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The Iran Primer

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Iran Complying with Interim Nuke Agreement

           On March 20, the U.N. nuclear watchdog released a new report detailing Iran’s implementation of the interim nuclear deal brokered in November 2013. Tehran has continued to comply with the agreement and has not enriched uranium to 20 percent. But it has not yet completed a facility to convert low-enriched uranium gas into an oxide, which would need to be reprocessed to be used to fuel a weapon. The following is an analysis by the Arms Control Association on Iran’s implementation with a link to the latest U.N. report.  

 
Iranian Actions                                 
 
Status                                          
By January 20, halt production of near-20% enriched uranium hexaflouride gas (UF6) and commit to only enrich up to 5%.
Completed
According to the January 20 IAEA report, Iran had halted enrichment to 20% UF6.
By January 20, disable the configuration of the centrifuge cascades Iran has been using to produce 20% enriched UF6.
Completed
According to the January 20 IAEA report, Iran had ceased operating its interconnected centrifuges enriching to 20% UF6. The February 20 IAEA report said that Iran is now using the four cascades at Fordow to enrich uranium to 5%.
On January 20, continue conversion of half of its stockpile of near-20% uranium hexafluoride gas (UF6) into uranium oxide powder as working stock for fabricating fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor.
 
In Progress
According to the February 20 IAEA report, Iran is in the process of converting half of its stockpile of 20% enriched UF6 gas to uranium oxide powder. An additional 49 kg were converted since the November IAEA report.
On January 20, begin dilution of half of its stockpile of 20% UF6 to no more than 5% enriched UF6 and complete dilution by April 20.
In Progress
According to remarks delievered to the IAEA Board of Governors on March 3, Iran completed dilution of half of its required dilution of 20% enriched uranium to 3.5%.
Continue only its safeguarded research and development practices, including its current enrichment reserach practices, which were not designated for accumulation of the enriched uranium.
Completed
In the February 20 IAEA report, the agency verified that Iran was continuing its safeguarded research and development practices at Natanz and was not using the research to accumulate uranium as it tested advanced models.
By April 20, provide the IAEA with:

  • plans for nuclear facilities
In Progress
Iran submited details on site selection for 16 nuclear power plants to the IAEA, its initial plans for 10 future enrichment sites, and a light water reactor.
  • descriptions of buildings located on nuclear sites
Not Yet Completed
  • the scale of operations for each location
Not Yet Completed
  • information on uranium mines and mills
In Progress
According to the February 20 IAEA report, the agency has received some infomation about Iran's mining and milling activities, and more will be forthcoming.
  • information on source material
Not Yet Completed
Submit an updated Design Information Questionaire (DIQ) for the reactor at Arak (IR-40).
Completed
Iran submitted at updated DIQ on the reactor to the IAEA on February 12, according to the agency's Feb. 20 report.
Take steps to conclude a safeguards approach with the IAEA for the Arak reactor.
In Progress
The IAEA's February 20 report notes that Iran agreed to take steps to work with the agency to conclude the safeguards agreement.
Allow daily IAEA inspector access at Fordow and Nantanz, including scheduled and unannounced inspections and access to surveillance information on a daily basis.
Completed
As of the February 20 IAEA report, the IAEA was able to install surveillance measures at Natanz and Fordow to facilitate daily monitoring and came to an agreement regarding the facilitation of daily access.
(Prior to the Joint Plan of Action, the IAEA had acessed Fordow on a weekly basis, and Natanz on a biweekly basis.)
Allow the IAEA to conduct monthly inspections of the heavy water reactor at Arak and associated facilities.
In Progress
The IAEA was able to make its first monthly visit and access the heavy water reactor on Feb. 12, according to the agency's Feb. 20 IAEA report.
(Prior inspections were conducted at the reactor once every three months, and other facilities at the site were not included.)
Provide information to allow the IAEA inspectors managed access to:

  • centrifuge assembly workshops
Completed
The IAEA was able to visit the facility between February 3-7.
  • centrifuge rotor production
Completed
The IAEA was able to visit the facility between February 3-7.
  • workshops and storage facilities
Completed
The IAEA was able to visit the facility between February 3-7.
  • uranium mines and mills
In Progress
In a January 20 letter to the IAEA, Iran provided information about its uranium mines and mills, and the IAEA was able to access the Gchine mine on January 29.
Provide figures that will allow the IAEA to verify that centrifuge production will be dedicated to the replacement of damaged machines.
Not Yet Completed
Cap the size of the 5% enriched UF6 stockpile.
In Progress
Iran is constructing a plant to convert 5% enriched UF6 to uranium dioxide, a powder suitable for power plant fuel, which will enable it to maintain a cap on its stockpile of UF6, which is not to exceed the amount Iran had an the beginning of implementation of the deal. As of the Feb. 20 IAEA report, Iran had not yet completed the plant, nor provided a timeframe for its operaitons.
 
Iran Will Refrain From the Following Actions
 
Status
Refrain from installing a reconversion line to reconvert uranium oxide powder to 20% UF6.
Complying
The January 20 IAEA report said that Iran does not have a reconversion line in place.
Refrain from reproccessing or constructing a facility capable of reprocessing materials.
Complying
In a January 18 letter to the IAEA, Iran said it will not engage in reprocessing or construct a reprocessing facility over the six months of the deal. The January 20 IAEA report confirmed that no reprocessing is taking place at the Tehran Reserach Reactor or MIX facility.
Refrain from making any further advances of its activities at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant.
(This includes not installing new centrifuges and not feeding UF6 into the roughly half the centrifuges at Natanz that are installed but not yet enriching uranium.)
Complying
The IAEA verified in the February 20 report that Iran has not made any further advances and no new centrifuges are enriching uranium.
Refrain from making any further advances of its activities at Fordow.
(This includes not installing new centrifuges, not feeding UF6 into the three quarters at Fordow that  are installed but not yet enriching uranium, and not interconnecting the cascades.)
Complying
The IAEA verified that Iran has not made any further advances and no new centrifuges are enriching uranium.
Replacing existing centrifuges only with centrifuges of the same type.
Complying
As of the February 20 IAEA report, the agency did not report any violation of this restriction, and survelliance has been set up to monitor any changes.
Refrain from commissioning the heavy water reactor at Arak.
Complying
The February 20 IAEA report said that Iran had not conducted any activities to further the Arak reactor.
Refrain from transfering fuel or heavy water to the Arak reactor.
Complying
The February 20 IAEA report said that Iran had not conducted any activities to further the Arak reactor.
Refrain from testing additional fuel or producing more fuel.
Complying
The February 20 IAEA report said that Iran had not manufactured or tested any reactor fuel, and the number of fuel rods produced remains at 11.
Refrain from installing any additional reactor components at the Arak site.
Complying
The February 20 IAEA report said that Iran had not conducted any activities to further advance the Arak reactor.
Limit centrifuge production to those needed to replace damaged machines.
Not Yet Verified
Refrain from constructing any new locations for enrichment.
Complying
In a January 18 letter to the IAEA Iran said it would not pursue any new uranium enrichment sites during the six months of the agreement.
 

Click here for the full U.N. report.

 

Nowruz: Traditions for Persian New Year

            Ironically, the most widely celebrated holiday in the Islamic Republic of Iran long predates the official religion. Nowruz, literally “New Day” in Farsi, marks the first day of spring and the Persian New Year. The holiday, which falls on March 20 this year, is widely celebrated across the Middle East and Central Asia. 

      Nowruz is a national holiday celebrated by Iranians of virtually all ethnicities and religions. Celebrations may date back to Cyrus the Great’s reign in the sixth century B.C. Many of the season’s traditions have roots in Zoroastrianism, an ancient monotheistic faith still practiced by some 20,000 in Iran.
 
      Shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, some hardliners unsuccessfully tried to suppress the holiday due to its pre-Islamic origins. But Iran has never severed connections to its pre-Islamic past. “Iran’s advancements after Islam are incomparable to its past. However, pre-Islamic history of Iran is also part of our history,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in 2008. Most Iranians still look to the ancient Persian Empire as a source of pride.
 
 
             The following is an overview of Iranian traditions associated with Nowruz.
 
A Persian Santa Claus and Troubadour
 
      Amoo, or “Uncle,” Nowruz, and his sidekick Haji Piruz are folk characters who herald the spring. Uncle Nowruz, like Santa Claus, hands out presents to children and is an older man with a white beard. Haji Piruz, his clownish assistant, sings joyous songs and plays a tambourine or drum in city streets and squares. Men and boys blacken their faces with soot, and wear bright red clothing and a conical hat to portray the character in hopes of earning some coins for providing entertainment. The following is a translation of one common song associated with Haji Piruz:
 
Wind and rain have gone.
Lord Nowurz has come.
Friends, convey this message.
The New Year has come again
This spring be your good luck
The tulip fields be your joy.
 
 
 
            Nowruz is celebrated on the Spring Equinox, but the holiday includes many stages and weeks of preparation.
 
Spring Cleaning
 
           Iranians begin preparing their homes for Nowrouz weeks in advance. The annual spring cleaning is known in Farsi as khoneh takooni, or “shaking the house.” Families meticulously wash rugs, windows, curtains and repair furniture. They throw out or donate old household goods and purchase new clothing to greet the coming spring.
 
Haft Seen Table
 
            One of the most important Nowruz traditions is setting the haft seen table, which includes seven symbolic items all starting the with an “s” sound:
 
•  Sabzeh (sprouted wheat grass): For rebirth and renewal
•  Samanu (sweet pudding): For affluence and fertility
•  Senjed (sweet, dried lotus tree fruit): For love  
•  Serkeh (vinegar): For patience and wisdom gained through aging
•  Sir (garlic): For medicine and maintaining good health
•  Sib (apples): For health and beauty
•  Sumac (crushed spice made from reddish berries): For recalling the sunrise
 
            Additional items on the table include:
•  Mirror: To reflect on the past year
•  Live goldfish in a bowl: To represent new life
•  Orange in a bowl of water: To symbolize the Earth
•  Decorated eggs: For fertility
•  Coins: For future prosperity
•  Books of classical poetry and/or the Koran: For spirituality
 
Fire Jumping
 
            On the last Wednesday of the year, Iranians set up bonfires in public places and leap over the flames in a ritual, Chahar Shanbeh Soori, thought to ensure good health for the year. People sing the following song addressing the fire while jumping:
Give me your beautiful red color
And take back my sickly pallor!
 
Food
 
     On the Chahar Shanbeh Soori, some Iranians make wishes and distribute a special soup consisting of roasted garbanzo beans, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts and dried figs, apricots and raisins.
 
      Another soup, Ash-e-reshteh (left), is traditionally served around Nowrouz. The hearty mixture is filled with noodles and multiple types of beans. The noodle knots represent the many possibilities for the coming year, and untangling them is thought to bring good fortune.
 
            Sabzi pollo mahi, is a common fish and rice dish served during Nowrouz. The rice is mixed with green herbs to symbolize the coming spring.
 
            Several types of sweets are also ubiquitous at this time of year.
•  Baqlava: flaky pastry sweetened with rosewater
•  Naan bereng: cookies made from rice flour
•  Noghl: sugar-coated almonds
•  Samanu: a sweet pudding made from sprouted wheat
 
           Many Iranians have found these foods and other items increasingly expensive since 2012. Tightened international sanctions imposed over Tehran’s controversial nuclear program have dramatically raised prices. “I didn’t buy nuts last year, because prices were very high and I won’t buy them this year either,” a 37-year-old mother of two told The National.
 
The Count Down
 
      After Chahar Shanbeh Soori, Iranians wait with their families and friends for the exact moment when the vernal equinox occurs, Tahvil in Farsi. Elders distribute sweets and children receive coins. People begin making short visits to the homes of friends and family throughout the day and night. At each house visit, hosts provide nuts, sweets, dried fruits and tea to their guests.
 
 
 
 
 
Sizdah Bedar
 
            On the 13th day of the new year, Iranians try to get rid of the bad luck associated with the number 13 by spending the day outside having fun with family and friends. Many people pack picnic lunches and head to parks or the countryside. The tradition is known as sizdah bedar, or “getting rid of the 13th.”
 
            Iranians also discard the sabzeh grass from the Haft Seen table, which collected all the potential bad fortune of a family during Nowruz. Some unmarried girls knot grass blades symbolizing the union of a man and woman in hopes of finding a husband before the next Nowruz.
 
 
The United Nations includes Nowruz on its List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Click here for more information.
 
 

Photo credits: Persepolis by by alisamii (http://www.flickr.com/photos/alisamii/4806644274) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons, Haji Firuz and Haft Seen Table by Robin Wright, Fire jumping by PersianDutchNetwork (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons, Ash-e-Reshteh  by AilinParsa (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Iran Defeated the US: In Wrestling

            Iran defeated its two major rivals, Russia and the United States, at the 2014 Freestyle Wrestling World Cup in Los Angeles. On March 15, Iran defeated the host team 5-3 after beating Armenia 8-0 and Turkey 7-1. Iran went on to beat Russia 6-2 on March 16, taking the cup for the third time in a row.  “We were able to execute our plan,” Iran’s technical manager Ali Reza Razaie told TeamUSA.org. “For each of our matches we had a plan. Ninety percent of our plan came through today.”

 
            Only three U.S. athletes beat their Iranian counterparts. “I think we’re in a place now where that would give us some confidence,” U.S. coach Zeke Jones said after loss. “I think the next time we wrestle we will believe that we can beat them [the Iranians]. But we’re not going to do it if we don’t do the little things. We got to do the little things, fight for the center of the mat, control the tie-up, take charge of the whistle. Those are the things we talk about. They beat us to the punch on those things.”
 
 
            Both President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei congratulated the team. “The victory of Iran’s national freestyle wrestling team… proves the athletic traits of the zealous and diligent Iranian youth in the international arena,” Rouhani wrote in a message.
 
            The crowd in Los Angeles was split between Iran and U.S. fans. But Iran’s supporters also chanted “USA, USA” during the third-place match between the United States and Ukraine, according to TeamUSA.org. “I think that the fact that we were able to host the World Cup here and Iranian team is here again in such an important city like Los Angeles, I think it's a true testament to our relationship with the Iranian [wrestling] federation, and the fact that wrestling is popular all over the world,” said USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender.
 
      The Iranian and the U.S. wrestling federations have “positive and strong relationship built on years of competition,” Bender told The Iran Primer in 2013. U.S. participation in Iran’s 1998 Takhti Cup marked the first visit by an American sports team since the 1979 Islamic revolution. The team has competed in Iran ten other times since then. And Iran’s national team has competed in the United States more than 10 times since 1996.
 
      The two federations actually teamed up to salvage wrestling for the 2020 Olympics after the Olympic Committee recommended dropping the sport in February 2013. The Iranian and American teams were scheduled to hold two friendly matches ― in New York on May 15 and in Los Angeles on May 19 ― to raise the sport’s profile before the committee makes a final decision in September. The Iranians beat the Americans 6 to 1 in New York.
 
Click here for more information on the U.S.-Iran wrestling relationship.
 

Congress Warns Iran in Letters to Obama

      On March 18, 83 U.S. Senators and nearly 400 House members sent letters to President Barack Obama warning that they would swiftly impose new sanctions if nuclear talks between Iran and the world’s six major powers fail. The Senate letter —spearheaded by Senators Menendez (D-NJ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Chris Coons (D-DE) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)— argued that “Iran has no inherent right to enrichment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty” but did not explicitly require Tehran to stop enriching uranium. Eight of the 17 senators who did not sign the letter were Democratic committee chairmen who urged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to hold off on voting on new Iran sanctions in December.

            House Majority Leader Eric Cantor R-VA) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer penned their letter, which was signed by 178 Democrats and 216 Republicans. “We urge you to consult closely with us so that we can determine the parameters of such relief in the event an agreement is reached, or, if no agreement is reached or Iran violates the interim agreement, so that we can act swiftly to consider additional sanctions and steps necessary to change Iran’s calculation,” urged the House members. “By standing together in a bipartisan manner, this letter shows that House Members are united and will not stand for a nuclear armed Iran now or in the future, or allow Iran to skirt its responsibility under the Joint Plan of Action,” Hoyer said in a statement.
        
           A group of 23 senators, led by Carl Levin (D-MI), sent a separate letter to Obama on March 22. “We are hopeful a permanent diplomatic agreement will require dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear weapons-related infrastructure, including enrichment-, heavy water-, and reprocessing-related facilities,” wrote the senators. The following is the full text of the three letters.
 
Menendez Letter
Dear Mr. President:
 
We all hope that nuclear negotiations succeed in preventing Iran from ever developing a nuclear weapons capability.  For diplomacy to succeed, however, we must couple our willingness to negotiate with a united and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime.
 
We believe, as you do, that the pressure from economic sanctions brought Iran to the table, and that it must continue until Iran abandons its efforts to build a nuclear weapon.  We also agree pressure will intensify if Iran violates the interim agreement, uses the talks simply as a delaying tactic, or walks away from the table. 
 
For twenty years, Congress has consistently focused attention on the threat of the Iranian program and taken the lead in initiating sanctions.  Congress has repeatedly stated that preventing an Iranian nuclear capability is a key goal of U.S. foreign policy.  Nine separate pieces of sanctions legislation have passed Congress since 1996.  We appreciate your continued commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and your efforts to implement the sanctions, which isolated and pressured the regime into negotiations.
 
We believe that Congress has a continuing role to play to improve the prospects for success in the talks with Iran.  As these negotiations proceed, we will outline our views about the essential goals of a final agreement with Iran, continue oversight of the interim agreement and the existing sanctions regime, and signal the consequences that will follow if Iran rejects an agreement that brings to an end its nuclear weapons ambitions.
 
We write now to express our support for the following core principles we believe are consistent with your administration’s positions, and urge you to insist on their realization in a final agreement with Iran:
 
  • We believe that Iran has no inherent right to enrichment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
  •  
  • We believe any agreement must dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons program and prevent it from ever having a uranium or plutonium path to a nuclear bomb. 
  •  
  • We believe Iran has no reason to have an enrichment facility like Fordow, that the regime must give up its heavy water reactor at Arak, and that it must fully explain the questionable activities in which it engaged at Parchin and other facilities. 
  • We believe Iran must fully resolve concerns addressed in United Nations Security Council resolutions, including any military dimensions of its nuclear program.
  •  
  • We believe Iran must also submit to a long-term and intrusive inspection and verification regime to achieve the goal described in the Joint Plan of Action of “reaffirm[ing] that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons.”
  •  
  • Finally, we believe Iran must not be allowed during these negotiations to circumvent sanctions.  We view this period as one fraught with the danger of companies and countries looking to improve their commercial position in Tehran, especially given recent reports of rising purchases of Iranian oil.  Iran cannot be allowed to be open for business. As you have stated, we must come down on those who are undermining sanctions “like a ton of bricks.” 
  •  
As you have said, Congress has always been a partner in presidential efforts to impose economic sanctions on Iran.  Should an acceptable final agreement be reached, your administration will need to work together with Congress to enact implementing legislation to provide longer term sanctions relief beyond existing waiver authorities – either through suspension, repeal or amendment of statutory sanctions.  Should negotiations fail or Iran violate the Joint Plan of Action, Congress will need to ensure that the legislative authority exists to rapidly and dramatically expand sanctions.  We need to work together now to prepare for either eventuality.
 
Most importantly, Iran must clearly understand the consequences of failing to reach an acceptable final agreement.  We must signal unequivocally to Iran that rejecting negotiations and continuing its nuclear weapon program will lead to much more dramatic sanctions, including further limitations on Iran’s exports of crude oil and petroleum products. 
Mr. President, the negotiations with Iran are likely to be arduous. We look forward to working with you on a bipartisan basis to protect America and our allies by preventing Iran from ever developing or building nuclear weapons.
 
Click here for a full list of signatories.
 
House Letter
 
Dear Mr. President:
 
As your partner in developing the broad-based sanctions that – in bringing Iran to the negotiating table – have played an essential role in your two-track approach to encourage Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program, we support your diplomatic effort to test Iran’s willingness to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions and satisfactorily resolve all critical issues concerning its nuclear program.
 
Iran’s history of delay, deception, and dissembling on its nuclear program raises serious concerns that Iran will use prolonged negotiations as a tool to secure an economic lifeline while it continues to make progress towards a nuclear weapon. Iran’s leaders must understand that further sanctions relief will require Tehran to abandon its pursuit of a nuclear weapon and fully disclose its nuclear activities.

We are hopeful a permanent diplomatic agreement will require dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear weapons-related infrastructure, including enrichment-, heavy water-, and reprocessing-related facilities, such that Iran will not be able to develop, build, or acquire a nuclear weapon. We do not seek to deny Iran a peaceful nuclear energy program, but we are gravely concerned that Iran's industrial-scale uranium enrichment capability and heavy water reactor being built at Arak could be used for the development of nuclear weapons.
 
Because we believe any agreement should include stringent transparency measures to guarantee that Iran cannot develop an undetectable nuclear weapons breakout capability, Tehran must fully and verifiably implement its Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, ratify and implement the Additional Protocol, answer pending IAEA questions, and comply with the transparency measures requested by the Director General of the IAEA, as well as with any additional verification and monitoring measures necessary to ensure Iran is abiding by the terms of any agreement. Such measures should include an agreement granting the IAEA necessary access to inspect all suspect sites, including military facilities, and providing an unfettered ability to interview Iranian scientists and personnel associated with Iran’s nuclear program.

As negotiations progress, we expect your administration will continue to keep Congress regularly apprised of the details. And, because any long-term sanctions relief will require Congressional action, we urge you to consult closely with us so that we can determine the parameters of such relief in the event an agreement is reached, or, if no agreement is reached or Iran violates the interim agreement, so that we can act swiftly to consider additional sanctions and steps necessary to change Iran’s calculation.

Finally, although the P5+1 process is focused on Iran’s nuclear program, we remain deeply concerned by Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism, its horrendous human rights record, its efforts to destabilize its neighbors, its pursuit of intercontinental ballistic missiles, and its threats against our ally, Israel, as well as the fates of American citizens detained by Iran. We want to work with you to address these concerns as part of a broader strategy of dealing with Iran.

We are hopeful your two-track strategy will convince Iran to change course and abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons. None of us desires military conflict, but as you yourself have acknowledged, we must keep all options on the table to prevent this dangerous regime from acquiring nuclear weapons.
 
Click here for a full list of signatories.
 
Levin Letter
 
Dear Mr. President:
 
As your partner in developing the broad-based sanctions that – in bringing Iran to the negotiating table – have played an essential role in your two-track approach to encourage Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program, we support your diplomatic effort to test Iran’s willingness to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions and satisfactorily resolve all critical issues concerning its nuclear program. 
 
Iran’s history of delay, deception, and dissembling on its nuclear program raises serious concerns that Iran will use prolonged negotiations as a tool to secure an economic lifeline while it continues to make progress towards a nuclear weapon.  Iran’s leaders must understand that further sanctions relief will require Tehran to abandon its pursuit of a nuclear weapon and fully disclose its nuclear activities. 
 
We are hopeful a permanent diplomatic agreement will require dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear weapons-related infrastructure, including enrichment-, heavy water-, and reprocessing-related facilities, such that Iran will not be able to develop, build, or acquire a nuclear weapon.  We do not seek to deny Iran a peaceful nuclear energy program, but we are gravely concerned that Iran's industrial-scale uranium enrichment capability and heavy water reactor being built at Arak could be used for the development of nuclear weapons. 
 
Because we believe any agreement should include stringent transparency measures to guarantee that Iran cannot develop an undetectable nuclear weapons breakout capability, Tehran must fully and verifiably implement its Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, ratify and implement the Additional Protocol, answer pending IAEA questions, and comply with the transparency measures requested by the Director General of the IAEA, as well as with any additional verification and monitoring measures necessary to ensure Iran is abiding by the terms of any agreement.  Such measures should include an agreement granting the IAEA necessary access to inspect all suspect sites, including military facilities, and providing an unfettered ability to interview Iranian scientists and personnel associated with Iran’s nuclear program. 
 
As negotiations progress, we expect your administration will continue to keep Congress regularly apprised of the details.  And, because any long-term sanctions relief will require Congressional action, we urge you to consult closely with us so that we can determine the parameters of such relief in the event an agreement is reached, or, if no agreement is reached or Iran violates the interim agreement, so that we can act swiftly to consider additional sanctions and steps necessary to change Iran’s calculation. 
 
Finally, although the P5+1 process is focused on Iran’s nuclear program, we remain deeply concerned by Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism, its horrendous human rights record, its efforts to destabilize its neighbors, its pursuit of intercontinental ballistic missiles, and its threats against our ally, Israel, as well as the fates of American citizens detained by Iran.  We want to work with you to address these concerns as part of a broader strategy of dealing with Iran. 
 
We are hopeful your two-track strategy will convince Iran to change course and abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons.  None of us desires military conflict, but as you yourself have acknowledged, we must keep all options on the table to prevent this dangerous regime from acquiring nuclear weapons.
 
Click here for a list of signatories.

Rouhani in Oman to Boost Trade, Gulf Ties

             On March 12, President Hassan Rouhani arrived in Oman for his first official visit to an Arab country since his August inauguration. The primary aim of the two-day trip was to expand economic ties between the two countries and ease tensions with other Gulf states. “Iran extends a hand of friendship and brotherhood to all regional countries, particularly its neighbors in the southern part of the Persian Gulf,” Rouhani told Iranian and Omani businessman in Muscat on March 13. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh and several other high ranking officials accompanied the president.

      During Rouhani’s visit, Iran signed an agreement to export $10 billion cubic meters of gas per year to Oman and eventually build a $1 billion pipeline across the Gulf. In August, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding for Iran to sell gas to Oman for 25 years starting in 2015— a deal valued at $60 billion.
 
 
 
            President Rouhani told Sultan Qaboos bin Said (right) that the exemplary ties between their two countries can serve as a model for the region. In another meeting, Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi emphasized that both countries are “convinced that the top priority is achieving real stability in the region.” Oman, unlike other Gulf sheikhdoms, has good relations with the Islamic Republic. Their cooperative relationship actually predates Iran’s 1979 revolution. The Shah of Iran provided troops to help Sultan Qaboos bin Said end a leftist revolt in 1973.
 
            But Oman is more than just a gas buyer and regional ally for Iran. The sultanate is also a key intermediary between Washington and Tehran. Over the past three years, Muscat has reportedly mediated on three occasions:
 
  September 2011: Muscat paid a $1 million bond to Tehran for the release of two American hikers arrested by Iranian authorities in 2009 who were sentenced to eight years imprisonment for spying.
 
•  April 2013: Oman worked with the United States to speed up the release of Iranian scientist Mojtaba Atarobi. The electrical engineering professor had been detained for more than a year in California for allegedly violating U.S. sanctions.
 
•  August 2013: President Barack Obama reportedly sent a letter to President Rouhani through Sultan Qaboos, who visited Tehran shortly after Rouhani’s inauguration. The exact contents of the letter and Rouhani’s reply are unknown but Obama’s remarks hinted that they discussed the nuclear dispute and Syria.
 
            The following is a joint statement released by Iran and Oman with excerpted remarks by Rouhani.
Iran-Oman Joint Statement
 
            Within the framework of deepening and cementing the existing friendship and cooperation relations between the Sultanate of Oman and the Islamic Republic of Iran, and in response to the generous invitation by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, Dr. Hassan Rouhani, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran paid an official visit to the Sultanate of Oman heading a high level delegation during the period from March 12th to 13th. 2014. 
 
            His Majesty the Sultan gave an official welcome ceremony in the honour of the guest and his accompanying delegation in the presence of a number of their highness, the minsters and senior officials from both sides. The reception reflected the brotherly feeling and the deep-rooted relations. 
 
            Amidst an atmosphere characterized by goodwill, friendship and cooperation, the two parties held an official talk session that focused on developing the bilateral relations, discussing a number of regional international and Islamic World issues of common interest. The official talks came with the following results; 
 
1-The two sides expressed their satisfaction over the bilateral friendship relations based on confidence, mutual trust and renewed their strong will to develop these relations in all fields of common interest. 
 
2-Considering the historic, cultural bonds and good neighbouring relations, the two sides stressed the importance of implementing the cooperating program and developing relations in all available fields that serve the interests of both countries and friendly peoples. 
 
3-The two sides were delighted for the achieved agreement on the level of cooperation committees between the two countries in all possible fields. They stressed their keenness to hold the committees' meetings regularly to ensure developing and nurturing the bilateral cooperation relations. 
 
4-The two parties stressed the positive and fruitful role being played by the private sector in both countries in promoting bilateral cooperation hoping that these activities would increase the value of investments, as well as commercial and economic exchange between the Sultanate and the Islamic Republic of Iran. 
 
5-While the two sides talked on developing bilateral relations, they also touched on the regional, International and Islamic world issues.  They stressed the importance of doubling the efforts and exerting more offices to ensure stability and security of the region and the world based on collective cooperation. 
 
6-The two parties affirmed the importance of combatting all forms and types of terrorism and called for continuing cooperation and development in the region, as well as compliance with the U.N decisions related to having a world free of violence and extremism. 
 
7-The two sides welcomed the accords reached at the negotiations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and 5+1 Group. They emphasised on the importance of continuing such talks to reach the prospective reconciliation. 
 
            At the end of the visit, Dr. Hassan Rouhani, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran expressed his thanks and appreciation to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, the government and the people of the Sultanate of Oman for the warm welcome and generous hospitality. 
 
            Dr. Hassan Rouhani, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran has extended a kind invitation to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said to visit the Islamic Republic of Iran. The invitation was welcomed by His Majesty. The date of the visit will be arranged through diplomatic channels.
 
President Rouhani's Remarks
 
            “The sensitivity of the Strait of Hormuz waterway adds special importance to the southern littoral countries of the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman.
            “This visit aims to strengthen mutual relations… we seek to implement contracts in various fields of trade, economy, particularly in the oil and gas sectors as well as financial, banking and cultural issues between the two countries..”
            March 12, 2014 to reporters en route to Oman
 
     “Mutual interests require strengthening of bilateral ties, as there are numerous capacities for promoting economic cooperation.
      “We, as Muslim states, are duty-bound to help establish peace and security in the region and we have always underlined that peace and stability will only be established by the regional countries themselves.”
            March 12, 2014 to Omani Deputy Prime Minister Fahad bin Mahmoud
 
            “One of the key policies of the [new] administration since it began its work more than six months ago has been constructive interaction with the world and other countries. Iran extends a hand of friendship and brotherhood to all regional countries, particularly its neighbors in the southern part of the Persian Gulf.
            “Relations with one country should not grow at the expense of another. We want to see the countries of the region live in peace, understanding and friendship.
            “Cooperation and rapprochement would benefit the whole region.
Iran is “open to investors from the region, especially Omanis.”
            March 13, 2014 in a meeting with Iranian and Omani businessmen
 
Photo credit: President.ir

 

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