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 last week that a deal was unlikely by yesterday's 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?
The only way to ensure a nuclear-free Iran is if the mullahs in power are gone. But the U.S. does nothing to promote a democratic future for Iran. Obama turned a deaf ear to thousands of protesters in Tehran in 2009 who sought change. He kept the main Iranian opposition group in exile, the MEK, on the U.S. terrorist list until a U.S. court basically forced the State Department's hand to either show evidence that the group was a threat or delist them.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani summed up the problem of negotiating with Iran in a gathering of some 100,000 MEK members in Paris in June, for which I was the emcee: "We went through this before. They promised they weren't going to enrich uranium. And then they were caught red-handed three times enriching uranium. Who was in charge of that program for Iran? Rouhani the 'reformer,' who brags about it in his memoirs that he fooled us, that he cheated us, that he lied to us. And who caught him? Who caught him in his lies? You did, the MEK."
When it comes to a nuclear-free Iran, the Obama administration is talking to the wrong people. Rouhani and the ruling mullahs are not the future of Iran. No agreement with them would be worth the paper on which it's written. At least MEK leader Maryam Rajavi understands what the West should be demanding. "Compel the mullahs to shut down their entire bomb-making, enrichment and heavy water program," she told her followers in Paris. Shouldn't we make the same demands?
Linda Chavez is a nationally syndicated columnist.