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Critics Of Nuclear Deal Go On The Offensive Ahead Of Deadline

The nonprofit group United Against Nuclear Iran has launched a multimillion-dollar media campaign that pushes Washington to take a harder line on the nuclear negotiations with Iran.

WASHINGTON -- "We Can't Trust Iran" blares the headline -- boldfaced and in capital letters -- of a full-page ad in The New York Times.

Placed just a day before the original June 30 deadline for the conclusion of nuclear talks with Iran, the advertisement highlighted the fact that many in the United States are not happy with the state of the negotiations.

Some, like the bipartisan American Security Initiative that placed the ad, direct their ire at presumed specifics of the emerging deal, suggesting that Washington was conceding too much to Tehran.

The initiative, led by several former U.S. senators, argues that the United States should walk away from any deal that does not include "unconditional inspections" of Iran's nuclear sites.

"Any agreement with Iran must include inspections anytime, and anywhere, of all of Iran’s military and nonmilitary facilities, with no ability to turn away inspectors," the ad declares.

Suggestions by U.S. officials that the talks in Vienna could be extended -- a prospect that appeared to be a given when it was announced that several more days would be needed -- only heightened the intensity of critics who have tired of extensions and missed deadlines.

A spot aired on national television by United Against Nuclear Iran (UNANI) -- a nonprofit, nonpartisan group whose founders include former U.S. ambassadors and a former CIA director -- claims that concessions made by the United States in the negotiations go "too far" and that "America can't risk more concessions":

UNANI announced last week the launch of "a multimillion-dollar television, print, radio, digital, and grassroots campaign" that pushes Washington to take a harder line on key elements of the deal, including the inspections of nuclear sites, which have been publicly ruled out by Iranian leaders.

The group said the campaign, which started on June 23, will continue throughout the negotiation process, including the time allotted to the U.S. Congress to weigh in on any final nuclear accord.

Mark Wallace, UNANI’s CEO, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under former President George W. Bush, says Washington already made too many concessions to Iran under the so-called framework agreement reached in Geneva in April.

He tells RFE/RL that "further concessions" to Iran on critical issues regarding its nuclear program could lead to a "catastrophically bad agreement."

"We're trying to elevate the discourse to a level that is deserved for a foreign policy issue of such great consequences," Wallace said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Vienna on June 27
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Vienna on June 27

Wallace says his group is concerned that the tentative nuclear agreement will leave Iran's nuclear infrastructure intact and it would also allow the country to engage in research on advanced centrifuges.

Similar concerns have been stated in recent days by U.S. lawmakers and former administration aides.

In a June 29 statement, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (Republican-California) said extending the negotiations beyond the deadline would be worth it only if it led to "greater restraints" on Iran's nuclear program "and not "more concessions from the United States."

Among demands for approving a deal, Royce's statement listed: "anywhere, anytime inspections; no sanctions relief jackpot for Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps; guaranteed sanctions snap-backs; and meaningful restraints on Iran's nuclear program that last decades."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (left) chats with the diirector-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, during a meeting in Vienna on June 29.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (left) chats with the diirector-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, during a meeting in Vienna on June 29.

Last week, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (Republican-Tennessee) expressed concerns about the "direction of the nuclear negotiations" and "red lines" that may be crossed.

"I fear that the administration may again provide the green light for a slow and measured nuclear-development program that does little to deter Iran from laying the foundation for a weapons program after it reaps the benefits of sanctions relief," said Corker at a June 25 hearing.

And in a letter published last week, several former senior advisers to U.S. President Barack Obama warned that the negotiations with Iran "may fall short of meeting the administration's own standard of a 'good' agreement."

The letter calls on the United States to pressure Iran to establish strict limits on advanced centrifuge testing, to allow UN inspectors to visit any nuclear military sites they need, and to secure the right to interview Iranian officials and nuclear scientists.

It also says that sanctions relief must be based on Iran's compliance to its obligations under the agreement.

U.S. officials have rejected suggestions that they have made too many compromises in the nuclear talks with Iran.

One unidentified senior U.S. official attending the talks in Vienna was quoted by Reuters on June 29 as dismissing such criticism as "absurd."

"If we were going to cave, I could be home already and I would be a really happy person," the official said. "We would have done that a long time ago."