“We have made clear throughout the process of the nuclear negotiations with Iran that we have serious concerns about Iranian behavior in a number of areas,” Rathke said. “Talk about terrorism, talk about human rights, talk about the fate of American citizens who are inside Iran in detention.”
But he went on to say that nuclear negotiations are narrowly focused on that issue. This has been a source of some criticism by those who see the nuclear issue and Iran’s regional and domestic activities as being interconnected and thus in need of some sort of coherent US policy to address all or most issues at once.
Indeed, the AP alleges that American foreign policy today is lacking a “unifying, overarching philosophy,” and that this introduces some confusion about who the US’s friends and foes are. The AP goes on to explain that this contributes to the situation in which the Obama administration is heavily depending upon cooperation from the Islamic Republic of Iran for its primary foreign policy goals at the moment.
The administration insists that there are limits to that cooperation, as evidenced by its insistence that Shiite militias withdraw from fighting at Tikrit before the US would begin contributing air support to the fight. But that air support began on Wednesday, and it is not clear that American demands were fulfilled ahead of time. Rather, Rudaw reported on Friday that some but not all militias withdrew from the fighting only after the first US bombings, as a form of protest.
This may contribute to critics’ worries about where the boundary lines are located between the administration’s cooperation with and opposition to Tehran. An analysis published Friday in the Jerusalem Post underscored these worries, saying that the relative inaction by the US and EU on Iran’s regional intrusions is only encouraging Iran to pursue hegemony in the Middle East. And the Post also clarifies that the situations in places like Yemen help Tehran toward this goal regardless of whether it obtains a nuclear weapon.
This bit of analysis in the Israeli media reflects the attitudes expressed by a diverse array of Israeli officials, including one who was anonymously quoted by the Times of Israel on Friday as describing the emerging nuclear agreement as “incomprehensibly” bad. The official’s further comments clarified that that deal appears to put insufficient restraints on the Iranian nuclear program.
But he also pointed out for Israel, the relevant consequences go far beyond enrichment and other nuclear issues, and the deal has been viewed as essentially telling Tehran that if it joins up with certain Western causes in the region it will suffer no consequences for other regional activities.
“Look at (the Obama Administration’s) new policy toward Syria,” the official said. “They let Bashar Assad survive, aren’t calling for him to step down, and are pursuing a policy of ‘If you can’t beat them, join them.’ You look at all this and reach the conclusion that a regional deal is being made here.”
But even focusing solely on the topic of Iran’s nuclear capabilities, there is a great deal of anxiety among the Islamic Republic’s major critics regarding the provision of excessive concessions. HNGN reported on Friday that these concessions, including revocation of previous demands that Iran provide international inspectors with access to suspected weapons sites before the deadline for an agreement, threaten to eliminate the possibility of Iranian compliance being verifiable to the extent guaranteed by the Obama administration.
By offering concessions on the issue of inspections, the administration is virtually disregarding concerns raised by International Atomic Energy Agency Deputy Director Yukiya Amano, who has recently called for Tehran to accept the Additional Protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and thus allow inspectors to have unrestrained access to sites that have so far been closed off by the regime.
The IAEA probe of possible military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear program is focused on twelve central issues, and despite having been ongoing for the entire duration of the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1, only one of those 12 issues have been generated satisfactory Iranian responses.
The probe was long expected to have an impact on Western decision-making in the nuclear negotiations, but the two are separate and thus Amano’s recommendations have no authority over those talks. But at least some negotiators have expressed similar concerns, especially among members of the French delegation, which has developed a reputation for taking a much stronger position than the US with regard to the nuclear issue and Iran’s broader activities.
In keeping with these differences, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius expressed resistance to the idea of meeting Iranian demands in order to secure a deal, according to Agence France-Presse. Fabius claimed that a deal was still possible at this stage, but he added that “new efforts” are needed on the Iranian side. The foreign minister also downplayed the fast-approaching March 31 deadline for a framework agreement, saying that this is not absolute and that it is more important to improve the content of the deal than to meet the deadline.
Hot Air indicates that this near-disregard for the deadline is becoming part of the official narrative of the negotiations, with British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond saying that it is not especially important whether the political understanding arrived at on March 31 is actually written down.
But another European diplomat indicates that this is inadvisable, saying, “All of us are in agreement that you don’t make oral deals with Iran.” Such commentary is indicative of general distrust of the Iranian regime, and this distrust has certainly affected media narratives and general criticism of Western policy toward Tehran. The Tower notes that such criticism is building among various media outlets, from the Wall Street Journal to NBC to the Washington Post, especially as the Obama administration continues giving concessions to what is widely regarded as an untrustworthy negotiating partner.
This narrative is also in line with the perspectives of many Western policymakers, even if not with the Obama administration in particular. It was certainly the driving force behind the US Senate’s unanimous vote on Thursday to add a provision to the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act outlining sanctions that would be imposed on the Islamic Republic if it was found to cheat on any nuclear deal.
The act as a whole has been prepared for passage after the conclusion of the P5+1 negotiations, reflecting Democratic deference to President Obama on the timeline. But the new provision, along with the entire bipartisan effort to push back against Obama’s strategies, reflects what The Tower refers to as a “legislative backlash” prompted by the administration’s concessions.
Furthermore, yet another report in The Tower indicates that the congressional alternative to these concessions has significant hope of being effective. That is, an essay by Middle East expert Lee Smith indicates that Iran’s nuclear infrastructure is quite vulnerable to sanctions like those proposed by the Senate.
This analysis notes that although Iranian officials claim that they have expanded their enrichment capabilities specifically in response to the previous imposition of sanctions, the facts indicate that this is something that has involved a great deal of economic hardship. Of course, this has long been the general understanding among experts in global policy and economics, in that international sanctions have been credited with compelling the Iranian regime to come to the negotiating table in contradiction to its overall strategy preferences.
What’s more, the Wall Street Journal suggested on Friday that the imposition of new sanctions, in addition to being effective at constraining the Iranian nuclear program, could also have positive effect on America’s own economic interests. The prospect of a nuclear deal has led the global oil industry to lose ground in light of high levels of supply associated with a US oil boom.
In fact, the report indicates that the market is in a certain state of flux as investors attention shifts between the possible supply-constraining effects of the crisis in Yemen and the supply-building effects of a possible nuclear deal.