While Americans began to panic last week about the spread of Ebola in the United States, and Israelis mourned the tragic loss of young hikers in an avalanche in Nepal, something with far more lethal consequences was taking place in Europe that barely elicited a yawn.
Representatives of Iran and the P5+1 countries (Russia, China, France, Britain, the US and Germany) met in Vienna to hold yet another round of talks on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. Key players in these negotiations were Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Though this was the eighth such gathering since the beginning of the year aimed at “ironing out” differences between the sides, it was highly significant.
In November, an interim arrangement was reached, according to which a final deal on curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions would be achieved during the six-month period between January and July.
Iran had no intention of curtailing its nuclear capabilities, but was keen on the easing of sanctions, and it was rewarded for continuing to engage in bogus negotiations, with none of the summits producing results. They did, however, enable the mullah-led regime in Tehran to keep the centrifuges spinning.
When the only progress made by the summer deadline was in uranium enrichment, the parties agreed to an extension of talks until November 24. What this really meant was that Iran was given an additional four months in which to proceed on its course toward regional hegemony and world domination. It also provided Iranian President Hassan Rouhani with the further justification he needed to persuade Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei that his stance as a “moderate” was paying off.
With a mere few weeks to go until the new deadline, neither side says it has an interest in prolonging negotiations past November. Rouhani gave a televised address ahead of this week’s talks to tell the Iranian people that reaching a deal by the end of next month would be possible.
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Kerry was less committal. “Step by step,” he told reporters on Wednesday, before entering into six hours of talks, described by another State Department official as “about whether Iran is willing to take verifiable actions to show that their program is for peaceful purposes.”
To remove the main obstacle to a final deal, Kerry proposed that Iran could keep its nuclear infrastructure if it would agree to reduce the quantity and quality of uranium enrichment required to create atomic weapons in the near future.
Iran, which denies its nuclear facilities are military in nature, is not happy with that offer.
One party to the talks that may help to break this impasse is Russia, which currently supplies fuel for Iran’s nuclear reactor. Tehran has been discussing the possibility of shipping some of its low-enriched uranium to Moscow for “civilian” use in the future.
It’s interesting that as talks kicked off in Austria on Wednesday, two Russian warships left the northern Iranian port of Anzali, following a three-day Iranian-Russian naval exercise in the Caspian Sea.
Rather than viewing these disturbing developments with trepidation, however, the world is preoccupied with the efforts of the US-led campaign – dubbed “Coherent Resolve” – to defeat Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq.
In fact, because IS is a Sunni organization, the West now sees the Shi’ite-dominated Iranian regime as a potential ally.
Worse than that, Iran is now being viewed as an up-and-coming destination for business.
Indeed, early last week, The New York Times began to promote a $6,995 tour to Iran, led by writer and former Paris correspondent Elaine Sciolino.
“Journey 2,500 years back in time to discover the ancient secrets of Persia on this 13-day itinerary incorporating some of the most well preserved archaeological sites in the world,” reads the ad, which fails to mention that such a trip could end in imprisonment, torture and death for participants who arouse the ire of the Revolutionary Guards.
On Thursday, as Kerry was pleading with Zarif to illustrate Iranian good faith, hundreds of international investors gathered in London to attend the “1st Europe- Iran Forum.” It was a “meet and greet” the likes of which has not taken place since the 1979 Iranian Revolution that ushered in the Islamists. You know, those who are still in power and declare: “Death to America, Europe and Israel.”
Still, former UK foreign secretary Jack Straw was one of the speakers at the event, whose purpose was for Iranian and European businesspeople to forge connections for investments in the Islamic Republic, as soon as a final diplomatic deal is reached on its nuclear weapons program.
Yes, “step by step,” Iran is being allowed to acquire the ability to produce atom bombs, and the West is obsessing over Ebola.The writer is the author of To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’
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