Iran nuclear talks to resume as Senate works to oversee any deal

Bushehr nuclear power plant

Bushehr nuclear power plant. (AP/Mehr News Agency)

World powers will resume Iran nuclear talks on May 12 despite Iranian belligerence and as US lawmakers work to have oversight on a final deal.

By Lauren Calin, World Israel News

Iranian deputy negotiators and the EU political director will meet in Vienna on May 12 to work towards a final nuclear deal based on the framework agreement reached in early April. They will be joined by the other negotiating parties on May 15 in the hopes of concluding an agreement by June 30. The US and Iran have published differing accounts of the details of the framework agreement, thereby dimming the prospects for the final stage of negotiations.

The European External Action Service, the EU diplomatic corps, stated: “The EU Political Director Helga Schmid and Iranian Deputy negotiators Abbas Araghchi and Madjid Takht Ravanchi will resume their work on 12 May in Vienna. They will then be joined by Political Directors of the E3+3 on 15 May.

“In Vienna, the EU Political Director and Iranian Deputy negotiators will continue their work on the drafting of the main text of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), based on the key understandings reached on 2 April in Lausanne and started last week in New York.”

Iran navy

An Iranian warship. (AP/Fars News Agency, Mahdi Marizad)

Large gaps remain between the parties on a number of substantive issues, such as how quickly sanctions against Iran will be relieved, how soon the provisions of the agreement will expire and the details of the inspections regime. Iran said that it will not sign any agreement unless international sanctions are removed immediately. Neither will it allow international inspectors to access its military sites to ensure that no nuclear work is being conducted there. Iranian leaders have accused US President Barack Obama of lying about the details of the framework agreement. However, Obama admits that even under his interpretation of the deal, Iran will be able to produce a nuclear weapon nearly immediately after the agreement expires.

Furthermore, Iran continues to behave belligerently towards the US and its neighbors. Iranian soldiers chanted “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” recently at the annual Army Day rally. Iran is also going ahead with the purchase of Russian S-300 air defense missiles, which could be used to protect Iranian nuclear sites in the event it violates a final agreement.

Senator Corker: Senate Could Vote on Iran Bill Thursday

Senator Bob Corker, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he sees a great possibility that a vote to pass the Iran nuclear review bill could take place as soon as Thursday.

While legislation allowing Congress to review any international Iran nuclear deal was approved last month by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a 19-0 vote, disputes have arisen over certain amendments to the legislation.

If approved, the measure would mandate that President Barack Obama submitthe text of any deal to Congress. The bill would also bar the administration from suspending congressional sanctions against Iran for 60 days.

Supporters want the bill passed free of controversial add-ons they claim could scuttle negotiations with Tehran, draw a presidential veto or leave lawmakers with no say on a national security threat.

Senator Marco Rubio, who is running for president, wants to amend the bill to require Iran’s leaders to publicly accept Israel’s right to exist.

Senator Tom Cotton’s proposal says that before sanctions could be lifted on Iran, President Barack Obama has to certify that the country is not engaging in acts of terror against America or Americans.

Corker predicted that the bill could pass the Senate with more than 90 votes.