April 9, 2015

Iran continues to demonstrate its negotiating skills - Kerry beware....

One of the daily emails I receive is the AIPAC Daily News Digest. Granted, it is from a pro-Israel lobby in Washington, but it does provide a quick wrap-up of Middle East news items in one place. In today's issue, it is easy to see Iran's continuing attempts to shape the ongoing negotiations over the final form of an agreement on the scope of their nuclear program.

The Iranians are trying to force the P5+1 (read: the perceived malleable Secretary of State John Kerry) to continue to make concessions. The Iranians have assessed - correctly in my opinion - that the administration of President Barack Obama is so desperate to reach a deal with Iran that the Americans will grant even more concessions than they have done already.

Three of the first four articles in today's digest illustrate how the Iranians are laying out their additional conditions to the West, a week after both sides have come to a tentative agreement. The Iranians are telling John Kerry that if he does not agree to further concessions, he will lose the deal that has now become identified with his success or failure as the Secretary of State.

Iran senses - again correctly in my opinion - that they are bargaining from a position of strength. The people who arguably invented haggling are now taking full advantage of what they believe is weakness on the part of the American president and seemingly blind ambition on the part of John Kerry.


1. Ayatollah Khamenei calls nuclear framework agreement non-binding
In his first official remarks about the framework agreement between Iran and Western powers, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said on Thursday that nothing is finalized, and therefore the understandings remain non-binding.

2. Iran rules out inspection for military sites
The Iranian defense minister made clear Wednesday that international inspectors would not be granted access to the state’s military sites under the framework agreement with the world powers on the country’s nuclear program.

4. Iran will only sign nuclear deal if sanctions lifted 'same day': Rouhani
Iran will only sign a final nuclear accord with six world powers if all sanctions imposed over its disputed atomic work are lifted on the same day, President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech on Thursday.


I will address the following remarks to Secretary Kerry (I am sure he is devout reader). Mr Kerry, the Iranians are playing you. They have assessed that you have staked your reputation and the legacy of your tenure as Secretary of State on the success of this deal, and that you are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to achieve an agreement, almost any agreement, with them.

I urge you to focus on the long-term effects of the terms of this agreement. As it stands, it does very little to halt Iran's quest for nuclear weapons, it legitimizes their now-illegal enrichment of uranium, it will start an arms race in the region, and it will threaten the existence of a key American ally, Israel.

Read the three articles above. Do the Iranians sound like people we can trust to adhere to an agreement that is almost impossible to verify? Without unfettered and unannounced (neither of which you have secured; in fact both were part of your concessions) access to all Iran's nuclear facilities - regardless of whether or not they are located on military installations - there is no verification.

Further, the proposed deal does not address other facets of Iran's policies - support of terrorism and meddling in regional affairs (Lebanon, Gaza, Syria, Iraq and Yemen come to mind). These are the people who are shouting "death to America" in one meeting and who you believe are negotiating in good faith with that same America in another. Does this make sense to you?

Stop making concessions and be willing to walk away. The Iranians need this deal; we don't - perhaps you should remind your Iranian counterpart of that.