The next deadline for an agreement with Iran on its controversial uranium enrichment program is November 24. Until this week, most observers felt that a deal was not likely and that the talks would have to be extended yet again. However, earlier this week, Iran’s president said that he believes a deal is likely before the deadline next month.
Both sides remain stuck over the size and output of Iran’s uranium enrichment program, which could possibly lead to the building of nuclear weapons. Negotiators from the US and the EU are meeting with Iranian officials for more talks this week in Vienna.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday that a nuclear deal with the West was bound to happen, and he believed it could be achieved by the November 24 deadline. In an evening broadcast on live television in Iran, Rouhani stated:
“We have reached consensus on generalities and there are only the fine details to be worked out: whether we would reach an agreement within the next 40 days…
Of course details are important too, but what’s important is that the nuclear issue is irreversible. I think a final settlement can be achieved in these remaining 40 days. We will not return to the situation a year ago.
The world is tired and wants it to end, resolved through negotiations. A nuclear settlement is certain,” he said, vowing to “apply all our efforts in that direction.”
The United States, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China, the so-called “P5+1,” have already held a series of meetings with Iran to try for a deal that would curb the Islamic Republic’s suspected nuclear activities in return for a gradual lifting of economic sanctions against Tehran.
The West hopes resolving the nuclear standoff will ease tensions and avert a full-scale conflict in the troubled Middle East – with repeated Israeli threats of force to stop its arch-enemy Iran from gaining nuclear weapons technology.
Tehran has denied any such ambitions, insisting that its uranium enrichment program is designed solely to generate electricity and for scientific research. Yeah, right!
There is considerable speculation regarding why Rouhani went public with these statements ahead of this week’s negotiations with Western diplomats. The question is whether our negotiators have privately agreed to Iran’s terms for continued enrichment at purity levels that could be used to make nuclear weapons. Let’s hope not!
Some analysts also worry that the West, led by the US, may have conceded to some of Iran’s conditions in return for Iran’s help in combating ISIS. Iran has offered to cooperate in the war against the Islamist State of Syria and Iraq – if Washington demonstrates more “flexibility” in uranium enrichment negotiations. Officially, the White House has rejected any link between the enrichment talks and the fight with ISIS. We’ll see.
In any event, even if Iran agrees to the West’s demand that its uranium enrichment program stays at non-nuclear levels (5% versus 20% enrichment), there remains the question of verification. If Iran refuses to agree to daily access by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors, then whatever agreement is reached is questionable, and is therefore a bad deal.
Fortunately, I subscribe to two of the best international intelligence sources available to the public, STRATFOR.com and Langley Intelligence Group Network (LIGNET.com). I trust both groups will keep me abreast of the upcoming negotiations with Iran, and I will keep you posted.
My biggest fear is that the Obama administration is so hungry to get a deal to boost the president’s foreign policy approval rating that it will agree to less than acceptable levels of access and verification.
That could be extremely dangerous! Let’s hope I’m wrong.
On a personal note, Debi and I are traveling to New York City today. I have wanted to visit the 911 Memorial and Museum ever since they opened. We will be touring both tomorrow (Friday). I am very much looking forward to it.
Later in the day, we meet up with my long-time mentor and his wife for dinner, a Broadway show and then hang out together on Saturday in the Big Apple.
Do you think the administration is giving away the store or simply making needed concessions? Let me know by posting your comment.