Obama’s Iran talks will fail

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

Talks set to open Oct. 1 be­tween Iran and the per­ma­nent mem­bers of the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil plus Ger­many (the G5+1) are bound to fail. All the earnest good faith in the world won’t change the char­ac­ter of the Ira­nian regime.

The Ira­nian lead­er­ship doesn’t ap­pear ea­ger to trade away its nu­clear plans. Iran in­sists that the “nu­clear talks” are not even about the na­tion’s nu­clear pro­gram. Tehran’s un­will­ing­ness to ad­dress the nu­clear is­sue could cause an in­stant im­passe, forc­ing the meet­ing to a close be­fore any­one can de­cide on the shape of the ta­ble.

Just as Iran prefers to avoid the is­sue, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has been re­luc­tant to con­front the fact that Iran is try­ing very hard to ob­tain nu­clear weapons. On Sept. 27, De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates tip­toed around the is­sue on ABC, say­ing it was his “per­sonal opin­ion” that Iran in­tends to have nu­clear weapons but may not have made the “for­mal de­ci­sion” to move ahead. This hair-split­ting comes just af­ter the rev­e­la­tion of Iran’s se­cret nu­clear-en­rich­ment plant at Qom, the lat­est ev­i­dence that Iran has a covert nu­cle­ar­weapons pro­gram.

It would be help­ful if the United States would for­mally charge Iran with il­le­gally pur­su­ing nu­clear weapons, but we sus- pect Pres­i­dent Obama wants to avoid looking too much like Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush con­fronting Iraq. The ex­pres­sion “weapons of mass de­struc­tion” won’t be heard in Geneva, even though Iran’s pro­gram is vastly more ad­vanced than any­thing Sad­dam Hus­sein ever had.

Leav­ing aside the in­abil­ity to squarely con­front the is­sue, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion con­tin­ues to and im­pose its will on neigh­bor­ing states. The Is­lamic repub­lic is bent on ac­quir­ing power.

The only way to de­ter Iran’s quest for re­gional dom­i­nance should diplo­macy fail is the threat of force. Mr. Gates es­sen­tially took that off the ta­ble when he told CNN that “there is no mil­i­tary op­tion that does any­thing more than buy time.” If Tehran does not think di­plo- the most sen­si­ble op­tion when time is run­ning out. This is what is driv­ing Is­rael’s plan­ning with re­spect to Iran. Time is a lux­ury Is­rael does not have.

The need for a cred­i­ble threat of force isn’t the only his­tor­i­cal les­son that is lost on the ad­min­is­tra­tion. The idea that Iran may face “crip­pling sanc­tions” as­sumes that sanc­tions will crip­ple. The spec­tac­u­lar fail­ure of diplo­macy in stop­ping the North Korean nu­clear pro­gram should dis­abuse peo­ple of this no­tion. One of the poor­est, most back­ward coun­tries on the planet ac­quired nu­clear weapons un­der in­tense diplo­matic scru­tiny and very harsh sanc­tions. If Py­ongyang could do it, Tehran can too. Iran is al­ready mak­ing con­tin­gency plans to deal with any of the pro­posed sanc­tions, and be­cause shut­ting down Iran’s en­ergy ex­ports is not be­ing con­sid­ered, it is dif­fi­cult to imag­ine how crip­pling the sanc­tions could be. The most prob­a­ble im­pact of sanc­tions will be to speed up the nu­clear pro­gram so Iran can present the world with a fait ac­com­pli.

When the G5+1 talks fail to change Tehran’s mind about pur­su­ing nu­clear weapons, Mr. Obama will have to choose be­tween al­low­ing Iran to gain nu­clear weapons or re­think­ing his aver­sion to the use of Amer­i­can force. If long-term U.S. in­ter­ests mat­ter, that’s not a hard choice.

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