|New York Times story on the historic agreement to talk|
Yes, I meant the title and caption to be sarcastic. I have wondered over the last few years why Catherine Ashton still has a job. Ashton, more properly Baroness Ashton of Upholland, Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, is the European Union's High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Given her remarks after this latest waste of time in Istanbul, I am still wondering. It has to be her title, because it sure is not her job performance.
What am I talking about? In my two earlier articles concerning the talks between Iran the P5+1 (the permanent member nations of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany), I predicted that the talks would result in an agreement to continue talking, but nothing else. My words, "We'll just continue to talk about having talks...."
You can review the articles at:
* Diplomacy and the Iranian nuclear issue
* Diplomacy and the Iranian nuclear issue - ADDENDUM
After Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "warned" the Iranians that the international community is not interested in "talks for the sake of talk," she added that the "window for diplomacy" in the standoff over Iran's nuclear program is closing. When she said it, I was pleased, hoping that finally someone in the Obama Administration realized that the Iranians have been playing them - and rather effectively - for over three years.
Unfortunately, "talks for the sake of talks" is exactly the result of the April 13-14 talks in Istanbul. Instead of calling the Iranians out on their obvious delaying tactic, the Administration (in the person of the deputy national security advisor praised Iran's "positive attitude." Positive attitude? Mr. President, they are playing you, again, for the umpteenth time.
Back to the baroness. To hear her gushing over the talks, you would think it was a diplomatic breakthrough rivaling the 1993 Oslo Accords. Although she called the talks "constructive and useful" and said that "we want now to move to a sustained process of dialogue," the only result was an agreement to have more talks in about five weeks. Five weeks of unimpeded uranium enrichment for the Iranians - that does not sound constructive and useful to me.
The baroness's European colleagues do not seem to be as impressed as she is with the "accomplishments" of the talks. The British foreign secretary merely called the talks the first step in a process. The French seemed unimpressed as well. It seems only the baroness and the clueless American deputy national security advisor were hoodwinked by the continuous delaying tactics of the Iranians.
Of course, the Iranians, knowing that they again kicked the can down the road for another five weeks, gloated. Their negotiator, Saeed Jalili, said the talks "will lead to concrete steps towards a comprehensive negotiated solution which restores international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program."
That said, several of the negotiators noted a change in the Iranian attitude, describing it as "almost positive and more constructive." I would assess that the Iranians sense that time is indeed running out, not so much afraid of Barack Obama's and Hillary Clinton's threats as the potential for Israeli military action against their nuclear facilities. Jalili claimed that "for the Iranian people the language of threat and pressure doesn't work."
Actually, that is exactly what works. However, the West has in the past not been willing to apply the right pressure to bring about a change in Iranian behavior. They are starting to now with sanctions on Iranian banks, making it hard for the country to sell its oil. This pressure needs to be increased.
It remains to be seen just how the Obama Administration will react to the failure of the talks. The President is concerned that as the election approaches, he will be seen as having failed to stop the Iranian nuclear program. He should be. Thus far, the Iranians have outplayed him at every move.
What do we have to show for the efforts thus far? Talks that reached an agreement to have more talks.