A top Iranian official reiterated yesterday that Tehran will refuse to discuss its ballistic missile program in the context of comprehensive negotiations over its nuclear program with the international community, the latest in a long line of statements underlining that the Islamic republic views the issue as a red line.
“Issues related to our missile program and defensive capabilities lie outside the negotiations and we may never accept to discuss this issue,” Deputy Foreign Minister for European and American Affairs Majid Takht Ravanchi, who is also a senior member of the Iranian team of negotiators in the talks with the sextet, told reporters in Tehran on Wednesday.
The dispute has the potential to impact the domestic policy debate in the United States both substantively and politically. Substantively, the issue is tangled up in a broader debate over the degree to which Iran will be forced to account for or roll back suspected military dimensions of its atomic program. Iranian negotiators had this week sought already to delay discussions wholesale of all such dimensions, which range from warhead development to the involvement of the Iranian military in uranium production.
Politically an outright Iranian refusal is likely to erode confidence in the Obama administration’s diplomatic nimbleness. Iranian negotiators had managed to exclude mention of Iran’s missile program from the interim Joint Action Plan (JPA), an omission that White House figures justified to lawmakers and journalists as justified for the sake of building momentum. Lead U.S. diplomacy, including lead negotiator Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, instead insisted that Iran’s ballistic missile program would be addressed in comprehensive negotiations.
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