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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

 

Zarif and Ashton: Nuke Deal Prospects

            At a press conference on March 9, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton emphasized their commitment to securing a nuclear agreement before July 2014. The six-month deadline that the world’s six major powers and Iran agreed on can be extended by another six months by mutual consent. But Zarif told journalists that with “desire, commitment and willingness, a comprehensive deal can be reached ... in four or five months.” Ashton, however, warned that the road to a final agreement will be “difficult” and “challenging.” She added that there is “no guarantee” that the two sides will succeed.

            Ashton’s two-day trip to Iran marks the first visit by an E.U. foreign policy chief since 2008. The primary aim of the visit was to discuss new opportunities for improving Iran’s relationship with the European Union. Ashton discussed trade, human rights, the Syrian conflict and other pressing issues in her meetings with President Hassan Rouhani, Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani and Foreign Minister Zarif. The following are excerpted remarks by Ashton and Zarif.
 
 
 
E.U. High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
Catherine Ashton
           
             “I think that [interim nuclear agreement] should give you a real indication of the approach that the international community wants to take. I want to commend Minister Zarif and his team for the work that they have done. I have been engaged in discussions with Iran for nearly four years and I think this interim agreement is really really important, but not as important as a comprehensive agreement that we are currently engaged in. Difficult, challenging, there is no guarantee it will succeed, but I think it’s very important with the support of the people of Iran for the work that is going on by the Minister and his team and with the support of the International Community for my work that we should aim to try and succeed.”
 
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
            “Iran is determined to reach an agreement ... We have shown goodwill and we have done our side. Now it is up to the other party to show the same goodwill and determination.
            “With desire, commitment and willingness a comprehensive deal can be reached ... in four or five months.
            “But that requires a recognition that Iran will only accept a solution that is respectful, that respects the rights of the Iranian people.
            “Iran finds it in its own interest to make sure that there are no ambiguities about Iran’s intentions, because we have no intention to seek nuclear weapons."
 

EU’s Ashton on Landmark Visit to Iran

            E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton arrived in Tehran on March 8 for a two-day visit—the first visit by an E.U. high representative since 2008. The primary aim of the trip was to discuss new opportunities for improving Iran’s relationship with the European Union. Ashton discussed trade, human rights, the Syrian conflict, the nuclear talks, the Afghan drug trade and other common interests in meetings with President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister Zarif, Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani and civil society activists. Ashton said she came away with “a real sense” that Iranians across the political spectrum are committed to the nuclear talks. The following are excerpted remarks by Ashton and Iranian leaders from the visit.

President Hassan Rouhani
 
      “The government of prudence and hope is determined, in the area of foreign policy, to have constructive interaction with the entire world, based on common interests and mutual respect.
 
      The government is “interested in establishing a new relationship with the European Union” which has many “common goals and interests.”
            “Your visit [to Iran] as the representative of the foreign policy of 28 European countries has a greater political connotation [than visits by individual country delegations].”
 
            “By passing the current stage [nuclear negotiations] properly,” Iran and the European Union will be able to discuss important strategic issues, such as establishing a “strategic relationship” in the areas of energy trade and the transit of goods.
 
            “We hope that we can take new and serious steps” using “the good atmosphere” that has been created in Iran-E.U. relations.”
            March 9, 2014 in a meeting with E.U. High Representative Ashton
 
E.U. High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
Catherine Ashton
 
            I have visited Iran to convey the “goodwill message” of the 28 member states of the European Union.
 
            For the first time, Iran and the European Union are discussing issues other than the nuclear dispute, which is a “start for expansion of cooperation.”
 
            “My presence shows that the European Union is willing, concurrent with nuclear negotiations, to have better, more effective, and more dynamic relations with Iran.”
            March 9, 2014 in a meeting with President Hassan Rouhani
 
Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani
 
      “The Islamic Republic of Iran has made great efforts to establish stability and peace in the region including in Afghanistan and Iraq and it is currently ready to continue good cooperation with the European Union to settle the Syria crisis.
 
      “There is no need for options such as military [approaches] and arming… extremists and terrorists; and only the country’s people should be given the chance to consolidate democracy… in Syria through a gradual and peaceful process.
            March 9, 2014 in a meeting with E.U. High Representative Ashton
 
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
 
      “Iran is determined to reach an agreement ... We have shown goodwill and we have done our side. Now it is up to the other party to show the same goodwill and determination.
 
      “With desire, commitment and willingness a comprehensive deal can be reached ... in four or five months.
      
      “But that requires recognition that Iran will only accept a solution that is respectful, that respects the rights of the Iranian people.
 
            “Iran finds it in its own interest to make sure that there are no ambiguities about Iran’s intentions, because we have no intention to seek nuclear weapons.”
            March 9, 2014 in a joint press conference with E.U. High Representative Ashton
 
E.U. High Representative Catherine Ashton
 
            “Thank you Minister Zarif. You and I meet often now in the discussions on the nuclear issue, but this is as you rightly say the first occasion when we have met in the bilateral capacity of the High Representative of the European Union and the Foreign Minister of Iran. I want to say thank you for your invitation to come here and for your courtesy and a very useful and fruitful meeting.
 
            “As you have said, this was our opportunity to discuss issues of interest and concern to us in the region, to have an opportunity to talk about the terrible situation in Syria, to focus on areas of cooperation around the future of Afghanistan - especially we talked about the problems and challenges we face with the drugs trade - of course we raised the issue, as you have done with me, of the potential of our human rights dialogue in the future, and we talked about a way to move forward.
 
            “I consider it a really important occasion to be here in Iran and to have the opportunity to talk about these bilateral issues. And as you said, we also took a few moments to talk about issues concerning our next round of discussions in Vienna.
 
            “And I am very much looking forward to meeting with the President and with others whom I have not met yet, and to have a chance to talk with them as well on the basis of our bilateral discussions.
 
            “I came here yesterday on International Women’s day and I want to say too that it was a great privilege to meet with women from Iran, and to have the chance to celebrate with them International Women’s day and to talk about issues for women in Iran and in Europe, and indeed across the world. Thank you.
 
            “I think that [interim nuclear agreement] should give you a real indication of the approach that the international community wants to take. I want to commend Minister Zarif and his team for the work that they have done. I have been engaged in discussions with Iran for nearly four years and I think this interim agreement is really really important, but not as important as a comprehensive agreement that we are currently engaged in. Difficult, challenging, there is no guarantee it will succeed, but I think it’s very important with the support of the people of Iran for the work that is going on by the Minister and his team and with the support of the International Community for my work that we should aim to try and succeed.
            March 9, 2014 in a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Zarif
 
National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani
 
      “The outcome of the nuclear talks is a big test for founding new relations with the union [European Union].”
 
      “Negotiations and dialogue based on logic, mutual respect and guaranteeing interests have always been the fundamental strategy of Iran, and within this framework, we are ready for constructive cooperation and interaction with different countries.”
            March 9, 2014 in a meeting with E.U. High Representative Ashton
 
Supreme Leader’s Senior Foreign Policy Advisor Ali Akbar Velayati
 
      “The measures adopted by American officials under the pretext of [being under] pressure from the Zionists [Israelis] are not acceptable. Such actions by the Americans serve as an obstacle in the way of an international agreement between the P5+1 and the Islamic Republic [on the nuclear issue].”
            March 9, 2014 in a meeting with E.U. High Representative Ashton
 
 
E.U. High Representative Ashton
 
            “The main purpose of the visit was to, as E.U. High Representative, have a chance to talk to Iran about the potential for the relationship that we can have in the future. Many European Union countries’ ministers are coming here. Many have historical links and this was about joining up the whole of the EU in thinking through the issues that we would want to discuss. Not surprisingly there was a big focus on human rights: I met with women activists on International Women’s Day and talked to them about the situation that women find themselves in and some of the work that these women are engaged in, from journalists to those involved with Afghan refugees, people working across the spectrum of civil society and the importance of civil society.
 
            “And then thinking about some of the issues in the region, for example the real challenges of the drug trade from Afghanistan. Iran faces real difficulties there. There are ways in which we could work together to try and address that. And then looking into the future, the possibilities of all sorts of dialogues and discussions; again an example would be the environment. So that sort of group of different issues, things we may be able to talk about now because they’re important to the European Union to do now, but most importantly things that could be, depending on what happens with the nuclear talks -inevitably that’s been a backdrop to the conversations I’ve had.
 
            “One of the things that’s been very clear is the support that is given across the political spectrum for the work that is going on currently in Vienna to try and move forward on a comprehensive [nuclear] agreement. That does not mean that we’ll get an agreement; it does not mean that people are committed to any possible outcome at this stage, but I have had a real sense that people are committed to wanting to see the talks happen and that, I think, is encouraging of itself.”
 
            “It’s also been for me interesting to see during the visit that people have wanted to talk across a spectrum of different issues and have been willing to meet with me and engage and that, I think, is important. Not surprisingly a number of issues in the region have been big focal points, but I’m at least encouraged that we’ve been able to talk frankly about some of these issues and I hope that if we are successful with the negotiations, and it’s a big if, that we’ll be able to start to move forward on a range of different issues with Iran.
            March 9, 2014 in remarks after her visit
 

Photo credits: European External Action Service via Flickr
 
 

Kerry on Disappearance of Robert Levinson

            On March 9, Secretary of State Kerry asked Iran to work cooperatively to ensure the safe return of retired FBI agent Robert Levinson to the United States. Levinson disappeared from Iran’s Kish Island on March 9, 2007. He was reportedly investigating cigarette smuggling while working as a private investigator. Levinson’s family first received evidence that he was alive in November 2010. In the 54-second video, Levinson asked for a U.S. government response to his captors' demands, which have not been publicized. In the past, Iranian officials have said they are ready to cooperate with the United States on this case. The following is Kerry’s statement on the seventh anniversary of Levinson’s disappearance.

 
            Robert Levinson disappeared seven years ago from Kish Island, Iran, during a business trip. He is one of the longest held American citizens in history.
 
            Nothing can bring those lost years – more than 2,500 days in all – back to all those who love him. Mr. Levinson’s disappearance has been heart-wrenching for his wife and children, who feel his absence especially deeply at the many family milestones missed these past seven years.
 
            The United States remains committed to the safe return of Mr. Levinson to his family. We appreciate the support and assistance from our international partners as we work to end this awful separation. Given Mr. Levinson’s health, age, and length of time in captivity, we mark this anniversary with a special sense of urgency.
 
            We respectfully ask the Government of Iran to work cooperatively with us on the investigation into his disappearance so we can ensure his safe return.
 
            The FBI has announced a $1 million reward for any information that could lead to his safe return. We call on anyone with information about this case to contact the FBI.
 
            This is the seventh year that Mr. Levinson has spent without his family. We remain committed to the hard work ahead to ensure that it’s his last.
 
 

Realistic Options for Final Nuclear Deal

            A final nuclear deal that satisfies both Iran and the world’s six major powers will require hard compromises on five key issues, according to a brief from the Arms Control Association. “If either side pushes unrealistic requirements on the other side, the chances for a negotiated resolution will decrease and the chances of a conflict and a nuclear-armed Iran will increase,” warn Daryl Kimball and Kelsey Davenport. In the brief below, they outline realistic options to deal with five pivotal issues —uranium enrichment, the Arak heavy water reactor, increased inspections, and suspected nuclear weapons research.

 
Uranium Enrichment Capacity
 
            The extent to which Iran is willing to reduce the capacity and the scope of its uranium enrichment program is key. The agreement reached in Geneva on Nov. 24 states that the program should be "consistent with practical needs."

            In other words, Iran's enrichment capacity and stockpile of material should not exceed the fuel supply needs of its nuclear power and research reactor programs, which for now are close to zero but could grow in the coming years.

            Iran provided the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with preliminary information on the selection of sites for up to 16 new nuclear power reactors and a light water research reactor. These reactors would, if built, require a reliable supply of enriched uranium fuel from abroad or through indigenous production. However, these reactors are many years away from reality. 

      The United States and its P5+1 partners will point out that Iran currently has very limited or nonexistent needs for enriched uranium fuel for energy production. Today, Iran has one research reactor (the Tehran Research Reactor) that produces medical isotopes and Iran has enough material to fuel that reactor for years to come; Iran also has a light-water power reactor (Bushehr), which uses fuel supplied by Russia under a ten year arrangement that could be renewed. 

            In the near term, the P5+1 powers will and should push for a significant reduction in Iran's overall enrichment capacity from 10,000 operating, first generation (IR-1) centrifuges at two sites to approximately half that number or less. Even with 4,000 or fewer first generation centrifuges at one site, Iran would have more than sufficient capacity for its foreseeable "practical" nuclear power reactor fuel needs.

            By rolling back Iran's enrichment capacity to such levels, limiting enrichment to reactor grade levels (up to five percent) and placing caps on Iran's enriched uranium stockpile, the time necessary to produce enough highly enriched uranium for one bomb would be extended to six months or more. Such an effort could be readily detected within days with the increased monitoring and verification measures that are likely to be imposed as part of the comprehensive deal.

            If Iran tried to "break out," it would take still longer for Iran to amass enough bomb-grade material for additional weapons, assemble a nuclear device, possibly conduct a nuclear explosive test of the warhead design, and develop a reliable means of delivering the weapons. This would give the international community ample warning and time to respond to Iran's actions. 

            Iran is also developing new and more efficient centrifuges and will likely resist any P5+1 effort to limit its ability to develop and deploy such centrifuges. Once operational, these more advanced centrifuges, such as IR2-Ms, could enrich uranium much more efficiently. 

            Consequently, the two sides will likely set limits on the overall capacity of Iran's enrichment program (as measured in "separative work units (SWU)") rather than the total number of centrifuges. This would allow Iran to continue its research and development activities under strict IAEA monitoring, which it views as a necessary part of the comprehensive deal. 

            Some P5+1 states would also like to see Iran mothball the underground Fordow uranium enrichment facility, which is less vulnerable to an airstrike, while Iran will resist such an outcome. The two sides might compromise by agreeing that Iran will effectively halt any significant enrichment at Fordow and convert it to a "research-only" facility for uses including testing and developing advanced centrifuges.

The Arak Reactor and the Plutonium Path to the Bomb
 
            The P5+1 states have argued that Iran should abandon the unfinished Arak 40MW heavy water reactor, but Iran has resisted such an outcome.

      Heavy water-moderated reactors are well suited to the production of plutonium suitable for nuclear weapons. Arak is some time away from completion and Iran does not have (and says it has no intention to build) a reprocessing facility that would be necessary to extract plutonium from the spent fuel. Nevertheless, the Arak reactor clearly represents a significant, long-term proliferation threat that must be addressed in the comprehensive deal. 

            One compromise that would effectively neutralize Arak's plutonium potential would be to convert Arak to a more proliferation-resistant light-water reactor, but this option would require Iran to abandon its original heavy-water technology choice and would be strongly resisted by Iran, given its indigenous development of the reactor. 

            However, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told Iran's official English-language Press TV in an interview Feb. 5 that Iran may agree to other modifications of the Arak heavy-water reactor near Arak.

            "We can do some design change--in other words, make some change in the design in order to produce less plutonium in this reactor and in this way allay the worries and mitigate the concerns," Salehi said.

            Some of those options could be to reduce the reactor from 40MW to perhaps 10MW. Another option is to use uranium fuel enriched to 3.5 percent or 20 percent (instead of natural uranium fuel) in order to reduce the reactor's output of plutonium that is suitable for weapons. While fueling the reactor with enriched uranium would increase Iran's "practical needs" for enriched uranium, the plutonium produced in the spent fuel from the Arak reactor would pose less of a concern for weapons.

            An additional option would be to require that all spent fuel from the Arak reactor to be verifiably removed for disposition in a third country--possibly Russia--to prevent it from becoming a source of plutonium for nuclear weapons. Russia is already responsible for removing the spent fuel produced by the Bushehr reactor.

Tougher International Inspections
 
            If Iran were to pursue nuclear weapons in the future, it would most likely try to do so by means of a secret program carried out at undisclosed facilities.

      Consequently, the P5+1 will also seek to persuade Iran to allow even more extensive IAEA inspection authority to guard against a secret weapons program under the terms of the Additional Protocol to its existing comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA. These inspections allow the IAEA to access non-declared sites without prior notification, which is a strong deterrent against any clandestine nuclear weapons work. Once approved by the Iranian parliament, the duration of the Additional Protocol would be unlimited.

            The P5+1 will also seek "Additional Protocol- plus" inspection measures for an extended period of time to provide still more confidence to the international community that Iran's nuclear program is being used for entirely peaceful purposes.

Resolving Concerns About "Possible Military Dimensions"
 
            To resolve longstanding questions about suspected weapons-related experiments that may have been conducted in secret in past years, Iran will also need to fully cooperate with the IAEA investigation on these experiments.

            The IAEA laid out its concerns about the experiments and other concerns about the completeness of Iran's nuclear declaration in an annex to its November 2011 report to the agency's Board of Governors. Shortly after the November 2011 report, the IAEA and Iran began negotiating an approach to resolve these concerns. However, no progress was made until Iran and the IAEA agreed on a path forward to guide the agency's investigations. This breakthrough came on Nov. 11, 2013, when the IAEA and Iran agreed to a new Framework for Cooperation that committed both sides to cooperate to resolve the agency's outstanding concerns. The agreement also specified the first six steps that Iran would take over the course of the following three months. 

            While these steps provided the IAEA with necessary information and access to nuclear sites to verify Iran's nuclear activities, they did not include any of the contentious experiments with possible military dimensions. 

            The successful completion of these actions, however, is building trust and cooperation. When Iran and the IAEA agreed on the next set of steps for Tehran to take during talks on Feb. 8-9, Iran and the agency finally began to address the concerns about activities with possible military dimensions. One of the seven new steps that Iran agreed to take will require it to provide information on exploding bridge wire detonators to the IAEA. Exploding bridge wire detonators can be used to trigger nuclear weapons, but they also can be used for conventional explosives and civilian applications.

            While other experiments with possible military dimensions must be addressed and soon, progress on the bridge wire detonators issue would be an important first step toward resolving these issues. 

            In the coming months, the IAEA and the P5+1 will insist that Iran provide all the information and cooperation that will be necessary to enable the IAEA to determine with confidence that whether such activities occurred or not and whether they were intended for a weapons program or not, and that no such weapons-related work continues.

            While implementation of the Iran/IAEA framework has gone smoothly thus far, it is very likely that the investigation will continue for some time beyond the six-months to a year timeframe for the negotiation of the final phase P5+1/Iran agreement.

            In addition, it is possible that the final phase P5+1/Iran agreement will specify that Iran will not henceforth conduct certain research and development activities with nuclear-weaponization applications, such as those identified in the annex of the IAEA's November 2011 report.

Sanctions Relief
 
            To secure a "final phase" agreement, the P5+1 will need to phase-out the tough multilateral nuclear sanctions regime now in place, including the international oil and financial sanctions that are devastating Iran's economy. Iran will likely insist that with each of the successive steps that it undertakes as part of a comprehensive agreement, there will be commensurate actions to suspend and then lift sanctions.

            This step-for-step approach will require a new UN Security Council Resolution on Iran's nuclear program and positive, follow-up actions by the European Union states and approval by Congress of revised legislation that unwinds U.S. nuclear-related sanctions that impact other nations' dealing with Iran.

            Negotiating an agreement along these lines will be difficult and implementing it will be very challenging, but a sustainable arrangement to guard against a nuclear-armed Iran is achievable.

Myths and Misperceptions

            Some policy makers and observers will likely continue to push for outcomes that are not realistic or necessary to stop Iran short of building nuclear weapons. For instance, some critics of the current diplomatic negotiations, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [see tweet below], argue that the only "acceptable" outcome is one that requires Iran agree to the permanent suspension of all uranium enrichment and the dismantlement of the Natanz, Fordow, and Arak facilities.

            According to the U.S. intelligence community Iran has had, at least since 2007, the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity eventually to produce nuclear weapons if it were to choose to do so. That capacity can be reduced but not entirely eliminated, even it Iran were required to dismantle its uranium enrichment machines and facilities.

            A "zero-enrichment" outcome would be ideal from a nonproliferation perspective and may have been conceivable in 2005-2006 when Iran agreed to suspend enrichment work and had less than 300 centrifuges.

             But today, demands that Iran permanently halt uranium enrichment are unrealistic and unattainable. A deal that bars Iran from enriching uranium for peaceful purposes would be unsustainable politically inside Iran, and such an outcome is not necessary to guard against a nuclear-armed Iran.

            Others argue that allowing Iran to continue enriching uranium is counter to the U.S. policy position that does not recognize the right to enrich as part of the NPT, especially if states have engaged in illicit nuclear-weapons related research. However, Iran believes it has a right to pursue as a member of the NPT, which refers to the "inalienable right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy...."

            The two sides did not agree on the nature of Iran's nuclear energy "rights" in their Nov. 24 first phase agreement, but the P5+1 recognized that Iran already has a nuclear enrichment program and would insist on retaining some enrichment capacity. As such, as part of the broad parameters of the final deal, the parties agreed to negotiate practical limits on the scope of the enrichment program and additional safeguards on ongoing Iranian enrichment activities at its Natanz and Fordow facilities, in order to reduce Iran's nuclear weapons capabilities. 

            Another misperception is that the UN Security Council's earlier demands for Iran to "suspend" uranium enrichment require that a final phase agreement must end all Iranian enrichment activity.

            In reality, the purpose of the demand for suspension of uranium enrichment by Iran under existing U.N. Security Council resolutions is to prevent Iran from accumulating more LEU until it restores confidence in the peaceful nature of its nuclear program--not to permanently cease all uranium enrichment activities. (See: "What the UN Security Council Resolutions Say (and Don't Say) About Iran's Nuclear Program," Dec. 4, 2013.)

            The Nov. 24 agreement effectively accomplishes that goal by capping the total amount of 3.5 percent material and it goes further by requiring Iran to neutralize its 20 percent stockpiles and to cease all enrichment to 20 percent levels while a comprehensive agreement is negotiated.

Bottom Line: A "Win-Win" Deal to Guard Against a Nuclear-Armed Iran
 
            To guard against a nuclear-armed Iran and avoid a future confrontation over its nuclear program, the P5+1 and Iran should promptly implement the first-phase agreement and expeditiously negotiate a long-term final-phase agreement on the basis of realistic and achievable goals that meets their core requirements and respects the bottom-line needs of the other side.

            A "win" for the P5+1 countries is a comprehensive agreement that: 1) establishes verifiable limits on Iran's program that, taken together, substantially increase the time it would take for Iran to break out of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and build nuclear weapons; 2) increases the ability to promptly detect and effectively respond to a breakout; and 3) decrease Iran's incentive to pursue nuclear weapons in the future.

            A "win" for Iran's President Hassan Rouhani would be to: 1) preserve key elements of its nuclear program (including some uranium enrichment and R & D); 2) protect Iran's "right" under the NPT to a peaceful nuclear program; and 3) remove international, nuclear-related sanctions against Iran.

            If either side pushes unrealistic requirements on the other side, the chances for a negotiated resolution will decrease and the chances of a conflict and a nuclear-armed Iran will increase.

            Any resort to military force against Iran's nuclear sites would, at best, only delay Iran's nuclear program and at worst, would lead to a wider conflict and very likely prompt Iran to openly pursue nuclear weapons.

            A final phase agreement will require hard compromises on the part of both sides, but it is the far more preferable and effective way to resolve the long-running dispute over Iran's nuclear ambitions.--Daryl G. Kimball and Kelsey Davenport
 
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