US-Iranian Recipe: Keep Nuclear Talks – and Program – Rolling on until End of Obama’s Term
Iran has hit on the perfect recipe for keeping its nuclear bomb program moving along, while luring the US and world powers into never-ending diplomacy in pursuit of a deal for curbing its drive for a nuclear weapon. The pursuers never catch up with their goal. Iran keeps them running in place by negotiations that never come down to earth or tie its nuclear hands.
As DEBKA Weekly reported first at the end of 2014, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei articulated this prescription by allowing Iranian officials to engage in negotiations with the world powers led by the US – so long as they never entered into any commitments to curtail Tehran’s national nuclear program.
This open-ended diplomacy, into which the five other world partners were drawn, also suited the book of US President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry.
DEBKA Weekly 655 of March 13 captioned an article: Likely Death Blow to Obama’s Nuclear Diplomacy: Khamenei Finally Vetoes Nuclear Deal.
Yet the two US leaders, while understanding that the current round of talks was going nowhere, made sure it stayed afloat and kept the world on tenterhooks for a deal that was predestined never to come about.
Iranian negotiators haggle, while following Khamenei’s diktats
When the Iranian delegation proposed winding up this stage with face-saving spoken communiqués, in place of a proper framework accord, Kerry insisted on two documents to show that the US had come away with something solid from the excruciatingly tiresome talks. He wanted one to say that more talks were scheduled to remove remaining differences and the other specifying areas of agreement.
Tehran dug in its heels even on that compromise, because it defied a Khamenei diktat.
President Obama had laid down the procedure to be “agreement in two stages” – the first ending on March 31 and the second, a comprehensive accord to be negotiated by June 30.
But as early as Feb. 18, the supreme leader said he objected to this procedure. An agreement must be reached not in two stages, but in one against the June deadline, he said, and carry with it “the removal of all sanctions on Iran.”
The Iranian delegation knew better than to give ground on the supreme leader’s directive – or, for that matter, on almost any of the original positions held at the outset of the talks.
The Iranian negotiators therefore faithfully followed the course he laid down, which was to knock down, one by one, the US demands for diminishing Iran’s nuclear capabilities, while demanding a faster pace for the easing of sanctions.
Iran ends this round of talks with a row of noes
DEBKA Weekly lists hereunder Tehran’s ten rejections:
- Enriched uranium stocks will not be removed from Iran
- Sanctions will be lifted immediately – not incrementally
- No intrusive or snap inspections at nuclear facilities
- No halt on research and development projects
- No change in the features of the Arak heavy water reactor to limit its production of plutonium
- The Fordo underground enrichment facility will not be closed down
- Nuclear activity will not be subject to any restrictions upon the expiry of the agreement
- The long-range missile program will not be a subject of discussion
- No disclosure will be required on Iran’s former record of clandestine military nuclear activity and tests
- No inspections of military sites suspected of conducting nuclear activity.
Diplomacy rolling for the rest of Obama’s term
Given this record of “progress,” it is hard to understand how anyone could have expected the talks to have a successful outcome – especially after they overran the March 31 deadline. The negotiations were not defined by their goal, which was to ascertain that Iran would not be able to make a nuclear bomb, but by Iran forcing the world powers led by the US, step by step, to give up on the be-all and end-all of the process.
It turned out that President Obama and the Iranian leader shared a common desire, which was to keep nuclear diplomacy staggering on between “crises” until the US president leaves the White House in January 2017 and during that time, keep a military collision between their countries at bay.
This tactic would allow Tehran to use the mostly aimless palaver to forge ahead with its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile development – untroubled by US interference.
For years, Iran has used the “nuclear diplomacy” tactic for making large strides towards its nuclear objective
The result for America was to be to leave the next president with a fully-fledged nuclear-armed Iran. The Islamic Republic would have by then raced far past the “nuclear threshold” goalpost, in which many Western columnists and pundits appear to believe.
Obama and Kerry didn’t appear too worried by this prospect. America has, after all, lived for years with a nuclear-armed Israel, North Korea, India and Pakistan. So what if Iran joins the roster?
Iran was already cheating on the interim accord
There is no point in protesting to the White House that this policy is begetting a nuclear race, joined by Saudi Arabia, Japan, Turkey, Egypt and other less stable Asian and Middle East nations. Obama has always been willfully deaf to this warning, although it figured large in every intelligence forecast put on his desk.
Khamenei cannily played on Obama’s attitude with a well-judged scam. In 2013, he fixed the election of Hassan Rouhani as president and presented Washington and the West with a smiling moderate, a welcome relief from the ferocious Ahmadinejad and a friendly partner for negotiations on Iran’s suspect nuclear program.
It soon turned out that Rouhani was just as much a pawn on Khamenei’s policy chessboard as his predecessor.
The next piece of trickery was the interim nuclear accord – the Joint Plan of Action – JPOA – signed with the six powers in November 2013 and touted by Tehran as a step on the road to a comprehensive accord on its controversial nuclear program. Obama and Kerry swallowed the bait to the point of ignoring Iran’s brazen violation even of that preliminary deal. Using the “creep-out strategy,” Tehran topped up its approved quota of 7.5 tons stock of 3.5 percent grade enriched uranium and raised it to 8.5 tons, instead of converting the extra material to oxides in compliance with its JPOA commitment.
No way will Iran ship its uranium stocks abroad
Given that behavior, how could anyone realistically expect Iran to say yes to shipping out its enriched uranium stock to Russia?
In case anyone did entertain this illusion, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi set them straight with a statement on Sunday, March 29: “The export of stocks of enriched uranium is not in our program and we do not intend sending it abroad.”
US officials refrained from criticizing Araqshi’s comment, although it contradicted the versions of the deal they had put out. They took the line that the issue had never been decided in closed-door talks, even tentatively.
If that is so, the powers had better forget about exporting Iran’s enriched uranium stocks – even under the comprehensive accord they have scheduled for negotiation up until June 30.
Worth noting here is the view of the nuclear experts consulted by DEBKA Weekly that, even if Iran did agree to ship the bulk of its enriched uranium overseas and kept only 500 kilos, that amount would still be sufficient to build two to three bombs.