Immoral, unconscionable that U.S. agrees to another nuke talks extension

Iran-Talks-Geneva congrats

Representatives of the P5+1 world powers plus Iran congratulate themselves after agreement to negotiate a pact within 6-months that would limit Iran’s nuclear weapons capabilities. That was a year ago.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Wendy Sherman sit across from Iran’s FM Moh. Javad Zarif before one of several bilateral meetings in Vienna, Austria. (Photo: US State Dept.)

When the nuclear talks began, Iran was required to show no more ‘good will’ than to show up at the negotiating table and talk. And talk they have!

Iran gets ‘paid’ $.7 billion every month just for talking as the U.S. unfreeze a portion of their funds. Some months in the past year, they never even met, but still got paid. Iran benefits in other ways even now by the reduced sanctions including legal and illegal oil sales. Also the sale of mined gold and silver is now possible. Oil is also bartered with Russia for goods and services that Iran needs.

Clearly Iran’s economy has already improved as a result of the nuke talks. But what ‘good will’ gesture or benefit has the U.S. received from Iran? None. And Iran still occupies the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran that they invaded and where 52 hostages were held for 444 days from 1979-1981.

Iran also holds 4 Americans hostages today. You may hear them referred to as prisoners or detainees. But they committed no real crimes. The most recent is a Washington Post reporter, Jason Rezaian. Amir Hekmati is a former U.S. Marine who was visiting his 2 elderly grandmothers on his first visit to Iran. Pastor Saeed Abedini, a convert to Christianity, was trying to build and operate an orphanage. Finally, a retired FBI/CIA man who may have been on a secret fact-finding assignment, but was kidnapped after one day and night on Iran’s KISH Island, which requires no entry visa. U.S. officials believe Iran knows where he is and have requested Iran’s assistance in returning him to his family.

When the Joint Plan of Action (JPA) agreement was signed late last year, the final session went well past midnight into the wee hours. Weary eyed, the lead negotiators finally appeared before the cameras and announced that a “temporary agreement” had been hammered out. That agreement essentially said they would continue to meet for six months to negotiate a “permanent agreement” to control the Iranian nuclear program and prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Not many believed the task would be completed in six months, by July 20 2014, considering the hot topic had been negotiated for years with nothing to show for it. It didn’t help that Iran and the U.S. had no diplomatic relations for nearly 35 years after the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

Regarding the four Americans held hostage today, we have heard nothing new about their status in recent days. Officially they are not even on the P5+1 agenda. But John Kerry and Wendy Sherman of the U.S. State Department have given multiple assurances that the plight of the Americans has been discussed at every meeting with Iran “on the sidelines.” Even President Obama said he raised the subject of prisoner exchanges with Iran’s President Rouhani back in September 2013. The U.S. is holding an estimated 20 to 25 Iranian nationals in Federal prisons for various crimes.

John Kerry’s arrival at the Vienna nuclear talks this week was delayed in order to tighten up his talking points meeting with European and Omani Foreign Ministers. Earlier, France’s Laurent Fabius almost scuttled the temporary agreement by calling it a “sucker’s deal.” And Oman is significant at this time for the role they played in several prisoner exchanges in the past.



Kerry zarif ashton n Omani host 11 2014Oman is not needed today as a ‘nuclear negotiator’ as some news outlets today have suggested. John Kerry and the US State Department no longer go through secretive steps in order to communicate with Iran, as they did up to and including 2013. Now they only need to make a phone call to their counterparts or look across the negotiating table.

However Oman did play a vital role from 2010-2013 in two ways. First, they served as a limited, but very important, conduit for messages between America and Tehran. This is because of the severed ties between U.S. and Iran following the 1979 Embassy takeover. Secondly, to establish ‘good will,’ three U.S. prisoners were exchanged for four Iranians held in U.S. prisons. Oman was involved every step of the way. First, by negotiating and arranging large bail payoffs (estimated as high as half a billion USD each for the American hikers charged and convicted as spies by Iran). Oman was also the air transit hub where the Iranian and U.S. prisoners were exchanged. Even now Oman, situated just across the Gulf from Iran, is one of the few countries regularly flying in and out of Tehran.

A grand final agreement ahead of schedule, on anything including the American hostages, is not expected until the ’11th hour’ on November 24. Or perhaps the 25th or 26th ahead of Thanksgiving Day in America, which is the 27th. Next week, the Iran nuclear talks will be followed by only a small percentage of Americans. Most will be preoccupied with the major holiday, travel, football and shopping for bargains.

The outlook for a successful nuclear resolution appears to be extremely low. That is, the actual prevention of Iran’s development of nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them seems unlikely. However, there are reasons to believe that the U.S. and P5+1 nations will come to some type of ‘final agreement’ with Iran soon, and thus begin the renewal of normal relations between world powers and Iran.

The risky alternative that nobody says they want is to delay the negotiations again by 2 to 4 months. The one year ‘anniversary’ for the talks would be January 20, 2015.  Any extension into the new year could run afoul of the newly empowered GOP Senate, with the help of sympathetic Democrats. They may be prone to slap on new, stronger economic sanctions, which would likely drive Iran further away from a deal or significantly delay it. Iran has already discovered ways around the ‘strict sanctions’ including banking through China and buying military hardware, such as helicopters, via clandestine third parties. They can also barter oil for export to Russia and others for needed goods and services.

Therefore, right now is the best time for the United States to press its demands for the release of all American detainees as part of any deal with Iran. It would be unconscionable and immoral if the U.S. this week makes a ‘final agreement’ or delays the negotiations again without resolving the cases of four Americans who are wrongly held in Iran today. They are, in order of their capture date: Robert ‘Bob’ Levinson, Amir Hekmati, Pastor Saeed Abedini and reporter Jason Rezaian.  All are U.S. Citizens and deserve to be home with their families! They are Iran’s pawns now.







Updated – 11/22/2014 15:00 ET