Washington Times: The clerics who hold a tyrannical grip over Iran have done it again – hoodwinked the West while buying more time to develop nuclear weapons. The United States must put the Islamic republic back on the front burner before it’s too late.
The West mustn’t waver in ordering new sanctions
The Washington Times
By Reza Kahlili
The clerics who hold a tyrannical grip over Iran have done it again — hoodwinked the West while buying more time to develop nuclear weapons.
The United States must put the Islamic republic back on the front burner before it’s too late.
Last November, the regime accepted an interim agreement in Geneva with the so-called “P5+1” world powers — the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France plus Germany — in which some international sanctions would be eased if Iran moderated its illicit nuclear program. The goal was to achieve a formal agreement by July 20 that would prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons (while accepting peaceful nuclear development) in exchange for a formula to remove sanctions as each agreed-upon step is fulfilled by Iran.
Last week, the two sides met again in Geneva to work on reaching that goal. The world powers expected progress, given the “moderate” stands of President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and what seemed to be an eagerness on their part to attain accommodation.
Those two don’t run the country, though. The ruthless clerics headed by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei do. Here are the marching orders Ayatollah Khamenei gave to the Iranian negotiators before they left for Geneva last week:
Protect Iranian nuclear research and development; protect Iran’s need for enrichment on a level that feeds the needs of the country (the country has more than 19,000 centrifuges, far more than is needed for peaceful nuclear purposes, and would like to expand; and preserve the Arak heavy-water plant (the plant once operational could produce plutonium and serve the ruling clerics with a second path to nuclear weapons).
The negotiators were also tasked with making sure there is no interference or limitation to the country’s military and defensive measures (the Islamic regime is under U.N. sanctions for developing ballistic missiles, and it currently holds the largest missile stockpile in the Middle East with a range of reaching as far as Europe). Finally, they were told to remove all sanctions at once as opposed to step-by-step relief (the U.N. resolutions and sanctions in place are the results of efforts by several U.S. administrations and more than a decade of negotiations).
Arguments and confrontations erupted as the American and European negotiators were shocked by the Islamic regime’s new demands, reported in an op-ed on May 17 by Hossein Shariatmadari, managing editor of the hard-line newspaper Keyhan, the mouthpiece of the country’s supreme leader. They should have known those demands were coming, and not only because the Islamic republic has a history of stalling in negotiations as it works feverishly to develop nuclear weapons. This time, titanic events are unfolding across the globe, ensnarling all six of the world powers.
First there is the Ukrainian crisis, pitting four of the powers, all NATO members, against a fifth power, Russia, with the sixth power, China, ignoring Western pleas to curtail trade with Russia.
Second, China’s adventurism in the South China Sea has infuriated its neighbors and brought condemnation and threats from the United States.
Finally, peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians have collapsed, nullifying an effort that occupied much of Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s attention.
What better time for the regime’s masters to throw a spitball at the world powers? The world’s attention is elsewhere, and lessons are being learned in Tehran that empty threats are just that.
Forget the I-told-you-so’s, even though last week’s episode in Geneva was easily predictable from Iran’s negotiating history alone. The White House must now let the clerical regime know that not only those eased sanctions will be reimposed, but also, it will remove its threat of veto and allow the U.S. Senate to move on with a bill to increase sanctions drastically if there is no substantial progress in next month’s round of talks in Geneva. That message must be sent now and vigorously enforced unless Tehran stops stalling.
The regime is determined to play for time and engage in endless negotiations as it has done masterfully for more than a decade while expanding its nuclear program. Though a viable military option must remain on the table, the best way is to bring the regime to its knees is economics. The Iranian people, who love freedom and democracy and despise the mullahs, will take it from there.
Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and author of “A Time to Betray” (Simon & Schuster, 2010).