The Rosett Report

The Infinite Maze of the Iran Nuclear Talks

“I’m not going to confirm whether or not there’s a gap or not a gap or where the gaps are. There obviously are gaps.”

Thus did Secretary of State John Kerry summarize the impasse which has just led to a second extension of the Iran nuclear talks — which have already spanned a full year, and after failing to produce a “comprehensive agreement” by the original July 24th deadline, or the extended Nov. 24 deadline, are now planned to continue through June 30, 2015. The occasion for Kerry’s remark was a press availability he held on Monday in Vienna, following a frenzied bout of meetings in which the only clear result to emerge by the Monday deadline was the announcement that the talks would be extended for another seven months.

Kerry was responding — more or less — to a reporter’s question about what general kind of progress warrants a second extension of the talks, and what kind of sanctions relief might Iran get while the bargaining continues. On the matter of the secret yet obvious gaps, he went on to say that any disclosure of the details could spell the end of the talks: “If that becomes the public debate, this is going to end very quickly. So we’re not going to discuss the details…. We’re just not going to go there.”

What we keep hearing instead, in generic terms, is how complex and technical and difficult and time-consuming these negotiations are. Echoing the remarks over many months of other U.S. senior administration officials, Kerry noted that there are teams of experts working around the clock to vet any new idea that Kerry, or the European Union’s Catherine Ashton, or Iran’s chief negotiator Javad Zarif, might come up with. To hear U.S. administration officials tell it, their efforts to deconstruct Iran’s nuclear bomb program are at least as complicated as the bomb program itself. Which on a technical level may well be true, since the apparent aim is not to shut down Iran’s nuclear program, but to try to micro-manage it into compliance with Tehran’s official fiction that it never wanted the bomb anyway, and would have no use for it. (So, if you believe that Iran is negotiating in good faith, then the talks are needless because there was never a bomb program, and never will be — but in the interest of giving reality its due, let’s not go there).

Actually, it all gets even more complicated. Iran is refusing to provide information to the International Atomic Energy Agency on whether it has actually worked on building a bomb. But Kerry praised Iran’s Zarif —  Tehran’s envoy and chief negotiator– not only for having “worked hard” but for having “approached these negotiations in good faith.” Really? Zarif is Tehran’s mouthpiece and servant at the bargaining table. Either he is faithless toward the U.S. and its cohorts, or he is clueless about the regime he represents. Neither alternative augurs well for the nuclear talks. Nor is it auspicious that just after the talks failed to meet the Nov. 24th deadline for a deal, Kerry chose to praise Iran’s negotiator. U.S. officials keep talking as if Iran’s regime would like to give up what sure looks like a nuclear weapons program, but Tehran keeps running into enormous obstacles.

Note: The Tehran regime IS the obstacle.

A few more excerpts from Kerry’s remarks on Monday to the press, on the ineffable complexity of these talks:

“The issues are complicated and technical… each decision affects other decisions…These issues are enormously complex. They require a lot of tough political decisions and they require very rigorous technical analysis of concepts. It takes time to work through the possible solutions that can effectively accomplish our goals…”

Apparently it is all so complex that since Kerry flew to Vienna last week hoping to clinch a deal, there has been a nuclear-talks reset in which it may now take another four months merely to accomplish “the very specific goal of finishing the political agreement,” followed by another two months or so of further technical rigor, analysis, etc.

All of which ignores a stunningly simple bottom line. If a country is genuinely willing to give up a nuclear bomb program, it’s not hard to do. The more we hear about the complexity of the Iran talks, the worse the debacle ahead.