By David Faris The Week
Watching the almost certainly doomed negotiations between Iranian and European leaders in Vienna this month is to witness the real-time end of the effort to use diplomacy to short-circuit Tehran’s nuclear weapons program. When these talks inevitably collapse, they will entomb decades of delusion and leave the mangled edifice of American foreign policy exposed. America’s reputation will be in well-deserved tatters, our increasingly ugly domestic divisions no longer hidden under gloss of diplomacy.
The negotiations are paused as of this writing and scheduled to resume next week, but already European diplomats sound deeply pessimistic. U.S. leaders are pivoting back to veiled threats of force — “We’re either going to get back into compliance with the agreement,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday, “or we’re going to have to look at dealing with this problem in other ways” — while Iran is increasing its demands. Tehran wants higher enrichment thresholds as well as a guarantee that the United States won’t deep-six the agreement again the next time some fulminating Republican is elected president.
You don’t need to have aced the Foreign Service Exam to see why this is going to be the problem moving forward: Iran has a new, hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi, who doesn’t trust the United States to hold up its end of any bargain, with good reason. In 2018, the Trump administration withdrew from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, for no reason but arrogance and spite. That agreement had limited Iranian enrichment activities and subjected the country to intrusive inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in exchange for sanctions relief. While most Republicans always objected to the framework of the deal, no one has ever produced any credible evidence Iran was cheating.