Written by Patrick Goodenough

(CNSNews.com) – Iran’s supreme leader on Sunday accused the United States of having fabricated the “myth” that Iran seeks nuclear weapons in order to characterize it as a security threat.

“The real source of threat is the United States of America, which creates insecurity through its interference in domestic and internal issues of other countries in the region and faces no inhibitory forces,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told military leaders in Tehran.

Khamenei noted that a U.S. official had recently spoken again about keeping the military option on the table with regards to Iran’s nuclear activities, yet on the other hand Iran was being told to “stop its defensive progress.”

Urging the U.S. to stop such “silly” comments, he said Iran was prepared for any possible attack.

“The Islamic Republic has proved that it would defend itself powerfully,” he said. “The whole nation would come together like a fist and face aggressors.”

The supreme leader’s latest rhetoric comes shortly before negotiators from Iran, the U.S. and five other countries are due to meet in Vienna in an ongoing effort to finalize a comprehensive nuclear deal by the end of June, based on a “framework” agreement announced early this month.

Ever since that April 2 announcement, exactly what was agreed to in the framework has been in dispute. On two key points Iran says it won’t budge: its demand that sanctions are lifted immediately once a final deal is signed, and its refusal to allow foreign inspectors to access military bases.

The U.S. has long held as a crucial element of any Iran deal the right for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect any site where nuclear activity is suspected.

According to the White House version of the framework agreement, Iran must “grant access to the IAEA to investigate suspicious sites or allegations of a covert enrichment facility, conversion facility, centrifuge production facility, or yellowcake production facility anywhere in the country.”

But Iran said it never agreed to that, accused the White House of “lying,” and declared that military sites will be no-go areas to outsiders.

Doubling down on that stance, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps deputy commander Gen. Hossein Salami said Sunday that permitting foreigners access to military bases would amount to “occupation of our soil” and be a “national humiliation,” the Mehr news agency reported.

“Iran will not become a paradise of spies,” Salami told state television. “We will not roll out the red carpet for the enemy.”

On the second core issue in dispute, the timing of the easing of U.S. sanctions, the White House version of the framework agreement says the measures will be suspended only “after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps.”

Khamenei and President Hasan Rouhani have both insisted, however, that the sanctions must go immediately when a final agreement is signed.

During a joint press conference with visiting Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi Friday, President Obama appeared to soften on the issue, linking the suspension of sanctions not specifically to Iranian compliance but to the reaching of a final deal.

He said that he and Renzi had agreed in their talks “that until any final deal is reached, sanctions on Iran must continue to be fully and strictly enforced.”

Obama was asked later during the press conference if he could be “definitive” on the question of a phasing-out rather than an immediate lifting of sanctions.

But rather than do so, he deferred to the negotiators.

“With respect to the issue of sanctions coming down, I don’t want to get out ahead of [Secretary of State] John Kerry and my negotiators in terms of how to craft this.”

Part of the negotiators’ job, he said, “is to sometimes find formulas that get to our main concerns while allowing the other side to make a presentation to their body politic that is more acceptable.”

The rest of Obama’s comments on sanctions dealt not with conditions under which they would be lifted, but ways to ensure that they could be quickly reinstated in the event of Iranian cheating.

“Our main concern here is making sure that if Iran doesn’t abide by its agreement that we don’t have to jump through a whole bunch of hoops in order to reinstate sanctions. That’s our main concern,” he said. “And I think that goal of having in reserve the possibility of putting back and applying forceful sanctions in the event of a violation, that goal can be met.  And it will require some creative negotiations by John Kerry and others, and I’m confident it will be successful.”

Exactly how quickly those sanctions could be reinstated if necessary remains unclear. The White House version of the framework agreement refers to a “dispute resolution process” in the event of a disagreement over any party’s performance, but without any details about who would be involved, what the process would entail, and how long it would take.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is contemplating a presidential bid, said Sunday that framework deal with Iran “is deteriorating before our eyes.”

SOURCE: CNS News


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