It is clear that the final terms of the agreement between the U.S. and Iran fail to meet any of the goals publicly stated by the administration at the outset of the talks, even goals reiterated just a few months ago (e.g., “anytime, anywhere” inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites). There can only be two reasons for this failure: Either the Obama administration is uniquely inept at negotiations, or the negotiations regarding Iran’s nukes were nothing but a smokescreen for the pursuit of an entirely different agenda. The former, while marginally plausible, hardly begins to explain how we got from an initial position in which we held a winning hand, to an outcome in which Iran walked away from the table with nearly all the chips.

That leaves the second reason. But if that’s the case, what was the hidden agenda behind the talks? Questions raised during the negotiations strongly suggest that the real purpose of the talks was not to negotiate the terms of Iran’s abandonment of nuclear weapons technology, but rather to agree on the terms by which Iran would re-enter the family of nations as a regional power, even at the price of acceptance of Iran’s eventual acquisition of nuclear weapons.   

For example, how else to explain the president’s threat to veto legislation proposed some months ago to tighten sanctions if Iran did not expressly agree to forgo nuclear weapons? Why would the president so vehemently reject a tool offered by Congress that would have greatly strengthened his negotiation positon? Why did the announcement by Russia (our negotiation “partner”) that it would sell advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Iran meet with little more than a shoulder shrug from the Obama administration? The installation of these missiles would seriously undermine the military option that we had been told was “on the table,” again, weakening our negotiation position. Why, just days after the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called for no relief of the UN embargo of ICBM technology to Iran, did the administration agree at the last minute to do just that?   

The answers to these questions are perhaps hinted at by President Obama’s declaration that it is his “hope” that Iran will, some day, assume a responsible, stabilizing role in the Middle East, even as he admits that he does not expect any short-term change in the regime’s behavior. In other words, it appears that President Obama’s grand strategic vision is an Iranian-American rapprochement that, somehow, someday, defeats ISIS, forces Syria’s Assad out of power, and puts Iran’s terrorist proxies out of business. As America’s “partner in peace”, what does it matter what weapons Iran acquires, including nuclear bombs and the missiles to deliver them? And why bother with such “distractions” as Iran’s anti-Israel posture and its support for terrorism, when Iran’s hoped-for stake in Middle East stability will put these concerns in the rear-view mirror? In this context, the final terms of the Vienna agreement make perfect sense as a fulfillment of the president’s strategic goals. 

Of course, rapprochement is a two-way street. So far, Iran’s mullahs have shown no sign that they share the president’s vision in any way. Indeed, one would reasonably assume that if the president had any evidence that Iran is willing to cooperate with the US toward shared goals (or even that Iran in any way shares our goals), he would have made such evidence the centerpiece of his public remarks. President Obama’s silence on this point indicates he is relying only on his “hope” for a peaceable Iran, a hope that is baseless when viewed in the context of Iran’s recent statements of its intentions, and its actions toward other nations (and even its own people) since the 1979 revolution brought the mullahs to power.

In short, the failure of the Vienna agreement to achieve the publicly stated goals of President Obama was by design, not accident. The president got the agreement he apparently wanted; unfortunately, it’s not the agreement he told us he was pursuing.