Iranian talks fail after neocon ‘blitz’ — as Obama dispatches aide to reassure Tel Aviv

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The Baghdad talks on Iranian nuclear enrichment have failed without an agreement– though the Guardian says the continuance of the talks in Moscow next month means another month without an Israeli military attack. 

How much does Israel drive the discussion here? Inter Press reports that the talks broke down because the U.S. took the Israeli hardline and said to Iran, you’ll get no relief from sanctions even if you agree to the international demand not to enrich uranium to 20 percent. Writes Gareth Porter:

“[The] inflexible U.S. diplomatic posture… reflects President Barack Obama’s need to bow to the demands of Israel and the U.S. Congress on Iran policy.”

Even the Times hints at this idea:

Several accounts in Iran’s state-controlled media compared the positions taken by Tehran’s interlocutors in Baghdad to those of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, which considers Iran’s nuclear program an existential threat.

Jim Lobe anticipated this outcome when he said that neoconservatives had “blitz”-ed the Obama administration in the runup to the talks. He referred to reports by the American Enterprise Institute saying Iran is on the verge of producing weapons-grade uranium and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies saying there must be no nuclear enrichment in Iran, period. Apparently the Obama administration was listening:

After the Istanbul meeting [in April], Western officials suggested there could be some easing of economic sanctions against Iran…

But during the past week, U.S. and Western diplomats appear to have taken a harder line.

“They have to stop all enrichment,” Netanyahu told CNN on the eve of the Baghdad talks, adding that Iran should also be compelled to “dismantle the underground bunker” at Fordow.

Neo-conservatives and other hawks here have faithfully echoed that position with growing urgency as the Baghdad meeting approache…

In an election year, the neoconservatives are apparently pushing on an open door. The Obama administration’s obedience is indicated in this statement yesterday from the State Department:

Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman will travel to Tel Aviv, Israel on May 25 for consultations on bilateral and regional issues with senior officials and to reaffirm our unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security.

Sherman was formerly a leading moderate voice in the administration. Last fall she was urging the Senate not to up sanctions on Iran because sanctions were working and the goal was a diplomatic solution involving the P5+1– the very body now undermined in the Baghdad talks. Sherman also argued that sanctions would drive oil costs too high. She continued to sound the moderate when she announced a website reaching out to Iranians: “saying to the Iranian people – to Iran’s Government itself, as High Representative Cathy Ashton did in her recent letter to Iranian officials, that we remain open to having serious discussions about their nuclear program if they are indeed serious and ready to have those discussions without preconditions.” But the talks broke down, and Sherman hies unto Tel Aviv.

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