Cold Reaction

Washington push for Iran sanctions complicated by nuclear fuel deal


Cold Reaction
by Trita Parsi

A noticeable irritation can be sensed in Washington. After months of investing in a new UN Security Council resolution and an escalation of the conflict and apparently winning agreement among the permanent members of the council for such a measure two emerging powers had the audacity to intervene and find a solution. Brazil and Turkey should keep their expectations low, however, because there will not be any thank you party for them in Washington anytime soon.

Only two days after the announcement of the Brazilian-Turkish brokered deal with Iran that would see 1,200 kg of Iran's low enriched uranium shipped out of the country, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a Senate panel that the United States and its partners seeking new sanctions against Iran have come up with a draft proposal for a new round of penalties. UN Ambassador Susan Rice held a press conference at the UN today unveiling the new resolution.

A day earlier, State Department spokesman PJ Crowley spoke dismissively about the Brazilian-Turkish deal. "The United States continues to have concerns about the arrangement. The joint declaration does not address core concerns of the international community," Crowley said, "Iran remains in defiance of five U.N. Security Council resolutions, including its unwillingness to suspend enrichment operations." Crowley then went on to link the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) deal with the Security Council demand for a suspension of Iran's enrichment activities. "Public statements today suggest that the TRR deal is unrelated to its ongoing enrichment activity. In fact they are integrally linked," he said.

These developments have taken many observers by surprise. Linking the TRR deal to suspension of enrichment is a new component it was the White House itself that decided last year to go forward with a deal to swap Iran's LEU for fuel rods without a suspension in order to throw back Iran's break out capability.

Furthermore, the earlier justification for the sanctions push was a reaction to Iran's failure to accept the swap proposal presented to it in October 2009. Administration officials stated on numerous occasions that sanctions would only be pursued if the diplomatic track failed to produce results. Sanctions would be needed to get Iran back to the table and to convince them to accept the deal.

Analysis: Washington Had Sudden Change of Heart
The sudden change of heart in Washington is particularly surprising mindful of the fact that the three objections Iran lodged against the 2009 TRR deal that the LEU needed to be shipped out in one shipment, that the swap would take place outside of Iran, and that the fuel rods would be delivered to Iran nine to twelve months have now all been withdrawn. Iran has agreed to the terms the US insisted on.

This may explain Namik Tan's, the Turkish Ambassador to the US, comments to the Associated Press, "We have delivered what they were asking for..If we fail to get a positive reaction it would be a real frustration."

But there are several factors that can shed light on Washington's apparent reluctance to take yes for an answer.

First, the Senate and the House are in the final phase of sending a broad sanctions bill to the President. The bill has several problems from the White House's perspective, including its limitations of Presidential waivers as well as the impact it will have on US allies who will be subjected to these sanctions.

Progress on the UN Security Council track has in the past few months been an important instrument to hold back Congress's own sanctions push. With Congress eager to sanction Iran, particularly now when the Brazilian-Turkish deal conceivably could derail or delay the UN sanctions track, the Obama administration feels the need to pacify the Congressional sanctions track by accelerating the UN sanctions track.

Second, the Brazilian-Turkish deal explicitly recognizes Iran's right to enrichment and would, as a result, eliminate the option of pursuing the zero-enrichment objective. While most analysts agree that the zero-enrichment objective simply isn't feasible, the White House has kept its options open on this issue. It has neither publicly confirmed it as a goal, nor rejected it. This, it has been argued, would provide the US with leverage. Even if it no longer is America's red line, it can still be America's opening position in a negotiation, the argument reads.

Does Washington's Reservations Hurt Obama's Attempt to Assert DC Diplomacy?
Third, there is a sense in the Obama administration that after the events of last year, a nuclear deal with Iran could only be sold domestically if Iran is first punished through a new round of sanctions. Only after a new round of sanctions would there be receptivity in Washington for a nuclear agreement with Iran. Hence, any nuclear deal that comes before a new round of sanctions would complicate the Obama administration's domestic challenges. A deal without punishment even a good deal simply wouldn't be enough.

Understandably, Washington's reaction to the Brazilian-Turkish deal has created some apprehension in the international community. The Obama administration has worked diligently to overcome the credibility gap America developed with the international community under President George W. Bush. One element of this effort was to utilize diplomacy as a premier tool of US foreign policy.

Punitive measures such as war or sanctions would no longer be the instruments of first resort. But the reaction to the Brazilian-Turkish deal may undo some of the progress the Obama administration has achieved with the international community. Washington's lack of appreciation for the breakthrough may fuel suspicions of whether sanctions are pursued to achieve success in diplomacy, or whether diplomacy was pursued to pave the way for sanctions and beyond.

First published by ABC
News Internet Ventures

Dr. Trita Parsi is the President of the National Iranian American Council and the 2010 recipient of the Grawemeyer award for Ideas improving World Order.


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I believe Landan-nNeshin and Vildemose sum it up very well

by Bavafa on

US policy for the last 30 years has been to bring IR under its sphere of influence and control. Iran's resistance to take orders from the "world's policeman" or the "world's mobster" depending on your view of things, is not setting right with Washington. What makes this new deal even worse, now the nations that are suppose to be taking orders themselves are raising and becoming part of the decision making process. That surely does not go well at all with Washington either. The irony is that more and more nations of order-takers are joining forces and resisting the master/slave relationship.



These developments have

by benross on

These developments have taken many observers by surprise.

No, just you. What's the point of swapping enriched uranium if IRI continues to enrich it on its own. The issue has never been peaceful nuclear energy. The issue was -and is- nuclear weapon making capability.

You are getting very close to insulting our intelligence Mr. Parsa. 


Juan Cole calls NIAC, "the

by vildemose on

Juan Cole calls NIAC, "the most effective Iranian-American Lobby"???

Whatever the hell that means??Who are they lobbying on behalf of??


There are four domestic political forces affecting Iran policy. The War Hawks, including the more hard line of the Israel lobbies, would like to see the US back on the war footing with Iran characteristic of the late Bush administration. The pragmatic hawks such as US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, aware of how ruinous entering a third war would be for the US at this point, would at least like to see the imposition of robust sanctions. The Realists, exemplified by Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, would like to see engagement and negotiation with the regime in Tehran, even at the cost of ignoring the Islamic Republic’s crackdown on the Green Movement and massive human rights violations. The Democratic left and the National Iranian American Council (the most effective Iranian-American lobby) would like to see a rapprochement with Iran, but urge continued pressure by the West on the regime to open up and to cease its authoritarian measures.



There are many factors that

by vildemose on

There are many factors that go into shaping US policy on Iran. Oil/gas is an obvious and not so obvious ones such as not giving into what they regard as terrorists and terrorism from hostage taking to khobab and Beirut bombing....

Israel is another obvious one and neither will tolerate opposition to their hegemonic designs. Regime change is the starting point and all sanctions and maneuvers are designed with that in mind. If Iran didn’t have a uranium enrichment program other issues would be offered up for the tightening of the screws. Add to that Iranian influence in Iraqi politics and the outlook gets even more gloomier.


This Anomaly Called USA

by Landan-Neshin on

Those who have travelled the world a bit more than George W Bush had before assuming the role of the world's policeman ( just once across the border to Mexico for a bit of a good time) have witnessed that no matter where you might be in the world, the term "American" is synonymous with "Buffoon". Now, the $64m. question is Why? and that's a question for people in certain positions such as Mr. Parsi!

The global US foreign policy aside, on Iran alone, any objective observer, with a dash of historical perspective in hand, would conclude one thing and one thing alone: that the US hasn't got a clue what it wants or can do about Iran.

 All they have told the world since 1979, from Carter to Reagan,and then to Clinton and Bush to the present day's Obama is that we don't like the IRI and wish it to go away! And, of course, it hasn't happened and it won't just because all the tenants of the White House in the last 31 years had wished it to happen.

The world didn't work that way 45 years ago when the might of the US Armed Forces had to accept defeat at the hands the bare footed guerrilla army of the Viet Kong,nor would it work today that China is owed $3trillion by the US as Washington struggles to find a face saving exit strategy from Iraq and Afghanistan.

This begs the question 'who decides for America?'

Only a day after Washington's very 'telling' reaction to the Turkey,Iran,Brazil agreement, The only non-American American, who had the vision to guide the US towards a more realistic foreign policy in the last four decades, said bluntly that Washington should think again.

Henry Kissinger, who as National Security Adviser to Nixon, started direct talks with North Vietnam to end the war and carried out secret visits to Peking at the time of Mao's red revolution, said " more sanctions against Iran won't work"

The US political class, regardless of Party affiliations, has demonstrated time and time again that it has a problem with IRI that it can't define.

If anybody, and I mean anybody from anywhere and with whatever political view, believes that whatever Mr. Ahmadinejad said about Israel, or the dispute over the presidential elections or, whether there are any homosexuals in Iran or not, or can women divorce their husbands or take part in football matches or anything else that you can think of under the blue sky is giving shape to the hostile American policy toward IRI, please forgive me,but think again as I believe that you are missing the point by a long shot. 

It is common knowledge that there are some Iranians within and without Iran that are hoping for the US to do something to change the political system in Iran, whatever their reasons or motives, they should look at two determining factors: historical reality and prevalent circumstances.

By dismissing the Tehran accord, in my view, the US has revealed the cards that so far had kept relatively close to its chest, namely, the US demands nothing less than Iran's total capitulation on its nuclear policy.

This, first of all, proves that Iran's rejection of the previous swap deal was totally justified, as Washington is now saying that no nuclear fuel for Tehran's research reactor should be supplied before the total suspension of the enrichment activities.

Secondly, it goes to show how off the mark the US policy makers are. Although the EU, Russia and China have not openly said so, but the accepted wisdom now is that, like it or not, Iran is a nuclear state and what is required now is to make sure that there will be no circumstance under which Iran would seek to turn it into a military capability. Even most American analysts now seem to accept this as a realistic and pragmatic solution, but, not those who have been advising successive US presidents.

Finally, Washington, in all its buffoonery in foreign affairs, is now fuming with anger and frustration, not only because of Tehran's brinkmanship, but because now its ardent servants, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey, that are openly saying enough is enough of double standards.

They've stated that you can not talk of a Middle East free of nuclear weapons and only blame and threaten the one country that, by your own admission has no nuclear weapons, and keep a 40 year deadly silence on another regional country that you helped to stockpile more nuclear bombs than France and UK's combined. 

Perhaps the scholars of the US foreign policy would find it thought provoking as to why when the former US president, Jimmy Carter, in his book confirmed Israel's big nuclear weapons stockpile, Washington and Tel Aviv called it "speculative and irresponsible".         




Coincidence after coincidence?

by Fred on

With this opinion piece the lifetime president and chief lobbyist for NIAC lobby has some explaining to do of his own.

Speaking about the Turkish/Brazilian deal with IRR, the Islamist Rapist Republic, the NIAC lobbyist says: “two emerging powers had the audacity to intervene and find a solution.”

1- The 1200 Kilo deal the NIAC lobbyist labels as the “solution” was when that amount of illegally enriched uranium constituted the majority of the stock the Islamists had at their disposal to build a bomb.

During the time IRR has been defying legally binding UNSC orders to stop their illegal enrichment activities the Islamists have enriched much more uranium, the 1200 kilo is an irrelevant amount now.

As a kicker, IRR has officially announced their 20% enrichment of uranium will continue which given enrichment being the subject of concern for the sane world, NIAC lobbyist’s “solution” is wholly tarnished.   

2- The chief NIAC lobbyist has to explain why he personally and his lobby almost always prefer to take the side which at final analysis is favorable to IRR, is it all some sort of coincidence after coincidence?