John Kerry Hits A Bump

Paul Greenberg

11/13/2013 12:01:00 AM - Paul Greenberg

Everything was all set. The scenery had been painted, the lighting arranged, the actors given their lines and put through their paces. The proper air of suspense had been maintained throughout the opening acts, and now the curtain was about to rise on the grand finale. The management wasn't quite ready to admit it, maybe even to itself, but the Happy Ending had already been written. All the players had to do was follow the script.

The stars were already practicing their bows. The supporting cast of foreign ministers from far and wide -- Teheran to Paris, Moscow even unto Beijing -- was in the wings and ready to go on with the show. One by one they had arrived at the Geneva Cabaret to take their places backstage. And what an assemblage they were: the representatives of six world powers -- the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China (the one on the mainland). Plus one more country that very much wanted to be a world power: Iran. Then it would be camera, lights, action!

It promised to be the diplomatic blockbuster of the year, maybe the century. The most convincing performance since the one at Munich in 1938, the one that had assured Peace in Our Time, or so the rave reviews had declared.

Now, in Geneva, the curtain was about to go up on the Signature Accomplishment of this president's foreign policy: an end to Iran's plans for a nuclear weapon. It would be a fitting match for his Signature Accomplishment in domestic policy, the one that bears his name even if he might wish it didn't: Obamacare.

The big show in Geneva was all a sham, of course. But the suspense had to be maintained. Nobody in the administration was allowed to reveal the ending, at least not on the record.

The script doctors at the White House had faced a hard choice: Either keep Iran from developing a Bomb of its own or settle for containing that fanatical regime after it had one. By now it was clear that the choice had been made, no matter how many times this administration denied it: Teheran would be allowed to have its Bomb and Washington would worry about how to contain a nuclearized Iran later. Good luck.

It was all there in the script: Iran would publicly (if only publicly) forsake its plan to join the world's Nuclear Club, and in turn the West, with the eager support of the Russians and Chinese, would back off its economic sanctions against that country just as those sanctions were having their desired effect.

Grand displays of nationalist sentiment and mass demonstrations against the Great Satan may be well and good in their place, but not if they threaten people's livelihoods. The natives were growing restless, and so Teheran had to pretend it was ready to forsake its plans for a nuclear weapon. The deal was set for the signing; it was all over but the cheers and applause. Give 'em a happy ending every time. At least for a while.

The Great Sham at Geneva was to be maintained to the last minute, in tandem with the mullahs' Great Stall, which was winning them still more time to expand Iran's network of nuclear plants from Fordo and Bushehr to Arak ... till the whole complex was unassailable, its components scattered all over the map, buried underground in hardened bunkers, all those centrifuges spinning like mad. Soon it would be too late to stop the Iranians despite the West's empty protests and futile UN resolutions. It was all over but the ceremonial signing, to be followed by curtain calls, the pop of champagne corks, and the final group picture....

But then ... a bump in the road. The French objected. The French! Yes, the heirs of collaborationist Vichy, of Petain and Laval, had once again become the French of Verdun and "They Shall Not Pass!" There's always one guy in the outfit who doesn't get the word, one player who refuses to recite his tame lines. Who would have thought only a few years back that the French would step forth as in days of old and retrieve the banner of Leader of the Free World that the current American administration has been only too eager to let fall.

In Libya, in Mali and now at Geneva the French have resumed their old role as a bulwark against aggression. The result: Showtime has had to be postponed, maybe even called off.

Then there's the wild card: Israel, which has already taken out two budding nuclear plants in its near neighborhood, first in Iraq and then Syria. Unlike the Czechs at Munich almost a century ago, the Israelis may not be prepared to go gently into that not so good night. The sacrificial lamb could yet turn out to be a lion.

A remnant of a people wiped out once before, the Israelis seem to understand what is at stake in this show: their existence. Nor do their Arab neighbors seem happy at the prospect of being dominated by Teheran. And so an intermission has been called in this diplomatic opera.

But, lest we forget, the clock is still ticking. Message to Jerusalem: If you're going to strike, if you even can strike at that distance, sooner would be better than later. Yes, the results of such a strike would be unpredictable. But the results of just waiting for Iran to complete its Bomb are all too predictable. And not at all assuring. For the whole, ever volatile Middle East. And the world.