US Torpedos Diplomacy: Responds to Iran’s Historic Outreach with Punishing New Sanctions

December 13th, 2013 - by admin

BBC World News & Jason Ditz / – 2013-12-13 21:18:01

Iran Nuclear Talks Halted Amid
Row over US Sanctions

BBC World News

(December 13, 2013) — Iran’s delegation has left talks on the implementation of a deal over its nuclear programme after the expansion of a US sanctions blacklist. US Secretary of State John Kerry said he expected the talks to resume in the next few days.

Iran said the US actions went against the spirit of an agreement brokered in Geneva last month. Under the deal Iran agreed to curb some nuclear activities for six months in return for sanctions relief.

As part of the deal, inspectors from the UN’s nuclear agency visited Iran’s Arak heavy water production plant on 8 December for the first time in more than two years.

Iranian negotiators had been meeting with representatives of the “P5+1” group (US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany) this week in Vienna to discuss technical details of the deal would be implemented.

However, on Thursday the US announced it was putting more than a dozen companies and people onto a blacklist for trying to evade sanctions against Iran.
Iranian officials denounced the move.

“This is a game of double standards — it is not in accord with the talks we have had and it is against the spirit of the Geneva agreement,” senior Iranian diplomat Abbas Araqchi told Iranian media.

Talks ‘Progress’
Russia, which has more cordial relations with Iran than Western states, also criticised the US.

“Widening American blacklists could seriously complicate the fulfilment of the Geneva agreement,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Reuters.However, Mr. Kerry said that the talks were “making progress.”

“I think we’re at a point in those talks where folks feel a need to consult, take a moment,” Mr Kerry told reporters.

Israeli and American critics of the Geneva deal say it gives Iran cover to expand the programme. Earlier this week Mr. Kerry defended the deal before a panel in Congress and resisted calls to introduce additional sanctions.

Western nations have long accused of Iran of seeking to acquire a nuclear weapon, but Iran says the programme is for solely peaceful ends.

US Might Okay ‘Non-Nuclear’ Iran Sanctions
State Dept: We Only Promised No New Nuclear Sanctions

Jason Ditz /

(December 12, 2013) — Underscoring the incredibility bad faith in which the US is negotiating with Iran, the State Department’s head negotiator for Iran talks, Undersecretary Wendy Sherman, insisted that Congress could theoretically keep slapping new sanctions on Iran so long as they didn’t make it about their civilian nuclear program.

“We’d have to look at what the specific language was,” Sherman noted, after being questioned by the Senate Banking Committee about the possibility of imposing new sanctions on Iran for “terrorism.”

Sherman went on to say that “the only commitment we have made in this agreement is no new nuclear-related sanctions.” Since the “why” behind US sanctions is usually little more than an afterthought, that suggests the deal is no deal at all.

Though Sherman didn’t suggest such sanctions were planned, the comments clearly give the Senate cover to try to pump out new rounds of sanctions on whatever other flimsy pretext they can, so long as they avoid the word “nuclear.”

Whatever the case, such moves are likely to seriously harm diplomacy with Iran and give a boost to hardliners in the Iranian government who have insisted the US couldn’t be trusted to keep its end of the bargain.

US Adds to Iran Sanctions, Warns Congress Not to Act
Blacklists Several Companies Over ‘Prohibited Trade’

Jason Ditz /

(December 12, 2013) — The Obama Administration issues daily warnings to Congress not to impose new sanctions on Iran, noting that such deals dramatically threaten the ongoing diplomacy with the nation. Today was no different.

Actually it was a little different. Though the administration made its same warning to Congress, they also unveiled new sanctions blacklisting more than a dozen companies that do business with Iran.

The puzzling move was followed by a declaration from Treasury undersecretary David Cohen, who yesterday denied any sanctions had been eased, and today warned the world that “Iran is still off limits.”

Technically the new sanctions don’t target Iran directly, but rather Iran’s trading partners, allowing the administration some level of deniability about adding to the sanctions against Iran. It remains to be seen if Iran will view it that way, however, and whether or not it will harm the diplomatic discussion that is ongoing.

Iran Quits Talks Over Latest US Sanctions
Jason Ditz /

(December 13, 2013) — Last month’s key P5+1 deal with Iran was the crowning achievement of years of diplomacy, and the Obama Administration has made much of trying to protect the deal, warning Congress against passing any new sanctions because that would violate the terms of the agreement.

But it is the administration itself that has put the deal in serious jeopardy, having imposed a series of new sanctions against Iran’s trading partners yesterday. Iran’s negotiating team is now leaving the Vienna talks and returning to Tehran, leaving open the question of whether or not the talks will resume.

Iran’s chief negotiator, Deputy FM Abbas Araqchi, explained the decision to quit the current talks was made because the US move violated “the spirit” of the P5+1 deal, which included an explicit pledge to impose no new sanctions against Iran for six months. The Iranian government is now said to be evaluating the situation and whether they can continue the talks at all.

The Obama Administration had argued the new sanctions “technically” didn’t violate the deal because they didn’t hit Iran directly, but rather a bunch of Iran’s trading partners for doing business with Iran. The administration also says the timing of the move was “coincidental.”

Yet it’s hard to see how it could be, and after repeatedly warning Congress against moves that could threaten the talks they appear to have gone out of their way to test the limits of the agreement.

EU officials say they believe the talks will resume at some point, but the damage may be done either way, and even if Iran does agree to return to the talks it will likely be with a much more skeptical eye toward the exact terms of any deal, since the US has shown itself more than willing bend their interpretation.

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