United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Four Journalists, Three Americans Detained

           Three American journalists, including The Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, have reportedly been detained in Tehran. Gholam-Hossein Esmaili, director general of the Tehran Province Justice Department, confirmed July 25 that “The Washington Post journalist has been detained for some questions and after technical investigations, the judiciary will provide details on the issue.” Rezaian is a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen. Rezaian’s Iranian wife, Yaganeh Salehi, a correspondent for the Emirates-based paper The National, was also reportedly detained along with an American freelance photojournalist and his wife, who not have been named by officials.

           On July 29, the State Department called for the release of Rezaian. “We call on the Iranian government to immediately release Mr. Rezaian and the other three individuals. We continue to monitor the situation closely,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

           Also on July 29, Iranian authorities released the photographer's wife. But no further information was released regarding the status of the three journalists. Rezaian's mother released the following video clip calling for the release of her son and daughter-in-law.

            Salehi's family was allowed to visit the couple on September 7, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. An informed source said that Salehi and Rezaian had lost a “shocking” amount of weight and that they were “very worried about their state of limbo in prison.”         
             Thirty-five other journalists of Iranian origin are also detained or imprisoned in Iran, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
            The latest move follows an earlier wave of arrests of Iranian Americans under former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In 2007, Iranian American scholar Haleh Esfandiari was accused of taking part in anti-government activities. During a family visit to Iran, authorities placed her under virtual house arrest for four months and then held her in solitary confinement for another four months. In 2009, Iranian American journalist Roxanna Saberi was detained for five months, allegedly due to expired press credentials. At least two Iranian-Americans remain in custody in Iran from the Ahmadinejad years. One American, who is not of Iranian origin, is also missing, according to the Congressional Research Service.  
• Former FBI agent Robert Levinson, remains missing after a visit in 2005 to Kish Island to meet an Iranian source. Iran denies knowing his status or location. In December 2011, Levinson’s family released a one-year old taped statement by him. In January 2013, his family released recent photos of him, and they acknowledged in late 2013 that his visit to Kish Island was partly related to his contract work for the CIA.
• A former U.S. Marine, Amir Hekmati, was arrested in 2011 and remains in jail in Iran allegedly for spying for the United States. His family has been permitted to visit him there.
• On Dec. 20, 2012, a U.S. Christian convert of Iranian origin, Rev. Saeed Abedini, was imprisoned for “undermining national security” for setting up orphanages in Iran in partnership with Iranian Christians. His closed trial was held Jan. 22, 2013, and he was convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison.
            The latest U.N. Human Rights Council report, released in March, noted that at least 895 prisoners of conscience and political prisoners were imprisoned in Iran. The number included 379 political activists, 292 religious practitioners, 92 human rights defenders (including 50 ethnic rights activists), 71 civic activists, 37 journalists and netizens, and 24 student activists.
            Since May, authorities have targeted several journalists for charges such as “propaganda against the state” and “disrupting public order through participation in gatherings.” The following are examples of recent arrests outlined by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
• On July 7, cultural reporter Marzieh Rasouli tweeted that she will report to Evin Prison today to begin serving a two-year prison sentence on charges of "propaganda against the regime" and "disrupting public order through participation in gatherings," according to news reports. She was originally arrested in January 2012.
• On June 28, 2014, Iranian journalist and CPJ International Press Freedom Awardee Mashallah Shamsolvaezin wrote on his Facebook page that he had been charged with "propaganda against the state" related to his interviews with media and speeches he gave at two regional and international journalism conferences. He said he was released on bail of 2 billion riyals (approximately US$80,000).
• On June 21, 2014, Reihaneh Tabatabei, a journalist who worked for Shargh and Bahar, was summoned to Evin Prison to begin serving a six-month prison sentence for prior charges related to "publishing news about the Green Movement," according to reports.
• On June 20, 2014, critical blogger Mehdi Khazali was arrested while on a trip to the north of Iran, according to news reports. Reports said the arrest could be in connection with a critical blog post Khazali wrote that accused Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani of corruption and embezzlement. Kani is the head of the Assembly of Experts, the clerical body charged with electing the Supreme Leader. It is not clear if Khazali has been charged.
• On June 19, 2014, the Kerman province prosecutor announced that 11 staff members of Pat Shargh Govashir, a company that owns the popular Iranian technology news website Narenji and its sister sites, Nardebaan and Negahbaan, had been sentenced to between one and 11 years in prison on charges of receiving training from and producing content for the BBC, according to news reports.
• On June 7, 2014, Iranian documentary filmmaker Mahnaz Mohammadi reported to Evin Prison to begin serving a five-year prison sentence, according to news reports. The government charged Mohammadi with propaganda and collusion against the state, claiming she was cooperating with the BBC, but she denied ever working with the channel, the reports said.
• On May 28, 2014, Saba Azarpeik, a reformist journalist with the weekly Tejarat-e Farda and daily Etemad, was arrested at the Tejarat-e Farda offices, according to news reports. Azarpeik, who was arrested previously in 2013, has often written critically of conservative officials and human rights abuses in the country, the reports said.
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Senators Seek Congressional Review of Any Nuclear Deal with Iran

            On July 23, five Republican Senators announced the following plan to require President Obama to seek Congressional approval of any nuclear deal with Iran. The following is a press release posted by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

           With a four-month extension of Iran nuclear talks announced by the Obama administration last week, U.S. Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and James Risch (R-Idaho) introduced legislation today requiring congressional review of any final agreement with Iran. The bill also would prevent further extensions of the negotiations, strictly enforce Iran’s compliance, and prevent implementation of a final agreement if a veto-proof majority of Congress disapproves of the deal.
             “I strongly support vigorous diplomatic efforts to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, but it must be clear that there will be no more extensions,” said Corker, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Congress must weigh in on any final deal, ensure Iranian compliance is strictly enforced, and provide a backstop to prevent a bad deal from occurring. While this bill does not include new sanctions on Iran, it allows Congress to seek further sanctions if an acceptable final deal can’t be reached.”
             “Stopping Iran’s nuclear ambitions through the P5+1 is the most important foreign policy decision in generations,” said Graham. “The Iranians are pursuing a nuclear weapon, not peaceful nuclear power. The last thing the world needs is an agreement with Iran that allows them to maintain their nuclear breakout capability. This agreement should be sent to the Congress for review and Congress should have the ability to vote it down. Congress played a fundamental role in enacting sanctions against Iran and should have a say whether this agreement is strong enough to lift sanctions. President Obama felt he needed congressional approval to move forward in Syria and Congress should insist on being involved in any nuclear deal with Iran.”
             “I am more convinced than ever that these negotiations are unlikely to result in an agreement with Iran that prevents it from developing a nuclear weapon,” said Rubio. “By unilaterally making major concessions to the Iranians, the administration is laying the groundwork for a very bad deal. It is essential that Congress have the opportunity to fully examine, debate and vote on any deal concluded with Iran. This issue is too important for U.S. national security for Congress’ views to continue to be ignored.”
             “We should seek every opportunity to try to stop Iran's nuclear weapons programs through diplomacy, but diplomacy cannot be an open-ended process that allows Iran to
play for time while advancing its program and weakening sanctions,” said McCain. “It must be clear that there will be consequences if Iran fails to reach an agreement or violates its obligations.”
             “This important piece of legislation ensures Congress the opportunity to disapprove any nuclear agreement with Iran that does not contain airtight inspection and verification mechanisms,” said Risch. “Additionally, if Iran at any time violates the terms of its nuclear agreements, this legislation rightly obligates the Obama administration to re-impose all previous sanctions and start over. Given Iran’s history and bad faith on this issue, this legislation is absolutely necessary.”
The Iran Nuclear Negotiations Act of 2014 contains the following key provisions:
Congressional Review: The president must submit any comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran to Congress within three days of concluding such an agreement. After a 15-day review period, Congress has another 15 days to introduce a joint resolution of disapproval, which would have expedited consideration in both the House and Senate. If the president fails to submit any final agreement to Congress or a joint resolution of disapproval is enacted into law, any sanctions that had been temporarily lifted would be re-imposed.
Making Sure Iran Doesn’t Cheat: Within 10 days of the intelligence community receiving evidence that Iran has failed to comply with the terms of an agreement or cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Director of National Intelligence must determine whether the information is credible and accurate and notify Congress. A determination that Iran has cheated would re-impose all sanctions that had been temporarily lifted.
No More Extensions: If the president does not submit a comprehensive final agreement to Congress, all sanctions relieved under the interim agreement would be immediately restored on November 28, 2014, four days after the end of the extension period. This allows the president to negotiate while ensuring the Iranians do not use the negotiations as a delaying tactic or a cover for advancing their program.

Report: Guiding Principles for Nuclear Talks

          Senior officials from the world’s six major powers have outlined five key principles that must underpin a deal, according to a new Institute for Science and International Security report. They include: 1) sufficient response time in case of violations; 2) a nuclear program meeting Iran’s practical needs; 3) adequate irreversibility of constraints; 4) stable provisions; and 5) adequate verification, according to David Albright, Olli Heinonen and Andrea Stricker. “Without following these principles, the negotiations cannot deliver an agreement which can ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is indeed peaceful and that a deal will be long lasting,” wrote the experts. The following are excerpts from the report with a link to the full text.

Adequate Response Time
           One of the Six’s key principles is that an agreement must provide sufficient time to mount an effective response to major violations by Iran. There are two parts to this principle—one involves intrusive IAEA inspections able to promptly detect non-compliance (and address it by effective verification) and the other recognizes that even the most intrusive inspections are alone inadequate to provide enough response time in the case of Iran. The latter, adequate response time, requires significant limitations on Iran’s nuclear programs and translates into a need to limit Iran’s pathways to making nuclear weapons.
           An effective metric of adequate limits on Iran’s main overt pathway to nuclear weapons, its centrifuge program, is breakout time, which measures the length of time Iran would need to produce enough weapon-grade uranium for a single nuclear weapon. The United States and its allies seek restrictions such that a breakout by Iran using its known centrifuge plants would take at least one year, although they may settle for at least six months if additional assurances can be obtained.
Practical Needs
           Limiting Iran’s centrifuge program to less than 4,000 IR-1 centrifuges is consistent with Iran’s actual needs for enriched uranium for many years. This number of centrifuges would provide Iran with sufficient enriched uranium for its existing research reactor programs and account for modest growth in them. Thus, Iran would not suffer any serious consequences in its nuclear program by limiting the numbers of centrifuges to these levels.
           Another critical principle for the Six is irreversibility. Here the concept of irreversibility is understood as accepting that perfect irreversibility is not possible but in practice recognizes that the restoration of the previous, unconstrained situation should take a long time—on order of years and not months. In the case of Iran, a long term agreement would have little lasting value if Iran can reverse the constraints in a matter of days or months. The case of North Korea contains many examples where nuclear constraints were quickly undone and Pyongyang resumed its march to nuclear weapons. This case also contains important examples of North Korea being unable to establish previous levels of plutonium production when an agreement ended. North Korea shut down its large gas-graphite reactors, ending their ability to make large amounts of weapon-grade plutonium, as a result of the 1994 US/DPRK Agreed Framework. When this agreement ended suddenly in 2002, North Korea was able to reestablish a relatively small plutonium production capability.
           Although not articulated explicitly by the Six’s officials, stability as a guiding principle requires provisions that do not lead to persistent accusations of violations or require huge numbers of actions to achieve compliance. Such provisions can undermine the credibility of an agreement and call into question its enforceability.
           An example involves lowering the amount of enriched uranium Iran has access to while increasing the number of allowed centrifuges to 10,000 or more IR-1 centrifuges, in an effort to increase breakout times. These two steps taken together are not a zero-sum provision; they would create an unstable, highly reversible situation.
Effective Verification
           Effective verification is another core principle, and Iran has refused to make concessions in this area as well. The IAEA must provide prompt warning of violations, determine the correctness and completeness of Iran’s declarations, establish the total number of centrifuges produced by Iran and the size of its uranium stocks, and establish confidence in the absence of undeclared nuclear activities or facilities, including providing assurances on the absence of nuclear weapons related activities in Iran. Iran argues that ratifying the Additional Protocol is enough but while such a step is welcome, it is not sufficient. The long term agreement must also establish a range of other verification provisions, which collectively are often known as Additional Protocol Plus. According to one senior official, Iran has resisted the conditions necessary to create the “Plus.”
Click here for the full report.

The World According to Khamenei

     Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei now claims that the escalating crises in Gaza and Iraq are the fault of the West and Israel. The United States and its allies are trying to undermine Iran and the progress of Muslim nations, according to his revolutionary narrative. The following are graphics and remarks recently posted on Khamenei’s quasi-official Twitter and Facebook accounts.



On Iraq



On Gaza


US & Iran on Nuclear Talks Extension

      On July 18, the world’s six major powers and Iran agreed to a four-month extension of nuclear talks after nearly three weeks of intensive discussion. Secretary of State John Kerry (left) said that the two sides have “a draft text that covers the main issues,” but that there are gaps in some areas. The two sides have until November 24, exactly one year since they reached an interim agreement, to make a deal. “To turn our back prematurely on diplomatic efforts when significant progress has been made would deny ourselves the ability to achieve our objectives peacefully, and to maintain the international unity that we have built,” said Kerry.

            Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that although the two sides “have made tangible progress on some of the issues… there are still significant gaps on some core issues which will require more time and effort.”
           The extension continues all of the commitments laid down in the interim agreement. But in addition, Iran has agreed to speed up its conversion of 20 percent uranium oxide into nuclear fuel and to dilute its up to two percent stockpile. Tehran has also confirmed that it will only produce advanced centrifuges to replace damaged machines under the interim agreement. The following are excerpted remarks from U.S. and Iranian officials.


Joint Press Statement by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and  Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif 
July 19, 2014
       “We, together with the Political Directors of the E3+3 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States), have worked intensively towards a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, building on the political momentum created by the  adoption and smooth implementation by both sides of the Joint Plan of Action agreed on 24 November 2013. We are grateful to the Austrian government and the United Nations for their tremendous support in hosting these negotiations in Vienna.
            “We have held numerous meetings in different formats, and in a constructive atmosphere, to reach a mutually agreed long-term comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran's nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful. 
            “During the past few weeks, we have further intensified our efforts, including through  the active involvement of E3+3 Foreign Ministers or their Vice Ministers, who came to Vienna on 13 July 2014 to take stock of progress in the talks. While we have made tangible progress on some of the issues and have worked together on a text for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, there are still significant gaps on some core issues which will require more time and effort. 
            “We, together with the Foreign Ministers of the E3+3, have therefore decided to extend the implementation of measures of the Joint Plan of Action until 24 November 2014, in 
line with the timeframe that we envisaged in the Joint Plan of Action. Iran and the  E3/EU+3 reaffirm that they will continue to implement all their commitments described in the Joint Plan of Action in an efficient and timely manner. 
            “We will reconvene in the coming weeks in different formats with the clear determination to reach agreement on a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action at the earliest possible moment.”
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi
            “A total of $2.8 billion will be paid to Iran in six installments in the next four months.”
            July 19, 2014
Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Alaeddin Boroujerdi
           “The message [conveyed] to the public opinion from the extension of the Vienna talks is that the sides have the will to reach a comprehensive and final agreement. We decided to achieve an agreement for the sake of defending our nation's nuclear rights.
            “But this definitely does not mean that we would change our positions in the next four months.”
          July 20, 2014, according to the press 


United States


Summary of Understandings Related to the Implementation and Extension of the Joint Plan of Action
On January 20, 2014, Iran for the first time in nearly a decade took specific and verifiable actions that halted progress on its nuclear program and rolled it back in key respects, stopped the advance of the program, and introduced increased transparency into Iran’s nuclear activities.
The Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) Has Successfully Halted Progress on Iran’s Nuclear Program
To date, it is our assessment and that of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Iran has carried out the very significant commitments it made, and has taken steps to address the international community’s greatest concerns.  Iran has:  
  • Halted production of near-20 percent enriched uranium and disabled the configuration of the centrifuge cascades Iran had been using to produce it.
  • Completed the dilution of half of its near-20 percent enriched uranium stockpile that was in hexafluoride form, and the conversion of the rest to an oxide form not suitable for further enrichment.
  • Capped its stockpile of 5 percent enriched uranium. 
  • Has not enriched uranium in roughly half of installed centrifuges at Natanz, including all next generation centrifuges, and three-quarters of installed centrifuges at Fordow.
  • Limited its centrifuge production to those needed to replace damaged machines, so Iran was not able to use the six-month JPOA period to stockpile centrifuges.
  • Did not construct additional enrichment facilities.
  • Did not go beyond its enrichment R&D practices that were in place at the start of the JPOA.
  • Did not commission or fuel the Arak reactor.
  • Halted the production and additional testing of fuel for the Arak reactor.
  • Did not install any additional reactor components at Arak.
  • Did not transfer fuel or heavy water to the Arak reactor site.
  • Did not build a reconversion line, which is necessary to turn its stockpile of 20 percent uranium oxide back into a form suitable for further enrichment.
  • Did not construct a facility capable of reprocessing. Without reprocessing, Iran cannot separate plutonium from spent fuel.
Transparency and Monitoring Under the Joint Plan of Action
Iran committed in the Joint Plan of Action to provide increased transparency into its nuclear program, including through more frequent and intrusive inspections as well as expanded provision of information to the IAEA.
Under the Joint Plan of Action, Iran’s enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow are now subject to daily IAEA inspector access.  Over the past six months, the IAEA and Iran updated certain monitoring procedures, which have permitted IAEA inspectors to review surveillance information on a daily basis to shorten detection time for any Iranian non-compliance.  In addition, these facilities remain subject to a variety of other physical inspections, including scheduled and unannounced inspections. 
Under the Joint Plan of Action, the Arak reactor and associated facilities have been subject to at least monthly IAEA inspections – an increase from the pre-JPOA inspection schedule permitting IAEA access approximately once every three months or longer. 
Under the Joint Plan of Action, Iran also provided:
  • Long-sought design information on the Arak reactor; 
  • Information to verify that centrifuge production will be dedicated to the replacement of damaged machines; and
  • Managed access at centrifuge assembly workshops, centrifuge rotor production workshops and storage facilities, and uranium mines and mills.
These enhanced monitoring measures enabled the IAEA to provide monthly updates on the status of Iran’s implementation of its commitments and have enabled the international community to have more confidence that it would more quickly detect breakout or the diversion of materials to a secret program.
The Impact of the Joint Plan of Action on Iran’s Economy
Meanwhile, Iran still faces significant economic challenges and the limited relief provided under the Joint Plan of Action did not come close to “fixing” the Iranian economy.  
  • Iran’s economy is now around 25 percent smaller than it would have been had it remained on its pre-2011 growth path.
  • The vast majority of Iran’s approximately $100 billion in foreign exchange holdings remain inaccessible to Iran or restricted by sanctions.
  • Iran has lost an estimated $120 billion in oil revenues since the beginning of 2012, and is able to use only a small fraction of the revenue it earns.  It will lose $15 billion more to oil sanctions during this four-month extension.
  • Iran’s economy contracted nearly 7 percent in the last Persian year and contracted a further 3.4 percent through December 2013.  
  • Iran’s average annual inflation hovered over 30 percent last year, one of the highest rates in the world. 
  • Iran's currency, the rial, has declined by approximately 7 percent since November 24, 2013, when the Joint Plan of Action was reached by the P5+1 and Iran.
  • Most of Iran’s banks remain cut off from the international financial system.
Details of the Extension of the Joint Plan of Action
The Joint Plan of Action has given us the time and space to work to negotiate a comprehensive solution that will assure the world that Iran will not obtain a nuclear weapon and that its program is exclusively peaceful.  
Over the last six months, we have made meaningful progress on some key issues, although we remain far apart on others. Today, we have a draft text that covers the main issues and identifies the key areas of disagreement, and we’ve discussed in great detail all of the elements that will have to be included in any comprehensive solution. As a result, we decided – along with the EU, our other P5+1 partners, and Iran – to extend the Joint Plan of Action until November 24, exactly one year since we finalized the first step understanding in Geneva. This will give us additional time to work to conclude a comprehensive solution, which we believe is warranted by the progress we’ve made and the path forward we can envision.  Under this extension, Iran and the P5+1 and the EU will continue to uphold their commitments in the Joint Plan of Action. Iran’s nuclear program will remain frozen and rolled back in key areas, including by continuing to cap the amount of 5 percent enriched uranium hexafluoride and convert any material over that amount to oxide.  Increased access for international monitors will continue.
Iran will also take further nuclear-related steps in the next four months that are consistent with its commitments under the Joint Plan of Action.  Under the Joint Plan of Action, Iran diluted half of its 20 percent enriched uranium hexafluoride and converted the rest to oxide. Under this extension, Iran has committed to go one step further and make all of this 20 percent oxide into fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor. Twenty-five kilograms of this material will be fabricated into fuel by the end of the extension. Turning this material from oxide to fuel means it would be even more difficult and time consuming for Iran to turn it into fissile material in a breakout scenario, and attempting to do so would be even more readily detected by the IAEA and would be an unambiguous sign of an intent to produce a weapon.
Iran has also committed to convert all of its very low enriched uranium – enriched up to 2 percent and estimated to be at least three metric tons – into natural uranium, further reducing its utility in a breakout scenario.
In return, we will continue to suspend the sanctions we committed to suspend under the Joint Plan of Action and will allow Iran access to $2.8 billion dollars of its restricted assets, the four-month prorated amount of the original Joint Plan of Action commitment.
Our goal in pursuing this brief extension was to capitalize on the progress we’ve already made, while giving us the best chance of success to reach a comprehensive solution at the end of this process. 
A Historic Opportunity to Peacefully Achieve Our Objective
We have the unique opportunity to peacefully achieve our objective of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.  That would be good for the security of the United States, our regional allies and partners, and the entire world.  These negotiations represent our best chance at a lasting diplomatic solution that addresses our concerns.  We knew that reaching a comprehensive solution would be difficult, and though progress has been made, these efforts may not ultimately succeed. 
Our goal remains clear: to negotiate a comprehensive deal that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  Over the next four months – building on the progress we’ve already made – we will determine whether there is a solution that gives us sufficient confidence that the Iranian program is exclusively peaceful.  
Special Briefing by Senior Administration Officials
July 18, 2014
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: First of all, as we’ve indicated, we are very pleased with the successful implementation of the Joint Plan of Action over the course of the last six months. Iran has met all of its commitments with respect to its nuclear program: neutralizing the 20 percent stockpile; capping their 5 percent stockpile; not installing new components or testing new components at the Arak facility; not installing new advanced centrifuges; and enabling much more robust inspections of their nuclear facilities. So we believe the Joint Plan of Action has been a success in halting the progress of the Iranian program and rolling it back in exchange for a relatively modest relief that has been provided over the six months.
Of course, the purpose of the Joint Plan of Action was also to create space for the negotiation of a comprehensive solution, and that’s what we’ve been pursuing these last six months. There have been difficult negotiations. Frankly, as we entered this latest round at the beginning of July, had we not made progress it was not by any means a forgone conclusion that we would pursue an extension, because our view was the Joint Plan of Action is not a new status quo, but rather a means of getting us the space to reach an agreement. So we wanted to see if there could be sufficient progress in these latest negotiations to, again, in our minds justify a continued dedication of time and effort. And that was very much the President’s direction to the team as they headed out to Vienna at the beginning of the month.
We did see good progress in a range of areas over the last several weeks, even as there continue to be gaps, particularly as we discuss various proposals for issues related to the Arak facility, related to the future of the Fordow facility, related to Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium, and then related to the type of monitoring and inspections regime that would accompany part of a long-term agreement, issues that get at fundamental pathways to a nuclear weapon that we want to deal with in the course of a comprehensive agreement.
So that doesn’t mean we’ve resolved all of those issues completely, but it does mean that we saw openings and progress and creative proposals that began to see a potential assurance that elements of the Iranian program could be assured as peaceful to our satisfaction.
At the same time, there continue to be important gaps, however, between the parties. We, for instance, have highlighted the issue of domestic enrichment and the number of centrifuges that Iran would be operating as a part of the agreement as one very important remaining gap that has to be worked through.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: We made some progress… on the low enrichment, on the stockpile of low-enriched uranium, on enhanced monitoring and verification mechanisms, on some other key issues, R&D, PMD, and of course, enrichment capacity. We still have a considerable way to go, but even in those areas, ideas have been put on the table that have enough stature that they’re worth considering.
So what we are doing now is, having seen that we weren’t going to get to that comprehensive agreement – and this is a very complex technical negotiation with – really, it will end up being quite a long set of annexes that detail the political commitments – we began to discuss whether an extension made sense. Secretary Kerry came here and, as [Senior Administration Official One] said, assessed what was going on, took back his thoughts and ideas to the President, met with the President, gave us instructions here on behalf of the President to see if we could not move forward on an extension.
This extension of the Joint Plan of Action continues all of the commitments that are on the Joint Plan of Action and is meant to be simply an extension of that plan a year from when it was first executed to November 24th, 2014. But in addition, Iran has agreed that it will move forward in a more expeditious manner to complete the fabrication of all 20 percent oxide in Iran into fuel in a timely manner, and will indeed during this four-month period fabricate 25 kilograms of its 20 percent oxide into fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor. In addition, Iran will dilute all of its up to two percent stockpile. That is at least three metric tons. And although it doesn’t hold much SWU, separate work units – that’s the measure of energy, so to speak – at the moment, in a breakout scenario it’s quite significant and quite important. So we think this is a big step forward.
In addition, Iran has taken some undertakings to clarify two critical issues in the Joint Plan of Action. One is confirming that rotors for advanced centrifuges at the Natanz pilot plant will only be produced at facilities to which the IAEA has monthly access, and they have confirmed that production of advanced centrifuges will only be to replace damaged machines. For those of you who follow all of this, you know that these are meaningful steps forward, in fact, on the road to the kinds of things we need to do in a comprehensive plan of action.
What we were really trying to do with this extension, and what is quite critical is to create the space to try to see if we cannot achieve a Comprehensive Joint Plan of Action. It wasn’t for an end in itself, but rather to create the time and space in the same manner that the Joint Plan of Action did to see if we can, in fact, get to that Comprehensive Joint Plan of Action to ensure that Iran will not obtain a nuclear weapon and that its program is exclusively peaceful.
I think everyone here feels that we achieved a balanced way forward for these four months. And now, quite frankly, the excruciating and quite difficult hard work begins. And we will do this in a whole variety of ways, in a whole variety of formats. There is no question that the UN General Assembly will become a focal point or a fulcrum for these negotiations. And as you’ve heard the President and the Secretary say many times, no deal is better than a bad deal. But I would also add that what we are aiming for is the right deal, one that will meet the objectives that the President has set out and that he has shown leadership to the world to create a much more secure path for all of us.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: We will continue the suspension of the sanctions on automotive imports into Iran, petrochemical exports, and trade in gold. I will note that during the Joint Plan of Action period – the first six months – Iran derived very little value from those sanctions’ suspension. We estimated the total value of the relief in the Joint Plan of Action would be in the neighborhood of $6 to 7 billion, and I think it has actually come in less than that. Critically, the overwhelming majority of our sanctions, including the key oil, banking, and financial sanctions, all remain in place. And we will continue to vigorously enforce those sanctions throughout the extension period.
And as part of the JPOA extension, Iran will be allowed access in tranches over the next four months to $2.8 billion from its restricted overseas assets. Those assets, which are unavailable to Iran, largely unavailable to Iran, are more than $100 billion. Those assets have actually increased over the course of the Joint Plan of Action as the oil revenues that Iran has been earning have been poured into these restricted accounts. So they will get access to $2.8 billion from these restricted accounts, which is the pro-rated amount of the relief that was provided in the JPOA period, which had been $4.2 billion.
Now, throughout this short-term extension of the JPOA in the next four months, we will continue to emphasize to businesses around the world that Iran is not open for business. That has not changed. As President Obama indicated, we’ll continue to come down like a ton of bricks on those who evade or otherwise facilitate the circumvention of our sanctions. And we’ll make clear to the world, as we have all along, that Iran continues to be cut off from the international financial system, with its most significant banks subject to sanction, including its central bank; that any foreign bank that transacts with any designated Iranian bank can lose its access to the U.S. financial system; that investment and support to Iran’s oil and petrochemical sectors is still subject to sanctions; that Iran’s currency, the rial, is still subject to sanctions, as is Iran’s ability to obtain the U.S. dollar; and that all U.S., EU, and UN designations of illicit actors, which number more than 600 at this place – at this point, all remain in place; and that the broad restrictions on U.S. trade with Iran also remain in place.
QUESTION: Could you please address the question of whether the extension is going to be a hard sell for President Obama and his team with Congress, and also with Israel?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Look, candidly, before the Joint Plan of Action was reached, I think there were public disagreements with Israel. Some of that flowed from the fact that elements of the Joint Plan of Action, or elements that were in support of the Joint Plan of Action, were discussed in a sensitive bilateral channel, so there was not a full transparency at every juncture with Israel and some of our partners. We endeavored, over the course of the last six months, to be much more transparent and to consult on a very regular basis with Israel and our other partners.
I think it’s also fair to say that the Joint Plan of Action has over-performed in many respects. Iran has kept its commitments. The additional transparency and monitoring has gone forward, and the sanctions regime has held in place. And one of the concerns that was voiced by some in November and December is that the limited relief that we were providing would essentially snowball into many tens of billions of dollars in relief. That hasn’t taken place because of our continued enforcement of the sanctions regime. So, in other words, I think the Joint Plan of Action has over-performed in a way that provides a greater degree of comfort, although not complete comfort.
Now with respect to the extension itself, we have been consulting with Congress very actively the last couple of weeks, so we have briefed regularly members in both the House and the Senate. There’s obviously a diversity of views in Congress about the negotiations and about what should be involved in a comprehensive resolution, even as I do think there’s an appreciation for some of the good progress that was made in the implementation of the Joint Plan of Action. I think what we are able to say to Congress today is there are very specific areas where we have made concrete progress. When we talk about how we are going to approach the future of the Arak facility and some of the proposals that have been made there; the future of the Fordow facility, which has been of particular concern because of the covert way in which it was developed and how deep underground it is; when you talk about the management of the stockpile and some of the transparency and monitoring proposals, you begin to see elements that would be contained in a comprehensive agreement that could assure an Iranian program that’s peaceful, that cut off key pathways to a weapon, be it a pathway through the Iraq reactor or the Fordow reactor. And yes, while there are gaps, and while there are gaps on particularly important issues like centrifuges and domestic enrichment inside of Iran, that there is significant progress that this is a serious negotiation, that we’re not just in talks for talks’ sake, we’re not just re-upping this for the sake of re-upping it; that we can show the ball has moved down the field. And we believe, with some more time, there is a prospect – not a guarantee, but a very real prospect – of potentially coming to an agreement that can assure us that the Iranian program is peaceful.
And then secondly, I think what we will be able to say to Congress is that not only will we maintain the progress that is embedded in the JPOA for the same prorated rate of modest relief that we’ve provided in the first six months, but there are additional steps that Iran is taking over the course of the four months that do have value in terms of converting that oxide from the 20 percent stockpile into fuel, in terms of dealing with that stockpile of up to 2 percent, and in terms of some of the additional R&D issues that my colleague spoke to, so that there is added value in what is being done over the course of the next four months as it relates to our proliferation concerns. All of that adds up to, we believe, a very strong and clear case for four more months to pursue a comprehensive resolution and to maintain the progress in the JPOA, and to add the additional elements that Iran has agreed to, all for very modest relief.
QUESTION: When do you think you’ll be back to – are your teams now leaving – are the teams now leaving Vienna today or over the weekend, and when will you resume the talks heading into this next extension of four months?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: What we believe very strongly is that everyone needs to take the time to go back to capitals and think about what’s gone on here, think about the way ahead, do some of the intellectual work that is necessary, do some of the technical work that is necessary to follow up on the myriad of ideas that have been put on the table here. There is quite a book of ideas, concepts, possible solutions. And, quite frankly, when you’re here in the middle of a negotiations is not the best time to do the technical work, to think through whether they are solutions or not. So everybody needs to take some time to do that kind of work in a reflective way.
We expect that there will be in some format some discussions yet during the month of August, whether that’s with Baroness Ashton and Foreign Minister Zarif, whether that’s among political directors, whether that’s a preliminary discussion either bilaterally, trilaterally, or in the P5+1 with Iran that’s not clear. As I said, the UN General Assembly will be a fulcrum both ahead of it, during it, and after it, because we have a lot of players there and an easy way to really get some business done.
So that’s on the sort of how we’re going to resume and where we’re going to go. I expect it to be extremely intensive, as it always is.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: During the course of the JPOA the first – the six months of the JPOA, Iran sold oil worth about $25 billion. The vast majority of that revenue has gone into restricted accounts. Some of it has been released as part of the agreement in the JPOA, and some of it can be used for bilateral trade or for humanitarian trade, but we think that the amounts that are building up in these accounts is – I can’t give you a precise figure on it, but the amounts are continuing to build up beyond the $100 billion that they had at the beginning of the JPOA period.
QUESTION: Could someone just run us very quickly through again what we’ve agreed on the 2 percent and on the R&D?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Iran has confirmed that production of advanced centrifuges will only be to replace damaged machines. So that means you’re not producing advanced centrifuges to use on their own, but rather simply to replace (inaudible). And that’s an important step forward on R&D.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: PMD and R&D. These are very – two very difficult subjects. And PMD, obviously the IAEA takes the lead. We have been very conscious – everyone here has had meetings with the director general and with his team at the IAEA. We want to make sure whatever we do not only in the Joint Plan of Action but in a Comprehensive Joint Plan of Action reinforces the independence and role of the IAEA which verifies all the nuclear-related commitments in the JPOA and would in the JCPA as well.
That said, we have discussed a way forward on PMD, how we can help leverage these negotiations to get the kind of cooperation necessary to meet what the IAEA has set out. As you know, the IAEA will also monitor all the transparency and verification mechanisms, and most importantly, among others, the Additional Protocol, which I believe Iran is ready to agree to in a Comprehensive Plan of Action, and ultimately to be able to assess that there are no undeclared facilities in Iran, which would be quite crucial.
On R&D also a very tough topic because Iran does not want to stop their scientists from thinking, learning, and one can’t take away the capability they have. They know how to do the nuclear fuel cycle. One can’t remove that from the country. So we want to make sure that R&D is for exclusively peaceful purposes, but it’s going to be one of the very contentious subjects in a Comprehensive Joint Plan of Action.
QUESTION: We’ve heard discussion of something that might extend for closer to 20 years that involve a larger number of centrifuges. Can you just update us on where that – where you sort of left that at the end of this session?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFFICIAL TWO: We also believe very strongly that there needs to be a long duration to this agreement so that the international community has confidence that the program is exclusively peaceful. We have said that has to be double digits, but we’re not going to get into a number on this call. We’re still in these negotiations.
QUESTION: There’s those in Congress who want to move ahead with a delayed sanctions bill that would basically kick in if the negotiations failed. For the first official, if Congress sends that bill to the President, will he veto it? And also, are there any plans for the President to speak again with President Rouhani?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: It continues to be our belief that there should not be any new sanctions legislation passed during the duration of these negotiations. So our position on that issue has not changed. We have four months with this extension. We are continuing to see benefits from the JPOA. We are continuing to pursue an agreement that we are closer to today than we were six months ago. So we would continue to oppose new sanctions legislation during the life of the negotiations.
Were the United States to impose additional sanctions unilaterally during the course of the negotiations, we would be concerned that that could put at risk the P5+1 unity that is essential to reaching a good agreement, and could also provoke responses from the Iranians that would not be constructive in reaching a comprehensive resolution.
All of that said, we understand the desire for those in Congress to hold Iran’s feet to the fire. We believe that Congress helped get us where we are today because the sanctions helped create the conditions that brought Iran to the negotiating table. We believe that Iran needs to be aware that there is the leverage of additional sanctions because Congress is ready to act at the drop of a hat. And if we are not in agreement in four months, and if we are not able to point to progress that justifies continued discussions, we would support additional sanctions at that type of juncture.
QUESTION: I had a question about the ballistic missile program of Iran. I wondered if there’s been any progress made in dealing with that, because so far the Iranians have been quite adamant about not wanting to discuss it, though we have heard that all issues raised in Security Council resolutions must be dealt with during the process.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Long-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons are referred to in the Security Council resolutions, and so we will have to address it in some way. How we will resolve that issue, how appropriate it will be, I think remains to be seen. I don’t think the aim is to go after the military’s conventional program, though obviously we are all concerned about Iran’s activities in Syria, in Gaza, in Iraq, in other parts of the world that can be destabilizing. But what we are focused here on in this agreement are nuclear warheads that can find a delivery mechanism that endangers the safety and security of the world.
Secretary of State John Kerry
July 18, 2014 statement
As President Obama and our entire administration has made clear, we are committed to testing whether we can address one of the world’s most pressing priorities – ensuring that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon – through the diplomatic negotiations in which we and our international partners are currently engaged.
This effort remains as intense as it is important, and we have come a long way in a short period of time. Less than a year ago, President Obama and Iranian President Rouhani spoke for the first time to try to usher in a new diplomatic moment, and I held the first bilateral meeting between a Secretary of State and an Iranian Foreign Minister in more than three decades.
Since that time, we’ve been intensely engaged in a constant and comprehensive effort – the best chance we’ve ever had to resolve this issue peacefully. This effort has been made possible by the Joint Plan of Action, which stopped the progress of Iran’s nuclear program – and rolled parts of it back – for the first time in a decade.
The JPOA was a six-month understanding that went into effect on January 20, and it has been a clear success. Since its implementation, Iran has complied with its obligations to neutralize its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium; cap its stockpile of 5 percent enriched uranium; not install advanced centrifuges; not install or test new components at its Arak reactor; and submit to far more frequent inspections of its facilities. The International Atomic Energy Agency has regularly verified that Iran has lived up to these commitments. Meanwhile, we and our P5+1 and EU partners have provided limited sanctions relief, as agreed to in the Joint Plan of Action, while vigorously enforcing the broader sanctions regime that remains in place.
As I said on Monday in Vienna, it is clear to me that we have made tangible progress in our comprehensive negotiations, but there are very real gaps in some areas. Today, we have a draft text that covers the main issues, but there are still a number of brackets and blank spaces in that text.
In terms of progress, we have been working together to find a long-term solution that would effectively close off the plutonium path to a bomb through the reactor at Arak. We have been working on a different purpose for Fordow that would ensure it cannot be used to build a nuclear weapon. We have been working to guarantee Iran’s stockpile of low enriched uranium can’t be turned into higher enriched uranium suitable for a bomb. And we have agreed that any long-term, comprehensive solution will involve enhanced monitoring and verification measures that go well beyond the status quo – measures that are absolutely critical in creating the confidence we need that Iran will not be able to build a weapon in secret. There are other areas where we’ve made progress; these are just some of the most important. Of course, on all these issues there is still work to do and differences to resolve, but we have made real progress.
Still, there are very real gaps on issues such as enrichment capacity at the Natanz enrichment facility. This issue is an absolutely critical component of any potential comprehensive agreement. We have much more work to do in this area, and in others as well.
Diplomacy takes time, and persistence is needed to determine whether we can achieve our objectives peacefully. To turn our back prematurely on diplomatic efforts when significant progress has been made would deny ourselves the ability to achieve our objectives peacefully, and to maintain the international unity that we have built. While we’ve made clear that no deal is better than a bad deal, the very real prospect of reaching a good agreement that achieves our objectives necessitates that we seek more time.
As a result, we have decided – along with the EU, our P5+1 partners, and Iran – to extend the Joint Plan of Action until November 24, exactly one year since we finalized the first step agreement in Geneva. This will give us a short amount of additional time to continue working to conclude a comprehensive agreement, which we believe is warranted by the progress we’ve made and the path forward we can envision.
Under this short extension, all parties have committed to upholding their obligations in the Joint Plan of Action. For the next four months, we will continue to halt the progress of Iran’s nuclear program in key areas. In addition, Iran has committed to take further nuclear-related steps in the next four months that are consistent with the types of steps that they committed to in the JPOA. These include a continued cap on the amount of 5 percent enriched uranium hexafluoride and a commitment to convert any material over that amount into oxide.
In the JPOA, Iran diluted half of its 20 percent enriched uranium hexafluoride and converted the rest to oxide. In this extension, Iran has committed to go one step further and make all of this 20 percent into fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor. Twenty-five kilograms of this material will be converted into fuel by the end of the extension. Once the 20 percent material is in fuel form, it will be very difficult for Iran to use this material for a weapon in a breakout scenario. Attempting to do so would be readily detected by the IAEA and would be an unambiguous sign of an intent to produce a weapon.
In return, we will continue to suspend the sanctions we agreed to under the JPOA and will allow Iran access to $2.8 billion dollars of its restricted assets, the four-month prorated amount of the original JPOA commitment. Let me be clear: Iran will not get any more money during these four months than it did during the last six months, and the vast majority of its frozen oil revenues will remain inaccessible. And, just as we have over the last six months, we will continue to vigorously enforce the sanctions that remain in place.
Ultimately, our goal in pursuing this brief extension is to capitalize on the progress we’ve already made, while giving us the best chance of success at the end of this process. Critically, Iran’s nuclear program will remain halted during the next four months. This is in our interest, and in the interest of our allies. And as we pursue this path, we will continue to consult with those allies and with the Congress about this critical issue.
We do so mindful not just of where we hope to arrive, but of how far we have come. One year ago, few would have predicted that Iran would have kept all its commitments under a first step nuclear agreement, and that we would be actively negotiating a long-term comprehensive agreement. Now we have four additional months to determine the next miles of this difficult diplomatic journey. Let’s all commit to seize this moment, and to use the additional time to make the fundamental choices necessary to conclude a comprehensive agreement that makes the entire world a safer place.     
The White House – Office of the Press Secretary
July 18, 2014
Statement by the Press Secretary on the Extension of Iran Nuclear Talks
Over the past year, the United States – in coordination with the European Union and our P5+1 partners – has undertaken an unprecedented diplomatic effort with the Islamic Republic of Iran to achieve a comprehensive solution to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. We reached an initial milestone in November when all of the parties agreed to the Joint Plan of Action, under which Iran committed to halt the progress of its nuclear program, roll it back in key respects, and allow for unprecedented access for international inspectors in exchange for a modest amount of sanctions relief. 
As verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran has met its commitments under that initial accord – ceasing its enrichment of uranium to higher levels; taking steps to neutralize its more dangerous stockpile of nuclear material; refraining from installing more centrifuges, including its more advanced models; halting advances at its Arak reactor; and submitting to broader and far more frequent inspections of its facilities. Meanwhile, the relief provided by the P5+1 and EU has been limited, and the overwhelming majority of our sanctions remain in force.
By preventing Iran from making progress toward a nuclear weapon, by making its nuclear program more transparent, and by keeping the pressure on Iran, the Joint Plan of Action achieved its broader purpose – providing time and space to work toward a long-term solution that would ensure that Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful. Over the past six months, our diplomats have engaged in intensive negotiations with Iran to reach that goal.   
Our negotiators have made progress in some areas and, while real gaps remain, there is a credible prospect for a comprehensive deal. Because of this – and because Iran has upheld its commitments under the initial accord – we agreed today to extend the Joint Plan of Action to November 24. This extension will allow us to continue the negotiations while ensuring that the progress of Iran’s nuclear program remains halted during the negotiations. The issues before us are complex, and we have more work to do to resolve them. Our goal is clear – to reach a comprehensive deal that addresses the various pathways Iran could take to obtain a nuclear weapon, by imposing strict limits on Iran’s enrichment capacity and facilities, eliminating our proliferation concerns with its Arak reactor, and establishing additional verification measures that will help us detect any covert activities or attempts to breakout as quickly as possible.
Throughout this process, we have consulted regularly with Congress, whose efforts have been critical in supporting this diplomatic opportunity. We have also engaged closely with our regional partners and allies – particularly Israel and our Gulf partners – given our shared interest in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and the United States’ enduring commitment to regional security. Lastly, we have vigorously enforced the sanctions regime that remains in place, and will continue to do so throughout the duration of this extension.
Going forward, we have an opportunity to achieve a lasting, diplomatic solution that will resolve one of the most pressing national security issues of our time. We will not accept anything less than a comprehensive resolution that meets our objectives, which is why it is necessary for negotiations to continue. By moving forward, we will be able to preserve international unity, continue to halt the progress of Iran’s nuclear program, and pursue a comprehensive resolution that is coming into shape.
July 20 interview with Fox News
           They’re reducing their enrichment, and the fact is that this is the first time in 10 years, under this current deal, that Iran’s nuclear program is being rolled back.  And I know you and others don’t ever want to give the Obama Administration credit for almost anything, but the fact is this is the first administration to get a rollback in those 10 years, and right now Israel and countries in the region and the world are safer because Iran’s 20 percent enriched uranium is now being reduced to zero, and under this agreement to continue the negotiations for four months, Iran will further reduce the capacity of that enriched uranium to be used by turning it into fuel for the research reactor, which makes it almost impossible to be used in a weapon.  In addition, we have inspectors in their facilities every single day.  In addition to that, they have not been able to move forward on the Arak plutonium heavy water reactor.
           Everybody said at the beginning of this the sanctions won’t work, the sanctions regime won’t hold, Iran won’t do what it’s supposed to, and they’re dead wrong.  Everything that Iran was supposed to do they have done with respect to this, and we believe – and the sanctions have held, and we believe that it is smart to continue the negotiation as Israel even and others said don’t rush to an agreement; a bad deal is worse than no deal.  And we agree, and so we’re trying to move, but we are making some progress, Chris, and we’re not going to turn our back on that progress.  We’re going to try to continue for the next four months, and I think what we’re doing by holding their nuclear program at a lower level, we’ve expanded the breakout time, the world is safer, and this is a smart deal.

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