Iranian officials and media outlets on Thursday continued to press their recent and repeated position that the scope of comprehensive nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 global powers will be limited to topics addressed in the interim Joint Plan of Action (JPA), risking a scenario in which the Obama administration may appear as having been badly out-maneuvered by Iranian negotiators.
“Our framework is based on the Geneva accord (reached last November) and they (the six world powers) agreed on the point that only issues related to Iran’s nuclear program can be negotiated in these talks,” Zarif said in Vienna on Thursday following a new round of talks with the world powers. “We announced officially that our [nuclear energy] program will continue and we will not shut down any site,” said the Iranian minister, reiterating the “fully peaceful” nature of Iran’s nuclear energy program.
The claim was made earlier this week by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who repeated it on Thursday in Geneva. Iranian media trumpeted both sets of comments, specifically emphasizing that the stance precludes discussions of Iran’s ballistic missile program. The Iranian position threatens to deflate the Obama administration’s air of confident diplomacy in multiple ways. White House officials had justified precluding certain topics from the JPA – up to and including the development of Iranian missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons – by insisting the interim agreement was designed to be limited, and that the momentum it provided would create opportunities for discussing broader issues later on. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman subsequently went further, explicitly assuring lawmakers that Iran’s ballistic missile program would be a subject for final nuclear talks.
“It is true that in these first six months we’ve not shut down all of their production of any ballistic missile that could have anything to do with delivery of a nuclear weapon,” Sherman told lawmakers during a hearing on the nuclear deal. “But that is indeed something that has to be addressed as part of a comprehensive agreement.”
Evidence that the administration has badly mismanaged the agenda of comprehensive talks is likely to fuel growing calls for strict Congressional oversight of administration moves as the diplomatic processes unfolds.
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