If they are taking odds in Vegas, bet on not getting a P5+1 deal with Iran over its nuclear program. The sides have an option of extending the talks for six months if they think they are close to an agreement. Government officials in both Washington and Tehran have sent signals that they are going to sign up for an extension. If that is the stand the White House takes, then the U.S. is making a big mistake.
Only Iran really benefits from extending the talks. According to a report by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, the Iranian regime has already benefited from the sanctions relief the government insisted on to enter into the talks. As Tehran’s coffers fill with cash, the Iranians will feel less pressure to opt in to a deal that they don’t like, one that might require them to forgo giving up the option to field nuclear weapons if they want one.
“The firm stance Tehran has taken in the nuclear negotiations seems out of step with the image of a country desperate to achieve sanctions relief,” concludes Patrick Clawson, director of research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, “That raises the question of just how crippling the sanctions imposed on Iran have been. The answer? No longer so much.”
The longer the U.S. allows the talks to drag on, the more difficult it will be get the international community to slap back on crippling sanctions. Furthermore, the regime in Tehran will become stronger, and it will be less likely that a good nuclear deal will ever happen.
It’s past time Obama abandon a disastrous strategy. The administration believed that sanctions alone would force Tehran to give up its option of a nuclear arsenal. That was a fool’s errand. The sanctions, however, were incredibly useful, for weakening the regime. Backing off was a big mistake.
Rather than prolonging a bad policy, the U.S. ought to be investing all its efforts on reestablishing a powerful and crippling sanctions regime as quickly as possible, building missile defenses as fast as it can, and building up its alliance structure, military capability, and counterterrorism partnerships to deter Iranian aggression to the maximum extent possible.