Sources with a line into Western diplomatic circles report that no one is giving any odds for Iran and the P5+1 managing to cut a final deal for curbing Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief by the July 20 deadline.
These leaks are designed to prepare the public in America, Europe and the Middle East for the Iranian nuclear issue being left up in the air and shunted by the Obama administration over to his successor when he/or she moves into the White House in January 2017.
DEBKA Weekly’s sources in Washington and Tehran reported on this deferral back in May, (see DEBKA Weekly 635 of May 16, “Obama Pushes Nuclear Deal Deadline to January 2015; Seeks Congress Nod for Military Action”).
Although no one in Washington or Tehran believes that Barack Obama would really push the button if congress approved military action, the president decided to go that route to head off the legislators who constantly clamor for intensified sanctions against a cheating Iran. He can then shut them up by asking; Who needs more sanctions when at any moment I can activate our military option, the toughest sanction of all?
Obama backpedals on military option against Iran
This week, the sanctions bill proposed by Senators Mark Kirk (Republican of Illinois), Bob Menendez (Democrat of New Jersey) and 59 other co-sponsors, showed new signs of life after being stalled for a while by an administration onslaught. Is this the sign of a White House rethink as a result of Obama’s loss of credibility in Tehran?
The state of play at the moment is that Washington’s concessions for the sake of a deal have the effect of making Ayatollah Ali Khamenei a tougher bargaining partner.
Nonetheless, the president took another step back by giving up his plan to open up a military option, according to the May 28 foreign policy speech he gave at West Point.
“Now, we have an opportunity to resolve our differences peacefully. The odds of success are still long, and we reserve all options to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. But for the first time in a decade, we have a very real chance of achieving a breakthrough agreement – one that is more effective and durable than what would be achieved through the use of force. And throughout these negotiations, it has been our willingness to work through multilateral channels that kept the world on our side."
Less than a week later, the administration was backpedaling on the deadline for a nuclear accord too. And once again, he drew a pugnacious response from Tehran.
Khamenei responds with belligerence
The supreme leader said that years of “troublemaking” by the arch-foe the US had not broken the Islamic Republic, which must face its domestic and foreign problems head on.
“We should understand the obstacles on the path taken by Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini],” Khamenei said on the 25th anniversary of the death of the Islamic Republic’s founder in a televised speech at Khomeini’s tomb.
"The external challenge before Iran is the troublemaking of the global arrogance — frankly speaking, that of the United States," he added.
“Military action is not currently a priority for the US after its losses in the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan,” said the supreme leader, discounting in advance any possible US military strike.
Last week, Khamenei vowed that Iran would fight the US until America was destroyed.
On June 1 and 2, Tehran welcomed a rare visit by the ruler of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah-Jabar Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, who arrived for an attempt to broker the quarrel between Iran and the Saudi royal family. Khamenei refused to receive him and he had to be satisfied with meeting President Hassan Rouhani who has little say in Tehran.
The emir’s mission was therefore foredoomed to fail – not least because the Saudis were not exactly eager to take up his offer. But it gave the Iranian leader another chance for harsh behavior. He directed Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to turn down an invitation to visit Saudi Arabia received from Prince Saudi al-Faisal, his opposite number in Riyadh. He said he had to be in Vienna on June 16-20 for multilateral talks on Iran’s nuclear program and could therefore not make it.
Of course, Zarif could have rescheduled his Saudi visit, but that would have been an act of defiance against the supreme ruler.