BY INU staff
INU- In absence of clear evidence of progress toward a nuclear agreement before the March 31 framework deadline, doubts will surely remain about whether negotiators are truly any closer to closing off all Iranian pathways to a nuclear weapon. After all, evidence already exists to contradict that notion, indicating that Iran remains intransigent on at least some aspects of its nuclear program.
For instance, the Times of India reported on Tuesday that the International Atomic Energy Agency had once again called for greater Iranian cooperation with its probe into the possible military dimensions of its nuclear work. At the beginning of the negotiating process, it was assumed that Western powers would base some of their decision making on the outcome of this probe, but the probe has made very little progress, according to IAEA head Yukiya Amano.
Furthermore, Iranian officials have insisted that the probe has nothing to do with the negotiations. And the Associated Press reported on Tuesday that Tehran has also again flatly refused to accept snap inspections of its nuclear work, in response to Amano’s call for dramatically expanded IAEA access in order to answer crucial questions about what the regime may be hiding.
Despite this refusal of broader cooperation, Al-Monitor adds that the Iranian supreme leader used a speech on the occasion of the Iranian New Year to declare that Iran still expects the nuclear negotiations to conclude with the immediate, full-scale removal of all the economic sanctions that have reportedly crippled its economy.
The West feels that sanctions should be removed gradually as Iran demonstrates compliance with the restrictions that are placed on its nuclear program. Regardless, immediate removal of all sanctions is presumably a bureaucratic impossibility, considering that some have been imposed by the US executive, some by Congress, and some by the United Nations and all of these have their own interests and their own procedures by which they can remove sanctions.
The US Congress is committed to a harder line than the Obama administration and many of its members have signaled that they are unwilling to permanently remove sanctions unless it has been demonstrated that Iran is no longer supporting global terrorism. The danger of that support being directed against US targets remains in spite of the current negotiations, as evidenced by Khamenei’s further comments in his New Year’s speech, in which he reiterated Iran’s antagonistic attitude toward the West.
“The negotiations with America are about the nuclear program and nothing else, everyone should know this,” he said, according to Al-Monitor. “We will not negotiate with America over regional matters. The goals of the Americans on regional matters are exactly the opposite of our goals… We definitely do not speak or negotiate with the Americans on regional, domestic or weapons matters.”