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Cement, Lies, and Iranian Weapons Deals

Sanctions-violating arms consignments from Iran are quite bad enough. But what makes the Klos C shipment particularly interesting is the timing. That shipment, seized by the Israelis on March 5, was already on its way from Iran as the U.S. and its partners held the first round of Iran nuclear talks Feb. 18-20 in Vienna. Following the Israeli seizure of the ship, Iran's foreign minister and chief nuclear negotiator, Javad Zarif, repeatedly ridiculed Israeli accounts that the Klos C had been carrying weapons from Iran, suggesting the Israelis were telling, as Zarif put it, "same failed lies."

The UN report in effect confirms that Zarif -- Iran's main man at the Vienna nuclear talks -- was lying. As I wrote in a March 7 article on "The Amazing Coincidences of Javad Zarif," just after the news broke about the Israeli interception of the Klos C, its hold stuffed with weapons hidden under bags of cement: "If Zarif knew anything about this, that's damning. If he was clueless, that's alarming. Which is it?"

In public, at least, U.S diplomats have given Zarif a pass on his lies about the arms bound for Sudan aboard the Klos C. There has been no demand that Zarif account for his own swaggering mendacity. That, right there, is a major concession to Iran -- a signal that lies, however brazen, will be tolerated. That ought to be a matter of profound alarm -- perhaps not to our diplomats, but at least to the American public -- as the parties to the Iran nuclear talks prepare for a marathon bargaining finale in Vienna, starting next Wednesday, July 2, with the professed aim of reaching a final nuclear deal by the deadline of July 20. What lies from Tehran are in the offing, concealed under stacks of diplomatic drafting paper, official pronouncements and that grin with which Zarif likes to survey U.S. envoy Wendy Sherman and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, at the bargaining table?