By Patrick J. Kennedy Source: Providence Journal
Not surprisingly, there has been no agreement on a final nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany).
After three rounds of talks, Tehran’s nuclear weapons program remains the elephant in the room. A comprehensive solution to the crisis remains distant.
During the May talks both sides remained diplomatic. The guarded optimism over the parties drafting the text of a final solution was evident. Time has proven it unfounded optimism.
A senior U.S. official spoke of “great difficulty” in trying to move toward common positions and spoke of “significant” differences. The Iranian negotiator said differences remained on more than a dozen issues.
After talks broke down, the Iranian parliament’s deputy speaker, Mohammad Hassan Abutorabifard, proclaimed the ongoing talks in and of themselves an indication of Iranian power, comparing it to the “bullying” power the West wielded over weaker governments.
Does this seem a situation in which Iran will yield anything? To me, it doesn’t.
The same U.S. official quoted above said, “We believe there needs to be some additional realism. Time is not unlimited here. Iran still has some hard decisions to make. We're concerned that progress is not being made and that time is short, and the talks have reached the difficult moment.”
Another Western official echoed the same theme: “On some issues we would have probably expected a little bit more flexibility on their side,” meaning that Tehran was not coming to terms and Tehran is the obstructing party. Abutorabifard’s comments confirm this.
In parallel, the International Atomic Energy Agency is trying again to advance a long-stymied investigation into suspicions that Tehran may have carried out atomic bomb research.
The IAEA has been trying to get Iran to provide information about possible past military activities, including work on detonators for nuclear devices.
So we’re almost back where we started. The mullahs must make a decision — either to give up their nuclear weapons drive and get some sanctions relief or to march toward obtaining the bomb and bear the consequences. This decision can only be made by Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.
The problem with Iran is not limited to the nuclear issue. President Hassan Rouhani, dubbed by some in the West as a moderate, has done nothing to earn that portrayal. Executions have skyrocketed during his tenure, almost double the number from when his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was at the helm.
Last month, political prisoners, in particular activists of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (PMOI/MeK), the main Iranian resistance movement, were brutally attacked by guards in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran.
And on June 1, Gholamreza Khosravi Savadjani, a 49-year-old father, was hanged because he had donated money to the MeK. Amnesty International and the U.N. special rapporteur of human rights in Iran characterized the execution as a flagrant violation of international law and even the regime’s own laws.
Regionally, the mullahs’ export of terrorism and support for the Syrian dictator, Bashar Assad, continues. The Wall Street Journal reported Iran had been recruiting thousands of Afghan refugees to fight for Assad in Syria — offering $500 a month and Iranian residency.
Despite the sanctions relief, the Iranian economy is in shambles because of pervasive corruption, nepotism, mismanagement and the fact that the Revolutionary Guards and the regime’s military-intelligence apparatus control a major portion of the Iranian economy.
So, as the clock ticks toward the July 20 deadline for a comprehensive nuclear deal, scores of questions linger. Even if Tehran comes to terms, can it be trusted not to cheat again?
There is a growing voice for change in Iran. On June 27, the biggest gathering of Iranians from all over the world will be held in Paris. I will be joining nearly 100 high-level officials and dignitaries, and 500 parliamentarians from the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia and the Middle East.
The gathering will feature the Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, who has offered a 10-point platform for a future Iran and proposes a policy shift from appeasing the clerics to empowering the Iranian people.
Common sense dictates the Iranian solution should come from the Iranians. But should the West rely solely on Rouhani and his elusive moderation or should it look elsewhere?
History is a good teacher, but only if one undertakes to be a good pupil. Investing solely in the mullahs would be a huge mistake. The West should listen carefully to the message coming from Paris on June 27.
Patrick J. Kennedy, a Democrat, represented Rhode Island’s First Congressional District from 1995 until 2011.
Interview with former Iranian political prisoner Mostafa Naderi