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US efforts to reach nuclear deal with Iran based on wrong assumptions

By Missing Peace

  • obamaLast week, President Obama reached out to the people of Iran during a recorded statement in honor of Nowruz, the Persian New Year.

    During his statement, Obama reiterated his belief that the nuclear stand-off with Iran can be resolved peacefully, with diplomacy.

    He then explained why he believes this is possible: “Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons, and President Rouhani has said that Iran would never develop a nuclear weapon.”

    The problem with this statement is that Khamenei has never issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons. Obama probably based his statement about Khamenei’s ‘fatwa’ on a press release of a statement made by Iranian nuclear negotiator Sirus Naseri in August 2005.

    Naseri mentioned a fatwa on the production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons issued by Ayatollah Khamenei.

    However, the Middle East Research Institute (Memri) reported in 2013 that no fatwa on nuclear weapons issued by Khamenei exists.

    The absence of such a fatwa can easily be explained because Khamenei ordered the production of nuclear weapons in 1987. Israeli Iran expert Ronen Bergman wrote in his book “The secret war with Iran” the following.

    During a secret meeting of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Khamenei said the following: “Our nation has always been subject to external threats. The little we can do to stand up to this danger is to make our enemies aware that we can defend ourselves. Accordingly, any step that we take here will serve the defense of our nation and your revolution. With this aim in mind, you must work hard and fast.”

    Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization wasted no time and approached innumerable scientists who had left the country since the revolution and offered them large amounts of money to come back home and help “rebuild the motherland.” Many of them were physicists and chemists who had undertaken advanced nuclear studies in the U.S. and Europe.

    In fact, it was Ayatollah Khomeini who opposed the use of nuclear weapons, which he saw as anti-Islamic. Khomeini described the use of nuclear weapons by the U.S. in Hiroshima and Nagasaki as evil deeds that were sharply opposed to the spirit of Islam.

    On Saturday, Khamenei responded to Obama’s outreach in his Nowruz address. He ridiculed Obama and said: “All that Obama said was that you must submit to what we dictate to you in the nuclear negotiations in exchange for economic relief.”

    During the speech and after Khamenei finished speaking, the large crowd chanted: “Death to America.” Oded Granot, the Iran expert of Israeli Channel 1, noted that Khamenei encouraged the chanting during his speech.

    Khamenei also demanded that any deal must lift sanctions on Iran immediately, a demand unacceptable to the West so far. He also said that Iran and the United States will remain foes in the Middle East.

    Earlier, Khamenei tweeted that “Iran rejects the fraudulent US offer of reaching a deal first then lifting sanctions. Lifting sanctions is a part of deal not its outcome.” He also tweeted: “US sanctions are ineffective. Threatening to sanction or military action won’t scare Iranians. God backs Iranian nation’s resistance.”

    During an interview with The Huffington Post, Obama acknowledged that there is significant skepticism in Israel about Iran and that he understood this because of Iranian threats to annihilate Israel. He said that it was precisely for this reason that he, before his election in 2008, said that Iran should not have a nuclear weapon.

    Obama omitted that he insisted at the time that Iran abandon its nuclear program altogether and that he also demanded from Iran that it stop supporting terror and threatening Israel. An Israeli blogger pointed out that these three conditions were strikingly similar to what Netanyahu demanded during his address to Congress on March 3rd.

    The President said that the Israeli election will not have a significant impact on his ability to sell a deal with Iran to the world. Obama also admitted that Iran has not yet made the concessions needed to finalize a deal with the P5+1 Powers–and that the goal is to get the deal done in a matter of weeks, not months. The set deadline for a deal is March 30, 2015.

    Israel has now turned to France in order to prevent a bad nuclear deal with Iran from emerging, according to press reports. Top Israeli envoys were sent to Paris to confer with their French counterparts after tensions arose between France and the United States over negotiation strategy, leading the Israelis to find an ally in Europe.

    Meanwhile, over 360 members of the House of Representatives, including majorities of both parties, signed a letter notifying the White House that Congress won’t enact permanent sanctions relief for Iran unless representatives are convinced that the terms of the nuclear deal being negotiated will “foreclose any pathway to a bomb.”

    According to The Hill, the letter, which was written by Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., read, in part:

    Should an agreement with Iran be reached, permanent sanctions relief from congressionally-mandated sanctions would require new legislation.

    In reviewing such an agreement, Congress must be convinced that its terms foreclose any pathway to a bomb, and only then will Congress be able to consider permanent sanctions relief.

    According to The Hill, Engel’s call is not for preemptive legislative action, but rather for Congress to vote on a deal after it is concluded. In remarks before a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing yesterday, Engel, the ranking member of the committee, explained the rationale behind the letter:

    Make no mistake: Congress will play an important role in the evaluation of a final deal. Again, I want to say that I will not stand by and allow Congress to be marginalized. Any permanent repeal of sanctions is, by law, Congress’s discretion. And before we do that, we must be completely convinced that this deal blocks all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear bomb.

    The Associated Press reported on Saturday that a leaked draft of the deal showed that the agreement being negotiated would leave Iran with most of its nuclear infrastructure intact.

    The Tower reported on Sunday that the leaked draft deal contains many of the flaws that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cautioned against in his historic speech before Congress earlier this month. Netanyahu warned that a deal that doesn’t force Iran to dismantle its nuclear infrastructure would allow a nuclear breakout time that is “very short—about a year by U.S. assessment, even shorter by Israel’s.” Saying that Iran was skilled at playing “hide and cheat,” Netanyahu quoted a former International Atomic Energy Agency official who said, “If there’s no undeclared installation today in Iran, it will be the first time in 20 years that it doesn’t have one.” Given the very strong likelihood that Iran has hidden nuclear facilities and that the deal would leave its nuclear infrastructure intact, Netanyahu warned: “That concession creates a real danger that Iran could get to the bomb by violating the deal.”

    Bloomberg News reported that the administration now characterizes Iran’s testing of an advanced centrifuge last year as a “mistake,” not cheating.

    TIP contributed to this report.

    This article was first published at Western Journalism