Diplomats Take Another Step Toward War With Iran

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The Moscow round of negotiations over Iran's nuclear program ended today without discernible progress, though diplomats kept hope alive by scheduling staff-level meetings between the two sides for next month.

If you're wondering what neoconservatives and other Republican hawks are going to say about this you have two choices: You can spend the next 24 hours combing their blog posts and columns, or you can just take my word for it: they're all going to say pretty much the same thing. They're going to say that this just shows there's no point in talking to Iran, so it's time to give up on negotiations.

In fact, one of them, Jennifer Rubin, got a head start and said that before this round of talks was even over:

Unless a minor miracles [sic] occurs this round of talks, like all that preceded it will end without tangible movement by Iran. Is it time to admit that neither talking or sanctions are going to shake the mullahs' determination to obtain nuclear weapons?

At this point we should decline to engage in further meaningless talks.

(Reminder to Rubin's teammates: Always refer to Iran's leadership as "the mullahs" in the hope that readers will imagine bearded religious fanatics possessed by dreams of martyrdom. But never actually say "bearded religious fanatics possessed by dreams of martyrdom," as that would lack subtlety.)

Rubin needn't have worried that a "miracle" might occur and yield Iranian concessions, because President Obama had already adopted the recommendations of Rubin et. al. and refused to offer anything of significance in return for such concessions. It's a brilliant ploy: encourage the administration to adopt a bargaining position guaranteed to fail, then blame failure on Iran, after which you can check off the "tried diplomacy" box and proceed directly to "initiate regime change" (whether through war or just through the economic sanctions that, with each round of escalation, are increasingly comparable to war).

As a liberal, I wish I could say that this ploy was being practiced only by Republicans. Alas, it is also reflected in a letter sent to President Obama by 44 Senators, half of whom are Democrats. As Glenn Greenwald notes at Salon, the letter's "implication is clear: a military attack by the U.S. on Iran is at least justified, if not compelled, if a satisfactory agreement is not quickly reached." Yet "the letter itself virtually ensures no such agreement is possible" because it insists that the administration demand things of Iran that "everyone knows Iran will never agree to" in the absence of concessions that the letter forbids.

On the brighter side, I guess we should be grateful that in this age of partisan discord 22 Democratic Senators and 22 Republican Senators can agree on anything. My hat's off to whoever orchestrated this refreshing concord!

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Robert Wright is the author of, most recently, the New York Times bestseller The Evolution of God and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic. More

Wright is also a fellow at the New America Foundation and editor in chief of Bloggingheads.tv. His other books include Nonzero, which was named a New York Times Book Review Notable Book in 2000 and included on Fortune magazine's list of the top 75 business books of all-time. Wright's best-selling book The Moral Animal was selected as one of the ten best books of 1994 by The New York Times Book Review.Wright has contributed to The Atlantic for more than 20 years. He has also contributed to a number of the country's other leading magazines and newspapers, including: The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Foreign Policy, The New Republic, Time, and Slate, and the op-ed pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Financial Times. He is the recipient of a National Magazine Award for Essay and Criticism and his books have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

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