In a major concession, Iran has agreed to one on one talks with the US over its nuclear program, according to a report from the New York Times. The decision comes after sanctions have wrecked Iran’s currency. The rial has fallen 40% in the past month, causing serious harm to the Iranian economy. It would appear that the sanctions put in place by former President George W. Bush and President Obama are beginning to take their toll.
The Iranians wish to wait until the presidential election is over before talks begin to they know who they will be negotiating with in the coming months. Republican nominee Mitt Romney has taken a hard line against Iran, leading many to feel he would side with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in seeking war with the Islamic nation. At this point, it is unknown if Mr. Romney would be willing to negotiate one one one with the Iranians. That topic is sure to come up in Monday night’s presidential debate, which is centered around foreign policy.
President Obama has been more open in the past to one on one negotiations. He was attacked in the 2008 campaign for saying he would talk with our enemies. Despite criticism from the right, Mr. Obama has stayed the course on Iranian sanctions and not given in to Israeli pressure to attack Iran’s nuclear sites. With the recent currency collapse, the strategy seems to be working.
Iran is a theocratic nation, run by its religious leaders. One of the great unknowns has been how far they were willing to go to get a nuclear weapon. It was unclear if sanctions would do the trick, as the mullahs could view nuclear weapons as far more important than the well being of their citizens. Choosing sanctions repeatedly over military action carried risk, as it allowed the Iranians more time to develop their capabilities.
Iran has claimed that it has no intention of developing nuclear weapons, but their stubbornness on the nuclear issue suggests otherwise. Since North Korea went nuclear, there has been no chatter about military action there. Rogue nations see that as an incentive to acquire a nuclear deterrent. In Iran’s case, nuclear weapons capability would change the dynamics of the entire middle east.
While negotiations are a good thing, and one on one negotiations are a new level of progress, there is no guarantee that they will go anywhere. This could be merely another diversionary tactic by the Iranians to move closer to a nuclear weapon. The US must prepare for all scenarios. We must be prepared for a military strike if negotiations fail and intelligence suggests that Iran is moving towards a nuclear weapon. A nuclear armed Iran is a major threat to our national security, and one that must be stopped at all costs.
**Update** Reuters is now reporting that the White House has denied agreeing to one on one talks with Iran.