West plays Charlie Brown to Iran's Lucy
Surprise! Talks between the six powers - the US, EU, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China - and Iran have ended in total, complete, embarrassing failure.
Those familiar with the iconic Peanuts gambit with Lucy assuring Charlie Brown that she will hold the football so he can kick it - only to yank it away at the last moment - will recognize Iran's nuclear negotiating strategy.
As Israel and the US make contingency plans for a possible strike, the six powers - the US, EU, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China - put a proposal to Iran that would have seen Tehran freeze its production of more highly enriched uranium in return for a package of inducements from the US and EU, such as providing parts for Iranian civil aircraft.
But after often fraught bargaining in Baghdad, diplomats left declaring they had made no progress at all. "It's been a difficult few days," said a European diplomat in Baghdad. "After our first meeting in Istanbul with Iran a few weeks ago, we were euphoric. Now we're a lot more realistic about just how difficult this negotiation is."
The lack of success in the Iraqi capital does not signal the end of the process. The talks between Iran and the international powers still have a few rounds left before the end of this year, when Israel and the US must decide on military action.
There was also the occasional indication in Baghdad that Iran is softening its approach to the US. On one occasion, Saeed Jalili, Iran's chief negotiator, had a brief conversation with Wendy Sherman, the US chief diplomat at the talks. "That's something he hasn't been willing to do before," said a diplomat. "You can call it a semi-brush-by."
That said, western diplomats left Baghdad under no illusion about how difficult it will be to strike a deal with Iran this year.
Incredible. A "semi brush-by" is seen as a "softening" toward the US? That's not hope - it's fantasy. In fact, it's pathetic to imbue a chance meeting where a few pleasantries were exchanged with any significance whatsoever. It's not even grasping at straws - it's grasping at thin air.
But the question arises; why do we keep getting fooled by Iran in nuclear negotiations? The talks always start out with "optimism" and quickly devolve into "disappointment." At some point, you'd think the striped pants geniuses would realize the game the Iranians are playing and refuse to take part.
But diplomats care more about process than results. They think that engaging in "dialogue" as a process will eventually turn into "progress" on substance. This kind of myopia is seen yearly in how the US approaches the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It doesn't matter that the Palestinians have sworn to destory Israel. What matters is the "process" of negotiations. The focus may change - settlements, two state solution, etc. - but the process stays the same.
So we and the West will continue to play Iran's game because there literally isn't anything else the diplomats can think of doing.
It's a sorry state of affairs.