Senior Iranian officials now say that Tehran will not suspend its contested nuclear enrichment program until the West first agrees to lift all economic sanctions on the country.
Tehran issued its new demands on Tuesday, just days after Western nuclear negotiators failed to hammer out a deal to halt Iran’s contested enrichment program for at least six months.
Top Iranian officials now say that they will only continue negotiations if the West agrees to first lift the crippling economic sanctions that originally pushed Tehran to the bargaining table.
The developments came on the same day that Iran’s top nuclear official announced that the country would not be reporting a host of new nuclear facilities to international nuclear inspectors.
"We can negotiate about suspending part of our nuclear activities only if the entire sanctions program is annulled," said Ahmad Salek, chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s Cultural Commission.
Iran’s right to enrich up 20 percent grade uranium has been set by the country as a non-negotiable "redline," according to Salek and multiple other Iranian officials.
"This is a political game and the nuclear energy [issue] only serves as an excuse [for Western officials], and they are after other things," Salek said according to Iran’s state-run Fars News Agency. "Otherwise, we have a powerful rationale in [dealing with] our nuclear issue."
Salek urged Iran’s negotiating team to "act strongly and firmly without taking any backward step" when talks resume on Nov. 20.
"What kind of negotiation could it be that they ask us to have nuclear suspension and stop uranium enrichment, while they are not to take even a single step," Salek said.
Salek is not the only senior Iranian official to balk at Western demands that enrichment activities be suspended for at least six months.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran makes no deal over its right," lead Iranian negotiator Mohamed Javad Zarif said just a day before negotiations with the West fell apart.
Iran’s new negotiating stance was coupled with a major announcement that many new nuclear power plants would be built along the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea.
However, Iran will not disclose details about the plants to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), according to Ali Akbar Salehi, the leader of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization.
"We are not obliged to introduce to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) the nuclear facilities that we are to build in the future and only 180 days before entry of nuclear substances there, we will inform the IAEA of them," Salehi said on Tuesday, according to Fars.
The new nuclear plants will be built in North, South, and central Iran, according to Salehi.
"The power plants should have access to a huge source of water," he said. "The new power plants will be supported by desalinations, mainly located in Southern parts of the country."
As Iranian officials demand a preemptive end to sanctions, media reports have indicated that the Obama administration is preparing to offer just that. It is believed that the deal was stymied by French officials, who objected to an agreement backed by both United States and Great Britain.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney reiterated the administration’s support for sanctions relief during a Tuesday afternoon press conference.
"This is a decision to support diplomacy and a possible peaceful resolution to this issue," Carney said about negotiations with Iran.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have expressed great frustration with Iran’s obstinate rhetoric and could be on the cusp of approving a new round of sanctions, sources said.
"It's completely insane to pretend you can negotiate with these terrorists as if they weren't hardened Islamic radicals," said one senior congressional aide who works on the sanctions issue. "Just because a terrorist calls himself a diplomat, doesn't mean he's not a terrorist."
"The only thing these maniacs care about is holding on to power—and only when they are forced to choose between regime survival and their nuclear program will they concede the latter," the source said. "That's what makes the sanctions so important—they are bringing the regime to the edge of collapse—a little more pressure, and they might actually comply with their international obligations."
However, the Iranians appear to have taken the upper hand in negotiations, according to Noah Pollak, executive director of the pro-Israel Emergency Committee for Israel, which has harshly criticized the Obama administration for capitulating to Iran during talks.
"The Iranian approach to nuclear negotiations has always been, 'heads we win, tails you lose,' but I don't think [Secretary of State] John Kerry will ever understand this concept," Pollak said to the Washington Free Beacon.
Iran’s top foreign policy officials also criticized Kerry’s diplomacy following his surprise stop last week in Geneva on the final day of negotiations.
Kerry later blamed the Iranians for the failure to reach a deal.
"Mr. Secretary, was it Iran that gutted over half the U.S. draft on Thursday night, and publicly commented against it Friday morning?" lead negotiator Zarif said on Tuesday.
"No amount of spinning can change what happened within the [six powers] in Geneva from 6 p.m. Thursday to 5:45 Saturday. But it can erode confidence," Zarif said.
Published under: Iran , Nuclear Weapons