The P5+1 group of world powers negotiating with Iran for a nuclear deal believes it’s “time to decide” once and for all; Iran, on the other hand, says there’s “no time limit” at all.
It is becoming increasingly clear that even if the U.S. delegation has endless patience, the European foreign ministers are beginning to lose theirs. After another round of marathon talks and a third blown deadline this week, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters in Vienna on Saturday, “Everything is on the table. It’s now time to decide.”
The newest deadline for talks between Iran and world powers led by the United States is this coming Monday, July 13.
But an Iranian official told the AFP news agency that talks could continue indefinitely if need be. “We have no time limit in order to reach a good deal,” said the senior Iranian official.
Of course, the definition of the term, “good deal” depends on who is doing the defining.
Negotiators have been arguing over how to implement the terms of the deal both sides have already agreed to. Those would require Iran to reduce the number of uranium enriching centrifuges from 19,000 to slightly more than 6,000. Tehran would also have to reduce its stocks of already enriched uranium from more than seven tonnes, to just 350 kilos (770 pounds.)
This would allegedly ensure that Iran could not acquire enough fissile material to build an atomic weapon – or at least, it would take at least a year to do so. Currently it is believed that Tehran could achieve that goal within just two to three months.
In addition, the two sides still cannot find common ground on the issue of spot inspections and access for United Nations inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to Iran’s nuclear military sites.
Iran is unwilling to budge on either point; and without those, world leaders are unwilling to relax the sanctions that have strangled the economy of the Islamic Republic.
In addition, Tehran insists all sanctions be relieved immediately, and refuses to allow the “snap back” clause that would re-impose those sanctions if Iran violates the terms of the deal.
For obvious reasons, none of the world powers has any interest in removing that clause. Iran has also insisted that a UN arms embargo previously in place also be lifted when a deal is reached – a new problem that could become the icing on any nuclear cake.
As Defense Secretary Ashton Carter explained during a meeting with Congress: “The reason we want to stop Iran from having an ICBM program is that the “I” in ICBM stands for “intercontinental” – which means having the capability of flying from Iran to the United States. We don’t want that,” he added. (The rest of the acronym: C-continental B-ballistic M-missile.)
Any ICBM loaded with a chemical, biological or nuclear warhead would present an existential threat to the United States as well as to Israel.
According to the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), Iran has conducted multiple successful space vehicle launches since 2008. Defense News reported in April 2015 that such technology could also serve as a test bed for the development of ICBM technology. According to the report, there is an overlap between producing space vehicles and ballistic missiles. It is suspected that Iran’s space program has been a cover for a military ballistic weapons program, in fact.
The U.S. already has two missile defense sites deployed to defend the country in California and Alaska respectively to protect against any limited long-range ballistic missile attack.
The MDA has also advised Washington to develop a third defense site on the East Coast to protect against missile threats “accidentally launched from Russia or China due to human error or intentionally fired from Iran or North Korea,” Defense News reported.
Hana Levi Julian