To No One's Surprise, Iran Talks Go Nowhere

The broken record of diplomacy skips on. Over talks with Iranians in Geneva, negotiators agreed to hold more talks. Hopefully at those talks they can reach some sort of agreement to yet again hold more talks. And so forth and so on.

There are essentially three options, we keep hearing: strikes, sanctions, or status quo. The first is unlikely to eradicate all of Iran’s nuclear sites. It would also hand the regime, which is wobbly right now, a key propaganda victory and even might have the perverse effect of Iranians rallying around their unpopular government. The second is also unlikely to work. By definition, sanctions have to sting to be effective, and the ones who suffer the worst are the average Iranians, not the clerical establishment. After the events from this past June, the regime has shown it is impervious to the suffering of its own people. That seems to suggest that sanctions won’t work to bring about a change of regime behavior. The final option is the status quo, meaning we have to live with a nuclear-capable Iran at some point in the near future. We can step up our soft diplomacy efforts and ratchet up our criticism of their deplorable human rights record, but we basically throw in the towel on coaxing them to give up their nukes.

All of the options are bad, but let’s be realistic: If talks have not yielded results so far, they are unlikely to have any effect in the future. There seems to be this sense in the White House that the current president can turn water into wine and get Iran to come clean with the right mixture of political coaxing and economic carrots. If anything, with the regime weakened at home, it will try to present a stronger posture abroad (What does it have to lose, after all?). I am starting to believe we are wasting our time with more talks and more threats of sanctions. We already know how this movie ends.

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