Don’t look now, but negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program are about to begin again. The New York Times writes:
Tensions between the West and Russia over events in Ukraine have cast a shadow over the second round of talks set to begin on Tuesday in Vienna on a permanent nuclear agreement with Iran. Although the talks have no direct connection to Ukraine, their success hinges on solidarity among the so-called P5-plus-one countries — the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, which include Russia, plus Germany — in favor of a tough agreement with Iran to drastically scale back its nuclear program.
If Russia signals that its cooperation with the West has weakened, that will reduce pressure on Iran to make concessions, said experts knowledgeable about the talks.
No stronger indictment of President Obama’s foreign policy need be presented than the fact that he has contrived to allow the success of American policy towards Iran (as well as Syria) to hinge on the good will of Vladimir Putin. To be sure, maximizing the impact of sanctions meant that Russia had to be a player to some degree. But when Obama decided to negotiate with the mullahs, Russia became the key player, since Russia was in a special position to influence Iran at the bargaining table, if it chose to do so.
So now we are reduced to this (again from the New York Times):
“I think that we all hope that the incredibly difficult situation in Ukraine will not create issues for this negotiation,” said [a U.S.] official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks. “We hope that whatever happens in the days ahead, whatever actions we and the international community take, depending upon the decisions and the choices that Russia makes, that any actions that Russia subsequently takes will not put these negotiations at risk,” the official said.
I know this is the administration of “hope and change,” but that’s carrying the joke too far.
The concern, though, isn’t just that Russia “will put [the] negotiations at risk.” That might be doing us a favor. The concern is also that Russia’s approach in Vienna will help ensure that Iran negotiates rings around this hapless administration which will be desperate, as always, to come away with a signed piece of paper.
Not that Iran needs much help.
At this stage, the odds of Russia helping Obama persuade Iran to agree meaningfully to curb its nuclear ambitions seem almost as long as the odds of Iran helping Obama persuade Russia to curb its Ukrainian ambitions.