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Iran Still Closed To U.S. Influence After Nuclear Deal: Khamenei

By Bozorgmehr Sharafedin and Sam Wilkin

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran will remain closed to U.S. influence and continue to oppose U.S. policies in the Middle East after its nuclear deal with big powers, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Monday, noting either country can still block the accord.

The 76-year-old cleric, Iran’s highest authority, has refrained from making decisive statements on the July 14 nuclear agreement, but gave President Hassan Rouhani crucial political cover to pursue talks with the six powers..

Tehran agreed to verifiable limits on its atomic energy program to create confidence that it will not be put to developing nuclear weapons, in exchange for lifting international sanctions crippling its oil-based economy.

“They thought this deal – and it is not clear if it will be passed in Iran or in America – will open up Iran to their influence,” Khamenei was quoted on his website as saying at a meeting with members of the Islamic Radio and Television Union.

“We blocked this path and will definitely block it in the future. We won’t allow American political, economic or cultural influence in Iran.”

Most analysts see the chance of Khamenei rejecting the deal as small so long as it passes through the U.S. Congress, where opposition Republicans aim to block it. But Khamenei has always dismissed the notion that the agreement could reconcile the Islamic Republic with the United States, its arch-adversary since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

“Khamenei wants to keep the deal with the U.S. purely nuclear. He is worried about economic, political and cultural intrusion after the deal,” said Hossein Rassam, former Iran adviser to Britain’s Foreign Office.

“He fears integration into the international economy could make the Islamic Republic vulnerable and potentially lead to its collapse.”

If the deal is fully implemented, Iran’s market of nearly 80 million people would be opened up to foreign investment — after protracted isolation.

But unlike European competitors, U.S. firms will struggle to gain any toehold in Iran due to fear among Iranian officials of being seen to be coming under any American influence, and because U.S. economic sanctions not related to the nuclear program will remain in place.

“It will be a long time, regardless of whether the deal goes through, before U.S. businesses will fully operate in Iran,” said Sarah Dayan, an analyst at consultancy The Risk Advisory Group in London.

Even if the nuclear issue is successfully resolved, Iran and the United States are likely to remain locked in a struggle for influence in the Middle East. They support opposite sides in Syria’s civil war and the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen.

“The Americans want to gain influence in the region and reach their goals. We will not let them,” said Khamenei, who has previously said U.S. regional policies are “180 degrees” opposed to those of the Islamic Republic.

(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; Writing by Sam Wilkin; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Photo: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei departs after casting his ballot in the parliamentary election in Tehran March 2, 2012. REUTERS/Caren Firouz 

Why Israel’s Security Experts Support The Iran Deal — And Why Iran’s Hardliners Don’t

As congressional Republicans seek to undermine the nuclear agreement between Iran and the international powers, they assert that hardline Islamists in the Islamic Republic are delighted with the deal, while Israelis concerned over their country’s security are appalled. The same theme is now repeated constantly on Fox News Channel and throughout right-wing media.

But that message is largely false – and in very important respects, the opposite is true.

In arguing for the agreement at American University last Wednesday, President Obama noted that the most hostile factions in the Tehran regime aren’t celebrating this agreement – as the cover of the New York Post suggested. “In fact, it’s those hardliners who are most comfortable with the status quo,” he said. “It’s those hardliners chanting ‘Death to America’ who have been most opposed to the deal. They’re making common cause with the Republican caucus.”

Indeed, while vast throngs of Iranians greeted their government’s negotiators in a joyous welcome, the fanatical reactionaries in the Revolutionary Guard and the paramilitary Basij movement – which have violently repressed democratic currents in Iran – could barely control their outrage. Upon reading the terms, a Basij spokesman said last month, “We quickly realized that what we feared…had become a reality. If Iran agrees with this, our nuclear industry will be handcuffed for many years to come.”

Hoping and perhaps praying for a veto by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, their Supreme Leader, the Basijis, the right-wing media in Teheran, and their regime sponsors pointed to “red lines” that the agreement allegedly crossed. “We will never accept it,” said Mohammed Ali Jafari, a high-ranking Revolutionary Guard commander.

Such shrill expressions of frustration should encourage everyone who understands the agreement’s real value. Iran’s “Death to America, Death to Israel” cohort hates this deal – not only because of its highly restrictive provisions, but because over the long term, it strengthens their democratic opponents and threatens their corrupt control of Iranian society.

In Israel, meanwhile, the alarmist criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – a sage whose confident predictions about Iran, Iraq, and almost everything else are reliably, totally wrong – has obscured support from actual military and intelligence leaders. Like experts in this country and around the world, the best-informed Israelis understand the deal’s imperfections very well — and support it nevertheless.

“There are no ideal agreements,” declared Ami Ayalon, a military veteran who headed the Israeli Navy and later oversaw the Jewish state’s security service, the Shin Bet. But as Ayalon explained to J.J. Goldberg of the Forward, this agreement is “the best possible alternative from Israel’s point of view, given the other available alternatives” — including the most likely alternative which is, as Obama explained, another extremely dangerous Mideast war.

Efraim Halevy, who formerly ran the Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence service, and later headed its National Security Council, concurs with Ayalon (and Obama). Writing in Yedioth Aharonoth, the national daily published in Tel Aviv, Halevy points out a profound contradiction in Netanyahu’s blustering complaints. Having warned that an Iranian nuclear weapon would pose a unique existential threat to Israel, how can Bibi logically reject the agreement that forestalls any bomb development for at least 15 years and increases the “breakout time” from one month to a year — even if Iran ultimately violates its commitments?

Such a deal is far preferable to no deal, the ex-Mossad chief insists, although it won’t necessarily dissuade Tehran from making trouble elsewhere. Halevy also emphasizes that no mythical “better” deal would ever win support from Russia and China, Iran’s main weapons suppliers, whose leaders have endorsed this agreement.

In short, both of these top former officials believe the agreement with Iran will enhance their nation’s security – and contrary to what Fox News Channel’s sages might claim, they represent mainstream opinion in Israel’s military and intelligence circles.

So perhaps we can safely discount the partisan demagogues and feckless opportunists who claim to be protecting the Jewish state from Barack Obama. And when someone like Mike Huckabee – who memorably escaped military service because of his “flat feet”denounces the president for “marching Israelis to the oven door,” let’s remember the sane and serious response of Israel’s most experienced defenders.

Obama Sends Iran Deal To Wary Congress, Israel Urges Rejection

By Gernot Heller and Doina Chiacu

TEHRAN/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama’s administration sent a nuclear agreement with Tehran to Congress on Sunday and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged U.S. lawmakers to reject a deal he said would only feed an “Iranian terror machine”.

In a first concrete sign of European determination to quickly rebuild economic and political ties with Iran after a 12-year standoff, German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel arrived in Tehran with an economic delegation. Other European powers were expected to follow.

Obama has promised to exercise his veto if Congress rejects the deal, which curbs Iran’s nuclear program while allowing an easing of economic sanctions.

Overriding it would require a two-thirds majority of both the House of Representatives and Senate, so the administration is working to win over enough of Obama’s fellow Democrats to offset strong Republican opposition.

In an unusual move, Obama took three Democratic congressman golfing with him: Joe Courtney of Connecticut, Ed Perlmutter of Colorado and John Yarmuth of Kentucky. The president more often taps aides and friends for weekend golfing.

“I think the right thing to do is merely not to go ahead with this deal,” Netanyahu said on CBS’s Face the Nation as he continued a string of U.S. media interviews denouncing the deal reached on Tuesday between Iran and six major powers.

“There are many things to be done to stop Iran’s aggression and this deal is not one of them,” he said.

IRANIAN RECOGNITION OF ISRAEL

Tehran denies Western and Israeli accusations it has been using a research program as cover for ambitions to develop atomic weapons. President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday he expected the deal would lead to closer relations with Tehran’s neighbors in the Gulf region, while Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran remained at odds with the West.

It was on Khamenei’s words that Netanyahu seized, speaking to his cabinet on Sunday.

“The Iranians are not even trying to hide the fact they will take advantage of the hundreds of billions they will receive via the agreement to arm their terror machine,” he said. “And they say explicitly they will continue their struggle against the United States and its allies, Israel of course above all.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter was due in Jerusalem on Sunday night in an attempt to assuage Israel’s anger over a deal it says can only delay Iran becoming a nuclear state. He is also touring Jordan and Saudi Arabia, which both eye the prospect of increasing Iranian influence in the region with some suspicion.

Germany’s Gabriel, due to meet President Hassan Rouhani and several ministers, told German newspaper Bild he would use his three-day trip to suggest Germany could serve as a mediator between Iran and arch-enemy Israel. He said he would insist the Iranian government recognize Israel’s right to exist.

“Really stable, good relationships with Germany will only be able to develop if this is accepted in Iranian politics. I will keep making that clear during my trip to Iran,” Gabriel said in comments due to be published on Monday.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said world powers could now press Tehran on other issues such as its involvement in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad. “We shouldn’t be naïve or starry eyed in any way about the regime that we’re dealing with,” he said in an interview with NBC News.

Opponents of the deal argue it does not provide enough supervision of Iran’s nuclear program.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who led the U.S. delegation to the talks with Iran, was asked on “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace” why the deal did not provide for inspections anywhere anytime.

“The fact is, that in arms control, there is no country anywhere on this planet that has ‘anywhere, anytime’,” he said. “There is no such standard. There is no such standard within arms control inspections.”

(Additional reporting Michael Flaherty in Washington, Alex Wilts; Writing by Ralph Boulton)

Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference about the recent nuclear deal reached with Iran, in the East Room of the White House in Washington July 15, 2015. (REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Iran’s Supreme Leader Bars Inspections Of Military Sites

(TNS)

TEHRAN — Iran’s supreme leader on Wednesday banned a key component of a pending nuclear deal with the West: inspections of military sites by the international nuclear watchdog.

“No permit will be issued for that,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said, adding that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would also not be allowed to conduct interviews with Iranian nuclear scientists.

Khamenei has the last word in all strategic matters according to the Iranian constitution.

His “red line” could make negotiations with West countries on a comprehensive nuclear deal much more complicated and calls into question the conclusion of a deal by the end of June as planned.
The Vienna-based IAEA has been trying for years to get a complete picture of Iran’s nuclear projects, which it said were conducted in an apparent effort to develop key components of a nuclear warhead. Tehran has denied having any plans to obtain such a weapon.

In particular, the IAEA has been wanting to inspect the Parchin military base, southeast of Tehran. President Hassan Rowhani’s nuclear team is believed to have agreed to this demand but only for a viewing of the site. For Khamenei and the influential Revolutionary Guards, the country’s military elite, inspections remain taboo.

Suspicions over weapons development lie at the heart of the efforts by six world powers to reach a deal with Tehran that would curb Iran’s civilian nuclear program and would allow intrusive IAEA inspections to prevent the technology from being used for weapons.

The group of Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany plan to lift economic sanctions in return.

Because this latest point of contention could lead to a further delay in the signing of a nuclear deal, Iran has said that it is willing to extend the deadline beyond June 30 as previously agreed.

“For us the content of the agreement is more important than holding to the deadline,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said Wednesday.

There are still many gaps in the draft document, which the Iranian team would try to fill in intensive discussions before the end of next month, she said.

If they do not succeed, an extension in the talks could not be ruled out, she said.

A new round of talks dedicated to drafting the text of the agreement started Wednesday in Vienna as the German Foreign Ministry rejected the idea of an extension.

Giving up the deadline already now was not a sensible approach, ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said in Berlin, vowing that negotiations would be conducted “with the greatest vigor and intensity.”

The process could be made more complicated by developments in the U.S. Congress or in Tehran “if we kick it further into the long grass,” he said.

Photo credit: Aslan Media via Flickr

(c)2015 Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.