US Hard Line in Failed Iran Talks Driven by Israel

by Gareth Porter

Negotiations between Iran and the United States and other members of the P5+1 group in Baghdad ended in fundamental disagreement Thursday over the position of the P5+1 offering no relief from sanctions against Iran.

The two sides agreed to meet again in Moscow Jun. 18 and 19, but only after Iran had threatened not to schedule another meeting, because the P5+1 had originally failed to respond properly to its five-point plan. 

The prospects for agreement are not likely to improve before that meeting, however, mainly because of an inflexible U.S. diplomatic posture that reflects President Barack Obama’s need to bow to the demands of Israel and the U.S. Congress on Iran policy. 

The U.S. hard line in the Baghdad talks and the failure to set the stage for an early agreement with Iran means that Iran will not only increase but accelerate its accumulation of 20-percent enriched uranium, which has been the ostensible reason for wanting to get Iran to the negotiating table quickly. 

Iran’s enrichment to 20 percent, which Tehran has justified over the past two years as needed by its Tehran Research Reactor to produce medical isotopes, can be turned into high enriched uranium more quickly than the 3.5 percent enriched uranium for Iran’s nuclear power program. 

But although Iran has let it be known that it is open to making a deal to end its 20 percent enrichment and even to let go of its stockpile if offered the right incentive, the Obama administration has opted not to go for such a deal by refusing to offer any corresponding reduction in sanctions. 

The U.S. demand for the closure of the Fordow facility, which is now under surveillance by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was a direct response to pressure from Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that demand one of his “benchmarks” for the talks on Mar. 2. 

In discussions with the U.S. in late March, Defense Minister Ehud Barak insisted on the closure of Fordow as one of the Israeli demands, as he revealed Apr. 4. That was a quid pro quo for Israeli acceptance of a focus in the first stage on halting Iran’s uranium enrichment to 20 percent rather than demanding an end to all uranium enrichment, as Reuters reported Apr. 4. 

That agreement clearly implied that the Obama administration would do nothing to dismantle any sanctions against Iran unless Iran ended all uranium enrichment. 

The administration’s refusal to entertain any removal of sanctions as part of its diplomatic strategy with Iran also recognized the fact that it would have to pay a steep political price merely to request any change in sanctions legislation and would be unlikely to prevail over the deeply entrenched interests of Israel in both houses. 

After being lobbied by 12,000 activists attending the conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in March, the House of Representatives passed a resolution demanding a policy of preventing Iran from having a “nuclear weapons capability” by a vote of 401-11. 

The U.S. understandings with Israel were sharply at odds with a deal with Iran based on a “step by step” approach which had been proposed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Under that approach, each move by Iran to satisfy Western concerns about its nuclear program should be rewarded by a relaxation of sanctions. 

As Michael Adler revealed in The Daily Beast Mar. 7, however, the Obama administration was unwilling to reduce sanctions gradually as the Russians wanted. Adler’s account implied that it could only come at the end of the process in response to a complete suspension of all uranium enrichment by Iran as a “confidence building measure”. 

For Iran, 20 percent enrichment has been largely an exercise in increasing its bargaining leverage with the United States by creating a level of enrichment that the U.S. has said is threatening. 

Iran has made a series of policy statements since it began that enrichment suggesting that the objective has been to trade those bargaining chips for negotiating concessions that would benefit Iran – mainly moves to reduce sanctions and the recognition of its right to enrich. 

The demand that the 20 percent enrichment be ended and that Fordow facility be closed without any easing of economic sanctions would represent a double diplomatic defeat which Iran has strenuously rejected. 

“Giving up 20 percent enrichment levels in return for plane spare parts is a joke,” Iranian analyst Hasan Abadini was quoted as saying. 

There was some discussion before the Baghdad meeting, initiated by Europeans, of at least offering to suspend a European ban on insuring oil tankers, which threatens some of Iran’s oil trade with Asian countries, in conjunction with a deal, according to the New York Times May 18. But that was evidently rejected by Washington. 

The U.S. rejection of the “step by step” approach in favor of a stance that leans heavily toward Israeli preferences leads to apparent contradictions in U.S. policy. 

That stance is sharply at odds with the official U.S. stance suggesting ending Iran’s 20 percent enrichment is an urgent requirement. A senior U.S. official was quoted by Associated Press Thursday as saying, “We are urgent about this, because every day we don’t figure this out, they keep going forward with a nuclear program.” 

The contradiction was further highlighted by reports that Iran is further increasing its capability for 20 percent enrichment at the Fordow facility. A Reuters story from Vienna Thursday said that Iran may have already put 350 more centrifuges into Fordow since February, on top of the almost 700 already operating there. 

Associated Press reported a senior U.S. official in Baghdad explaining that sanctions were likely to increase the pressure on Iran to agree to U.S. terms in the next round of talks. “Maximum pressure is not yet being felt by Iran,” the official was quoted as saying. 

But few diplomatic observers believe that Iran’s Supreme Leader, who makes the crucial decisions, could afford to bow to the U.S. demands as presented in Baghdad. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. strategy of drawing out the talks to wait for the impact of sanctions to work on the Iranians allows Iran to continue adding “facts on the ground”. 

Ironically, U.S. strategists have argued publicly in the past that Iran was using negotiations to “play for time” while it increased its nuclear capabilities. 

In another seeming contradiction between U.S. diplomatic posture and its declared interest in ensuring that Iran prove the non-military character of its nuclear program, U.S. officials dismissed as irrelevant the news that Iran and IAEA Director General Yukia Amano are close to an agreement on the terms of Iranian cooperation in clarifying allegations of past nuclear weapons work. 

A “senior U.S. official” said the United States welcomed the signs of progress, but then carefully differentiated the purpose of the P5+1 negotiations and those of the IAEA, according to Al-monitor May 22. 

“The IAEA is about accounting for the past and for naming what is,” the official explained. “It is not about what is the nature of Iran’s nuclear program and what will Iran’s nuclear program look like going forward, and will it be peaceful.” 

That statement abruptly reversed previous U.S. insistence that Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA represented a central element in a diplomatic settlement of the conflict over Iran’s nuclear program 

The idea that U.S. negotiations with Iran would not be affected by whatever it did to prove allegations of past nuclear weapons work wrong implies that Washington is firmly committed to its present diplomatic course mainly in order to placate Israel and the U.S. Congress.

  1. #1 by equalizer on 05/26/2012 - 9:34

    America goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will recommend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standards of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force.

    -John Quincy Adams

  2. #2 by equalizer on 05/26/2012 - 9:34

    p.s. benignant—1. serenely mild and kindly, 2. favorable, beneficial

    OBVIOUSLY, the word AND the policy/s ARE LOST to America….can she find them?

  3. #3 by equalizer on 05/26/2012 - 9:34


    1. Fortney “Pete” Stark (D) Ca 13th

    2. Lynn Woolsy (D) Ca 6th

    3. Barbara Lee (D) Ca 9th

    4. Justin Amash (R) MI 3rd

    5. John Olver (D) MA 1st

    6. Geoff Davis (R) KY 4th

    7. Dennis Kucinich (D) OH 10th

    8. Earl Blumenauer (D) OR 3rd

    9. John “Jimmy” Duncan (R) TN 2nd

    10. Ron Paul (R) TX 14th

    11. James “Jim” McDermott (D) WA 7th

    If you’re feeling generous……these candidates deserve a financial contribution….eq.

  4. #4 by Ingrid B on 05/26/2012 - 9:34

    “bow to the U.S. demands” : why should they? Unlike the parasitic hellhole occupying Palestine, Iran has done nothing wrong..

  5. #5 by SazzyLilSmartAzz on 05/26/2012 - 9:34

    Why should Iran have to give up anything? Get AIPAC out of my country. I’m not a damned jew and I hate Israel!

  6. #6 by SazzyLilSmartAzz on 05/26/2012 - 9:34

    Bad news unwelcome: Israel refuses to listen to US envoy’s report on Iran

    26 May, 2012

  7. #7 by michael mazur on 05/26/2012 - 9:34

    I was just about to send my comment when it disappeared. They clearly were watching my keystrokes build up to that point.

    I’ll not use my iPad in future for writing comment for TUT.

    Will try again later from my pc; more secure from predators.

  8. #8 by SazzyLilSmartAzz on 05/27/2012 - 9:34

  9. #9 by michael mazur on 05/27/2012 - 9:34

    A very strained argumentation all along, all shadow and no substance. Substance would be if Gareth Porter had said that weapons grade uranium was 95% or higher U235. He would know this judging from the convoluted efforts he made saying everything but.

    He is having his reportage revolve around 3.5% and 20% enrichment, and that weapons grade was not far above 20%, leaving it tantalisingly unsaid just how far above, but, i say again, he knows.

    He is one of those smug journos (there are legions of them) doing his part in moving the world a little bit closer to Thermo Nuclear War just for another week’s grubby counterfeit money, for nowhere does he say that the IAEA has found evidence – which they have not, of a facility which is enriching U238 to above 20% U235.

    That surely would wreck Iran’s argument that the only enrichment taking place is to 20% for medical isotope purposes.

    But Gareth Porter, the slick reporter, wants Iran to keep looking guilty. He is a warmonger of the misreportage by omission kind, a low key war facilitator who will never have to face a war crimes commission, for that’s only for losers, and he thinks he’s on the winning side.

    The only good thing about Global Thermo Nuclear War is that Gareth Porter’s butt will also fry, for he will have thoroughly earned it.

  10. #10 by Kermit on 05/27/2012 - 9:34

    Syria blames armed gangs for ‘terrorist massacre’ in Houla

    Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jihad Makdissi says Damascus holds “armed groups” responsible for recent deadly clashes in the western town of Houla that killed 92 people, including at least 32 children.

    “We completely deny responsibility for this terrorist massacre against our people,” Makdissi said in a press conference in Damascus on Sunday.

    “We have set up a military and legal committee to investigate [the incident]. The results will emerge within days.”

    Deadly clashes between Syrian forces and armed groups broke out on May 25 in Houla, located in the central province of Homs and about 32 kilometers (20 miles) northwest of the provincial capital city of Homs.

    Head of the UN observer mission in Syria Major General Robert Mood said a UN team has counted 92 bodies, including at least 32 children, after it arrived in the town for investigation on May 26.

    “There are neighborhoods where there are armed men. The [UN] observers go into the towns and see with their own eyes. It is the government’s right to protect its citizens,” Makdissi said.

    “No Syrian artillery or heavy weapons were used in the area of Houla.”

    The Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesperson also censured some “without any evidence” accusations against the Damascus government over its involvement in the Houla violence.

    Meanwhile, Makdissi told reporters in Damascus that UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan would arrive in Syria on Monday for a new round of talks with senior Syrian officials.

    The fighting between Syrian forces and armed groups in Houla comes despite a ceasefire that took effect on April 12.

    Reports say about 260 UN observers are currently monitoring the ceasefire, which was part of a six-point peace plan brokered by Kofi Annan in March.

  11. #11 by Ingrid B on 05/27/2012 - 9:34

    @michael mazur, yes, have had niggling doubts about Porter for some time. Caught the last few minutes of news analysis on Press TV yesterday, where Porter was, “for once”, in agreement with an “in your face supporter of Israel” journalist, based in London, by the name of Millet. Millet really P`s me off..

  12. #12 by Adalberto Erazo Jr. on 05/27/2012 - 9:34

    @ Michael Mazur

    Excellent analysis and very well said. The nuclear issue is a red herring. This is all about Iran’s independence and the fact that it is master of it’s own destiny. Who the hell gave America and the western countries the right to decide who can and who can not have nuclear technology?

    I could care less if Iran is building a nuclear reactor because it is their right. I could care less if Iran is building nuclear weapons because it is their right(even though they are not). If IsraHell and the western countries can have them then so should Iran.

    The world does NOT face a nuclear threat from Iran. If anything the world faces a nuclear threat from IsraHell and the western countries. They are more likely to use them without hesitation then anyone else.

  13. #13 by Kermit on 05/27/2012 - 9:34,2012.avi

  14. #14 by Ingrid B on 05/28/2012 - 9:34

    Kermit, thanks for the info.. Syria.. there`s another country who`se rights are being hijacked.. This whole “war on terror” is getting ever closer, as I hear that the cops here in northern Norway, are being trained to deal with, you guessed it, “terrorism.” wonder who is training them???

  15. #15 by Ingrid B on 05/28/2012 - 9:34

    interesting video on Press TV : Muslims and Christian scholars come together to discuss Jerusalem al-Quds restrictions

  16. #16 by joe on 05/28/2012 - 9:34

    Anyone else ever hear about this “atoms for Peace” program? It was initiated in 1954 by the President Eisenhower…This story is quite ironic, in that it mentions IRAN and Pakistan as “beneficiaries” of this program…Ok, now with that said…Pakistan has become a nuclear nation already, but Iran hasn’t??

    Is this whole nuclear-Iran thing a shellgame perhaps, and IRAN already posseses nuclear capabilities? Surely Iran has more economic resources then did Pakistan in the 1950’s… I know this sounds like a crazy notion, but crazier things have been found to be true,,,

    WHAT IF…Iran (I hope so) has a nuclear deterrent already in place for the Zio-Nazi’s in Israel? An Ace in the Hole-sort to speak….Perhaps Iran is holding a better hand than Israel is contemplating…

    Israel has nukes and is not a member of the IAEA-nor is it signed onto the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

    Israel also is the only “occupying” state that possesses NUCLEAR weapons, BUT is not MONITORED by the U.N., or the WORLD!! WTH is going on here people? Why arent the P5+1 countries DEMANDING iSRAHELL get their little dirty diapers to the bargaining table to discuss their nuclear ARSENALS??

    All this, while WORLD leaders place Peace, “democracy”, and Freedom in Jeopardy over a so-called weapons grade enrichment “pie in the sky” chase by the zio-nazi’s of ISRAHELL. It’s quite sickening folks…

    Below is the link for the Atoms For Peace program in 1954 by President Eisenhower.

  17. #17 by michael mazur on 05/28/2012 - 9:34

    joe, Mosaddeq was overthrown in 1953 by the CIA.

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