We are on the eve of Secretary Kerry’s latest foray into creative diplomacy with Iran, and thus, as on past occasions, inundated by leaks and rumors. So let’s clear the chalkboard of the many deceptions, lies and confusions that surround the talks. Here are the basic principles to keep in your frontal lobes as the information flows:
The Iranians do not need a deal. Even if you believe they were so crippled by sanctions that they swallowed their pride and sat down to talk with us, by now the sanctions are greatly reduced, and the regime has innumerable ways to get around them anyway. Moreover, the Iranians believe they are winning right now, and why shouldn’t they? Think Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and big chunks of Africa.
And remember that Khamenei does not want a deal with the satanic Americans. If he gets most everything he wants without a deal, why make one?
To put it a bit differently, what if the Iranians came to the negotiations NOT because they were groaning under the burden of sanctions, but because they believed the American will was broken? That would mean that the negotiating room would be the site of American surrender, not Iranian agreement to Western restrictions.
We know that Zarif treats Kerry with contempt, yelling at him frequently. Does that not suggest the Iranians are in Geneva to dictate the terms of OUR surrender?
Obama desperately wants a deal, which he has always considered the greatest possible foreign policy accomplishment of his presidency.
Indeed, Obama has already made a deal with Iran, but it isn’t only, and not primarily, about nukes. In essence, he’s given Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, a veto over U.S. Middle East policy. Obama has embraced the two pillars of Iranian ambition: he’s in full support of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, and he’s in full opposition to Israel and Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu.
This is the strategic alliance Obama has been secretly negotiating since the presidential election campaign of 2008. We don’t know the details; hell, we don’t even know the contents of the interim deal (aka JPOA). State has a version, the Iranians have a different one. Whatever is said publicly needs to be checked, but the “agreement,” being secret, is uncheckable. Alas, even the most pugnacious congressional investigators have not managed to pry loose this fundamental information. And yet we know the names of the back channels, from Jake Sullivan to Valerie Jarrett. Some senator or congressman should arrange for public testimony. If we knew more about the negotiations we’d be better placed to evaluate whatever oozes out of Geneva in coming days.
There IS a Syria strategy. It’s part of the Iran strategy: make Khamenei happy, maybe he’ll make Obama look good by agreeing to the nuclear deal.
Hostages. You can be sure we’re dealing with the Iranians about American hostages in their clutches, from the Marine to the priest to the WaPo correspondent. But none of the bigtime journalists has taken an active interest in this very important component of the U.S.-Iran “relationship.” Back in the eighties, when Reagan’s dealings to free U.S. hostages seemed a gigantic scandal, every scribbler in town was digging for details. Not today. I want to believe there will be an accounting for these accomplices to the big coverup. But who will blow the whistle?
I hope that helps. Don’t be surprised if there is no deal. As the last two times around, the most likely outcome is that Khamenei pockets his gains and keeps on wheeling and dealing.
And we say “we’re making great progress.”
The hell of it is that Iran is very vulnerable, its citizens waiting for some signal from the West that time has finally run out on this cruel regime of fanatics and mass murderers. When that moment arrives, everyone will be amazed at how hollow the Islamic Republic really is. Remember Gorbachev? Gone in a microsecond…