In the Arena

Obama’s Tough Iran Stand

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There’s been some interesting body language as we approach the nuclear arms negotiations with Iran, scheduled to begin soon in Turkey. Usually, the body language is all on the Iranian side–all sorts of demands made or withdrawn, offers made or withdrawn, diatribes and other assorted switcheroos. We’ve had some of that this time. The Iranians agreed to meet in Turkey, then wanted the talks switched to Iraq and China, then agreed to meet in Turkey. And there are some hints that the Iranians might suspend the production of more highly-enriched uranium (allegedly used for medical isotopes), or perhaps they might not…But the truly striking body language has come from the Obama Administration–and it has been ramrod straight and tough.

The Administration flatly refused to mess with the locale for the talks–which is why they’re still happening in Turkey. More important, Obama has put a new demand on the table: that the Iranians must disassemble the once-secret Fordo nuclear facility near Qom. This is the sort of last-minute demand that’s been more likely to emanate from the Iranians in the past. It is meant, in large part, to send a signal: there will be no shilly-shallying this time. And it sends a second signal as well: the U.S. believes it is  negotiating from a position of strength, given the strength of the global coalition opposed to Iranian proliferation and the devastating effect that economic sanctions are having on the Iranian economy. (And, let’s fact it, the threat of an Israeli attack, is probably having some effect as well.)

This is not to say that the Iranians will make concessions, or even negotiate in good faith. The Supreme Leader never has. But Obama’s tough pre-game posture is a marked difference from the last round of nuclear negotiations. We’ll see if it has an effect.