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February 20, 2012 1:07 pm

Will Diplomacy With Iran Work This Time?

avatar by Yedidya Atlas


President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Photo: wiki commons.

The latest in the Obama administration’s campaign to convince an already skeptical public that Iran should not be attacked by either the US or Israel comes from Dennis B. Ross. In his February 6th appearance at The Aspen Institute, he expressed confidence that “the emergence of crippling sanctions” were forcing “Iran to make a cost-benefit calculation,” and that “Iran was being isolated in the region,” thus “Iranians are increasingly aware the price they are paying.” Therefore opines Mr. Ross, Iran will hopefully drop its nuclear ambitions and make an impending Israeli attack unnecessary.

His opening line sets the tone: “Speculation about an Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities is rife, but there is little discussion about whether diplomacy can still succeed, precluding the need for military action.” Since he is only one more in a long line of Obamites discussing this line in recent months, it is incredulous he can suggest “there is little discussion.”

The Obama administration is in full court press mode suggesting diplomacy is the way, the only way. On February 1st, Radio Free Europe reported: “US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said on January 31st that a combination of Western sanctions and diplomacy could still persuade Iran to abandon nuclear work which could be diverted toward an atomic weapon.” William H. Luers and Thomas R. Pickering in a February 2nd New York Times op-ed entitled “Envisioning a Deal With Iran” wrote: “As the dangers mount in the confrontation between the United States and Iran, both sides will have to raise the doors high for diplomacy to work, and to avoid conflict.” And David Ignatius wrote in his February 2nd Washington Post column that “Tehran could finally open serious negotiations for a formula to  guarantee that its nuclear program will remain a civilian one…”

Cleverly, Mr. Ross admits from the start that “Many experts doubt that Tehran would ever accept a deal that uses intrusive inspections and denies or limits uranium enrichment to halt any advances toward a nuclear weapons capability, while still permitting the development of civilian nuclear power.” He claims: “But before we assume that diplomacy can’t work, it is worth considering that Iranians are now facing crippling pressure and that their leaders have in the past altered their behavior in response to such pressure.” When Iran has comparably “altered their behavior” in the past, he doesn’t say. But no matter, declares Mr. Ross: “Notwithstanding all their bluster, there are signs that Tehran is now looking for a way out.” Again, the reader is left to guess the signs, since Mr. Ross doesn’t think it important to say what they are.

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As proof of Iran’s growing isolation in the region, Mr. Ross points out:Gone is the fear of Iranian intimidation, as the Saudis demonstrated by immediately promising to fill the gap and meet Europe’s needs when the European Union announced its decision to boycott the purchase of Iran’s oil.” And here, he offers the proof that “Even after Iran denounced the Saudi move as a hostile act, the Saudis did not back off.” Mr. Ross neglects to mention that Sunni Saudi Arabia has been in a tizzy about a nuclear Shi’ite Iran for sometime and not thrilled with the take-it-slow Obama approach. The Guardian (UK) reported last June 29th that Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to Washington, warned senior NATO military officials that…  “We cannot live in a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons and we don’t…. If Iran develops a nuclear weapon,” he said, “that will be unacceptable to us and we will have to follow suit.”

“Beginning in 2010, Washington worked methodically to impose political, diplomatic, economic and security pressure, making clear that the cost of noncompliance would continue to rise while still leaving the Iranians a way out,” Mr. Ross explains. “This strategy took into account how Iranian leaders had adjusted their behavior in the past to escape major pressure — from ending the war with Iraq in 1988 to stopping the assassinations of Iranian dissidents in Europe in the 1990s to suspending uranium enrichment in 2003.”

Mr. Ross maintains that “The Obama administration has now created a situation in which diplomacy has a chance to succeed” although he admits that “It remains an open question whether it will.” Meanwhile, he is suggesting that Israel should take a gamble on national survival just in case Mr. Obama & Co. can make sanctions meet their end goal.

To fully cover his proverbial posterior, Dennis Ross admits that “Still, it is unclear whether Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose regime depends so heavily on hostility to America, is willing to make a deal on the nuclear issue.” In other words, everything I’ve written until now is basically wishful thinking.

And should anyone think otherwise, Mr. Ross continues with his copout clause: “Of course, Iran’s government might try to draw out talks while pursuing their nuclear program.”  Simply put, they will continue their ongoing, and thus far highly successful, strategy of lying through their teeth while smiling at the Western dupes who want to believe them at almost any cost – especially if Israel will be the one to pay.

Iran’s standard ploy to date is to offer to negotiate, predicated on a reduction of sanctions as confidence building measures, or just a pre-condition for negotiations.  This would allow the Mullahs to easily stretch out “negotiations” while they are able to cross every one of the Obama administration’s “red lines.”

As Jennifer Rubin aptly noted in her November 7th Washington Post blog: “Our time line on sanctions seems to be lagging the timeline on the Iranians’ nuclear program. How many weeks or months will it take to get those more exacting sanctions? And even if passed, are we too late to impede the Iranians from completing their work?” At this rate, the answer seems all too obvious.


The author is a veteran journalist specializing in geo-political and geo-strategic affairs in the Middle East. His articles have appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, Insight Magazine, Nativ, The Jerusalem Post and Makor Rishon. His articles have been reprinted by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the US Congressional Record.

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