In background briefings, a senior U.S. administration official describes a set of P5+1 negotiating procedures that involve closing “gaps” and “bridging” differences, the idea being to keep closing and bridging until finally everyone is happy and peace prevails. Except the big gap yawning ahead is that Iran is clearly planning to hang onto the infrastructure to build nuclear weapons — or, to put it more bluntly, Iran is still after the bomb. In too many ways, this is a replay of the assorted North Korea nuclear talks, which over the the past 20 years produced various agreements — none of which stopped North Korea from conducting three nuclear tests, in 2006, 2009 and 2013.
The talks in Vienna are not saving the world from an Iranian nuclear arsenal. They may well be enabling the very thing they are supposed to prevent. If Russian President Vladimir Putin chooses to up-end the talks, it would not be for friendly reasons. No one need thank him. Nonetheless, if Russian pique leads to a collapse of the Iran nuclear talks — ending the diplomatic charades in Vienna — that might just be the best news to come along on the diplomatic front in quite some time.