The deadline for the nuclear talks between the P5+1 and Iran was supposed to have been today, 30th June, but it appears that this deadline will not be met. This does not mean that we can all breathe easier. On the contrary. The Americans are absolutely determined to achieve a deal and are prepared to keep on digging until they reach one, even if they have to keep throwing concessions at the Iranians in order to keep them at the table.
The US is preparing for a “staggeringly consequential deal” with hundreds of clauses and sub-clauses that all need to be worked out. For Israel the deal is consequential in the most negative of ways:
Everyone at the table “feels the burden of the responsibility” for this deal, the US official said. “Making this decision to actually do the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is a very, very, very big decision for everybody.”
It’s a decision that Israel hopes the negotiators will postpone.
One of the fundamental disagreements Israel and the US have over a possible deal is that, while Israel views Iran as the main problem in the region, the US views it as part of the solution, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said on Monday.
Ya’alon, at a briefing with diplomatic reporters in his Tel Aviv office, said that world powers and Iran are headed to a nuclear agreement, even if Tuesday’s deadline is not met, and that despite some last minute delays, the negotiations are not on the verge of collapse.
“What is clear is that this is a bad agreement,” he said. “After it is signed, we will have a nuclear threshold Iran.”
He said that the agreement does not close any Iranian nuclear facilities or dismantle centrifuges, and only suspends the Iranian nuclear program, which he said clearly has a military element.
The world powers are frantically working to ensure that mechanisms are in place in the final deal to ensure access to “sensitive” Iranian sites – but from this article it looks like the West are not strong-willed enough against Iranian obstinacy:
That is what the talks are about: Seeking a deal that brings Iran back in line with its international obligations in a verifiable manner, which will then allow for Iran’s return to the international community.
But Western powers seem to agree that Iran is still entitled to a minimum level of privacy from international inspectors, who may indeed require “managed access” to Iran’s conventional military sites.
Iran argues that such access is a violation of its very sovereignty, and believes it is an extraordinary standard never applied to any other nation.
Under the Additional Protocol, Tehran may attempt to settle the IAEA’s concerns by providing it material without granting it access. Iran may also grant access, but not allow inspectors to leave the facilities with any documents, photo evidence or trace material.
However the Iranians have good reason to feel very confident (h/t Israel Matzav) since it appears that the US and its partners will provide them with nuclear reactors and equipment!
Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei feels confident enough, only a few days before June 30 (the deadline for a final-status nuclear deal with world powers), to thumb his nose at the international community, including the American government, and declare Iran’s three noes: no to freezing its nuclear program, no to international oversight at its nuclear facilities, no to a phased lifting of sanctions (as proposed by the French). In other words, Khamenei is telling the world: Dear superpowers — bite me.
Meanwhile, almost simultaneously, we have received an Associated Press report from Vienna that the U.S. and its partners conducting the negotiations with Iran are prepared — for the sake of reaching a deal — to even provide the Iranians with advanced nuclear reactors and equipment. This isn’t a joke.
This situation has – finally – begun to alarm parties other than Israel. The question is only whether it is too late.
A nuclear expert has explained how the Iran deal puts Iran much closer to a breakout time than the Obama Administration was claiming (h/t Henry. Emphases added):
The Obama administration has argued that the nuclear deal it is negotiating will keep Iran one year away from being able to enrich enough weapons-grade uranium for a single nuclear weapon for a period of 10 years.
But a New York Times opinion piece published Tuesday by Alan J. Kuperman, coordinator of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Program at the University of Texas, argues that the actual breakout time under an anticipated deal, many of the details of which were announced in early April, is only three months — likely an insufficient span of time for detecting and acting against an Iranian breach of the deal.
Kuperman concludes that “the deal would be unlikely to improve the world’s ability to react to a sudden effort by Iran to build a bomb.”
Finally, Kuperman claims in the op-ed that the Obama administration’s breakout scenario is based on an overestimation of exactly how much weapons-grade uranium is needed for a nuclear bomb. US negotiators are basing their timeline on the construction of a weapon with 59 pounds of weapons-grade uranium. Kuperman says they’d need as little as 29 pounds, although this assumes Iran could master the construction of a relatively compact, low-yield bomb without the aid of weapons-testing data.
It is with this information in hand that a bipartisan group of several former advisers from Obama’s inner circle have come out in warning against the impending deal: These advisers are no lightweights either, consisting of diplomats, legislators and other experts:
In a public statement issued to the press Wednesday, the group said the deal being negotiated between the P5+1 and Iran “may fall short of meeting the administration’s own standard of a ‘good’ agreement’” and laid out a series of key requirements it said Iran should agree to ahead of the June 30 target date for the deal.
“The [current] agreement will not prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapons capability,” the group charged. “It will not require the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear enrichment infrastructure…It does not address Iran’s support for terrorist organizations (like Hezbollah and Hamas), its interventions in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen (its ‘regional hegemony’), its ballistic missile arsenal, or its oppression of its own people.”
The signatories include Dennis Ross, a former special assistant to the president who oversaw Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and the White House’s Iran policy during Obama’s first term; David Petraeus, the former director of the CIA; Olli Heinonen, a former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency; Robert Einhorn, a former special adviser to the Secretary of State for nonproliferation and arms control (2009-2013) who also helped devise sanctions against Iran; Gary Samore, a former coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction under President Obama who now heads United Against a Nuclear Iran; and General James Cartwright, who in 2007-2011 was the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Of course Israeli PM Netanyahu has not remained silent and once again expressed his (and our) outrage at the concessions being granted to Iran:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed outrage Sunday at world powers for backtracking on terms they’d set for themselves during nuclear negotiations with Iran.
“We see before us a clear diversion from the red lines set by the world powers recently and publicly,” the prime minister said. “Iran tramples on human rights, spreads terrorism, and is building a huge military infrastructure, yet the talks with [Iran], despite these reports, continue as usual.”
Negotiations between Iran and the US enter a “critical phase” Sunday with tensions rising just three days from a deadline to nail down a deal thwarting any Iranian nuclear arms drive. Netanyahu, for his part, asserted that there was no reason to sign an agreement which was “becoming worse with every passing day.”
The prime minister also pointed out that a recently published US State Department report on terror activity noted that the Islamic Republic’s “state sponsorship of terrorism worldwide remained undiminished.”
Netanyahu also warned that Israel still reserves the right to attack Iran if necessary: (emphases added):
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that Israel is still considering an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, even if Tehran and world powers sign a historic deal to curtail Iran’s nuclear program next week.
“Whatever happens, Israel will always defend itself, and the Air Force plays a major role in this,” Haaretz daily quoted Netanyahu as saying at a pilots’ course graduation ceremony.
Netanyahu again expressed concern over the agreement and the concessions the world is prepared to do in order for Iran to sign the deal.
“These concessions are increasing Iran’s appetite and every day it raises the bar, with the intention of extorting more concessions,” he said.
“In recent days Iran ruler Ali Khamenei rejected even the most basic conditions in the bad agreement drafted in Lausanne,” Netanyahu added.
“He said no to the restrictions on the nuclear program in the coming decade, no to conditioning the sanctions’ revocation on Iran’s keeping the agreement, no to [supervisors’] access to military sites. Even if Iran waives some of these demands in a few days, the powers’ basic concession will be huge and it will be a clear withdrawal from red lines the powers had publicly set earlier.”
Netanyahu said the supervision method the powers are discussing with Iran is “full of holes” and will enable the Iranians to create a nuclear bomb less than 10 years after the agreement’s signature.
The agreement will bring a flow of billions of dollars to the Iranian economy, enabling Iran to increase its subversion in the Middle East, Netanyahu said.
“It’s still not too late [for the powers] to come to their senses, to insist on a good agreement and it’s certainly not too late not to advance a bad agreement,” he added.
“As world leaders always say, no agreement is better than a bad agreement.”