This evening, Sunday the 23rd at 7 p.m. East Coast time, the AP posted a dispatch stating that U.S. negotiators have asked Iran to consider an extension of the nuclear talks. Another deadline — this one tomorrow, Nov.24th, which was supposed to be the final one — has been scrapped by the United States. It is clear that at all costs, the Obama administration wants to get any kind of a deal; it has continually backtracked on all the prerequisites that Iran supposedly had to meet and that the US. insisted upon when negotiations began one year ago. The AP story continues:
A senior U.S. official said that with the Monday evening cutoff date a little more than a day away, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry proposed to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamad Java Zarf that the two sides start discussing post-deadline talks in their latest meeting since Kerry arrived three days ago to add his diplomatic weight to the talks.
Yesterday, Reuters also broke another announcement. The P5+1 — the powers negotiating with Iran over their nuclear program — it reported, “will likely stop short of demanding full disclosure of any secret weapon work by Tehran.” Reporters Fredrik Dahl and Louis Charbonneau write that while the P5+1 powers will try to “press Iran to cease stonewalling a U.N. atomic bomb investigation as part of a wider nuclear accord,” they are willing to give in on what used to be a fundamental demand of the United States as necessary for any accord to be signed. What Iran is now refusing to do is to present to the nations negotiating with them full disclosure of any secret work they are carrying out at hidden facilities, which will enable them to develop a nuclear weapon.
At a Hudson Institute panel held last week, David Albright, a veteran of the IAEA and founder and head of the Institute for Science and International Security, told how verification of Iranian nuclear development cannot succeed without this full disclosure. Referring to Iran’s long history of secret work, Albright stated that “it’s a very big mistake…if you don’t deal with these past questions about Iran’s work on nuclear weapons.”
If you’re going to know the present, and know the risk…[that] if there are undeclared facilities [and] activities, you have to know the history. (my emphasis)
Albright pointed out that an agreement seems to be heading in the direction of throwing “the IAEA under the bus.” If Iran succeeds in weakening the UN’s international atomic inspection forces, he pointed out, it would be difficult to gain verification of what Iran is working on. He also said that unless the IAEA could visit all military sites to examine their actual work, it would stifle any “concrete progress.” He noted that people in Washington were trying to argue that none of this really mattered and expected that somehow they would get solid verification in the future. As he put it, “the IAEA learned that’s a big mistake and a recipe for failure.”
What has to be discussed is the issue of possible military dimensions, referred to as PMD, or the result of investigating to learn what possible military research and development Iran might be doing under the radar. Iran, as the Reuters dispatch noted, calls this “out of the question,” and says it is something that simply “cannot be discussed.” Clearly, Iran does not want the IAEA to investigate what possible secret research may be taking place that would allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. The director of the IAEA said last week that Iran had failed to give them explanations that were satisfactory as to what it might be carrying out in areas they have not investigated, and that they did not make any headway in their effort to get Iran to cooperate with them.
Reuters quotes another unnamed Western official, who actually told them that “the PMD issue is not a deal-breaker even though it probably should be.” Pause and parse that statement for one moment. It is, in fact, a blunt admission that in ignoring this and allowing Iran to get its way, they have decided to allow Iran to move ahead with its nuclear program, as long as the United States public can be told that they have negotiated a good deal. An American official told them that they have to walk a “fine line” in trying to get Iran to address the issue, while avoiding hitting “them so hard” that Iran’s negotiators would lose face.
If the U.S. avoids pressing Iran, it is nothing less than a violation of what the Obama administration once said was a cornerstone of its diplomacy. Resolution 1929 was adopted by the UN Security Council in 2010, and says that “Iran shall cooperate fully with the IAEA on all outstanding issues, particularly those which give rice to concerns about the possible military dimensions of the Iran nuclear programme, including by providing access without delay to all sites, equipment, persons and documents requested by the IAEA.” This is, of course, precisely what Iran is refusing to allow.
In 2009, President Obama said that “Iran is on notice…that they are going to have to come clean.” In 2013, John Kerry told the world the same thing. The truth , Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies notes, is the following:
Iran has already benefited from the de-escalation of sanctions pressure as a result of the JPOA [Joint Plan of Action] and the Obama administration’s decision to block new congressional legislation…The sanctions relief has directly led to Iran’s moderate recovery, enhanced negotiating leverage and increased nuclear intransigence…The West’s ability to conclude a nuclear deal against Iranian noncompliance will diminish as Iran’s economic recover hardens.”
So, when tomorrow’s deadline occurs, Iran knows that the United States no longer wants it to come clean. Instead, the Obama team wants a deal at any cost, even if it means it’s giving away the entire store.
I would like to thank Omri Ceren, Josh Block and their entire team at The Israel Project, which informs us regularly about the developments and articles used in this column.