Iran: US War Hawks go on Offensive after Nuclear Energy Talk Deadlines are Postponed

by Jim Lobe | (Inter Press Service) | —

Buoyed by the failure of the U.S. and five other powers to reach a comprehensive agreement with Iran over its nuclear programme after a week of intensive talks, pro-Israel and Republican hawks are calling for Washington to ramp up economic pressure on Tehran even while talks continue, and to give Congress a veto on any final accord.

“We have supported the economic sanctions, passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, in addition to sanctions placed on Iran by the international community,” Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Kelly Ayotte, three of the Republican’s leading hawks, said in a statement released shortly after the announcement in Vienna that the one-year-old interim accord between the so-called P5+1 and Iran will be extended until Jul. 1 while negotiations continue.

“These sanctions have had a negative impact on the Iranian economy and are one of the chief reasons the Iranians are now at the negotiating table,” the three senators went on.

“However, we believe this latest extension of talks should be coupled with increased sanctions and a requirement that any final deal between Iran and the United States be sent to Congress for approval. Every Member of Congress should have the opportunity to review the final deal and vote on this major foreign policy decision.”

Their statement was echoed in part by at least one of the likely Republican candidates for president in 2016.

“From the outcome of this latest round, it also appears that Iran’s leadership remains unwilling to give up their nuclear ambitions,” said Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a favourite of pro-Israel neo-conservatives.

“None of this will change in the coming months unless we return to the pressure track that originally brought Iran to the table.”

At the same time, however, senior Democrats expressed disappointment that a more comprehensive agreement had not been reached but defended the decision to extend the Nov. 24, 2013 Joint Programme of Action (JPOA) between the P5+1 — the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China plus Germany – and Iran – an additional seven months, until Jul. 1.

Echoing remarks made earlier by Secretary of State John Kerry, who has held eight meetings with his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, over the past week, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein noted that “Iran has lived up to its obligations under the interim agreement and its nuclear programme has not only been frozen, it has been reversed. Today, Iran is further away from acquiring a nuclear weapon than before negotiations began.

“I urge my colleagues in Washington to be patient, carefully evaluate the progress achieved thus far and provide U.S. negotiators the time and space they need to succeed. A collapse of the talks is counter to U.S. interests and would further destabilise an already-volatile region,” she said in a statement.

The back and forth in Washington came in the wake of Kerry’s statement at the conclusion of intensive talks in Vienna. Hopes for a permanent accord that would limit Iran’s nuclear activities for a period of some years in exchange for the lifting of U.S. and international sanctions against Tehran rose substantially in the course of the week only to fall sharply Sunday when Western negotiators, in particular, spoke for the first time of extending the JPOA instead of concluding a larger agreement.

Neither Kerry nor the parties, who have been exceptionally tight-lipped about the specifics of the negotiations, disclosed what had occurred to change the optimistic tenor of the talks.

Kerry insisted Monday that this latest round had made “real and substantial progress” but that “significant points of disagreement” remain unresolved.

Most analysts believe the gaps involved include the size and scope of Iran’s uranium enrichment programme – specifically, the number of centrifuges it will be permitted to operate — and the number of years the programme will be subject to extraordinary curbs and international inspections.

Kerry appealed to Congress to not to act in a way that could sabotage the extension of the JPOA – under which Iran agreed to partially roll back its nuclear programme in exchange for an easing of some sanctions – or prospects for a successful negotiation.

“I hope they will come to see the wisdom of leaving us the equilibrium for a few months to be able to proceed without sending messages that might be misinterpreted and cause miscalculation,” he said. “We would be fools to walk away.”

The aim, he said, was to reach a broad framework accord by March and then work out the details by the Jul. 1 deadline. The JPOA was agreed last Nov. 24 but the specific details of its implementation were not worked out until the latter half of January.

Whether his appeal for patience will work in the coming months remains to be seen. Republicans, who, with a few exceptions, favoured new sanctions against Iran even after the JPOA was signed, gained nine seats in the Senate and will control both houses in the new Congress when it convenes in January.

If Congress approves new sanctions legislation, as favoured by McCain, Rubio, and other hawks, President Barack Obama could veto it. To sustain the veto, however, he have to keep at least two thirds of the 40-some Democrats in the upper chamber in line.

That could pose a problem given the continuing influence of the Israel lobby within the Democratic Party.

Indeed, the outgoing Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair, Robert Menendez, who reluctantly tabled a sanctions effort earlier this year, asserted Monday that the administration’s efforts “had not succeeded” and suggested that he would support a “two-track approach of diplomacy and pressure” in the coming period.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the leading Israel lobby group, also called Monday for “new bipartisan sanctions legislation to let Tehran know that it will face much more severe pressure if it does not clearly abandon its nuclear weapons program.”

Its message echoed that of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who had reportedly personally lobbied each of the P5+1’s leaders over the weekend, and who, even before the extension was officially announced, expressed relief at the failure to reach a comprehensive accord against which he has been campaigning non-stop over the past year.

“The agreement that Iran was aiming for was very bad indeed,” he told BBC, adding that “the fact that there’s no deal now gives [world powers] the opportunity to continue …to toughen [economic pressures] against Iran.”

The Iran task force of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), co-chaired by Dennis Ross, who held the Iran portfolio at the White House during part of Obama’s first term, said, in addition to increasing economic pressure, Washington should provide weaponry to Israel that would make its threats to attack Iran more credible.

The hard-line neo-conservative Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) said Congress should not only pass new sanctions legislation, but strip Obama’s authority to waive sanctions.

“There’s no point waiting seven months for either another failure or a truly terrible deal,” ECI, which helped fund several Republican Senate campaigns this fall, said.

“Congress should act now to reimpose sanctions and re-establish U.S. red lines that will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. To that end, such legislation must limit the president’s authority to waive sanctions, an authority the president has already signaled a willingness to abuse in his desperate quest for a deal with the mullahs.”

Most Iran specialists here believe that any new sanctions legislation will likely sabotage the talks, fracture the P5+1, and thus undermine the international sanctions regime against Iran, strengthen hard-liners in Tehran who oppose accommodation and favour accelerating the nuclear programme.

“The worst scenario for U.S. interests is one in which Congress overwhelmingly passes new sanctions, Iran resumes its nuclear activities, and international unity unravels,” wrote Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, on the Wall Street Journal website Monday.

“Such an outcome would force the United States to revisit the possibility of another military conflict in the Middle East.”

Such arguments, which the administration is also expected to deploy, could not only keep most Democratic senators in line, but may also persuade some Republicans worried about any new military commitment in the Middle East.

Sen. Bob Corker, who will likely chair the Foreign Relations Committee in the new Congress, issued a cautious statement Monday, suggesting that he was willing to give the administration more time. Tougher sanctions, he said, could be prepared “should negotiations fail.”

Jim Lobe’s blog on U.S. foreign policy can be read at Lobelog.com. He can be contacted at ipsnoram@ips.org

Edited by Kitty Stapp

Licensed from Inter Press Service

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

AFP: “Iran nuclear deal deadline extended”

8 Responses

  1. Over recent weeks the suspicion these talks would fail has been hardening to near certainty; DOS spokespersons were becoming increasingly opaque and evasive about the deadline. So now we’re off down this path instead of that, but the underlying reality remains the same since the issue was never really the nuclear program but the role an unbridled Iran would inevitably come to play in the region and that hasn’t changed. Congresspersons may well glow with bum clenching delight at the prospect of further hardship for Iran, just as they do over Russia, but the fact is there is economic hardship almost everywhere including the US’ own backyard. The capitals of Europe are regularly filled with demonstrators facing riot police, unemployment is dangerously high, poverty and homelessness abound, and the hardship induced by sanctions needs to be measured against those realities rather than some long faded 1950’s dream. Furthermore, both Iran and Russia possess considerable assets, link to mining.com They may not be able to trade them freely but that doesn’t mean they go away or that their capital value diminishes. There may be fewer consumer choices in their shops but that’s not the end of the world.

    Iranians are not fools. They must have realised the fantasy nature of these negotiations but have gone along with them because they push the prospect of military intervention further towards the edge of the table.

    Most importantly these next months of extended negotiation will see further development of the BRICS bank alternative to petrodollar dominance of the global economy link to rt.com and link to ftmdaily.com

    Iran will probably, for its own reasons, continue to contribute off stage in efforts to curtail Daesh/ISIL but the concerted global effort the situation demands will remain elusive.

    Israel’s unpopularity will inevitably continue to rise, while the US may well find Europe slipping out the back door as sanctions on Russia and Iran hurt there more than across the water.

    Also expect further stress between the oligarchical US legislature and a Presidency drifting towards the monarchical.

    • “a Presidency drifting towards the monarchical”. Your commentary tends to free associates a long string of cliches that are hard to respond to. What on earth, other than reading too much paranoid nonsense cloaking racist attitudes makes you think the President is attempting to set himself up as King. Exactly how would this happen? Taking a stretch, if you are overly concerned about executive orders, Ronald Reagan paved that street. Cost-benefit analysis and other studies that are a regular facet of the regulatory environment are still conducted to comply with Ronald Reagan’s several executive orders–ordering this. He did it that way because he had no chance of getting legislation doing the same through Congress.

      And as for unemployment–well its a big world out there and it is always up somewhere. In the USA, it is now at its lowest in many years and below its average (5.83%) from the cessation of WWII to the present day (US is at 5.8% now).

      What any of this has to do with Iran is a bit difficult for me to entertain.

  2. The simple reality is that eventually the Iranians are going to get so tired of the garbage from the US they will just tell the US “f*** it” and walk away. The Iranian government will tell their people they tried everything, but the Americans simply hate Iranians (and all the hate speech from congress critters just documents that very well). The Iranian government will then warn the population that the hatred is so strong in the US that an attack is very probable. At that point, the rest of the world will be scrambling to prevent war and will be very angry at the US and Israel. As the article notes, the existing third-party sanctions will disappear and congress critters will be even more angry at how impotent the US is.

    I think in the eyes of a significant part of the world, the US and Israel are the “bad guys” in this mess, not Iran.

    After the sanctions fall apart, congress critters will have no real options. War is extremely iffy and after initial heavy US losses, the American public will quickly lose any appetite for war, leaving congress critters far out on the limb.

    I think congress critters are going to soon find out just how powerless they are.

  3. Israel will never be satisfied with ‘a deal’ of any description with Iran for the same reasons as it has never wanted a deal with Palestinians …. Israel will only be satisfied when US weaponry has reduced Iran to the chaos that now exists in Iraq and Syria so that when it launches its war of territorial expansion there are no neighbours with any military capability whatsoever and the remaining Palestinians will be ethnically cleansed to achieve the racially pure objectives which are now blatant We are watching the birth of a new empire which if not stopped will prove to be more barbaric than Hitler or Genghis Khan and indifferent to the welfare of anyone other than its own.

    • There are several “slight” problems with a US and/or Israeli attack on Iran . .

      – Iran is a modern state with modern weapons, so the US will suffer major damage from any attack. It is very, very important to understand that Iran has been paranoid about a US invasion since 1979 and even more so after the US gave Saddam chemical WMDs during the Iraq war on Iran. As a result of that paranoia, Iran has carefully studied the US military weapons and tactics and set out to defeat the US at its own game. Iran has many layers of defense which will severely damage US attackers. An attack on Iran will cost the US a lot.

      – Iranians are substantially united in their support of the nuclear program and their resistance to US attacks. Unlike Iraq, which the British made up by lumping together three very diverse groups, Iran has been a mostly coherent nation state for thousands of years.

      The bottom line is attacking Iraq could very well completely end the USA empire, driving the US out of the ME and possibly most other parts of the globe as Americans recoil from the human and economic costs.

      As for Israel trying to grow their empire, that will unite the Sunni, Shi’a, Kurds, Persians and the rest of the ME like nothing else in the world.

      What Israel seems to be unable to understand is that every person on earth has access to the same personal weapons (AK-47 and equivalent) and the world is awash in “war toys” (missiles, etc.) equal to or better than anything Israel has or will ever have. It is NOT 1967 any more and the war technology and information is vastly different these days. As such, Israel no longer has any conventional military advantage and if it uses WMDs, they will simply be committing suicide because the world will severely punish Israel for any use of WMD. Although Israelis like to think of themselves as powerful mega warriors, in reality Israel is a very small, almost powerless nation that can not survive if a majority of the world decides to punish it.

      While Israel will continue to rant and rave, in the end it is as powerless as the congress critters they own to actually do anything. More and more countries are seeing the Israeli oppression of Palestinians as more dangerous than Iran.

  4. Unlike what’s being said in the media about global sanctions biting into the Iranian economy, my Iranian sister-in-law who has only last week returned to the US from a four month stay in Iran, tells me that you wouldn’t notice anything different from pre-sanction Iran, in fact the shops everywhere in Tehran and the other major cities across the country are full of manufactured items of every description, and no shortage of produce in the markets.
    I don’t know from where they are getting this abundance, my guess is China and other nearby countries (probably even Israel) defying the UN sanctions.
    The surprising comment she made was that on this trip to Iran it was noticed that people are resigned to the regime’s ideology, but not necessarily agreeing with it, and therefore are happier in their everyday life.

  5. There isn’t any failure here in postponing an agreement that would prove rather meaningless as “war hawks” would simply ignore it to their advantage and otherwise employ it as a rhetorical device The war hawks have nothing new to sing about. either way. That is, just as the speech behind them, sanctions are merely a form of rhetorical device. They are never meant to be effective in the sense portrayed. Instead, they are effective in drumming up the home crowd, reinforcing the status quo in the interim, and affording cause for provocations toward increased hostilities..

    The sanctions imposed by the Treaty of Versailles were either the greatest failure or greatest success. Since then, there has not been a time when some Other (nation) has not been threatened with and subjected to sanctions.

    Sanctions are meant to maintain hostilities, not reduce the supposed enemy. The autistic left generally cooperates as sanctions seem a better alternative to war that war hawks demand at the same time, anticipating (subverting) compromise. Regardless of sanctions,. the war hawks press their issues in between breathes for war, or gripe about the failure of sanctions never designed for success.

    Sanctions are part of the package of the provocateur. The provocateur creates a situation of stress that eventually yield to some sort of ridiculous reaction, usually very meager. The response will always cite principle and first causes as it overreacts–driving through to all out war or genocide in the abstract cause of Justice. The recent reaction in Gaza is not a departure from Custer’s intrusion into the Black Hills in violation of treaty rights again. With no further room to move further west, The Battle of Little Bighorn was the native victory that insisted on the end of their culture (full imposition of the reservation system of assimilation)..

    I don’t know what comic books some of these other commenters have been reading. Iran is no military match for the USA. The only impediment is political resistance at home. Thus the need for the incident that becomes the cause (usually the other side eventually complies, else it will be another Gulf of Tonkin or more yellow cake uranium.

    The reason that we don’t win wars anymore has nothing to do with military might and capability. It simply is no longer profitable to win wars. We don’t believe in Zero-Sum games anymore. What is profitable is the process…war itself.

    The war hawks are not going to change their overall scheme if an agreement is reached. Immediately, Iran will be said to be disingenuous and in violation of terms (that are bound to be conveniently ambiguous).

    Funny thing is the cries for war in the USA generally come, these days, from the Christian Right who long ago overcame their cheekiness.

  6. It will be fascinating to watch the Republican 2016 hopefuls play the Iranian war card as they jockey for position before the primaries. Ze winner gets Sheldon Adelson’s 100 million dollars. Hillary will counter by courting Bibi.

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