The Washington Post has the article Netanyahu enters never-never land by Fareed Zakaria. Zakaria brings up some history as a way to judge whether or not even tougher sanctions would work to get Iran to capitulate. Here is some of what he said.
We have some history that can inform us on the more likely course. Between 2003 and 2005, under another practical president, Mohammad Khatami, Iran negotiated with three European Union powers a possible deal to place its nuclear program under constraints and inspections. The chief nuclear negotiator at the time was Hassan Rouhani, now Iran’s president.
Iran proposed to cap its centrifuges at very low levels, keep enrichment levels well below those that could be used for weapons and convert its existing enriched uranium into fuel rods (which could not be put to military use). Peter Jenkins, the British representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the Inter Press Service , “All of us were impressed by the proposal.” But the talks collapsed because the Bush administration, acting through the British government, vetoed it. It was certain, Jenkins explained, that if the West could “scare” the Iranians, “they would give in.”
What was the result? Did Iran return to the table and capitulate? No, the country withstood the sanctions and, unimpeded by any inspections, massively expanded its nuclear infrastructure. Iran went from 164 centrifuges to 19,000, accumulated more than 17,000 pounds of enriched uranium gas and ramped up construction of a heavy water reactor at Arak that could be used to produce weapons-grade plutonium.
Now, I don’t think of Fareed Zakaria as an infallible interpreter of the Middle East, but his repetition of history matches what I remember of that history. Most people seem to think the history shows Iran to be intractable and irrational. However, I read about what the Bush administration was up to at the time it was happening. Clearly, the Bush administration made nice on the surface, but made sure to slap Iran with the backs of their hands in private to make sure no agreement ever could be reached. If I could read about it in the news at the time, it always mystified me how so many other people could pretend that this wasn’t happening. When people couldn’t get it right at the time, there would be no hope that they would remember it correctly years later.