By Kenneth R. Timmerman
The on-again, off-again Iran nuclear negotiations are on once again, White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan said on Sunday.
“We’re talking about diplomacy to prevent Iran from ever getting a nuclear weapon,” Sullivan told CBS News “Face the Nation.”
Just two weeks earlier, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called Iran’s latest demands in the negotiations “a step backward,” making a deal “unlikely.” So what is really going on?
The Iranians want the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to shelve its investigation into Iran’s undeclared uranium enrichment activities because they know a thorough investigation would reveal their intent to build nuclear weapons. They figured they could get the U.S. to cave into their demands, just as we did when John Kerry was leading the U.S. negotiating team in 2015.
Sullivan’s latest statement suggests the White House is ready to cave, and revives the same fear-mongering Kerry used in 2015: it’s the deal or all-out war.
It wasn’t true in 2015 – as we saw when President Trump withdrew from the deal three years later. And it isn’t any more true today.
So why is the White House so intent on a deal? House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy thinks he knows why.
“Are they trying to get Iranian oil back into the market to try to lower the gas price?” he asked Maria Bartiromo on Fox News Sunday Morning Futures earlier this month.
Noting that the administration “has not briefed anyone” on the negotiations, he argued that Democrats believe a dramatic drop in gasoline prices would dramatically increase their chances in the mid-term elections. And he could be right.
Israel has been observing the body language in Washington with increasing trepidation. Israeli interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid reportedly provided hot new intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz earlier this month – information so sensitive that it caused Germany, France, and the United Kingdom to issue a statement expressing “serious doubts” over Iran’s sincerity in the ongoing negotiations.
“We gave information to the Europeans that proved that the Iranians are lying while talks are still happening,” an Israeli official told the Times of Israel.
It’s astonishing that any analyst capable of reading at a 6th grade level could conclude any differently, and yet the pro-Tehran lobbyists in Washington and their consorts in the media continue to lie, claiming that Iran is not a threat or just the opposite: that a U.S. refusal to conclude a deal means war. (The inconsistency doesn’t seem to bother anyone on the Left).
Information on Iran’s nuclear weapons intentions has been publicly available for over thirty years. I was involved in the early 1990s in making some of it public in a ground-breaking report for the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The Iranians predictably howled, calling the report Zionist propaganda and me an Israeli spy during a live segment on ABC Nightline.
As I recount in a new memoir, And the Rest is History, when I offered to Iran’s then United Nations ambassador, Kamal Kharazi, to lead a team of non-governmental experts to Iran to investigate – and potentially whitewash Iran – he brushed it aside. “Mister Timmerman, if you come to Iran we will keep you for a very long time,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Israelis continue to provide information from Iran’s secret Nuclear Archive to governments and researchers. Their most recent revelation involves photographs of a fourth underground site used in “explosive testing of nuclear weapons components.” They also produced a table detailing 192 underground tests.
These are not the activities of a country seeking to build nuclear power plants. But the Biden administration remains hell-bent on concluding a deal. And it’s all about the oil.
Ship-tracking firms estimate that Iran has stockpiled anywhere from 60 to 93 million barrels in crude oil and condensate in tankers in the Persian Gulf, off Singapore, and near China, Bloomberg reported recently. That oil “could be swiftly dispatched to buyers in the event an agreement gets hammered out,” Bloomberg added.
While it could take weeks or even months for Iran to find buyers and insurance to move all that oil to markets, nevertheless it represents an enormous surge in global oil supplies — nearly half of what the U.S. pledged to release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserves.
The SPR releases are widely credited with bringing oil prices down over the past three months, with gasoline now at $3.72/gallon on average nationwide, instead of well over $5.00.
The releases had been scheduled to end in mid-October but the Biden White House recently extended them through mid-November – a cynical move to cushion the blow of higher prices right before the mid-term elections.
Not only would the release of Iran’s floating stockpiles contribute to reducing oil prices in the near term, a new nuclear deal would allow Iran to return as a “normal” exporter, increasing the flow of Iranian oil “by between 500,000 bpd to 1 bpd,” according to analysts.
That would likely drive the price per barrel back into the $65 range – and remove a big pocket book issue Republicans had been hoping to use in November and beyond. It’s hard to imagine a more cynical motive for recklessly endangering U.S. national security.
[Ken Timmerman’s 12th book of non-fiction, And the Rest is History: Tales of Hostages, Arms Dealers, Dirty Tricks, and Spies, was recently released by Post Hill Press. Timmerman was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 and has covered the Middle East for 40 years.]