Financial relief offered by world powers for a nuclear agreement isn’t enough for Iran, new reports from Tehran on Friday suggest.
The Middle Eastern country is demanding the removal of major sanctions on its oil and banking activities and acceptance of its right to nuclear enrichment before any agreement can be reached.
The reports state that the Islamic regime has been offered access to frozen assets of about $50 billion, along with other concessions on importation of necessary products, if it halts enrichment at the 20 percent level. It would be allowed to enrich at a level below 5 percent.
According to Mashregh News, the regime’s media outlet run by the Revolutionary Guards intelligence division, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for European and American affairs, Majid Takht Ravanchi, said the oil and banking sanctions must be ended as a first step.
Meanwhile, Irannuc.ir, an outlet close to the Guards, reported that the snag in negotiations and the reason for Secretary of State John Kerry’s travel to Geneva (the site of the current round of negotiations) is that the decision for the level of sanctions relief demanded by Iran and the recognition of its right to enrichment could not be made by deputy ministers representing the 5+1 world powers. Approval was needed from higher officials — hence the travel to Geneva by Kerry and other 5+1 foreign ministers. The Russian foreign minister reportedly will join the rest on Saturday.
The second round of talks in Geneva over Iran’s illicit nuclear program began on Thursday, with the White House saying it was hopeful that an initial deal could be finalized.
Iran has over 19,000 centrifuges and over 10 tons of enriched uranium — sufficient for several nuclear bombs — that could be converted to weaponized grade within a short time.
However, despite an offer of relief in exchange for a modest curtailment of Iran’s nuclear program, regime leaders insist major sanctions be removed first before they will commit to any agreement. That insistence includes, in writing, an acceptance of Iran’s right to enrich uranium and build additional nuclear power plants.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already called the proposed deal by the West on limited sanctions relief without stopping Iran’s enrichment process a “very bad deal” for the West, but the “deal of the century for Iran.”
While Iran demands removal of major sanctions as a first step, it also demanded that it be permitted to keep its nuclear program. As The Daily Caller reported on Wednesday, Iran set the following conditions:
A recognition of its right to nuclear energy and its need to expand the program.
All rights of Iran under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons must be recognized, including uranium enrichment.
Iran must have the right to expand its nuclear power plants and have the right to build anywhere in the country.
To fulfill the needs of these power plants, Iran must have the right to build further facilities for uranium enrichment anywhere in the country, whether in a huge desert or under soaring mountains, and be able to increase the number of centrifuges.
Iran must have the right to export nuclear fuel and not be required to import such for its facilities.
The last report from Tehran suggests that talks were temporarily halted between Kerry, the EU’s first High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. But after a reported phone call between President Obama and Netanyahu, the negotiations continued into the night.
Negotiations are likely to continue on Saturday.
Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and author of the award-winning book “A Time to Betray” (Simon & Schuster, 2010). He serves on the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and the advisory board of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran (FDI).