|Complicating Iran nuclear talks: article||
TEHRAN – Under pressure from the Israel Lobby, U.S. negotiators are making efforts to inject Iran’s missile program into negotiations on the country’s nuclear program, a move that further complicates — and could endanger — the complex talks, Gareth Porter wrote for Inter Press Service on Saturday.
Following are excerpts of the article:
The Obama administration’s insistence that Iran discuss its ballistic missile program in the negotiations for a comprehensive nuclear agreement brings its position into line with that of Israel and U.S. senators who introduced legislation drafted by the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC aimed at torpedoing the negotiations.
But the history of the issue suggests that the Obama administration knows that Iran will not accept the demand and that it is not necessary to a final agreement. White House spokesman Jay Carney highlighted the new U.S. demand in a statement Wednesday that the Iranians “have to deal with matters related to their ballistic missile program.”
Carney cited United Nations Security Council resolution 1929, approved in 2010, which prohibited any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including missile launches. “So that’s completely agreed by Iran in the Joint Plan of Action,” he added.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif not only explicitly contradicted Carney’s claim that Iran had agreed to discuss ballistic missiles but warned that a U.S. demand for discussion of its missile program would violate a red line for Iran. “Nothing except Iran’s nuclear activities will be discussed in the talks with the [six powers known as the P5+1], and we have agreed on it,” he said, according to Iran’s IRNA.
The pushback by Zarif implies that the U.S. position would seriously risk the breakdown of the negotiations if the Obama administration were to persist in making the demand.
Contrary to Carney’s statement, the topic of ballistic missiles is not part of the interim accord reached last November. The Joint Plan of Action refers only to “addressing the UN Security Council resolutions, with a view toward bringing to a satisfactory conclusion the UN Security Council’s consideration of this matter” and the formation of a “Joint Commission” which would “work with the IAEA to facilitate resolution of past and present issues of concern”.
In any event it was not part of the Joint Plan of Action agreed on Nov. 24. Past U.S. statements on the problem of the Security Council resolutions indicate that the administration had previously acknowledged that no agreement had been reached to negotiate on ballistic missiles and that it had not originally intended to press for discussions on the issue.
The “senior administration officials” who briefed journalists on the Joint Plan of Action last November made no reference to ballistic missiles at all. The demand for negotiations on Iran’s missile program originated with Israel, both directly and through Senate Foreign Relations Committee members committed to AIPAC’s agenda.
Citing an unnamed senior Israeli official, Ha’aretz reported on Thursday that Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz had met with Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, the chief U.S. negotiator in the nuclear talks with Iran, and with senior French and British foreign ministry officials before the start of the February talks and had emphasized that Iran’s missile program “must be part of the agenda” for negotiation of a final agreement.
By early December, however, Israel was engaged in an even more direct effort to pressure the administration to make that demand, drafting a bill that explicitly included among its provisions one that would have required new sanctions unless the president certified that “Iran has not conducted any tests for ballistic missiles with a range exceeding 500 kilometers.”
Since Iran had obviously tested missiles beyond that limit long ago, it would have made it impossible for President Barack Obama to make such a certification.
Sherman also suggested at one point that there would be no real need to prohibit any Iranian missile if the negotiations on the nuclear program were successful. “Not having a nuclear weapon,” she said, “makes delivery systems almost — not wholly, but almost — irrelevant.” That admission underlined the wholly political purpose of the administration’s apparent embrace of the Israeli demand that Iran negotiate limits on its ballistic missiles.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Rybakov clearly implied that Moscow would not support such a demand in a statement Thursday that Russia “considers that a comprehensive agreement must concern only and exclusively the restoration of trust in a purely peaceful intention of Iran’s nuclear program.”
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