When it comes to an agreement with Iran about its nuclear program, no deal is better than a bad deal. Secretary of State John Kerry delivered the news to President Obama this week that a deal was unlikely by the July 20th deadline agreed to at the beginning of talks last September -- which no doubt disappointed his boss, who is desperate for some foreign policy success to point to. But unless Iran is willing to give up its program -- and dismantle the uranium-enriching centrifuges it currently operates and destroy its existing stockpile of heavily enriched uranium -- economic sanctions should not be lifted.
Unfortunately, the U.S. negotiating position has been far more conciliatory to the Iranians. We've virtually conceded Iran's right to enrich uranium, with the caveat that we expect them to freeze their capabilities of producing weapons-grade nuclear material and will ensure their compliance through inspections. If they agree, we will lift the sanctions that have helped cripple the Iranian economy.
If Iran truly needed nuclear power for purely peaceful energy-producing purposes, it could allow foreign companies to build and operate the reactors. They want to keep enriching uranium because they want to build nuclear weapons -- they already have an ICBM program whose only purpose is to build delivery systems to target the West, including the United States.
The impetus behind the talks is the naive sense in Washington and elsewhere that new leadership in Iran makes a deal possible. The election of President Hassan Rouhani gave many in the West hope that Iran was entering a more moderate stage. But Rouhani's actions should dispel that myth. Internally, he has been as repressive as his predecessors, executing hundreds of Iranians in public hangings that give lie to the hope he is a moderate. And his own words in the past show he's an expert manipulator who should not be trusted.
In his published memoirs, Rouhani bragged that in the past Iran has agreed to suspend programs in areas where they had no technical problems, knowing that they could quickly revive those programs when needed. He also boasted that during talks about its nuclear program with England, Germany and France in 2003, Iran was busy building a uranium conversion facility that produced heavy water and yellow cake uranium and boosted the number of centrifuges to 3,000 over the next two years. Negotiations were simply a way to make it appear that Iran was willing to slow down its nuclear program, while rushing ahead as quickly as it was technologically capable.
We've been fooled over and over again by the Iranians. Why should this time be different?
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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