Iranian officials were in a decidedly defiant mood ahead of talks Tuesday in
Almaty, Kazakhstan, with negotiators representing the P5 + 1 – the US, Russia,
China, Britain, Germany and France.
“If they want constructive
negotiations, it’s better this time they come with a new strategy and credible
proposals,” Saeed Jalili, the top Iranian nuclear negotiator, told reporters
before he left for Almaty.
Iranian officials were continuing their long
record of intransigence. Last week they turned down a Western proposal to
gradually lift sanctions on trading in gold in return for the closing of a
mountain bunker enrichment facility called Fordow. The officials said the site
would never be closed because it afforded protection against attacks,
particularly from the “Zionist regime.”
And the Islamic Republic
continues to move ahead with its nuclear program. Just last week, inspectors
from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency counted nearly 200 advanced
machines fully or partially installed at Iran’s main uranium enrichment site,
confirming fears that Tehran continues to upgrade its nuclear program to the
point where it will have nuclear arms capability.
Indeed, since the last
talks between Iran and the P5+1 in Moscow last June, the Mullah regime has
continued to increase its stockpile of uranium to 20 percent purity.
total stockpile of 20% enriched uranium has grown to 167 kilograms, according to
the IAEA, still below the 240 to 250 kilograms experts consider necessary – once
enriched further – to produce nuclear weapons.
In addition, the Iranians
have yet to complete an agreement on inspection of suspect military sites with
the IAEA. In February 2010, the IAEA stated for the first time bluntly that Iran
was indeed actively pursuing nuclear weapons capability.
objective is to get Iran to obey UN Security Council resolutions ordering it to
suspend enrichment and open itself up fully to IAEA inspectors, to ensure there
is no effort to build a nuclear weapon.
Attempts to get Iran to comply
via dialogue are doomed to failure. In October, ahead of the US presidential
elections, The New York Times reported that the US and Iran had agreed to direct
negotiations. But Iran has since rejected such an option.
regime is so antagonistic to the “Big Satan” that even Michelle Obama’s
announcement of Argo as the Best Picture winner by video at the Oscars was spun
as a direct affront to the Islamic Republic. The Revolutionary Guard-affiliated
Fars news agency, which edited the photo to cover up the first lady’s shoulders,
went out of its way to attack Obama for announcing the “anti-Iran film which is
produced by the Zionist company Warner Bros.” The Iranian government even
organized a conference to discuss the ideology behind films like Argo, and their
use in promoting an anti-Iranian, Islamophobic agenda.
unlikely to lead to a breakthrough, the Security Council, the US and the EU have
created an increasingly painful set of economic sanctions. Just this week in a
bipartisan effort, the US Congress called on the European Central Bank to
sharply tighten its sanctions regime against the Islamic Republic by denying
Iran access to Euro-denominated foreign exchange reserves.
In a letter,
36 senators, including Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic chair of the Senate
Intelligence Committee and 2016 Republican hopeful Marco Rubio, called on the
ECB to stop Iran from using the “Target2” clearing system for global Euro
Iran’s use of Target2 was enabling it to circumvent new
sanction rules that came into force on February 6, forcing Tehran to keep the
proceeds of all oil sales in local currencies.
Yet despite their
deteriorating economy, Iran remains defiant as it prepares for elections in
June. Ayatollah Khamenei, the Islamic Republic’s supreme spiritual bully, vowed
that his nation would never back down.
“If the Iranian people had wanted
to surrender to the Americans, they would not have carried out a revolution,”
Khamenei said in a meeting at his home earlier this month that was broadcast by
the Iranian news media.
Unfortunately, the military option, which still
“remains on the table,” may ultimately be the only effective way of halting the
Iranians’ stubborn march toward their goal of nuclear weapons.