ran and the P5+1 nations — permanent U.N. Security Council members America, Russia, China, France, and England, and Germany — are holding talks this weekend over Iran's nuclear program. The Istanbul summit represents the first Iran nuclear talks in a year and a half, but expectations for a breakthrough aren't especially high, given the players' competing interests and goals, the looming U.S. presidential election, and past negotiating failures. At the same time, crippling economic sanctions are inflicting real pain on Iran, and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently stated that nuclear weapons are "a grave sin," and "logically, religiously and theoretically" antithetical to the Iranian regime. Might diplomacy prevail?
We might just see a breakthrough: "There is too much pessimism in the air" about these talks, says Fareed Zakaria in The Washington Post. "A robust deal is possible," if everyone gets something they want. Perhaps Iran will allow unfettered U.N. nuclear inspections, and the West will let Iran develop civilian nuclear power but no weapons, while easing sanctions as the U.N. team ensures compliance. Iran's hardliners are apparently on board, so the "most formidable" obstacle may be convincing Washington.
"The shape of a deal with Iran"
Huh? These talks are hopeless: Nothing is going to happen in Istanbul, says Fred Kaplan at Slate. Iran is led by "messianic fundamentalists," and no matter what they say, "the Iranians want a pocketful of nuclear weapons." And look, even if Tehran is serious about a deal, "it's hard to envision" one that would satisfy both Iran and Israel. Of course, if there's a diplomatic route to keeping Iran nuke-free, "it's worth pursuing, at some effort and cost." But such a patch is very difficult for me to imagine.
We need a broader vision for Iran: "Nobody can predict where the process of negotiation with Iran is headed," but "Istanbul is a fragile beginning," at best, says David Ignatius at RealClearPolitics. What's needed is "a serious exercise of diplomacy," and the man with a plan is, oddly, Henry Kissinger. He rightly believes that the best way to tame revolutionary Iran is to persuade it to operate "as a nation rather than a cause," and bring it into a new rules-based Mideast "concert of nations" that accepts Iran's rise but limits its "most harmful effects." If "this happens, Iran can be a force for regional stability, not disorder."
"Kissinger's model for a stable Iran"
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