Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, a trained nuclear physicist, is headed to Geneva, Switzerland for at least the third time in recent months to participate in the Iranian nuclear negotiations.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p>For at least the 3rd time, Energy Secretary <a href=”https://twitter.com/ErnestMoniz”>@ErnestMoniz</a> heading to Switzerland with <a href=”https://twitter.com/JohnKerry”>@JohnKerry</a> for Iranian nuclear talks.</p>— Amy Harder (@AmyAHarder) <a href=”https://twitter.com/AmyAHarder/status/576404378363437056″>March 13, 2015</a></blockquote>
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Moniz’s participation in the nuclear talks alongside Secretary of State John Kerry suggests the negotiations could be in their final stages, getting into the technicalities surrounding generating nuclear power. Moniz accompanied Kerry for talks with Iran near the end of February, where the secretaries met with Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s nuclear agency.
It’s unclear exactly how far along the talks are. Publicly, Kerry has said there “are still significant gaps” and there “is still a distance to travel,” but Moniz’s presence could mean talks are closer to completion than the Obama administration is letting on.
President Barack Obama’s overtures to Iran about a deal on its nuclear ambitions have been heavily criticized by Republican lawmakers, as well as Israel. Critics say Iran will simply use its program to obtain nuclear weapons, but Tehran insists its intentions are peaceful.
Obama reaching out to Iran also takes place in the midst of low oil prices, which have been wrecking the country’s finances for months. Iran, a member of OPEC, needs oil prices much higher to fund their government programs, but oil prices under $60 per barrel and economic sanctions have been hurting their economy.
Iran has also become a de facto ally in fighting the Islamic State, or ISIS, which has taken over large areas of Iraq and Syria. There is suspicion that Obama sees the fight against ISIS as an opportunity to repair the relationship between the U.S. and Iran.
But Republicans have said they will oppose any agreement made on Iran’s nuclear power ambitions: Forty-seven Republicans wrote to Iranian leadership this week that they “will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei.”
“The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time,” Republicans wrote.
Obama criticized Republican’s letter to Iranian leadership, saying he was “embarrassed” for them.
“I’m embarrassed for them,” Obama told Vice News. “For them to address a letter to the ayatollah — the supreme leader of Iran, who they claim is our mortal enemy — and their basic argument to them is: don’t deal with our president, because you can’t trust him to follow through on an agreement… That’s close to unprecedented.”
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