The Obama administration is giving in to Iranian demands about the scope of its nuclear program as negotiators work to finalize a framework agreement in the coming days, according to sources familiar with the administration’s position in the negotiations.
U.S. negotiators are said to have given up ground on demands that Iran be forced to disclose the full range of its nuclear activities at the outset of a nuclear deal, a concession experts say would gut the verification the Obama administration has vowed would stand as the crux of a deal with Iran.
Until recently, the Obama administration had maintained that it would guarantee oversight on Tehran’s program well into the future, and that it would take the necessary steps to ensure that oversight would be effective. The issue has now emerged as a key sticking point in the talks.
Concern from sources familiar with U.S. concessions in the talks comes amid reports that Iran could be permitted to continue running nuclear centrifuges at an underground site once suspected of housing illicit activities.
This type of concession would allow Iran to continue work related to its nuclear weapons program, even under the eye of international inspectors. If Iran removes inspectors—as it has in the past—it would be left with a nuclear infrastructure immune from a strike by Western forces.
“Once again, in the face of Iran’s intransigence, the U.S. is leading an effort to cave even more toward Iran—this time by whitewashing Tehran’s decades of lying about nuclear weapons work and current lack of cooperation with the [International Atomic Energy Agency],” said one Western source briefed on the talks but who was not permitted to speak on record.
“Instead of ensuring that Iran answers all the outstanding questions about the past and current military dimensions of their nuclear work in order to obtain sanctions relief, the U.S. is now revising down what they need to do,” said the source. “That is a terrible mistake—if we don’t have a baseline to judge their past work, we can’t tell if they are cheating in the future, and if they won’t answer now, before getting rewarded, why would they come clean in the future?”
The United States is now willing to let Iran keep many of its most controversial military sites closed to inspectors until international sanctions pressure has been lifted, according to sources.
In a development that has largely been missed by mainstream media, the Pentagon early last month quietly declassified a Department of Defense top-secret document detailing Israel's nuclear program, a highly covert topic that Israel has never formally announced to avoid a regional nuclear arms race, and which the US until now has respected by remaining silent.
But by publishing the declassified document from 1987, the US reportedly breached the silent agreement to keep quiet on Israel's nuclear powers for the first time ever, detailing the nuclear program in great depth.
The timing of the revelation is highly suspect, given that it came as tensions spiraled out of control between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama ahead of Netanyahu's March 3 address in Congress, in which he warned against the dangers of Iran's nuclear program and how the deal being formed on that program leaves the Islamic regime with nuclear breakout capabilities.
Another highly suspicious aspect of the document is that while the Pentagon saw fit to declassify sections on Israel's sensitive nuclear program, it kept sections on Italy, France, West Germany and other NATO countries classified, with those sections blocked out in the document.
The 386-page report entitled "Critical Technological Assessment in Israel and NATO Nations" gives a detailed description of how Israel advanced its military technology and developed its nuclear infrastructure and research in the 1970s and 1980s.
The report also notes research laboratories in Israel "are equivalent to our Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge National Laboratories," the key labs in developing America's nuclear arsenal.
Israel's nuclear infrastructure is "an almost exact parallel of the capability currently existing at our National Laboratories," it adds.
Nuclear negotiations between the United States and Iran entered a critical phase on Thursday with US Secretary of State John Kerry meeting his Iranian counterpart less than a week away from a deadline to secure the outline of a deal.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani embarked on an unprecedented round of phone calls to international leaders urging a deal and the immediate lifting of sanctions.
A plea from Israeli officials for the talks to be suspended because of Iran’s support for rebels forces in Yemen, reported by Israel’s Channel 10, was apparently ignored.
The Iranian side was more upbeat. Ali Akbar Salehi, Tehran’s top nuclear official, told Iran’s IRNA news agency that the talks have already reached a “common understanding” on technical issues. Salehi, who also is at the talks, added he was optimistic that a comprehensive deal also was within reach.
Rouhani also spoke with the leaders of Britain, Russia and China, and wrote to all six leaders of the P5+1 countries negotiating with Tehran — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US — setting out Iran’s positions, including the demand that sanctions be lifted. “All unjust sanctions against the Iranian nation should be lifted,” Rouhani said via Twitter.
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