Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who has been instrumental in drafting and supporting sanctions legislation. In an email he argued the U.S. and EU negotiators should hang tough:
The West's sanctions — the reason the Iranians showed up in Moscow — have been an alternative to war. Those who want these talks to go on will be enormously tempted to make concessions to Tehran. Stand too firm and Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, might walk. Like his former patron Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the true father of Iran's nuclear program, Khamenei has supported the atomic quest since the mid-1980s, when it was still covert. He has spent billions to develop what appears to be every component of a nuclear-armed missile.
Americans and Europeans certainly don't want to appear to cave — pride, politics and fear of the Israelis all matter. So they may be tempted to attempt to give Tehran economic relief by not strictly enforcing sanctions to clearly signal that the West wants the negotiations to continue.
They could also take the wrong-headed advice of those who believe that a "process of incremental concessions" and "confidence building measures" require us to ease sanctions -- or impose no new sanctions -- in return for commitments by the Iranians to stop enrichment at 20 percent. They might also buy into Iranian talking points that the Iranian regime has a "right to domestic enrichment" to 5 percent under the NPT. This is a right they explicitly don't have even if they were in full compliance with their NPT obligations. Over thirty counties have a nuclear energy program; only about eleven have domestic enrichment programs. Surely, given its past behavior, the Iran regime doesn't deserve to be counted amongst the responsible dozen.
Dubowitz also cautions about slicing a deal too thin. "At 5 percent, the regime would be two-thirds of their way toward making bomb-grade uranium. By drawing the red line on enrichment at the higher level of 20 percent, the West will leave Tehran with about 13,000 pounds of low¬enriched uranium today, enough to make five nuclear weapons. Iran would be free to continue its 5 percent stockpile and its centrifuge development, the real key to an undetectable breakout."
Iran's disinclination even to appear serious is a measure of how little it fears the United States and how little credibility President Obama has.
Unless a minor miracles occurs this round of talks, like all that preceded it will end without tangible movement by Iran. Is it time to admit that neither talking or sanctions are going to shake the mullahs' determination to obtain nuclear weapons?
At this point we should decline to engage in further meaningless talks. The president would be wise to call up Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to tell him to get cracking on the conference committee and send the oil sanctions bill to his desk. We would then be wise to very publicly show signs of military preparedness including consultations with our allies in the region. As Dubowitz puts it: "For those who fear another conflagration in the Middle East, that ought to be a compelling reason to hang tough in Moscow, massively ratchet up the sanctions, and make it clear that the U.S. will destroy Iran's nuclear weapons program through military force. It would also be useful to communicate to Khamenei that the administration will use every instrument of U.S. power to bring down his regime if he doesn't yield on the nuclear program. Odds are, however, we will do none of this as our instinct for compromise deludes us into thinking that the regime responds better to confidence building measures than to fear inducing ones."
I too am doubtful Obama will act decisively; I have no doubt the Israeli government will do so after a brief time to see if oil sanctions cause Iran to capitulate.