US Officials Sending Mixed Signals on Iran Talks

After Productive Vienna Talks, Officials Still Panning Negotiations

Israel has made no bones about it. They oppose the interim nuclear deal with Iran, they oppose negotiations with Iran, and they’re not thrilled with anything else that doesn’t lead to a full-scale US war with Iran.

When US officials talk about Iran, that Israeli objection has increasingly colored their statements, as they try to downplay the chances of any deal under any circumstances and try to spin their own demands as every bit as unreasonable as the Israelis would want.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, speaking at Beth El synagogue in Bethesda, Maryland, tried to shift the US demands a bit, saying the goal was not just to prevent Iran having a nuclear weapon, but prevent them having the “capacity” to make one.

That mirror’s Israel’s own statements, and the deliberately vague concept of “capacity” or “capability” means there’s no real way for Iran to meet the requirement, or even any obvious way to tell what the requirement would look like. Israeli hawks, fond of the term, have often presented any civilian nuclear program or theoretical know-how at all as de facto capacity, meaning unless all Iranians can be forced to unlearn how nuclear physics works, they must remain hostile toward them.

Top Obama aide Gary Samore also went into the successful Vienna talks panning negotiations in general, insisting there was “no chance of success” and tacking on myriad demands that have never even been broached at the P5+1 meetings, and would clearly be non-starters.

His rhetoric, too, looks to come straight out of Likud, with claims Iran could conceivably keep its perfectly legal civilian program as is, or shut it down entirely, or anything in between, and still come up with a wholly independent, wholly secret military program.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.