The United States and Iran have plunged back into negotiations, hoping to end once and for all a decades-long standoff that has raised the specter of an Iranian nuclear arsenal, a new atomic arms race in the Middle East and even a U.S. or Israeli military intervention.
With the clock ticking down to the deadline for a framework accord, some officials say the daunting diplomatic task means negotiators will likely settle for an announcement that they’ve made enough progress to justify further talks.
News reports about the progress of the negotiations have been sketchy. But fortunately, reliable, confidential sources have given us a comprehensive report on what has really been going on behind closed doors in that five-star luxury resort hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland.
(The scene of the Iran nuke negotiations is an expansive and elegant conference suite in the opulent Lausanne hotel featuring a magnificent panoramic view of Lake Geneva and surrounding snow-capped mountains. Seated around a brightly polished mahogany conference table are U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Rybakov, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The atmosphere is so thick with tension you could have heard a pin drop. No one seems to know how to start the discussions. Then, the Iranian negotiator breaks the awkward silence with a bombshell.)
ZARIF: I wish to remind all of you that these discussions are confidential and off the record. We must make sure that everything that is said in this room will remain in this room, secret for all time. As you say in America, “What happens in Lausanne, stays in Lausanne.” Are we clear on that point?
ALL: Enthusiastic nodding in agreement.
ZARIF: in that case, I want to commend the site selection committee and staff on the selection of this elegant resort hotel as the site for these continued negotiations. It really is splendid, and so much superior to the dump we stayed in in Montreux earlier this month. What a delightful upgrade!
KERRY: Well, Mohammed, I am so delighted you are pleased with the selection of this site. I have to say I am glad to be here as well. It really is a superb property, well suited for our continued discussions.
ZARIF: Oh, I like this resort so much better than Montreux. Better food, better views, and their adult film collection is to die for. Really hot babes….and no burkas. That’s really hard to beat. Now, that’s the part that can never be leaked. The Ayatollah would be apoplectic! I don’t want to lose my head over this.
KERRY: Fair enough, your secret is safe with all of us. And, I have to agree on the quality of those videos. How about that “Linda Does Lausanne” or “The Three-Way Tryst in Tehran”? Those were really amazing. But, don’t breathe a word to President Obama! I don’t want to be known as Former Secretary of State Kerry just yet.
ZARIF: Not to worry Mr. Secretary. We are in agreement on that, for sure!.
At this point there is a stirring in the conference room and an obvious annoyance about the digression from the urgent issues on the table. The foreign minister of Germany broke the stalemate rather abruptly.
STEINMEIER: Look, we have a lot of work to do to hammer out an agreement by the end of the month. So, let’s quit wasting time reviewing those porn videos you fellows seem to fancy and get down to business.
ZARIF: All right, all right, I agree, let’s get on with it. But, first of all, I want to tell you as clearly as I can that the letter from your Republican senators really upset the Ayatollah. He’s really pissed. In fact, he wanted us to pull out of these negotiations immediately and press on with production of a nuclear bomb without further delay. Can’t you keep your rogue politicians in line like we do?
KERRY: Oh, relax, Mohammed! That letter was a total grandstand political play that was unconstitutional, irrational, and total diplomatic nonsense that is going nowhere. Why, it was as ridiculous as former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman’s diplomatic mission to North Korea. Don’t be misled by these silly stunts.
ZARIF: Well, fortunately, I was able to convince the Ayatollah that there are a bunch of real idiots in the U.S. Congress who wouldn’t be able to derail a solid deal. But, to tell the truth, I really wanted to get out of Tehran to this wonderful resort for a change of scene and some well-deserved rest and recreation. If we extend our negotiations further, do you think we could schedule some meetings in those lovely resorts in Nice or Barcelona. I’ve heard those beaches are filled with real babes in skimpy bikinis. Now, that’s off the record, you know.
FABIUS: As the representative of France, I have to say that Nice would be a wonderful site for further negotiations, but we have a serious deadline we need to pay attention to. So, I propose we get on with our substantive discussions and focus on a resolution of our differences.
There were nods of agreement around the room, with Kerry, Britain’s Hammond, Russia’s Ryabkov and China’s Wang Yi looking like four bobble head dolls in their enthusiastic agreement.
ZARIF: Well, there is one other preliminary matter I must raise. It is the continuing antics of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Bibi’s latest trip to the U.S. was nothing short of outrageous. That hysterical speech Bibi made to your Congress…what a campaign spectacle! His real audience was the Israeli voters back home, not the United States. What a campaign circus he put on.
KERRY: Oh, Mohammed, I couldn’t agree with you more. He really is a blowhard. I like to think of him as an Israeli version of Rush Limbaugh. He’s harmless. And, now that he has been reelected based on his full-scale flight to the hard right, he’ll fall right in line like an obedient puppy dog once we strike an agreement.
ZARIF: Well, I still worry about his idle threats and saber-rattling. We just want to have a domestic nuclear power program, not bombs.
KERRY: I’m telling you that once we throw a few more billions in foreign aid Israel’s way, he will be no more worry to you or to us. He knows full well how to come to heel on our say so.
HAMMOND: Well, I’m so pleased we have cleared the air on those issues. Now, we really are making some progress. It is nearing the noon hour and I’m sure all of us are anxious to adjourn for our elegant noon meal. I know I’m feeling a little peckish. So, I propose we recess our discussions for the afternoon and discuss the continuation of our negotiations at another luxury resort location elsewhere.
ALL: Hear, Hear‼
FABIUS: Before we adjourn for our formal luncheon, may I suggest the site committee consider Nice or St. Tropez for our next meeting. Late April on the French Riviera is a simply splendid time of year, and as our friend Mohammed has said there is always plenty of eye-candy.
RYBAKOV: Well, since we have moved to the next stop on our “Travel and Leisure” tour of famous resorts, I’d like to recommend the committee think about Sochi, Yalta, or one of the other Black Sea resorts on the Crimean coast. Now that Russia has resumed its rightful control of Crimea, these resorts will be more luxurious than ever.
WANG YI: Don’t forget about some of the gorgeous, elegant resorts in Asia. I suggest to show the global nature of concern about Iran’s nuclear program it would be appropriate to have our next session somewhere in Asia. I’d like the site selection committee to think about Bali, Chiang Mai, or Shangri-la. But, I would especially like to plug my personal favorites, the first class, five-star resorts in Shanghai. We really can’t go wrong there, and with the increasingly global spirit prevalent in all of Asia, we will generate more momentum toward bridging our differences and reaching an accord.
KERRY: Those are all terrific suggestions to which I would add Kiawah Island, Hilton Head, or even Sea Island back in the States. All terrific properties with great facilities. So, our site committee certainly has some superb locations to choose from. Now, let’s adjourn for lunch and we’ll have the committee do its work with all deliberate speed so we can announce to the media the next stop on our world tour.
Just then, there was an urgent knock on the conference room door and an aide to Secretary Kerry stuck his head into the room.
AIDE: I’m so sorry to interrupt, Mr. Secretary, but it’s a matter of some apparent urgency. Senator Tom Cotton is here with four other senators who say they want seats at the bargaining table. I tried to tell him the negotiations are proceeding well without their help, but he was insistent that I convey his message. I really couldn’t get them to leave. Sorry, sir.
KERRY: Well, kindly tell them we will keep them posted on our negotiations and to keep their powder dry until they know what the deal is. Oh, and add that important line about “and, the horse you rode in on.”
With that, this session of the Iran Nuke bargaining was adjourned sine die.