Tehran Hoodwinks Clueless U.S. Negotiators
This past weekend, the Iranian regime backed away from a critical part of the nuclear agreement the Obama administration and the other P5+1 nations (U.K., France, Germany, Russia, and China) is desperately trying to get them to agree to. Iranian negotiators made a last-ditch effort for more concessions as the fate of the deal comes down to the wire.
The part the Iranians walked away from was the proposal for Iran to send a large portion of their uranium stockpile to Russia, where it would be produced into fuel rods and wouldn't be accessible for use in a weapons program. Iran has insisted on keeping the uranium in the country.
It is not clear what will happen to the uranium if it remains in Iran. However, nuclear weapons and intelligence experts realize that Iran at present is two to three months from achieving a weapon. Obama wants to extend that period to at least a year. Obviously, neither is acceptable.
Meanwhile, Iran's position has shifted on demanding that it be allowed to keep roughly 10,000 centrifuges for enriching its uranium to agreeing to just 6,000. Nevertheless, former nuclear inspectors and strategic weapons experts estimated that Iran could still develop a nuclear weapon in eight months or less with around 6,500 centrifuges.
The Iranian foreign minister's abrupt announcement on Sunday shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, yet Secretary of State John Kerry and his State and Energy Department negotiators remained at the negotiating table, when most would have walked away, talking about giving Iran even more concessions – such as taking inconvenient things off the table, to include "intrusive inspections," as well as allowing Iran to maintain and secure from inspection its deep underground nuclear research and development facilities, just to name a few.
At the same time, Iran continues to claim that it wants high-grade uranium only for peaceful nuclear energy, science, and industry. Never mind that on Friday, the ayatollah once again chanted "death to America," and a senior Iranian army general called for the total destruction of Israel on Tuesday.
The new twist in the talks came just two days before the deadline for both sides to agree on a framework for a permanent deal. The final deadline for a permanent deal has been set for June 30.
Intrusive inspections are a key part of ensuring that the Iranian regime isn't continuing to move forward with obtaining a nuclear strike capability. The inspections themselves are designed to keep the regime honest and deter any covert activity.
Rather than taking a tougher negotiating stance and even raising the issue of tougher sanctions against Iran, the Obama administration was already moving toward taking intrusive inspections off the table in order to keep the regime engaged. Likewise, the U.S. administration has previously charged that the Iranian nuclear weapons program isn't "that advanced" right now. Although true at the moment, if it was a weapons program then – what suddenly makes it "peaceful" now, as Iran contends?
Tehran, sensing the Obama administration's desperation to get a deal done, as well as presenting some semblance of a success in Iraq against ISIS, last week ordered its Iran Revolutionary Guards Qods Force commander, General Qassem Suleimani, to pull his Ramazan Corps (unconventional warfare forces) personnel and the Shia militia (Iran's proxy forces) off the front lines in the Tikrit offensive against the Islamic State, aka ISIS, in order to apply greater pressure on the Obama administration – forcing the U.S. into making more concessions during the negotiations. That said, they can quickly move back into the fight. As it stands now, the Tikrit operations show signs of falling apart despite U.S. airstrikes. Whether General Suleimani orders his forces back into the fight while the U.S. military continues to provide air support will depend entirely on what happens during the current nuclear talks.
Farther south, the Iranian regime has dramatically increased its direct support to its Houthi proxies in Yemen in order to gain control of that country's key port cities – which would enable the Iranian military to disrupt oil shipments through the straits into Red Sea and Suez Canal, in addition to forcing Saudi Arabia to redirect resources originally meant for the anti-Assad war effort in Syria, closer to home.
The other serious discussion that needs to be addressed, and is not part of the ongoing negotiations, deals with Iran's Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) program, which is a key part of its nuclear weapons program. If the Iranians have a "peaceful nuclear program" as claimed, then why are they rushing to advance their ballistic missile technology? In fact, why are they working so closely with the North Koreans in joint nuclear and ballistic missile projects? These joint programs have been going on for years, where Iran shares know-how in ballistic missile technology in exchange for North Korean expertise in the nuclear arena.
In fact, North Korea's front companies have been instrumental in bringing in equipment to Iran that has been targeted by sanctions. With North Korea sending officials to Iran for ballistic missile development and Iranian researchers sent to Pyongyang for work on the nuke program, it is obvious this problem is worsening – and it won't get better if we give them everything they want, as the Obama administration is essentially proposing.
Sensing they could get even more concessions from the Obama administration, the Iranian regime walked away with a promise of a "final agreement" being reached by the end of June 2015. What the P5+1 will subsequently accomplish out of all the time they wasted over years of discussion, and more specifically the past month or so of negotiations, is nothing more than a frivolous "framework understanding," which Iran will continue to circumvent, obfuscate, and violate.
In the end, deal or no deal, the Obama administration's national security failings will have forever emboldened Iran to continue its regional dominance and hegemonic effort. Iran will become an inevitable nuclear threat.
Jim Waurishuk is a retired USAF colonel, served for nearly 30 years as a career senior intelligence and political-military affairs officer, with expertise in strategic intelligence, international strategic studies and policy, and asymmetric warfare. He is the former deputy director for intelligence for U.S. Central Command, MacDill AFB; a former White House National Security Council staffer; and former distinguished senior fellow with the Atlantic Council, Washington, D.C. He lives in Tampa Bay, FL.