Talks resumed in Vienna on Tuesday between Iran and the P5+1 negotiating partners (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) on a permanent agreement on Iran’s nuclear program with new information that Iran was aggressively moving ahead not only with its nuclear weapons program but also with a program to develop ballistic missiles to deliver those weapons.
Last week, Iran boasted it had successfully tested two domestically produced medium range ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear payloads to targets as far afield as Israel, Turkey, Russia and the Balkans.
The interim agreement reached in Geneva last November and hailed by the Obama Administration as a great advance in relations between the West and the revolutionary Islamic Republic addressed only Iran’s uranium enrichments programs. It did not address Iran’s ballistic missiles program, its advanced nuclear trigger research program, its leading role sponsoring global terrorism, nor its egregious domestic human rights violations.
America’s lead negotiator, Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, and her Iranian counterpart held more than an hour of one-on-one talks Tuesday in the Austrian capital.
Sherman was also one of America’s top negotiator and long defender of the notorious 1994 Agreed Framework Accord between the United States and North Korea that offered billions in aid and energy supplies in exchange for North Korean promises not to develop nuclear weapons. North Korea took the aid and used the negotiating period to accelerate its development of nuclear weapons. It has since conducted three successful nuclear tests and is rapidly expanding its arsenal of nuclear weapons.
In a reaction that stunned observers of the Geneva process and raised renewed questions about the Obama Administration competence if not objectives, U.S. officials claimed they were “surprised” by the missile tests because they were confident that, like the U.S., Iran was interested in improving relations and would therefore work hard to dial back provocative actions.
Not only did Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, widely hailed in the west as a moderate reformer not oppose the missile tests, nor the widespread positive coverage they received in the Iranian media, but Rouhani himself claimed to be “thrilled” by the missile tests and was fully supportive of them.
Members of Iran’s negotiating team in Iran hardly seemed in any mood for compromise. Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister and a top negotiator Abbas Araghchi was quoted on state television proclaiming that any discussion of Iran’s ballistic missile program was out of the question.