United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

US: Iran Deal Difficult, But Possible

            On November 17, senior Obama administration officials said that Iran and the world’s six major powers and have not discussed extending the nuclear talks. Both sides are still focused on meeting the November 24 deadline. “We hope that this will be a week when decisions are made, and we understand they are difficult decisions all the way around,” an official said in a background briefing. The following are excerpts.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: As we all know, we’re getting close to the November 24th deadline, and we are focused on whether we can get a comprehensive understanding concluded by that date. The Secretary of State John Kerry and the entire negotiating team were in Oman last week for trilateral discussions with the European Union and Iran, and then the Secretary departed and the rest of us stayed in Muscat for another day of meetings with the P5+1 political directors and Iran as well. The conversations were, as they’ve been previously described, tough, direct, and serious. Our experts have continued to be in constant communication with our partners and with Iran to keep hammering away at the technical issues that are part of these talks. We have continued to make some progress in the course of these negotiations, but we still have gaps to close, and we do not yet know if we will be able to do so.
 
I know much has been made in the press of whether we will take more time if we can’t get this done by the 24th. I can tell you that extension is not and has not been a subject of negotiations at this point. Right now is the time for Iran to back up its words and the Supreme Leader's fatwa with credible and verifiable actions that they have not sought and have no intention to seek a nuclear weapon. Now we need a set of understandings to give the international community assurance that that is indeed the case now and for the future. We hope that this will be a week when decisions are made, and we understand they are difficult decisions all the way around.
 
QUESTION: Okay, thanks. So listen, I wanted to ask about the reports of an eight-page proposal or recommendation given by the U.S. delegation or Secretary Kerry himself in Oman to the Iranian side, and there’ve been reports from the Iranian side that that proposal would bring the talks back to zero. And yet at the same time, we’re seeing a – some more optimism in the Iranian press then we’re seeing on the rest of the P5+1 side. So I want to ask you if you can square that for us a little bit. What was in that eight-page recommendation to the extent you can say, and why are we seeing different levels of expectation on the two sides?
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I’m not going to talk about any particulars of the negotiation, which will not come as any surprise to you. And there was not a piece of paper that the Iranians walked away with. There were discussions of detailed parameters that were, in fact, parameters agreed to by the P5+1. We have stayed quite united in our efforts with the negotiations with Iran.
 
As to why we’re hearing a variety of voices, I think we hear a variety of voices in every country about this negotiation, and Iran is no different. You’d have to ask them for their assessment of why there are differences. But certainly here we have people who very much believe we should get an agreement or a deal, an understanding with Iran; others that believe there’s no way to, nor should we. So I think throughout the world, there are a wide range of views.
The view that is consistent, however, is that – from the international community and certainly the P5+1 – is – and as the President of the United States has said – we have to make sure that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon, that all the pathways to fissile material for a nuclear weapon are shut down, and that the international community has the assurances it needs over time that Iran’s program is exclusively peaceful.
 
QUESTION:   I understand that you said you haven’t discussed the idea of an extension, but what we’re hearing from a number of countries involved in the talks, that while everyone is sincerely working to get some kind of agreement before the 24th, there’s a sense that it’s simply not going to be possible and that a very possible scenario is some kind of outline of an agreement… So I wonder if you could give us a sense of how far along you are on those issues that have been the most difficult ones from the very beginning.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I think we will not know how far we’re going to get and whether we can get to a comprehensive agreement – a joint comprehensive plan of action until we get to the 24th of November. We have had very detailed discussions on every subject that would be part of such a plan of action, and so there are not new things that have to get put on the table, just understandings that have to be reached. 
 
As I said, there are areas where we have made progress, and I’m very glad for that, but there are still areas in which there are very serious gaps that have to be addressed. Whether they can be in this time frame remains to be seen. We have tried to be open to ideas as long as it meets the metric that the President has laid out, that all the pathways to fissile material for a nuclear weapon are shut down, that we get the assurances we need that Iran is not seeking or – and will not obtain a nuclear weapon. There are many ways to those metrics, and that is what we are seeking to do here.
 
I think that this is obviously an understanding or joint comprehensive plan of action where the details matter enormously, so even if we come to a general understanding of some of the largest parameters, we will not be able to announce that we have reached a joint comprehensive plan of action without also knowing the details. So we are trying to make as much progress – and in fact, it is still possible to do it all. Difficult, but possible.
 
QUESTION: We’re all trying to figure is how this correlates with both what the IAEA is doing and what I think you’ve referred to in the past as doing additional protocol plus. And some of us are trying to figure out how we explain to readers what “plus” means. 
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: In terms of the IAEA, all I want to say about that is that all of us, including, of course, Cathy Ashton, have stayed in close touch with Director General Amano. We want to make sure that whatever we do does not compromise the independence of the IAEA, is consistent with the objectives that the IAEA is seeking in its responsibilities, and that any joint comprehensive plan of action obviously we will rely on the International Atomic Energy Agency, as we have in the Joint Plan of Action. And so we have tried to have very close consultations while being very mindful of their independence.
 
QUESTION: Secretary Kerry has said really it’s up to – it’s a political decision that Iran has to make… or are there also still political decisions, put loosely, that the American side has to make? In other words, is it a matter of will or technical details?
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Oh, it’s probably some of both, Margaret. There are some fundamental decisions that have to get made, and I’m sure they can only be made by the Supreme Leader and the President of Iran, just as here in the United States decisions have to be taken not only by the Secretary of State, but by the President of the United States. And we have stayed in close consultation with the United States Congress as well, because we have three branches of government and the Congress has been an important player in this entire process and helped to get Iran to consider these negotiations, and indeed were critical to achieving the Joint Plan of Action. We also have partners all over the world with whom we consult because the decisions made here not only affect the United States and the P5+1, but in quite profound and fundamental ways the security – the peace and security of the world. 
 
So we understand the tremendous responsibility that all of us who are part of this negotiation bear. The stakes are quite high, very important – take everybody’s political will, everybody’s expertise. Our national labs have been simply spectacular in helping us to work through technical details, see if there are any technical solutions to some of the very difficult and thorny problems here. We have had people all over our government, from the U.N., of course, to every – virtually every major department of this government help us see if we cannot come to an understanding that ensures that the President’s metrics are met and that we have an understanding that is also scientifically defensible and durable.
 
QUESTION: How would you characterize any adjustments or just kind of the general attitude of the Iranians over the last one or two months as we’ve gotten closer to this deadline? Have you detected a greater flexibility or not, a greater creativity or not? 
 
And on the other side too from the negotiating team on the U.S. side, what adjustments do you think have also been required in these last – in this last month or two as you get close?
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I think the best way to describe them is the way I’ve described them already in my opening remarks – tough, direct, serious. I think that’s true for all of us. We all understand what we’re doing here. We all understand the responsibility of what we are doing here. This is difficult. If it weren’t difficult, it would have been solved a long time ago. We have made more progress than anyone would have expected in first halting the advance of Iran’s program and creating a space and time so we can see if we can come to an agreement and understanding around a joint comprehensive plan of action that resolves all of the outstanding issues and meets the metrics that the President has set out. 
 
But these are tough discussions. They are very direct. We know each other well enough to be quite direct. They are very serious. Everyone approaches this with seriousness. And it sort of doesn’t work to say, “Well, were you flexible this week and inflexible next week?” There is an ebb and flow in any negotiation, and that is true in this one as well. 
 
QUESTION: Prime Minister Netanyahu said a few days ago that he has reports that the P5+1 are on the way for a bad deal with Iran. So first if you can comment on that. Second, did you speak in the last few days with your Israeli colleagues to update them on what’s going to happen in this last round of talks?
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I will say that, of course, we have stayed in close consultation with Israel, as we have stayed in close consultation with the Gulf states, as we have stayed in close consultation with partners and allies and interested parties all around the world. There are many, many countries, I know, that Helga Schmid with the European Union just today was briefing the 28 political directors of the European Union. So we all stay in very close consultation. And I went up and briefed in a classified setting leadership and ranking of the House, and one of my colleagues will be briefing the Senate tomorrow along with some other members of our Administration, as I did with House last week. So consultation is critical, because as I said, this understanding has a profound impact or the joint comprehensive plan of action will have a profound impact on not just on the P5+1 but on peace and security in the world. 
 
In terms of the Prime Minister's comments, I will let the Prime Minister – of course, he is the leader of his country and will say whatever he thinks is appropriate. I am absolutely sure that if the President of the United States believes that we have reached a deal, reached a joint comprehensive plan of action, it will be a good one. The President will not do anything but to ensure that all the pathways to fissile material for a nuclear weapon are shut down, that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon, and that it is in the security interests of the United States. And as the President said, he would not do anything that he did not believe was not in the security interests of Israel and our other partners around the world. At the end of the day, the Prime Minister, of course, as the leader of his country and responsible for Israel’s security, will make his own judgment.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: And I would just add to that that the Secretary speaks to Prime Minister Netanyahu very regularly. He spoke to him today and also called him from the plane when we left Muscat to brief him out on the discussions he’d had there. So at all levels have remained in close touch.
 
 

Latest on Nuke Talks: What Iran, P5+1 Say

           Less than two weeks remain until the November 24 deadline for a nuclear deal between Iran and the world's six major powers -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States. Leaders on both sides have noted that there has been progress on key issues and remain hopeful that a deal can be reached before the deadline. Iranian officials have repeatedly emphasized sanctions relief and the right to a peaceful nuclear program. Both sides have claimed that the other will be at fault if a deal is not reached in time. The following are excerpted remarks by officials on the status of the nuclear talks.


 United States

 
President Barack Obama
 
             “Our number one priority with respect to Iran is making sure they don't get nuclear weapon. And because of the unprecedented sanctions that this administration put forward and mobilized the world to abide by, they got squeezed, their economy tanked, and they came to the table in a serious way for the first time in a very, very long time. We've now had significant negotiations. They have abided by freezing their program and, in fact, reducing their stockpile of nuclear-grade material or-- or weapons-grade nuclear material. And the question now is are we going to be able to close this final gap so that they can reenter the international community, sanctions can be slowly reduced, and we have verifiable, lock-tight assurances that they can't develop a nuclear weapon. There's still a big gap. We may-- may not be able to get there.”
              Nov. 9, 2014 in an interview with CBS News
 
             “Whether we can actually get a deal done, we’re going to have to find out over the next three to four weeks. We have presented to them a framework that would allow them to meet their peaceful energy needs. And if, in fact, what their leadership says, that they don’t want to develop a nuclear a weapon -- if that is, in fact, true, then they’ve got an avenue here to provide that assurance to the world community, and in a progressive, step-by-step, verifiable way, allow them to get out from under sanctions so that they can reenter as full-fledged members of the international community.
            “But they have their own politics, and there’s a long tradition of mistrust between the two countries. And there’s a sizeable portion of the political elite that cut its teeth on anti-Americanism and still finds it convenient to blame America for every ill that there is. And whether they can manage to say yes to what clearly would be better for Iran, better for the region, and better for the world, is an open question. We’ll find out over the next several weeks.”
            Nov. 5, 2014 in a press conference
 
Secretary of State John Kerry
 
            “Now, we have the chance – and I underscore the word chance – to complete an agreement that would meet our strategic objectives, that would guarantee that Iran’s four pathways to fissile material for a nuclear weapon cannot be used, and thereby to be able to give the world the needed confidence that the Iranian program is exclusively and conclusively peaceful as Iran has said it is.  And then at the same time, enable the Iranian people to be able to have the economic opportunities that they seek. 
 
             “Clearly one can envision an agreement that is fair and possible.  But it still will require difficult choices.  Now, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – Iran has continued to state it has no interest in obtaining a nuclear weapon.  Ultimately, if you want to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your program is a peaceful one, that is not, from a technical perspective, very hard to do.  We and our European and P5+1 partners are working to secure an agreement that accomplishes that goal.  And in the days ahead, we’re going to try to work very, very hard to see if we can close the gaps and get to where we need to be.
 
             “I would emphasize both sides are taking this process seriously and both sides are trying to find the common ground.  That doesn’t mean that we agree on everything.  Obviously, there are gaps.  We don’t yet.  But it does mean that we have discussed in detail the full range of relevant issues that have to be part of a durable and comprehensive agreement, including infrastructure, stockpiles, research, equipment, timing, and sequencing. 
 
             “And I would also emphasize that we all know our principles in this process, and our principles as a group are rock solid.  As we have said every single step of this process, an agreement like the one we are seeking is not built on trust, as much as anybody might like it to be.  It is built on verification.  And no member of the P5+1 is prepared to or can accept any arrangements that we cannot verify or make any promises that cannot be kept. 
             Nov.  20, 2014 to the press in Paris, France
 
             “On the issue of the Iran nuclear talks, we are gearing up and targeting November 24th. We’re not talking about or thinking about going beyond that date. That’s a critical date. And we believe it is imperative for a lot of different reasons to get this done. Most people don’t understand why, if you’re simply trying to show that a program is peaceful, it would take so long. People want to know that the transparency and accountability necessary to get this done is on the table, and we ought to be able to reach agreement. So our press is to try to get this done. And I think that it gets more complicated if you can’t. It’s not impossible if you’re not able to, but I think let’s see what happens when we bear down as we are.
            “An enormous amount of work has gone into this. For months upon months, we’ve had expert teams sitting down, working through details, looking at all of the technical information that is necessary to be able to make a judgment about what the impact of a particular decision is. Some of it’s very complicated, and we’ve tried to reduce it to as simple and understandable a format as possible. And it’s been very constructive. The Iranian team has worked hard and seriously. The conversations have been civil and expert.
            “And my hope is that now is the moment for really political decisions to be made that make a judgment that we can show the world that countries with differing views, differing systems, but with a mutual interest of trying to prove a peaceful program can in fact do that and get the job done. So we’re very hopeful about that, and I have every intent of making myself available and doing everything necessary to try to do that. And I’m confident that Foreign Minister Zarif will likewise make himself available and continue to push forward.”
            Nov. 5, 2014 in a press briefing after meeting with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius
 
SECRETARY KERRY : Well, we’re closer [to a deal] than we were a week ago or 10 weeks ago, but we’re still with big gaps…
 
AL HUNT: In these next three and a half weeks, do you have any plans to meet with high-level Iranians on this issue?
 
SECRETARY KERRY: I am meeting on the 9th of November. I will be meeting with the foreign minister directly. We’ll have two days. We will be beginning a slog of going into the last two weeks. Our expert team will be on the ground with a constant process. We’ll be in Vienna for the final days with the P5+1, all of us together trying to come to some kind of an agreement.
 
AL HUNT: Mr. Secretary, there are reports that the Iranians believe – they’ve indicated to some people that their leverage has been enhanced in these negotiations because of their role in fighting ISIS. Is that a correct reading?
 
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me use this program to deliver a very clear message to the Iranians, which is: This is not a political decision for us. This is a substantive decision based on the proof of a peaceful program. It’s not hard to prove your program is peaceful if that’s what you want to do. So outside leverage, Syria, ISIL, whatever, is not relevant to this. It’s not affecting us one way or the other. We have one set of criteria within our mind.
 
There are four pathways to a nuclear weapon. One is the secret underground facility known as Fordow, one is the Natanz enrichment facility that is known to everybody, a sort of well-identified building. The third is the Arak, as it is called, plutonium heavy water reactor. And the fourth is the covert, whatever you aren’t sure of because it’s not clear to you, and therefore you need sufficient verification and sufficient transparency to be able to determine that there isn’t that path being pursued. That’s things like, for instance, knowing you have an eye on the production of uranium and how much uranium and where it’s going and how many centrifuges and these kinds of things.
 
So those four pathways need to be closed off. We’re looking to the Iranians to be as responsible as they have said they will be and as forthcoming as they have promised, which is to be transparent and allow the proof of this peaceful program.
             Oct. 31, 2014 in an interview with Al Hunt of Bloomberg News on the Charlie Rose Show
 
            “I’m not going to give it odds [successfully brokering a nuclear deal].  As I said to the President recently, I’m not going to express optimism; I’m going to express hope and I think achieving it is critical.  But I will say this to everybody:  We’ve set a very clear standard.  There are four present pathways to a bomb for Iran – the hidden so-called secret facility in a mountain called Fordow, the open Natanz enrichment facility, the plutonium heavy-water reactor called Arak, and then, of course, covert activities.  We’ve pledged that our goal is to shut off each pathway sufficient that we know we have a breakout time of a minimum of a year that gives us the opportunity to respond if they were to try to do that.
            “We believe there are ways to achieve that.  Whether Iran can make the tough decisions that it needs to make will be determined in the next weeks, but I have said consistently that no deal is better than a bad deal.  And we’re going to be very careful, very much based on expert advice, fact, science as to the choices we make.  This must not be a common ideological or a political decision.  And if we can do what we’ve said, what the President set out in his policy – the President said they will not get a bomb.  If we could take this moment of history and change this dynamic, the world would be a lot safer and we’d avoid a huge arms race in the region where Saudis, Emiratis, Egyptians, others may decide that if they’re moving towards a bomb, they got to move there too, and obviously it’s a much more dangerous world.  And that is not a part of the world where you want massive uninspected, unverified, nontransparent nuclear activities.  So that’s what we’re trying to do.” 
            Oct. 30, 2014 at the Washington Idea Forums hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic
 
Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman
 
            “Our bottom line is unambiguous, crystal clear, and, quite frankly, written in stone: Iran will not, shall not obtain a nuclear weapon.”
            “If [a deal] does not happen, the responsibility will be seen by all to rest with Iran.”
            “Such a plan, if fully implemented, would give confidence that Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful and would enable the Iranian people to look forward to a much brighter future.”
            “We have made impressive progress on issues that originally seemed intractable. We have cleared up misunderstandings and held exhaustive discussions on every element of a possible text. However, like any complicated and technically complex diplomatic initiative, this is a puzzle with many interlocking pieces.”
            Oct. 23, 2014 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies
 
State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki

 

            “We’re still very focused on making progress and seeing if we can get a deal done before the deadline in all of our meetings. There’s still time to do so. This was an opportunity to have follow-on discussions with Secretary Kerry, EU High Representative Ashton, Foreign Minister Zarif. They had two lengthy meetings yesterday; two today as well. The discussions have been tough, direct, and serious. And as you know, the political directors will continue to stay in Oman for a yet-to-be-determined amount of time. They’ll be reconvening, of course, for the already-announced round of meetings that are next week in Europe.”
            Nov. 10, 2014 in a daily press briefing
 
Iran
 
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
 
President Hassan Rouhani
 
            "Tehran has taken highly positive steps in the nuclear talks with the P5+1 and if the negotiating sides also [prove to] have the necessary political will in this regard, reaching a comprehensive agreement will be possible within the next month."
            Oct. 27, 2014 according to the press
 
            "Iran has made its utmost efforts...and made the necessary adjustments to its demands and we hope that all the P5+1 countries, particularly the US, which occasionally seeks excessive demands in the nuclear talks, will understand the circumstances."
            "If the P5+1  and certain countries pursue a goal to impede Iran's development and are looking for a pretext, this issue is impossible and our nation will never give up the path of development and its rights."
            "This issue is not legal and rational and all the P5+1 members should heed the long-term interests of countries and the region."
            Nov. 12, 2014, according to the press

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
 
              “If, because of excessive demands by the other side we don’t get a result, then the world will understand that the Islamic Republic sought a solution, a compromise and a constructive agreement and that it will not renounce its rights and the greatness of the nation.”
             Nov. 18, 2014 to reporters at Vienna’s airport
 
             “If the Western side can trust that our aim is peaceful and they don’t have political motives, now is a good time to set the framework of the agreement.”
            Nov. 8, 2014, according to the press
 
            “The Islamic Republic of Iran has always had a peaceful nuclear program and in line with the religious decree issued by the Leader banning use and stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction, WMD has no place in our defense doctrine.”
            “If Western countries are ensured that our nuclear program seeks peaceful ends and if they abandon political adventurism, this is a propitious time to hammer out a deal.”
            “There are some strong solutions, and what prevented an agreement were political reservations by the P5+1 negotiators; we still hope to reach a solution with all these technicalities.”
            Nov. 9, 2014 according to the press
 
            “It is important for the West to understand that sanctions have never contributed to the resolution of this issue, sanctions are not a part of a solution, sanctions are the most important part of the problem, they're illegal in nature, they must be removed, they have not produced any positive result.
            “The only thing that sanctions have produced for the West are about 19,000 centrifuges.”
            Nov. 10, 2014, according to the press
 
            “The issue of sanctions and its margins will fail to overshadow the will of the Iranian nation to preserve their rights in using peaceful nuclear energy.”
            Nov. 11, 2014, in a meeting with Omani Deputy Prime Minister Fahd bin Mahmoud
 
Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Seyed Abbas Araqchi
 
            "All nuclear capabilities of Iran will be preserved and no facility will be shut down or even suspended, and no device or equipment will be dismantled."
            “We will not retreat one iota from the country’s nuclear rights, but we are fully ready for transparency and confidence-building.”
            “All sanctions should be lifted and the Islamic Republic of Iran will not accept even a single instance of sanctions to remain in place under a [final] comprehensive nuclear deal.”
            Oct. 25, 2014 according to the press
 
            “Neither of the negotiating parties is interested in extending [the deadline of] the talks. All sides are determined to achieve an agreement prior to the deadline. Therefore, extension is not on the agenda of any of the parties.”
            Oct. 26, 2014 according to the press
 
            “It is not clear if negotiations will reach a conclusion within the specified time frame” unless the other side gives up its “illogical excessive demands.”
            “Undoubtedly, trying to launch negotiations through media instead of [from behind] the negotiating table will not only make matters more difficult for progress in talks and reaching a comprehensive agreement, but it will also make it more difficult to continue on the current path particularly when it is accompanied by illogical excessive demands.”
            “We also believe that both sides have a real opportunity which may not be available again. We are sure that if the other side is genuine and committed to its claim to make sure Iran’s nuclear energy program is peaceful, then reaching this goal is not very difficult. ”
            “There will be no damage to the country’s research and development and, more importantly, industrial enrichment will continue with force and within the framework of the country’s needs. At the same time, all sanctions must be lifted and eliminated; and the Islamic Republic of Iran will not accept any sanctions within the framework of a comprehensive nuclear deal – not even one.”
            “The Islamic Republic of Iran has entered negotiations based on a fundamental premise against all weapons of mass destructions including nuclear weapons. This is based on the Fatwa of the Supreme Leader and (Iran) will continue with goodwill until a final conclusion is reached.”
            Oct. 27, 2014 according to Iran’s Nuclear Energy page
 
            "Iran's negotiations with the Group 5+1 (the US, Russia, China, Britain and France plus Germany) is progressing on a hard path with ups and downs and there is no bright perspective envisaged for its ending by the deadlines."
            Oct. 27, 2014 according to the press
 
“After hours of discussions, we are not still in a position to say whether we have made progress, nor are we in the position to say there has been a setback.”
            “Every subject being mooted, entails lateral issues and complications like the technical, legal and political issues.”
            “We will keep making our efforts and the positive point is that all sides are serious and the demand to reach the deal is serious for all parties.”
            Nov. 10, 2014, according to the press
 
            “Negotiations and discussions during the past two days were very useful. But we are not still in a position to say that we have made progress. It’s yet to be done in the coming days. We would be available as much as needed here in Oman or in any other places before the deadline of November 24. We are still hopeful.”
            A deal will require “lots of goodwill by all parties and of course readiness to make difficult decisions.”
            “It’s a fact that based on a possible comprehensive solution all the sanctions should be lifted. Iran would certainly continue its enrichment, but the question is the capacity of this enrichment which should be determined based on our practical needs and that would be something we are very hopeful to come to at the end of these negotiations.”
            Nov. 10, 2014 to Press TV
 
            “All parties are serious about the talks and we intend to hold as many meetings as needed by the deadline.”
            Nov. 12, 2014, according to Mehr News
 
Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani
 
            “Unfortunately, the West’s double-standard approach to disarmament has not helped [efforts to promote nuclear non-proliferation].”
            Oct. 29, 2014 In a meeting with Deputy UN Secretary General Jan Eliasson
 
            “As regards the nuclear issue, Iran believes in continued negotiations with the Group 5+1 (the US, Russia, China, Britain and France plus Germany) and cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) within the framework of the restoration of all its rights and respect for the existing laws.”
            Oct. 29, 2014 In a meeting with Deputy UN Secretary General Jan Eliasson
 
Chairman of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of Iran’s Majlis Alaeddin Boroujerdi
 
             “We believe that in order to reach a final agreement, sanctions should be removed once and for all.”
             “From the beginning of the interim deal, we believed that all sanctions should be lifted at once and completely, because the issue is among our basic tenets for reaching a final agreement.”
             “The psychological warfare operations and the media propaganda campaign is one of the plots used by the US and the Zionist regime of Israel to create a situation in which the Iranian team would have to negotiate from a position of weakness.”
             Nov. 5, 2014 according to Tasnim News
 
            “If this [final] agreement is not signed, it is as clear as day that the excessive demands of Americans have been the factor behind the failure of the negotiations.”
            Oct. 25, 2014 according to the press
 
Senior advisor to Ayatollah Khamenei, Ali Akbar Velayati
 
            “We are confident that in the end, even if Iran-P5+1 negotiations last for a long time, the Islamic Republic of Iran will be the winner.”
            “Iran's stance is that it plans to benefit from peaceful nuclear energy within the framework of international regulations and supervision.”
            Oct. 25, 2014 according to the press  
 
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian
 
            “Negotiations are moving in a difficult path with many ups and downs.”
            Oct. 27, 2014 according to NuclearEnergy.ir
 
Deputy Foreign Minister for European and American Affairs Majid Takht-e-Ravanchi
 
            “The Islamic Republic of Iran will not agree to the sanctions being removed one by one.”
            “The West must remove the sanctions against Iran all at once.”
            Oct. 28, 2014 according to the press
 
            “If the westerners are really after settling Iran's nuclear issue, they shouldn’t seek excuses and should try to cope with Iran's realities.”
            “We are not thinking about extending the negotiations as we are trying to reach the desirable results in the specified period of time (left to the deadline).”
            Oct. 28, 2014 according to the press
           
            "We definitely are at a critical stage. There is not very much time left before Nov. 24 and the issues remain more or less the same."
            "If we cannot come to a conclusion by Nov. 24, I am sure that those who are performing an objective analysis of the situation definitely will not blame Iran for the possible lack of progress, because Iran has shown its determination to finish the job."
            "Enrichment is one [of the main points of contention], of course, and the sanctions, but we also talk about [the] Arak [research reactor] and a number of other things about which we have to come to an agreement. In our judgment the Americans do not want to appreciate what's happening on the ground in Iran as far as the nuclear capabilities and capacities are concerned. We have about 20,000 centrifuges, almost half of which are producing nuclear material, the other half are only spinning. We can't just turn back the clock and say, "now we are in 2005" and are offering what we have offered then."
            "You have to keep the status quo! But we are ready to accept some limits to our activities for a specific period of time. And after that specific time we need to be treated like any other member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)."
            Nov. 10, 2014 in an interview with
Spiegel Online
 
Member of Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Avaz Heidarpour
 
            "The US is looking for troubling the talks, but Iran is committed to negotiations to resolve its nuclear standoff with the West."
            Oct. 27, 2014 according to the press
 
Member of the Presiding Board of Iran’s Majlis Hossein Sobhani-Nia
 
            “The Islamic Republic has never accepted the issue of suspension, but the removal of sanctions has been the key issue for us.”
            Oct. 25, 2014 according to the press
 
Russia
 
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
 
            “The foreign policy chiefs noted that talks on the settlement of the situation around Iran’s nuclear program have real chances to lead to concrete agreements, but additional efforts must be applied.”
            Oct. 24, 2014 according to The Iran Project
 
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov
 
            Talks are being held in a “tense atmosphere.”
             “In the current situation it will be very difficult to get a deal unless there is a new spirit. A possibility like we have at the moment [to get a deal] is very rare. This is a crucial moment and to let it pass would be a serious mistake with grave consequences.”
            Nov. 20, 2014 according to RIA Novosti via France 24
 
            “But there is no guarantee that these decisions will be taken in those capitals where there are the biggest problems with current solutions, I mean, Washington and Tehran.
            “Talks on Iran and Syria are not a tribute to fashion or momentary interests and even less so are an intention to 'please' the United States.
            “This cooperation meets our interest and helps to normalize the global situation, and we will keep on doing it. If it had been for other reasons, we would have folded this activity long ago.
            “Responsibility for the stagnation in our relationship is entirely on the U.S. side.
            “The relations with the United States are in a bad condition and it will take a very long time to normalize and stabilize them, but effort is needed on both sides.”

            Nov. 15, 2014 according to Reuters

            “We have no evidence that the necessary decisions have been taken in the major capitals.”
            “There was progress in Oman but it wasn’t enough to say that there was a decisive breakthrough.”
            “There are certain difficulties in the negotiations with defining the sequence of such steps.”
            “This is because of a different understanding among the parties of what is reversible and irreversible.”
            “We’re not working on any alternative plans, we’re not considering the option of extending the negotiations.”
            “We don’t want now, when everything should be focused on delivering the solution, to distract ourselves.”
            Weekend of Nov. 15-16, 2014 according to Bloomberg
 
            “The organizational meeting of international mediators in Vienna on November 7 has helped us to move forward in this direction.”
            “All participants [of the meeting] voiced additional proposals. We are determined to put it all together in such a way that key compromises could be reached before the deadline [on November 24].”
            Nov. 7, 2014 after a meeting with negotiators from the P5+1 countries
 
France
 
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius
 
             “I hope that we will be able to achieve an agreement but there are still key questions to resolve. I can't make any predictions at this time. I think it will only be on the day of the 24th that we'll be able to make an assessment.”
            Nov. 13, 2014 at a news conference with Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni

 

European Union


High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini

 

             Negotiations between the E3/EU+3 and Iran have now entered a decisive phase in Vienna. I hope that they will succeed in achieving a long-term and comprehensive diplomatic solution which will address international concerns as regards the Iranian nuclear issue and I thank Catherine Ashton for her dedication to this difficult negotiation.
            This is the time for Iran to take the strategic decision to open the way for a historic and final settlement of the nuclear issue which would also mark the beginning of a new chapter in relations between Iran and the international community.
             Nov. 20, 2014 in a statement
 

Rouhani’s US-Educated Cabinet

            Iran’s presidential cabinet has more members with PhDs from American universities than the U.S. cabinet itself, according to The Economist. President Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet starkly contrasts with that of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who preferred advisers with Iranian academic backgrounds. In the years following the 1979 revolution, Iran’s new political elite viewed Western educations with suspicion. But as of late 2013, Rouhani’s cabinet had more American PhD holders than the cabinets of France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and Spain combined, according to The Atlantic. President Hassan Rouhani himself earned his master’s and doctoral degrees from Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland.

            The following are profiles of the six members of Rouhani’s cabinet who hold advanced degrees from American universities.

Minister of Foreign Affairs: Mohammad Javad Zarif

      Born in 1960, Zarif was Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations from 2002 to 2007. He is widely regarded as one of Iran’s most savvy diplomats. Zarif served as deputy U.N. ambassador from 1989 to 1992 and then as deputy foreign minister for legal and international affairs until 2002.
      Zarif has been involved in both formal and informal talks with the United States. In 2001, he was Iran’s emissary to U.N. talks on the future of Afghanistan after the Taliban’s ouster. U.S. envoy James Dobbins credited Zarif with preventing the collapse of the conference due to last-minute demands by the Northern Alliance to control the new government. As an ambassador, Zarif attempted to improve relations with the West, including the United States.
            President Rouhani appointed Zarif Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2013. Since then he has taken steps to improve Iran’s ties with the international community, and acted as the chief negotiator in the 2014 nuclear talks between Iran and P5+1.
            Zarif speaks English with an American accent after receiving a B.A. and an M.A. from San Francisco State University, and an M.A. and PhD in international relations from the University of Denver. He completed his doctorate in 1988. Zarif joined University of Denver students, faculty and staff for a video conference on Iranian foreign policy in early 2014. He tweets in English at @JZarif.
 
Acting Minister of Science, Research and Technology: Mohammad-Ali Najafi
 
      Born in 1952, Najafi is a well-known reformist technocrat who has served in multiple Iranian administrations. He served as minister of education under President Hashemi Rafsanjani from 1989 to 1997, and as head of the Planning and Budget Organization under President Mohammad Khatami from 1997 to 2000.
      President Rouhani initially nominated Najafi as minister of education, but instead appointed him as head of the Cultural Heritage, Handcrafts and Tourism Organization after Najafi failed to win the parliament’s vote of confidence. Najafi resigned from his position in January of 2014 due to health issues, marking the first change in Rouhani’s cabinet. But in August 2014, he took on a new role as acting minister of science, research, and technology.
            Najafi attended Sharif University, and later pursued postgraduate studies in mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1974 to 1978.
 
Minister of Communication: Mahmoud Vaezi
 
      Born in 1952, Vaezi served in several high-ranking positions in the foreign ministry from 1986 to 1999, including deputy foreign minister for European and American affairs under President Rafsanjani and deputy foreign minister for economic affairs under President Khatami. During his time at the foreign ministry he played a role in mediating the Karabakh dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
      More recently, he held a senior position at the Center for Strategic Research, a leading Iranian think tank formerly headed by Rouhani affiliated with the Expediency Council. Vaezi was briefly considered for the position of foreign minister in Rouhani’s cabinet before being appointed as minister of communication.
            Vaezi received his B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering from Sacramento State University and San Jose State University. He began his PhD in international relations at Louisiana State University, but reportedly finished his degree at Warsaw University in Poland.
 
Minister of Industry: Mohammadreza Nematzadeh
 
      Born in 1945, Nematzadeh is an experienced technocrat. He served as minister of labor under President Mohammad-Ali Raja’i. He was later appointed as minister of industry under President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani from 1989 to 1997, and then as deputy oil minister for petrochemical affairs under President Mohamed Khatami from 1997 to 2005. Nematzadeh managed Rouhani’s 2013 presidential campaign before his appointment as minister of industry.
      Nematzadeh received his B.S. in environmental engineering from California State Polytechnic University in 1968 and later studied industrial management at the University of California Berkeley.
 
Head of Atomic Energy Organization: Ali Akbar Salehi
 
      Born in 1949, Salehi was appointed as Iran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy (IAEA) by President Khatami in 1997 and remained in that position until 2005. He signed an IAEA protocol in 2003 which allowed agency inspectors greater authority to verify the country’s nuclear program. Despite President Ahmadinejad’s criticism of the decision to sign this protocol, he appointed Salehi as foreign minister. Salehi served from January 2011 to August 2013. Under President Rouhani’s administration, he was appointed as head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.
            Salehi received a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the American University of Beirut in 1971 and a PhD in nuclear engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1977. He is fluent in English and Arabic in addition to his native Farsi.
 
Chief of Staff to the President: Mohammad Nahavandian
 
      Born in 1954, Nahavandian is an experienced technocrat. He received his PhD in economics from George Washington University and founded  the Islamic Research and Information Center, which reportedly partnered with more than 40 Islamic centers across the United States on culture and education. He became the deputy minister of commerce in 1993 and resigned in 2002 to serve as President Khatami’s economic advisor. Nahavandian was elected Deputy President of the Iran Chamber of Commerce in 2007, a position he held until Rouhani appointed him as his chief of staff.
            Nahavandian holds an M.A. in economics from Tehran University and a PhD in economics from the George Washington University. He obtained a green card while living in the United States, which generated controversy when he traveled to New York in 2005 for a science conference and reportedly delivered a message to then-U.N. Ambassador Zarif. Nahavandian was allowed to re-enter the U.S. despite his employment status with the Iranian government, which could have invalidated his green card.
 
 
Photo credits: Javad Zarif by Robin Wright, Mohammad-Ali Najafi by By Hamed Saber (Flickr: Dr. Ali Najafi) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons, Mahmoud Vaezi via Ministry of Information and Communications Technology,  Mohammadreza Nematzadeh via Ministry of Industry and Mines, Ali Akbar Salehi via Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Mohammad Nahavandian via Elza Fiúza/ABr (Direct) [CC-BY-3.0-br (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/br/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Oman Nuclear Talks Yield Few Results

            Officials from Iran and world’s six major powers did not report any significant progress after holding talks in Oman. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton for more than 10 hours on November 9 and 10. But Kerry and Zarif only offered reporters a few words about their meetings. When asked if they were making progress, Zarif replied, “We will eventually.” Kerry said, “We are working hard. We are working hard.”
 
            The State Department described the talks as “tough, direct and serious.” And Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araqchi, said the two sides had neither made progress nor suffered a setback during the first two days of talks. “But we are optimistic that we can reach an accord” before November 24, said Araqchi, according to the Iranian Students News Agency.
            On November 11, following the trilateral session, Iran’s deputy foreign ministers Araqchi and Majid Takht-e Ravanchi met with their counterparts from P5+1 to discuss remaining issues on the table, including the removal of sanctions and limiting Iran's uranium enrichment. Officials made few comments on these discussions, but German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier noted that "we have never been this close to an agreement...this point is either the point of victory or defeat."
            The final round of nuclear talks will begin on November 18 in Vienna. The following are comments from U.S. and Iranian officials on the recent round of diplomacy in Oman.
 
Iran
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
 
            “If the Western side can trust that our aim is peaceful and they don’t have political motives, now is a good time to set the framework of the agreement.”
            Nov. 8, 2014, according to the press
 
            “The Islamic Republic of Iran has always had a peaceful nuclear program and in line with the religious decree issued by the Leader banning use and stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction, WMD has no place in our defense doctrine.”
            “If Western countries are ensured that our nuclear program seeks peaceful ends and if they abandon political adventurism, this is a propitious time to hammer out a deal.”
            “There are some strong solutions, and what prevented an agreement were political reservations by the P5+1 negotiators; we still hope to reach a solution with all these technicalities.”
            Nov. 9, 2014 according to the press
 
            “It is important for the West to understand that sanctions have never contributed to the resolution of this issue, sanctions are not a part of a solution, sanctions are the most important part of the problem, they're illegal in nature, they must be removed, they have not produced any positive result.
            “The only thing that sanctions have produced for the West are about 19,000 centrifuges.”
            Nov. 10, 2014, according to the press
 
            “The issue of sanctions and its margins will fail to overshadow the will of the Iranian nation to preserve their rights in using peaceful nuclear energy.”
            Nov. 11, 2014, in a meeting with Omani Deputy Prime Minister Fahd bin Mahmoud
 
Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Abbas Araqchi
 
            “After hours of discussions, we are not still in a position to say whether we have made progress, nor are we in the position to say there has been a setback.”
            “Every subject being mooted, entails lateral issues and complications like the technical, legal and political issues.”
            “We will keep making our efforts and the positive point is that all sides are serious and the demand to reach the deal is serious for all parties.”
            Nov. 10, 2014, according to the press
 
            “Negotiations and discussions during the past two days were very useful. But we are not still in a position to say that we have made progress. It’s yet to be done in the coming days. We would be available as much as needed here in Oman or in any other places before the deadline of November 24. We are still hopeful.”
            A deal will require “lots of goodwill by all parties and of course readiness to make difficult decisions.”
            “It’s a fact that based on a possible comprehensive solution all the sanctions should be lifted. Iran would certainly continue its enrichment, but the question is the capacity of this enrichment which should be determined based on our practical needs and that would be something we are very hopeful to come to at the end of these negotiations.”
            Nov. 10, 2014 to Press TV
 
            “All parties are serious about the talks and we intend to hold as many meetings as needed by the deadline.”
            Nov. 12, 2014, according to Mehr News
 
Deputy Foreign Minister for European and American Affairs Majid Takht-e-Ravanchi
 
            "We definitely are at a critical stage. There is not very much time left before Nov. 24 and the issues remain more or less the same."
            "If we cannot come to a conclusion by Nov. 24, I am sure that those who are performing an objective analysis of the situation definitely will not blame Iran for the possible lack of progress, because Iran has shown its determination to finish the job."
            "Enrichment is one [of the main points of contention], of course, and the sanctions, but we also talk about [the] Arak [research reactor] and a number of other things about which we have to come to an agreement. In our judgment the Americans do not want to appreciate what's happening on the ground in Iran as far as the nuclear capabilities and capacities are concerned. We have about 20,000 centrifuges, almost half of which are producing nuclear material, the other half are only spinning. We can't just turn back the clock and say, "now we are in 2005" and are offering what we have offered then."
            "You have to keep the status quo! But we are ready to accept some limits to our activities for a specific period of time. And after that specific time we need to be treated like any other member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)."
            Nov. 10, 2014 in an interview with
Spiegel Online
 
United States
State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki
 
            “We’re still very focused on making progress and seeing if we can get a deal done before the deadline in all of our meetings. There’s still time to do so. This was an opportunity to have follow-on discussions with Secretary Kerry, EU High Representative Ashton, Foreign Minister Zarif. They had two lengthy meetings yesterday; two today as well. The discussions have been tough, direct, and serious. And as you know, the political directors will continue to stay in Oman for a yet-to-be-determined amount of time. They’ll be reconvening, of course, for the already-announced round of meetings that are next week in Europe.”
            Nov. 10, 2014 in a daily press briefing
 

 

Obama Renews State of Emergency with Iran

             On November 12, President Barack Obama renewed the 35-year-old National Emergency with Respect to Iran, which gives the president broad powers to unilaterally impose sanctions or other punitive measures and regulate trade. President Jimmy Carter declared the state of emergency, which must be extended every year, in 1979 as a response to the U.S. hostage crisis. The following is the notice on the renewal and the text of Obama’s letter to Congress.

 
CONTINUATION OF THE NATIONAL EMERGENCY WITH RESPECT TO IRAN
 
On November 14, 1979, by Executive Order 12170, the President declared a national emergency with respect to Iran and, pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701-1706), took related steps to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States constituted by the situation in Iran.  Because our relations with Iran have not yet returned to normal, and the process of implementing the agreements with Iran, dated January 19, 1981, is still under way, the national emergency declared on November 14, 1979, must continue in effect beyond November 14, 2014.  Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency with respect to Iran declared in Executive Order 12170.
 
This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.
 
BARACK OBAMA
 
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release November 12, 2014
 
TO THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES:
Section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), provides for the automatic termination of a national emergency unless, within 90 days prior to the anniversary date of its declaration, the President publishes in the Federal Register and transmits to the Congress a notice stating that the emergency is to continue in effect beyond the anniversary date. In accordance with this provision, I have sent to the Federal Register for publication the enclosed notice stating that the national emergency with respect to Iran that was declared in Executive Order 12170 of November 14, 1979, is to continue in effect beyond November 14, 2014.
 
Because our relations with Iran have not yet returned to normal, and the process of implementing the agreements with Iran, dated January 19, 1981, is still under way, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency declared in Executive Order 12170 with respect to Iran.
 
BARACK OBAMA

 

 

 

 

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