Washington assumes a deal is coming with Iran

Israeli officials preparing to renew threats over use of unilateral military force against Iran should they disapprove of an agreement.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, EU envoy Catherine Ashton, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meet in Muscat November 10 (photo credit: REUTERS)
US Secretary of State John Kerry, EU envoy Catherine Ashton, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meet in Muscat November 10
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – The Israeli government, its emissaries in Washington and their allies on Capitol Hill are preparing themselves for a deal with Iran over its nuclear program come November 24 that does not meet Israel's stated security needs.
Based on extensive briefings from their American counterparts, Israeli officials see no options on the table in Vienna as viable frameworks for a deal they are prepared to accept.
Planning for that contingency, leading Israeli and pro-Israeli figures are gearing up a concerted public relations effort intended to degrade the merits and wisdom of such a deal.
Public pressure in the lead-up to any decision out of Tehran, by the November 24 deadline, will target the long-term viability of a deal opposed by the Israeli government, on a potential legacy issue for US President Barack Obama.
"We're not happy with anything we've seen," one source familiar with the effort said, warning of vocal and intense disagreement in the coming days.
Israeli officials are also preparing to renew their threats over the use of unilateral military force against Iran should they disapprove of an agreement – the impetus for broad international sanctions against Iran agreed upon in 2011 by Russia, China and the European Union, which feared unpredictable regional consequences in the wake of such an attack.
The world remains in the dark on whether Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will approve any comprehensive deal involving the United States, cast as the devil by his government but now offering Tehran re-entry into the international community if they abide by an historic nuclear agreement.
World powers seek a rollback in Iran's vast nuclear infrastructure, spanning nearly 20 thousand centrifuges across multiple plants, alongside a second, plutonium path to a bomb. They also seek strict verification measures guaranteeing the enforcement of such a deal, pacifying the program for a decade or more.
Talks are continuing straight until the deadline at the highest political levels, led by chief US negotiator Wendy Sherman, US Secretary of State John Kerry and his counterparts in members of the P5+1 – the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany.
In one tea leaf, possibly revealing Tehran's wariness over the prospect of intrusive inspections, diplomats in Vienna said on Tuesday that Iran has five times refused access to a UN atomic agency official seeking to investigate possible military dimensions to the nuclear program.
Iran says it has the right to decide who has access to its territory, adding it had allowed in other International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) staff seeking to advance a long-stalled probe into suspected atomic arms research.
But its repeated failure to provide a visa to one specific IAEA expert may reinforce an impression in the West of a continuing reluctance by Tehran to fully answer allegations that it has worked on designing a nuclear-armed missile.
For the IAEA "to be able to address the outstanding issues effectively, it is important that any staff member...with the requisite expertise is able to participate in the agency's technical activities in Iran," the agency said in a confidential report to member states.
The IAEA declined further comment or to say what the consequences might be for its investigation.
In Moscow, the Kremlin agreed to build two new nuclear power plant units in Iran under an agreement signed on Tuesday. Russia will also cooperate with Tehran on developing more nuclear power units in Iran, and consider producing nuclear fuel components there, according to a memorandum signed by the heads of the state atomic bodies.
Iran already runs one Russian-built reactor at the country's only operating nuclear power plant in Bushehr.
Recent reports suggest Iran might be willing to ship much of its uranium stockpile out of the country to Russia as part of a comprehensive agreement.
US officials said that much of the 28,000 pound stockpile would be converted to fuel rods by the Russians for peaceful use at Bushehr, the New York Times reported last week.
From Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already begun increasing pressure, sending a letter this week to the permanent five members of the United Nations Security Council reminding its members that Khamenei called for Israel's destruction as recently as Sunday.
The letter referred to the Islamic Republic as a "terrorist government."
US officials say negotiations with their Iranian counterparts have been "professional" and genuinely productive thus far, ever since direct talks began a year ago. The White House says that, while an agreement is a clear goal of the president, the administration "is not and will not" conflate nuclear talks with Iran with their discussions on Islamic State, a shared concern.
Speaking to an assembly of American Jews in Washington on Monday, Vice President Joe Biden vowed once again that the Obama administration would prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
But the Israeli government seeks to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capacity: the means and materials to produce nuclear weapons, should they choose to change course.
Before a deal even reaches Khamenei for final approval, significant work stands before the diplomatic delegations camped out in Vienna. In a series of talks in Muscat, Oman, one of Iran's chief negotiators described two days of "very hard work" with no measurable progress.
"We are still not in a position to claim that progress is achieved, although I cannot say that it was no good, either," Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told Iran's state-run news agency, IRNA. "Every dimension of the negotiations, over any particular topic, has many side issues and technical, legal, and political complications."
US officials similarly described the talks as complex and difficult, but refused to provide details.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Kerry's meetings in Oman with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and EU envoy Catherine Ashton were "tough, direct and serious."
A senior State Department official traveling with Kerry said: "There's more work to do, clearly."
Reuters contributed to this report.