By Dmitriy Shapiro/JNS.org/Washington Jewish Week
As nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 powers approach a Nov. 24 deadline for a final deal, more than 80 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives signed an Oct. 1 letter to Secretary of State John Kerry expressing concern over Iran’s “refusal to fully cooperate” with inquiries from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N.-affiliated nuclear watchdog.
According to a report by Reuters, Iran had failed to answer questions about its research into explosive testing and neutron calculations—which are essential to the production of nuclear weapons—by an Aug. 25 deadline set by the IAEA.
The House letter states that any final deal between Iran and the P5+1 that does not fully hold the Islamic Republic accountable for meeting IAEA deadlines and inquiries would set a “dangerous precedent.” Iran should not be allowed to declare parts of its nuclear infrastructure off limits to IAEA inspections, since that condition would hinder the ability to make “accurate predictions of the period of time needed by Iran to assemble a weapon,” argue the letter’s 354 signatories.
“We believe that Iran’s willingness to fully reveal all aspects of its nuclear program is a fundamental test of Iran’s intention to uphold a comprehensive agreement,” state the letter’s authors, House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY). “As you (Kerry) wrote in the Washington Post earlier this summer, if Iran’s nuclear program is truly peaceful, ‘it’s not a hard proposition to prove.’ The only reasonable conclusion for its stonewalling of international investigators is that Tehran does indeed have much to hide.”
“We would like to achieve a negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis,” the letter adds. “As negotiations resume, we urge you to carefully monitor Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA’s inquiry.”
The interim nuclear agreement reached by Iran and world powers in 2013 led to the lifting of some of America’s economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic, and more sanctions relief is expected if a final deal is reached. During a meeting at the White House on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned President Barack Obama not to ease up on Iran. Despite the presence of various threats in the Middle East—including the Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic State terror groups—Iran remains Israel’s biggest concern, according to Netanyahu.
“As you know, Mr. President, Iran seeks a deal that would lift the tough sanctions that you’ve worked so hard to put in place, and leave it as a threshold nuclear power. I fervently hope that under your leadership that would not happen,” the prime minister said.
The P5+1 negotiations recently entered their final phase, beginning with trilateral meetings between the between Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. In a recent indication that a final nuclear deal may not be reached, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqi said Iran is unlikely to agree to extend the talks beyond their late-November deadline.
“If it would be a deal, let’s do it now, an extension would be useless and difficult,” Araqi told the Japanese Kyodo News Agency.
Reacting to Araqi’s remarks on the prospects for the nuclear talks, Gabriel Pedreira, communications director of the United Against Nuclear Iran advocacy group, told The Algemeiner that now is the time to “come down like a ton of bricks on this [Iranian] regime.”
“We want an economic blockade if real change doesn’t come about,” said Pedreira. “We haven’t seen a single concession from the Iranians, nor has even one centrifuge been destroyed.”