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News Analysis

Obama Administration Offers Direct Talks with Iran

Tue, February 5, 2013

by: 
Arnold Ahlert

On Saturday, the Obama administration’s efforts to maintain the fantasy that diplomatic efforts will get Iran to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons was again on display for all the world to see, courtesy of Vice President Joe Biden.

During a speech at the Munich Security Conference, Biden contended that the United States “would be prepared to meet bilaterally with the Iranian leadership.” ”There has to be an agenda that they are prepared to speak to,” Biden added. “We are not just prepared to do it for the exercise.”

The Iranians, meanwhile, are hailing the new approach the Obama administration is taking with Tehran and are no doubt looking forward to the extra time it will afford them to continue on the trajectory of their nuclear weapons program.

One is forced to ponder what outcome Biden could possibly be envisioning that would rise above the level of a futile “exercise,” given Tehran’s continual intransigence and the Obama administration’s indulgence of the regime’s games.

The latest failure to move the needle occurred as recently as January, when nuclear inspectors from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) were denied access to the Parchin military complex southeast of Tehran. Parchin is where it has long been suspected that the Iranians are working on a nuclear trigger for a bomb.

IAEA deputy inspector Herman Nackaerts expressed his frustration at the time: “We had two days of intensive discussions. Differences remain so we could not finalize the structured approach to resolve the outstanding issues regarding possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program,” he said at the time. The two side are scheduled to meet again on February 12.

So what has changed? Nothing on the part of the Iranians. Yet Biden insisted that Iran still has time to change course and resolve the issue through diplomacy. ”The ball is in the government of Iran’s court,” said Biden. “It is well past time for Iran to adopt a serious good-faith approach to negotiations. Abandon the illicit nuclear program and your support for terrorism and there will be meaningful incentives.”

Watered-down sanctions and poor oversight are already incentive enough for Iran to stay the course. For instance, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko revealed that an audit of U.S. defense spending in Afghanistan shows that the Pentagon may have spent a “significant amount” of money for fuel purchased from Iran, due to a “lack of oversight” on the billions of dollars of taxpayer funds used to support the Afghan military.

"The fact that the United States has paid for the acquisition and delivery of imported fuel for the Afghan National Security Forces — nearly $1.1 billion for the Afghan National Army alone between fiscal years 2007 and 2012 — raises concerns that U.S. funds could have been used to pay for imports of fuel potentially in violation of U.S. economic sanctions against Iran,” said Sopko.

No doubt this is due to a certain level of bureaucratic sloppiness that is endemic to the kind of ever-expanding government this administration champions. And while that may be somewhat understandable, this administration’s ongoing diplomatic approach seems destined to do little more than give Tehran the time it needs to finally cross the nuclear weapon threshold.

Thus it was completely unsurprising that Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi was pleased with Biden’s offer. "As I have said yesterday, I am optimistic, I feel this new administration is really this time seeking to at least divert from its previous traditional approach vis-a-vis my country,” Salehi told the German Council on Foreign Relations. Salehi, who also attended the Munich conference, went further. “I think it is about time both sides really get into engagement because confrontation certainly is not the way,” he added.

Such a statement is a typical rewriting of history. Negotiations between some combination of the P5+1 countries (United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany) and Iran have been ongoing for a decade. In all that time, not a single proposal has gained acceptance from all the parities involved.

Such orchestrated futility is the essence of what a diplomatic approach has produced. Yet once again the P5+1 is offering Iran another chance to engage in negotiations on February 24, possibly in Kazakhstan. While Salehi called this “good news,” the Iranians have yet to accept. Even if they do, Salehi has offered a hint as to where they are likely to go. ”And another thing: this issue of the nuclear file is becoming boring,” he said during the same interview.

In London, Hossein Mousavian, one of Iran’s former nuclear negotiators, also hinted at the likely futility another round of multilateral negotiations would produce, claiming that they are meaningless without “parallel dialogue” between the Obama administration and Iran. “I believe they should start immediately. They should put all issues on the table. They should start with issues of common interest like Afghanistan in order to create a positive momentum,” he said.

Senator John McCain, who also spoke in Munich, proved once again that willful blindness with regard to Iran is a bipartisan problem. He favors direct talks with Tehran as well, even as he cautioned that optimism may be unwarranted. ”I think we should learn the lessons of history and that is that no matter what the talks are, if you still have the fundamental problem–and the fundamental problem is Iranians’ commitment to acquisition of a nuclear weapon–it doesn’t matter to a significant degree,” he said. ”We’ve seen this movie before. And obviously, I think any venue we would support, but to have grounds for optimism I think would be a mistake.”

After more than ten years of fruitless negotiations, one might be forgiven for wondering when anyone involved in this ongoing fiasco will “learn the lessons of history.”

That would be anyone on the Western side of the equation. Iran is learning that the Obama administration is seemingly determined to find some sort of accommodation with the fanatical mullahs, and nothing says this better than the president’s attempt, and likely success, in getting Chuck Hagel appointed Secretary of Defense.

In 2007, Hagel voted against designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group. In 2008 Hagel, like Biden, also favored direct negotiations with Iran, despite noting that “they support terrorists, they support Hezbollah. They’ve got their tentacles wrapped around every problem in the middle East. They’re anti-Israel, anti-United States. Those are realities. Those are facts.”

In his Senate hearing last week, Hagel “explained” his reasoning in a jaw-dropping moment when he noted that the U.S. had never “designated a part of a legitimate government [Iran]” as a terrorist organization. Realizing his mistake he corrected himself. Iran’s government is “recognizable,” he said.

So is Hagel’s cluelessness. It is all the more amplified by another gaffe during which he said he supported the Obama’s administration policy of “containment” with regard to Iran, even though the administration has repeatedly ruled that out as an option. In fact, Iran would probably like nothing more than to be at the stage of “containment” after securing a nuclear weapon.

So what policy should the United States be pursuing with regard to Iran? Writing for PJ Media, Middle East expert Andrew McCarthy explains that focusing solely on nukes is “delusional.”

“Exportation of their Islamist revolution, hatred of America and, within that sweep, the destruction of Israel have been the operating premises of Khomeinist Iran since 1979,” he writes. “The facilitation of terrorism–a barbaric way to pursue national interests–has been the regime’s principal means of operation. The mullahs have killed or aided and abetted in the killing of thousands of Americans, and every day they try to kill more. The regime is an incorrigible enemy of the United States. There should be nothing they can do at this point, after over 30 years of this, to convince us otherwise.”

Apparently the Obama administration remains unconvinced. Though ten years of pursuing diplomacy have produced no tangle results, this administration still believes it is capable of getting an apocalyptic regime to alter its divine objective: Hastening the second coming of the Twelfth or Hidden Imam whose re-emergence must be preceded by a period of chaos. And as the U.S. continues down the road of appeasement, expect fanatical Iran to respond accordingly.

Arnold Ahlert is a former NY Post op-ed columnist. He may be reached at atahlert@comcast.net

This article appeared originally on FrontPageMag.com