Regime uses sanctions relief to beef up weaponry, leading their neighbors to do the same.
When a speedboat manned by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) personnel approached American vessels operating in open water, the U.S. Navy patrol craft USS Thunderbolt issued a series of warnings, all translating as “stay away, keep safe distance.” The Revolutionary Guards kept coming, as they often do, probing until the USN reacts.
A fanatic’s boat weaving among American warships could disrupt the U.S. formation and cause a collision. Tehran propagandists would tout that as a victory at sea. Worse, an Iranian boat might be a water-borne bomb capable of sinking a big ship. The deadly October 2000 terror attack on the USS Cole is very much on the minds of Navy sailors when Iran’s small boats appear. Read the rest of this entry »
Daniel Halper writes: Secretary of State John Kerry testified on Capitol Hill today the U.S. government will not be revealing the contents of secret side deals with Iran to the American people. Senator Tom Cotton wanted to know why it can’t be made public.
“Why can’t we confirm or deny the content of these agreements in public? Why is this classified? It’s not a sensitive U.S. government document.”
— Senator Tom Cotton
“We don’t have their authorization to reveal what is a confidential agreement…”
— Secretary of State, recreational windsurfer, John Kerry
Watch the exchange:
“So the ayatollahs will know what they agreed to but not the American people?”
— Senator Tom Cotton
Tehran (AFP) – Iran hit out Friday against US Secretary of State John Kerry, accusing him of threatening military action against Tehran if it fails to respect a historic nuclear deal sealed on July 14.
“Unfortunately the US Secretary of State once again talked about the rotten rope of ‘the ability of the US for using military force’,” said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a statement.
Zarif decried what he called the “uselessness of such empty threats against the nation of Iran and the resistance of the nation of Iran”, and said such remarks should be consigned “to the last century”.
“Unfortunately the US Secretary of State once again talked about the rotten rope of ‘the ability of the US for using military force’.”
Despite the agreement reached with Iran on putting the nuclear bomb out of Tehran’s reach, several US officials, including Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, have signalled that military force remains on the table to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Read the rest of this entry »
VIENNA (AP) — George Jahn and Matthew Lee report: Negotiators at the Iran nuclear talks plan to announce Monday that they’ve reached a historic deal capping nearly a decade of diplomacy that would curb the country’s atomic program in return for sanctions relief, two diplomats told The Associated Press on Sunday.
The envoys said a provisional agreement may be reached even earlier — by late Sunday. But they cautioned that final details of the pact were still being worked out. Once it is complete, a formal, final agreement would be open to review by officials in the capitals of Iran and the six world powers at the talks, they said.
Senior U.S. and Iranian officials suggested, however, there might not be enough time to reach a deal by the end of Sunday and that the drafting of documents could bleed into Monday.
All of the officials, who are at the talks in Vienna, demanded anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the negotiations publicly.
“We are working hard, but a deal tonight is simply logistically impossible,” the Iranian official said, noting that the agreement will run roughly 100 pages.
The senior U.S. official declined to speculate as to the timing of any agreement or announcement but said “major issues remain to be resolved.”
Despite the caution, the negotiators appeared to be on the cusp of an agreement.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who on Thursday had threatened to walk away from the negotiations, said Sunday that “a few tough things” remain in the way but added “we’re getting to some real decisions.”
En route to Mass at Vienna’s gothic St. Stephens Cathedral, Kerry said twice he was “hopeful” after a “very good meeting” Saturday with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who had Muslim services Friday. Read the rest of this entry »
Ankit Panda writes: A 65,000 ton, Danish-owned, Singapore-chartered, container ship, en route to the United Arab Emirates from Saudi Arabia, manned mostly by Eastern European and Asian sailors, is intercepted, boarded, and confiscated by the Iranian navy, prompting a U.S. destroyer to investigate.*
“Iran’s reasons for seizing the ship were at first unclear. Speculation abounded that the incident was a show of force intended to strike back at the United States after it sent the USS Theodore Roosevelt to intercept an Iranian arms shipment to Yemen’s Houthis last week.”
That wasn’t an anecdote from Tom Friedman’s next book on globalization–it’s a rough description of what took place on Tuesday, April 28, in the strategically important sea lanes of the Strait of Hormuz.
“Additionally, others suggested that the seizure could have been a move by hardliners opposing Iran’s negotiations with the West over its nuclear program – an attempt to spark a broader crisis to derail those talks.”
Allow me to get into the details:
The shipping lanes in the Strait of Hormuz have long been highlighted as a potential flashpoint amid the simmering geopolitical tensions between the United States and Iran. Its waters are of particular geostrategic significance given that over a third of the world’s petroleum traded by sea passes through the region. Iran has repeatedly emphasized its dominance over the waters, threatening to blockade the strait in a time of crisis. Today, we saw an acute manifestation of Iran’s audacity when the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) seized and escorted the Marshall Islands-flagged MV Maersk Tigris, a shipping vessel belonging to Denmark’s A.P. Moller–Maersk Group and chartered by Singapore-based Rickmers Shipmanagement, toward the Iranian port at Bandar Abbas.
The incident sparked a response by U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT), which ordered the USS Farragut, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer that was 60 miles from the point of the Tigris’ interception, to respond to the vessel’s distress signal. The incident took place as Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif led a delegation to New York City for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference at the United Nations, meeting with Western diplomats on the sidelines to discuss the ongoing P5+1 talks over his country’s nuclear program.
Saudi Arabia-backed, UAE-based Al Arabiya was among the first sources to break the news in English. It reported that Iran had fired warning shots (true) and seized a U.S.-flagged vessel (false). Nevertheless, the initial reports sparked considerable online panic at the prospect that the United States and Iran could be headed for a major confrontation. The report also noted that the crew of the ship numbered 34 and were American. Needless to say, U.S. citizens being held against their will by Iran hits a raw nerve for the United States given certain historical events. We’ve since learned, thanks to Reuters, that the Tigris’ has a crew of 24, most of whom hail “from Eastern Europe and Asia.” Read the rest of this entry »
We are dealing with a case of Mutually Assured Obfuscation
Bret Stephens writes: ‘So when you hear the inevitable critics of the deal sound off, ask them a simple question: Do you really think that this verifiable deal, if fully implemented, backed by the world’s major powers, is a worse option than the risk of another war in the Middle East?”
That was Barack Obama on Thursday, defending his Iran diplomacy while treating its opponents to the kind of glib contempt that is the mark of the progressive mind. Since I’m one of those inevitable critics, let me answer his question.
Yes, it’s worse. Much worse.
Yes, because what the president calls “this verifiable deal” fails the first test of verification—mutual agreement and clarity as to what, exactly, is in it.
Take sanctions. Iran insists all sanctions—economic as well as nuclear—will be “immediately revoked” and that “the P5+1 member countries are committed to restraining from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions.” But the Obama administration claims Iran will only get relief “if it verifiably abides by its commitments.” The administration adds that “the architecture of U.S. nuclear-related sanctions on Iran will be retained for much of the duration of the deal.”
So who is lying? Or are we dealing with a case of Mutually Assured Obfuscation?
Yes, too, because the deal fails the second test of verification: It can’t be verified.
Here again there are significant discrepancies between the U.S. and the Iranian versions of the deal. The administration claims “Iran has agreed to implement the Additional Protocol,” a reference to an addendum to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that permits intrusive inspections. But Tehran merely promises to implement the protocol “on a voluntary and temporary basis,” pending eventual ratification by its parliament, inshallah.
We’ve seen this movie before. Iran agreed to implement the Additional Protocol in 2003, only to renounce it in early 2006, after stonewalling weapons inspectors. Read the rest of this entry »
Negotiators Announce Preliminary Outline of a Possible Framework for Tentative Pending Agreement on Iran Nuke ProgramPosted: April 2, 2015
Iran nuclear talks extend beyond deadline
International negotiators on Thursday announced a preliminary agreement on Iran’s nuclear program sketching the framework for a final deal, capping days of exhaustive and tense talks that blew past their original deadline.
At a press conference in Switzerland, negotiators unveiled the framework that would guide the next phase of talks. The U.S., Iran and five other world powers plan to continue working on a deal, in hopes of striking a final agreement by a June 30 deadline.
President Obama plans to speak about the framework in the Rose Garden Thursday afternoon.
Secretary of State John Kerry, earlier, tweeted that all sides have the “parameters to resolve major issues” and will soon get back to work on a “final deal.”
“Big day,” he tweeted.
Reading out a joint statement, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the seven nations would now start writing the text of a final accord. She cited several agreed-upon restrictions on Iran’s enrichment of material that can be used either for energy production or in nuclear warheads. She said Iran won’t produce weapons-grade plutonium.
Crucially for the Iranians, economic sanctions related to its nuclear programs are to be rolled back after the U.N. nuclear agency confirms compliance.
The apparent breakthrough comes after days of talks that went into overtime after missing a March 31 deadline, raising doubts on whether the negotiators could reach any agreement at all. Read the rest of this entry »
Pro-Hassan Rouhani Iranian editor defects while covering nuclear talks in Lausanne
Ahmed Vahdat and Richard Spencer report: A close media aide to Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian president, has sought political asylum in Switzerland after travelling to Lausanne to cover the nuclear talks between Tehran and the West.
“There are a number of people attending on the Iranian side at the negotiations who are said to be journalists reporting on the negotiations. But they are not journalists and their main job is to make sure that all the news fed back to Iran goes through their channels.”
“The US negotiating team are mainly there to speak on Iran’s behalf with other members of the 5+1 countries and convince them of a deal.”
“My conscience would not allow me to carry out my profession in this manner any more.”
French say accord must include transparency on Tehran’s future nuclear activities
LAUSANNE, Switzerland— Laurence Norman reports: Several European foreign ministers arrived in Switzerland for nuclear talks with Iran on Saturday, with Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier saying the negotiations were now entering the endgame.
Officials said it remained unclear, however, if Iran and the six-power group with which it negotiates would be able to meet a March 31 deadline to reach a political understanding on the main parameters of a nuclear deal.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had already held two days of talks in this Swiss lakeside city with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and other top officials. A senior U.S. official described those talks on Friday as tough and very serious.
“Sanctions, pressure and an agreement do not go together.”
—Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Saturday, after meeting with his French and German counterparts.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Mr. Steinmeier and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini also arrived here on Saturday, as the two sides made a final 72 hour push to advance the talks.
Failure to reach a political deal on time would pile pressure on the Obama administration in Washington, where lawmakers from both parties have threatened to advance legislation increasing sanctions on Iran, when Congress returns from recess. Such a situation could trigger a major crisis in the diplomatic efforts.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on Friday that any political deal may simply be a political statement with a narrative about the main points. Mr. Hammond suggested meeting the March 31 deadline could be challenging and said the current congressional break gave the negotiators some extra leeway to seal a political deal.
A final, detailed nuclear agreement is due to be sealed by June 30.
“The discussions have been long, difficult. We advance on some points and on other points not enough.”
—French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Saturday
Speaking to reporters on Saturday outside the luxury hotel where the talks are taking place, Mr. Fabius said: “I come here with the wish to advance towards a robust accord.”
“The discussions have been long, difficult. We advance on some points and on other points not enough,” he added.
Mr. Fabius said that what is very important is the transparency Iran agrees to for overseeing its nuclear activities and the “controls, to be sure that the commitments made are respected.”
Germany’s Mr. Steinmeier struck a brighter tone as he headed into an afternoon of meetings with Mr. Kerry, Mr. Fabius and Iran’s Mr. Zarif. He said that after 12 years of nuclear talks with Iran, negotiations have entered the endgame. However, he said the final steps to be taken “are the most difficult but also the decisive ones.”
“I can only hope that given what we have achieved in the last 12 months that we don’t cease to try and reach a final agreement. The last 12 months have shown that there is serious willingness on all sides to negotiate,” he said.
Mr. Fabius has adopted a strong line in the Iran talks in recent weeks, with France appearing at odds with the U.S., at times, over what a final nuclear agreement must contain. Read the rest of this entry »
Iran’s Supreme leader Ali Khamenei called for “Death to America” on Saturday, a day after President Barack Obama appealed to Iran to seize a “historic opportunity” for a nuclear deal and a better future, and as US Secretary of State John Kerry claimed substantial progress toward an accord.
Khamenei told a crowd in Tehran that Iran would not capitulate to Western demands. When the crowd started shouting, “Death to America,” the ayatollah responded: “Of course yes, death to America, because America is the original source of this pressure.
“They insist on putting pressure on our dear people’s economy,” he said, referring to economic sanctions aimed at halting Iran’s nuclear program. “What is their goal? Their goal is to put the people against the system,” he said. “The politics of America is to create insecurity,” he added, referring both to US pressure on Iran and elsewhere in the region.
Khamenei’s comments contrasted with those of Iranian President Hassan Rohani, who said “achieving a deal is possible” by the March 31 target date for a preliminary accord.
Kerry was more circumspect, as he spoke to reporters after six days of negotiations in the Swiss city of Lausanne. The talks, made “substantial progress,” he said, but “important gaps remain.
“We have an opportunity to get this right,” Kerry said, as he urged Iran to make “fundamental decisions” that prove to the world it has no interest in atomic weapons.
But Khamenei warned against expectations that even a done deal would mend the more than three-decade freeze between the two nations in place since the Iranian revolution and siege of the American Embassy, proclaiming that Washington and Tehran remained on opposite sides on most issues.
“Negotiations with America are solely on the nuclear issue and nothing else. Everyone has to know that,” Khamenei said.
In a reflection of the delicate state of negotiations, other officials differed on how close the sides were to a deal.
Top Russian negotiator Sergey Ryabkov and Iran’s atomic energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi said in recent days that technical work was nearly done. But French officials insisted the sides were far from any agreement. Read the rest of this entry »
Tehran (AFP) – Iran accused the United States Sunday of not taking the threat from Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria seriously, and charged that US aid had previously helped the jihadists.
“We were aware of this danger from the beginning...But we will not be coordinating our action together.”
–Iran’s Foreign Minister
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif levelled the accusations despite an expanding US air campaign in Iraq since August 8 that provided key support in relieving a jihadist siege of a Shiite Turkmen town north of Baghdad late last month.
Iran and the United States have a shared opposition to IS, which controls a swathe of both Iraq and neighbouring Syria, but both governments deny cooperating militarily against the jihadists.
“There is still no serious understanding about the threat and they (the United States) have as yet taken no serious action,” Zarif was quoted as saying by Iran’s Mehr news agency.
“There is still no serious understanding about the threat.”
“They have helped (IS) in Syria in different ways,” he added, alluding to support that the United States has provided to some rebel groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad‘s forces. Read the rest of this entry »
At least 26 members of the Senate want to warn the regime against negotiating in bad faith.
Clifford D. May writes: Just before Congress recessed for the holidays, 26 senators — 13 Democrats and 13 Republicans, led by Senators Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) — introduced the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013. Its purpose: to ready new sanctions that would be triggered only if Iran’s rulers either fail to meet the obligations they have undertaken under a “Joint Plan of Action” or foot-drag on talks meant to lead to a “comprehensive agreement.” That agreement is to offer thetheocrats a simple deal: relief from increasing economic isolation and pressure in exchange for the verifiable dismantling of their nuclear-weapons program — an illegal program condemned by six U.N. Security Council resolutions.
The bill has displeased Iran’s rulers and infuriated many on the American left. “Saboteur Sen. Launching War Push,” ran the histrionic headline aboveMenendez’s photo in the Huffington Post last week.
President Obama also opposes the legislation. At his final press conference of the year, he said “there’s no reason to do it now” and he accused the bill’s congressional sponsors of “trying to look tough on Iran” for political reasons. He has threatened a veto should the measure reach his desk. His veto could be overridden by a two-thirds majority in each house — a high but not insurmountable hurdle.
Members of Congress sitting on the fence might want to ponder a few questions over the holidays: Are you confident that Iran’s rulers are negotiating in good faith? Do you think American diplomats will be helped or harmed if you give them additional leverage? Does it trouble you that Iran’s rulers have yet even to acknowledge that they have a nuclear-weapons program — insisting that, despite the vast petroleum reserves they control, they are building nuclear facilities under mountains strictly for “peaceful purposes”? Are you convinced that Iranian president Hassan Rouhani and foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif are moderates? Or do you suspect that they might be trying to play American diplomats like a Guadagnini?
Reza Kahlili writes: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called America’s assertions about the interim nuclear agreement reached recently in Geneva “nonsense” and said the Islamic Republic’s strategy will collapse the sanctions program.
U.S. officials have called the nuclear agreement a first step in rolling back the Islamic regime’s nuclear program. President Barack Obama praised them as “substantial limitations” on Iran’s nuclear activities — but Zarif said Iran can easily reverse any enrichment limitations.
Zarif, reporting on the Geneva negotiations to the regime’s parliament last Wednesday, alluded to deceiving the Obama administration and the 5+1 world powers, the five permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany.
“The Americans talk nonsense [on enforcing limitations on Iran’s nuclear program]… All of these [negotiations] are ultimately for [the representatives] to protect the interests of the country,” he said.
Referring to what Iran claims is its right to enrich uranium, he added, “This right is there, regardless if the West accepts it or not.”
Zarif said there is nothing in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons that can affect “the inalienable right of all the parties to the treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. An inalienable right is an inherent and undeniable right that no one can take away… American claims are nonsense.”
Zarif told parliamentarians that the regime’s goal is to lift U.N. sanctions, which would prevent the U.S. and the European Union from enforcing their own sanctions.
“I promise you, the moment the U.N. Security Council sanctions are lifted, all other U.S. sanctions will be nothing but scrap paper,” he said.