Deadline likely missed in nuclear deal – Hayden says Iran has ‘upper hand’ – Fox News

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden said Sunday that the United States has lost its edge going into the final days of a nuclear negotiation with Iran.

“I would actually fear that the Iranians have the upper hand right now,” Hayden said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I actually fear we have painted ourselves into a corner where we believe that any deal is better than no deal at the present time.”

Hayden said the framework of the deal doesn’t go far enough in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear arsenal in the future.

On Sunday, U.S. officials confirmed to Fox News that world powers meeting in Vienna to hammer out the nuclear deal will miss their June 30 deadline.  

Iran’s foreign minister Mohammed Javad Zarif’s returned home for consultations on Sunday. Zarif is expected to return to Vienna to join counterparts from other countries at the negotiating table to push for a breakthrough on the talks.

U.S. officials said they are “unconcerned” about the pace of talks and that Zarif’s trip home had been scheduled in advance.

However, several media outlets noted that the fact Zarif was leaving the talks so close to the deadline showed he needed permission to proceed with several issues tied to the talks, including how much access Tehran should give U.S. investigators monitoring Iran’s compliance to any deal.

It’s a sticking point that the U.S. and other powers cannot afford to negotiate, Hayden said.

“We need the ability to go places,” he said.

Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain are aiding the U.S. in diplomatic discussions.

The dispute over access surfaced again Sunday, with Iranian Gen. Masoud Jazayeri saying that any inspection by foreigners of Iran’s military centers is prohibited.

He said the attempt by the U.S. and its allies to “obtain Iran’s military information for years … by the pressure of sanctions” will not succeed.

But German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who joined the talks Friday, said Iran’s “nuclear activities, no matter where they take place,” must be verifiable.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Zarif met in Vienna for their third encounter since Saturday.  French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also is in Vienna, as is British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, while Russia and China are represented for now by deputy foreign ministers.

For weeks, all seven nations at the negotiating table insisted that Tuesday remains the formal deadline for a deal. But with time running out, a senior U.S. official acknowledged that was unrealistic.

“Given the dates, and that we have some work to do … the parties are planning to remain in Vienna beyond June 30 to continue working,” said the official, who demanded anonymity in line with State Department practice.

Asked about the chances for a deal, Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s top diplomat, told reporters: “It’s going to be tough … but not impossible.” Hammond spoke of “major differences” in the way of a deal.

Steinmeier told German media: “I am convinced that if there is no agreement, everyone loses.”

“Iran would remain isolated. A new arms race in a region that is already riven by conflict could be the dramatic consequence.”

Both sides recognize that there is leeway to extend to July 9. As part of an agreement with the U.S. Congress, lawmakers then have 30 days to review the deal before suspending congressional sanctions.

But postponement beyond that would double the congressional review period to 60 days, giving both Iranian and U.S. critics more time to work on undermining an agreement.

Arguing for more time to allow the U.S. to drive a harder bargain, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — a fierce opponent of the talks — weighed in on Sunday against “this bad agreement, which is becoming worse by the day.”

“It is still not too late to go back and insist on demands that will genuinely deny Iran the ability to arm itself with nuclear weapons,” he said.

The goal of the talks involving Iran and the U.S., Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia is a deal that would crimp Tehran’s capacity to make nuclear weapons in exchange for sanctions relief.  Iran insists it does not want such arms but is bargaining in exchange for sanctions relief.

On Saturday, diplomats told The Associated Press that Iran was considering a U.S.-backed plan for it to send enriched uranium to another country for sale as reactor fuel, a step that would resolve one of several outstanding issues.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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