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Under Secretary Wendy R. Sherman of the State Department issued a keynote address Thursday, Oct. 23, on the EU-coordinated P5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, continuing an ongoing agenda of pushing for disarmament. This speech updated the White Houses’ progress in the ongoing effort to prevent the Middle East regional power from developing an active nuclear arsenal. Ahead of this address, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy vowed Wednesday that “Congress will not simply look the other way if the Administration agrees to a deal that does not make sufficient progress in rolling back Iran’s nuclear program.” There had been reports that the Obama administration had been considering a deal allowing Tehran to operate as many as 4,000 centrifuges for the enrichment of uranium, though they were not confirmed by the White House or State Department.
The House Republicans have been vocal in their support of tougher sanctions as a leveraging tactic in continuing nuclear negotiations with Iran. A weak foreign policy on the part of the Obama Administration is a likely wedge issue for them in the final push before the midterm elections early next month, which likely influenced this evenings’ remarks from the State Dept. spokesperson.
In opening her remarks, Sherman attempted to show deference and humor with a reference to a twisted ankle and other personal maladies, ending on a joke about being hesitant to suffer further injury to her teeth in the event of having to eat her words. She then went on to quote former Secretary of State Madeline Albright in saying that, “Negotiations are like mushrooms and grow better in the dark” after making a series of statements implying her hesitance to speak on the part of the Iranians.
Getting to the substance of her remarks, Sherman said that a nuclear armed Iran would add an unacceptable level of “instability and danger” to that part of the world, potentially creating an arms race. Sherman ultimately stated that the Obama administration’s “set in stone” policy continues to be that Iran “will not, shall not, obtain a nuclear weapon.” She went on to set the stage for a possible tone of further talks with the remark that “Iran has done what it said it would do,” in what seemed like an indicator of a soft negotiation strategy from White House in future sessions.
The general tone and tenor of her remarks seemed to indicate that the Obama administration would prefer the public to wait until the November 24, 2014 deadline of the nuclear summit before expecting substantive results. There were no hard answers as to the number of centrifuges the administration would find acceptable for final resolution of a deal, nor mention toward any specific means of checking Iran’s level of compliance, although Sherman repeatedly stressed that a nuclear-armed Iran was unacceptable. The most definite information to come out of the address seemed to be that the world will have to wait another month for the final outcome of negotiations of Iran’s continuing pursuit of nuclear weapons.
By B. J. Whittemore
Photo by Fulvio Spada – flickr license