Iran: What’s the Point of a Deal?

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Talks with the Iranian camarilla over the country’s nuclear program are now set to resume on November 29 at Vienna. One wonders what the point is. President Biden’s envoy, Robert Malley, would like to see both sides prepared to make the “necessary” compromises for a “mutual” return to the articles of appeasement struck by President Obama. The administration believes it is possible to “quickly reach and implement” a return to the original deal.

A “return to compliance” would, for America, mean lifting the sanctions reimposed by President Trump and Congress and presumably agreeing to ease other sanctions imposed since the original deal. For Iran, compliance would mean halting uranium enrichment. Yet the spox for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization says Iran is enriching at “a level that no country apart from those with nuclear arms are able to produce.”

What a telling statement. If Iran seeks no nuclear weapon, as it insists, why enrich uranium in the first place? One reason is leverage to use in the talks. Call it blackmail. Iran has already asked for $10 billion to be unfrozen just to get to the table. The total payday for a signed agreement could be as much as $90 billion, from lifted sanctions and unblocked accounts. This lucre would go straight to efforts to destabilize the Middle East.

What President Obama and Secretary Kerry did, in exchange for lifting sanctions and unfreezing assets, was to give Iran a 25-year timeline — not for banning its nuclear program but for lifting all restrictions on it. Their pact also phases out limits on Iran’s missile program, lifts the ban on small arms trade, and ends international access for nuclear inspections. It establishes a timeline for armament, not disarmament. No wonder Iran wants the deal back.

There are those who reckon that American negotiators should seek a new and truly comprehensive agreement with Iran, which would permanently ban nuclear research and development, restrict Iran’s ballistic missile and drone programs, impede Tehran’s global support for terrorism, and address the Islamic Republic’s persistent human rights violations.

These are objectives that the hapless Obama-era negotiators were unable or unwilling to bring to the table — even though they are threats that Iran poses to global peace and stability. The greater problem with a return to negotiations is that there is no legitimate government to sign for Iran. The country is controlled by a criminal enterprise that has held power since the 1979 revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini.

Continued diplomatic engagement with this regime only further legitimizes its rule over a people who have suffered under its theocratic dictates. The popular uprisings by the Iranian people — which the United States has done little to support — are driven by the anger and resentment of Iranians against the regime that holds them hostage. So it’s hard to think of anything our negotiators might be able to do to justify renewing negotiations.

Talks would only give a patina of legitimacy to the Iranian rulers and promote the foreign policy objectives of Tehran’s supporters in Moscow and Beijing and the United Nations. Or, as we’ve often put it, the talking is the appeasement. Iran’s new president, Ebrahim Raisi, has vowed to pursue “result-oriented” negotiations and not to back down from pursuing Iranian interests. The United States should not be in any rush to help him.


Image: The room where it happened? Photo by United States Department of State.

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