Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Iran Nuclear Talks: Reading the Tea Leaves

LobeLog

Secretary of State John Kerry has a hectic traveling schedule, and this month’s itinerary has been particularly focused on doing everything to ensure a good deal with Iran over its nuclear program is achieved by the deadline of November 24. A series of meetings between Kerry and some members of the P5+1 (France, Germany, UK, China, Russia, US) give us an idea of the extent of the last minute scrambling occurring behind the scenes to ensure all bases are covered prior to the official resumption of talks in Vienna on November 18.

Kerry met with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius in Paris on Nov. 5 for a number of reasons, including answering France’s questions about the “framework” the US has presented to the Iranians in order “to meet their peaceful energy needs.” Two days earlier, this document was alluded to by President Obama in a news conference, and could be centered on an Iran-Russia deal, but there has been no confirmation of the details. While Kerry also likely asked for Fabius’ help in suspending or lifting (in due time) European sanctions against Iran, his main purpose for the meeting was to ensure that the French minister would not repeat his public tantrum from around this time last year when Fabius declared that the draft provisional agreement negotiated between the US and Iran in Geneva—and discovered at the last moment by other members of the P5+1—was some kind of a “sucker’s deal.” This time Kerry is taking no risks and Fabius is being kept carefully abreast of the latest developments between Washington and Tehran.

Meanwhile, Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, met in Vienna Nov. 7 with the P5+1’s political directors. Again, the main purpose of the meeting was clearly aimed at making sure that everybody is informed and agrees with the recent turn of events.

John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had a bilateral meeting in Beijing on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. Kerry was probably keen to verify, one last time, that Russia is ready to accept on its soil the bulk of the low-enriched uranium (LEU) produced by the Iranians to reprocess it into nuclear fuel elements for Iran’s Bushehr plant. This operation would extend the “breakout time” necessary for the Iranians to accumulate the quantity of highly enriched uranium necessary for a bomb, and therefore make an Iranian enrichment program with a few thousand centrifuges more acceptable to the American Congress and the Israeli government. Kerry is well aware that Russia’s full collaboration on this point is essential for the completion of an agreement and wants no last minute surprises.

Thus protected on his flanks by these two sessions, Kerry will meet his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, in the company of Ashton, for two days in Oman, which hosted the initial US-Iran meetings that got us to this point, from Nov 9-10. This meeting will be aimed at narrowing the parameters of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the official name of the final agreement.

Following Lavrov’s guarantee on the removal and processing of Iranian LEU, the number of authorized operating Iranian centrifuges should not be a major sticking point anymore. But one last big hurdle remains: the timetable for the suspension and lifting of sanctions. After his conversation with Fabius, and with the support of Ashton, Kerry is likely to confirm Europe’s readiness to lift or suspend a significant amount of its own sanctions at an early stage. As for the American sanctions, it must not have been difficult for him to convince his interlocutor that the only realistic solution is to strike a deal that would not need the formal approval of Congress. President Obama would then act through executive orders and, when necessary, waive Congress-approved sanctions as long as he is in office, leaving to his successor the responsibility of asking Congress to remove them for good. Kerry could also make the credible argument that—if the agreement was faithfully followed by both sides for the remainder of Obama’s term—it would be practically impossible for any future president and Congress to destroy the positive results that would have been achieved.

Following the trilateral meeting, a session at the political directors’ level will also occur in the friendly Sultanate of Oman, on Nov. 10. It will likely be devoted to drawing the conclusions of the just-completed ministerial session, and putting together all the elements of the final agreement. After a lapse of about a week, allowing for consultations in the capitals and the informing of the most interested observers (the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN secretariat, Saudi Arabia, Israel…) Iran and the P5+1 are scheduled to meet in Vienna on Nov. 18 for a marathon round just one week before the deadline for a final deal. This should be enough time to iron out the last details of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and call upon the seven Foreign Ministers representing the parties to the agreement, as well as Catherine Ashton as the EU’s representative, to proceed together to the signing ceremony.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

The brainchild of Sears-Roebuck heiress Nina Rosenwald, the Gatestone Institute is a New York-based advocacy organization formerly chaired by John Bolton that is notorious for spreading misinformation about Muslims and advocating extremely hawkish views on everything from Middle East policy to immigration.


Conrad Black is a former media mogul closely connected to rightist political factions in the United States who was convicted in July 2007 for fraud and obstruction of justice and later pardoned by his friend President Trump.


David Friedman is U.S. Ambassador to Israel under Donald Trump. He is known for his extreme views on Israel, which include opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state and support for Israeli settlements.


Jason Greenblatt is the Special Representative for International Negotiations for President Donald Trump primarily working on the Israel-Palestine conflict.


The neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies has re-established itself as a primary driver of hawkish foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, during the Trump administration.


Rupert Murdoch is the head of News Corp, the parent company of Fox News, and a long-time supporter of neoconservative campaigns to influence U.S. foreign policy.


Shmuley Boteach is a “celebrity rabbi” known for his controversial “pro-Israel” advocacy.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

A series of escalations in both word and deed have raised fears of U.S.-Iranian military confrontation, either direct or by proxy. It is urgent that cooler heads prevail – in European capitals as in Tehran and Washington – to head off the threat of a disastrous war.


Vladimir Putin excels at taking advantage of mistakes made by Russia’s adversaries to further his country’s interests. Donald Trump’s Iran policy has given Putin plenty of opportunity to do that.


The Trump administration’s claims about purported Iranian threats have been repeated by credulous reporters and TV news programs far and wide.


This is the cartoon that the international edition of the New York Times should have run, at least as regards U.S. policy toward Iran.


The assault on Tripoli by Khalifa Haftar, Libya’s renegade general and leader of the self-anointed Libyan National Army (LNA), has forced an indefinite postponement of key UN peace efforts in the country even as the Trump White House announced that the president recognized Haftar’s “important” role in fighting terrorists.


With all eyes focused these days on Donald Trump and his myriad crimes, John Bolton’s speeches are a reminder that even worse options are waiting in the wings.


Advocates of cutting U.S. aid to Israel rather than using it as leverage must understand how this aid works, how big a challenge it represents for advocacy, and how to make a potentially successful argument against it.


RightWeb
share