DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis February 22, 2015,
John Kerry and Mohamed Zarif share low expectations
US and Iranian officials have plunged into a last-ditch effort to rescue their nuclear negotiations from falling into deep crisis. Some Western observers have told DEBKAfile’s Washington and Tehran sources that the talks are beyond saving.
The top-level negotiators rushed post-haste to Geneva over the weekend are: US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to join US Secretary of State John Kerry; and on the Iranian side, Nuclear Energy Commission Chief Ali Akbar Salehi and the president’s brother Hossein Fereydoon. They will flank Foreign Minister Mohamed Javaz Zarif.
The Obama administration appears to have reached the limit of its concession to Tehran — for now. As for the Iranians, they too are holding out against US demands to cut down on the number of centrifuges actively enriching uranium and impose a cap on their enriched stocks. Tehran also rejects the US proposal to lift sanctions in stages spaced over several years and wants fast relief.
Kerry was referring to these differences in the gloomy remarks he made to reporters Saturday, Feb. 21.
“There are still significant gaps, there is still a distance to travel,” he said, and went on to warn that “President Obama has no inclination whatsoever to extend these talks beyond the period that has been set out.”
The US Secretary went on to say that there is “absolutely no divergence whatsoever in what we believe is necessary for Iran to prove that its nuclear program is going to be peaceful.”
DEBKAfile’s analysts offer four comments on the approaching impasse:
1. It is not clear whether the Obama administration is attempting a spot of muscle-flexing to force supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to blink first and sign the draft which Kerry and Zarif completed last month. There is little chance of the tough Iranian leader buckling under.
2. The Obama administration looks as though it has come to the outer limit of its indulgence in the bargaining with Tehran. If anything more is to be offered, it will be mere minor adjustments.
3. President Obama may have come to terms with the possible breakdown of the long and painful nuclear diplomacy with Iran.
4. Whether or not the negotiations continue, Tehran will be required to finally face up to questions put by the International Atomic Energy Agency about the suspected military dimensions of its nuclear program — which Tehran denies — and the secret testing of nuclear bomb components.
However, the Iranians will almost certainly continue to stonewall the IAEA.
And if anyone gives way on this, it is likely to be Washington — if that is what it takes to save the nuclear deal with Tehran.
DEBKAfile’s Iranian sources disclose that President Hassan Rouhani sent his brother to Geneva with a special message. He was to warn the Obama administration that the failure of nuclear negotiations would put his brother’s presidency, which the West regards as “moderate,” in danger of being ousted.
Another message Hossein Fereydoon carried to Geneva was that Tehran rejects the two-phase timeline …read more