Talks on Iran’s nuclear program will resume in September, and despite the war bluster from neocons and the far right, the Obama administration seems prepared to try once again.
From discussions with US officials, here’s what I’ve gleaned about the administration’s policy on Iran. First, there is no appetite whatsoever, and no serious consideration, being given to a military attack on Iran. Not even Dennis Ross, the hawkish aide at the National Security Council, brings up the possibility of a military strike, US officials tell me. Second, they say, sanctions against Iran may or may not impact Iran’s decision-making over its nuclear program, and it’s unlikely that sanctions can work effectively, but in any case sanctions are designed for their long-term impact, over years and not weeks or months, so the latest round of sanctions isn’t designed to have immediate impact on how Iran approaches talks later this summer. Which means that hawks who call for setting a tight deadline for the sanctions to work are simply trying to use the sanctions as a stepping-stone to war. Obama isn’t listening.
Finally, US officials say, Obama has consistently supported engagement with Iran since the campaign of 2008. He didn’t abandon the policy of engagement and diplomacy under withering attacks from Hillary Clinton in 2008, and he didn’t abandon under the firestorm of criticism by the likes of the American Enterprise Institute and The Weekly Standard in 2009. Problem is, Iran didn’t or couldn’t respond positively to Obama’s offer to engage, beyond the October, 2009, breakthrough in which Iran agreed to ship most of its enriched uranium to France and Russia for reprocessing. That accord broke down when Iran’s fractured political system proved incapable of implementing it.
Now the talks are back on track, it appears.
The State Department announced yesterday that it is prepared to re-engage and restart the aborted talks over the deal reached last October concerning the enriched uranium for Tehran’s research reactor. This is a big deal. Said P.J. Crowley, the State Department spokesman:
"We obviously are fully prepared to follow up with Iran on specifics regarding our initial proposal involving the Tehran research reactor…as well as, you know, the broader issues of trying to fully understand the nature of Iran’s nuclear program. We hope to have the same kind of meeting coming up in the coming weeks that we had last October."