The collapse of the Iran nuclear talks in Geneva because France did not want to get hoodwinked by Iran’s regime has been a great source of embarrassment for the Obama administration. After all, when dealing with a remarkably devious regime in Tehran, a socialist French government has flexed more diplomatic muscle to stop, to quote French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, “a fool’s deal.”
According to a Reuters report, the deal could have offered “the disbursement to Iran in installments of up to about $50 billion of Iranian funds blocked in foreign accounts for years.” President Obama said today that the concessions offered to Iran will provide sanctions relief “at the margins.” Secretary of State Kerry mirrored Obama’s talking points, saying only a “tiny portion” of the economic sanctions would be lifted.
Admittedly, the full details of the offer made by the major powers to Iran have not been disclosed. However, the Obama administration has largely been negotiating with itself. Iran refuses to comply with six U.N. resolutions calling for full suspension of its illicit nuclear-enrichment program, and Secretary Kerry no longer holds the U.N. requirements as a pre-condition to meeting an interim deal. Iran also continues to insist on its right to enrich uranium as part of any phased or final settlement.
After the breakdown in talks, Reuters disclosed in an in-depth report that Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has amassed a $95 billion fortune. Part of his empire even includes a factory that produces birth-control pills, though the Supreme Leader opposes contraception. He accumulated some of his wealth through obscene and illegal means, including the seizure of property from Iranians in exile and religious minorities.
All of this makes Kerry’s desire to reach a rapid-fire deal — without real and meaningful action from Iran — even more perplexing.
The Obama administration should withdraw the offer of an interim agreement and negotiate a package deal to stop Iran’s drive to build a nuclear-weapons device. For Iran to reenter the civilized world it needs to ship its enriched uranium outside of the country, shut down all enrichment, remove its reported 19,000 centrifuges, stop its military and financial assistance to Hezbollah and Assad’s regime in Syria, and close its Arak and Fordow nuclear plants (and the Parchin weapons plant). New enhanced congressional sanctions that slash Iran’s oil exports to zero may very well contribute to reaching a non-fool’s deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran — we shall see if we get them.
— Benjamin Weinthal is a Berlin-based fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow Benjamin on Twitter @BenWeinthal.