Category Archives: Nuclear Iran

Iran’s Non-Existent Nuke Program: Interview with Gareth Porter

Editor’s Note: Gareth Porter is an investigative journalist and historian who specialises on the Iranian nuclear issue. His latest book is ‘Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare‘. The below interview was recorded over two weeks ago. 

Hawks Triumph in Senate; Will Push More Aggressive US Policy

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

‘The Republicans took control of the Senate in Tuesday’s elections, but much more important than which party took control is the nature of the incoming Senators from the new ruling party.

It’s not an influx of Tea Party members, reluctant to waste US funds on overseas adventures and suspicious of federal power, but rather a series of hawks in the model of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R – SC) that seized the reins of power last night.

The new senators are typified by Jodi Ernst (R – IA) and Tom Cotton (R – AR), who campaigned heavy on escalating the ISIS war in Iraq and Syria, as well as being more hawkish at essentially every opportunity.”

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The U.S. Government War Against Reporter James Risen

Norman Solomon and Marcy Wheeler write for The Nation:

‘Ever since New York Times reporter James Risen received his first subpoena from the Justice Department more than six years ago, occasional news reports have skimmed the surface of a complex story. The usual gloss depicts a conflict between top officials who want to protect classified information and a journalist who wants to protect confidential sources. Meanwhile, Jeffrey Sterling—a former undercover CIA officer now facing charges under the Espionage Act, whom the feds want Risen to identify as his source—is cast as a disgruntled ex-employee in trouble for allegedly spilling the classified beans.

But the standard media narratives about Risen and Sterling have skipped over deep patterns of government retaliation against recalcitrant journalists and whistleblowers. Those patterns are undermining press freedom, precluding the informed consent of the governed and hiding crucial aspects of US foreign policy. The recent announcement of Eric Holder’s resignation as attorney general has come after nearly five years of the Obama administration extending and intensifying the use of the Justice Department for retribution against investigative journalism and whistleblowing.’

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Iran says nuclear suspicions are ‘fabricated ambiguities’

Frederik Dahl reports for Reuters:

‘Iran dismissed on Tuesday as “fabricated ambiguities” suspicions that it has carried out nuclear arms research, a day after it came under renewed Western pressure to help clear up U.N. watchdog concerns about its atomic energy program. Addressing an annual meeting of the 162-nation International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), senior official Behrouz Kamalvandi also said Iran was committed to trying to reach a negotiated solution to its decade-old nuclear dispute with the West.

“However, measures such as sanctions or double standard approaches certainly harm the negotiating process and cause further mistrust,” Kamalvandi, vice chairman of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said. He urged world powers – which resumed talks with Iran in New York last week – to take “constructive and realistic approaches” and fully respect Iran’s nuclear rights in order to end what he called an “unnecessary” crisis.’

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Iranian FM: US ‘obsessed’ with sanctions against Tehran

AFP reports:

‘Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Wednesday accused the United States of being “obsessed” with sanctions against his country, on the eve of new bilateral talks on a nuclear deal.

“We are committed to resolving this issue,” Zarif told a Washington think-tank, but he argued the US was “infatuated” with sanctions and Congress was objecting to any deal “because they would have to lift the sanctions.”

“Iran has shown that we will live up to every agreement,” Zarif argued at a discussion hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations, just hours before the Iranian delegation was to meet in New York with US counterparts for fresh talks.’

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Israeli envoy: Nuclear Iran ‘a thousand times’ more dangerous than Islamic State

Ron Kampeas reports for The Times of Israel:

‘Saying a nuclear Iran would be a “thousand times” greater threat to the world than the Islamic State, Israel’s ambassador to the United States warned against including Iran in any coalition to derail the jihadist group.

Ron Dermer, speaking Wednesday to guests at a pre-Rosh Hashanah reception at his residence in suburban Maryland, also cautioned the US against accommodating Iran during the current effort to degrade IS.His urgent tone was the latest sign of a split between the Obama and Netanyahu governments over how to deal with Iran’s role in stopping IS, which is seizing swaths of Iraq and Syria.’

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The Geopolitics of World War III

New Sanctions Threaten Iran Nuclear Deal

Esfandyar Batmanghelidj writes for Lobe Log:

‘On Aug. 29 the US Treasury added 28 Iranian individuals and entities to its ever-expanding sanctions list. Expectedly, Tehran denounced the decision. “They are in conflict with the spirit of talks. They are unconstructive in my opinion,” said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during an Aug. 30 news conference broadcast on State TV. “We should resist such an aggression with all might and power,” he said. “We consider some of the sanctions crimes against humanity.”

This is not the first time the United States has imposed sanctions on Iran since the historic interim nuclear deal achieved between Iran and the P5+1 (US, UK, France, Russia, China plus Germany) in November 2013, but Rouhani’s words mark a shift in Iran’s reaction. The Iranian president spent considerable time decrying the sanctions in a harsher tone than ever before. Rouhani was sending a message to the United States.

US sanctions on Iran, which have been consistently expanded by Congress and executive orders since 1997, have become so byzantine that they are hindering the activities of countless businesses, Iranian or multinational. The net of financial sanctions has been crafted with such a tight mesh that even harmless, routine trade is constrained and sanctioned.’

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Iran displays Israeli drone allegedly shot down near nuclear facility

The Jerusalem Post/Reuters reports:

‘The Iranian media released footage Monday of the Israeli spy drone it claimed to have shot down Sunday as it was heading for its Natanz nuclear enrichment site. The Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) claimed Monday that it was working to extract intelligence and data from the drone’s remains. According to an Iranian military official, the drone was a Hermes model with a combat radius of 800 kilometers.

IRGC’s Public Relations Department General Ramezan Sharif was quoted by Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency as saying that some of the parts of the downed aircraft are working, “and our experts are studying the information and intelligence of these parts. We are now analyzing the information of this plane. The downed aircraft was of the stealth, radar-evasive type and it intended to penetrate the off-limits nuclear area in Natanz … but was targeted by a ground-to-air missile before it managed to enter the area,” state news agency ISNA said, citing a statement by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.’

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Oil-producing Iran looks to solar power

Ali Akbar Dareini reports for the Associated Press:

‘President Hassan Rouhani’s government has quintupled its spending on solar power projects in the last year, taking advantage of Iran’s 300-odd days of sunshine a year that make its vast sun-kissed lands one of the best spots on earth to host solar panels. While being good for the environment, the panels also offer rural Iran steady power amid uncertainty over the country’s contested nuclear program as it negotiates with world powers.

And as the Islamic Republic cuts back on subsidies that once made gasoline cheaper than bottled mineral water, a push toward self-sustaining solar power could help the government save money and bolster its sanctions-battered economy. “A big change is in the making in Iran,” said Saman Mirhadi, a senior official in charge of solar projects. Iran, home to some 77 million people, is a fossil-fuel powerhouse, even in the crude-oil rich Middle East. It is home to both the world’s fourth-largest proven oil reserves and massive natural gas reserves. However, sanctions have cut into the country’s refining and production capabilities.’

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John Bolton: Forget Syria, Pursue Regime Change in Iran

John Glaser writes for Antiwar:

John-BoltonJohn Bolton is confused. After spending years berating the Obama administration for failing to take action in Syria’s bloody civil war, he has come out against such an intervention…kind of.

In a piece in the New York Post, Bolton criticizes the administration for “vacillating for three years on whether to arm ‘moderate’ opposition forces, by failing to uphold his ‘red line’ on chemical weapons and by indulging in rhetoric unaccompanied by action.” At the same time, he is coming out of the closet as against supporting the rebels or bombing Damascus: “Washington’s ability to affect the outcome in Syria is decidedly limited; aiding the rebels mainly increases the chances of an al Qaeda regime in Damascus — hardly preferable to the current bloodshed.”

Bravo! This is what non-interventionists have been saying since the beginning. But then, Bolton’s piece trades restraint in Syria for overthrowing the Iranian regime.

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Iran Enters Next Stage of Nuclear Talks: Interview with Gareth Porter

‘Historian and investigative journalist Gareth Porter discusses how fabricated documents from Israel should not be seen as proof of Iran’s desire to weaponize.’ (The Real News)

The Iranian Threat That Never Was: Another Manufactured Crisis

Sheldon Richman writes for CounterPunch:

If you take politicians and the mainstream media seriously, you believe that Iran wants a nuclear weapon and has relentlessly engaged in covert efforts to build one. Even if you are aware that Iran signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and is subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections, you may believe that those who run the Islamic Republic have cleverly found ways to construct a nuclear-weapons industry almost undetected. Therefore, you may conclude, Democratic and Republican administrations have been justified in pressuring Iran to come clean and give up its “nuclear program.” But you would be wrong.

Anyone naturally skeptical about such foreign-policy alarms has by now found solid alternative reporting that debunks the official narrative about the alleged Iranian threat. Much of that reporting has come from Gareth Porter, the journalist and historian associated with Inter Press Service. Porter has done us the favor of collecting the fruits of his dogged investigative journalism into a single comprehensive and accessible volume, Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

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AIPAC Is Losing Influence Over U.S. Foreign Policy: Interview with Phyllis Bennis

‘Military action likely’ if Iran talks fail, US spokeswoman says

From The Jerusalem Post:

A resolution to the nuclear dispute with Tehran, should current diplomatic efforts fail, “is likely to involve military action,” US State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

“I’m not predicting that we would take military action right away,” Harf said. “It’s more of a broad statement that, look, if we can’t get this done diplomatically in six months or a year or at any time, we will – we are committed to resolving it. And that involves less durable and, quite frankly, riskier actions.

[...] Asked by The Jerusalem Post which the administration considered more likely if diplomacy does not achieve a comprehensive solution in a time frame agreed upon by world powers – war or additional sanctions – Harf responded: “I’m not saying in six months we’re going to go to war if we don’t get a deal done. Broadly speaking, the alternative to resolving this diplomatically is resolving it through other means.

“There are only a few scenarios that come out of this: Either we resolve it diplomatically or we resolve it a different way,” Harf continued.

“It’s just common sense that that different way could involve – is likely to involve military action.”

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U.S. Warns Against Business With Iran

From The New York Times:

The Obama administration intensified efforts on Thursday to counter what officials called a misimpression that the six-month nuclear agreement withIran had opened the door to new economic opportunities with the country, emphasizing that nearly all sanctions remained in force and warning businesses not to engage in any deals still pending after the accord’s July 20 expiration.

As if to punctuate the administration’s assertion that little had changed, the Treasury Department announced what it described as a landmark $152 million settlement with Clearstream Banking, a Luxembourg-based banking subsidiary of Germany’s Deutsche Börse securities exchange, for having allowed Iran to bypass sanctions through the use of the company’s access to the American banking system.

“Today’s action should serve as a clear alert to firms operating in the securities industry that they need to be vigilant with respect to dealings with sanctioned parties,” Adam J. Szubin, director of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which helps to police compliance with American sanctions, said in a statement announcing the settlement.

The administration has been facing increased criticism from supporters of strong sanctions against Iran who contend that the six-month deal — which went into force on Monday [January 20th]  and was devised to allow time to negotiate a permanent accord — had given the Iranians far more in economic benefits than what its provisions had specified or intended.

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Israel’s nuclear weapons: the open secret

Senator Corker Proposes Putting Off Iran Sanctions Vote Until Summer

Joshua Roberts / ReutersFrom Buzzfeed:

Sen. Bob Corker has proposed the idea of scheduling a vote on Iran sanctions six months from now, after the interim nuclear agreement has run its course, instead of voting on sanctions right now.

Corker said Thursday that he had suggested the idea to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid during a closed-door briefing for senators by lead Iran negotiator Wendy Sherman on the implementation agreement with Iran that is due to kick in on Jan. 20, the text of which was released to Congress today. The Senate is mulling a new sanctions bill introduced by Sens. Mark Kirk and Bob Menendez that is currently stalled pending a vote scheduled by Reid.

“One of the things I posed to the leader was look, why don’t we schedule a vote for July the 21st, that’s six months after the implementation date and if they haven’t reached an agreement that we believe is satisfactory, let’s implement on that day,” Corker, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters after the briefing.

“When you think about it, we could almost have more leverage in some ways for a vote prescheduled right now for July the 21st,” Corker said. “Scheduling a Senate vote the day after in some ways can put even more pressure on the situation.”

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White House Says Iran Implementation Agreement Being Kept Secret Because Of The EU

From Buzzfeed:

The text of an agreement reached Sunday to implement the interim nuclear deal with Iran is not available to the public because the European Union is not releasing it, the White House says.

“The EU is not making the document public,” National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said on Sunday.

Asked why the document was not being released, EU foreign policy spokesman Michael Mann said that he will “have to ask about that.” Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, was closely involved in the talks in Geneva that brought around the interim nuclear deal.

World powers reached an agreement this weekend to implement the interim deal reached with Iran in November to curtail its nuclear program in return for some sanctions relief; the terms of the deal are now scheduled to begin on Jan. 20. According to Reuters, Iran will receive the first $550 million in now-unblocked funds on Feb. 1.

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White House promises ‘action’ if nuclear talks fail with Iran

Editor’s Note: Obama’s comments are likely aimed at pre-empting Senate attempts to impose sanctions and kill the Iran talks rather than being an actual threat to attack Iran if the talks fail.

US President Barack Obama gestures during news conferenceFrom The Jerusalem Post:

US President Barack Obama said on Monday it would not be right for Congress to impose new sanctions on Iran now, saying, “Now is the time for us to allow the diplomats and technical experts to do their work.”

Raising the issue in comments to reporters, Obama said that if Tehran abides by the agreement, “then I have no doubt that it can open up extraordinary opportunities for Iran and their people.”

But if they refuse, he said, then “we are in position to reverse any interim agreement and put in place additional pressure to make sure that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon.”

Meanwhile, US administration officials lauded the conclusion of technical talks with Iran this weekend, in which international powers agreed after a month of deliberations on how best to implement an interim deal pausing the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

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White House Dares Democratic Senators Pushing Iran Sanctions To Admit They Want War

From The Huffington Post:

The White House on Thursday challenged a group of senators to admit they are working to push the country toward war with Iran, upping the tension between the administration and Senate advocates of tough new sanctions amid nuclear negotiations.

“If certain members of Congress want the United States to take military action, they should be up front with the American public and say so,” Bernadette Meehan, National Security Council spokeswoman, said in a statement. “Otherwise, it’s not clear why any member of Congress would support a bill that possibly closes the door on diplomacy and makes it more likely that the United States will have to choose between military options or allowing Iran’s nuclear program to proceed.”

The “certain members” the White House is referring to are led by Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who is pushing legislation, backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, that would tighten sanctions on the Iranian regime despite the ongoing negotiations.

Advocates of a peace deal with Iran warn that toughening sanctions now strengthens the hand of hard-liners in Iran who can argue the U.S. is not negotiating in good faith.

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Hagel: US military power must back Iran nuclear deal

Chuck Hagel at the regional security summit the Manama Dialogue, Bahrain. 7 Dec 2013From BBC News:

Diplomacy with Iran must be backed by military power, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has said.

Mr Hagel, speaking in Bahrain, said Washington was committed to maintaining a strong force in the Gulf region.

Iran recently agreed to curb some nuclear activities for six months in return for sanctions relief.

Analysts say Washington’s Gulf Arab partners are worried the US will lose focus on the Middle East as it boosts its presence in Asia.

Mr Hagel told the Manama Dialogue – a regional security forum – the US has more than 35,000 military personnel in the region and would not reduce that number.

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Iran quits nuclear talks protesting US blacklist move

From AFP:

Iran has quit nuclear talks with world powers, accusing Washington on Friday of going against the spirit of a landmark agreement reached last month by expanding its sanctions blacklist.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the major powers in the talks, both played down the suspension and said talks were expected to resume soon.

But Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi said the US move went against the spirit of the deal struck in Geneva under which the powers undertook to impose no further sanctions for six months in exchange for Iran curbing its controversial nuclear activities.

Tehran was now weighing the “appropriate response”, he said.

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‘The Onion’ Vows To Carry On Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program Until The Job Is Done

From The Onion:

Yesterday, a group of high-ranking world leaders met in Geneva and brokered a six-month deal to limit the nuclear ambitions of the Islamic Republic of Iran. These spineless Western autocrats did so in exchange for the removal of several economic sanctions on Iran, believing they have both the power and authority to dismantle the country’s nuclear program and enforce strict IAEA regulations on uranium enrichment.

Given this incredibly unjust though unsurprising meddling from these cowardly foreign governments, The Onion vows to continue the expansion of Iran’s nuclear weapons program for as long as necessary until the operation has been completed. The dream must live on and will live on. And The Onion will make sure it does.

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Iran nuclear deal agreed at Geneva talks

From The Telegraph:

John Kerry hailed a “dramatic” step to “roll back” Iran’s nuclear ambitions on Sunday when America and Tehran overcame decades of confrontation to achieve their first formal agreement for 34 years.

The US secretary of state said this deal “impedes the progress in a very dramatic way of Iran’s principal enrichment facilities and key parts of its programme”.

The “first step” agreement, lasting for an interim period of six months, “rolls back the nuclear programme from where it is today”, said Mr Kerry.

In return, America will ease sanctions, releasing about $7 billion for Iran.

But Mr Kerry’s interpretation of the deal differed from that of Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister. The two men addressed consecutive press conferences between 4.30 and 5.30am in Geneva, at the end of almost five days of marathon negotiations.

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Tide Turns Towards Diplomacy as Key Senators Oppose New Iran Sanctions

From The Huffington Post:

President Obama and the White House have been engaged in a battle in the Senate to block the chamber from passing new sanctions that could derail ongoing negotiations with Iran. The White House has been clear: new sanctions could kill the talks and put the U.S. on a “path to war.”

Groups including NIACFCNLPeace ActionAmericans for Peace NowJ Street, and International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran have  all come out against new Senate sanctions. Groups including AIPAC and Foundation for Defense of Democracies are, as usual, advocating more sanctions. AIPAC even says they will explicitly try to kill a deal.

But it looks like the pro-diplomacy side is winning.

Senators Carl Levin, Christopher Murphy, and Dianne Feinstein have all now come out in opposition to new Iran sanctions, saying they will instead support  the ongoing negotiations with Iran. And today, even Senator John McCain (R-AZ) told the BBC  today he will not support new sanctions for now, saying, “I am skeptical of talks with Iran but willing to give the Obama administration a couple months.”

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Lavrov Reveals Amended Draft Circulated at “Last Moment”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Credit: UN Photo/Paulo FilgueirasFrom IPS:

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov revealed a crucial detail Thursday about last week’s nuclear talks with Iran in Geneva that explains much more clearly than previous reports why the meeting broke up without agreement.

Lavrov said the United States circulated a draft that had been amended in response to French demands to other members of the six-power P5+1 for approval “literally at the last moment, when we were about to leave Geneva.”

Lavrov’s revelation, which has thus far been ignored by major news outlets, came in a news conference in Cairo Thursday that was largely devoted to Egypt and Syria. Lavrov provided the first real details about the circumstances under which Iran left Geneva without agreeing to the draft presented by the P5+1.

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Gareth Porter: Why Fabius Turned on the Draft Agreement

John Kerry.From Truthout:

[...] We now know that, in addition to at least one phone call from Netanyahu, according to a report in Israel’s Channel 2 on Sunday, Fabius also was called by Meyer Habib, a Jewish member of the French Parliament representing French citizens living in southern Europe, including in Israel, and threatened a Netanyahu attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Habib, who is also deputy of the Jewish umbrella organization in France, is known as a longtime Likud Party activist and friend of Netanyahu who has been considered the Israeli prime minister’s personal representative in Paris,according to Haaretz.

“If you don’t toughen your positions, Netanyahu will attack Iran,” the report quoted Habib as telling the French foreign minister. “I know this. I know him.”

The foreign minister of an independent state normally would bristle at such open diplomatic extortion by threat of force. But the French government has had the most pro-Israel and anti-Iran policy of any European state ever since Nicolas Sarkozy replaced Jacques Chirac as president in 2007. Despite the shift from the Center-Right Union for a Popular Movement government of Sarkozy to the Socialist government of Francois Hollande in 2012, that policy has not shifted at all.

Unlike the United States, where the pro-Israeli influence is exerted through campaign contributions coordinated by AIPAC, in France the presidency has nearly complete control over foreign policy. A small group of officials has shaped policy toward Iran and Israel for the past six years. The people who are now advising Fabius on Iran are, in fact, the same ones who advised Sarkozy’s foreign ministers Bernard Kouchner and Alain Juppe. “There is, in the ministry of foreign affairs, a tightly knit team of advisers on strategic affairs and non-proliferation which has played a major role in shaping the French position on Iran over the years,” a knowledgeable French source told Truthout. The direction the group has taken French policy generally has coincided with that of the neoconservatives in the United States, according to close observers of that policy.

At the center of that tight-knit group is the former French ambassador to the United States during the George W. Bush administration, Jean-David Levitte. He was appointed diplomatic adviser to Sarkozy in 2007. Levitte, who has been called by some the “real foreign minister” of France, has family ties to Israel and Zionism. His uncle, Simon Levitt, was co-founder of the Zionist Youth Movement in France.

This was not the first time that France has played a spoiler role in international negotiations on the Iran nuclear issue. Mohamed ElBaradei, former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, recalls in his memoirs how the French delegation came to the October 2009 meeting with Iran in Vienna on a “fuel swap” proposal armed with “scores of amendments to our prepared draft agreement.” In that case as well, it appeared that the French role was to ensure that there would not be any agreement.

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Why Did France Thwart The Iran Nuclear Deal?

Iran negotiator says outline nuclear deal possible this week (and other Iran news)

From Reuters:

Iran’s top negotiator said on Tuesday that a framework deal with world powers on its nuclear program was “possible this week”, although it would not be a disaster if there were a further delay.

Iran resumes negotiations in Geneva on Thursday with six world powers known as the “P5+1″ – the United States, Russia, France, Britain, China and Germany. The talks are aimed at ending a standoff over the nuclear program, which Western powers suspect may be aimed at developing nuclear weapons, despite Iran’s denials.

“I believe there is a lot of work to be done. We have made some progress, but there is a great deal of mistrust in Iran concerning the attitude, behavior and approach of some members of the P5+1,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told France 24 television during a visit to Paris.

“If we don’t make a breakthrough at this round, it’s not a disaster.”

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