Obama administration officials announced today that they’d negotiated secretly with Iran to start one-on-one negotiations over its nuclear program. Until now, negotiations have involved at least five other nations with an interest in the issue. This will be the first time in years that the two states will sit down to face each other alone. Obama had wanted to start the talks now, but the Iranians decided it would be better to wait to see who won the elections. If Romney wins, there won’t be negotiations since he, along with the Israelis, doesn’t believe in them.
This should give those few Americans interested in foreign policy issues who wish to avoid war, a motivation to vote for Obama (unless they’re so disgusted with his other foreign policy outrages they can’t bring themselves to do it). This announcement may also act as a safety valve to release the pressure mounted by Republicans concerning the attack on the Libyan consulate which killed four Americans.
In typical credulous NY Times fashion, their reporters write this about the upcoming talks:
The United States and Iran have agreed for the first time to one-on-one negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program…setting the stage for what could be a last-ditch diplomatic effort to avert a military strike on Iran.
Who says this initiative is the last effort to avert a war? The reporters do. But on what basis? Did the Obama staffers say this? Or did they just make it up? This is precisely the sort of sloppy overstated journalistic premises that shame much MSM coverage of this issue.
The report contains an interview with Israel’s gentleman liar in DC, Michael Oren, who appears none too happy about this softening of the U.S. position on Iran:
…Oren, said the administration had not informed Israel, and that the Israeli government feared Iran would use new talks to “advance their nuclear weapons program.”
“We do not think Iran should be rewarded with direct talks,” Mr. Oren said, “rather that sanctions and all other possible pressures on Iran must be increased.”
Obama has never gone his own way on any major foreign policy issue related to Israel. Doubtless, Netanyahu will be exerting fierce pressure to make this initiative fail. You can expect Romney to denounce it even before it happens, as a capitulation to the mad mullahs. We’ll have to see if Obama has the guts to chart an independent course. If the U.S. is to resolve this issue peaceably it will have to part from Israel, since it cannot be made to understand that there is a rational solution that doesn’t involve force or siege unto death.
Another facet of the talks that is critical is what they will cover. The U.S. appears to believe it can conduct one-track discussions that only deal with Iran’s nuclear program. Iran wants multi-track talks that cover issues including its relations with Syria and the Gulf States. It may be trying to stave off western intervention against the Assad government (though this prospect recedes ever farther into the distance with each outrage perpetrated by the Alawite regime, the latest being the assassination of Lebanon’s intelligence chief yesterday).
The only way to truly resolve these matters is to deal with them en masse. It’s almost impossible to negotiate about Iran’s nuclear program unless you include sanctions and all the other grievances Iran has against us and vice versa. It might be possible to divide the talks into stages in which the issues are dealt with progressively. But to deal only with nukes seems a recipe for ultimate failure.
You’d think also that the U.S. might take a more ambitious approach that included attempting to pry Iran loose from its traditional alliances with proxies like the Syrians and Hezbollah. If we offer Iran a package of strong incentives, it might be possible to radically alter the alignments of Middle Eastern power. Imagine for example a plan that offers Iran an end of sanctions, resumption of trade and diplomatic recognition, and a U.S. commitment to recognize a Palestinian state in return for Iranian agreement restricting uranium enrichment above 20% along with a renunciation of meddling in the affairs of Syria and Lebanon.
The key question here is would the U.S. be willing to take on the Israelis in such a fashion when Obama has shown no stomach for such a fight before? I’d bet no money on him at this point. But might the allure of radically restructuring and stabilizing the Middle East for decades to come be tantalizing enough for Obama to take it on? My guess is No. Those who bet on him to take on the truly large, challenging issues have been sorely disappointed. But still, one can always hope the man has vision.