FPI Timeline: Defiance and Desperation in Iran Nuclear Talks (November 24, 2014-March 24, 2015)

March 24, 2015

Four months after the latest extension of talks with Iran and one week before the March 31 deadline for a political framework agreement, the Islamist regime continues to build up its nuclear program, refuse meaningful compromises, bypass international sanctions, and threaten its neighbors. At the same time, the P5+1 has offered concessions that would preserve Tehran’s nuclear infrastructure, while President Obama has threatened to veto legislation that impose prospective sanctions on Iran and require a congressional vote on any final deal.
 
This timeline illustrates Iran’s defiant behavior — and the West’s failure to counter it — since the November 2014 extension of negotiations. For a timeline tracing Iran’s destructive actions from the signing of the November 2013 interim agreement known as the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) to the November 2014 extension, please click here.


2014

Nov. 24: One year after the signing of the interim agreement known as the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), the P5+1 and Iran announce a seven-month extension to the talks. Under the agreement, Tehran is slated to receive another $11.9 billion in direct sanctions relief, and Secretary of State John Kerry says the parties aim to reach a political framework agreement “within four months.”
 
The extension leaves unaddressed Iran’s stonewalling of efforts by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to investigate the possible military dimensions (PMD) of Tehran’s nuclear program.
 
Nov. 25: In response to the extension, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says, “America and colonial European countries got together and did their best to bring the Islamic Republic to its knees, but they could not do so — and they will not be able to do so.”
 
Dec. 4: The family of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, whom Iran has unjustly imprisoned since July 2014, says Tehran has extended his sentence by up to 60 days.
 
Dec. 6: Iran denies claims by the Obama administration that Tehran made significant concessions as part of the seven-month extension of talks, including snap inspections of its facilities and the elimination of much of its uranium stockpile.
 
Dec. 7: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says Tehran plans to increase military spending by a third despite international sanctions and the falling price of oil.
 
Dec. 8: Foreign Policy reports that the United States has accused Iran of illicitly purchasing parts for the Arak heavy water reactor, a facility that could be used to produce plutonium for a nuclear weapon. In response, a State Department spokeswoman says Tehran “has kept all of their commitments under the JPOA,” but declines to say whether the regime’s procurement efforts for Arak would violate the agreement. Subsequently, a United Nations report accuses Iran of illicit procurement efforts for the Arak heavy water reactor.
 
Dec. 16: Relatives of Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine incarcerated by Iran for more than three years, release an open letter he wrote in prison urging President Obama “not to forget me” during nuclear negotiations. The relatives also indicate that Hekmati has begun a hunger strike.
 
Dec. 18: President Obama says that success in nuclear negotiations with Tehran could enable Iran to become “a very successful regional power,” which “would be good for everybody.”
 
Dec. 19: The United Nations General Assembly passes a resolution criticizing Iran for pervasive human rights violations, including “Torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including flogging and amputations,” as well as the abuse of women and ethnic or religious minorities.
 
Dec. 24: Following significant sanctions relief implemented at the beginning of the year as part of the November 2013 JPOA, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says Iran’s economy expanded by 4 percent in the six months following March 21, 2014.

 
2015
 
Jan. 3: Iran denies reports that it agreed to ship surplus enriched uranium as a concession in nuclear negotiations.
 
Jan. 8: According to a Bloomberg View report, senior Obama administration officials and members of Congress believe that the Iraqi government “is turning hardware over to Shiite militias that are heavily influenced by Iran and have been guilty of gross human-rights violations.”
 
Jan. 11: The head of Iran’s atomic energy organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, says Iran requires 12 times as much enriched uranium as it currently possesses.
 
Jan. 15: During a closed-door meeting at the Senate Democratic Issues Conference, President Obama urges lawmakers to resist pressure from donors to support new Iran sanctions legislation. The comment prompts Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a leading supporter of sanctions, to tell the president directly that he takes “personal offense” at the implied insult.
 
Jan. 16: In a joint news conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron, President Obama pledges to veto any new sanctions legislation. Cameron says he personally lobbied members of Congress to oppose the congressional efforts.
 
Reuters reports that the easing of sanctions on Iran has enabled India to import 42 percent more Iranian oil in 2014 over 2013 levels.
 
Jan. 18: In a sign of Iran’s growing presence in Syria, an Israeli strike kills six members of Hezbollah as well as a top Iranian general.
 
Jan. 20: In his State of the Union address, President Obama vows to veto any new Iran sanctions bill.
 
Jan. 21: “Over the past 18 months, we have been moving closer to [the Iranians’] positions on all key elements,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, tells administration officials during a hearing. “The more I hear from the administration in its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Iran.”
 
Jan. 27: Sens. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduce the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015 (S. 269), which would impose prospective sanctions on Iran should the P5+1 and Tehran fail to reach an agreement.
 
In a letter to President Obama, 10 Senate Democrats say they will wait until after March 24, the deadline the “negotiating teams have set for themselves” for a political framework agreement, to vote on the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015. The vote would only occur “if Iran fails to reach agreement on a political framework that addresses all parameters of a comprehensive agreement.” (The deadline is later extended to March 31.)
 
Jan. 28: By a bipartisan vote of 18-4, the Senate Banking Committee approves the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015 (S. 269).
 
Jan. 29: In Senate testimony, Henry Kissinger says: “Nuclear talks with Iran began as an international effort, buttressed by six UN resolutions, to deny Iran the capability to develop a military nuclear option. They are now an essentially bilateral negotiation over the scope of that capability through an agreement that sets a hypothetical limit of one year on an assumed breakout. The impact of this approach will be to move from preventing proliferation to managing it.” (Emphasis in original.)
 
Feb. 2: Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp’s missile division, says Tehran has provided short- and mid-range ballistic rocket technologies to its Lebanese, Syrian, Iraqi and Palestinian allies.
 
Feb. 4: Reuters reports that Iran is bypassing Western sanctions by selling hundreds of thousands of tons of fuel every month to companies based in the United Arab Emirates.
 
Feb. 8: Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, says Iran has made no “significant progress” in explaining the possible military dimensions (PMD) of its nuclear program. The same day, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says that any deal must lift sanctions quickly and that it would not be the “end of the world” if talks failed.
 
Feb. 9: “I don’t see a further extension [of talks with Iran] being useful,” says President Obama, “if [the Iranians] have not agreed to the basic formulation and the bottom line that the world requires to have confidence that they’re not pursuing a nuclear weapon.”
 
Feb. 11: In processions and rallies marking the 36th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution, regime spokesmen repeatedly call for the destruction of the United States. Crowds burn President Obama in effigy and American and Israeli flags.
 
In an interview, Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, hails Iranian influence throughout the Middle East. “Today we see signs of the Islamic revolution being exported throughout the region, from Bahrain to Iraq and from Syria to Yemen and North Africa,” he says.
 
Feb. 17: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says Tehran is accelerating its “peaceful” nuclear progress. “We don’t and will not take permission from anyone to make progress in science and knowledge,” he says.
 
Feb. 18: The Iranian judge overseeing the case of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian has denied him a lawyer, Rezaian’s brother and the Post say.
 
Feb. 19: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issues a report stating that Iran still refuses to answer questions about the possible military dimensions (PMD) of its nuclear program. Prior to the report’s publication, IAEA Director Yukiya Amano says Iran’s failure to address these questions “is not an option.”
 
Feb. 21: Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, says Tehran’s nuclear commitments “can be retracted” and “are temporary and non-obligatory.”
 
Feb. 23: The Associated Press and The New York Times report that the prospective Iran deal under negotiations would allow Tehran to possess 6,500 centrifuges for the first 10 years of the agreement, upon which a “phased” sunset clause would permit the regime to gradually ramp up its nuclear activities.
 
Feb. 24: In a special report, Reuters details how Iran’s military asserts its rule over Iraq. Reuters also reports that Iran has smuggled more than $1 billion despite international sanctions.
 
Feb. 25: Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) stages a war game that includes a gunboat attack on a replica of a U.S. warship. Ali Fadavi, a naval commander for the IRGC, says: “Nobody in America, no political or military official, even thinks with a single brain cell about war with the Islamic Revolution. The occasional statements by the U.S. president that all options are on the table have become a farce, a joke, even among the U.S. officials.”
 
Feb. 27: Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduce the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (S. 615), which would require a congressional vote on any deal reached with Iran.
 
March 2: In a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, National Security Advisor Susan Rice expresses opposition to new Iran sanctions legislation and says that a deal eliminating Iran’s domestic enrichment capacity “is neither realistic nor achievable.”
 
President Obama says any deal with Iran must freeze its sensitive nuclear activity for at least a decade.
 
March 3: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warns a joint session of Congress about the dangers of a bad deal with Iran. The same day, a United Nations report assails Iran for its human rights record, noting its alarming number of executions, use of torture, oppression of women and minorities, and crackdown on freedom of expression.
 
March 5: Secretary of State John Kerry visits Saudi Arabia to reassure allies in the region about a deal with Iran. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal says: “We see Iran involved in Syria and Lebanon and Yemen and Iraq and God knows where. This … must stop if Iran is to be part of the solution of the region and not part of the problem.”
 
March 8: Iran publicly unveils a new long-range cruise missile capable of hitting targets throughout the Middle East and in southern and eastern Europe.
 
March 9: Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and 46 other senators release an open letter to the leaders of Iran stating that the next president can revoke, and a future Congress can modify, any deal with Tehran that lacks congressional approval.
 
March 11: Secretary of State John Kerry says during a Senate hearing that the United States is not negotiating a “legally binding plan” with Iran and therefore need not obtain congressional approval for it.
 
In the same Senate hearing, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says Iran’s military efforts against ISIS are a “positive thing.” The same day, Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, says Tehran has reached “a new chapter” in its efforts to export the revolution. “Today, not only Palestine and Lebanon acknowledge the influential role of the Islamic republic but so do the people of Iraq and Syria,” he says. “They appreciate the nation of Iran.”
 
March 13: The State Department says that the United Nations Security Council would vote on any final agreement with Iran, while Congress would vote only on the lifting of sanctions after the deal is signed.
 
March 14: In a letter, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough expresses opposition to legislation that would require a congressional vote on any deal with Iran.
 
Iran inaugurates the mass production of a long-range anti-ship cruise missile that can strike targets up to 300 km away. “The high precision, rapid reaction and high quality of these important products have incredibly increased the Armed Forces’ combat power in the sky, sea and ground,” says Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan.
 
March 16: Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal says the emerging deal with Iran will spark a nuclear arms race. “I’ve always said whatever comes out of these talks, we will want the same,” he says. “So if Iran has the ability to enrich uranium to whatever level, it’s not just Saudi Arabia that’s going to ask for that. The whole world will be an open door to go that route without any inhibition, and that’s my main objection to this P5+1 process.”
 
March 19: In a Nowruz greetings video directed at the “leaders and people of Iran,” President Obama urges support for a “reasonable” nuclear deal, saying that the two countries now “have the best opportunities in decades to pursue a different future.” In response, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei calls in his Norwuz speech for “death to America.”
 
March 20: In a letter to President Obama, 367 House members state that a final deal must “constrain Iran’s nuclear infrastructure so that it has no pathway to a bomb” and lead to a “full understanding” of the possible military dimensions of the nuclear program. The letter also states that Iran’s destabilizing role in the region “demonstrates the risks of negotiating with a partner we cannot trust.”
 
March 24: The P5+1 and Iran continue to negotiate as the March 31 deadline for a framework agreement looms.

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