The commander of the Iranian Revolution Guards Corps, Iran’s top military force aligned with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, openly mocked the United States for having “clearly surrendered to Iran’s might,” according to a report quoted by the Washington Free Beacon. “Despite the military embargo on the Islamic Republic, there is no weapon that our military is not able to manufacture,” he added.
The commander, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, was commenting on the Obama administration’s agreement to a further seven-month extension in the talks with Iran over its nuclear program, which were supposed to have expired on November 24th. Sadly, Iran’s top military thug is right. The extension gave the Iranians what they have most wanted out of the talks all along – more time within which to further develop their nuclear arms technologies while still gaining some relief from the economic sanctions. Indeed, Iran will continue to get its hands on $700 million per month in frozen assets under the terms of the nuclear negotiation extension.
Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters that “we would be fools to walk away.” As usual, Kerry was being played for a fool. And once again, the United States looks weak under President Obama's failed leadership.
Iran’s leaders are out to prove to the world that Iran can be counted on to stand up to the “arrogant powers,” as Iranian leaders like to refer to the U.S. and its allies. So far, they are succeeding.
“In the nuclear issue, America and colonial European countries got together and did their best to bring the Islamic Republic to its knees, but they could not do so – and they will not do so,” said Ayatollah Khamenei on November 25th according to his personal website.
The year-long negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program have been going nowhere, even as the Obama administration was reportedly willing to allow Iran to maintain its own nuclear enrichment program. Dismantlement of large parts of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, presumably an original goal of the negotiations for the so-called P-5 countries (the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany), is no longer on the table, if it ever really was. Iran’s missile program never was on the table. Nor were its possible imports of any nuclear materials, technologies and weapons delivery system components from North Korea.
Yet, the Iranians were still not satisfied with the offers they received during the negotiations. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani boasted in a television interview following the announcement of the talks extension that his country’s “centrifuges will never stop.” He added that “Today we have a victory much greater than what happened in the negotiation. This victory is that our circumstances are not like previous years. Today we are at a point that nobody in the world [in which no one says] sanctions must be increased in order that Iran accept P5+1 demands. No one says to reach agreement we must increase pressure on Iran.”
Rouhani has a history of using negotiations as a delay tactic to achieve by stealth Iran’s strategic objectives. This time, Iran set out, in the words of its Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, to reach a final deal that will result in “a serious and not a token Iranian enrichment program coupled with removal of sanctions. This is the objective that we’re working on and this is the objective we will achieve.”
What additional evidence does the Obama administration need to demonstrate that Iran’s strategic objective is irreconcilable with a deal that would truly protect the world against Iran’s emergence as a nuclear-armed power? Apparently, they have learned nothing from the disastrous results of negotiations with North Korea. Instead of walking away from the talks after a year of futility and immediately reinstituting the full array of economic sanctions that have been melting away over the last year, the Obama administration buckled.
During the next seven months, the Obama administration will be deluding itself and sacrificing the security of the American people if it thinks that Iran will simply stand still and freeze all of its vast nuclear technology and production programs in place. According to Greg Jones, a senior research and nuclear analyst at the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, “They have a stockpile now that’ll probably support the production of about four nuclear weapons, and that’s slowly increasing over the course. It’ll probably gain another nuclear weapons worth by the end of June 2015 when this agreement runs out. So certainly that’s been continuing.”
John Kerry remarked that the Obama administration has “earned the benefit of the doubt” in agreeing to the further extension of talks, even though he conceded that “significant points of disagreement” remain. To the contrary, the administration has run out of excuses. Its quixotic quest for an elusive deal with a rogue state that continues to refuse the International Atomic Energy Agency access to all of its sites does nothing but raise more doubts about the administration’s intentions and competence.
For example, Iran has persistently refused to allow international inspectors to visit Parchin, Iran’s military facility where the agency seeks to probe for itself evidence that Iran may have been conducting experiments on nuclear detonators. Just days ago, the agency’s director Yukiya Amano complained that Iran was not cooperating “concerning issues with possible military dimensions.” Mr. Amano also warned that his agency, while able to assess Iran’s compliance with the interim agreement regarding its declared nuclear materials, was “not in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.”
Yet Kerry’s message to Congress is to hold off on re-imposing or adding any sanctions at this time. Some members of Congress in both parties are understandably frustrated by the lack of concrete results. They believe that preserving the threat of increased sanctions if an acceptable, verifiable deal is not reached by a date certain is the most realistic strategy.
“The cycle of negotiations, followed by an extension, coupled with sanctions relief for Iran has not succeeded,” the outgoing Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said in response to the latest extension. “I continue to believe that the two-track approach of diplomacy and economic pressure that brought Iran to the negotiating table is also the best path forward to achieve a breakthrough.”
Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), whom has co-authored a sanctions bill with Senator Menendez, said it was now “critical that Congress enacts sanctions that give Iran’s mullahs no choice but to dismantle their illicit nuclear program.”
The chances for Congressional passage of a sanctions bill will improve next year when the Republicans take control of the Senate. However, President Obama is likely to veto such a bill. If the current extension runs out in June 2015 with no final deal concluded, expect the Obama administration to once again plead for more time so that it can kick the can down the road for the next president to handle – if it is not too late by then. Even worse, in a rush to try and improve his tarnished foreign policy legacy, President Obama may end up accepting just about any bone Iran offers him in a deal that he can spin as a positive achievement. The lethal consequences will be for the next president to worry about while the world becomes much less safe.
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