Tehran stands to gain access to nearly $50 billion if the Obama administration decides to free up $12 billion of frozen Iranian assets in the US, inevitably followed by Europe’s release of another $35 billion. The White House was reported Friday, Oct. 18 to be weighing a proposal to offer Iran access to these funds “in installments” against "steps to cut down on its nuclear program."
debkafile’s intelligence sources: This plan offers Barack Obama a way to ease sanctions on Iran, while avoiding political and diplomatic fallout in Congress and from Jerusalem that would result from an attempt to get the sanctions legislation repealed or amended.
US lawmakers and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu continue to call for harsher measures against Iran, after the Geneva conference last week failed to achieve any breakthrough in the controversy on Iran’s nuclear program.
Although its delegation avoided any pledge to suspend uranium enrichment and offered no plan to dismantle its enrichment facilities, US officials complimented the Iranian position as “more candid and substantive” than in previous diplomatic encounters.
Indeed, according to our sources, the Iranian delegation advised the six world powers on the opposite side of the table to simply accept Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s fatwa as an ironclad pledge of the Islamic Republic’s commitment to refrain from developing a nuclear weapon and continue to pursue a peaceful program.
As for a substantial proposal to cut back on their nuclear operations, the Iranian negotiators said firmly: Sanctions relief first; concessions only at the end of the road.
Ahead of the next round of talks on Nov. 7-8, the Obama administration hopes to warm world opinion to the proposition that Iran’s leaders, especially President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and his deputy Abbas Araghchi, need more incentives for concessions. They must be able to show their doctrinaire colleagues at home that diplomacy and smiles win more than intransigence.
Even before the Geneva conference, the White House was already putting in place the plan for relieving sanctions by the release of frozen funds – which is why the US delegation included for the first time the Director of the OFAC (the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control), Adam Szubin.
Asked by CNN what Szubin was doing there, senior US negotiator Undersecretary Wendy Sherman said:
“The purpose of having our sanctions team here with us is because … Iran wants to get sanctions relief. But they also have to understand what the range of our sanctions are, what they require, how they work, what it takes to implement sanctions relief, what sanctions we believe need to stay in place.”
Even this gesture failed to elicit from the Iranian delegates any concrete concessions. The obviously fed-up senior Russian delegate, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov, summed up his impression of the conference by commenting sourly that it was “…better than Almaty" (where the last round of talks took place in April) but offered “no guarantee of future progress.”
Nevertheless, President Obama is determined to keep up his strategy of appeasing Tehran and showing Congress and the Israeli prime minister that they are wasting their time by trying to stop him easing sanctions on Iran, because he will bypass them with presidential decrees.
Most of all, Obama is set against allowing himself to be persuaded by Netanyahu’s arguments of the terrible danger posed by a nuclear Iran.
Foreign Minister Zarif put his oar into the conflict between Washington and Jerusalem Friday with this comment: “There is a high possibility that the talks will be disturbed by various efforts on the part of Israel,” he said. “This reflects Israel’s frustration and warmongering.”