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The War that Haunts Iran’s Negotiators

Robin Wright

The historic nuclear diplomacy taking place in Vienna’s elegant Coburg Palace has roots in a gritty war between Iran and Iraq that ended more than a quarter of a century ago. Iran suffered more than a hundred and fifty thousand dead between 1980 and 1988. In Tehran, it’s called the Sacred Defense. In the final stages, U.S. aid to Iraq contributed to Iran’s decision to pursue nuclear capability—the very program that six world powers are now negotiating to contain.
 
 
Click here for the full article in The New Yorker.

 

All You Need to Know on Iran Nuke Talks

Iran and the world's six major powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States - continued to struggle to reconcile disagreements with only days remaining before the June 30 deadline for a comprehensive nuclear deal. Negotiators had reached an agreement on a blueprint for a final deal on April 2. But key points of contention remained, including the inspection of military sites, timing of sanctions relief, and restrictions on nuclear research and development.

The following list contains background information, key statements from officials, and other resources on the nuclear negotiations.
 
Background
 


 
 
 
Statements and Official Documents
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Reports and Polls
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Congress
 

Senate Hearing: Key Elements of Nuke Deal

Congress Acts: Senate, House Pass Corker Bill

Democrats to Obama: Stay on Course

House Foreign Affairs Committee: Verification Needed in Nuke Deal

Iran Nuclear Plan: Congress Reacts

House Foreign Affairs Committee Debates Nuke Talks

GOP Letter and Responses

 

Guide to Congressional Action on Iran Deal

The Congressional Research Service has released a report detailing the procedures related to a nuclear agreement with Iran. It covers the review period created by the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in May. The following are key excerpts from the brief.

Period for Congressional Review of an Agreement
 
The statute provides that in relation to an agreement with Iran regarding its nuclear program:
 
• Not later than five calendar days after reaching an agreement, the President is to transmit specified materials and certifications to (1) the Senate Committees on Finance; Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; Intelligence; and Foreign Relations; (2) the House Committees on Ways and Means; Financial Services; Intelligence; and Foreign Affairs; and (3) the majority and minority leaders of the Senate and the Speaker and majority and minority leaders of the House.
 
• Following transmittal, Congress would have a review period of 30 calendar days, unless the materials are transmitted between July 10 and September 7, 2015, in which case the review period is 60 calendar days. The 60-day period appears intended to ensure adequate opportunity for Congress to act if a 30-day period would overlap with the August congressional recess.
Agreements transmitted after September 7, 2015, would be subject to the 30-day review period.
 
• During the review period, the President is precluded from using waiver authority to provide additional sanction relief to Iran beyond that already provided under an interim nuclear agreement with Iran (“Joint Plan of Action” or JPA).
 
• During the review period, Congress may agree to a joint resolution of disapproval stating that Congress “does not favor the agreement.” The statute does not provide any special procedural mechanisms for consideration of such a resolution; it would be subject to regular procedures in each chamber8 and would also be subject to presidential veto.
 
• If Congress agrees to a disapproval resolution, the review period is extended 12 calendar days following the date of passage (roughly covering the period in which the President may issue a veto). If the President vetoes the disapproval resolution, the review period extends for 10 calendar days beyond the veto date (presumably to allow Congress time to take actions to override the veto).
 
If a joint resolution of disapproval were to be enacted (potentially requiring an override of a presidential veto in both chambers), any sanctions relief for Iran would cease (including any provided by the President under JPA waiver authority). The resolution would not invalidate the agreement itself but would affect only the possibility of presidential sanctions relief to Iran; nevertheless, precluding the President from providing such relief would almost certainly result in a dissolution of the agreement by Iran.
 
•  Alternatively, Congress could agree to a joint resolution of approval during the review period, which would, upon enactment, allow the President to waive sanctions, apparently even if the review period had not yet elapsed.
 
•  If Congress does not agree to any resolution approving or disapproving the agreement, the President may waive sanctions after the (30- or 60-day) review period has expired.
 
Legislation to Reinstate Waived Sanctions
 
In addition, the statute provides that in the absence of certain certifications of Iran compliance after congressional review, legislation that would reinstate sanctions waived by the President may be considered pursuant to specified expedited congressional procedures. Specifically:
 
•  For each 90-day period after the congressional review period described
above, the President must certify certain elements of compliance with the
agreement by Iran and submit such certification to the specified
congressional committees and leadership (listed above).
 
Click here for the full report.
 

Comments on Final Days of Nuclear Talks

On June 22, deputy foreign ministers from Iran and the world's six major powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States - resumed nuclear talks with only days remaining before the June 30 deadline for a deal. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Vienna on June 26 to meet with his foreign minister counterparts. 

On June 23, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei seemed to harden his stance on nuclear talks with the world’s six major powers. Kerry, however, said Khamenei’s remarks would not affect the talks. “This is something that's been going on throughout the negotiations,” he said the next day. On June 25, Kerry said, "I’m not declaring optimism.  I am hopeful." 
 
Russian deputy foreign minister and chief negotiator Sergei Ryabkov said on June 25 that around 90 percent of the final document has been drafted. But an unnamed U.S. official indicated that the talks could extend past the deadline, saying "We may not make June 30, but we will be close." 
 
The following are excerpted remarks from officials on the status of the talks.

United States 
 
Secretary of State John Kerry 
 
"We are not going to be guided by or conditioned by or affected or deterred by some tweet that is for public consumption or domestic political consumption. What matters to us is what is agreed upon within the four corners of a document and that is what is yet to be determined." 
 
"It may be that the Iranians will not fill out the full measure of what was agreed at Lausanne and, in that case, there will not be an agreement." 
—June 24, 2015, according to the press 
 
"We are not fixated on Iran specifically accounting for what they did at one point in time or another." 
—June 23, 2015, according to the press 
 
QUESTION:  Are you hopeful on Iran?  Are you hopeful on Iran, Secretary? 
 
SECRETARY KERRY:  I’m always hopeful.  Yes, I’m hopeful.  I’m not declaring optimism.  I am hopeful. 
—June 25, 2015, in a press briefing
 
"We have a lot of hard work to do.  We have some very tough issues, and I think we all look forward to getting down to the final effort here to see whether or not a deal is possible.  I think that everybody would like to see an agreement, but we have to work through some difficult issues."
— June 27, 2015, according to the press
 
 
State Department Spokesperson John Kirby 
 
Kerry's comments on possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program do not indicate "any kind of concession or change in the policy. It's just simply not true." 
 
"The sanctions lifting will only occur as Iran takes the steps agreed, including addressing possible military dimensions." 
 
"We've said we're not looking for a confession (from Iran); we've already made judgments about the past." 
—June 24, 2015, according to the press

 

Iran 
 
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

 

 

Click here for more information on Khamenei's "red lines" outlined in his June 23 speech 

President Hassan Rouhani 
 
“The government’s approach in foreign policy has been constructive interaction with the world, while respecting this red line: ‘Preserving independence, honor and national pride’, and on cultural issues, giving more space to all those active in the fields of culture and arts with respect for moral red lines and Islamic teachings." 
 
 “What brought powerful countries to the negotiating table was the resistance of the Iranian nation to pressures by ill-wishers and the failure of the sanctions.”  
 
 “Under the conditions of sanctions, we managed to curb the inflation with people’s help and get out of stagnation. It was again under the same conditions of sanctions when investment grew.”  
 
“If the opposite party [in the nuclear talks] does not make excessive demands, an agreement would be within reach and we will cross this historic bottleneck.” 
—June 23, 2015, according to leader.ir 
 
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
 
 
"All negotiating sides should avoid excessive demands and allegations outside international frameworks to pave the way for achieving an agreement." 
 
"There are still some differences (remaining between the two sides); some of them are technical and some are political, anyhow we are trying to accomplish the work soon." 
 
"During my meetings with EU foreign policy chief (Federica Mogherini) and foreign ministers of Germany, France and Britain, we will discuss the latest conditions of the nuclear talks and ways to strike a final agreement as well as the need for joint action to make this possible in future." 
—June 22, 2015, according to the press 
 
“The US will have lost a major opportunity, probably unique. But, for us, our population is accustomed to making necessary sacrifices to preserve its dignity and its rights." 
 
“It’s not about nationalism or chauvinism. It’s simply about having historical depth. Several years are a brief period in the history of a country with millennia as its depth." 
 
If the diplomacy fails, “It won’t be the end of the world.” 
—June 23, 2015, in an interview with The New Yorker 
 
“We need to work really hard in order to be able to make progress and move forward.  We’re determined to do everything we can in order to be able to make this important milestone, but that depends on a lot of things and we’re going to work on them.”
— June 27, 2015, according to the press

Head of the Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi
 
"We have repeatedly said that Iran's peaceful nuclear program is for technological purposes and their application will be according to international standards which may resolve their concerns."
 
“The Islamic Republic of Iran has set its own boundaries for nuclear talks, which lets no opportunity cross the redlines.”
— June 29, 2015, according to the press
 
Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araqchi  
 
"Iran wants to be exonerated from the PMD case and it should be become clear that the PMD cases have been false and during the negotiations, we pressure the opposite side and insist that the fate of this case should come under light within the framework of the agreement." 
—June 17, 2015, according to the press 
 
"Differences of opinion on the text of a comprehensive agreement have been reduced to some extent, but not as much progress has been made as we expected." 
 
“The text of the deal is a complicated one, which has different technical, legal and, above all, political dimensions. The text must undergo full reviews, first at the level of experts and later at the level of deputy foreign ministers." 
—June 21, 2015, according to the press 
 
"In certain topics, they also have different stances which may not be harmonized easily."
"Some progress has been made in main contexts compared to annexes."

"We have decided to reach an agreement within the deadline. We will keep up the job for several days to clinch a deal at last."
—June 26, 2015, according to the press
 
Judiciary Chief Sadeq Amoli Larijani  
 
"The nuclear negotiating team should be supported, and meantime, move within the framework of the Islamic Republic's redlines." 
—June 24, 2015, according to the press 
 
Director of the Management and Planning Organization Mohammad Bagher Nobakht 
 
“If the good deal that is sought by the Islamic Republic is not struck and there remain obscurities that could be settled with the extension of talks, we will naturally agree to the extension [of the talks]." 
—June 25, 2015, according to the press 
 
Vice President and Head of the Department of Environment Masoumeh Ebtekar  
 
"Reaching a fair and balanced agreement which can guarantee all our legitimate nuclear rights is expected." 
—June 23, 2015, in a meeting with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg 
 
European Union

High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini
 
"I would say that the political will is there. I've seen it from all sides. So we have tasked our negotiating teams to start working immediately tonight on the text [of the final deal].”
Negotiators are drafting the text of the final accord and will “try and close all the issues in order to translate the political understanding that we found in [the Swiss city of] Lausanne into texts that are solid enough for the coming days.”
 
“If we need to have a couple of additional days more, it's not the end of the world. But it is very clear that the deadline is going to stay end of June / beginning of July.”
 
“So no extension. We all agreed on that.”
 
“We don't have new points open on the agenda. We are not renegotiating things.”
— June 28, 2015, according to the press
 
France 
 
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius 
 
France wants a deal but wants the deal to be robust, a good deal, but not a bad dealA certain number of statements do not seem to go in that direction. France reaffirms that it wants a solid accord, but at the same time must stress the firmness of its positions. 
—June 24, 2015 in a press conference with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir via Reuters 
 
 
"What we want is a robust deal that recognizes Iran's right to civil nuclear power, but guarantees that Iran gives up definitively the nuclear weapon."
 
"For this there are three indispensable conditions: a lasting limitation of Iran's research and development capacity, a rigorous inspection of sites, including military if needed, and the third condition is the automatic return of sanctions in case it violates its commitments."
— June 27, 2015, according to the press
 
Russia 
 
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov 
 
Some complex issues remain but there are fewer of them than a week ago. 
The number of issues left to be resolved “can be counted on one hand.” 
—June 19, 2015 to RIA-Novosti via AFP 

Germany 
 
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier  
 
"In my view [an agreement] is possible, but it requires that Iran continue talks constructively and not to pursue a different path." 
"It is important to end this 10-year crisis." 
—June 22, 2015, according to the press


 

Iran Parliament Passes Bill on Nuclear Deal

On June 23, Iran’s parliament overwhelmingly voted in favor of a bill stipulating several conditions for a nuclear deal between Iran and the world’s six major powers. The legislation, intended to safeguard Iran’s nuclear achievements, received 213 votes in favor, 10 against and six abstentions.

 

The powerful Guardian Council, composed of legal experts and Islamic jurists, debated the bill the next day. A majority of its 12 members, ruled that the legislation complied with the constitution.
 
The following are key points of the legislation as reported by Iranian media:
 
·  A deal would only be acceptable to Iran if all sanctions are lifted on the same day a deal takes effect.
·  The International Atomic Energy Agency should only be allowed to conduct “standard monitoring activities” in accordance with the framework of safeguards agreement.
·  Access to military, security or other sensitive non-nuclear facilities as well nuclear scientists should be off limits to inspectors.
·  Restrictions on nuclear research and development for peaceful purposes should not be restricted.
·  Any final nuclear agreement with the world’s six major powers would only be valid it complies with the requirements of the bill.
 
Click here for more information on Iran's parliament.
 
 

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