Waiting on Vienna

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While the world awaits an announcement from Vienna, let us take a moment to tip our editorial hat to the Israel Project. It has been doing a remarkable job in tracking the ups and downs — mostly the latter — in these negotiations. We wouldn’t suggest that it’s the only good reporting (the New York Times has had some skeptical dispatches, even if they have failed to penetrate its editorial columns). In any event, in the Israel Project’s latest wire, its reportorial leg, Omri Ceren, offers an illuminating scenario for the the next 36 hours.

Zero percent is what he reckons to be the chance that Secretary of State Kerry will “make good on the comments that he made yesterday to reporters” and walk away from a bad deal. And a “very low probability” is how he reckons the chances that the parties will “come to a full-blown agreement ready to be implemented immediately.” He calculates that such a scenario, “never likely by June 30,” has become “functionally impossible” after the Iranian tyrant, Ayatollah Khamenei, “set out a range of new red lines a few weeks ago.”

Mr. Ceren notes that the Iranians, in a briefing earlier today in Vienna, offered a sketch of “what military-related restrictions will be lifted” that is “in tension with how the Americans have been describing the deal.” Mr. Ceren reckons those differences “will have to be overcome, and they won’t be in the next few days.” He thinks there’s a “low probability” that the gaps might still be too significant to even colorably announce a deal, and the parties would extend the interim agreement all the way through the summer.”

It’s Mr. Ceren’s estimate that such an option would be “more attractive to the Obama administration than taking another 2 or 3 weeks.” Writes he: “If the administration sends Congress a deal after July 9 then the Corker clock — how long a deal sits in front of Congress — goes from 30 days to 60 days. But if they get all the way through the summer, it goes back down to 30 days. The administration has obvious reasons to prefer that.” So Mr. Ceren figures that the most likely outcome this week will be a “non-agreement agreement.”

Under that oxymoron, the parties would “announce they’ve resolved all outstanding issues but they still have to fill in some details.” Here is how Mr. Ceren characterizes it: “The P5+1 and Iran would move in parallel to implement various commitments, and the Iranians would in particular have to work with the IAEA on its unresolved concerns regarding Iran’s weapons program.” He foresees, come winter, the IAEA providing “a face-saving way for the parties to declare Iran is cooperating” and a deal would “officially begin.”

President Obama, Mr. Ceren estimates, would like that “because it puts off granting Iran all of its anticipated sanctions relief until the IAEA makes some noises about the Iranians cooperating.” He calls the alternative “poison on the Hill.” So this scenario would allow the administration to “tell Congress” that “of course” questions with possible military dimensions would be resolved “before any sanctions relief is granted.” Plus, goes the logic, “after Congress votes, if the Iranians jam up the IAEA but demand relief anyway, lawmakers will have no leverage to stop the administration from caving.”

All this illustrates why these columns have, from the get-go, opposed the opening of these talks. It is campaign for a separate peace between America and Iran at a time when the ayatollahs are plotting — proclaiming — a war against the Jewish State. It is not just Munich of which we think. It’s also the disastrous lunge for a League of Nations after World War I. And the Paris Peace Talks in which — with the help of a future secretary of state named John Kerry — free Vietnam was betrayed and Indochina given over to two generations of communism. We’ve seen nothing to suggest that America would be better off entering a contract with the current regime in Tehran. There could always be a surprise, but given the reporting of Mr. Ceren, it would be a surprise indeed.

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