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Vienna Nuke Talks: Congressional Reaction

            U.S. lawmakers issued wide-ranging reactions to news of the seven-month extension of nuclear talks with Iran. Several Republicans called for imposing additional sanctions on Iran and requiring Congressional approval of a final deal, but most stopped short of rejecting the extension outright. “I would rather the administration continue to negotiate than agree to a bad deal,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN). Democrats, however, generally took a softer stance on sanctions and expressed support for the continuation of diplomatic efforts. Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) said additional sanctions would be a “slap in the face” to the negotiating process. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said "these talks are the only way to peacefully ensure Iran never obtains a nuclear program.” The following are statements released by U.S. lawmakers on the decision to extend negotiations.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)
            “Since the beginning, I have been concerned about a series of rolling extensions becoming the norm and reducing our leverage. However, I would rather the administration continue to negotiate than agree to a bad deal that would only create more instability in the region and around the world.”
            “With so much riding on these talks for the security of our nation and that of the region, Congress must have the opportunity to weigh in before implementation of any final agreement and begin preparing alternatives, including tougher sanctions, should negotiations fail.”
            Nov. 24, 2014 in a statement
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL)
            “Today's announcement means that the Administration will continue to block sanctions and allow the terror-sponsoring Iranian regime to make $700 million a month—roughly $23 million per day—even as Iran advances its nuclear bomb-making program and sparks an arms race in the Middle East. Now more than ever, it’s critical that Congress enacts sanctions that give Iran’s mullahs no choice but to dismantle their illicit nuclear program and allow the International Atomic Energy Agency full and unfettered access to assure the international community’s security."
            Nov. 24, 2014 in a statement

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and John McCain (R-AZ)
            "One of the most important issues facing our nation and the world at large is how to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability. While we strongly support diplomatic efforts to achieve a lasting, verifiable agreement with Iran that permanently ends Iran's nuclear weapons program, we must avoid negotiating a deal that puts the security of the United States or our allies at risk and fails to address Iran's decades-long history of cheating and subterfuge.
            "It is clear to us that Iranian insistence on having an enrichment program is problematic, and we fear it could lead to a repeat of the mistakes we made with North Korea. Years ago, the international community allowed North Korea a small nuclear program which was to be controlled and monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Unfortunately, the inspectors were thrown out and North Korea was able to develop and test nuclear weapons. We cannot repeat the same mistakes when it comes to the Iranian nuclear program.
            "A bad deal with Iran will start a nuclear arms race in the Middle East as Sunni Arab states will not allow Iran to hold a nuclear sword over their heads without responding in kind. In addition, a nuclear-capable Iran represents an existential threat to our strongest ally in the region, Israel, as well as to our own national security, given Iran's record of sharing military technology with terrorist organizations.
            "We have supported the economic sanctions, passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, in addition to sanctions placed on Iran by the international community. These sanctions have had a negative impact on the Iranian economy and are one of the chief reasons the Iranians are now at the negotiating table. However, we believe this latest extension of talks should be coupled with increased sanctions and a requirement that any final deal between Iran and the United States be sent to Congress for approval. Every Member of Congress should have the opportunity to review the final deal and vote on this major foreign policy decision.
            "If the P5+1 negotiates a good deal which successfully dismantles Iran's nuclear weapons program, it will receive an overwhelming vote in support. However, if it sets the stage for the creation of another North Korea, we will vote against it and expect Congress to reject it.
            "When it comes to the Iranian nuclear ambitions, we strongly believe the most prudent policy would be to verify, verify, verify....never trust."
            Nov. 24, 2014 in a statement
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH)
            “At this point, all an extension does is leave open the possibility this administration will make additional concessions to an Iranian regime that has not agreed to abandon its nuclear weapons program.  Every day these negotiations go on is another day this administration fails to address Iran’s role as lead state sponsor of terrorism with an abysmal human rights record and no interest in a strong, stable Iraq.  Instead of giving Iran more flexibility, we should be holding this regime accountable for the threat it poses to the region and our allies.”
            Nov. 24, 2014 in a statement
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA)
            “Better an extension than a bad agreement that at one point looked like it might be coming.  But if Iran hasn’t been able to make difficult choices over the past year, there is little reason to think that the Supreme Leader will see it differently over the next few months.
            “One thing that could change Tehran’s resistance to agreeing to a meaningful and effective agreement to keep it from developing a nuclear weapon is more economic pressure.  Since the beginning of these negotiations, the Administration aggressively opposed Congressional attempts to give our negotiators more leverage with added sanctions, to go into force should negotiations fail.  We’ll never know if that prospect would have made a difference over the past 12 months.  But we do know that talks haven’t succeeded without more pressure.
            “This seven month extension should be used to tighten the economic vice on Tehran – already suffering from falling energy prices - to force the concessions that Iran has been resisting.
            “Seven months of more talks tells me that the negotiators aren’t close to agreement.  Unfortunately, time is on Tehran’s side as it continues its research and development of centrifuges.
            “Congress now must hear from Administration officials as why this extension is justified.”
            Nov. 24, 2014 in a statement
Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
            “I commend the Administration's diplomatic efforts in pursuit of a comprehensive agreement with Iran to terminate its illicit nuclear program. The burden of proof to resolve questions about Iran's nuclear weapons program lies squarely with the Iranians. It is disappointing and worrying that after a year of serious talks with Iran that we do not have a deal, while Iran simultaneously stonewalls international weapons inspectors seeking access to suspicious sites in Iran."
            "The cycle of negotiations, followed by an extension, coupled with sanctions relief for Iran has not succeeded. I continue to believe that the two-track approach of diplomacy and economic pressure that brought Iran to the negotiating table is also the best path forward to achieve a breakthrough. I intend to work with my Senate colleagues in a bipartisan manner in the coming weeks to ensure that Iran comprehends that we will not ever permit it to become a threshold nuclear state.”
            Nov. 24, 2014 in a statement
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
            “Sufficient progress has been made in the negotiations between the P5+1 powers and Iran to justify an extension. I support the decision to continue negotiations as these talks are the only way to peacefully ensure Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon.
            “Our biting sanctions remain in place and Iran’s economy continues to be weakened. Since last November, Iran has lived up to its obligations under the interim agreement and its nuclear program has not only been frozen, it has been reversed. Today, Iran is further away from acquiring a nuclear weapon than before negotiations began.
            “I urge my colleagues in Washington to be patient, carefully evaluate the progress achieved thus far and provide U.S. negotiators the time and space they need to succeed. A collapse of the talks is counter to U.S. interests and would further destabilize an already-volatile region.”
            Nov. 24, 2014 in a statement
Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs Tim Kaine (D-VA)
            “While I am disappointed the P5+1 missed today’s deadline to reach a comprehensive agreement with Iran on its nuclear program, I believe the extension announced today is better than the alternatives: an inadequate agreement that fails to sufficiently curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, or a complete collapse of  negotiations.  The Joint Plan of Action has proved to be a successful interim measure, and I believe some extension is appropriate to allow time and space for further negotiations. Moving forward, I expect to see demonstrable progress toward a robust deal that blocks all potential pathways to a bomb and lays out a comprehensive inspections and verification regime, with no ambiguity on the consequences should Iran cheat.”
            Nov. 24, 2014 in a statement
Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs Chris Murphy (D-CT)
            “While I am disappointed that there was not a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear program reached today in Vienna, the decision to extend the negotiations is a far better outcome than a bad deal or no deal at all. President Obama has consistently said the United States would not accept an agreement that did not place sufficient constraints on Iran’s nuclear program. The US negotiating team and our partners in the P5+1 made significant progress over the last year, but significant gaps remain on key issues. It is worth taking the time to continue these negotiations in the interest of achieving a better deal.  
Today’s agreement to extend the terms of the interim Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) means that as long as the talks continue, Iran’s nuclear program will be frozen and tough sanctions will remain in place. Furthermore, inspectors can continue to access key facilities, including unannounced inspections at Iran’s Fordow and Natanz facilities. The sanctions relief offered to Iran is minimal in comparison to the sanctions that remain in place.
            "The talks are not going to get easier for Iran with this extension. Crippling sanctions and international isolation will continue, with low oil prices magnifying the strain on Iran’s economy.
            "As long as talks continue under these conditions, it is important that the United States not be responsible for a breakdown in negotiations, which is why I believe it would be unwise for Congress to pass new sanctions legislation at this time. Iran has adhered to its commitments under the interim agreement. Imposing new sanctions now would be a violation of that agreement by the United States, opening the door for Iran to retaliate by resuming uranium enrichment to 20%, adding new and advanced centrifuges, or other dangerous and escalatory measures.”
            Nov. 24, 2014 in a statement

House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD)
            “I welcome the unified efforts of the P5+1 to reach a final agreement with Iran on the dismantling of its nuclear weapons program. The Administration has affirmed that the negotiations have resulted in freezing Iran’s nuclear program and that the sanctions regime has held, but status quo is not the goal.  The goal has always been – and must continue to be – to ensure that Iran never achieves a nuclear weapons capability.  That is why I have concerns about continued extensions of these negotiations.  Specifically, I continue to be concerned about ongoing centrifuge-related research and development and military projects relating to the development of deployment systems.
            "In the days and weeks ahead, Iran must grant the IAEA complete and unfettered access to those facilities for which it has requested access.  The Administration ought to provide a detailed accounting of what sanctions relief is being contemplated along with a proposed plan for how such relief would be phased-in.  Over the coming months there must be a robust discussion between the Administration and Congress – and in consultation with our global partners – as to what additional pressure ought to be applied to compel Iran to sign a final agreement.  This discussion must include the possibility of further sanctions that remind Iran’s leaders what is at stake if they continue to dissemble and delay.  Any eventual agreement must lead to the dismantling of Iran's nuclear arms infrastructure, be fully verifiable, and include an inspections regime that provides transparency into all aspects of Iran’s nuclear program.
            “It is my expectation that the Administration will be briefing the Congress prior to its adjournment on the specifics of this extension.  I look forward to receiving those briefings, and I will continue to monitor developments closely.”  
            Nov. 24, 2014 in a statement
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA)
            "Secretary Kerry and Ambassador Sherman deserve enormous credit and our sincere thanks for their tireless effort these past many months pursuing a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear program. I know all parties involved would have preferred to leave Vienna with a comprehensive framework in place. However, I welcome the news that American, Iranian, and P5+1 negotiators will extend their talks until June 30, 2015 with the hope of organizing a framework as early as March.  U.S.- Iranian relations have markedly improved since negotiations began one year ago; it is imperative we maintain that positive momentum.
Many in Congress will see this as the end of the road, the signal to toughen up already crippling sanctions. That would be the wrong move, a slap in the face to a year's worth of hard fought and honest negotiations by U.S. diplomats. Worse still, it could prompt Iran to drive its nuclear program back under ground, bringing us right back to the perilous situation we were faced with one year ago.
            "With so much of the Middle East marred by violence, it is certainly in our interest, and Iran's, to return to the drawing board, to keep the conversation going, and hopefully arrive at a compromise that would do much to bolster a region in desperate need of stability and peace."
            Nov. 24, 2014 in a statement
Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee Tim Johnson (D-SD)
            "As Chairman of the Banking Committee and author of many of the sanctions that helped force Iran to negotiate, I have urged my Senate colleagues to hold off on legislatively imposing new sanctions during ongoing P5+1 negotiations with Iran. While substantial progress has been made, and Iran continues to comply with its agreements, more must be done to give the US and the international community confidence they could detect and stop any move by Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, either through a “breakout” using existing nuclear facilities or a “sneak out” using clandestine sites. Having Congress impose new sanctions on Iran or place unworkable timetables and conditions on negotiators now would be grossly counterproductive, potentially shattering the international coalition formed to isolate Iran and escalating toward war."
            Nov. 24, 2014 in a statement
Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI)
            “I support the decision to extend nuclear talks with Iran. To this point, the interim agreement reached a year ago has been a net plus as it has maintained the tough sanctions regime, limited Iran’s uranium enrichment and provided inspectors with expanded access to Iran’s nuclear facilities. The extension keeps that interim agreement in place while negotiations continue. But our goal is and should be a comprehensive agreement that ensures Iran does not build a nuclear weapon, and because such an agreement is apparently within reach, it is in the interests of the United States and our partners in this endeavor to pursue it.”
            “This extension demonstrates the international community’s strong desire to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. We and our allies will be more secure with such a comprehensive agreement in hand.”
            Nov. 24, 2014 in a statement
Adam Smith (D-WA)
            “While I had hoped that we would have been able to reach a final deal, I support the extension of the interim deal that maintains a freeze on Iran’s nuclear program and makes progress towards a final deal. The President has made it abundantly clear through his words as well as his actions, that under his leadership the United States will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.  I firmly support that goal, which is why I support the extension of negotiations. During negotiations, Iran’s nuclear program will remain frozen and the painful sanctions will stay in place. The extension keeps the pressure on Iran.”
            “It is clear that sanctions are having an effect, and that the economic impact has brought Iran to the negotiating table in a real way.  We should continue to pursue this path and not forget that the President has assembled a rare level of international cooperation. The European Union has put in place forceful sanctions.  China, India and South Korea are all cutting back on oil purchases from Iran or making it harder for Iran to profit.  The world has united to isolate the Iranian regime, which cannot be lost on those making decisions in Tehran.  We should allow the time and space to see if negotiations can work.”
            “We must also remember that negotiations are difficult, and they require significant effort from all sides. The issues are complicated and politically sensitive for all parties involved. Moreover, any potential deal must be lasting, enforceable and achieve the desired outcomes. Forcing an outcome that falls short of our goals or walking away from negotiations at this point in time would not be wise.”
            Nov. 24, 2014 in a statement
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN)
            “Today's extension is evidence of how far the United States and Iran have come since these negotiations started.”
            “The investment in patient diplomacy made by both countries is yielding significant progress. Iran has already complied with the requirements in the Joint Plan of Action and reduced their capacity to build a nuclear weapon. We are closer than we have ever been to reaching a peaceful agreement and we can’t give up now. I call on Congress to support President Obama, Secretary Kerry and the P5+1 negotiators to close this deal.”
            Nov. 24, 2014 in a statement
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)
            “The current framework agreement with Iran is actively reducing Iran’s nuclear program, delaying ‘break out’ capacity, and providing inspections and verification to prevent the advancement of their nuclear program.”
            “This extension continues these important restrictions and safeguards while moving us toward a long-term deal that will support our national security and global peace. This extension creates the diplomatic space for that deal to be achieved.”
            Nov. 24, 2014 in a statement
Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI)
            “Diplomacy is the only viable path to prevent a nuclear Iran.”
            “According to a recent CNN poll, 76 percent of Americans support direct diplomacy as part of a strategy to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Americans know that military confrontation—the only alternative to diplomacy—would be, in this instance, counterproductive and carry unacceptable costs in terms of lives and treasure. Congress must support President Obama's continuing efforts to obtain a strong and verifiable agreement to peacefully prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in the world's most volatile region.”     
            Nov. 24, 2014 in a statement
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA)
            “I know it's difficult to remain patient, but with a historic agreement within our reach, patience is required.”
            “I believe it is far better to take a bit more time to get a strong verifiable agreement than to have no agreement or a weak one. I urge all sides to demonstrate the political will, flexibility and courage to get the job done, and done well. I will continue to follow this issue closely.”
            Nov. 24, 2014 in a statement
Rep. David Price (D-NC)
            “I am encouraged by today's news from Vienna. This extension means that the negotiations will continue under the terms of the existing Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), which has verifiably frozen and rolled back Iran's nuclear program over the past year.”
            “While I shared the administration's hope that the talks would yield a final agreement by now, the fact is that another extension is vastly preferable to a return to the pre-JPOA status quo -- or worse.  Instead of rushing to declare the talks a failure -- or taking actions to derail them altogether -- my colleagues in Congress should do everything possible to support the continuation of negotiations and progress toward a final, comprehensive agreement.”
            Nov. 24, 2014 in a statement
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA)
            “It is welcome news that the U.S. and Iranian diplomats have agreed to stay at the negotiating table by extending talks.”
            “While some of my colleagues have objected to negotiations with Iran, it must be noted that thanks to these historic diplomatic efforts the world is further from a nuclear-armed Iran, and the risk of an eventual war over this issue. Now more than ever is the time to commit ourselves to diplomacy. We know the outcome of a rush to war. Too many hardline members and members-elect are already opposing a deal, emboldening hardliners in Iran. What the hardliners do not say, is that failure to reach a deal clears the path to war.”
            Nov. 24, 2014 in a statement
Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA)
            “Diplomacy takes time. I continue to believe that the benefits of an eventual agreement with Iran will be worth the wait. Congress must not undermine our negotiators with unwise legislative actions.”
            Nov. 24, 2014 in a statement
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
            “We have seen meaningful progress since the Joint Plan of Action was agreed to in November 2013.”
            “Under this plan, Iran has down blended and stopped production of 20% enriched uranium, halted work on its Arak hard water facility, and allowed daily inspections of its enrichment facilities.  None of these achievements would be in place without the Joint Plan of Action, and we shouldn’t abandon this progress today.”
            Nov. 24, 2014 in a statement
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI)
            “Throughout these negotiations, I have been deeply skeptical about the Iranian regime’s willingness to make the concrete concessions necessary to convince the world that its nuclear program is peaceful.  The crippling sanctions that the United States and the international community imposed on Iran have been instrumental in bringing the regime to the negotiating table. These sanctions cannot be eased unless leaders in Tehran provide more than simple promises that they are not seeking a nuclear weapon, and they have yet to give anything beyond assurances.
            “The United States and its partners continue to make progress in these negotiations and remain steadfast in getting a good deal rather than settling on terms that will leave the United States, Israel, and the international community worse off.  I will continue to closely monitor negotiations over the coming months to ensure that any final deal includes a strict verification regime with unprecedented inspection and monitoring procedures that will verify that Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon have been blocked.
            “Members of Congress are right to remain vigilant about ensuring Iran’s full and substantiated compliance with any final deal.  Anything less is non-negotiable.  But we ought to refrain from taking premature legislative action during these final months that could permanently derail negotiations, undermine the tough multilateral sanctions on Iran, and lead the regime to restart the unrestricted and unmonitored nuclear program that we are determined to end.”
            Nov. 24, 2014 in a statement
Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI)
            “Strong sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table, but the recent extension of the P5+1 negotiations demonstrates that even tougher sanctions are needed to provide the necessary leverage to ensure Iran abandons its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
            “For the past year, Iran has received economic relief and Congress has refrained from passing increased sanctions in a good faith effort by the United States and our allies to enhance the chance of a diplomatic solution.
            “What was clear to many of us before should now be clear to everyone--Iran is not negotiating in good faith. We need tougher sanctions to empower tougher diplomacy against a regime intent on building nuclear weapons that would threaten the United States, destabilize the region and pose an existential threat to Israel.”
            Nov. 25, 2014 in a statement
Senior Member of the House Intelligence Committee Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)
            "Yesterday's announcement that no agreement had been reached between the P5+1 and Iran on a permanent deal to dismantle Iran's nuclear program came as little surprise, but the failure to arrive at even a framework for a final agreement casts serious doubt on whether Iran is ready to make the kind of concessions necessary to end its international isolation and join the community of nations. On two of the most significant issues, the need to eliminate or dramatically reduce Iran's enrichment capability and the pace of sanctions relief, little or no advance appears to have been made. Secretary Kerry has stated that important progress has been achieved, but in light of the impasse on these two issues, it is unclear what step forward has been made that suggests a final agreement is attainable. Regrettably, it appears that whatever Mr. Rouhani's intentions, the Ayatollah Khamenei's objective is to obtain the maximum relief of the sanctions possible while giving up as little of Iran's nuclear program as possible -- and it is Khamenei who calls the shots.
            "The new interim agreement preserves the status quo with one very important asymmetry -- Iran gets an additional 700 million in sanctions relief each month while apparently making no new concession on its nuclear program. When the last extension was agreed to, both sides were required to pay a price in order to buy time: the P5+1 gave a new increment of sanctions relief and Iran was required to further blend down its stockpile. That should have been model for any further extension but this appears not to be the case. And while the currently falling price of oil may easily erase and more the 700 million a month in relief Iran gets from the extension, such an external mitigating factor is no substitute for a properly balanced agreement.
            "In the days to come, I will look forward to hearing from Secretary Kerry and the Administration what progress they believe has been made in the negotiations that warrant the extension of time and why they believe a framework agreement is achievable in the next four months. Secretary Kerry has said that it would be unwise to walk away from the interim agreement now, since the breakout time has been expanded. This may be true, but it could equally be said seven months from now if no deal is reached then, and at a certain point we may have to acknowledge that Iran is simply unwilling to negotiate away its nuclear program. If that point is now, or seven months from now, it will be critically important for the imposition and cohesion of new sanctions that the other nations in the P5+1 know that the United States made every effort to succeed in a negotiated resolution."
            Nov. 25, 2014 in a statement
Senior Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ben Cardin (D-MD)
            "The only successful outcome is where Iran is no longer a nuclear threat, where Iran has dismantled its nuclear infrastructure, limited its nuclear research and submitted to verifiable inspections without notice. This result is best achieved through diplomacy.
            "A year ago, Congress gave the administration the benefit of the doubt and put even more severe sanctions on hold as negotiations pushed forward. To its credit, the administration has kept an international sanctions regime in place and slowed Iran’s breakout capacity.
            "I am concerned about yet another extension of the negotiations without a commitment by Iran to a satisfactory agreement. An indefinite status quo – limited sanctions relief with no sign of a final agreement – cannot be the end result. Additional time may very well be used by Iran to harden their defenses and their resolve to become a nuclear weapon state."
            Nov. 25, 2014 in a statement
Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA)

Sen. Angus King (I-ME)
            “The threat of a nuclear armed Iran is real and unacceptable. That is why I support Secretary Kerry and our P5+1 partners in their endeavor to achieve this important – and historic – goal to ensure Iran can never develop nuclear weapon capability. Our national security and the security in the region hinges on the success of these negotiations,” said Senator King. “While the announcement of another extension is disappointing, I look forward to hearing the details of the extension from Administration officials to determine if we are on the right path to achieving our objectives. The stakes couldn’t be higher, but the issues are complex. I encourage our negotiators to stay at the table and explore every pathway to an acceptable resolution.”
            Nov. 24, 2014 in a statement

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
            “I support this extension because it maintains a strong sanctions regime, keeps Iran’s program frozen in place and subject to rigorous inspections, and continues talks toward a peaceful end to Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, which is in the best interests of America and the world.” 
            Nov. 24, 2014 in a statement

Vienna Nuke Talks: Rouhani on Extension

            On November 24, President Hassan Rouhani assured Iranians that diplomacy “will lead to a deal, sooner or later” following the decision by Iran and the world's six major powers to extend talks by seven months. In a televised speech, Rouhani also reaffirmed Iran’s right to a peaceful nuclear program and the need for sanctions relief to be part of a final agreement. “There is no doubt that sanctions will be lifted,” Rouhani claimed. “The question is timing.” The following are excerpts from his remarks.
            “The duration of the negotiations needs to be extended, and more dialogue needs to be held, which is a great achievement in the midway of the path that the Iranian nation began paving on June 14, 2013.”
            “It is true that we have still not achieved a final comprehensive agreement in these negotiations, but I can say that in order to achieve a final agreement we have taken steps forward and the conditions today differ with those that prevailed three or six months ago.”
            “The logics of the two sides have approached each other very closely, and many of the gaps have been filled, but there are still steps to be taken.”
            “Negotiations will lead to a deal, sooner or later.”
            "I am certain that we will reach the final accord, if not today, then tomorrow." 
            “We have had some agreements behind the scenes, but putting those on paper, we are still not there yet.”
            “Reaching a written and final agreement needs time.”
            "We not only keep to the Geneva agreement but use the Geneva agreement for coming to a final accord."
            “Iran’s logic is one of negotiations and dialog; and nuclear talks will be continued with seriousness until a final agreement is struck.”
            “We have neither compromised over Iran’s nuclear rights, nor will ever do so, and there is no doubt that the Iranian nuclear technology will remain functioning.”
            “At present, no one in the world has any doubt that Iran must have nuclear technology, including enrichment on its soil.”
            “We have gained a bigger success than what has been gained in these negotiations, and that great success is that today the situation is not similar with status during the previous years. Today we enjoy a status that no one in the world argues that in order to urge Iran to yield to the demands of Group 5+1 the sanctions need to be intensified.”
            “Today, the opposite negotiating sides have reached the conclusion that pressure and sanctions on Iran will not bear fruit.”
            “There is no doubt that sanctions will be lifted. The question is timing.”
            “We consider the sanctions to be tyrannical and have to lift them step by step.”
            “We will never give up our rights.” [referring to the enrichment process]

Vienna Nuke Talks: Zarif, Ashton on Extension

            Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton issued a joint statement on November 24 explaining the decision to extend negotiations over Iran's nuclear program by seven months. The extension, according to Ashton and Zarif, will allow negotiators to "build on the current momentum" and reach an agreement in the "shortest possible time." The full statement is below, followed by Zarif's remarks to the press.

            Since we agreed to the Joint Plan of Action one year ago in Geneva, we, together with the Foreign Ministers and Political Directors of the E3+3 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States), have been engaged in intensive diplomatic negotiations aimed at reaching a comprehensive solution.
            We once again express our appreciation to the Austrian Government for their most generous support in hosting these negotiations in Vienna.
            Based on the strong commitment by all sides to reach a mutually-agreed long-term comprehensive solution, we have held ten rounds of negotiations and numerous meetings during the past months. Some ideas have been developed, but given the technical nature of this effort and the decisions needed, more work is required to assess and finalize them as appropriate.
            We would have preferred to finalize a comprehensive solution here in Vienna. But we remain convinced that, based on the progress made and on the new ideas which continue to be explored, there is a credible path through which a comprehensive solution can be reached.

            We, together with the Foreign Ministers of the E3+3, have therefore agreed to continue our diplomatic efforts. We have decided to extend the measures of the Joint Plan of Action to allow for further negotiations until June 30th. We intend to build on the current momentum in order to complete these negotiations within the shortest possible time, up to four months, and if necessary to use the remaining time until the end of June to finalize any possible remaining technical and drafting work. 
            Iran and the E3/EU+3 reaffirm that they will continue to implement all their commitments described in the Joint Plan of Action in an efficient and timely manner. The IAEA will be asked to continue monitoring the voluntary measures under the Joint Plan of Action.
            The next meeting to continue our work will happen in December.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

             “I do not believe that anybody any longer questions Iran’s enrichment program. We believe that right of Iran to peaceful nuclear energy, including uranium enrichment, is enshrined in the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty), which does not require anybody’s recognition. The right is there. What is important is for Iran to be able to implement that right, to exercise that right without the threat of sanctions and pressure which are, in our view, illegal.”
            “I’m confident that any final deal will have a serious and not a token Iranian enrichment program coupled with removal of sanctions. This is the objective that we’re working on and this is the objective we will achieve.”
             “We have always said that Iran has no strategic interest in nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons don’t serve our strategic interests. Nuclear weapons are against every principle of our faith and our beliefs.”
             “A non-issue has become a crisis of international proportions,” Zarif said. “Iran has increased the number of its centrifuges and at the same time sanctions have been imposed on Iran, so nobody can claim victory for what has happened in the last 10 years because of that zero-sum approach.”
             “We seek to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”
             “The sanctions are not only misguided… but are totally ineffective. Sanctions do not resolve the problem.”
             “Only, and I stress, only a negotiated resolution” can solve the dispute.
             “We believe that a negotiated resolution is within reach.”
             “My delegation has shown extreme flexibility and reasonableness. It’s not that our hands are tied. Of course all of us have national security considerations, have considerations about our rights, our dignity, our respect, which is not for negotiation.”
             “We consider it in our interest to defuse and to defeat all these Iranophobic attempts to securitize the Iranian peaceful nuclear program,” Zarif said. “We believe that this securitization process is intended to serve objectives that have nothing to do with non-proliferation, because probably the most serous violators of the international nonproliferation regime are the strongest voices against this agreement and the strongest voices that create fear and phobia in the international community against the Iranian nuclear program.”
             Nov. 24, 2014 to the press in Vienna (via Press TV and BuzzFeed)

            A few hours before Ashton and Zarif read their statement, John Kerry commented on the extension as well. The following is a video of his remarks.

Vienna Nuke Talks: Kerry on Extension

             On November 24, the world’s six major powers and Iran missed the deadline for brokering a deal that would curb Tehran’s controversial nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. After a week of intensive discussion, the two sides agreed to a seven-month extension of talks. “We would be fools to walk away,” Secretary State John Kerry warned in remarks to the press. “In these last days in Vienna, we have made real and substantial progress, and we have seen new ideas surface.”
              Kerry said the new goal is to finish a political agreement within four months. If the two sides cannot agree on the major elements of a deal by then, they will reevaluate their options for proceeding. Kerry stressed that the world “is safer than it was just one year ago” before the interim deal was implemented. “Today, Iran has halted progress on its nuclear program and it has rolled it back for the first time in a decade.” The following is a video clip of Kerry's press briefing with excerpts from his remarks.
SECRETARY KERRY: Now we have worked long and hard not just over these past days but for months in order to achieve a comprehensive agreement that addresses international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.  This takes time.  The stakes are high and the issues are complicated and technical, and each decision affects other decisions.  There’s always an interrelationship, and each decision also deeply affects international security and national interests. 
It also takes time to do this because we don’t want just any agreement.  We want the right agreement.  Time and again, from the day that he took office, President Obama has been crystal clear that we must ensure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon, period.  And this is not specific to one country; it’s the policy of many countries in the world to reduce the numbers of nuclear weapons that exist today and not to allow new ones.  And we are engaged in that struggle in many places.  And the fact is that even Russia and the United States, who have the largest number, are working hard to reduce that number and to reduce the potential of fissionable nuclear material being available to any additional entity in the world. 
President Obama has been just as clear that the best way to do this is through diplomacy, through a comprehensive and durable agreement that all parties can agree to, that all parties are committed to upholding, and whose implementation is not based on trust but on intensive verification.  And that is not just because diplomacy is the preferred course; it is also the most effective course. 
Diplomacy is also difficult.  These talks are going to suddenly get easier just because we extend them.  They’re tough and they’ve been tough and they’re going to stay tough.  If it were easier, if views on both sides weren’t as deeply held as they are, then we’d have reached a final agreement months or even years ago.  But in these last days in Vienna, we have made real and substantial progress, and we have seen new ideas surface.  And that is why we are jointly – the P5+1, six nations and Iran – extending these talks for seven months with the very specific goal of finishing the political agreement within four months and with the understanding that we will go to work immediately, meet again very shortly.  And if we can do it sooner, we want to do it sooner. 
At the end of four months, we have not agreed on the major – if we have not agreed on the major elements by that point in time and there is no clear path, we can revisit how we then want to choose to proceed. 
Now we believe a comprehensive deal that addresses the world’s concerns is possible.  It is desirable.  And at this point, we have developed a clearer understanding of what that kind of deal could look like, but there are still some significant points of disagreement, and they have to be worked through.
Now I want to underscore that even as the negotiations continue towards a comprehensive deal, the world is safer than it was just one year ago.  It is safer than we were before we agreed on the Joint Plan of Action, which was the interim agreement. 
One year ago, Iran’s nuclear program was rushing full speed toward larger stockpiles, greater uranium enrichment capacity, the production of weapons-grade plutonium, and ever shorter breakout time.  Today, Iran has halted progress on its nuclear program and it has rolled it back for the first time in a decade.
A year ago, Iran had about 200 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium in a form that could be quickly enriched into a weapons-grade level.  Today, Iran has no such 20 percent enriched uranium – zero, none – and they have diluted or converted every ounce that they had and suspended all uranium enrichment above 5 percent.
A year ago, Iran was making steady progress on the Arak reactor, which, if it had become operational, would have provided Iran with a plutonium path to a nuclear weapon.  Today, progress on Arak, as it is known, is frozen in place.
A year ago, inspectors had limited access to Iran’s nuclear program.  Today, IAEA inspectors have daily access to Iran’s enrichment facilities and a far deeper understanding of Iran’s program.  They have been able to learn things about Iran’s centrifuge production, uranium mines, and other facilities that are important to building trust.  That’s how you build trust, and that’s why Iran made the decision to do it.  And they’ve been able to verify that Iran is indeed living up to its JPOA commitments.
All of these steps by Iran and the limited sanctions relief that the international community provided in return are important building blocks to lay the foundation for a comprehensive agreement and they begin to build confidence among nations. 
A year ago, we had no idea whether or not real progress could be made through these talks.  We only knew that we had a responsibility to try.  Today, we are closer to a deal that would make the entire world, especially our allies and partners in Israel and in the Gulf, safer and more secure. 
Is it possible that in the end we just won’t arrive at a workable agreement?  Absolutely.  We are certainly not going to sit at the negotiating table forever, absent measurable progress.  But given how far we have come over the past year and particularly in the last few days, this is not certainly the time to get up and walk away.  These issues are enormously complex.  They require a lot of tough political decisions and they require very rigorous technical analysis of concepts.  It takes time to work through the possible solutions that can effectively accomplish our goals and that give the leaders of all countries confidence in the decisions that they are being asked to make.
So our experts will meet again very soon.  In fact, we will have a meeting in December as soon as possible in order to continue this work and to drive this process as hard as we can.  And as the parties continue to negotiate, all of the current restraints on the nuclear program in Iran will remain in place.
Now, let me make it clear:  Our goal in these negotiations is not a mystery.  It is not a political goal.  It is not an ideological goal.  It is a practical goal, a goal of common sense, and it is achievable.  The United States and our EU and P5+1 partners – the UK, France, Germany, Russia, and China, a group of nations that doesn’t always see eye to eye – agree unanimously about what a viable agreement would need to look like.
First and foremost, the viable agreement would have to close off all of the pathways for Iran to get fissile material for a nuclear weapon.  A viable agreement would have to include a new level of transparency and verification beyond the expanded access that we’ve had under the JPOA.  And as these conditions are met, a viable agreement would also include for Iran relief from the international nuclear-related sanctions that help to bring them to the table to negotiate in the first place. 
And because of the nature of these talks, we should not – and I emphasize we will not – in the days ahead discuss the details of the negotiations.  And we’re doing that simply to preserve the space to be able to make the choices that lie ahead.  But I can tell you that progress was indeed made on some of the most vexing challenges that we face, and we now see the path toward potentially resolving some issues that have been intractable. 
I want to also emphasize:  This agreement, like any agreement, regarding security particularly, cannot be based on trust because trust can’t be built overnight.  Instead, the agreement has to be based on verification, on measures that serve to build confidence over time.  And I want to make it even further clear to everybody here we really want this to work – but not at the cost of just anything.  We want to reach a comprehensive deal and we want it to work for everybody.  And we want the people of Iran to get the economic relief that they seek and to be able to rejoin the international community. 
We want to terminate the sanctions.  Yes, we want to terminate the sanctions which were put in place to get us to these negotiations and ultimately to be able to bring about a deal.  But the world – and I underscore this – not just the United States, not just the P5+1 – the world still has serious questions about Iran’s nuclear program.  And for the sanctions to be terminated, we need Iran to take concrete, verifiable steps to answer those questions.  That’s the bottom line.
And for my friends in the United States Congress, with whom I spent almost 30 years in the United States Senate, I would say that together, we have been through some tough policy deliberations.  I had the responsibility of chairing the Foreign Relations Committee when we put the sanctions regime in place that has helped us get this far.  I believe in the institution and the critical role that the Senate has to play, and the House.  We have stayed in close consultation throughout this process, and we will continue to do so.  And we look for your support for this extension and for continued talks.
And I would say to those who are skeptical, those who wonder whether we should rush ahead down a different course, I believe the United States and our partners have earned the benefit of the doubt at this point.  Many were quick to say that the Joint Plan of Action would be violated; it wouldn’t hold up, it would be shredded.  Many said that Iran would not hold up its end of the bargain.  Many said that the sanctions regime would collapse.  But guess what?  The interim agreement wasn’t violated.  Iran has held up its end of the bargain, and the sanctions regime has remained intact.
My friends, we have the time in the next weeks and months to try and get this right.  And because of that, we should continue to exercise the judgment and the patience to defend our interests, uphold our core principles, maintain our sense of urgency that this issue deserves, and keep open the road to a peaceful resolution.  That’s what we decided to do here today.  I am convinced it is the right decision, made on the basis of what we have done over the course of these last days, and on the prospects of what we could achieve if we can reach a comprehensive agreement.
QUESTION:  Sir, despite all the negotiating over the past year, there’s still fundamental gaps over how much enrichment capacity Iran would be allowed to retain, the duration of an accord, and the timing of sanctions relief.  Why do you think the calculation of the two sides would be fundamentally different several months from now than from today? 
SECRETARY KERRY:  Let me just emphasize, as I said in the beginning, I’m not going to talk about the details.  I’m not going to confirm whether or not there’s a gap or not a gap or where the gaps are.  There obviously are gaps.  We’ve said that.  And there is obviously some distance to travel.  But if we start getting into where they are or where they aren’t, then one side or the other is going to begin to get asked, “Well, what did you give for that,” or “What did you get for that,” or “Where are we?”  And if that becomes the public debate, this is going to end very quickly.  So we’re not going to discuss the details, as I said to you.  We’re just not going to go there.
Now with respect to why should we continue this, I’ll tell you why we should continue this:  Because the world is safer with the interim agreement in place.  I just listed all of the things that are happening as a result of that agreement.  The nuclear program in Iran as we negotiate is frozen.  The 20 percent enrichment has been reduced to zero.  Inspectors are in the facilities.  The centrifuges cannot be replaced except unless they break down.  There’s no change in the level of centrifuges.  We would be fools to walk away from a situation where the breakout time has already been expanded rather than narrowed, and where the world is safer because this program is in place.
So just on the common sense of what we have in the interim agreement, it makes absolute sense to continue to talk.  But there’s more important evidence of why we should do this, and that is that we are saying – and I think, as I said, we have earned the benefit of the doubt – we produced an agreement that has worked; we produced an agreement that, for a year, Iran has lived up to.  We produced an agreement that has made the world safer, and we have produced an agreement that we now are telling you has been able to advance these talks where unanimously, every country has stood before you or will stand before you and say, “We’ve made progress and we need the time to finish.”
Now, I think that when we have a classified briefing with those people appropriately cleared to have that briefing, we can go into greater detail.  But this should not be worked out in public, and I don’t know – I know all of you have great sources; you have a great ability to learn one thing or another.  Don’t trust it.  I’m telling you right now, a lot of people don’t know what they’re talking about, because this is pretty narrowly held.  So as recently as half an hour ago, I left Foreign Minister Zarif.  We’ve had talks, and I can tell you that even my colleagues on the other side haven’t had a chance to be debriefed.  So I would caution anybody, and just bear with us as we try to negotiate over the course of the next days.

[W]e’re going to live under the joint agreement that we’ve already put in place a year ago.  That has a pro-rated, already agreed upon fund that is dispersed, and since we’re living under it, we’ll live up to that agreement.  But we’re not doing anything additional beyond that that I know of.

QUESTION: Putting more time on the clock heightens the level of political risk.  What assurances do you have from Congress that they won’t move ahead with sanctions in the next seven months, and is this real and substantive progress you’ve just talked about enough to warrant a presidential veto if they were to move ahead with those sanctions?
SECRETARY KERRY:  With respect to Congress, as a former member of Congress, as I said, for some 30 years, I have huge respect for the prerogatives of the United States Congress.  I believe in them.  But I believe this is a moment where Congress hopefully, when properly briefed and when we’ve had a chance to report to them – and we’re in constant touch; I’ve talked to members even while I’ve been here for the past days – I hope they will come to see the wisdom of leaving us the equilibrium for a few months to be able to proceed without sending messages that might be misinterpreted and cause miscalculation.  So my hope is we will have that breadth, and we certainly stand prepared to work with the Congress in every way possible to make sure that everybody’s interests are properly listened to, processed, implemented, taken into account.  And so I look forward to those discussions when I get back.
QUESTION:  Does it warrant a veto?  Does it warrant a presidential veto, the substantive progress you say has been made?
SECRETARY KERRY:  Oh, I think it’s – look, it’s way too premature to be starting to talk about veto.  We don’t even know – let’s let Congress hear what we’re saying.  Let’s have a conversation.  Let’s see if there is legislation.  I’m not going to get into that hypothetical routine right now.
QUESTION:  You said – based on you had said that 20 percent is going to zero by Iran, also plutonium is going zero also, also Arak have (inaudible) with IAEA with Iran.  Based on July agreement how do you respond should remainder remove all sanction?  Also, should there being for Iran based on practical enrichment?  Why they don’t implement their commitment? Did they have commitments about removing the sanctions?
SECRETARY KERRY:  We have made a commitment about removing sanctions.  We will remove sanctions as the agreement is reached.  And that’s always been the understanding.  We’ve been very clear about it.  We haven’t reached an agreement yet. 
Now, what we did in return for the things that Iran chose to do – and we’re very – as I said here – I think I was very candid and fair.  I said Iran has honored the agreement.  Iran has lived up to the agreement.  But in exchange for that agreement, to do those things we have lifted some of the sanctions.  We have provided a certain amount of money that reporter from The New York Times asked about, and that’s been released as part of the agreement. 
So that was the exchange.  The relief, a little bit, from some of the sanctions in exchange for the things that were done through this year.  Now, if Iran will come and make the comprehensive agreement, we have told them we’re prepared to go – I’m not going to say how far and where, because that’s part of the negotiation, but we will address the issues of the sanctions in the context of the negotiation.
Thank you all very, very much.

Click here for the full transcript.


Report: Nuclear Deal Could Boost Rouhani

            A successful nuclear deal between Iran and the world's six major powers would allow Rouhani and other centrists to increase their influence in Iran’s political system, according to a new research paper by Hossein Bastani in the Middle East and North Africa Program at Chatham House. But failure to reach a deal would empower hardliners in the judiciary and security establishment who disapprove of engagement with the West. Bastani warns that if Rouhani and others who favor improving ties with the outside world “again suffer failure in striking a face-saving deal, they will never be able to return to the sphere of foreign policy in Iran.” The following is a summary of the key findings of the research paper.

            One of the key questions about the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme is how powerful President Hassan Rouhani really is within Iran’s unique political system, and whether he and his colleagues have the ability to implement an international nuclear agreement despite their powerful opponents. As the country’s chief nuclear negotiator in 2003–05, Rouhani agreed to suspend uranium enrichment and open nuclear facilities to International Atomic Energy Agency inspections, but Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, unhappy with the attitude of the Western powers towards Iran, halted the implementation of these arrangements.
            Rouhani and his associates emphasize that their objective is the resolution of the economic, administrative and international crises arising from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s two presidential terms. In this context, they regard their highest priority as being the conclusion of an agreement with the international community over the nuclear dossier – which has been, in their view, the major source of Iran’s economic problems in the past few years.
However, the president is faced with opposition within the ranks of some of the most influential state institutions: the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and Basij volunteer militias, the intelligence-security apparatus, the judiciary and the parliament.
            There is no doubt that Ayatollah Khamenei expects Rouhani to strive to achieve the removal of the sanctions against Iran, but he does not seem interested in sharing responsibility for any retreat from the nuclear programme. If he comes to the conclusion that the political costs of nuclear talks far outweigh the economic benefits they can bring, he will once again put an end to them.
            Should that happen, it will strengthen Ayatollah Khamenei’s convictions about the dangers of any rapprochement with the West and about the potential for moderation in foreign policy. This impact could be even stronger than that of the failure of the 2003–05 nuclear talks.
            Ultimately, if those in Iran – such as President Rouhani – who favour interaction with the international community again fail in their efforts to strike a face-saving deal, they will never be able to return to the sphere of foreign policy in Iran. The departure of Rouhani’s team from the political scene during the most sensitive stage of the nuclear issue would lead to the return to Iran’s foreign policy apparatus of forces that oppose external engagement.
Click here for the full report

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