Since the start of the current round of negotiations, Iran has backtracked and hardened its positions, while Western concessions reportedly continue on nearly every aspect of a deal, raising questions over whether the P5+1 global powers will be able to reach a political framework agreement before the March 31 deadline.
On Saturday, Iran reversed on its previous willingness to ship its stockpile of enriched uranium abroad, a “key demand of world powers.” Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi declared that “There is no question of sending the stocks abroad.” The New York Times wrote that “[T]he revelation that Iran is now insisting on retaining the fuel could raise a potential obstacle at a critical time in the talks.”
Early last week, an Iranian official publicly denounced the idea that Iran would allow “snap inspections” to be put in place on its nuclear program. Last June, however, The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran's spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi, said the opposite when he said that “Iran may accept snap inspections as part of a final nuclear agreement.”
Then on Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Iran would not have to immediately resolve the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) 11 outstanding questions that they have refused to answer over the possible military dimensions (PMDs) of its nuclear program. Iran coming clean on its past work on weaponization has been a critical issue to Western powers, now in any deal, “A full reckoning of Iran’s past activities would be demanded in later years as part of a nuclear deal that is expected to last at least 15 years.”
Again on Thursday, the Associated Press reported that the underground, heavily fortified enrichment facility at Fordow would remain open with 500 working centrifuges. Previously, the West demanded that Fordow be closed. According to the report, experts claim that such a concession “would allow Iran to keep intact technology that could be quickly repurposed for uranium enrichment at a sensitive facility...”
Many fear that the United States puts such value on reaching a deal that it is willing to downplay or overlook Iran’s lack of compliance and unwillingness to make concessions. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, in response to the U.S. “push for a deal” said, “France wants an agreement, but a robust one that really guarantees that Iran can have access to civilian nuclear power, but not the atomic bomb.”
The Telegraph reported that the journalist who managed public relations for the Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani’s, election campaign, defected during his recent trip to Switzerland. He said that his conscience would not allow him to continue due to the lack of freedom of the press and the threats that journalists receive. He had harsh criticism for the U.S. saying, “The US negotiating team are mainly there to speak on Iran’s behalf with other members of the 5+1 countries and convince them of a deal.”
Iran has dispersed elements of its nuclear program to North Korea, introducing redundancy into its nuclear infrastructure that will undermine the usefulness of any deal, according to recently published articles by a range of journalists and policy analysts.
Gordon Chang of The Daily Beast highlighted the likelihood that Iran is actively conducting nuclear work on North Korean soil, and specifically working to develop and nuclear weapons. He noted that the dynamic, if confirmed, would gut the effectiveness of any nuclear deal: “Inspections inside the borders of Iran will not give the international community the assurance it needs…. while the international community inspects Iranian facilities pursuant to a framework deal, the Iranians could be busy assembling the components for a bomb elsewhere.”
The concerns would be compounded if it turns out, as The Wall Street Journal reportedlast Wednesday, that the P5+1 will allow Iran to put off making a full disclosure of its activity to the International Atomic Energy Agency until after sanctions relief has been granted, preventing inspectors from having a view of Iran’s activities even on their own soil. “[T]here is no point in signing a deal with just one arm of a multi-nation weapons effort. That’s why the P5+1 needs to know what is going on at that isolated military base in the mountains of North Korea,” Chang concluded.
The city of Tel Aviv prides itself on being a city-that-never-sleeps and new archaeology findings support that claim – even dating back 5,000 years. The Israel Antiquities Authority, which is conducting salvage excavations prior to the construction of office buildings in its city center, announced the unearthing of pottery vessels likely used to prepare beer in the Early Bronze Age. “Among the hundreds of pottery shards that characterize the local culture, a number of fragments of large ceramic basins were discovered that were made in an Egyptian tradition and were used to prepare beer,” said Diego Barkan, director of the archaeological excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The archaeologists pointed out that beer was the “national drink of Egypt” in ancient times, and that it was a basic commodity like bread. “Beer was consumed by the entire population, regardless of age, gender or status. It was made from a mixture of barley and water that was partially baked and then left to ferment in the sun,” a statement reads. Until now, Barkan said, Egyptian settlement in the Early Bronze Age (3500 – 3000 BC) was thought to be confined to the southern Negev region and around the Mediterranean coastline. “Now we know that they also appreciated what the Tel Aviv region had to offer and that they too knew how to enjoy a glass of beer, just as Tel Avivians do today,” he said. (via Israel21c)