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Troubling Signs From Tehran

By James S. Robbins
U.S. News & World Report
December 10, 2014

Secretary of State John Kerry is confident that an agreement on Iran's nuclear program can be concluded in three to four months, or sooner. But maybe it will be later - or maybe not at all.

On Sunday, Kerry spoke in Washington about the failure of the parties negotiating with Iran - the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China - to reach an agreement by their self-imposed Nov. 24 deadline. The deadline was pushed back seven months to June 30, 2015, which Kerry thinks is ample time to iron out the differences. "We're not looking at seven months," he said. "I think the target is three/four months and hopefully even sooner."

However, there is no incentive for Iran to rush to an agreement. The Islamic Republic of Iran is not paying a price for stonewalling on reaching a deal by the original deadline, and it can probably drag things out further. The Obama administration has demonstrated that so long as Tehran is talking, it will not want to take any actions that might cause negotiations to collapse. So, for Iran, the longer the talks go on, the better.

A year ago, Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., attempted to pass legislation for just this circumstance. The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act would have imposed a harsh series of sanctions in the event of "failure to reach a final agreement in a discernible time frame," which is what just occurred. But the White House convinced Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., not to bring the bill to the floor, effectively scuttling it, and allowing Obama to avoid a situation where he would have to veto the act or risk an Iranian walkout.

The new Congress will not be so restrained. The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act has veto-proof majorities in both chambers, and will no doubt be among the first orders of business when the Republicans take over Senate leadership next year. In a joint statement last month, Menendez and Kirk reiterated that any deal reached with Iran must “dismantle, not just stall, Iran's illicit nuclear program and prevent Iran from ever becoming a threshold nuclear weapons state," and they would "act decisively" if Tehran does not meet these terms.

There is little reason to believe Tehran will. Even as Kerry claimed that Iran has "lived up to every commitment it made in the interim [nuclear] agreement," the United States reported to U.N. Security Council monitors that Iran had attempted to obtain illegal equipment for the IR-40 research reactor at the Arak nuclear complex which could be used to produce weapons-grade plutonium. This is a flagrant violation of the agreement which Kerry claimed Iran was honoring. Furthermore, Atomic Energy Organization of Iran spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said Saturday that there is no firm June 30 deadline for concluding the next round of talks, and disputed Kerry's claims that Tehran had made concessions or in any way slowed its uranium enrichment.

The regime may be sending even more troubling messages. Alireza Forghani, a former provincial governor (and pro-nuclear radical) who now serves as strategist at a think tank aligned with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in his blog that Iran is pursuing a tactic of "elongation" in the talks, which "never are supposed to be brought to a successful conclusion." He backs a policy of nuclear weapons being the Islamic Republic's "definite right" and looks forward to a time when the United States faces "a nuclear Iran who not only has nuclear power, but also is equipped with nuclear weapons."

In a previous post headlined "Iran Needs a War," Forghani cautioned that "American politicians should know that their next war with the Islamic Revolution of Iran, the war which guarantees Iranian Muslims survival, will be an utter destruction." He also denounced "the childish behavior of Obama" regarding the negotiations and said that "nuclear weapons capabilities are essential in order to prevent U.S. freedom of action" and that Iran needed the capability to mount a "rapid response at the level of the atom bomb."

The Obama administration is trying to portray the failure to reach a nuclear agreement with Iran as just part of the ebb and flow of the diplomatic process. But the signals coming from Tehran indicate that arms control negotiations are just another tool in Iran's drive to achieve nuclear capability.

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Related Categories: Middle East; Radical Islam; Iran Freedom Initiative; Iran; Public Diplomacy

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