A deadly deadline?

The events of Iranian nuclear talks during the coming week in Vienna should be observed with great trepidation.

Iran's FM Javad Zarif (L) holds a bilateral meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) in talks over Tehran's nuclear program in Vienna, July 14, 2014. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Iran's FM Javad Zarif (L) holds a bilateral meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) in talks over Tehran's nuclear program in Vienna, July 14, 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Following a second day of talks between top American, European and Iranian diplomats in Oman last Monday, US Secretary of State John Kerry admitted that “real gaps” remain between the sides, but assured that the negotiation partners were “working hard” toward reaching an agreement by the end of the month.
He was referring to the self-imposed November 24 deadline for signing a deal that would curb Iran’s nuclear program to a mutually satisfactory extent.
Statements emerging on the sidelines of the talks, which continued beyond Tuesday among lower-tier negotiators, indicated a degree of optimism about the possibility of progress being made by the date in question. But the real test will take place this week in Vienna, when a final round of meetings are held to iron out differences that have prevented an accord until now – unless another extension is decided upon, in the event of a stalemate.
Whatever happens, however, the outcome cannot be good.
The signing of a deal would mean that the P5+1 countries (the US , Russia, China, the UK, France and Germany) have succumbed to Iran’s demand that it be able to complete its “peaceful” nuclear program, unencumbered by restrictive international sanctions.
The absence of a deal would basically amount to the same thing, since Russia and the Obama administration will not cease pushing for an easing of sanctions, no matter what Iran does.
This no-win situation for the West is precisely what has been buying Iran time to build nuclear bombs.
It is also what enabled Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to receive Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s tacit consent to engage in negotiations with the world’s “infidels,” whom Iran intends to subjugate.
Khamenei has had good reason to trust Rouhani’s methods. Diplomacy has not kept centrifuges from spinning or uranium from being enriched. And all the stalling has helped reduce the odds of an Israeli military strike.
For one thing, the drawn-out process has provided Iran with the opportunity to spread out and better fortify its nuclear plants. For another, US President Barack Obama has exhibited a negative attitude toward the endangered Jewish state, a declared ally which he treats like an enemy. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that he has told Israel, in no uncertain terms, not to launch a strike.
If this, by itself, were not enough to embolden the Islamic Republic, Obama’s latest act of groveling at the feet of the chief mullah did the trick.
As was revealed earlier this month in The Wall Street Journal, Obama sent a letter to Khamenei in which he urged the supreme leader to agree to a deal by the November 24 deadline, and offered to cooperate with him to defeat Islamic State (IS).
Now, Iran has no interest in joining forces with the “Great Satan” to secure a victory over IS terrorists who are competing with it for control of a global caliphate. But it certainly enjoys bringing Obama to his knees, which is just how such an appeal on his part is interpreted.
Obama’s supplication, coupled with his repeated reprimands of Israel, is music to Khamenei’s ears and fodder for his sermons, speeches and social media posts.
Last week, for example, he tweeted a link to a chart detailing nine ways to ensure Israel’s elimination.
Among these was the urgency of arming the West Bank – “like Gaza” – to confront Israel militarily.
With weakness oozing from the White House and strong support being issued from Iran, the Palestinian Authority is feeling especially empowered, as is indicated by the intifada it is currently waging against innocent Israelis.
The one aspect of the bigger picture that threatens to alter the status quo is the Republican sweep of the Senate on November 4. This will make it almost impossible for Obama, already a lame duck, to get on with his job of wreaking havoc on America.
But, stripped of his domestic abilities, Obama is certain to shift his focus to foreign affairs. Desperate to go down in history as a leader with a legacy, he wants to sign a deal with Iran (and force Israel to establish a Palestinian state) before the end of his term in 2016.
With the changing of the guard at the Senate taking place in January, he is in an even bigger hurry to do so. Unfortunately – and for the first time since entering into phony negotiations with the West – Iran, too, may be anxious to reach a deal.
Fearing a tougher stance from a Republican-dominated Congress, the regime in Tehran is now calculating the wisdom of continuing to postpone an agreement. Since it has no intention of honoring any commitment involving a reduction of its nuclear capabilities, or of having its facilities monitored, it just might decide that it is preferable to sign a worthless piece of paper than risk the wrath of the Republicans.
With all this in mind, the events of the coming week in Vienna should be observed with great trepidation.
The writer is the author of To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’