Iran Primer's Blog
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 September, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and planned a fresh start of talks for October 15-16.
Positive initial meeting with Ashton.Meet with 5+1 ministers on Thursday and next round in October.Need new start under new circumstances.— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) September 23, 2013
If Geneva [#nuclear] talks successful, efforts of many hardliners & those who want to go to extremes or even those after war will be halted,— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) October 3, 2013
We just started a process to close an unnecessary crisis and open new horizons. It requires courage, but positive outcome will benefit all.— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) October 16, 2013
The negotiations ended without a deal but negotiators were cautiously optimistic about the next round of talks. Zarif took to Twitter to dispel rumors spreading in the media about the proposal on the table.
Members of Iran negotiating team are the only ones who know the proposal and they only speak on-the-record. Anonymous sources have no info.— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) October 18, 2013
No one should consider our negotiators as compromisers, they are our own children and the children of the Revolution.— khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) November 3, 2013
Our negotiators are in charge of a difficult task and no one should weaken an agent who is engaged doing a work.— khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) November 3, 2013
Don’t trust an enemy who smiles.On 1 hand,#US smiles &expresses a desire for talks but on the other, they say all options are on the table.— khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) November 3, 2013
No amount of spinning can change what happened within 5+1 in Geneva from 6PM Thursday to 545 PM Saturday.But it can further erode confidence— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) November 11, 2013
Mr.Secretary, was it Iran that gutted over half of US draft Thursday night? and publicly commented against it Friday morning?— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) November 11, 2013
We are committed to constructive engagement. Interaction on equal footing key to achieve shared objectives.— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) November 11, 2013
Good progress made in recent #negotiations, but they have to note, resorting to excesses could complicate our journey to a win-win outcome— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) November 18, 2013
Khamenei tweeted in support for the negotiating team on November 20, the opening day of talks.
I put an emphasis on supporting the govt.; I also put an emphasis on ensuring Iranian nation’s right. #IranTalks— khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) November 20, 2013
Negotiations should be balanced & beneficial to all. Then they can serve as basis for our long-term talks & be in everyone's ints #IranTalks— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) November 21, 2013
We have reached an agreement.— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) November 24, 2013
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
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.
- 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
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.
BIPARTISAN STATEMENT ON SANCTIONS
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:
The new diplomatic initiative between Iran and the world’s six major powers has inspired cynical political cartoonists on all sides. But the sharpest cartoons have run in the Iranian and American press. They reflect longstanding suspicions between the two nations, which have not had relations for 34 years, about whether the talks in Geneva will produce a deal resolving the controversy over Iran’s nuclear program— and ensuring that Iran can have nuclear energy without a capability to produce a bomb. The following are a selection of cartoons reflecting the skepticism about each other’s true intentions.
From the Iranian Press
In Tehran, the failure of the second round of talks were widely blamed on France's last minute stipulations.
From the American Press
Hanif Z. Kashani, a consultant for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Middle East Program, contributed to this roundup.
On the eve of new talks, key players from Iran and the world’s six major powers remained firmly committed to rival positions but also expressed cautious optimism about an interim agreement. The third round takes place in Geneva on November 20-22. The following are comments from senior officials.
Zarif, who is also the lead nuclear negotiator, said all participants to the talks share common goals. "I think that there is no serious disagreement on shared goal and the final perspective… I can't see any reason to be pessimist about seriousness of the sides in recording agreed issues."