US Must Now Fight to Save “Landmark” Nuclear Accord from Iran’s Mistrust

On Tuesday, Jan. 19, Tehran released the contents of a letter from Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to President Hassan Rouhani. In the letter, Khamenei said, “I reiterate the need to be vigilant about the deceit and treachery of arrogant countries, especially the United States, in this (nuclear) issue and other issues.” He urged Rouhani to make sure that the West honors its side of the deal, claiming that some US politicians had made “suspicious” comments over the past few days.
Khamenei’s harsh language was not just aimed at US Republican presidential campaigners, such as business mogul Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz, who have pledged to tear up the agreement if elected. His charges of “deceit and treachery” were made in response to the Obama administration’s announcement on Sunday, Jan. 17 of fresh sanctions – just one day after the IAEA verified Iranian compliance with the comprehensive nuclear deal.
The new round was directed at Iran’s ballistic missile program.
During all the years of negotiation on a nuclear deal, the Iranians stood adamantly by their refusal to incorporate their missile program in its framework in any shape or form.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned US Secretary of State John Kerry and other American negotiators that their insistence on this point would torpedo the entire nuclear accord.
In the end, Obama and Kerry yielded and excluded the missile program from the final text.
But when, after the nuclear deal was in the bag, President Obama took up the fight to force Tehran’s hand on the missile issue, Khamenei fought back.
He was bound by his solemn word to the Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and other hard-liners that the country’s ballistic missile program would not be touched by the nuclear accord, any more than its use of high-speed centrifuges for advanced uranium enrichment.
The supreme leader now regards the nuclear accord as doomed, certainly after Obama exits the White House in January 2017, or even before.
He is also watching closely to make sure that Obama, in his last year in office, does not try to turn the clock back on his assurance to the Islamic Republic of senior power status in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf.
DEBKA Weekly’s Washington and Tehran sources cite officials in both the Obama and Rouhani administrations as affirming that the survival of the nuclear accord depends very much on Washington following through on this understanding.
But not everything now depends on the will of the US administration.
Russia has meanwhile stepped into the Syrian arena as the current trendsetter. Washington must therefore coordinate its policies on Syria, Iraq and the Persian Gulf with Moscow as well as Iran and determine how to share out spheres of influence.
And there is no time to lose. The region’s governments are already scrambling for working ties with the Russians. Bilateral deals have been forged between the Russians and Israel and Jordan, and Saudi King Salman is on his way to Moscow for a historic visit and talks with President Vladimir Putin.
The absence of a US-Russian compromise on the fate of Syria’s President Bashar Assad has already hung a large question mark over the Geneva conference for a solution to the Syrian conflict.
It was announced on Thursday, Jan. 21, that the conference would not take place on Jan. 25 as scheduled, but would be delayed “for a few days.”
The Iranians are now ganging with the Russians to push the US out of the Middle East, using Washington’s alleged “deceit” as their pretext for reneging on their rapprochement and on the nuclear accord.

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