It’s both funny and sad — okay, mostly funny — to watch the right-wingers, neocons, and pro-Israel hawks gnashing their teeth and nay-saying about the Iran talks. Fact is, the results of yesterday’s meetings were pretty darned good, for seven hours work: the US and Iran sat down for an extended one-on-one, Iran agreed to allow IAEA inspectors to look at the Qom facility that caused all the hubbub, and Iran also acceded to a plan to ship most of its enriched uranium to Russia and France, where it will be turned into fuel rods for a reactor that is used to medical purposes. (That latter step means that Iran is getting rid of most –estimates are, as much as 75 per cent — of the low-enriched uranium that, according to the hawks, it was storing up to make a bomb.)
Going in, the hawks screeched that talking to Iran is worse than useless. So, now that the talks have actually accomplished something? Umm–they’re still useless, or worse.
The Wall Street Journal, in an hysterical editorial entitled “Springtime for Mullahs,” writes:
“The evidence is overwhelming that the window to stop the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism from acquiring a bomb is closing fast. If we are serious about doing so, the proper model isn’t North Korea, but Libya. The Gadhafi regime agreed to disarm after the fall of Saddam Hussein convinced its leaders that their survival was better assured without nuclear weapons. Mr. Ahmadinejad and Iran’s mullahs will only concede if they see their future the same way.
“This supposed fresh start in Geneva only gives them new legitimacy, and new hope that they can have their bomb and enhanced global standing too.”
Or take the editorial at National Review:
“The big news out of the talks is that Iran agreed to rapid International Atomic Energy Agency inspections of its just-revealed enrichment facility at Qom and, in principle, to ship some of its existing low-enriched uranium to Russia. Although these items will be enough for the press — and for Iran’s international enablers — to play up the positive results of the talks, neither of these moves is earth-shattering. The Iranians are masters of making concessions that they take back or water down. … The game for Iran here is a relatively easy one — string things along so talks continue and stiffer sanctions are forestalled.”
John Bolton, the mustachioed one-man wrecking ball who served as George Bush’s anti-ambassador at the UN, said:
“”I’m sure the Obama administration will describe the decision to meet again before the end of October as significant. All I can say is that I’m stunned that they would call that significant, just to show that their open-hand policy is working. It’s in Iran’s interest to have negotiations. It buys them time, legitimacy, and reduces the possibility of sanctions. The Obama administration may say that sweetness and light broke out in Geneva, and that’s the problem. It’s a fancy.
“We have been through this pattern repeatedly with Iran. When some information Iran has tried to conceal comes out, it causes another round of negotiations, but no real halt to their nuclear-weapons program. It’s just Groundhog Day, over and over again. … You’re never going to chit-chat Iran out of their nuclear-weapons program. Negotiations work in Iran’s favor.”
Over at the Weekly Standard it’s relatively quiet, but Rachel Abrams did manage this snide comment:
“Nice picture of Americans and Iranians sharing a so-far-so-good moment in Geneva. Just wondering: Is Bill Burns thinking of the three young Americans being held hostage by Iranian despots as he sits there gazing across the table at them?”
And Michael Goldfarb, in the same Standard blog, snarked:
“North Korea, Iran, Israel–there has been zero progress on any of these fronts despite all the White House spin to the contrary.”
In fact, as Juan Cole pointed out, President Obama made more progress in seven hours than the Bush administration made in eight years. Of course, we can’t call what effect the Bush administration did “progress,” unless you call the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the installation of 8,000 centrifuges progress.
Perhaps the most judicious and thoughtful neocon specialist on Iran, Patrick Clawson of the Washington Institute on Near East Policy, also ratched up the negativity in an oped called “No Nixon to China Moment Here,” in which — though written before the results of the Geneva meeting were known — he says that it’s undesirable to reach a strategic deal with Iran:
“U.S. friends in the region have reason to be suspicious of the Islamic Republic. Iran wants a greater role in the region than its neighbors want it to have, and revolutionary Iran is using force to achieve that aim, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, or the pursuit of a nuclear program. The United States, as a status quo power, has little interest in helping Iran upset the regional status quo. In short, even if it were possible — which it is not — a U.S.-Iran strategic realignment would be undesirable.”
Fact is, Iran isn’t going anywhere. Will the Khamenei-Ahmadinejad regime survive six months? A year? Ten years? Or will the opposition manage to topple or infiltrate it or make a deal with Khamenei? We have no idea. So Obama has to negotiate with the Iran that is, not the Iran that he’d like to see, or the one the neocons would like to bring about through “regime change.”