White House Frets, Iran Mocks


Reactions from Tehran and Washington to the interim agreement reached between Iran and the U.S. and its major allies tell a tale about which party is confident and which is not about going forward.

The Obama administration has been doing battle with Senate members, including Democrats, who support tightening sanctions to hold Iran’s feet to the fire. Fearful of legislation that would further reduce Iran’s oil exports and risk having Iran walk away from negotiations on its nuclear program, the White House is describing the proposed bill as “a march to war.” That kind of inflammatory language ratchets up the contentious debate over whether the threat of new sanctions would improve or impair the talks with Iran. Already critics of Israel are assuming Jerusalem and AIPAC, its lobby in Washington, of leading the U.S. into another overseas military conflict. Columnist Pat Buchanan wrote this week that the Senate was on the verge of giving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “a virtual blank check — for war on Iran.”

Senators who support the new legislation insist that it was sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place, and that passage of the bill would give the U.S. and its allies “a diplomatic insurance policy” if Iran breaks its word or if the talks break down.

Meanwhile, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, wrote on social media this week that his country’s relationship with the world “is based on Iran’s national interests” and that in the Geneva agreement “world powers surrendered to the Iranian nation’s will.”

Since the interim agreement was reached in November, Iran has continued to build centrifuges for uranium enrichment and is doing some construction in Arik, the site of a heavy-water nuclear reactor site that could provide nuclear arms through plutonium. And former U.S. diplomat Elliott Abrams noted in his blog that Iran’s foreign minister, seen to be a moderate, was in Beirut this week and laid a wreath at the grave of “the Hezbollah terrorist who had killed more Americans than any other man” prior to 9/11.

While the White House expresses deep concern over new sanctions for fear of upsetting Iran, the Iranians seem to be going out of their way to flaunt their upgraded diplomatic status and go about their dangerous business. We hope President Obama is not so committed to see the nuclear talks succeed that he turns a blind eye to Iranian actions that spell nuclear determination and deceit.