The nuclear talks between Iran and US diplomats resumed in Vienna this week after a short hiatus, with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attesting that a “good atmosphere” had prevailed in the talks and announcing that “good steps” had been taken – with more to follow.
But two troubling reports this week revealed that not all is well between Iran and the US. One report, by Foreign Policy’s Colum Lynch, revealed that Washington has privately accused Tehran of, we quote, “going on an international shopping spree to acquire components for a heavy-water reactor that American officials have long feared could be used in the production of nuclear weapons-grade plutonium” (!).
The acquisitions were reportedly made after the implementation of the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) formulated by Iran and the P5+1 over a year ago, which stipulated that Iran’s nuclear activities would be scaled back in exchange for sanctions relief. How, then, could US Secretary of State John Kerry have asserted with such confidence last month that Iran had kept its side of the bargain”?
But that wasn’t all. A lengthy report on Forbes suggested recently that Iran may have played a role in the massive hacking attack last month on Sony Pictures Entertainment, which has been pinned on North Korea, and that Tehran and Pyongyang may be “partners in cyber warfare” – a belligerent partnership Iran seems to be taking more seriously than its fragile assurances of cooperation with the West.
All this begs the question – Zarif listed “good steps” on his Vienna checklist, and threw in a bit of “good atmosphere,” too. We can wonder whether the “positive steps” relate to successful cyber warfare or successful acquisitions and whether the “good relations” relate to North Korea.