As the Obama administration extended the deadline for nuclear talks to July 7, some in the president’s own party are more nervous about what the ayatollah is saying than they are reassured by the White House.
Rep. Alcee Hastings (Fla.), the top Democrat on the Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe, said today that he applauds administration negotiation efforts, but “I am deeply concerned by news that Ayatollah Ali Khameni – the arbiter of public matters in Iran – has demanded that nearly all sanctions be lifted before Tehran has dismantled portions of its nuclear infrastructure and before international investigators confirm that Iran is on track to meet its obligations.”
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made clear that they won’t accept a deal that doesn’t lift sanctions immediately; the White House said last Wednesday that they’re “most focused on …the actions, not the words.”
Secretary of State John Kerry said, “We’re not going to be guided by or conditioned by or affected by or deterred by some tweet that is for public consumption or for domestic political consumption.”
Hastings said he’s “even more alarmed that Ayatollah Khamenei has unequivocally rejected any freeze on Iran’s nuclear enrichment and has refused to agree to allow inspections of Iranian military sites.”
“During the past eighteen months of negotiations, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran’s stockpile of nuclear fuel has increased by approximately 20 percent. We must not allow negotiation extensions to permit the continuation of this enrichment or Tehran’s support of international terrorism. Sanctions relief unquestionably supports Iran’s ability to fund such organizations and any agreement must guarantee that sanctions in place now are lifted slowly and deliberatively,” the congressman said in a statement today.
“At the end of the day, an acceptable deal will be one that guarantees that any Iranian pathway to a nuclear weapon is completely eliminated. It is my sincere hope that the current negotiations will result in a strong deal that does just that. In the event that a final agreement is reached which fails to do so, I will stand with my colleagues in Congress to make certain that it is blocked.”
Today Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
State Department press secretary John Kirby said the “technical extension” of the talks was “like going into extra innings here, okay, in the same game.”
“And what I can also say, then, thirdly is that our focus remains on trying to reach a deal. And that’s where – and the work inside the negotiating room is them trying to resolve the differences that are still outstanding. Again, I won’t speak to the specifics of all those differences, but there does remain – there are differences on some issues, and again, they’re working through that,” Kirby said.
“Secretary Kerry’s also very pragmatic and clear-eyed about this, though, and as I think you heard the President say – certainly Secretary Kerry has said it before – that no deal is better than a bad deal. So it’s not about – the – I don’t – the extension is – it’s important because it provides a little extra breathing space, but nobody’s under any illusions or trying to race to that day as sort of ‘I got to have it by.’ It’s – we could get a deal in two days, three days: we could get a deal on the 7th: or we could get no deal at all. That’s always a possibility too.”
President Obama told reporters today that “if we can’t provide assurances that the pathways for Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon are closed and if we can’t verify that, if the inspections regime, verifications regime, is inadequate then we’re not going to get a deal and we’ve been very clear to the Iranian government about that.”
“…And given past behavior on the part of Iran, that can’t simply be a declaration by Iran and a few inspectors wandering around every once in a while. That’s going to have to be a serious, rigorous verification mechanism. And that, I think, is going to be the test as to whether we get a deal or not.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said today that if Obama “chooses to conclude a deal that ensures that Iran will be a nuclear threshold state,” he’s “confident that a majority of both houses of Congress” will oppose it.
“If the president were serious about negotiating a deal that advances our security and protects our allies, such as Israel, he would walk away from the table and impose new sanctions on Iran until the regime comes to the table ready to negotiate seriously,” he said.