Another Victory for Iran – Fewer Sanctions, More Time.

Right track?  Wrong track?  The November 24, 2014 deadline has come and gone.  As in the once very popular game of Monopoly, Iran drew another ‘get out of jail free’ card and the right to ‘return to Go’ - to go ahead with seven more months of continuing nuclear advancement. That’s what U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and five other nations received for all the time and effort invested in nuclear negotiations however Kerry did receive a slap in the face from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.  Before the talks, Khamenei is reported to have opined that the U.S. would be the biggest loser if the nuclear talks were to fail.  After the talks, Khamenei said on Twitter that “arrogant” powers (six major nations) tried to bring the Islamic Republic to its knees, but they failed.  They did not succeed in stopping us this time and they will not be able to do so in the future!”

So, who won this round of talks?   Reuters reported that Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani touted that gaps were narrowed and positions between the six nations and Iran got closer during the talks.  He suavely explained that agreements were being made behind the scenes, and doors were opening to reconcile 76 million people after so many decades of wrestling with the West.  He pointed out that the coming “deal” will defuse wider conflict in the Middle East and open doors to ending economic sanctions on Iran.  If true, what do these statements mean for Israel and the U.S.? 

Kerry, on one hand, reassured the West by saying that talks can’t continue forever.  On the other hand, he warned that while the coming months will be tough, “new ideas were being considered.”  What new ideas?  Kerry consoled the U.S. and Israel by reassuring that there would be no additional sanctions relief for Iran beyond the interim deal signed in Geneva a year ago.  Rouhani countered Kerry’s remarks by saying, “We not only keep to the Geneva agreement but use the Geneva agreement for coming to a final accord.”  How’s that going to work out?

If we look at Iran’s behavior closely, we see Iran denying that it seeks to build a nuclear bomb yet they keep enriching uranium which prompts the U.S., the E.U. and the U.N to impose sanctions.  These sanctions have cut deep into Iranian oil reserves and have caused inflation and unemployment.  Yet, Rouhani said this after the talks, “I promise the Iranian people that the centrifuges will not stop spinning, but… people’s lives must continue to get better day by day.”  Seems Iran is enjoying it both ways – fewer sanctions and more time to further their nuclear ambitions.

Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran has been double talking to the world and signing treaties and making promises they consistently fail to honor or uphold.  In 1984 the U.S. Department of State added Iran to its list of state sponsors of terror.  Inclusion on this list brought with it sweeping sanctions against Iran.  Between then and now, there have been many talks, negotiations, inspections, pacts and promises but not much has been accomplished to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capabilities.  Iran’s consistent march towards nuclear capability has no end in sight.   In November 2013 President Obama agreed to billions of dollars in sanctions relief for Iran for a period of six months.  Following that November 2013 meeting in Geneva, President Obama said in a televised address from the White House that,”… if Iran does not fully meet its commitments during this six-month phase, we will turn off the relief, and ratchet up the pressure.” Well, here we are in December 2014 and we are no closer than we were a year ago to curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions and capabilities.  In fact, we have moved in reverse.  Iran now has fewer sanctions and more time.  The U.S. and the other five powers seem to be caving in to Iran and while Iran keeps getting they continue to walk the path towards a nuclear bomb.  Iran shows absolutely no willingness to abandon their determination to build nuclear weapons, much less to actually put a halt to what they are doing, in spite of the so-called big six major powers.  

Without any additional pressure coming from the big six world powers, Iran’s Khamenei and Rouhani have boasted of their own successes.  Behind the scenes, the Obama administration seems to be playing dice with its Middle East strategy.  Are the U.S. and the other five powers on the right track or the wrong track?  In the game of Monopoly, when one player draws a ‘get out of jail free’ card and places his pawn on the ‘Go’ space, all bets are off as to who will emerge the winner.  Israel seems to be the only country in the world accurately assessing the danger Iran poses to the world.  Netanyahu was right to draw the red line.  Iran keeps pushing and testing all the limits to include the red line and so far has not been met with any real resistance. Once they have the bomb, it will be too late to back-track and too late for regrets.