European Union Foreign Executive Federica Mogherini is quoted by debkafile’s intelligence sources as shouting Wednesday night, July 8, at Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif: “If that’s where you stand it’s a pity to waste any more time!” Jarif is quoted as snapping back: “Don’t threaten us!” The US delegation led by Secretary of State John Kerry sat without moving a muscle. But Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stepped in to cool tempers and urged everyone to go back to the matters at issue.
The shouting started amid the discussion of sanctions relief, after the second deadline for a final deal had slipped by. The Iranians stood by their demand for the immediate lifting of all sanctions – not just the penalties for its nuclear activities, but on the score of involvement in terrorism, which Iran has consistently denied.
Other sticking points between the six powers and Iran are still the UN embargo on Iranian arms sales, restrictions on ballistic missiles and the nature and powers of the mechanism for monitoring Iran’s nuclear activities.
Even before this angry exchange, President Barack Obama remarked at a closed meeting on Capitol Hill Tuesday night, “The chances of a deal at this point are below 50:50.” He was quoted by the top Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Assistant Democratic Leader and a close ally of Obama’s. “I think it’s an indication that this is crunch time and that he said he’s not going to accept a weak or bad deal. He knows what’s at stake here,” said Durbin.
But Obama did not seem to be ruling out letting the negotiations run on for another few days.
At another meeting with US lawmakers Tuesday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey spoke in particularly categorical terms against easing restrictions for Iran. "Under no circumstances should we relieve pressure on Iran relative to ballistic missile capabilities and arms trafficking,” he said.
In contrast to Obama, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani sounded upbeat Wednesday night, before setting out on a trip to Moscow. He said: “Negotiations with the P5+1 group are at a sensitive stage and the Islamic republic of Iran is preparing for [the period] post-negotiations and post-sanctions.”
debkafile’s sources agree that the rhetoric on both the American and Iranian sides is probably part and parcel of the bargaining tactics around the table in Vienna. It is therefore hard to judge whether their words are to be taken literally or maneuvers for stepping up pressure on the opposite side.
Our sources deny Israeli media reports claiming that Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, who leads the US negotiating team, tried to call Israel’s National Security Adviser Yossie Cohen for an update on the state of the negotiations, but that he avoided taking her calls. If Sherman had really phoned Cohen, our sources say, her call would have certainly been put through to him.