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US Intel Assessment

            On January 29, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Iran’s nuclear program and regional aspirations. Clapper warned that new sanctions could “undermine prospects of a successful comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran.” He outlined Tehran’s progress in developing its nuclear and missile programs but emphasized that the decision to build or not build a nuclear weapon depends on “political will.” Clapper also noted that new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s shift towards the political center may not necessarily lead to areversal of the authoritarian trend in Iranian politics during the past many years.” The following are excerpts from the hearing and the 2014 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community.
 
SENATOR ANGUS KING (D-ME): Thank you, Madame Chairman. Mr. Clapper -- Director Clapper, do you have an intelligence assessment of the impact of the interim agreement on Iran’s nuclear program? Does it -- does it slow it down, pause it, the requirements, as you know, about dilution and limitations of centrifuges and those kinds of things? Is this going to have a real impact on the progress of the nuclear capability in Iran?
 
DIR. CLAPPER: Yes, it will, Senator King. Clearly it gets at the key thing we’re interested in and most concerned about is the more highly enriched uranium, the 20 percent enriched uranium. So yes, it does.
 
SEN. KING: Second question, you told us back on the 20th, quote, “We judge that the -- that new sanctions would undermine the prospects of a successful comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran.” Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif in early December said that the entire deal would be, quote, “dead,” if the international community imposed new sanctions. Is that still your view?
 
DIR. CLAPPER: Yes, sir. It would be good to have them in reserve if we need them but I think right now the imposition of more sanctions would be -- would be counterproductive.
 
SEN. KING: Now, how do you mean in reserve? If the Congress passed them, would you consider --
 
DIR. CLAPPER: Well, obviously the Iranians understand our system and the point there is if the -- if we had any additional sanctions right now, I think this would -- you know, the Iranians would live up to their word and it would jeopardize the agreement. But they understand that this is a subject of great interest in the U.S. Congress and to me, just that fact alone is a great incentive to ensure compliance with the bargain.
 
SEN. KING: So what you’re suggesting is we don’t need new sanctions, even those that have a delayed trigger. It’s the knowledge that Congress can impose them that provides the impetus.
 
DIR. CLAPPER: That would be my view, yes, sir.
 
Nuclear Program
            We continue to assess that Iran’s overarching strategic goals of enhancing its security, prestige, and regional influence have led it to pursue capabilities to meet its civilian goals and give it the ability to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons, if it chooses to do so. At the same time, Iran’s perceived need for economic relief has led it to make concessions on its nuclear program through the 24 November 2013 Joint Plan of Action with the P5+1 countries and the European Union (EU). In this context, we judge that Iran is trying to balance conflicting objectives. It wants to improve its nuclear and missile capabilities while avoiding severe repercussions—such as a military strike or regime-threatening sanctions. We do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.
 
            Tehran has made technical progress in a number of areas—including uranium enrichment, nuclear reactors, and ballistic missiles—from which it could draw if it decided to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons. These technical advancements strengthen our assessment that Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons. This makes the central issue its political will to do so.
 
            Of particular note, Iran has made progress during the past year by installing additional centrifuges at the Fuel Enrichment Plant, developing advanced centrifuge designs, and stockpiling more low-enriched uranium hexafluoride (LEUF6). These improvements have better positioned Iran to produce weapons-grade uranium (WGU) using its declared facilities and uranium stockpiles, if it chooses to do so. Despite this progress, we assess that Iran would not be able to divert safeguarded material and produce enough WGU for a weapon before such activity would be discovered.
 
            Iran has also continued to work toward starting up the IR-40 Heavy Water Research Reactor near Arak. We judge that Iran would choose a ballistic missile as its preferred method of delivering nuclear weapons, if Iran ever builds these weapons. Iran’s ballistic missiles are inherently capable of delivering WMD, and Iran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East. Iran’s progress on space launch vehicles—along with its desire to deter the United States and its allies—provides Tehran with the means and motivation to develop longer-range missiles, including an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
 
            We assess that if Iran fully implements the Joint Plan, it will temporarily halt the expansion of its enrichment program, eliminate its production and stockpile of 20-percent enriched uranium in a form suitable for further enrichment, and provide additional transparency into its existing and planned nuclear facilities. This transparency would provide earlier warning of a breakout using these facilities...
 
Iran
            President Ruhani has heralded a shift in political momentum in Iran toward the center, but we do not know whether he heralds a reversal of the authoritarian trend in Iranian politics during the past many years. Iran’s economy will continue to struggle without comprehensive sanctions relief, which drives Ruhani and his team of technocrats to pursue nuclear negotiations. Since his election, Ruhani has had the support of the Supreme Leader, which has silenced some conservative critics. Hardliners, however, have consistently argued that sanctions fatigue will eventually break the international sanctions coalition and are wary of Ruhani’s engagement with the West, as well as his promises of social and political moderation. Ruhani must maintain the backing of the Supreme Leader in order to continue to advance his political agenda.
 
            Iran will continue to act assertively abroad in ways that run counter to US interests and worsen regional conflicts. Iranian officials almost certainly believe that their support has been instrumental in sustaining Asad’s regime in Syria and will probably continue support during 2014 to bolster the regime. In the broader Middle East, Iran will continue to provide arms and other aid to Palestinian groups, Huthi rebels in Yemen, and Shia militants in Bahrain to expand Iranian influence and to counter perceived foreign threats. Tehran, which strives for a stable Shia-led, pro-Iran government in Baghdad, is concerned about the deteriorating security situation in Iraq. Tehran is probably struggling to find the balance between protecting Shia equities in Iraq and avoiding overt actions that would precipitate greater anti-Shia violence. In Afghanistan, Tehran will probably seek its own additional security agreements with Kabul, promote pro-Iranian candidates in the 2014 presidential election to increase its influence at the expense of the United States, and maintain its clandestine aid to Afghan insurgent groups. Iran sees rising sectarianism as a dangerous regional development, but we assess that Iran’s perceived responsibility to protect and empower Shia communities will increasingly trump its desire to avoid sectarian violence. Hence, Iran’s actions will likely do more to fuel rather than dampen increasing sectarianism.
 
Click here for the full report.
 
 

Iran and Asia 2: Japan Is Torn, Oil Hungry But Anti-Nuke

 Garrett Nada

      As an oil- hungry island nation, Japan’s position on Iran is fraught with inherent tensions. It has to balance an existential thirst for oil — to fuel industries, cars and homes — against a moral abhorrence of nuclear weapons, especially as the only country devastated by the world’s deadliest bombs in World War II. Iran is the nexus of those top priorities — and policy challenges.
 
            Japan is heavily industrialized and increasingly dependent on imported oil. It buys some 90 percent of its fuel from the Middle East. Iran was one of Japan’s top two sources of oil before its 1979 revolution. Afterwards, for more than three decades well into the 20th century, Iran continued to rank third or fourth. The Fukushima nuclear disaster deepened Japan’s need for oil and natural gas. Before the 2011 crisis, 54 nuclear reactors provided about 30 percent of Japan’s electricity needs. As of early 2013, safety concerns and public pressure had kept shut all but two plants.
 
            At the same time, Japan is also deeply opposed to nuclear proliferation. It has joined in key international efforts to prevent Iran from getting a bomb. Since 2006, Tokyo has fully supported the four U.N. sanctions resolutions designed to prevent Iran from developing the world’s deadliest weapon. Since 2012, it has also complied with new U.S. sanctions that penalize other countries that buy Iran’s oil and gas.
 
             Japan has also imposed its own sanctions on Iran’s banks and banned investment in new Iranian energy projects. “We took those steps as they are necessary to push for nuclear non-proliferation and prevent its nuclear development,” then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku said in 2010, after announcing new sanctions. “We have traditionally close relations with Iran and from that standpoint, we will patiently encourage the country towards a peaceful and diplomatic solution.”
 
             Japan intends to play a proactive role in solving the nuclear dispute because it “best understands the tragedy of the use of nuclear weapons and shoulders the responsibility to realize a world free of nuclear weapons,” according to its national security strategy.
 
       Beyond trade and security, Japan’s relationship with Iran has become a double-edged sword diplomatically, both as an asset and a liability. Historically, Tokyo has had strong relations with Iran, beginning in the late 1920s. Each country has hosted the other’s leaders during both the monarchy and the theocracy. Since the 1979 revolution, Japan has occasionally been a conduit for sensitive messages between Iran and Western nations.
 
       Japan and Iran share two cultural traits that inherently provide common bonds. Both countries emerged from ancient civilizations that each believes give them special standing in the world. “Iran is a country with a rich history” that Japan highly respects, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in a November 2013 visit to Tehran. The two countries also both share the eastern emphasis on respect and “face” as pivotal elements in diplomacy, politics and even trade.
 
             Horrific shared experiences with weapons of mass destruction also bind the two countries. “Iran and Japan are two countries that have suffered greatly from weapons of mass destruction,” President Hassan Rouhani said in a mid-2013 meeting with Masahiko Komura, the special envoy of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Two of Japan’s major cities, Nagasaki and Hiroshima, were the first and only targets of atomic weapons. Even survivors who were exposed to very low doses of radiation showed a high risk for cancers decades after the 1945 bombing. Similarly, Iran suffered more than 50,000 casualties from Iraq’s repeated use of chemical weapons during the 1980-1988 war, according to a 1991 CIA report. Respiratory diseases and other health issues are still killing Iranian veterans and civilians alike due to low-dose exposure.
 
             But relations also carry a price today. Tokyo cannot afford to cozy up to Tehran because of its close relationship with Washington, which is far more important politically, economically and for security. Japan still relies on the American military for its defense, and the United States is Japan’s second-largest trading partner, after China.
 
  Economic Ties

             In the past, Japan had occasionally defied its Western allies to maintain good relations with Iran. Japan was one of the few countries that purchased oil from Iran in 1953, after Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh nationalized the oil industry – then owned by the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. The United States and Britain were so opposed to Mossadegh that their intelligence services later jointly orchestrated a coup to restore the monarchy.
 
             After Iran’s 1979 revolution, Tehran exported its first oil shipments to Japan on March 5 – the twelfth anniversary of Mossadegh’s death. By 2003, the height of Japanese-Iranian trade since the revolution, Tokyo imported 683,000 barrels of oil per day from Iran -- or 16 percent of its crude oil imports.
 
             Japan’s total oil imports from Iran then began decreasing due to its own economic problems – long before the United States tightened sanctions in mid-2012. Japan suffered from more than a decade of high inflation between 2003 and 2013. The economy fell into recession three times since 2008. So oil consumption decreased.
            
            Sanctions have also taken a bite out of Japan’s oil purchases. Japanese imports from Iran fell 39 percent – from 314,129 barrels per day to 191,032 barrels per day – in 2012. Japanese oil companies continue to buy Iranian oil, but only with a special exemption from U.S. sanctions. Washington grants waivers to Japan and other countries every six months for curbing their crude oil purchases. Over the first 11 months of 2013, oil trade dropped another five percent to 178,139 barrels per day. In 2013, Japan imported less Iranian oil than at any time since 1981, when Iran was embroiled in a war with Iraq.
 
             But Tokyo and Tehran have not allowed the nuclear dispute to degrade their longstanding relationship. Iran still considers Japan an important trade partner and potential future investor in Iran’s energy sector. Inpex, a private Japanese oil company, used to own a 75 percent stake in developing the South Azadegan oil field. But it reduced its stake to 10 percent in 1996 and pulled out completely in 2010 to avoid U.S. sanctions.
 
            Among key figures for 2012, according to the Japan External Trade Organization and Ministry of Finance:
 
      ● Japan-Iran trade totaled about $8.66 billion
      ● Japan imported $8 billion worth of goods from Iran, 99 percent of which was crude oil.
      ● Japan exported $658 million of goods to Iran, largely machinery, metals, chemicals and non-metallic minerals.
 
             Japanese companies are risk averse because they could face sanctions ― and jeopardize their reputations ― just for doing for doing business with Iran. Toyota Motor Corporation voluntarily halted car exports to the Islamic Republic in 2010, citing the “the international environment.”
 
             But private Japanese companies are also yearning to do business with Iran again, given its market of 79 million consumers. Japanese products were popular in Iran, especially during the 1980s and early 1990s. But the import of cheaper goods from Korea, and later China, ramped up the competition. Japanese auto and electronics manufacturers particularly want to reenter the market. And for them, Iran appears comparatively more stable than the tumultuous Arab world since the 2011 uprisings began. The mid-2013 election of President Hassan Rouhani, followed by his outreach to improve Iran’s relations with the world further, has further encouraged Japanese diplomats and businesses.
 
 Security Concerns
  
      Japanese opposition to Iran’s nuclear trajectory is somewhat complicated by its own unique nuclear program. Japan is the only non-weapons state under the Non-Proliferation Treaty that has major fuel cycle facilities that could enable to make a bomb ― the so-called “nuclear threshold.” For years, Iranian officials have claimed they are pursuing the “Japan model” of nuclear development.
 
             To defuse the issue, Japan is eager to see the temporary agreement between Iran and six world powers — the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — produce a long-term deal. Tokyo repeatedly raises the issue in its interactions with Tehran. Its Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a three-point statement on Rouhani’s election in mid-2013 that encouraged the new president to engage in serious dialogue to end the nuclear dispute.
 
             Tokyo prefers a peaceful settlement for its own energy security too. When tensions rise, Tehran has occasionally warned that it could block the Strait of Hormuz, an oil transit chokepoint through which some 20 percent of oil traded worldwide flows. The strait’s closure, or U.S. or Israeli military strikes on Iran, could endanger Japan’s energy supply. Japan’s first national security strategy, released in December 2013, prioritizes stability in the Middle East as “inseparably linked to the stable supply of energy, and therefore Japan’s very survival and prosperity.” So Tehran’s production of a nuclear bomb would be a disheartening defeat for Tokyo.
 
Garrett Nada is the assistant editor of The Iran Primer at USIP. He traveled to Japan in January 2014.
 
 
Photo credits: President.ir, Map by Aridd at en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
 
Online news media are welcome to republish original blog postings from this website in full, with a citation and link back to The Iran Primer website (www.iranprimer.com) as the original source. Any edits must be authorized by the author. Permission to reprint excerpts from The Iran Primer book should be directed to permissions@usip.org

 

 

 

 

 

Iran and Asia 1: China Is The Quiet Giant

Yun Sun

      China is the quiet giant in the latest diplomatic campaign to prevent Iran from getting a bomb. As Tehran’s largest trading partner, Beijing has enormous political and economic leverage over the Islamic Republic. As a veto-wielding member of the United Nations, its position can also make or break any resolution. China has often followed Russia’s lead on Iran policy, but its decisions reflect independent dynamics between Beijing and Tehran that will be key to its future actions.

           Arguably more than any other country, China wants to end international economic sanctions on Iran so it can increase trade. Beijing and Tehran have become increasingly important partners over the past decade. China also does not want to risk sanctions itself for doing business with Tehran, as U.S. law now stipulates.

            At the height of business in 2011, China bought up to 557,000 barrels of oil per day from Iran – or almost 11 percent of its oil imports – to fuel economic growth. (In 2001, China imported 18 percent of its oil from Iran, but the volume was only 217,891 bpd, far less than in 2011.) Among key figures for 2012, according to
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

      • Sino-Iranian trade totaled $36.47 billion,
      • China imported $24.86 billion worth of goods from Iran, largely crude oil and mineral oils.
      • China exported $11.6 billion of goods to Iran, largely machinery, textiles and petrochemical products.
 
            But new sanctions, particularly tough measures imposed by the United States in mid-2012, have had a major impact on the People’s Republic’s energy trade with the Islamic Republic. China’s total oil imports from Iran decreased 21 percent – from 557,000 barrels per day to 438,448 barrels per day – in 2012. Oil trade dropped another 2.2 percent in 2013 to 428,840 barrels per day.
 
            But Beijing and Tehran still see each other as pivotal partners for the future. China is considered a key future investor in Iran’s oil and gas fields, with great potential to invest in downstream refineries to improve Iran’s outdated refining infrastructure.
 
      China now shares the concerns of the world’s major powers about Iran’s controversial nuclear program. Beijing wants to prevent Tehran from developing the world’s deadliest weapon, which would in turn dilute China’s nuclear power status. Beijing voted for four U.N. sanctions resolutions, although it balked at subsequent more punitive measures sought by the West. Top foreign ministry officials have also participated in the Geneva talks.
 
      At the same time, however, Beijing does not want the terms in a long-term nuclear deal to be so demanding that diplomacy fails—and sanctions continue. China envisions a final resolution that will protect Iran’s peaceful use of nuclear technologies, but effectively prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
 
            China’s near-term goal is to do more business with Iran without facing the threat of being penalized for violating U.S. trade sanctions. The sanctions against Iran, which were announced in late 2011 and took effect in June 2012, subject any bank, company or government that does business with Iran’s Central Bank to American penalties.
 
            To qualify for the U.S. waiver from the sanctions, issued every six months, Beijing has been forced to cut back its annual crude oil imports from Iran since 2012. China calculated that its economic and political interests would suffer more by ignoring the U.S. restrictions, which was also the basic reason for China’s acquiescence to U.S. sanctions against Iran.
 
            Trade with Iran is critically important because China is now the world’s largest net oil importer, which is calculated as liquid fuels consumption minus domestic production. China’s dependence on foreign crude is expected to rise to 61 percent by 2015 from 54 percent in 2010. Iran was China’s sixth-largest oil supplier in 2013,  fourth-largest supplier in 2012 and the third-largest r for most of the previous decade. In 2013, China imported an average of 428,840 barrels of oil per day from Iran. The 2012 restrictions on Beijing’s oil purchases from Iran have in turn undermined China’s energy security. Economic sanctions have reduced the overall supply on the global oil market, generally driving up the international price.
 
      Economic sanctions also constrain China’s other trade with and investment in Iran. U.S. sanctions have hindered implementation of earlier agreements. In 2012, China was forced to cancel mega projects such as the $4.7 billion development of Phase 11 of South Pars gas field, one of the world’s richest reserves, and a $2 billion hydropower project.
 
      Sanctions have also obstructed China’s payment for its crude oil purchases. China owed Iran at least $22 billion for missed payments by the third quarter of 2013, an issue at the top of the agenda when Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani visited Beijing in October.
 
            Chinese companies that have been sanctioned by the U.S. for their trade with Iran include:
 
      • Zhuhai Zhenrong, a state-owned company with a military background and the largest Chinese importer of Iranian crude oil
      • the Bank of Kunlun, controlled by China’s largest oil company, China National Petroleum Corporation.
      • and Poly Technologies, a subsidiary of state-owned defense company China Poly Group.
 
             Most of China’s oil comes from the Middle East, mainly countries allied with the United States. Because of those longstanding alliances, Beijing wants its own reliable ally in the region, both to supply oil and to counterbalance American power. China views Iran as the natural choice.
 
      A peaceful settlement of the nuclear dispute between Iran and the six other powers—the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia—would also improve prospects for regional security, including uninterrupted energy supplies from the Middle East. In recent years, Iranian threats to block the Strait of Hormuz and a possible U.S. or Israeli military attack on Iran have cast a dark shadow over regional stability as well as production and transportation of oil vital to China.
 
            Iran is both a policy asset and a liability for China in its relations with the United States. Iran gives Beijing leverage against Washington when Washington needs cooperation on sanctions, but Iran also turns into a liability when Tehran fails to meet Washington’s demands.
 
             China sees the improvement of U.S.-Iran relations as essential to a deal with Iran. Many Chinese analysts contend Iran’s quest for nuclear technology is due to its sense of vulnerability in the region and from U.S. pressure. Beijing contends that the main solutions lie in improving U.S.-Iran relations and/or developing a new regional security framework. The Chinese are now working to facilitate a dialogue between Iran and the West and lobby Iran to “participate in the talks with flexibility and pragmatism,” according to Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi.
 
            At the same time, however, China does not want Washington and Tehran to get so close that the Sino-Iranian strategic alignment against the United States is undermined. Chinese leaders believe that maintaining strong ties with Iran gives it some leverage over U.S. policy. Iran’s regional aspirations also differ from China’s. Beijing is keen on building friendly ties with both Israel and Saudi Arabia, Iran’s top Middle East rivals.
 
            Failure to reach a peaceful international settlement over Iran’s nuclear ambitions would be bad news for China. An Iranian nuclear weapon could lead to a regional nuclear arms race, which would be China’s worst nightmare. But many Chinese analysts believe that Iran will not follow in the footsteps of North Korea—and will not go so far as developing an atomic bomb and testing it.
 
Yun Sun is a fellow in the East Asia program at the Stimson Center, a nonprofit and nonpartisan international security think tank.

 
 

Photo credits: President.ir, Persian Gulf by Stevertigo at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
 
Online news media are welcome to republish original blog postings from this website in full, with a citation and link back to The Iran Primer website (www.iranprimer.com) as the original source. Any edits must be authorized by the author. Permission to reprint excerpts from The Iran Primer book should be directed to permissions@usip.org
 
 

 

 

Erdogan in Tehran : Iran is Second Home

            On January 29, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Iran to strengthen bilateral economic ties and ease tensions over the Syrian crisis. Erdogan made the trip amidst a sweeping corruption probe that has led to the arrest of dozens of businessmen and politicians allegedly associated with him. Iran is “like a second home,” Erdogan told Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (below). “A preferential commercial agreement was of utmost importance. I am very pleased to sign it,” he said during a press conference with Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri. Iranian television reported that Erdogan signed three trade deals.
      Erdogan also announced that Ankara reached an agreement with Tehran on fighting terrorism in Syria. Both countries are concerned with the growth of extremist Sunni groups there, some of which are affiliated with al Qaeda.
      But Ankara and Tehran have otherwise taken opposing positions on the Syrian conflict. Iran has supported President Bashar al Assad while Turkey has urged him to step down. And Ankara has reportedly supported the opposition and provided refuge to rebels. The following are excerpted remarks from Erdogan’s visit.
 
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
            “Today we had a good chance to review bilateral ties… I would like to mention specifically, and to express my satisfaction with, the agreement we signed in the preferential trade field. It is obvious that we import from Iran crude oil and gas, which are strategic energy sources, and we [will be] able to increase the volume of these imports.
 “We reached an agreement with Iran to fight terrorism.”
            Jan. 29, 2014 in a joint press conference with Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri
 

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri
            “We have taken concrete decisions to bolster bilateral relations between the two countries. We have reached a nice agreement on natural gas exports. We believe that the visit by the Turkish prime minister will be cornerstone in bilateral relations and it will help improve ties between the two countries.”
            Jan. 29, 2014 in a joint press conference with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
 
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Marzieh Afkham
            “Our relations with Turkey have entered a new phase and we hope this trend continues. Besides serving the interests of the two countries, we hope our dialogue (with Turkey) serve regional interests as well. As two neighbors and Muslim countries, Iran and Turkey enjoy many commonalities and many cooperation opportunities.”
            Jan. 29, 2014 in remarks to the press
 
Click here for more info on Iran’s relations with Turkey.
 
Photo credits: President.ir
 
 

State of the Union: Obama on Iran

            On January 28, President Barack Obama warned Congress that he would veto a new sanctions bill that could jeopardize diplomacy with Iran. In his State of the Union address, Obama attributed the halting of Iran's controversial nuclear program to “American diplomacy, backed by pressure,”  including sanctions. But the president also warned that the next round of negotiations on a comprehensive solution will be difficult. The following is an excerpt from Obama’s speech.

      American diplomacy, backed by pressure, that has halted the progress of Iran’s nuclear program – and rolled parts of that program back – for the very first time in a decade.  As we gather here tonight, Iran has begun to eliminate its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium.  It is not installing advanced centrifuges.  Unprecedented inspections help the world verify, every day, that Iran is not building a bomb.  And with our allies and partners, we’re engaged in negotiations to see if we can peacefully achieve a goal we all share: preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

      These negotiations will be difficult.  They may not succeed.  We are clear-eyed about Iran’s support for terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, which threaten our allies; and the mistrust between our nations cannot be wished away.  But these negotiations do not rely on trust; any long-term deal we agree to must be based on verifiable action that convinces us and the international community that Iran is not building a nuclear bomb.  If John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan could negotiate with the Soviet Union, then surely a strong and confident America can negotiate with less powerful adversaries today.
            The sanctions that we put in place helped make this opportunity possible.  But let me be clear: if this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it.  For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed.  If Iran’s leaders do not seize this opportunity, then I will be the first to call for more sanctions, and stand ready to exercise all options to make sure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon.  But if Iran’s leaders do seize the chance, then Iran could take an important step to rejoin the community of nations, and we will have resolved one of the leading security challenges of our time without the risks of war.
 
            Finally, let’s remember that our leadership is defined not just by our defense against threats, but by the enormous opportunities to do good and promote understanding around the globe – to forge greater cooperation, to expand new markets, to free people from fear and want.  And no one is better positioned to take advantage of those opportunities than America.
 
Click here for the full text. 
 

 


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