Strong Signs Indicate Iran Nuclear Deal Just Around the Corner

Deals between the West and Tehran have often been preceded by hostages being freed for hefty cash payments. 

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, February 8, 2022. AP/Lisa Leutner, file

With Britain inching closer to winning the release of an Iran-held hostage and Russia apparently reassured it will be able to sidestep sanctions to make future deals with Tehran, can a new appeasement pact with the Islamic Republic be far behind?

Several Washington sources tell the Sun an agreement to renew the 2015 nuclear deal between six top world powers and Iran is indeed close to being finalized. A recent, last-minute snag — Russia’s demand to exclude its dealings with Tehran from Ukraine-related sanctions — now looks on the way to being resolved. 

Even more telling is the fate of the British hostage. Deals between the West and Tehran have often been preceded by hostages being freed for hefty cash payments. 

Leading up to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Obama administration paid $400 million in cash to secure the release of four Americans held in Iran — a downpayment related to the nuclear deal. American negotiators are currently contemplating handing over up to $11 billion to release four Americans as part of a return to the 2015 nuclear deal. 

The British Broadcasting Corporation reports today that the British national, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been held in Iran for more than five years on trumped-up spying allegations, was just given back her passport. 

At the same time, according to the BBC, London is considering a payment of $520 million to Tehran. The sum equals what is considered a British debt that dates back to 1970, when 10 Downing Street canceled a delivery of tanks it had sold to the Shah regime before the Khomeini revolution. 

The government is doing “everything we can to look after the interests of Nazanin and all the very difficult dual national cases we have in Tehran,” Prime Minister Johnson, who denied that the payment to Iran is related to negotiations over Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release, said. Those are “two entirely separate issues,” he said. 

Ms. Zaghari-Radcliffe traveled to Iran in 2016 to introduce a daughter to her family there. She was arrested shortly after arrival on espionage charges, her passport confiscated. She was then sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, a term later extended for another year in confinement. 

Separately, the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, met in Moscow today with his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. Speaking in a joint press conference afterward, Mr. Lavrov said Washington gave him “written guarantees” that American sanctions related to the Ukraine invasion would not hamper Russia’s relations with Iran. 

Russia last week demanded public assurances that it could continue doing business with Iran, putting a stop to the nuclear deal negotiations, but today Mr. Lavrov said, “We received written guarantees. … They are included in the text of the agreement itself on the resumption of the JCPOA.” 

A State Department official declined comment, but last week said that new sanctions on Russia are “unrelated to the JCPOA and should not have any impact on its potential implementation.” Russia, the official added, “shares a common interest in ensuring Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon.”

As Washington seems intent on renewing the 2015 deal, Mr. Lavrov’s assurances may well signal that Moscow’s last-minute demands have been smoothed over. At the same time, America’s Iran-neighboring allies are increasingly making their objections known. 

One traditional ally, Saudi Arabia, has been using its new relations with Communist China to demonstrate anger at America’s Mideast policies. The Wall Street Journal reports today that Riyadh is in active talks with Beijing to sell its oil there in yuan, rather than American dollars. Such a deal would diminish the American dollar’s dominance in energy markets, hampering one of Washington’s most potent foreign policy tools.  

In Israel today, meanwhile, government websites have been restored after a cyber attack that paralyzed all services yesterday. The denial-of-services attack was described as the largest in the country’s history. Water and electric services were unharmed, and military and intelligence sites were untouched. 

The incident was widely described as a likely Iranian attack, which would add to growing recent Israeli-Iranian hostilities that included what Iran’s state-controlled press describes as a recent failed Mossad attempt to damage a secret nuclear facility at Fordow. According to reports today, Israel last month destroyed hundreds of Iranian drones near Kermanshah in western Iran.

An Israeli air attack in Syria last week killed two high-ranking Iranian military officers, and it was followed by an Iranian vow to retaliate.  

Iran also insists its Sunday ballistic missile attack in Iraqi Kurdistan hit a Mossad facility at Erbil. One building, belonging to a local businessman, was destroyed while several missiles landed near the American consulate. 

As part of a desire to advance Iranian diplomacy, Washington officials have claimed, without supporting evidence, that the attack did not target the American facility, one of the world’s largest diplomatic buildings.

One unidentified administration official went as far as to leak to two newspapers the idea that the attack indeed hit an Israeli facility. A New York Times report on that information was later retracted by its author.

The New York Sun

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