With the next round of nuclear negotiations with Iran set to begin on Wednesday, commentators are increasingly suggesting that the prospects for their success are high. There has, however, been an alarming lack of discussion about the fact that Washington has been in the habit of constantly shifting its definition of what a “successful” outcome would consist of.
Over the course of the Iranian nuclear crisis—across the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama—one goal has remained consistent: that Iran not be permitted to acquire nuclear weapons. “They’ve declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people,” President Bush said in 2008. “And that’s unacceptable to the United States, and it’s unacceptable to the world.” For his part, Barack Obama announced in March 2012, “When the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say.”
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