With less than a week to go before the deadline to reach an agreement, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei publicly rejected fundamental components of any final nuclear deal: a long-term freeze on centrifuge research and development, access to Iran’s military sites, and phased sanctions relief. He declared, “We don't accept a 10-year restriction. We have told the negotiating team how many specific years of restrictions are acceptable.” The New York Times described his statements as “[h]is...strongest yet.”
Khamenei went on to say that “[a]ll economic, financial and banking sanctions, implemented either by the United Nations Security Council, the United States Congress or the administration, must be lifted immediately when the deal is signed.” In contrast, the U.S. contends that sanctions relief should be granted in proportion to Iran’s compliance with a final deal.
Many analysts also have been clear that access to Iran’s military sites is essential to determining the extent of Iran’s past work on weaponization and, moreover, critical in preventing a covert breakout. In April, President Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes told reporters that the International Atomic Energy Agency will need have to have the ability to “inspect suspicious sites, no matter where they are.”
Khamenei delivered his remarks only a day after European foreign ministers pressed Iran to hold to the parameters reached on April 2 in Lausanne, Switzerland. Over the weekend, the Iranian parliament approved legislation that bans international inspectors’ access to military sites and scientists in any final deal. Then, according to the Associated Press, Iran’s Guardian Council, also known as “Iran's constitutional watchdog,” ratified the measure. During the vote, some lawmakers chanted “death to America.”
The latest salvo lands Wednesday, when the American Security Initiative, a bipartisan group chaired by former senators, unleashes an ad blitz, urging eight senators from both parties to oppose any nuclear deal that doesn’t allow “unconditional inspections” of Iran’s nuclear facilities. The target list includes Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader in waiting, and John Thune of South Dakota, the GOP’s chief message man, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The group will spend about $1.4 million on the ad buys, beginning Wednesday, and run a full-page ad in The New York Times on June 29. Its board of directors includes former colleagues of many of the targeted senators: Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.).
“It was a good time to get out into the discussion and to focus on eight important senators, four from each party, and just say to them: Please make clear to the administration that you’re not going to support an agreement with Iran that does not have additional inspections,” Lieberman said in an interview. “If the final agreement does not have that kind of inspection system, then I would do anything I can to urge Congress to reject it.”
Concern over the terms of the emerging nuclear deal have prompted overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate to pass a bill ensuring legislative oversight of any deal with Iran.
A number of incidents have raised concerns that the administration was retreating from demands that are considered essential to verifying that Iran cannot develop nuclear weapons. Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry made a statement indicating that the United States was not concerned with Iran’s past nuclear work. Earlier it was reported that the United States was not enforcing existing sanctions against Iran and was looking to expand the scope of sanctions relief that it would grant to Iran as part of any deal. (via TheTower.org)