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Geneva Deal V: Israel and the Gulf Reaction

            On November 24, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted the interim agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program, calling it a “historic mistake.” He argued that sanctions “have been given up in exchange for cosmetic Iranian concessions.” President Shimon Peres directed his softer reaction to the Iranian people. “You [Iranians] are not our enemies and we [Israelis] are not yours,” he said. But Peres also warned that “if the diplomatic path fails, the nuclear option will be prevented by other means.”
            The Gulf states, which were also skeptical about talks between Iran and the world’s six major powers, issued reserved reactions to the deal. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates cautiously hoped the agreement would eventually lead to the broader removal of weapons of mass destruction from the region.

            But one Saudi official candidly expressed his fears about the deal. Abdullah al Askar, chairman of the Shura Council’s foreign affairs committee, said that he worried “about giving Iran more space or a freer hand in the region.” Tehran “has proven that it has an ugly agenda in the region,” he said. The following are excerpted remarks from Israel and the Gulf sheikhdoms.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
            “What was achieved last night in Geneva is not an historic agreement; it is an historic mistake. Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world. For the first time, the world’s leading powers have agreed to uranium enrichment in Iran while ignoring the U.N. Security Council decisions that they themselves led. Sanctions that required many years to put in place contain the best chance for a peaceful solution. These sanctions have been given up in exchange for cosmetic Iranian concessions that can be cancelled in weeks. This agreement and what it means endanger many countries including, of course, Israel. Israel is not bound by this agreement. The Iranian regime is committed to the destruction of Israel and Israel has the right and the obligation to defend itself, by itself, against any threat. As Prime Minister of Israel, I would like to make it clear: Israel will not allow Iran to develop a military nuclear capability.”
            Nov. 24, 2013 in remarks at a cabinet meeting
            On November 25, Netanyahu tweeted that the deal was better than what was “originally planned” but “still a bad deal.”
President Shimon Peres
            “Last night a deal was signed between the P5+1 and Iran. This is an interim deal. The success or failure of the deal will be judged by results, not by words. I would like to say to the Iranian people: You are not our enemies and we are not yours. There is a possibility to solve this issue diplomatically. It is in your hands. Reject terrorism. Stop the nuclear program. Stop the development of long-range missiles. Israel like others in the international community prefers a diplomatic solution. But I want to remind everyone of what President Obama said, and what I have personally heard from other leaders. The international community will not tolerate a nuclear Iran. And if the diplomatic path fails, the nuclear option will be prevented by other means. The alternative is far worse.”
            Nov. 24, 2013 in a statement
Yitzhak Herzog, Labor party chairman and parliament's opposition leader
            “The agreement that was signed tonight between the powers and Iran is a fait accompli, and Israel must adjust itself to the new situation. A question mark remains regarding the end of the process and on this matter the Israeli concern is justified. Accordingly, Netanyahu must do everything in his power to fix the damage caused by the public clash with the United States and to return to an intimate relationship with President Obama and other world leaders.”
            Nov. 25, 2013 in an interview with Channel 10 television
Saudi Arabia
            “If there is goodwill, then this agreement could be an initial step toward reaching a comprehensive solution for Iran's nuclear program if that leads to the removal of weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, from the Middle East and Arab Gulf.”
Nov. 25, 2013 in a cabinet statement
Abdullah al Askar, chairman of the Shura Council’s foreign affairs committee
            “I am afraid Iran will give up something on [its nuclear program] to get something else from the big powers in terms of regional politics. And I’m worrying about giving Iran more space or a freer hand in the region. The government of Iran, month after month, has proven that it has an ugly agenda in the region, and in this regard no one in the region will sleep and assume things are going smoothly.”
            Nov. 24, 2013 according to Reuters
            The agreement is “an important step towards safeguarding peace and stability in the region… The State of Qatar calls for making the Middle East a nuclear weapon-free zone.”
            Nov. 24, 2013 in a foreign ministry statement
The United Arab Emirates
            “The cabinet hopes this would represent a step towards a permanent agreement that preserves the stability of the region and shield it from tension and the danger of nuclear proliferation.”
            Nov. 24, 2013 in a cabinet statement published by state media


Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Khaled al Jarallah

            I hope the deal “would pave the way for a permanent accord that would defuse tension, and preserves the stability and security of the region.”
            Nov. 24, 2013 in a statement
Foreign Minister  Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al Khalifa
            “The agreement removes fears from us, whether from Iran or any other state.”
            Nov. 25, 2013 according to The National

Geneva Deal VI: Experts on Terms

            The following briefs analyze the terms of the interim deal on Iran’s controversial nuclear program.
International Crisis Group
The Iran Nuclear Accord: First Step in a Long Journey
            The International Crisis Group strongly welcomes the 24 November agreement between Iran and the P5+1 (five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany). The accord – the principal thrust of which Crisis Group for some time has been calling for – is a testament to the effectiveness of diplomacy when conducted in a positive atmosphere.
            Although only a first step, the agreement has important implications. In particular, it freezes essential aspects of Iran’s nuclear activities – its stockpile of low enriched uranium; number of operational centrifuges; and work at the Arak heavy-water facility; rolls back Tehran's enrichment at higher concentration levels; and puts in place intrusive inspection mechanisms.
            The net result is to virtually eliminate the possibility of an undetected dash towards militarisation. For its part, Iran has gained tangible economic and humanitarian sanctions relief, a commitment that it will not be subjected to additional punitive measures at this time and implicit acceptance of a constrained and transparent uranium enrichment program on its soil…
Click here for the full text.
The Middle East Institute
The Iran Nuclear Deal: Risks and Opportunities for the Region
Paul Salem
            The nuclear deal with Iran, though still temporary and tentative, is ushering in a historic shift in the patterns of power, conflict, and diplomacy in the region. Like all historic shifts, it is laden with uncertainty and risk of new conflicts, but also carries with it potential opportunities for further diplomacy and finding common ground. Given the precedent of conflict and mistrust in the region, it is no surprise that the deal has raised concerns among many of America’s allies…
            The careening of U.S. policy from threats of war to sudden deals has left the region reeling. What has been achieved is potentially promising and very important. But the United States needs to move urgently, not only to reassure its allies about the nuclear issue, but also to discuss with them ways to build on the remaining sanctions and negotiations to move Iran toward positions that can provide a basis for regional stability and prosperity that would be in everyone’s interest.
Click here for the full text.
Center for Strategic & International Studies
The Best Deal with Iran That We Can Get
Anthony Cordesman
            One needs to be very careful about the deal the P5+1 has reached with Iran. It is still not clear that the Supreme Leader will accept it or that Iran will put it into practice. It is a preliminary agreement that must be followed up by lasting Iranian compliance, acceptance by the U.S. and other nations, and must be maintained indefinitely into the future.
            Making the agreement work requires a delicate balancing act by the U.S. and other members of the P5+1. The P5+1 must make it clear to Iran that any failure to honor the agreement will lead to even more stringent sanctions and that the risk of preventive strikes, extended deterrence, missile developments and a massive military build up in the Gulf remains real, all the while showing Iran that a real opening to the U.S. and the world offers it security and significant new opportunities for economic development...
Click here for the full text.

Geneva Deal VII: Nuclear Diplomacy in Iranian Tweets

            The chain of events that ultimately produced Iran’s nuclear deal with the world’s six major powers played out in a string of tweets between June 17 and November 24. The tweets began shortly after President Hassan Rouhani’s election and culminated with Foreign Minister Moh Zarif’s newsbreaking tweet, “We have reached an agreement.”

           In June, Hassan Rouhani defeated hardliners in the presidential election and pledged to improve Iran’s relations with the outside world —including the United States.
           Rouhani also suggested that Tehran could be more transparent on its nuclear energy program.
            Some hardliners criticized Zarif’s approach as too conciliatory. Others urged the Rouhani administration to publicize details of the talks. But Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned against questioning the negotiating team.
            Khamenei, however, was not optimistic about the next round of talks scheduled to begin on November 7.
            Foreign ministers from the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia rushed to Geneva as a breakthrough appeared imminent. But last-minute differences, reportedly spurred by French demands for tougher terms, blocked a deal that might have temporarily frozen Iran’s nuclear program in return for modest sanctions relief. Negotiators planned to meet again in Geneva on November 20.
           Secretary of State John Kerry implied in his comments to the press that Iran had objections to the proposal. Zarif responded in a tweet.
           Zarif posted a video charting the path forward for compromise on the nuclear dispute one day before the next round of talks.
           Khamenei welcomed the deal as a victory and example of Iranian resistance to excessive demands of Western powers.

US Polls on Iran Nuclear Deal

            Nearly two-thirds of Americans support an agreement with Iran that would lift sanctions in return for Tehran restricting its nuclear program, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Some 72 percent of Democrats surveyed support such a deal compared with 57 percent of Republicans. But only 36 percent of all participants are confident that such a deal would prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons. The poll was conducted between November 14 and 17 on the eve of new talks between Iran and the world’s six major powers.
            A CNN/ORC International poll also found that 56 percent of Americans support an interim deal. The results also indicated a partisan divide, with about two-thirds of Democrats supporting a deal. Only about 45 percent of Republicans were in favor of one. The following are excerpts from both surveys. 

The Washington Post/ABC News

Question: Thinking now about the situation with Iran, would you support or oppose an agreement in which the United States and other countries would lift some of their economic sanctions against Iran, in exchange for Iran restricting its nuclear program in a way that makes it harder for it to produce nuclear weapons?
Participants by Political Party
Question: How confident are you that such an agreement would prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons - very confident, somewhat confident, not so confident or not confident at all?

All participants
This Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted by telephone among a random national sample of 1,006 adults. Click here for more detailed results.
CNN/ORC International
Nov. 18-20, 2013
            As you may know, the U.S. and other countries have imposed strict economic sanctions against Iran while that country has nuclear facilities which could eventually allow it to produce its own nuclear weapons. Would you favor or oppose an interim deal that would ease some of those economic sanctions and in exchange require Iran to accept major restrictions on its nuclear program but not end it completely and submit to greater international inspection of its nuclear facilities?

Favor: 56%
Oppose: 39%
No opinion: 5%
Click here for more detailed results

Obama Briefs Congress, Appeals on Iran Deal

            On November 19, President Barack Obama appealed to key Democratic and Republican senators to support an interim deal on Iran’s controversial nuclear program.
In a statement issued afterwards, the White House said "The initial, 6-month step of the P5+1 proposal would halt progress on the Iranian nuclear program and roll it back in key respects, stopping the advance of the program for the first time in nearly a decade and introducing unprecedented transparency into Iran’s nuclear activities while we negotiate a long-term, comprehensive solution."
On the same day, a bipartisan group of senators urged Secretary of State John Kerry not to endorse a deal that lifts sanctions unless Iran significantly rolls back its nuclear program. Some of the signatories the same members who were briefed by Obama. On November 20, Vice President Joe Biden also discussed Iran with a group of Democratic senators. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid delivered a statement the next day supporting the passing of new sanctions in December. But on November 21, a group of key senators issued a bipartisan statement caling for passing new sanctions "as soon as possible." The following is a readout of the White House meetings, the full text of the bipartisan letter and statement, and Reid's floor statement.


            Today, the President hosted a meeting at the White House with chairmen, ranking members, and other members of the Senate Banking Committee, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senate Armed Services Committees, and Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to discuss Iran.  The President was joined by members of his national security team, including Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice.  The meeting lasted approximately two hours.
            The President made clear that achieving a peaceful resolution that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is profoundly in America’s national security interest.  The initial, 6-month step of the P5+1 proposal would halt progress on the Iranian nuclear program and roll it back in key respects, stopping the advance of the program for the first time in nearly a decade and introducing unprecedented transparency into Iran’s nuclear activities while we negotiate a long-term, comprehensive solution.  The President underscored that in the absence of a first step, Iran will continue to make progress on its nuclear program by increasing its enrichment capacity, continuing to grow its stockpile of enriched uranium, installing advanced centrifuges, and making progress on the plutonium track at the Arak reactor.
           The President noted that the relief we are considering as part of a first step would be limited, temporary, and reversible, and emphasized that we will continue to enforce sanctions during the 6-month period.  He dispelled the rumors that Iran would receive $40 or $50 billion in relief, noting those reports are inaccurate.
           The President expressed his appreciation for the bipartisan Congressional support for the most effective sanctions regime in history.  He reiterated that the purpose of sanctions was and remains to change Iran’s calculus regarding its nuclear program.  He indicated that new sanctions should not be enacted during the current negotiations, but that they would be most effective as a robust response should negotiations fail.
           The President is determined to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and firmly believes that it would be preferable to do so peacefully.  Therefore, he has a responsibility to pursue the ongoing diplomatic negotiations before pursuing other alternatives.  With this current P5+1 proposal, we have the opportunity to halt the progress of the Iranian program and roll it back in key respects, while testing whether a comprehensive resolution can be achieved.

Participants in today’s meeting included:
  • Senator Dick Durbin, Assistant Majority Leader, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, D-IL
  • Senator Charles Schumer, Vice Chair of the Conference and Chair of the Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Center, Member, Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, D-NY
  • Senator Saxby Chambliss, Vice Chairman, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, R‑GA
  • Senator Bob Corker, Ranking Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, R-TN
  • Senator Mike Crapo, Ranking Member, Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, R-ID
  • Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chairman, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, D-CA
  • Senator Tim Johnson, Chairman, Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, D-SD
  • Senator Carl Levin, Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee, D-MI
  • Senator Robert Menendez, Chairman, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Member, Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, D-NJ
  • Senator John McCain, Member, Senate Armed Services and Senate Foreign Relations Committees, R-AZ


Readout of the Vice President’s Meeting with a Group of Democratic Senators to Discuss Iran
           Today, the Vice President hosted a meeting at the White House with a group of Democratic Senators to discuss Iran.  The Vice President was joined by members of his national security team.  The meeting lasted approximately two hours.
           The Vice President emphasized that the goal of the ongoing diplomatic negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  The current P5+1 proposal would halt the progress of Iran's nuclear program and roll it back in key respects, providing the first meaningful limits that Iran has accepted on its nuclear program in nearly a decade.  The initial, sixth month step would include significant limits on Iran's nuclear program to begin to address our most urgent concerns including Iran’s enrichment capabilities, existing stockpiles of uranium, centrifuges, and ability to produce plutonium using the Arak reactor.  The concessions Iran would make as part of a first step would also provide us with intrusive monitoring of its nuclear program.  Taken together, these measures would prevent Iran from using the cover of negotiations to continue advancing its nuclear program as we negotiate a long-term, comprehensive solution that addresses all of the international community's concerns.
           The Vice President underscored that the relief we would provide Iran as part of the first step would be modest and temporary compared to the substantial, continuing impact of our sanctions, which would be vigorously enforced throughout the first step. 
           The Vice President reiterated that the President has a responsibility to seek a peaceful resolution that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon before pursuing alternatives.  The current P5+1 proposal has the potential to do just that.
Participants in today’s meeting included:
Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-CT
Senator Cory Booker, D-NJ
Senator Benjamin Cardin, D-MD
Senator Thomas Carper, D-DE
Senator Robert Casey, D-PA
Senator Al Franken, D-MN
Senator Tim Kaine, D-VA
Senator Joe Manchin, D-WV
Senator Jeff Merkley, D-OR
Senator Chris Murphy, D-CT
Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH
Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-MA


Dear Secretary Kerry:
We appreciate your continued efforts, in concert with our friends and allies, to negotiate with the Iranian regime. We also commend the efforts of your negotiating team to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability.  Our negotiators have benefited from the effects of tough economic sanctions in bringing Iran to the table.  Without the Administration, Congress, and our allies working together, we would not have arrived at this crucial point.
Indeed, we support the concept of an interim agreement with Iran that would roll back its nuclear program as a first step to seeking a final settlement that prevents Iran from ever developing a nuclear weapons capability. At the same time, we are concerned that the interim agreement would require us to make significant concessions before we see Iran demonstrably commit to moving away from developing a nuclear weapons capability.
It is our understanding that the interim agreement now under consideration would not require Iran to even meet the terms of prior United Nations Security Council resolutions which require Iran to suspend its reprocessing, heavy water-related and enrichment-related activities and halt ongoing construction of any uranium-enrichment, reprocessing, or heavy water-related facilities. For example, we understand that the P5+1 is prepared to permit Iran to continue enriching uranium at 3.5 percent albeit for civilian use, to cap but not reduce its number of centrifuges, and to continue work around or near the Arak heavy water nuclear reactor. While the interim agreement may suggest that Iran could be willing temporarily to slow its pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability, it could also allow Iran to continue making some progress toward that end under the cover of negotiations. This does not give us confidence that Iran is prepared to abandon unambiguously its nuclear weapons pursuit altogether, as it must.
Furthermore, it is our understanding that in return for certain Iranian actions, the P5+1 would allow Iran to gain access to considerable amounts of capital that have been frozen by our international sanctions. Some have estimated the value of this capital for Iran as much as $10 billion. We regard this as a major concession on our part that would not be justified by the concessions the Iranian regime would be required to make in return. If we are reducing sanctions, Iran should be reducing its nuclear capabilities.
As you know, it is not just the sanctions themselves but the threat that they would continue to tighten that has brought the Iranians to the negotiating table. Easing sanctions now without real, tangible actions by Iran to roll back its nuclear program would not only diminish this threat of future pressure, it could make it more difficult to maintain the current sanctions regime at a time when many international actors are already eager to lessen their implementation of sanctions. We feel strongly that any easing of sanctions along the lines that the P5+1 is reportedly considering should require Iran to roll back its nuclear program more significantly than now envisioned.  
It is our belief that any interim agreement with the Iranians should bring us closer to our ultimate goal which is Iran without a nuclear weapons capability.  We must ensure that the steps we take in the coming weeks and months move us towards a resolution that ultimately brings Iran in compliance with all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions, seeks to prevent Tehran from possessing any enrichment or reprocessing capability, and resolves any and all fears that Iran will develop a nuclear weapons capability.
The upcoming round of negotiations could hardly be more important and we must be ever mindful of with whom we are negotiating. Iran has been the largest state sponsor of terrorism for over thirty years; its leaders routinely call for the destruction of Israel; and it arms and finances terrorist groups around the globe. We urge you and your negotiating team to fight for an interim agreement that demands as much or more of Iran as it does of the United States and our allies. We hope in the next few weeks we and our partners will redouble our efforts to gain greater proportionality and to finalize an agreement that demonstrates that Iran is moving away from the nuclear weapons path.
Senator Herry Reid's Floor Statement on Iran Sanctions
Mr. President, I am a strong supporter of our Iran sanctions regime and believe that the current sanctions have brought Iran to the negotiating table.
I believe we must do everything possible to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons capability, which would threaten Israel  and the national security of the United States.
The Obama Administration is in the midst of a negotiation  with the Iranians / that is designed to end their nuclear weapons program. 
We all strongly support those negotiations, hope they will succeed, and want them to produce the strongest possible agreement.
However, we are also are aware of the possibility that the Iranians could keep the negotiations from succeeding.  I hope that will not happen.
But, the Senate must be prepared to move forward with a new bipartisan Iran sanctions bill, when the Senate returns after Thanksgiving recess.  And I am committed to do so.
A number of Senators have offered their own amendments on Iran in the Defense Authorization bill, and I know that other Senators also have their own sanctions bills.
I will support a bill that would broaden the scope of our current petroleum sanctions; place limitations on trade with strategic sectors of the Iranian economy that support its nuclear ambitions, as well as pursue those who divert goods to Iran.
While I support the Admiration’s diplomatic effort, I believe we need to leave our legislative options open to act on a new, bipartisan sanctions bill in December, shortly after we return.


Nov. 21, 2013

             U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Robert Menendez (D-NJ) Mark Kirk (R-IL), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Robert Casey (D-PA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Chris Coons (D-DE), Susan Collins (R-ME), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Bob Corker (R-TN) today released the following statement regarding the Senate's consideration of Iran sanctions legislation:

             “A nuclear weapons capable Iran presents a grave threat to the national security of the United States and its allies and we are committed to preventing Iran from acquiring this capability. We will work together to reconcile Democratic and Republican proposals over the coming weeks and to pass bipartisan Iran sanctions legislation as soon as possible.”


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