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Vienna Talks: New Nuke Deal Framework

            On February 20, Iran and the world’s six major powers agreed on a framework for comprehensive talks on Tehran’s controversial nuclear program. “We have identified all of the issues we need to address in reaching a comprehensive and final agreement,” E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Zarif told reporters that the talks were “very serious and more positive than expected.” High-level representatives from the so-called P5+1 — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — met with their Iranian counterparts for three days in Vienna. They agreed to hold another round of talks from March 17 to 20. The following are excerpted remarks by senior officials on the talks.


E.U. High Representative Catherine Ashton
            “We have had three very productive days during which we have identified all of the issues we need to address in reaching a comprehensive and final agreement.
            “There is a lot to do. It won't be easy but we have made a good start.
            “In addition to our political discussions, we have started the technical work. And we have set a timetable of meetings initially over the next four months with a framework to continue our deliberations.
            “Technical experts will meet in early March, and we will reconvene for the next E3 plus 3 political directors meeting led by Minister Zarif and myself, here in Vienna on 17th March.”
Feb. 20, 2014 in a statement
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
            “We are focused merely on the nuclear issues and the negotiations don’t include defensive and scientific issues and everyone has accepted that Iran’s defensive capability is no the subject for the negotiations.
            “We won’t close any [nuclear] site and have announced that no one should prescribe anything or dictate a solution to the Iranian nation; the way to ensure the peaceful nature of our program is not closing the sites, rather its peaceful nature should be displayed openly, transparently and based on the international regulations and supervision.
            “We agreed that no one 'surprises' the other side with new claims
            Feb. 20, 2014 to Iranian media
            “We agreed to hold several meetings at the level of Ms. Ashton and me every four weeks by [the Iranian month of] Khordad [May-June] and have working meetings between our experts on different issues which are on the agenda.”

            Feb. 19, 2014 in a Facebook post


Senior U.S. Official Special Briefing

Feb. 20, 2014

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Good morning, everyone. You have just heard Lady Ashton and Foreign Minister Zarif say a few words at the end of this first round of comprehensive negotiations that are meant to ensure that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon and that the international community has confidence that Iran has only a peaceful nuclear program.
I believe we have had constructive and useful discussions over the past few days, and we all do feel we have made some progress. Although we cannot predict everything ahead and we all know there will be many twists and turns, we do now have a path forward for how these negotiation will proceed.
In our sessions here in Vienna, we discussed issues of both process and substance. As Lady Ashton and Foreign Minister Zarif have said, we will meet back here in Vienna starting on March 17th to continue these discussions at the political director level. In between now and then, experts from the United States, the European Union, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom, and Iran will work very closely together to make progress on key substantive issues.
We had constructive conversations about all of the issues that will have to be addressed as part of the comprehensive agreement. Those discussions have created the framework and agenda for the negotiations going forward. We are trying to do this in as open and transparent a manner as possible, but for any negotiation to succeed it is critical to leave space for everyone’s points of view to be properly heard and taken into account. So you won’t see a formal, written-down framework or agenda, but we all know what it is and everything is referred to in some way in the Joint Plan of Action.
And as we’ve always said, all of the issues of concern to the international community regarding Iran’s nuclear program are on the table, and all of our concerns must be met in order to get a comprehensive agreement. As the JPOA says, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.
These conversations also gave us additional insight into Iran’s perspective, and they, of course, heard our perspective as well. We have begun to see some areas of agreement as well as areas in which we will have to work through very difficult issues. It won’t surprise any of you to know that I’m not going to outline those specific areas here because we’re not going to negotiate this agreement in public. But suffice to say we know the work that lies ahead and we are ready to do it.
As I said the other night, this will be a complicated, difficult, and lengthy process. We will take the time required to do it right, but we aim to get it done within the six-month context. And we will continue to work in a deliberate and concentrated manner to see if we can get that job done, because we want to ensure that the first step is not the only step and is not the last step.
You know when we first came together in Geneva in mid-October before the P5+1 talks with the European Union and with the new Iranian negotiating team, I said I hoped we could translate the positive tone we had seen during our meetings at the UN General Assembly, what really represented a new diplomatic opening, into specific and concrete ideas about how to move the process forward. We had only heard words at that point, which were encouraging but clearly not enough. Now we have seen some actions. So while we have much, much more work to do, it is worth remembering we have come some distance in a relatively short period of time, and to carry that notion of progress forward with us as we embark on this next, much more difficult task.
So it’s time for all of us to go to work. With that, I’m happy to take your questions.
MODERATOR: Thank you. When I call on you, if you could – I know we know most of you, but please identify yourself and your outlet, that would be great. Thank you. Go ahead, Steve, kick us off.
QUESTION: I’m Steve Erlanger from the New York Times. Understanding what you said about specifics, but could you talk more about the tone and tenor of the discussions, particularly as they moved from the Zarif-Ashton level to the Helga Schmid-Araqchi level? Were there – was there speechifying? Did you happen to hear anything about any ideology? Was it really very workmanlike and decent? Just could you talk some more about --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It was very workmanlike. We are long past speeches of ideology. That really does not occur. It was very conversational, it was back and forth. It was not one long presentation followed by another long presentation. It was engaged and it was a dialogue. It was substantive. It covered all of the issues that need to be put on the table to establish the way forward in a comprehensive agreement. And I would say that those words are descriptive of everyone at the table.
QUESTION:  What surprised you the most or that you were least expecting that actually took place at the table, either on Iranian reactions or demands, or also in your own – just the way that the dynamic worked? What was the thing that surprised you most over the last couple of days?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I try to and our team tries to enter these negotiations in a very focused, clear-minded – workmanlike is a good word – workmanlike way, and to be prepared, have done our homework. That is true of all of the P5+1 plus the European Union that we do an enormous amount of preparation. We try to come not with specific expectations other than to take another step forward in reaching our objective to ensure that the international community’s confidence is increased that Iran does not have military dimensions to its program, is not seeking and will not obtain a nuclear weapon.
So I don’t think surprise or non-surprise is really the element here. What I will say is that I think that all of us were glad that it was a workmanlike atmosphere, that there were not polemics, that there was seriousness of purpose by everybody at the table, and that we got into quite detailed substantive discussions on very difficult issues. So I don’t think surprise is quite the right word; but in the area in which we were at least satisfied, if not more than satisfied, it was the seriousness, the workmanlike approach, the depth and granularity of discussion.
QUESTION:  The Iranians have been saying in some of their public comments that ballistic missile technology is an issue that they made clear was not up for discussion, suggesting that somehow the United States and the other members of the P5+1 caved in. Is this the case or is this kind of – something that they’re trying to make for their home audience? And also, if you could explain – Ms. Ashton said that the timetable agreed was for four months and you’re still speaking about six months. I mean, is there an attempt to accelerate the process?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me do the last part first. Six months I meant from the beginning of the JPOA. But indeed, what we did is set out specific dates that we will meet for the next four months, and we are, in fact, trying to concentrate our energy. The reason we didn’t set out the last month of the remaining five months of the six months is because we don’t know quite yet the intensity with which that last month – what will be required. And my guess is it will require quite a bit because in any negotiation, the end of – if you’re coming to a close, it’s usually pretty intense. Those of you who were there in Geneva got to spend the entire night with us, so you know how these things go. We brought that one to a close at 5 in the morning. So we’ll try to give you that treat once again if we can. (Laughter.) It was a treat for me in particular. So – and for Secretary Kerry.
But on the first issue, I’m not going to speak to any particular item. What I’m going to say is what you will hear me say repeatedly, which is every issue of concern to us has been discussed, will be discussed, is on the table, is referred to in some way in the Joint Plan of Action. The Joint Plan of Action lays out elements for a comprehensive agreement. It talks about all concerns needing to be addressed. It talks about the UN Security Council resolutions needing to be addressed. It talks about making sure that we know that, in fact, this is an entirely peaceful program.
So I think you will probably hear through the course of this from one party or another a specific statement, and I think you should take it for what it is: a point of view, a perspective that’s being put on the table. But as I’ve said, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, and all perspectives are being heard.
QUESTION: We’ve heard some expressions from the Iranian side of – it’s difficult for them, some of the statements that U.S. officials have made, to (inaudible) back home, and alternatively, we see Death to America on holidays in Iran still, and posters of Obama (inaudible) expressing frustration from the Iranians. So how have you all discussed trying to lower the rhetoric, given that you both have to deal with the domestic political audience and critics?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: In terms of the date, I would refer you – dates, I would refer you to the European Union, which coordinates these talks. So I’m sure that I’d send you to Michael Mann in that regard or to Helga Schmid for dates. Secondly – and I hope they share them with you because I agree, we all need to try to plan as best we can. I will say dates are always subject to change, depending upon what the negotiation requires. So even if the EU shares the dates, I would take it as a guide, not as a given, in terms of your own planning.
You’re quite right; everybody in this negotiation, all of the countries in this negotiation, have domestic audiences, have partners, have points of view, have perspectives, will say things that the other side won’t like. That’s going to happen. What we have agreed to try to do is to be thoughtful about the impact those statements will have on the negotiation, and to the extent we can – and we can’t always because things need to be said sometimes – we will try to be thoughtful. But I will say that I’m sure there will be things I will say, but members of the Administration testify to the Congress, give public television interviews, the President of the United States speaks on a regular basis, the Secretary of State speaks on a regular basis. And there are issues of ongoing concern, and they will remain.
QUESTION: ). (Inaudible) reports that (inaudible) persistent reports that Iranians have been present at North Korean nuclear tests. Could you tell us if you have taken this into account in the issues? And if North Korea conducts a nuclear test while you are going through these negotiations, are you prepared to assure us that Iran has no connection to it? Or if it does, what are you going to do about that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The United States is always concerned about reports of shared technology and proliferation of technology and of nuclear weapons technology. We follow all of those reports. We look into all of those reports. I’m not going to talk about the specifics of that particular matter here in this setting. We obviously are quite concerned about North Korea’s nuclear program. Secretary Kerry, I’m sure you’ve all noted, was recently in Beijing. It will come as no surprise that this was a very critical agenda item, because in the North Korea context the Chinese have a special responsibility in the Six-Party Talks and in their relationship with North Korea. So this is an ongoing concern all on its own, and we will continue to pursue that on its own terms as well as look, as we always do, to any potential connections regarding proliferation.
QUESTION:  Prime Minister Netanyahu said the last few days a few times that any comprehensive deal between P5+1 and Iran must include zero enrichment, zero centrifuges, zero this, zero that. Do you think that this position is constructive in any way? (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I believe that presidents and prime ministers of every country in the world have to speak to what they believe are the security requirements for their country. And I have respect for the statements made by duly elected, democratically elected presidents and prime ministers in the statements they make about what they need for the security of their country.
That doesn’t mean where it’s an international concern the United States will always agree, but it is important to consult, to listen to our allies and partners around the world. And as you will see in a Media Note that will come out shortly, if it hasn’t already, that our parts of a group of our delegation will be leaving here and traveling to Israel and then on to Saudi Arabia for both bilateral and GCC consultations. This is part of the consultations that we do with partners and allies around the world. We will also be making phone calls to a variety of other partners around the world, which we do on a regular basis before and after each of these negotiation. And we’ll also be making calls to members of Congress starting today to brief them, and we’ll, of course, do appropriate briefings to members when our team is back in Washington.
QUESTION: The question is – it almost reflects what was in that question – as you negotiate the different items you’re dealing with, how flexible are you on what might be considered red lines that everybody has in mind about centrifuges and different things? And in a final package, you’d be willing to give more than they expected in one area and less in another area in order to get a package which might not be acceptable to everyone but which could be sold as a package?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’m not going to negotiate this in public. What I’ll say as a matter of principle is it’s a negotiation, but of course, it has an objective. And the objective is to ensure that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon and that the international community has confidence that they have an entirely peaceful nuclear program. So that is the standard for any agreement. That is the objective that must be met by an agreement. And experts will tell you there are perhaps more than one route to that end.
We will welcome all of the consultation we will get, the ones we will seek and the ones that will come to us whether we seek them or not, and many people will suggest one redline or another. But the objective is what matters here at the end of the day. Have we ensured, as the President of the United States has said and as he has committed to doing to ensure that Iran will not obtain a nuclear weapon, and that the international community has confidence that Iran’s program is entirely peaceful. That is what we will measure with a comprehensive agreement.
QUESTION:  There are a lot of mistrust between Iran and the West – of some western countries, and Iran and some of its neighbors. Since let’s say the (inaudible) agreement, do you have a feeling that some of trust has been built around maybe – between P5+1 nations and Iran?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You make an important point. President Obama in his own remarks has said we have more than 30 years of mistrust between our countries. That is not repaired in a day, a week, a month, or even a few months. And that is what we have had since the UN General Assembly and this new administration in Tehran. We have a very long way to go.
So we are negotiating this agreement on the basis of verification, of concrete actions, of transparency. I think we have a long way to go to build what you’re referring to as trust between nations. What I think is useful is that actions are taken, commitments are made and are kept. That’s probably true of all of us.
And again, what we are focused here is on a very specific agenda for these negotiations. And it’s the only agenda for these negotiations, and that is to ensure that Iran will not obtain a nuclear weapon and that the international community has assurance and confidence that Iran’s program is entirely peaceful. And we will do that in concrete actions that can be verified.
QUESTION:  Mr. Zarif and Mrs. Ashton, when they spoke, they refrained from the using the phrase – that they have agreed – from saying that they have agreed on a clear agenda. Can you confirm to us that there is a clear and mutually agreed agenda, and whether anything that either the American or the Iranians side wanted to include but was rejected?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What they said is we have set a timetable of meetings initially over the next four months with a framework to continue our deliberations, and that is what I can say to you this morning. We have a framework for continuing our deliberations. We know all of the areas that need to be addressed. From our perspective, they are all covered in one way or another in the Joint Plan of Action. And now we’re going to go to work. Or continue our work. We’ve already started the work. I shouldn’t say, “go to work” – we’ve already started the work in some detail.
QUESTION: Have you heard this morning whether Catherine Ashton may visit Iran in early March? If progress, by your standards, was made in these talks, could you visit yourself or another senior U.S. official visiting Iran in the future?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think that what we’re focused on now is these negotiations and making progress in them.
QUESTION: And if progress was made, could you see that as a possibility?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I suppose all things are possible in life. We’ll take this by a step at a time.
QUESTION: Jon Tirone with Bloomberg News. So defining enrichment to a scale and scope, Arak, ballistic missiles – those are three easy technical groups I imagine being formed. Can you give us an idea of how many groups, some level of specificity of what those discussions will be? For example, will there be additional resources and people that have to be brought into the process because of the number of issues to be discussed?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There is no doubt that we will call on a wide range of experts to address all of the issues that must be addressed to achieve a comprehensive agreement. We are building out our own U.S. team in that regard, and we have reached out throughout our government to resources that we did not use in the JPOA for detailed discussions. There’s a lot of technical detail here because of the wide range of issues. My colleagues who are sitting with me at this table are fantastic and have reached into our government, and I think every government will be reaching into their governments, even to outside experts, to get ideas and to be as creative as possible so that we can meet the concerns that we have as the United States of America and the international community has about the nature of Iran’s program.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The first part of the question, I’m not going to go area-by-area. What I can say is that everything of concern to us is on the table and will be discussed, has been discussed, will continue to be discussed, and will be addressed by the end of this comprehensive agreement.
QUESTION:  A question for next time negotiation: Do you think the negotiation will be tougher than this time, but – based on this time, because you’ve made a timetable? So what’s the task for next time, next negotiation in Vienna? What’s your expectation?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: My expectation is this entire process is going to be difficult because the issues are difficult. I’ve said that --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It is what it is. It’s not more or less. It is what it is. It has been difficult from the first step; it will be difficult to the last step. And it will have ups and downs. There will be good days, and there will be days where I’m sure if you all are looking at the thermometer or you’re looking at the chances it will succeed, there will be days, I’m sure, we’ll think we’ll never get here. But we had those days when we were negotiating the Joint Plan of Action. There were moments when we thought, “We’re never going to get to the end of this,” and then moments when we felt, “Well, actually, we can see getting to an agreement.” And at the end of the day, there was the technical expertise, the hard work, and the political will and courage to come to an agreement on a Joint Plan of Action. It will take all of that and more – and more – to come to a comprehensive agreement.
QUESTION:  Just to follow-up: Could you say what we expect for next time, for the next round?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’m not going to say specifically. What I will tell you is that we have agreed on how we’re going to proceed, what topics we’re going to address. We have made those decisions and choices and we must because we need to prepare for these things and get ready and do the hard work in each of our governments as well as amongst and between the P5+1 and the European Union, and then Iran has its own deliberations to do, to get ready for a meeting. They, too, have an interagency process. And then we will all get down to work – continue our work.
MODERATOR: I think we can do a few more. I’m going to go right here to this gentleman, and then I’m going to go all the way to the back after.
QUESTION:  While the talks have been ongoing, various European firms and concerns have rushed to get back in business with Iran. There has been reports that the U.S. warned Austrian Government specifically not to go too early on this. Are you worried that this rush to get back to business with Iran could hurt the talks?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  In terms of business, the JPOA puts on the table limited targeted sanctions relief; and within that limited targeted sanctions relief, business is possible. There are also ways that companies can do legal trade with Iran. There are areas that are not sanctioned. But the fundamental sanctions that the United States and the European Union has in place around oil and banking and financial sanctions does remain in place. And so we want companies to be mindful and thoughtful about what they’re doing.
If the message to Iran and to the Iranian people is that when Iran reaches a comprehensive agreement, there is the potential for and would be the understanding that sanctions would be removed, and therefore Iran would see a more normal business environment so it’s important to negotiate a comprehensive agreement, that’s a useful message. Because our aim – sanctions are not an end in themselves. They are a means to an end. And we do not have an end in itself to keep sanctions on. We would like to see the sanctions lifted, but that can only happen in total through a comprehensive agreement.
QUESTION:  How do you expect (inaudible) cooperation among the P5+1 members (inaudible) the level of unity (inaudible)?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The level of unity remains what it always has been, which is extraordinary and very unified. It is not to say we don’t have some national differences; of course we do. But we agree on how we’re going to approach the negotiations. We agree on the substance of how we’re going to approach the negotiations. Sometimes the differences are even useful in the negotiations themselves. And – but we are very transparent with each other and we are very unified in our purpose, because the purpose is so profound for each of our countries and for the international community.
And to repeat myself yet again, it is to ensure that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon and that the international community has confidence in the peaceful nature of Iran’s program. Because we all are focused on the same objective, we stay very unified.
QUESTION:  Is the plan to have a monthly meeting every month for the next four months? And is (inaudible) the expert talks before each of those meetings? And in terms of the issues, you said you have the topics laid out. Is there going to be kind of, okay, we’re going to focus on this issue, and then this issue and then this one, or are you going to try and all do them at the same time together?
And one slightly broader question: The Iranians are still saying missiles, Arak, Fordow are redlines for us. Do you think that’s just rhetoric?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So again, I would send you to the European Union for the pace and the timetable of these negotiations. We will have regular meetings of the political directors. We will have – I’m sure our experts will be living a lot of their time in Europe. They don’t mind, I think. It’s not bad usually. But these are highly technical talks, as you all know. And not that I don’t know a lot about this and all of the rest of the folks like me don’t know a lot about this now – we do, but we are not experts, we are not nuclear physicists and scientists, and there’s – nor are we market sanctions experts.
So there’s a lot of technical work that needs to go on. So there will be a lot of expert conversation among the P5+1 and the European Union and then with Iran, and then there will be regular meetings at the Ashton, Zarif, Araqchi and Schmid, and political director levels throughout this process.
And as I said in answer to Laura’s question, that you should see any timetable the European Union gives you as a guide, not a given, because we have to get started, and we may dig into the next level of detail and we may find that we need to do this in a different fashion than we have in mind. And so I’m not going to answer that part of your question, which is, “Are we doing it all together, are we doing it piece by piece?” We have a way forward we all have agreed to. We will proceed that way until we find out it works or it doesn’t, and then we will make adjustments as needed to get the job done.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As I said before, we will all say things during this process, and what matters is what we do in the end, and what we agree to at the negotiating table to reach the objective that I’ve stated several times now.
QUESTION:  China’s vice foreign minister has suggested to continue the talks with more mutual respect and equal footing. How do you think of China’s suggestion and China’s effort in the talks?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We always appreciate our Chinese colleagues’ encouragement for all of us to be determined, to be thoughtful, to have consideration for each other’s perspectives, and for working hard to reach the objectives. Our Chinese colleagues – and we have some new Chinese colleagues in this negotiation – always bring expertise and value to our discussions.
QUESTION:  A couple quick questions. In the JPOA, you were saying that everything is written down, that although the framework is not written down, everyone knows what’s in it, everything’s mentioned in the JPOA. So two things about that: How do you deal with the critiques that definitely will be coming from some of your critics in Washington about this isn’t written down, it’s not transparent, you don’t know what’s in it? And secondly, although PMD I think is not specifically mentioned in the JPOA, did the past questions – does that – is that an implicit reference to PMD?
And the second question is: On the sanctions, have you seen any evidence of any deals happening yet where companies are taking advantage of the limited specific sanctions relief? Do you know of any deals? Or is Iran not actually getting any benefit at all yet? Will they maybe not get the $7 billion potential benefits if it all has to be done within six months?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So what I said was that everything we believe needs to be discussed is referred to in one way or another in the JPOA. And I have said in the past that the statement in the JPOA about past and present issues is IAEA-speak for possible military dimensions. That’s something I’ve said in the past. So I think one has to read the JPOA very carefully; but indeed, it says early – I think in the first paragraph – that all concerns to be addressed or resolved – I forget the exact issue, so – the exact wording. So I think we believe that the JPOA, in one way or another, covers all of the issues, creates space for all of the issues that need to be addressed from our perspective.
As for your second part of the question, I know that there have been lots of conversations that have been going on regarding arrangements under the limited and targeted sanctions that people are seeking to take advantage of them in appropriate ways. Part of that $7 billion, as you know, is repatriated funds. All of that is getting worked through. It may be too early to evaluate how meaningful that will be for the Iranian people, but all of the pieces have been put in place, all of the commitments have been kept to indeed do what all sides have committed to doing in the JPOA, at least to date. So we will see.
QUESTION: . If you say the road to a comprehensive solution is, let’s say, a hundred miles long, even the starting line, how far did we get the last few days? One mile, five miles?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I think I can’t answer that question, only because I think that I know we’ve used that in the past to talk about before Minister Zarif led these negotiations – the previous negotiating team – we talked about the gap between how many kilometers we needed to travel. I think that’s not appropriate in this circumstance because we are at the beginning of a very complex and difficult process. There may be days we move ahead by miles or kilometers, and days we take a few steps back. And what will be really the only thing that’s meaningful is if we get to the end of this.
This is going to be both a marathon and a sprint all at the same time, because we are trying to do something quite complex in a relatively short period of time. And the intensity of it is really more like a marathon. So a long distance to cover in a sprint period of time.

UN Report: Iran’s Uranium Stockpile Shrunk

            Iran’s stockpile of higher-enriched uranium has shrunk significantly for the first time in four years, according to a new report by the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced that Tehran has been meeting its commitments to the November 2013 interim nuclear deal. Iran's reserve of uranium refined to 20 percent fell to 161 kg in February from about 196 kg in November. That uranium could potentially be enriched to 90 percent purity, or weapons-grade level.

             The IAEA released its findings on February 20, just hours after Iran and the world’s six major powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — announced they agreed on a new nuclear deal framework. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had also met on February 18 on the margins of the nuclear talks. The following are excerpts from the report.

Main Developments
•Iran has implemented the six initial practical measures that it agreed with the Agency in
November 2013 in relation to the Framework for Cooperation and both parties have agreed on the next seven practical measures to be implemented by Iran by 15 May 2014, including one measure related to the information contained in the Annex to the Director General’s November 2011 report.
•On 24 November 2013, the E3+3 and Iran agreed on a Joint Plan of Action (JPA). The JPA took effect on 20 January 2014, and the Board of Governors endorsed the Agency undertaking monitoring and verification in relation to the nuclear-related measures set out therein (see Annex III).
•Enrichment of UF6 above 5% U-235 is no longer taking place at FEP and FFEP. The amount of  nuclear material that remains in the form of UF6 enriched up to 20% U-235 is 160.6 kg. A proportion of this material is being downblended and the remainder is being converted to uranium oxide.
•Enrichment of UF6 up to 5% U-235 continues at a rate of production similar to that indicated in the Director General’s previous report. No additional IR-2m or IR-1 centrifuges have been installed at FEP, FFEP or PFEP (production area). The amount of nuclear material that remains in the form of UF6enriched up to 5% U-235 is 7609 kg.
•An updated Design Information Questionnaire (DIQ) for the IR-40 Reactor has been provided to the Agency. No additional major components have been installed at this reactor and there has been no manufacture and testing of fuel for the reactor.
•Managed access has been provided to the Agency to centrifuge assembly workshops, centrifuge rotor production workshops and storage facilities.
Click here for the full report.


Ominous Divide : Shiite Iran v Sunni Gulf

Frederic Wehrey

What is the current state of Sunni-Shiite tension in the Gulf? How has it changed over the last 15 years?
            Sectarian tensions have become a major part of political life in the Gulf Arab states, particularly in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait. Shiites in each state suffer varying degrees of religious discrimination and political marginalization. Tensions are typically portrayed as a spillover effect of sectarian strife elsewhere in the region (the Iraq War, and, more recently, the Syria conflict) or Iran’s deliberate incitement of local Shiite communities in the Gulf. But they are only part of the story.
     The roots of Shiite-Sunni tensions in the Gulf are more complex and ultimately more local. They are deeply woven into the political fabric of individual states. Sectarian identities have been further sharpened by uneven access to political and economic capital, official and quasi-official discrimination, and the absence of truly inclusive governing structures. This is true in virtually every field: government bureaucracies, the security sector, the labor market, clerical establishments, the legal system, provincial development and so on. 
      The recent rise in tensions is particularly tied to the failure of reforms promised at the turn of the millennium that has left young Shiites deeply embittered and frustrated. Young activists claim that their generation is susceptible to sectarian mobilization because it is shut out of the social compact, deprived of access to economic and political capital, and instilled with a sense of “otherness.”
            During the Iraq War, Gulf regimes—particularly Bahrain and Saudi Arabia—increasingly viewed Shiite demands for reform as a security threat. Tensions reached an apogee after the 2011 Arab uprisings, when Sunni clerics and Gulf media attempted to portray initial demands for democracy as narrowly Shiite in character and inspired by Iran. This strategy created fissures within the reform movement by exacerbating Shiite-Sunni identities, as it implicitly highlighted the ruling families as arbiters over a fractious and divided citizenry.
            The war in Syria has amplified tensions. The “sectarianization” of that conflict—due to both Assad’s policies and outside intervention by Arab states and Iran—has rippled across the Gulf. Sunni clerics in the Gulf have demonized the Alawite regime and its allies, with blowback on local Shiites. Many Gulf Shiites are now ambivalent, if not opposed, to supporting the Syrian opposition, which is increasingly seen as anti-Shiite.
      The recent explosion of social media has deepened discord; it parallels the rise in sectarianism over the past 15 years. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have created a vast echo chamber for sectarian strife to reverberate from one corner of the region to the other. Social media is a real-time theater where audiences do not just observe but participate in ongoing conflicts in the region. The most strident purveyors of sectarianism are given disproportionate weight on social media.  
            Gulf regimes have been inconsistent—and even contradictory—in policing this toxic discourse. At one level, sectarianism in the media has a certain utility: It is a reminder of the monarchy’s value as the glue binding society together. Yet Gulf regimes also fear such vitriol will fuel a dangerous strain of Salafi extremism beyond their control. There are already signs of this happening.
            If Gulf political life had greater inclusivity and pluralism, then sectarian identities would be less politicized and less malignant. Social media and regional conflicts would also have less of a mobilizing effect on Gulf citizens. 
How has the tension affected the geopolitical balance between Iran and the Gulf states?
      The conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran is not driven primarily by a Sunni-Shiite divide or even Arab-Persian ethnic differences. The conflict is informed by two radically different models of government—each laying claim to Islamic legitimacy—and two very different visions of regional order.   
      Iran’s system has enshrined the role of religious authorities in political life and given people a partial say in governance through elections. The Saudi ruling family has effectively de-politicized its clerics and continues to abhor the principle of democratic elections.  
            The question of U.S. power in the region is also at the heart of the struggle: Iran sees a Middle East free from U.S. military influence, whereas Saudi Arabia historically has required some sort of external balancer to serve as a check against Iran—and Iraq. The two sides have also jostled for patronage of historically pan-Arab “portfolios,” such as the Palestinian cause. The al Saud see Iran’s involvement in this issue as tremendously threatening to its regional and even domestic legitimacy.
            Iran has generally tried to downplay sectarianism in its media and in the way it frames its role in the region. In its proxy conflict with Iran, Saudi Arabia has not pursued an explicitly sectarian foreign policy. But both states have ended up backing local actors that are in fact sectarian—and increasingly so in light of Syria’s war. Regardless of intent, the meddling of the two powers in weak and fragmented states is fueling a dangerous form of identity politics. Yet both sides are also capable of dialing back and tempering sectarianism. This played out in Lebanon after the 2006 war. It is happening again now in Bahrain, where Iran (and Hezbollah) have lowered the tenor of their criticism of Saudi policies. 
What are the implications for Western interests in the Gulf?
            The rise in sectarianism does not present an immediate threat to U.S. interests in the Gulf. Sectarianism is deeply embedded in the DNA of Salafi-jihadism and the al Qaeda worldview. Gulf funding and volunteers in the Syria conflict are creating new strains of al Qaeda-ism that could eventually threaten Gulf regimes and U.S. interests.  
            Gulf Shiites have not volunteered or provided funds to Syrian fighters to the same extent as Sunnis have. Indeed, Shiite clerics have assiduously warned against such activity. A few Shiite businessmen, particularly in Kuwait, have provided funding. But by and large, Gulf Shiites remain focused on their local rights—and within the framework of existing political process.   How long this restraint will last, given the current stalemate on reform, remains to be seen.
            U.S. and Western interests may eventually be threatened if Shiite opposition activity takes a more extremist turn. Already, activists from the February 14 Youth Movement in Bahrain have linked the U.S. Fifth Fleet with the repressive tactics of the ruling al Khalifa family. Whether and how this nascent anti-Americanism devolves into a more serious threat depends on how the United States is perceived as a neutral broker.
            U.S. officials should see sectarianism in the Gulf as a symptom, a wake-up call for meaningful political reform that could stave off more serious challenges to the monarchies down the road.
What are the broader implications for regional stability and even the modern map of the Middle East?
            The current sectarian tensions in the Gulf are not prompting a fundamental shift in the regional map. Historically, sectarian affinities were one set of identities that co-existed alongside other affiliations: national, ethnic, tribal/familial, local, urban, generational, and so forth. Looking at the Middle Eastern map in terms of sectarianism downplays the power of these other forces. For most Shiites in the Gulf, the existing nation-state remains the framework through which they conduct their activism.  
            There have been very few calls for secession or the creation of a united Shiite state encompassing Shiite communities in eastern Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and southern Iraq. A Shiite state enjoys little support, given the unique national histories of Shiite communities in each country, the religious and intellectual genealogies of their elites, and the power of familial and tribal bonds.
            Bahrain is one instance where sectarianism has contributed to a potential redrawing of the map. Since 2012, Sunni Islamists and regime hardliners have been calling for greater political and military union with Bahrain’s Sunni patron, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. 
Iran has claimed the Arab uprisings are a continuation of its own 1979 revolution. What influence has Iran actually had on Shiites in the Gulf?
            Iran largely abandoned attempts to export its revolution to the Gulf in the 1990s. Gulf Shiite activists also distanced themselves from affiliation with the Iranian government, even while maintaining religious ties to Iranian clerics. Today, Gulf Shiite elites who embrace the Islamic Republic’s principle of velayet-e faqih and regard Supreme Leader Khamenei as their marja’ (clerical reference) do not enjoy wide support.   
            But for many Gulf leaders who came of age during that seismic event, the Iranian revolution remains the prism through which they view local Shiite activism. The phobia is partly strategic: Portraying Shiite protestors as Iranian-backed delegitimizes them and undermines the possibility of cross-sectarian cooperation between Shiites and Sunni liberals and reformists.  
            Iran is not backing Gulf Shiite activity to the extent that its notorious Qods Force is supporting Shiite militants in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. There may be scattered and episodic contacts between activists and elements of the Iranian government or Hezbollah. As is the case elsewhere in the region, Iran may have sleeper cells waiting to strike the oil infrastructure of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province or the Fifth Fleet in Bahrain. But this does not imply that Iran is directing or orchestrating the post-2011 protests in the Gulf or that its support is crucial to their continuation. 
            Moving beyond the Iranian revolution’s long shadow in the Gulf, especially on sectarian relations, may be a matter of generational change. Many Shiite youth in the Gulf described themselves as post-ideological, post-sectarian and even post-clerical. Among the regimes, the ascendance of a younger generation of royalsfor whom the Iranian Revolution is less of a formative memory and sectarian dogma has less usefulness—may also change the dynamics. Yet these positive trends may also be offset by both the growing strength of Salafism among Sunnis and the new strain of sectarianism being bred by the Syria conflict.

Frederic Wehrey is a senior associate in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Click here for information on Wehrey's new book, Sectarian Politics in the Gulf: From the Iraq War to the Arab Uprisings.


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Political Cartoons I: The Arabs and Iran

            The following political cartoons reflect the Arab world’s growing alarm over the potential for progress on Iran’s nuclear program. The Gulf sheikdoms especially fear that a diplomatic deal will allow rival Iran to shed its pariah status and reemerge as a regional powerhouse — to their disadvantage.
            A figure representing Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wears a hand puppet representing President Hassan Rouhani and discards another puppet representing former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (Source: Kamiran Semdir for Al Jazeera)
            Figures representing Iran and the United States embrace each other with arms resembling machine guns. Signposts on both sides read “the Arabs.” (Source: Al Mezmaah)
             Iran marches towards a chair labeled “dreams of hegemony.” Iran’s right leg represents Syria. The left leg represents Hezbollah, a Shiite Lebanese militia and political party backed by Tehran. Hezbollah is currently supporting the Syrian regime against opposition forces. (Source: Syrian Change)
            Supreme Leader Khamenei holds Rouhani’s hand while telling Ahmadinejad to go home and let the new president have his “turn to play.” The donkey is labeled “[Nouri] al Maliki”, prime minister of Iraq. The yellow block bears Hezbollah’s logo and the orange block above it represents “Al Mayadeen TV,” a Lebanese channel. The red and white block represents Bahrain, where predominantly Shiite protestors have called for greater political freedom. The green block represents the Houthi rebels in northern Yemen, a Shiite group. (Source: Yasser Abu Hamid via Syria Change)


            A figure representing President Rouhani climbs a ladder to the Geneva nuclear talks while addressing an outstretched hand in a Syria-shaped well labeled “Hassan Nasrallah’s well.” Nasrallah is the secretary general of Hezbollah. Rouhani says “I have no time for you now!” (Source: Hassan Bleibel)
           A caricature of Secretary of State John Kerry says “my beloved friend… the Axis of Evil!” while reaching to shake hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. “My brother… the Great Satan!” the caricature of Zarif says. (Source: Hassan Bleibel via Entekhab News)
           The bar across the door reads “nuclear deal” and the substance seeping out from underneath is labeled “sanctions.” The stunned and confused figure facing the door has an armband labeled “Tehran.” (Source: Ashaq Al-Awsat)
Faris Al Sulayman, a research assistant at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, contributed to this roundup.

Political Cartoons II: Iran and the Arabs

            The following political cartoons illustrate Iranian views of Arab reactions to progress on solving the nuclear dispute. Many Iranians viewed the Geneva nuclear agreement as a victory for Tehran and a setback for the Gulf states.  

            An Arab representing the Gulf sheikhdoms is enraged over the Geneva nuclear agreement. He tries to pick a tool of destruction to sabotage the deal. (Source: Saeed Sadeghi for Edalat Press)
            The figure on the far right represents the Gulf states. He tags along with representatives of the world’s six major powers on their way to nuclear negotiations with Iran. The Iranian negotiator on the left appears to be puzzled by the Arab’s presence. The cartoon references Saudi Arabian Prince Turki al Faisal’s suggestion to include the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in talks with Iran. (Source: Peyman Alishahi for Fars News Agency)
            A figure representing a Saudi prince applies ice to his head, which aches from all the talk about the P5+1 talks with Iran and the GCC’s exclusion. (Source: Saeed Sadeghi for Fars News Agency)
            A figure representing Saudi Arabia pushes a shopping cart with a nuclear bomb presumably bought from its ally Pakistan. “We are not going to sit idly by and receive a threat there and not think seriously how we can best defend our country and our region,” Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz told the Times of London just before the Geneva talks. (Source: Javad Takjoo for Fars News Agency)


Faris Al Sulayman, a research assistant at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, contributed to this roundup.

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