Iran talks extended – again


Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in this photo from last summer. The ongoing nuclear talks have been extended through Friday. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]
Iran nuclear talks were extended yet again as negotiators continued to work toward a final deal.

The current interim nuclear arrangement with Iran was extended from a Tuesday deadline through Friday to allow P5+1 negotiators to work through unresolved issues, according to the State Department. Secretary of State John Kerry was slated to remain in Vienna for the continuation of the talks.

Marie Harf, senior advisor for strategic communications at the State Department, said via Twitter, that those involved are more concerned about the quality of a deal “than about the clock.”

“We are taking these negotiations day to day,” she wrote. “We’ve made substantial progress in every area, but this work is highly technical [and] high stakes for all of the countries involved.”

It’s unclear if there has been any compromise on the demands recently outlined by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, supreme leader of Iran. He insisted on a quick easing of sanctions, rejected inspections of military sites and ruled out the possibility of a multi-year freeze on sensitive nuclear work.

The ayatollah’s demands are at odds with the red lines outlined by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee which have proven influential in Congress. The organization wants “anytime and anywhere” nuclear inspections, which would include Iranian military sites, a decades long block on “Iran’s nuclear weapons quest,” and dismantling of existing Iranian nuclear infrastructure and sanctions relief to be predicated on “ongoing verification” of Iranian compliance.

State Department spokesperson John Kirby toed the party line at a press briefing Monday, saying, “As the president said last week and as the secretary repeated himself yesterday, we will only accept a deal that effectively closes off Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon, and it will have to be a deal that can stand up to the scrutiny of not just our experts, but experts around the world.”

Getting into semantics, Federica Mogherini, European Union foreign policy chief, maintained that the missed dates were not “deadlines” but extensions.

“We are continuing to negotiate for the next couple of days. This does not mean we are extending our deadlines,” said Mogherini, according to the news agency Reuters. Mogherini added that the interpretation of the talks’ deadlines was “flexible.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the chief Iranian diplomat present at the talks, also affirmed that deadlines were less important than a good dealing, leading a reporter to ask Kirby if there is a point at which the United States will walk away.

“I just don’t think we’re in a position right now where we can answer that question,” Kirby said. “We’re not unmindful of deadlines that had been set before. But what [Kerry] is really focused on more than anything is getting or making sure that if we get a deal it’s a good deal, it’s the right deal.”

Semantics aside, if a deal is delivered to Congress past July 9, it automatically goes into a 60-day review period. During that time, no congressionally imposed sanctions on Iran will be lifted.

Regardless of the outcome of the extended talks, a coalition of pro-Israel groups, mostly aligned with conservative causes, have scheduled a “Stop Iran Now” rally for July 22 in New York’s Times Square. Confirmed speakers for the rally include James Woolsey, former director of the CIA; Alan Dershowitz, legal scholar; Allen West, a former Republican congressman Florida; and Paul Vallely, a former Army major general.

Co-sponsors include Jewish Rapid Response Coalition, Christians United for Israel, the Jewish National Fund, the Republican Jewish Coalition and the Zionist Organization of America.

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein declined to predict how many participants are expected at the rally, but hopes the number will be in the thousands. According to the event website, the New York City Police Department is preparing for 20,000 people.

“This is not a bad deal. This is a catastrophe,” said Klein. “This supplies nuclear weapons to the Adolf Hitler of the Middle East, Khamenei.”

ZOA supporters, he said, are pressing every member of the House and Senate to not only vote against a potential deal with Iran, but also to support Israel should the Jewish State decide to take military action against Iran.
Added Klein, “What President [Barack] Obama is doing is an absolute disaster and I have to think that he is not interested in Israel or in Israel’s survival.”

JTA contributed to this report.
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