The Iranian nuclear issue was still under discussion between Iran and the Six Powers in Geneva Thursday, Nov. 7. The participants plan to conclude their discussions Friday, with the first partial international accord on the issue before they break up – with more to do to make it work and move on to a comprehensive accord.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Thursday night rejected outright the proposals under discussion in Geneva for a compromise resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue. That proposal would be a historic blunder, he stressed, because it would allow Iran to continue developing its nuclear weapons program while easing the pressure on the Islamic Republic.
The so-called “concessions” made by Iran are anything but.
Monday, Nov. 4, tens of thousands of gesticulating Iranians burned US flags and chanted “Death to America!” on the anniversary of the 1979 storming of the American embassy in Tehran. And not just America: the crowds lofted placards joyfully announcing the death of Barack Obama.
White House spokesman Jay Carney commented tolerantly, “We believe that the vast majority of Iranians would prefer a better relationship with the West and would prefer the benefits that a better relationship, including economic benefits of rejoining the international community, to the current status quo,” he said. “I think that’s what the elections told us that led in part to this development and this potential breakthrough.”
And finally, “You know, we’ll continue to focus on substantive negotiations to help bring about the policy goal that we seek.”
A high-ranking European leader needed to talk Khamenei round
The next day, it was announced in Vienna and Tehran that nuclear watchdog chief, Yukiya Amano, would visit Iran Nov. 11, just two days after the next two-day round of nuclear talks with the Six Powers was due to end in Geneva.
Obama is not concerned with the explosion of mass hate in Iran. His eye is fixed on his the secret parallel track to Tehran through which he expects to bring forth an acceptable agreement for resolving the Iranian nuclear controversy – even in part – for putting before the Geneva conference.
That first step must be finalized in Tehran before moving forward to the next.
Tuesday, Nov. 5, debkafile’s exclusive sources discovered that the White House is casting about for a European leader of high repute able and willing to travel to Tehran and meet supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to keep the ball rolling over predictable bumps on the road
This notion turns out to have originated in Tehran – not the White House.
Sunday and Monday, Nov. 3 and 4, Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani remarked separately that the Islamic Republic is “not optimistic about the results of the ongoing nuclear talks with the world powers.”
Foreign Minister Javad Zarif went into action. Through his private track to Secretary of State John Kerry, he let Washington know that the anti-American camp was gaining clout in Tehran and putting at risk any prospect of a nuclear accord with the United States.
Kerry’s mission to soften mistrust in Riyadh and Jerusalem
Zarif’s idea for arresting the avalanche was to select a high-ranking Western figure, a national leader or a foreign minister, to visit the supreme leader with a new package of concessions. Wooing Khamenei, he said, was the only way to get round him and persuade him to instruct Iran’s negotiators to moderate their position against the US.
Confirmation of the foreign minister’s message came from the mouth of Khamenei himself on Nov. 2, when he accompanied his pessimist remarks with praise for the efforts of Iran’s negotiating team.
Then, shortly before Kerry landed in Cairo Sunday, Nov. 3, on his way to Riyadh to try and placate Saudi rulers up in arms against US Middle East policies, the Obama administration relayed a message to Moscow, European and Arab governments and Israel.
They were informed that Washington had told Tehran that the proposals its officials had presented in Geneva and Vienna for resolving the nuclear issue were not sufficient for progress and additional concessions must be prepared for the next round in Geneva.
DEBKA Weekly’s Middle East sources report that the recipients of this message treated it with mistrust. The overriding view was that it was designed to help Secretary Kerry make soft landings in his nine-stop tour, especially in angry Riyadh, rather than reflecting the situation at the negotiations.
US maneuvers miss their mark
This impression was fortified by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s remarks Monday, Nov. 4 when he said: “It’s true that sanctions – not just US sanctions but UN sanctions, multilateral sanctions – have done tremendous economic damage. Even many of Iran’s leaders have acknowledged that. And I think that Iran is responding to the constant pressure from Israel, knowing that Israel believes them to be an existential threat. I think all of this, combined, probably brought the Iranians to where we are today. Whether the Iranians carry forth on that, we’ll see,” Hagel concluded by saying.
His remarks wee meant to smooth over Kerry’s implicit criticism of Israel on Oct. 28, when he said: “some have suggested that somehow there’s something wrong with giving diplomacy a chance. We will not succumb to fear tactics and forces that suggest otherwise.”
This remark was deeply resented in Jerusalem, The Hagel comment was believed to have been “commissioned” by Secretary Kerry to correct the harsh impression and ease his interview with the Israeli prime minister in Jerusalem on Wednesday, Nov. 6.
All these intricate maneuvers were choreographed by the Obama administration, complete with conflicting messages, recriminations alternating with pats on the head, attempts to show that while one part of the administration favored a deal with Tehran, another was willing to lend an ear to concerns in other parts of the region.
However, none really worked for the Secretary of State, as he found when he actually landed in the Middle East and encountered the fallout.
Saudis and Israelis refuse to be placated
He first stopped over in Cairo Sunday, Nov. 4, for an attempt to repair the badly frayed relations with Egypt’s military leaders, his first since they deposed the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi in July.
He found the country and its de facto ruler, Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, tightly wired up for the Morsi trial opening in Cairo the following day.
His comment to a news conference that a stronger relationship with the US depended on Egypt being represented by “an inclusive, democratically-elected, civilian government based on rule of law,” did not go down too well with his hosts.
At his next stop in Riyadh, he met with sharp criticism from Saudi King Abdullah and Foreign Minister Prince Saudi al-Faisal of US policies on Iran and Syria. Like Egypt’s leaders, they declined to issue a joint communiqué with their guest for recording points of assent.
Tuesday, the US Secretary landed in Jerusalem, only to discover that Prime Minister Netanyahu had just fixed a date for a working meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Nov. 20.
(read a separate article on this development).
Amid the general distrust surrounding American doublespeak on Middle East affairs, it was hard to find an eminent European willing to undertake a mission to Tehran on behalf of the Obama administration.
Finally, Kerry and Zarif decided to assign the mission to IAEA Director Amano.
The Iranian Foreign Minister did not promise him an interview with Khamenei, but said he would do his best to set one up.
The administration has tied itself in such complicated knots, that it is no longer sure where exactly Iran stands.