Deadlines, Red Lines
The deadline for a nuclear deal between the P5+1 powers and Iran was extended on Tuesday, when too many bones of contention remained unresolved on June 30. The new date set by the parties to finalize the “framework for an agreement” reached in Lausanne three months ago is July 7.
This means that there are four days to go before the current talks in Vienna bear fruit in the form of an official document. If such a piece of paper is signed, two leaders will feel particularly vindicated: U.S. President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani — the former for playing out his fantasy of peace through diplomacy and the latter for delivering the goods to his boss, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The rest of the world, however, will be in mortal peril. And Israel will be forced to act fast.
The only sliver of a silver lining in this otherwise black cloud is that Islamists sometimes play their cards wrong. Buoyed by the weakness of the West in the face of their fanaticism, they often take their visions of grandeur to heights that even American and European appeasers cannot accept. So by next week, it is possible that the Iranian negotiators will overstep their counterparts’ bounds, and everyone will return to the country from whence they came with nothing but another date and venue to show for their efforts.
But because the stakes are nuclear weapons in the hands of a mullah-led regime bent on global hegemony — and working toward it through proxy terrorist organizations — one cannot count on the above scenario.
A number of recent statements are cause for concern.
On Thursday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters: “The negotiations are moving forward and we should be hopeful. Today is a good day.”
This was an abbreviated version of what his deputy, Abbas Araqchi, said the day before in a TV interview: “A positive atmosphere is ruling the negotiations, and the spirit for going forward exists in all delegations, but this doesn’t mean that all delegations, including us, are ready to reach an agreement at any price.”
Araqchi also defined a “good deal” as one that would honor Khamenei’s “red lines.”
These were spelled out in a June 23 speech by Khamenei (and included in a June 30 Middle East Media Research Institute report): “In contrast to what the Americans are insisting on, we do not accept long-term restrictions for 10 to 12 years.
“Research, development and construction will continue. … They say, ‘Don’t do anything for 12 years,’ but these are particularly violent words, and a gross mistake.
“The economic, financial and banking sanctions — whether related to the Security Council or the American Congress and administration — must be lifted immediately with the signing of the agreement. The remainder of the sanctions will also be lifted within a reasonable time frame. The Americans are presenting a complex, convoluted, bizarre, and stupefying formula for [removing the] sanctions, and it is unclear what will emerge from it, but we are clearly stating our demands.
“The lifting of the sanctions must not depend on Iran carrying out its obligations. Don’t say, ‘You carry out your obligations and then the IAEA will approve the lifting of the sanctions.’ We vehemently reject this. The lifting of the sanctions must take place simultaneously with Iran’s meeting of its obligations. We oppose the delay of the implementation of the opposite side’s obligations until the [release of] the IAEA report [verifying that Iran has met its obligations], because the IAEA has proven repeatedly that it is neither independent nor fair, and therefore we are pessimistic regarding it.
“They say, ‘The IAEA should receive guarantees.’ What an unreasonable statement. They will be secure only if they inspect every inch of Iran. We vehemently reject special inspections [that are not customary for any country except Iran], questioning of Iranian personnel, and inspection of military facilities.
“Everyone in Iran — including myself, the government, the Majlis [parliament], the judiciary, the security apparatuses, and the military, and all institutions — want a good nuclear agreement … that is in accordance with Iran’s interests.
“Although we wish the sanctions lifted, we see them as [having brought us] a particular kind of opportunity, because they made us pay more attention to domestic forces and domestic potential.”
A few days later, on June 29, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, gave an interview to The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg at the Aspen Ideas Festival.
When asked whether Obama believes a deal will exact change in Iran’s behavior, Rhodes replied: “We believe that an agreement is necessary … even if Iran doesn’t change. … That said, we believe that a world in which there is a deal with Iran is much more likely to produce an evolution in Iranian behavior than a world in which there is no deal. In fact … if the notion is that Iran has been engaged in these destabilizing activities under the last several years when they’ve been under the pressure of sanctions, clearly sanctions are not acting as some deterrent against them doing destabilizing activities in the region. … [T]he point is … in a world of a deal, there is a greater possibility that you will see Iran evolve in a direction in which they are more engaged with the international community and less dependent upon the types of activities that they’ve been engaged in.”
The regime in Tehran has made its position clear. So has the White House. It will take a miracle — or a military strike — to prevent Iran from building nuclear bombs.
Ruthie Blum is the web editor of Voice of Israel talk radio (voiceofisrael.com). This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.