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The Iran Primer

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Kerry at Davos: Addresses Iran Issues

            Secretary of State John Kerry spoke extensively about Iran at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The first excerpt below is from his January 24 address to the gathering. The second excerpt is from a January 23 interview with Al Arabiya.

Today, we believe that there are initiatives that, taken together, have the potential to reshape the Middle East and could even help create the foundations of a new order.
First, the agreement that we reached with Iran.  As of this week, Iran’s nuclear weapons program is being rolled back in important ways.  On Monday, Iran took a series of steps that the world has long demanded, including reducing its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium, disabling the infrastructure for its production, and allowing unprecedented transparency and monitoring to guarantee Iran is complying with the agreement.
They will have to reduce their 20 percent to zero, and they do not have and will not have the capacity for reconversion.  They will have to reduce it to forms that are not suitable for making weapons.  Iran must also halt enrichment above 5 percent and it will not be permitted to grow the current stockpile of 3.5 percent enriched uranium.  Iran cannot increase the number of centrifuges that are in operation, and it cannot install or use any next-generation centrifuges to enrich uranium.  And while we negotiate a final agreement over these next months, Iran will not be permitted to take any steps to commission the Arak plutonium reactor. 
Now clearly, there are good reasons to ask tough questions of Iran going forward – and believe me, we will – and good reasons to require that the promises Iran made are promises kept.  Remember – we certainly haven’t forgotten – there is a reason that world has placed sanctions on Iran.  There’s a reason why they exist in the first place.  And there’s a reason why the core architecture of those sanctions remains in place.  And that is why this effort is grounded not in trusting, not in words, but in testing.  And that is why now inspectors can be at Fordow every day. 
That wasn’t the case before the agreement we struck.  Inspectors can now also be at Natanz every day.  That’s also new, thanks to the agreement we struck.  And inspectors will visit Arak plutonium plant every month, and they are under an obligation to deliver the plans for that plant to us.
Taken altogether, these elements will increase the amount of time that it would take for Iran to break out and build a bomb – the breakout time, as we call it – and it will increase our ability to be able to detect it and to prevent it.  And all of this will to an absolute guarantee beyond any reasonable doubt make Israel safer than it was the day before we entered this agreement, make the region safer than it was the day before we entered this agreement, and make the world safer than it was.
Now yesterday, President Rouhani stood here and he said that Iran is eager to engage with the world, and hopefully.  But Iran knows what it must do to make that happen.  He told you that Iran has no intention of building a nuclear weapon.  Well, while the message is welcome, my friends, the words themselves are meaningless unless actions are taken to give them meaning.  Starting now, Iran has the opportunity to prove these words beyond all doubt to the world.
Now, let’s be clear:  If you are serious about a peaceful program, it is not hard to prove to the world that your program is peaceful.  For sure, a country with a peaceful nuclear program does not need to build enrichment facilities in the cover of darkness in the depth of a mountain.  It doesn’t need a heavy water reactor designed to produce weapons-grade plutonium, like the one at Arak.  It has no reason to fear intrusive monitoring and verification.  And it should have no problem resolving outstanding issues with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
This is true for every country in the world with an exclusively peaceful nuclear program.  And it is the tough but reasonable standard to which Iran must also be held.
So we welcome this week’s historic step.  But now the hard part begins, six months of intensive negotiations with the goal of resolving all the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.  I want to say that the P5+1 has acted in unity, in great cooperation, and we welcome the international community’s efforts that has characterized this initiative. 
So Iran must meet this test.  If it does, the Middle East will be a safer place, free from the fear of a nuclear arms race.  And diplomatic engagement, my friends, backed by sanctions and other options, will have proved its worth. 
Interview with Rima Maktabi of Al Arabiya
QUESTION: So there is an alternative to Assad?
SECRETARY KERRY: Absolutely, there is.
QUESTION: Is he ready...?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, obviously, he’s not ready, no. He’s not ready at this point in time. But I think over time, providing Russia, the Saudi Arabians, the Turks, the Qataris, the Jordanians, the countries in the region, and even perhaps Iran could contribute to a reasonable process by which Syria is protected and the people of Syria are protected…
QUESTION: How will you engage Iran? It’s – Iran was not present in Geneva II. President Rouhani’s statement today was all about extremist groups. He totally overlooked the presence of the Revolutionary Guard in Syria, didn’t even come close to mentioning Hezbollah fighting in Syria. How will you engage Iran?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Iran has to be engaged realistically and on a basis of honesty. Iran understands that the Geneva I communique calls for a transition government with full executive authority by mutual consent. Iran could have come to Geneva, but they refused to embrace that standard. So what Iran needs to do is either show that it’s more than words, that its actions are willing to join the international community, or it will be very difficult to have Iran be part of this.
But Iran clearly has an impact. Iran has IRGC personnel on the ground in Syria conducting military affairs. Iran is the principal supporter of its client, the terrorist organization called Hezbollah. Hezbollah is not just in Lebanon; Hezbollah is fighting in Syria. Hezbollah is the principal difference in the fighting that has taken place on the ground in Syria…
QUESTION: So you are perceived as a country that for 40 years were against Iran, you had allies in the region that helped you in that, and now you left them in the dark, struck a deal with Iran. The deal is not even clear or very – or made public with its details and specifics.
SECRETARY KERRY: Actually, the deal, Rima, could not be more clear, and we have not left anybody in the dark…We are extremely diligent in working with our friends in the region. I have just made, I don’t know, maybe my 14th – 20th trip to the region..Sometimes, I’ve traveled exclusively just to the Emirates or just to Saudi Arabia or to one of the countries in the region. And the reason is because we have been extremely energized in making certain that our friends know exactly what we’re doing…
We are talking with Iran about a nuclear program, that’s all. We are trying to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon which would change the balance of power in the region. What we are doing is profoundly in the interests of our friends in the region. I am absolutely certain beyond a reasonable doubt that Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey – all of the countries in the region are safer today from the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon than they were before we made the agreement that we made.
Now, under the agreement we made, Iran has to undo all of its 20 percent enriched uranium. They have to take it to zero. That makes everybody safer. They have to limit their stock of 3.5 percent uranium. That makes people safer. The stock cannot grow.
QUESTION: They will remain a nuclear-capable country.
SECRETARY KERRY: But they cannot finish the Arak [heavy water] reactor during the time of this preliminary first step. They have to have inspections…They have to have inspections every day of Fordow. They have to have inspections every day in Natanz. We didn't have that before we made this agreement. Now, yeah, if they broke out – if they decided they’re going to throw this agreement away and go start enrichment again, sure, they can turn around. But guess what? If they do that, then the military option that is available to the United States is ready and prepared to do what it would have to do. So I don’t think that would last very long. I don’t think that’s a wise choice for Iran. The fact is that the United States – the President of the United States has made it clear: Iran will not have a nuclear weapon…We will not make a bad deal. A bad deal is worse than no deal, and we won’t do that. But we are convinced that we are on the right track because clearly – clearly – the world would rather see us settle this peacefully rather than have to have a military confrontation.
QUESTION: Mr. Kerry, for the GCC countries it’s the same Iranian regime, and for the GCC countries they don’t want to see a nuclear Iran. But they also see Iran that meddles in Bahrain affairs, has Hezbollah in Lebanon.
QUESTION: Has Hezbollah in Syria. Destabilizes some of Yemen. All the Iranian ambitions in the region, is this okay with the U.S. as long as Iran is not nuclear?
SECRETARY KERRY: No. And we’ve made that clear. Of course it’s not okay.
QUESTION: How will you solve it?
SECRETARY KERRY: Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism. Iran is sponsoring Hezbollah. Right now, Hezbollah is engaged in the violence of Syria. We find that very objectionable. And there are other ways in which Iran is engaged in support for terror within the region. We don’t agree with that. No, we don’t. Nor do our friends.
But you have to take one step at a time. This is diplomacy, and we are working through the diplomatic process to end a significant threat that, if it isn’t ended, could create a confrontation within the region, will certainly see other states seek nuclear weapons, and you would have a far more dangerous Middle East than you have already today. So one step at a time. We are focused on the first step, which is the nuclear program. We are prepared to engage with Iran on the other issues.
QUESTION: Well, then you would ask them to disarm Hezbollah, for example?
SECRETARY KERRY: Absolutely. We believe they should stop supporting Hezbollah completely and totally. Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, and they should not support terrorism in the region. End of issue.
QUESTION: Okay. If things are positive, the deal works, will you withdraw your naval forces from the Gulf waters? Why do you need them if things are okay with Iran?
SECRETARY KERRY: Because there are many issues, unfortunately. We’re fighting al Qaeda, we’re dealing with problems in Yemen, with uncertainties in other parts of the region. The United States will do what is necessary to stand up for the freedom of navigation, for the free movement of oil and products in the region. We will stand up for our friends in the region who are threatened, and we will continue to have a presence in the Middle East for as far as I can see in the foreseeable future. But we will continue to work for peace. That’s why we are also working in the Middle East peace process.

Rouhani at Davos: Invites Oil Execs, Speech in Tweets

            On January 23, President Hassan Rouhani invited oil companies to invest in Iran in an address to some 30 executives at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “Without international engagement, objectives such as growth, creativity and quality are unattainable,” Rouhani said. “We will make use of active foreign policy to achieve economic development.”
            On prospects for solving the nuclear dispute, Rouhani said, “We are ready” to make a comprehensive deal. “Of course, this is a long and winding and difficult road. However, if we remain serious and keep the will, we can push through.” Interest in Iran’s oil sector has reportedly grown since sanctions on petrochemicals, precious metals and shipping insurance were lifted on January 20 as part of the interim nuclear deal brokered in November 2013. The following is a full-length video clip of Rouhani’s address followed by tweets of his remarks. Rouhani has acknowledged that his tweets are posted by his “friends.”



Rouhani at Davos: "Nothing Impossible" on US Relations

            On January 22, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran would respond positively to U.S. actions that help “eradicate animosity” between the two countries. He acknowledged the difficulty in improving U.S.-Iran relations but added that “nothing is impossible” in an interview with Swiss television station RTS. The president arrived in in Davos, Switzerland on January 22 to attend the 44th World Economic Forum.
In an address to the world’s top oil executives, Rouhani called the new U.S.-Iran engagement since his election “a major development since Iran’s Islamic Revolution.” But he said “ruling bodies” in the United States need to accept Iran’s “cultural maturity” and flourishing civilization “not only in words but in actions as well.” The following are tweets based on Rouhani’s interview and speech. Rouhani has acknowledged that his tweets are posted by his “friends.”

RTS Interview
World Economic Forum Speech

Click here to watch the RTS interview in French.



Rouhani Tweet Streak on Syria Peace Talks

            On January 22, President Hassan Rouhani said that Syria peace conference in Geneva “has already failed before it has started” because of the “lack of influential players in the meeting.” He criticized the gathering for inviting “states which sponsor terrorism and those responsible for instability in the region,” according to Iranian state media. The United Nations had revoked its invitation to Iran to attend the talks two days earlier. The following tweets are based on Rouhani’s comments before leaving for the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. Rouhani has acknowledged that his tweets are posted by his “friends.”



Iran Disinvited from Syria Peace Talks

            On January 20, the United Nations revoked its invitation to Iran to attend the peace talks on Syria. The following are statements by the United Nations, the State Department and Iran.

Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on developments related to Syria
            During the brutal conflict of the past three years, the Syrian people have experienced horrendous suffering, humanitarian shortages and human rights abuses.  The Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012 remains the internationally agreed framework for ending the crisis.  It is the basis on which the global community will gather on Wednesday in Montreux, Switzerland, and the foundation for the negotiations between the Syrian parties that will begin on Friday in Geneva.
            Throughout the Syrian conflict, the Secretary-General has sought to do everything within his power for a political solution, which is the only path forward.  He has consistently maintained that regional partners with influence on the Syrian parties should do their part in promoting implementation of the Geneva Communiqué, including the establishment of a transitional governing body with full executive powers.  Most recently, he has tried to ensure that all those who can contribute to the success of a Syrian peace process be present in Montreux to express their solidarity and support for the Syrian people.
            In that spirit, in a series of meetings and telephone conversations, senior Iranian officials assured the Secretary-General that Iran understood and supported the basis and goal of the Conference, including the Geneva Communiqué.  The Secretary-General is deeply disappointed by Iranian public statements today that are not at all consistent with that stated commitment.  He continues to urge Iran to join the global consensus behind the Geneva Communiqué.  Given that it has chosen to remain outside that basic understanding, he has decided that the one-day Montreux gathering will proceed without Iran’s participation.
The Secretary-General looks forward to joining the initiating parties -- the Russian Federation and the United States -- as well as the other States and organizations that will attend this long-awaited and hugely important push for peace.  The Syrian parties, the region and the international community have an opportunity and a responsibility to end the violence and begin a transition towards a new Syria.
Statement on Geneva II by State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki
            As we've stated many times, the purpose of the conference is the full implementation of the Geneva communiqué, including the establishment by mutual consent of a transitional governing body with full executive authorities.  We are hopeful that, in the wake of today's announcement, all parties can now return to focus on the task at hand, which is bringing an end to the suffering of the Syrian people and beginning a process toward a long overdue political transition. 
Statement by UN Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee
            The   Islamic Republic of Iran appreciates the efforts of the UN Secretary General and his special envoy, Mr. Brahimi in finding a political solution for Syrian crisis. Iran has always been supportive of finding a political solution for this crisis.  
            However the Islamic Republic of Iran does not accept any preconditions for its participation in Geneva II conference. If the participation of Iran is conditioned to accept Geneva I communique, Iran will not participate in Geneva II conference. 

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