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Iran’s Stalling Tactics Humiliate Obama (COMMENTARY MAGAZINE) Jonathan S. Tobin 04/04/12)Source: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2012/04/04/iran-stall-clouds-obama-window-of-diplomacy/ Commentary Magazine Commentary Magazine Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
The Obama administration has spent the last few months furiously arguing that diplomacy backed up by tough sanctions is the only possible path to stop Iran’s drive for nuclear capability. But in agreeing to a new round of negotiations with the Iranians, Washington has set itself up to be made to look ridiculous. The ayatollahs have shown themselves to be masters of diplomatic gamesmanship as they have repeatedly made fools out of the European negotiators who have sought in recent years to craft some sort of compromise on the nuclear issue.

But anyone in either the White House or the State Department who thought this latest round of diplomacy would go differently got a shock today when the Iranians made it clear that as far as they were concerned the agreement to talk was merely a signal for the games to begin. As the New York Times reports, the Iranians have already started to stall by insisting on changing the venue of the talks. Though the negotiations were scheduled to begin next week in Turkey, a country that is openly siding with the Iranians, having as their host another Islamist government wasn’t good enough for Tehran. They are now suggesting Iraq or China as alternatives. To show just how far the Iranians are prepared to go to turn this process into a farce, they are also considering suggesting the talks be held in Syria, where, presumably, negotiators can witness Iran’s ally mowing down dissenters in the streets.

The excuse for the last-minute change supposedly stems from Iran’s irritation with the Turks because of their stands on the survival of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria as well as its membership in NATO, because of that alliance’s role in promoting missile defense systems to guard against possible Iranian attacks. But these flimsy excuses should fool no one. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was feted just last week in Tehran where he pledged to support the Iranians against “Western arrogance.”

The only possible reason to demand a change in the venue of the talks is to delay the process. Even if the West were to agree to this request — and it shouldn’t — it would only be followed by further stalling tactics straight out of the North Vietnamese handbook. Don’t be surprised if the shape of the table is raised. And then even if an agreement on some unsatisfactory compromise is reached, we should expect the Iranians to stall on its implementation and then renege on it altogether as they have done more than once with the Europeans.

Iran’s negotiating partner, the P5-plus 1 countries — Britain, China, France, Russia, Germany and the United States — have painted themselves into a corner in these talks. They have, as President Obama has stated repeatedly, pledged themselves to stopping Iran’s nuclear program. But if, as is almost certain, the talks with the Iranians get nowhere, if indeed they ever get started, then what will the president and his European colleagues do?

It is not exactly a secret the only reason the U.S. and the Euros have agreed to enforce tough sanctions and threatened an oil embargo of Iran is their fear that absent such efforts, Israel would have no choice but to attack in order to remove an existential threat to its existence. To that end, the Obama administration has gone all out to pressure Israel to hold off on any attack this year while what the president calls a “window of diplomacy” is explored. But if the diplomatic window is publicly seen to be only a ruse on Iran’s part, what then will Washington tell Israel or the American people?

If the Israelis have agreed, as reports claim, to hold off on a military solution to the Iran problem, they have, in effect, put responsibility for stopping Iran clearly on the shoulders of President Obama. But by agreeing to deal with the diplomatic tricksters in Tehran, the president has in effect made himself a hostage to the ayatollahs’ caprices. Though the administration has placed a priority on measures that will enable them to kick the Iranian can down the road until after the November election, the president may soon discover that his negotiating partners in Tehran have no intention of sparing him the embarrassment that is an inevitable part of dealing with them.

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