Reuters reports: “Iran has still not addressed specific issues that could feed suspicions it may have researched an atomic bomb, a U.N. watchdog report showed on Thursday, potentially complicating efforts by six powers to clinch a nuclear deal with Tehran. . . . The confidential report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), obtained by Reuters, said Tehran was continuing to withhold full cooperation in two areas of a long-running IAEA investigation that it had committed to giving by August last year.” The report is quoted on the occurrence of explosives testing: “Iran has not provided any explanations that enable the agency to clarify the outstanding practical measures.”

Mark Dubowitz rhetorically asks: “Who negotiates by letting Iran win massive concessions without requiring it to answer IAEA questions about weaponization?” Stonewalling the IAEA calls into question the entire premise of the talks. “It is a delusion to believe you can effectively monitor, verify, inspect and enforce any nuclear agreement with Iran when it refuses to address the many outstanding IAEA questions about its past and possibly continuing weaponization activities,” says Dubowitz. “Without full access to the people, sites and documentation involved in these weaponization activities, the IAEA will be unable to establish a baseline against which it can assess whether or not Iran’s nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes.” He and other experts point to Iran’s refusal to comply with IAEA requests as indicative of just how flawed the Joint Plan of Action is.

Mike Makovsky, chief executive of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), a pro-Israel group, reminds us that “the US and its partners didn’t include [compliance with IAEA requests] in the interim deal, the Joint Plan of Action, negotiated in November 2013, and is not part of the talks for a comprehensive deal. Separating these tracks out was a grave error since we need to understand the Iranian nuclear program’s true elements to properly negotiate a comprehensive deal and properly verify compliance with a deal.” This is not the only critical issue the P5+1 has let slide. Ballistic missiles and advanced research were also topics omitted from the talks. “Even evidence of Iranian cheating on the Joint Plan of Action last year didn’t stop the latest extension of the interim deal being concluded,” Makovsky says. “Obama isn’t letting such important matters get in the way of his hell-bent eagerness for a deal with Iran, even if the deal permitted Iran to soon becoming a threshold nuclear state.”

Stepping back for a moment, the Iranians’ continued behavior at the table, aggression in the region and conduct with regard to the IAEA tell us that the mullahs feel no pressure to curb their behavior. To the contrary, a Swiss-cheese deal and a feckless U.S. president have given them a green light to pursue their ambitions. The problem is not that sanctions might “wreck” the talks — that would at least stop the bonanza of concessions — but in totality they have not changed the mullahs’ cost-benefit analysis. Makovsky argues, “Sanctions must be an important element in Iran strategy, but cannot be the sole element, and must be paired with a credible threat of military action, by us and/or the Israelis.” And since President Obama lacks credibility, we are down to the threat of Israeli action, which now stands as the remaining obstacle to Iran’s dream of membership in the club of nuclear powers.

What Obama fails to comprehend is that a North Korea-type deal will not be a triumph, but the starting gun for a nuclear arms race in the region and/or military action (call it what it is: war) against Iran. At this point, it is Obama who should call a break from talks, ask Congress for sanctions and try to reestablish some of the leverage he has given away. Unfortunately, he does not see things that way. For him, any deal is better than no deal and the real problem is an Israeli prime minister who won’t shut up and accept his country’s fate to live under the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.

Israeli Prime Minister said he is "astonished" by continuation of nuclear talks with Iran despite IAEA report according to which Tehran withholds full cooperation with agency. (Video: Reuters)