Keeping the Crazies Occupied While Finishing Iran Nuclear Negotiations

Last Thursday, the US announced that it was adding more companies and more people to its blacklist of those banned from making deals with Iran as part of the overall sanctions aimed at Iran developing nuclear weapon technology. Iran responded the same day by withdrawing its personnel from the technical talks that were underway in Vienna that were aimed at implementing the interim agreement that Iran had signed with the P5+1 group of nations last month in Geneva.

Fredrik Dahl and Adrian Croft of Reuters described those developments in a Friday article:

The United States on Thursday black-listed additional companies and people under sanctions aimed at preventing Iran from obtaining the capability to make nuclear weapons, U.S. officials said. Iran says its atomic work is purely peaceful.

Treasury and State Department officials said the move showed the Geneva deal “does not, and will not, interfere with our continued efforts to expose and disrupt those supporting Iran’s nuclear program or seeking to evade our sanctions.”

The somewhat unexpected move by the US provoked anger in Iran:

One diplomat said the Iranian delegation suddenly announced late on Thursday evening – hours after Washington made its decision public – that it was returning to Tehran.

The Iranians said “they had received instructions from Tehran to stop the discussions and fly back to Tehran,” the diplomat said. “It was quite unexpected.”

It seems quite possible that the move by the US was meant to toss a bit of red meat to the war monger crowd. Rumors had been building for some time that new sanctions bills would be introduced in both the House and the Senate. Adding to the harsh economic sanctions on Iran just after they have signed a promising agreement would seem a sure-fire way to prevent a final agreement being reached. True to form, one of the leading war mongers, John McCain, appeared on CNN on Sunday and managed to get headlines such as the one in the Washington Post reading “McCain says Iran sanctions bill ‘very likely’“.

But, if we look a little closer, we see room for a bit of hope. It turns out that the sanctions bill McCain now advocates would not add new sanctions unless the six month negotiating period with Iran laid out in last month’s agreement expires without a final agreement being reached. By delaying any new sanctions so that they would only be implemented if the talks fail, McCain and the other war mongers actually have a chance to help rather than hinder the negotiations. Knowing that failed talks mean even worse economic hardships rather than merely continuing the current set of sanctions would seem to place more pressure on Iran to come to agreement with the P5+1 powers.

The weekend saw discussion by telephone between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. They discussed how to move the talks ahead.

It would appear that the discussion between Kerry and Zarif was fruitful, as we learn from Mehr News this morning that the interrupted technical discussions are now set to resume:

Mehr News reported that Abbas Araghchi had met Catherine Ashton in EU headquarters in Brussels this morning local time to discuss Iran and Powers negotiations.

They agreed to resume expert-level talks. Araghchi denounced the US position, to which Catherine Ashton responded with ensuring him that Powers were resolute to implement the Geneva deal articles.

As long as the war-crazed faction spends its time cooking up new sanctions that only take effect after the set negotiating period, I like the chances for the diplomats to come to a final agreement. It hardly seems necessary to note, Iran patiently explains in Fars News again today that any new sanctions taking place before a final agreement is reached would end all negotiations:

Iran warned on Tuesday that any new sanction against Tehran by the signatories of the Geneva agreement will kill the long-awaited nuclear deal between the two sides.

“One of the key issues mentioned in the Joint Plan of Action (the Geneva agreement) under the title of the other sides’ commitments is avoiding imposition of new sanctions,” Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham told reporters in Tehran today.

“We have announced before that any action to impose new sanctions means the death of the Joint Plan of Action and we hope that the other sides will be serious about protection and commitment to the Joint Plan of Action, protect the spirit ruling the Plan and adopt constructive measures to implement it,” she added.

Will McCain and his fellow crazies play nicely while the adults carry on their negotiations?

6 replies
  1. Betty says:

    While his veto could be overridden, I don’t understand why the President doesn’t just assert his authority over foreign affairs and say he will veto any new sanctions until the talks have had a chance to work. What am I missing?

  2. ArizonaBumblebee says:

    Here in Arizona stories have abounded for years about Senator McCain’s vicious and vindictive behavior in private meetings. The man, in my opinion, has mental problems left over from his mistreatment in Hanoi several decades ago, and his advice on any foreign policy issue should be greeted with great skepticism. If President Obama wants a deal with Iran, he will have to play hardball with his critics on the issue. The Likud and Saudi acolytes in Washington who oppose any deal with Iran have geared up and sharpened their knives for the battle ahead.

  3. Don Bacon says:

    The US called them “designations” and claimed they were not unexpected.
    Marie Harf , Deputy Spokesperson
    Daily Press Briefing, Washington, DC
    December 13, 2013

    MS. HARF: Well, let – it’s a good question. Let me make a few points. We did just finish four days of technical discussions in Vienna. We do believe we made progress in these discussions and considered the atmosphere to be constructive throughout the discussions as well. These are complicated issues. There were always plans for teams to return to their capitals for further consultations, so this is certainly not out of the ordinary.

    In terms of the designations, we have been very clear with the Iranians throughout the entire negotiating process – and indeed gave them notification that these new designations would be occurring – that we would continue to enforce existing sanctions, including by designating additional entities or individuals under them. Now, and in the Joint Plan of Action, it’s very explicit that there should be no nuclear-related sanctions, but we were very clear that current sanctions would be enforced through designation.

    So that’s certainly our position. We are prepared to complete the work we started this week in Vienna as soon as possible and get implementation rolling.

  4. Eureka Springs says:

    Giving the crazies what they want before they can even do it themselves… Somehow that makes someone not crazy? We’ve seen that movie in technicolor with surround sound since at least the time of Clinton. For instance killing more Iraqis with air enforced sanctions than any D storm. That really calmed the crazies down. Now we have humanitarian bombers in charge with many more years of Afghanistan, Libya in sharia ruins, Syria too, and naval guns in the face of the Chinese for introductory hubris – pivot to Asia…. not to forget the rest of the entire continent of Africa.

    None of these guys could cut a meager 22 billion out of the defense budget.

    It’s time to quit pretending any of this is not crazy.

  5. lefty665 says:

    Be careful what you wish for. Remember sequester? Too horrid to happen, but the crazies love it and did everything they could to make it happen.

    What is in the fine print of the legislation? Can there be substantive agreement with Iran that still triggers sanctions? Perhaps something like adding to blacklists vs no new sanctions.

    If we don’t want crazy law, don’t encourage enactment, even with conditional triggers. Conditions happen and interpretations may vary. It’s the legislative equivalent of “I thought the safety was on” which is no substitute for making sure the gun wasn’t loaded in the first place.

  6. Don Bacon says:

    Will McCain and his fellow crazies play nicely while the adults carry on their negotiations?

    Actually it is US policy to love Israel and Saudi Arabia and to hate Iran, and that can’t (or won’t) be negotiated.

    Does it matter? I suggest that we not be totally US-centered in out approach to this matter. The real changes on this issue are coming from improved Iran relations, diplomatic and economic, with Europe and Asia. Europe, tanking financially, suffered economically from the sanctions because they are a two-way street. I expect changes in the automotive (Peugeot, Renault, Daimler) and shipping areas soon. Also in Asia — India is closer to Iran, and China badly needs energy for its burgeoning economy, while the West is financially flat.

    Specifically, what the US (Obama and McCain particularly) says isn’t worth a plugged nickle any more, and the world recognizes it.

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