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Surprise: Iran Negotiations Miss Deadline, 'Major Disputes' Remain

Actually, blowing through deadlines is a staple of these talks, so nobody's the least bit surprised by NBC News' report from late Monday:

A senior U.S official in Vienna said negotiators will not make tomorrow's deadline on an agreement on Iran's nuclear program. And while those involved in the talks are willing to spend a few more days hammering out details, no one will agree to a long term extension. They are also not willing to renegotiate what they say Iran agreed to in April. The U.S. and five other world powers have crafted a framework of a deal with Iran to keep it from developing nuclear weapons. Despite recent statements from the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei indicating Iran could be backtracking from the "framework" agreement negotiated in Lausanne in April, the official said "the agreement will be based on the Lausanne parameters. Period." The White House echoed a similar hardline. "If the Iranians refuse to agree to final agreement that's not consistent with framework there won't be an agreement," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said on Monday.

Those so-called Lausanne parameters -- which Iran has subsequently undermined and rejected -- weren't nearly as robust as the Obama administration's original demands.  Nevertheless, the ongoing talks persist as "major disputes" continue to hamper progress, reportedly over Iran's stubborn resistance to offering concessions on inspections, sanctions relief timelines, and full transparency regarding the military dimensions of the regime's rogue nuclear program.  In recent weeks, a string of damaging revelations have cast a dark shadow over the prospects for an acceptable deal: (1) Two European intelligence reports spelled out how Iran's nuclear cheating has continued during the negotiations, (2) experts determined that Iran's nuclear stockpile has increased significantly during this period, during which Tehran's program was ostensibly "frozen" with its stockpiles reduced, (3) the State Department once again affirmed Iran's continued status as a major state sponsor of international terrorism, concluding that the regime's malignant activities have carried on "undiminished," and (4) a prominent nuclear expert warned that President Obama's assurances about a potential deal's capacity to greatly extend Iran's "breakout" horizon have been  hugely exaggerated.  The potential agreement already makes enormous concessions to Iran, including permitting the regime to maintain a vast nuclear infrastructure, phasing out Western-imposed restrictions after one decade, and effectively acknowledging Iran's impending status as a threshold nuclear state. A powerful and bipartisan group of foreign policy heavyweights, including several former Obama administration officials, 
wrote a letter last week warning that they would oppose any Iran accord struck by the White House unless the West secures a series of robust concessions from Tehran:

A group of influential U.S. foreign-policy strategists, including five former confidants of President Barack Obama, warned the White House Wednesday they would oppose a nuclear agreement with Iran if tough terms weren’t included in a final agreement. Among the requirements identified by the former diplomats, military officers and lawmakers were intrusive snap inspections of Iran’s nuclear and military sites, a resolution of questions surrounding secretly developed nuclear-weapons technologies and a phased reduction of international sanctions on the Islamic Republic. The group also called on the White House, in a public statement, to make clear to Iran the U.S. would use military force if Tehran moved to assemble the materials and technologies for a nuclear weapon...Among the signatories were some of Mr. Obama’s closest foreign-policy advisers from his first term, including Dennis Ross, a White House Middle East strategist; David Petraeus, the former head of the Central Intelligence Agency; and Gary Samore, once the National Security Council’s nonproliferation czar. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s top adviser on nuclear proliferation issues, Robert Einhorn, also signed the statement, as did retired Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2007 to 2011.

Meanwhile, in Syria,  this is happening

U.S. intelligence agencies believe there is a strong possibility the Assad regime will use chemical weapons on a large scale as part of a last-ditch effort to protect key Syrian government strongholds if Islamist fighters and other rebels try to overrun them, U.S. officials said. Analysts and policy makers have been poring over all available intelligence hoping to determine what types of chemical weapons the regime might be able to deploy and what event or events might trigger their use, according to officials briefed on the matter...Last year, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad let international inspectors oversee the removal of what President Barack Obama called the regime’s most deadly chemical weapons. The deal averted U.S. airstrikes that would have come in retaliation for an Aug. 21, 2013, sarin-gas attack that killed more than 1,400 people. Since then, the U.S. officials said, the Assad regime has developed and deployed a new type of chemical bomb filled with chlorine, which Mr. Assad could now decide to use on a larger scale in key areas. U.S. officials also suspect the regime may have squirreled away at least a small reserve of the chemical precursors needed to make nerve agents sarin or VX.

The Assad disarmament plan was accidental US policy, forged on-the-fly after Secretary of State John Kerry accidentally misspoke. Syria's murderous dictator and Russia's Vladimir Putin took advantage of this flash of American weakness, hailing the "solution" as a diplomatic breakthrough that staved off the specter of war. At the time, you'll remember, President Obama was considering bombing Syria due to that regime's repeated and flagrant violation of the US' so-called "red line" on chemical weapons -- which had gone unpunished for more than a year. Assad proceeded to miss deadlines (sound familiar?), then routinely violate that exact same red line, forcing Kerry to concede that the White House policy had failed utterly. Now US intelligence officials are worried that Assad is about to step up his deployment of WMDs to an extraordinary levels, using the very sorts of WMDs he allegedly surrendered. Turns out he couldn't be trusted. And that the White House's self-congratulation was totally and humiliatingly misplaced.  Team Smart Power is still going full steam ahead with the Iran negotiations, though. What could go wrong?


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