Obama plays Iran’s game

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  • #Iran promised new proposals at the talks, and brought none. @dpletka

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  • So who won and who lost? Iran won, easily. It gave nothing. AEI’s @dpletka totes up Iran’s gains:

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  • Israeli PM Netanyahu labeled the outcome of the talks a “freebie” for #Iran. He was too kind. @dpletka

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What exactly was gained at the talks with Iran last Saturday? Catherine Ashton, EU foreign policy honcho, pronounced the talks “constructive and useful.”

Apparently, the meeting was solely intended as a test of Iran’s willingness to have serious talks. And they hurdled easily over what even the NYT called a “low bar.” Iran promised new proposals at the talks, and brought none. Apparently, this wasn’t enough to deter its interlocutors.

So who won and who lost? Iran won, easily. It gave nothing. Let’s tote up Iran’s gains:

1.) Five weeks: Iran’s regime effectively enlisted the international community as its advocate for more talks in five weeks, at which, apparently, there are no clear delineations of what is expected. What’s coming instead, according to the estimable Ms. Ashton, is “serious dialogue,” confidence building, and all of it “guided by the principle of the step-by-step approach and reciprocity.”

2.) “Reciprocity”: What does that mean? It means they give and we give. It means they give more and we give more. You know, like with North Korea. All of a sudden, Iran needs to be paid to comply with its international obligations with reciprocal “concessions.” And Obama’s people agreed to that.

3.) Groveling from the Obama administration: A request from North Korea talks veteran Wendy Sherman, which it rebuffed. Let’s underscore: She asked. They said no.

4.) Talks on their terms: Remember when I suggested last week that their terms would be ending 20 percent enrichment (but keeping their stockpile)? Yup, that’s what they wanted, and the Obama negotiators see that as a great victory.

Israeli PM Netanyahu labeled the outcome of the talks a “freebie” for Iran. He was too kind. The talks were a victory for Iran, and a humiliation for the Obama administration, and its hapless “please meet with me” delegation. The thin-skinned president was angry and slapped back at Netanyahu, yet another sign he’s playing Iran’s game for them. But that doesn’t mean the Israelis have to play along: Today, Defense Minister Barak told Israeli Army Radio that Israel has made no commitment not to strike Iran while talks are going on.

Danielle Pletka is the Vice President of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at AEI.

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About the Author



  • As a long-time Senate Committee on Foreign Relation senior professional staff member for the Near East and South Asia, Danielle Pletka was the point person on Middle East, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan issues. As the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at AEI, Pletka writes on national security matters with a focus on Iran and weapons proliferation, the Middle East, Syria, Israel and the Arab Spring. She also studies and writes about South Asia: Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.

    Pletka is the co-editor of “Dissent and Reform in the Arab World: Empowering Democrats” (AEI Press, 2008) and the co-author of “Containing and Deterring a Nuclear Iran” (AEI Press, 2011) and “Iranian influence in the Levant, Egypt, Iraq, and Afghanistan” (AEI Press, 2012). Her most recent study, “America vs. Iran: The competition for the future of the Middle East,” was published in January 2014.


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