Iranian Demand to Lift Ban on Arms Sales Likely to Extend Nuke Talks Beyond Deadline

While Iran wants to return to the international arms market, U.S. Congress wants 'anytime, anywhere' inspections of nuclear sites, indicating talks will not end with deal Tuesday night.

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Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif with EU's Federica Mogherini as they meet with P+5 foreign ministers. July 6 2015.
Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif with EU's Federica Mogherini as they meet with P+5 foreign ministers. July 6 2015.Credit: AFP
Anshel Pfeffer
Anshel Pfeffer

VIENNA – The Iranian nuclear talks are liable to continue beyond Tuesday, their latest deadline, after the world powers objected to some of Iran’s new demands Monday - including a call to lift an arms sales ban on the Islamic Republic.

Nevertheless, a deal is still widely expected to be reached by this weekend, since negotiators view the latest Iranian moves as mere brinkmanship. Despite declarations on both sides that they are ready to walk away – which may be intended in part to help market the agreement to both Iranian and American public opinion – neither wants to be the one who actually prevented a deal at the last minute

One new Iranian demand, apparently backed by Russia, is that in addition to ending economic sanctions on Iran, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council should also commit to passing a resolution ending the ban on arms sales to Tehran. (These five countries – America, Russia, China, Britain and France – are, together with Germany, the ones negotiating the nuclear deal with Iran.)

So far, the Americans, British and French have refused to discuss this demand, because the sanctions on arms sales aren’t related to Iran’s nuclear program, but to the fear that Tehran will transfer weaponry to various Mideast terrorist organizations. But it’s not yet clear whether this is an unequivocal Iranian demand or a mere negotiating tactic aimed at achieving concessions in other areas.

At a briefing for Western reporters in Vienna, where the talks are taking place, a senior Iranian diplomat said his country has no objection to continuing the talks beyond July 7, the deadline set last week. The previous day, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a press statement that in his view, the deadline is still tonight.

If the talks continue beyond then, the interim agreement with Iran that was signed in late 2013 will lapse. Moreover, and even worse from the Obama Administration’s perspective, it will be hard to present the final deal to the Senate before July 9, when the Foreign Relations Committee is slated to start discussing it. If committee members don’t receive the agreement by then, the time the Senate has to consider it will double, from 30 to 60 days.

A Saegheh ground-to-sea missile is fired by Iran's Revolutionary Guard during a military maneuver, April 25, 2010. Credit: AP

The committee chairman, Sen. Bob Corker, spoke with Kerry Monday and said the deal must allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to conduct “anytime, anywhere” inspections of Iran’s nuclear and military facilities. An IAEA delegation went to Tehran on Sunday to finalize the inspection procedures, but Tehran is refusing to allow inspections that aren’t approved by and coordinated with it in advance.

The Iranians have an interest in drawing out the talks to show their public that they fought over every detail in the agreement. Since last weekend, Iranian delegates to the talks have been giving interviews on Iranian television detailing the numerous concessions they obtained from the West.

Another new Iranian demand is that alongside the “snap-back” mechanism for sanctions in the event of Iranian violations, Tehran should be allowed to immediately resume high-level uranium enrichment if the West violates the sanctions-relief provisions.

One issue that remains unresolved, though progress has been made, is the timetable for removing the sanctions. Iran is seeking a very detailed timetable.

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