After rebuffing the Obama Administration’s effort at diplomatic engagement for more than a year, Iran suddenly has seen the advantages of launching its own diplomatic counteroffensive to stave off impending U.N. sanctions. The Washington Post reported that Iran’s regime soon will dispatch diplomatic emissaries to every member of the U.N. Security Council (except the United States) to revive stalled talks on a nuclear fuel swap proposal that was brokered by the International Atomic Energy Agency last fall. By inflating hopes for a diplomatic resolution of the nuclear standoff, Tehran also seeks to lure the United States into more time-consuming negotiations and drain off support for another round of sanctions at the Security Council.
We have seen this movie before. Last October the Obama Administration thought it had an agreement with Tehran to exchange the bulk of Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium for fuel for its research reactor, only to be left in the lurch when Iran suddenly reversed course and rejected the deal. It turned out that the administration had bought into an “agreement in principle” with a regime that had no principles.
Tehran’s latest diplomatic gambit is entirely consistent with Iran’s past strategy of “cheat, retreat, and delay” on the nuclear issue. When caught cheating on its nuclear safeguards obligations, Tehran repeatedly has promised to cooperate with the IAEA to defuse the situation and to halt the momentum for imposing further sanctions. Then, after the crisis is averted, it reneges on its promises and stonewalls IAEA requests for more information. These delaying tactics consume valuable time, which Iran has used to press ahead with its nuclear weapons research.
Unfortunately, Iran’s diplomatic rope-a-dope strategy now is being aided and abetted by Turkey. The Islamist government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which has reoriented Turkish foreign policy and distanced itself from the West since coming to power in 2003, now seeks to give Iran the diplomatic cover it needs. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Tuesday announced that Turkey has offered to mediate between Iran and the West on the nuclear issue.
Predictably, the Obama Administration remains eager to revive its failed diplomatic strategy to engage Iran. The State Department has made it clear that the door was still open for more talks: “We’re still interested in pursuing that offer if Iran is interested” said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley on Monday. Stay tuned for more diplomatic talks about talks. Meanwhile, Iran’s centrifuges whirl away, steadily building Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium.
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