Insider news & Analysis in Iran

By INU staff

INU - On Tuesday and Wednesday, multiple members of the US Congress, representing both parties, challenged Secretary of State John Kerry on the Obama administration’s approach to nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Congress has taken a notably more hardline stance than the president throughout the negotiating process. And that ideological divide failed to break down along party lines.

 

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez is the co-sponsor of a bill to impose new economic sanctions on Iran in the event that the negotiations fail to result in an acceptable accord. Menendez and fellow Senate Democrats conceded earlier this month to the president’s demands that that legislation be held back at least until the deadline for a framework nuclear agreement at the end of March. But this concession did not stop Menendez from grilling Kerry on the details of current proposals that the senator described as “very problematic,” according to Breitbart.

“A deal that allows Iran to continue as a nuclear threshold state…and allows it go from threshold to nuclear state, is no deal at all,” Menendez said, referring to reports that Iran has been offered a timeline that would leave full-scale restrictions in place on the country’s nuclear program for only five years before gradually removing those restrictions in exchange for compliance with the other terms of the deal.

At the same hearings, Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, widely regarded as an exceptionally liberal member of the US legislature, expressed her view that the Iranian regime cannot be trusted “for one second.” Opponents of the Obama administration’s approach to negotiations frequently suggest that Iran is being given too much credit as a reliable negotiating partner.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran took steps to undermine this perception this week when it revealed the existence of a secret nuclear facility in a Tehran suburb, where the regime is reportedly pursuing nuclear research and uranium enrichment in violation of the terms of an interim agreement with the P5+1 group of nations.

In the congressional hearings, Kerry indicated that the US is looking into these reports. While it is unclear how seriously the administration is taking the latest information, the NCRI reports that Kerry has indicated that the ongoing negotiations could be derailed if the allegation prove true.

In the meantime, the administration’s critics, including critics from its own party, continue to speak out against current policies that they believe are failing to address Iranian hostility or adequately defend traditional US allies. The Tower points out that former Democratic Representative Shelley Berkley had penned an op-ed describing the president’s policies as violating the principles of his own party and the best interests of the country.

“A U.S. president should not be condoning and encouraging Iran’s empowerment,” Berkley wrote, referring at once to the US stance in nuclear negotiations and the president’s stated policy of utilizing Iran as a partner against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. “Obama’s remarks defy decades of traditional bipartisan American foreign policy that has always aimed to strengthen Israel and moderate Arab states against Iran.”

Berkley’s commentary placed significant emphasis on the break between the Obama administration and the government of Israel, which has been the source of some of the strongest and most consistent criticism of Iran and its apparent pursuit of nuclear weapons. This week, according to the Jerusalem Post, Israeli ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor used a meeting of the international body to give out a series of mock Oscar awards, for instance declaring the nation of Iran to be “best actor” for “acting like a peace loving country while developing nuclear capabilities, denying the Holocaust, and threatening the destruction of another member state.”

Beyond the borders of both the United States and Israel, criticism of Iran and its nuclear program generally makes similar allegations of duplicity. On Wednesday, the Middle Eastern news source Al Monitor published an article making a similar argument to that published earlier the same day by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. The CAMERA editorial alleged that Western media outlets had made a habit of endorsing the Obama administration’s view of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as a moderate, despite evidence to the contrary.

“There is no evidence that the Iranian president’s criteria for a good deal are much different from the supreme leader’s,” the later Al Monitor post declared, adding, “Where there are differences between the two men, they are more often tactical than strategic.”

This view, expressed from both North America and the Middle East, seems to support the argument by Obama administration critics that the Islamic Republic has little to no interest in genuine compromise on the nuclear issue, much less broader rapprochement. Many of these same critics feel that the administration should be pursuing a much broader approach to both curtailing the Iranian nuclear program and verifying that it is not moving in the direction of a nuclear bomb.

Politifact pointed out on Wednesday that former deputy CIA director Michael Morrell had correctly stated that the currently proposed limits on Iran’s nuclear enrichment infrastructure are sufficient to provide it with enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb. More than simply pointing to the need for more restrictions, the experts quoted by Politifact emphasized that an effective deal must include a broadly intrusive inspections regime – something that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has declared to be a red line for his negotiators.

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