangerous.
The main mistake in the policy versus Iran belongs to President Barack Obama, who is not hiding his distinct and total lack of desire to confront the Islamic Republic.
It is clear that the president would much rather push off the resolution of the issue for as long as possible, and pass along the problem to the president elected in 2016.
It is Obama’s weakness that is causing Iranian inflexibility. In the past, the Iranians knew how to be flexible, and even unconditionally shut down their nuclear program.
It was in 2003, when they felt threatened by military action by president George W. Bush.
The lesson is clear – only a credible return of the military option, alongside the threat of economic strangulation by increasing sanctions, will bring the Iranians to compromise.
The P5+1 (US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany) have every moral and legal justification to deal in this way with a rogue, outlaw country, and certainly have the strategic capabilities to overwhelm Iran. It is a question of will and courage, nothing more.
Treating Iran with silk gloves, and as an equal among superpowers, will only postpone a good agreement, allowing the Iranians to continue deceiving and tip-toeing their way toward nuclear weapons as the clock continues to tick, while the world stands by and applauds the failure to reach a deal, “finding comfort” in the fact that it is better than a bad deal, instead of striving to reach a good deal.The writer is a former deputy foreign minister and ambassador to the US.