DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 31, 2013, 9:52 AM (IDT)
Israel’s high command, working on the assumption that an American-Iranian nuclear accord is near its final stage, plans to keep in place advanced preparations for a unilateral military strike on Iran’s nuclear program into 2014 – hence the IDF’s request for a supplemental NIS3.5bn (app. $1bn) defense budget this week.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report exclusively that the main body of the accord is essentially complete. All the same, President Barack Obama plans to announce before Christmas that only partial agreement has been achieved and negotiations will continue.
He will be cagey in public – partly because not all parts of the accord have been finalized, although the pace of US-Iranian negotiations have been accelerated, and partly to avoid coming clean on the full scope of the deal with Tehran.
The US-Iranian talks are being held at three levels:
1. American and Iranian diplomats and nuclear experts are discussing the technical aspects of the accord in Vienna. Some of these meetings – but not all – take place at International Atomic Energy Agency headquarters in the city.
The talks in Vienna between IAEA chief Yukiya Amano and Iranian deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi on Oct. 29-30 in Vienna were held to review items already approved between the American and Iranian delegations. It remained for the two officials to consider how to integrate those understandings in the future IAEA inspections routine.
Araqchi reported he had brought new proposals to the talks, saying they were productive. Amano said more cautiously: “I am very hopeful that we can come out with a good result.”
2. Secretary of State John Kerry and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who is the senior US negotiator, are handling the second level of direct negotiations opposite Foreign Minister Mohammed Zarif and his deputy Abbas Araqchi.
Because of his direct involvement, Kerry sounded unusually impatient Monday October 28, when he said, “Some have suggested that somehow there’s something wrong with giving diplomacy a chance. We will not succumb to those fear tactics and forces that suggest otherwise.”
He did not name Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, but clearly lashed out against what he regards as the prime minister’s “fear tactics.” Neither did he admit how much progress had been made in the direct US line with Tehran.
3. The third level deals with sanctions. It is run by officials of the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which oversees the sanctions regime, and senior staff from President Hassan Rouhani’s bureau.
They are working to determine which sanctions will be lifted and at which stage of the negotiations.
This process aims at lifting decision-making on sanctions out of the hands of Congress and transferring it to this secret negotiating mechanism. By this means, President Obama hopes not only to thwart Congressional calls for tighter sanctions against Iran, but also to forestall Netanyahu’s efforts to this end.