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Vienna Shadow Play Hangs Over Iran Nuke Deal
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Few people, apart from specialists, may have heard of the JCPOA Joint Commission. That’s the group in charge of a Sisyphean task: the attempt to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal through a series of negotiations in Vienna.

The Iranian negotiating team was back in Vienna yesterday, led by Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi. Shadowplay starts with the fact the Iranians negotiate with the other members of the P+1 – Russia, China, France, UK and Germany – but not directly with the US.

That’s quite something: after all, it was the Trump administration that blew up the JCPOA. There is an American delegation in Vienna, but they only talk with the Europeans.

Shadowplay goes turbo when every Viennese coffee table knows about Tehran’s red lines: either it’s back to the original JCPOA as it was agreed in Vienna in 2015 and then ratified by the UN Security Council, or nothing.

Araghchi, mild-mannered and polite, has had to go on the record once again to stress that Tehran will leave if the talks veer towards “bullying”, time wasting or even a step-by-step ballroom dance, which is time wasting under different terminology.

Neither flat out optimistic nor pessimistic, he remains, let’s say, cautiously upbeat, at least in public: “We are not disappointed and we will do our job. Our positions are very clear and firm. The sanctions must be lifted, verified and then Iran must return to its commitments.”

So, at least in thesis, the debate is still on. Araghchi: “There are two types of U.S. sanctions against Iran. First, categorized or so-called divisional sanctions, such as oil, banking and insurance, shipping, petrochemical, building and automobile sanctions, and second, sanctions against real and legal individuals.”

“Second” is the key issue. There’s absolutely no guarantee the US Congress will lift most or at least a significant part of these sanctions.

Everyone in Washington knows it – and the American delegation knows it.

When the Foreign Ministry in Tehran, for instance, says that 60% or 70% has been agreed upon, that’s code for lifting of divisional sanctions. When it comes to “second”, Araghchi has to be evasive: “There are complex issues in this area that we are examining”.

Now compare it with the assessment of informed Iranian insiders in Washington such as nuclear policy expert Seyed Hossein Mousavian: they’re more like pessimistic realists.

That takes into consideration the non-negotiable red lines established by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei himself. Plus non-stop pressure by Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who are all JCPOA-adverse.

But then there’s extra shadowplay. Israeli intel has already notified the security cabinet that a deal most certainly will be reached in Vienna. After all, the narrative of a successful deal is already being constructed as a foreign policy victory by the Biden-Harris administration – or, as cynics prefer, Obama-Biden 3.0.

Meanwhile, Iranian diplomacy remains on overdrive. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is visiting Qatar and Iraq, and has already met with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim al Thani.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, virtually at the end of his term before the June presidential elections, always goes back to the same point: no more US sanctions; Iran’s verification; then Iran will return to its “nuclear obligations”.

The Foreign Ministry has even released a quite detailed fact sheet once again stressing the need to remove “all sanctions imposed, re-imposed and re-labeled since January 20, 2017”.

The window of opportunity for a deal won’t last long. Hardliners in Tehran couldn’t care less. At least 80% of Tehran members of Parliament are now hardliners. The next President most certainly will be a hardliner. Team Rouhani’s efforts have been branded a failure since the onset of Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign. Hardliners are already in post-JCPOA mode.

That fateful Fateh

What none of the actors in the shadowplay can admit is that the revival of the JCPOA pales compared to the real issue: the power of Iranian missiles.

In the original 2015 negotiations in Vienna – follow them in my Persian Miniatures e-book – Obama-Biden 2.0 did everything in their power to include missiles in the deal.

Every grain of sand in the Negev desert knows that Israel will go no holds barred to retain its nuclear weapon primacy in the Middle East. Via a spectacular kabuki, the fact that Israel is a nuclear power happens to remain “invisible” to most of world public opinion.

While Khamenei has issued a fatwa clearly stating that producing, stockpiling and using weapons of mass destruction – nuclear included – is haram (banned by Islam), Israel’s leadership feels free to order stunts such as the sabotage via Mossad of the (civilian) Iranian nuclear complex at Natanz.

The head of Iran’s Parliament Energy Committee, Fereydoun Abbasi Davani, even accused Washington and London of being accomplices to the sabotage of Natanz, as they arguably supplied intel to Tel Aviv.

Yet now a lone missile is literally exploding a great deal of the shadowplay.

On April 22, in the dead of night before dawn, a Syrian missile exploded only 30 km away from the ultra-sensitive Israeli nuclear reactor of Dimona. The official – and insistent – Israeli spin: this was an “errant”.

Well, not really.

Here – third video from the top – is footage of the quite significant explosion. Also significantly, Tel Aviv remained absolutely mum when it comes to offering a missile proof of ID. Was it an old Soviet 1967 SA-5? Or, rather more likely, a 2012 Iranian Fateh-110 short range surface-to-surface, manufactured in Syria as the M-600, and also possessed by Hezbollah?

A Fateh family tree can be seen in the attached chart. The inestimable Elijah Magnier has posed some very good questions about the Dimona near-hit. I complemented it with a quite enlightening discussion with physicists, with input by a military intel expert.


The Fateh-110 operates as a classic ballistic missile, until the moment the warhead starts maneuvering to evade ABM defenses. Precision is up to 10 meters, nominally 6 meters. So it hit exactly where it was supposed to hit. Israel officially confirmed that the missile was not intercepted – after a trajectory of roughly 266 km.

This opens a brand new can of worms. It implies that the performance of the much hyped and recently upgraded Iron Dome is far from stellar – and talk about an euphemism. The Fateh flew so low that Iron Dome could not identify it.

The inevitable conclusion is this was a message/warning combo. From Damascus. With a personal stamp from Bashar al-Assad, who had to clear such a sensitive missile launch. A message/warning delivered via Iranian missile technology fully available to the Axis of Resistance – proving that regional actors have serious stealth capability.

It’s crucial to remember that when Tehran dispatched a volley of deliberately older Fateh-313 versions at the US base Ayn al-Assad in Iraq, as a response to the assassination of Gen Soleimani in January 2020, the American radars went blank.

Iranian missile technology as top strategic deterrence. Now that’s the shadowplay that turns Vienna into a sideshow.

(Republished from Asia Times by permission of author or representative)
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  1. History shows that the tribe is unwilling or incapable of negotiating, so the “negotiating” teams may as well spend their spare time doing touristy things in Vienna; otherwise they are just wasting their time. Too bad so sad.

    • Replies: @Tonypoo
  2. Anonymous[769] • Disclaimer says:

    and yet iranian missile technology killed >100 passengers on an ukrainian jet soon after soleimani’s death.

    • Troll: GazaPlanet
    • Replies: @Stephane
  3. Tonypoo says:

    The missile was a warning to Israel to stop its evil acts or else. Of course. Israel and all ZIONIST OWNE MEDIA INCLUDING THE BBC tried to hide the truth, but the IDF knows…

  4. Tonypoo says:
    @Mr. Cracker

    Do you mean the JEWS? I agree they are the most terrorist people on earth. Terrorism was discovered by the JEWS…

    • Replies: @Mulga Mumblebrain
  5. A123 says:

    Iran violated the terms of JCPOA while the Obama-Biden administration was still in office: (1)

    two non-partisan organizations based in Washington, DC — the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) — released detailed reports about Iran’s undeclared clandestine nuclear facilities as well.

    The IAEA first ignored the reports. This should not come as a surprise: the IAEA has a long history of misreporting the Islamic Republic’s compliance with the deal and declining to follow up on credible reports about Iran’s illicit nuclear activities. Iran’s clandestine nuclear sites in Natanz and Arak were revealed by the opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

    In any event, after a significant amount of pressure was imposed on the IAEA, and after the IAEA’s chief passed away and Iran was reportedly able to moving the suspected materials out of the secret nuclear facility, inspection of the site was recently implemented.

    What was the outcome? Even though the Iranian leaders had cleaned up the facility, the IAEA’s inspectors were able to detect traces of radioactive uranium at the site. Israel’s warning and other reports had proved accurate.

    Khameni lied to VP Biden. JoeBama & his long time advisors know that Khameni will not keep any deal. Expect showmanship aimed at mollifying the various DNC factions.

    Even if an episode of dementia confuses Biden into a failed deal… How long would it last? Senate ratification of a Treaty is still a 100% absolute impossibility. Any Biden Executive Plan Of Action [BEPOA] will only last as long as Biden. Why would any nation sign a temporary BEPOA that will only last a few months? Or, weeks? Or, days?

    PEACE 😇

    (1) From 2019 —

  6. Notsofast says:

    israel shamir had a link to a russian news site claiming the russians had jammed the israeli missile defence systems. this adds a whole new twist to the situation but the russians must have approve it.

    • Replies: @Showmethereal
  7. @Tonypoo

    I think that Begin used the expression ‘invented’, but it was a lie, as usual.

    • Replies: @PJ London
  8. @A123

    The Zionazi hag just loves seeing Iranians murdered by brutal sanctions. It’s a religious obligation, a mitzvah, after all. Unfortunately you won’t get your desired New Purim this time. More likely a New Masada, totally self-inflicted.

  9. ANON[330] • Disclaimer says:

    1 On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch released a 213-page reportarguing that Israel pursues a policy of ethnic supremacy that favors Israeli Jews over Palestinians in both Israel and the occupied territories.–

    2 Referring to war with Syria, Moshe Dayan, the head of the Israeli Defence Force, once confessed to a reporter, off the record, that Israel deliberately provoked Syria to attack. He said that Israel would push further and further until Syria responded. Dayan admitted that Israel had started “more than 80 percent” of the skirmishes with Syria. Former Israeli Prime Minister Moshe Sharett once referred in his diary to “the long chain of false incidents and hostilities we have invented, and the many clashes we have provoked.” Sharett called this “the method of provocation and revenge.”

    • Replies: @animalogic
  10. Stephane says:

    The error was the misidentification of the airplane and the decision to launch, the missile itself worked fine and did exactly what it was designed to do. Reminds me of the USS Vincennes blunder.

    • Agree: Showmethereal
  11. @ANON

    “the long chain of false incidents and hostilities we have invented, and the many clashes we have provoked.”
    Thank you.
    Truly, one is refreshed, as with an oasis, it’s cool waters & sweet dates, by the acts of the Godly & Righteous.

  12. PJ London says:
    @Mulga Mumblebrain

    Of course it was Putin that OK’d it.
    It was a message ; “Call off the US aggression in Ukraine or we will hit the US owners in Jerusalem.”
    It worked, and all the Russian troops could go home.

  13. Regarding Iran’s missile response to the assassination of Gen Soleimani, the accuracy of the missiles demonstrates that Iran already has an indirect nuclear deterrence, in that any target country with active nuclear reactors can be “Chernobylated”.

    This ramification seems obvious to me but I have not seen it expounded anywhere.

    • Replies: @Showmethereal
  14. I have a few questions that nobody seems to be asking:


    1. Since 2019, the PAC ABM has failed to detect Houthis’ missiles and drones in Saudi Arabia – ARAMCO was neutralized. The French came in with their own ABMs and failed. Her Majesty the Queen sent her own ABM to help the Saudis and they all failed against “artisanal” flying objects launched by Yemen into Saudi Arabia.

    2. Iran has brought down at least 10 different models of US drones in the Persian Gulf and reversed-engineered them in order to feed the Axis of Resistance.

    3. Iran downed a \$220million “Stealthy” US drone in the Gulf under Trump’s “Maximum Pressure”

    4. Many oil tankers have come under attack in the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and the Red Sea and nobody has ever clearly identified where the attacking objects came from.

    5. There have been explosions at Tomer in the Occupied Territory, at Irbil in Iraq coming out of nowhere!

    6. Now an SA-5 has suddenly become a Surface to Surface missile that instead of hitting a flying target has traveled 295kms from Damascus to Dimona searching for an incoming missile(without exploding) and the 12 Iron Dome concentric sites that protect a nuclear reactor were All turned blind!!!!!

    7. When Iran attacked the main US base in Iraq, the most sophisticated ABM system in the world kept quiet.


    1 – How can Saudi Arabia that has bought more US PAC ABM systems than any other country in the world (except for the US and NATO) lack air defenses? How do they account for \$85billion spent each year on US hardware? The Houthis are already at 2kms from Maarib after 6 years of war, the last city controlled by the Saudi coalition.

    2 – Why would another Global South country even dare to purchase the PAC ABM system from the US knowing that they are useless? They can’t protect US assets and they can’t protect Saudi assets – where else will they do their job? In India? In Brazil? In Japan? In Korea? In Turkey?

    3- Why would a country buy a “Stealthy” drone worth \$220million from the US that is stealthy only on paper?

    4- Why have all military radars become blind in the Middle East since 2019?

    5 – What is the future of the Dimona nuclear deterrence when the Houthis, Hamas, Syria and Hezbollah can simultaneously launch 1000s of STEALTHY flying objects into the site since the Iron Dome is Iron only on paper? In fact, even if Iron Dome was not just a paper tiger, there is no way it can intercept 100 incoming flying objects at the same time and from different directions. It is a rigid as the PACs in Saudi Arabia that are looking at a specific angle.

    6- How confident is NATO about their air defenses when they are attacking Russia in Eastern Europe? Their ABMs have been proven to be useless everywhere else. What’s their plan B?

    • Replies: @A123
    , @Showmethereal
  15. A123 says:

    Your “questions” over focus on a very limited sub-set of the conflict spectrum. Any clash would quickly leave the boundaries implied by your “questions”.

    The “questions” also have numerous errors of fact. The RQ-4 Global Hawk drone is not a stealth platform… The missle fired into Israel demonstrated its “accuracy” by missing over 20 miles… etc.

    It is better to take a step back and look at the situation as a whole:

    • Can Iran stop other nations shipping in the Persian Gulf? Highly likely.
    • Would other nations retaliate by stopping Iranian shipping? Almost certainly.

    Thus, no Persian Gulf oil for anyone. Plus, significant risk of an ecological disaster from a destroyed supertanker.

    • How high would the price of oil rise — \$100/bbl? \$150/bbl? \$200/bbl?
    • What country would do the best? Russia, as #1 non-gulf oil exporter.
    • What country would suffer the most? China.

    While a number of Asian countries would be hit, China is the one most vulnerable to loss of energy resources. Reduced fuel availability would require rationing that would cripple the economy. Oil bought at \$100+ market prices would drain the PRC treasury.

    China is one of the few nations willing to deal with the current Iranian theocracy. They have to be discouraging Khameni from crossing “red lines” that would lead to a Persian Gulf War.

    PEACE 😇

    • Replies: @Notsofast
    , @anon
  16. @Notsofast

    Truth be told – if any adversary has enough munitions – no air defemse can stop all of them. You just hope to stop “enough” to make things survivable. That said this situation is peculiar because it wasnt a huge salvo…

  17. @Cloudswrest

    That and the shooting down of the stealth drone (“hey how did they see it??”) is why things never escalated. On top of it some years back they used electronic jamming techniques to take control of a different type of US drone and landed it and took it. They studied it and now their drones are just as good as US drones. Another reason their is lack of escalation.

  18. @Nostradamus

    #7 is not true. The US doesnt have the most sophisticated ABM. That said I am interested to know about the missile that went near the nuclear facility. There is a guy “FB” who understands the physics and mechanics of those systems… I wish he would give insight. My knowledge is cursory. His seems to be experiential.

  19. Anonymous[398] • Disclaimer says:

    What a waste of oxygen on people like you when others could use it better, as you spin your yarns about someone or other and truth fails entering the arena which of course is proven by the two sources that you link to, Defense of Democracies lol now that’s a good one noted for little but propaganda but you yourself are noted for that to, so it should not be surprising.

  20. I am afraid the US is just setting up a trap for Iran here. I can’t tell what it is but the aim is to built expectations so Iran or the media believe there is win-win outcome in sight. The only outcome that will make the US happy is regime change in Iran. Iran knows that and they are just buying time here and the US will end up adding new sanctions and nothing will be resolved. The aim of US policy seems to just create a lot of trouble all around Asia these days.

  21. Notsofast says:

    … by missing over 20 miles…. missing purposefully, this was a shot across the bow of the israeli ship of state, a warning shot, you want to fuck with nuclear facilities, two can play at that game. the accuracy of iranian missiles and the ineptitude of outdated american air defence systems was proven when they gave a 2 hour warning on their response to solemanis murder. wake up and smell the obvious.

    • LOL: A123
  22. anon[979] • Disclaimer says:

    Israel will drop nuclear bombs on USA ( or detonate from the ground ) and on London Berlin and Paris if Dimona starts leaking (despite USA’s Iron Dome Diaper ). Israeli will try to escape to Sinai ,Saudi,Jordan and take to the sea as new migrant waves trying to cross Mediterranean to get into Italy and Greece . Only the Nigerian and Chadian blacks can help them reach safely .

    Its a nightmares .

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