Khamenei’s Last-Minute Red Lines: A Blocking Tactic or a Hard Bargain?

Just seven days before the self-imposed deadline of June 30 for a final nuclear accord between the Six World Powers and Iran, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei set more impediments in its path with four red lines which he laid down on Tuesday, June 23:
1. “We will not accept a long-term limitation [on enrichment] for 10-12 years…we have told them a smaller number of years would be acceptable.”
2. There will be no limitations on nuclear “research, development and construction” during the period limiting enrichment.
3. “Economic sanctions, whether by the UN Security Council, Congress or the US Government, must be removed immediately after the signing of the agreement… and all remaining sanctions removed after a reasonable time.”
4. No inspections of military sites, interviews with “Iranian individuals” (scientists) or “unconventional” inspections will be allowed.

Khamenei turns the negotiating clock back

None of those four conditions were new, DEBKA Weekly notes. Khamenei stepped in to turn the clock back at the critical final stage of arduous negotiations going back many years, with long hours spent by America’s finest nuclear experts on the smallest technical minutiae.
Earlier this year, Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif gave ground on those very points. So what was the supreme leader playing at when he put them back on the table as the sine qua non for the comprehensive nuclear accord so badly coveted by the Obama administration?
Not surprisingly, US officials in Washington did their best to brush his words aside and talk over the “I told you so” comments heard from critics of the deal by “explaining” that Khamenei needed to show his hardliners at home a tough front against President Barack Obama. This would give him an out so that when the deal gets signed, he will be able to pretend that President Hassan Rouhani and Zarif were not authorized to ink the paper and acted without his sanction.
Administration officials insist nonetheless that a comprehensive nuclear accord will be signed with Iran and the proof of its worth will come with its implementation.

Fork out $100bn and the deal is done

His other motive appears to be to drive a hard bargain five minutes before the deal is finalized.
DEBKA Weekly’s Iran experts have never held out much hope of the US procuring a nuclear accord with Iran, and contended that even if it is finalized, the Iranians will not honor its commitments.
But a third possibility may be gleaned from Khamenei’s latest pronouncement. He will find it hard to renege on his red lines after they were trumpeted to the entire Iranian nation over state television. But close analysis shows him to have refrained from nixing the deal. Instead, he attached expensive strings, namely the removal of sanctions forthwith – as laid out in his third demand.
This demand alone is worth an instant $50-100 billion bonanza for the Iranian treasury.
Khamenei’s red lines add up to a simple demand: Fork out and we’ll sign; otherwise the deal – even if signed – will be scrap paper.
This tactic comes straight out of the Persian bazaar, where a merchant may put up the price sharply at the very moment that the buyer’s hand reaches out to pick up the goods.
The supreme leader gave the game away in the exegesis he offered for his four red lines in that same state TV broadcast.

Khamenei: We don’t need a nuclear deal; America does

After accusing the Americans of seeking “the destruction of the … nuclear goals of the country and changing Iran’s nuclear program into a meaningless picture,” Khamenei went on to say “…the focal point of the resistance economy model is [self-reliance] and an internally-oriented viewpoint.”
He then explained: “This self-reliance does not mean isolationism, but rather a reliance on internal capacities and capabilities with a view to the outside.”
Stressing that the development of resistance economy policies should be “the product of collective wisdom and long consultations,” the supreme leader stated: “After the government’s transmission of these policies, many economic experts have confirmed it, and now the resistance economy is entering the country’s mainstream economic literature and culture.” Its implementation “in the country’s current situation is entirely possible,” he concluded
Khamenei’s message to the nation (and Washington) was that Iran has no need of a nuclear accord with the West in order to build a viable economy.

Five more influential US voices warn against deal

Zarif’s comments to The New Yorker a day earlier supplemented his boss’s bargaining position from a different angle:
If the nuclear talks do not produce a final deal, he said, “it won’t be the end of the world. A failed deal is worse for the US, which would have lost a major, probably unique, opportunity.”
For Iran, Zarif said, “It’s not about nationalism or chauvinism. It’s simply about historical depth.”
Tehran’s price for a deal may be computed from the following equation: “Historical depth” plus “resistance economy” equal $100 billion cash on the barrel. But there is still a week for the price to continue to soar.
Thursday, June 25, as US Secretary of State John Kerry headed for Vienna to attend the last lap of the nuclear negotiations, five former members of President Obama’s inner circle released an open letter expressing concern that the pending accord “may fall short of meeting the administration’s own standard of a ‘good’ agreement.”

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