United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Tough Nuke Talks: No Progress in Vienna

            On May 16, the fourth round of nuclear talks between Iran and the world’s six major powers ended without any tangible progress. But negotiators from both sides emphasized that another round of talks will take place in June and that they still aim to draft a final agreement by the July 20 deadline. “In any negotiation there are good days and bad days, and there are ups and downs,” said a senior U.S. official. “Discussions are moving forward in a spirit of goodwill, but they are moving very slowly and with difficulty,” said Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi. The following are excerpts from a State Department briefing and a press conference with Araqchi.

Senior U.S. Administration Official on Nuclear Talks
 
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Unlike the previous rounds, we are now in the drafting and negotiating phase, which is very different than the previous rounds.  And this is really an ongoing process and will be an ongoing process.  There are no longer discrete rounds with opening and closing sessions, discrete set agendas.  All the issues are on the table and we are negotiating on all of them. 
 
As we’ve said, it’s not really appropriate to assess where the negotiations are at each moment, but suffice to say again all the issues are on the table and are being discussed in an integrated and an interdependent way. 
 
The discussions this week have been useful, but they’ve also been at times difficult, which we knew they would be.  We’ve said this repeatedly throughout this process, that this would be difficult.  We are just at the beginning of the drafting process, and we have a significant way to go.  There are significant gaps.  These are complicated issues.  As we’ve said, if this were easy to solve, it would have been done a long time ago. 
 
This has, candidly, been a very slow and difficult process, and we are concerned with the short amount of time that is left.  But let me be very clear:  We believe we can still get it done.  It’s important to remember that we’re at the beginning, and the parties are all at the table talking in a serious way.  But we do not know yet, as we’ve always said, if we will be able at the end of this to conclude a comprehensive agreement.
 
In any negotiation there are good days and bad days, and there are ups and downs.  This has been a moment of great difficulty, but one that was not entirely unexpected.  If you remember, we had moments like this one when we were negotiating the Joint Plan of Action as well.  Many of you wrote in those moments that you didn’t know if we would be able to get this done, and you saw how that turned out.  So again, not entirely unexpected; we knew this would happen.
 
We’re focused now on how the process proceeds with the next step and how the discussions go from here.  We will be back in June talking at the political director level.  I’ll let the EU announce the dates for that.  And our experts will continue talking, as they do all the time every day about these issues.
 
Everyone is serious here.  We know that.  But we believe there needs to be some additional realism at this point.  As I said, significant gaps remain.  We need to see more progress being  made.  Time is not unlimited here, and we’re still tracking towards the July 20th date to see if we can get this done.
 
As we’ve said repeatedly and I will remind folks many times over the coming months, what we’re looking for in a comprehensive agreement is a package, not a checklist.  We’re focused on how all of the elements fit together to ensure Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon and that its program is for entirely peaceful purposes. 
 
And as we have always been clear, we will take the time to do this right.  We will not rush into a bad deal.  As the President and the Secretary and many other people have said, no deal is better than a bad deal.  We know this will take time.  We are committed to working to see if we can get it done.
 
QUESTION:  Are the two sides any closer on the end goals?  Is there agreement that Iran should have only what it needs for a peaceful program (inaudible) agreement that the idea of extending breakout time is a proper protocol?
 
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Well, in terms of goals, I would start by pointing you back to the Joint Plan of Action, which began to outline what the goals were for a comprehensive plan of action and what that would look like.  We have been very clear throughout this process of what our goal is, what the P5+1’s goal is, and that hasn’t changed in any way – again, that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon and that their program is entirely for peaceful purposes.  Some of the details of what that might look like are in the JPOA if you go back and read it, so I don’t think I’d go much further than that.  Again, that’s what we’re focused on doing, that’s what we’re at the table talking about how to do.
 
QUESTION:  (Inaudible) process (inaudible) it seems like (inaudible) to say (inaudible) know what all the issues are (inaudible), let’s just throw (inaudible)?
 
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  On the first question – look, we’re not going to go through the nitty-gritty of how logistically we’re working through the issues.  As you know, many of them are related in some ways.  None of them operate in a vacuum, which is why we talk about this package.  But the process through which we work through them, both at the experts level and the political director level, we’re just not going to get into that level of detail to preserve the nature of the negotiations.
 
I would remind people that what was really different about this round from the previous rounds, process-wise, right, is that in the first round we set the agenda and the framework for how the six months was going to go.  In the second and third rounds, we put all of the issues on the table, we spent time laying out all of the issues and getting them out on the table.  Now we’re talking about ways to actually bridge those gaps.  So it shouldn’t be surprising to people that’s a more difficult conversation than putting the issue itself just on the table, right?  So I think when you’re getting your head around why maybe this was more difficult now, why it was different, I think that’s probably a part of it.
  
QUESTION:  The meetings seemed to start a day later than anticipated (inaudible) seems like something (inaudible) fair to say (inaudible) don’t have much time left.  You guys are the only ones who feel a sense of urgency.  How did you explain that to (inaudible)?
 
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I obviously refer to the EU, who sets up the schedule for this, but it’s my understanding that it was just a scheduling issue.  But you’re right that we’re not going to resolve all of the differences in four days in Vienna.  That’s unrealistic, and we’re certainly not operating under that assumption.  That’s why in between the sessions when we meet, we have continual expert discussions on the phone, over email, some in person – you know experts were in New York last week for talks – and also at the political director level.  So it’s not like we just come to Vienna and then go back home and don’t work on it in between rounds.  
I also think you’ll see increasing in-person meetings probably at a high level coming over the next few months as well as we move forward in the process.
 
QUESTION:  (Inaudible) said in the past that (inaudible) Iran to make (inaudible).  Are you more or less optimistic now that you'll be able to do that? 
 
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It’s not about being optimistic or not optimistic; it’s about being realistic.  We’ve always said that.  The President said it’s 50-50.  I don’t think I’m probably going to disagree with him on this or anything else.  But we do know that there are tough decisions that have to be made.  We all need to be realistic about the issues at hand and how we can be assured we – not just the United States, but the international community - can be assured that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon and that its program is entirely peaceful. So that’s part of why this is so hard.  But we’re going to keep working at it.
 
QUESTION:  The differences between the P5+1 meeting with Iran on things like centrifuges, (inaudible) issues like missiles, and we know that there are nuances within the P5+1 that – without talking about specific issues in general, is there a sense on your end that the Iranians have not shown or demonstrated a willingness to approach it in a holistic way, the way you guys are emphasizing must be made?
 
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  you mentioned P5+1 unity.  We have remained unified as these talks have progressed.  We’ve said that for months now and that hasn’t changed.  Second, it’s just a fact that the issues are linked, right.  None of them operates in a vacuum.  It’s not like you can go down a checklist and say, “Okay, once we’ve dealt with this, we can deal with this,” because in so many ways, they’re linked.  So it’s just a fact that they’re related.
 
And we, as I said, are talking about these things in an interdependent way, in an interlinked way.  And as we made very clear in the JPOA, which everyone signed up to, all of our concerns have to be met in order to get to a comprehensive agreement, and that’s certainly what we’re working towards.
 
QUESTION:  The joint commission outlined in the JPOA, it set up to facilitate a condition (inaudible) issues of concern.  There’s an epistemological (inaudible) IAEA.
 
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Well, let me correct one thing you’ve said.  The joint commission as set up in the JPOA was intended to address issues if they arose during implementation.  I don’t think it was specifically intended to address past and present issues.
 
QUESTION:  Well, it says the joint commission will work with the IAEA to facilitate resolution of past and present issues of concern.
 
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: .  We’ll work with them, but it’s my understanding – and correct me if I’m wrong, experts – that it was set up as part of the JPOA to address concerns if they arose during implementation.
 
QUESTION:  if it’s no comment, that’s fine, but there’s a bottleneck above past issues of concern that the IAEA is, of course, independent, and yet the IAEA is very conscious of requesting member input into the resolution issues.  The U.S., as the most influential, most powerful member of the agency, is in a position to weigh in on the secretariat to gauge the authenticity of Iran’s explanations.  So is there a plan?  Was the joint commission discussed?  What’s the (inaudible) of the joint commission’s (inaudible) to resolve these issues?
 
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  On the general question of past and present concerns in the IAEA, I mean, we said, every time we’re asked about this, that they have the lead role to play on these issues, and that they – that Iran needs to work with them.  Obviously, we work very closely with the IAEA, but we really need to see progress through that mechanism on some of these issues, which is really the best place to address them even as part of these discussions.
 
 
QUESTION:  But just as a follow-up, the IAEA then refers back to its membership.  So you’re facing a circular argument potentially that without some sort of outside intervention by the joint commission or membership the IAEA (inaudible).
 
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I will check with some of the experts on this.  I think you’re focused on the joint commission in a little way that’s not entirely correct in terms of the role it should be playing on this.  And I don’t think it’s circular just because we’re a member of the IAEA.  The IAEA is a body that is tasked with dealing with these issues and has been working with Iran on this for some time, even though we’re a member of it.  So they have a mandate separate and apart from what we’re doing here, but obviously related to it.  So if there’s more on the joint commission to share, I’m happy to get back to you on that.
 
QUESTION:  Araghchi, the Iranian negotiator, said that they – it hasn’t actually started the drafting process. 
 
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Well, I’m not going to get into sort of details about what’s on paper and what’s not.  As I said, we’ve started the negotiating drafting process, which is a process that will take some time.  But I’m not going to get into details about what that looks like inside the room.
 
QUESTION:  Mr. Araghchi was talking to the Iranian (inaudible) and he said if we cannot come up with an agreement by July 20th, that’s okay.  We know it’s not a catastrophe.  We still have six months.  I mean, does that suggest that the sense of urgency might not be there?
 
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Well, the sense of urgency is certainly here among us.  I think it’s there in the room as well.  And as I said, we’re tracking towards July 20th.  That is the date we’re focused on right now. 
 
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Well, I’ll say a few things.  I have no – I’m not even going to pretend to get into the head of the Iranian negotiators.  I don’t think you want me to.  But I will say a few things.  Look, we have been clear that past and present concerns have to be addressed.  I am not going to outline what that will look like, entertain hypotheticals about what that might look like in terms of what the public discourse is at that time.
 
But I’ll say a few things about Congress, quite frankly, and you’ve heard others say this as well:  We believe if we can get a comprehensive agreement that ensures Iran cannot get a nuclear weapon, that its program is entirely peaceful, that addresses the issues we laid out very clearly in the JPOA, that we will be able – that Congress will be supportive of it.  I’m not saying there won’t be tough conversations.  You all know the political system as well as I do.
 
But we know that this is the best chance we’ve ever had to resolve this diplomatically.  We have an obligation to test this moment, and if we can get to a comprehensive agreement that we are satisfied with, we will not make a bad deal.  We have been clear about that.  We will not rush into one; we will take the time to get a good one, and that if we do, we will be able to work with the United States Congress on that at that time.
 
QUESTION: With the long bilateral this morning, was this basically people are saying that you need to move more quickly, you need to make more progress?
 
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Look, it was a long meeting.  We had a three-hour bilateral with the Iranian delegation this morning here at the Coburg.  And it won’t surprise you I’m not going to outline the details of what we talked about in that meeting.  It was a straightforward conversation.  Those conversations will continue.  But we say the same things privately that we say publicly, that we’re saying right now – that this process needs to move.  It needs to move faster.  We need to see progress.  Those are messages we’re certainly very clear about in all forms.
 
QUESTION:  So I noticed that you don’t use a lot of the words that [other senior US administration officials] usually use, like “productive,” “useful,” all those kinds of things.
 
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Well, I think I was clear in the opening remarks that this is a difficult moment.  I think we use the words we find most appropriate.  But again, they’re reasons we all knew this moment would come.  Why we – we saw them when we did the JPOA.  This was not unexpected.  There is a path forward here for the negotiations, period.  But I appreciate the wordsmithing,  the work, the attention to the words.
 
QUESTION:  Can we go back to the issue of missiles?  Do you know the Iranians even said that they don’t want this to be part of the discussions.  It’s been an ongoing decision, but the Russians also came out and said that, again, that they don’t believe it should be part – it should be on the agenda, at least (inaudible) interview (inaudible) Russia Today, and their (inaudible) training with Iran is a well-known fact.  How difficult is that going to be for you going forward?  I mean, getting Russia and U.S. to agree on --
 
QUESTION:  I understand this is much, much (inaudible), but even though (inaudible) after that (inaudible) has the U.S. (inaudible) who, as I understand, hasn’t happened outside (inaudible) this year. 
 
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I think this is just a different negotiation.  It’s a much harder one.  It’s a comprehensive agreement that we’re trying to get.  The first step was a tough one to get, as you know.  But this – we’ve always said this would be harder.  We did not expect to get it done in the same amount of time that it took to do the Joint Plan of Action.  So I don’t think we’re surprised by it.  We’re focused on the meetings we’re having here with all of the work our experts are doing to really dig into the issues, and that’s what we’ll keep working on.
 
 
 
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi
 
            “The nuclear talks ended an hour ago, and the negotiations were very serious.
            “It's a good atmosphere and discussions are moving forward in a spirit of goodwill, but they are moving very slowly and with difficulty.
            “Our discussions were more or less free from tension, and everyone favors attainment of a final agreement.
            “The generalities, the framework and principles have already been agreed in the Geneva deal. Thus, we intended to start drafting the deal, but we couldn't due to some major differences.
            “Drafting the deal will be impossible until we reach a single view about all issues.
            “The trend of the talks is good and constructive, but has not led to any specific result yet. The talks continue and have not failed.
            “Differences exist; were there no difference, there wouldn't be any need to negotiation. Our duty is resolving these differences, bringing views closer and working out a single text. There was no specific progress in the first session, and this is not unnatural; we hope to make up for that in other sessions.
            “We stand firm on our rights. We will have 6 more months if we fail to work out a deal by July 20.
            “Our defense equipment can no way go under discussion in the negotiations.
            “There is no push to obtain an agreement by July 20 at any price.
            “We [will only] concede to an agreement which will be in line with our interests, meet our demands and establish the Iranian nation's rights.
            “Yet, there is still a chance for striking a deal by July 20 only if our demands are met and our people's nuclear rights are observed.
            “If we come to conclude such an agreement by July 20, it will be good, but if we won't, that would not mean a catastrophe and that wouldn't be the end of the world, we will have 6 more months to negotiate.
            “We hope that the talks continue in a logical, rational and realistic manner and yield result within the deadline.
            “All parties, including the Russian side, want the talks to remain unaffected by any other issue, including the Ukrainian issue.
 

Rouhani Under Fire

Garrett Nada

      President Hassan Rouhani faces growing pressure from hardliners for trying to improve Iran’s pariah status and, even tepidly, open up Iranian society. In recent weeks, politicians and media critics have lambasted Rouhani in the run-up to the latest nuclear talks between Iran and the world’s six major powers, which began on May 13. “We fundamentally disapprove of this administration” which is made up of “radical reformists,” lawmaker Ruhollah Hosseinian told Arya News on April 23.

             The president countered with a tough defense of his foreign and domestic policies in a television address on April 29. Rouhani dismissed his critics and said that his government had created an atmosphere in which citizens could actually criticize policies – “even though sometimes [they] make a mountain out of a molehill.”
 
            Hardliners fear that nuclear talks could enhance Rouhani’s leverage on human rights and social issues. The president, who will mark the first anniversary of his election in mid-June, is under fire especially on four fronts.
 
Nuclear Talks
 
      Hardliners have accused the Rouhani administration’s negotiators of caving to Western demands. In the run-up to the mid-May negotiations between Iran and the six major world powers, Rouhani’s critics held a conference entitled “We’re Worried.” The event — advertised as “the great gathering of critics of a weak deal”— was held at the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran on May 3-4. Speakers vowed to retain Iran’s “nuclear rights” and warned the government of President Hassan Rouhani against giving too many concessions. They claimed that Iran’s negotiating team may sacrifice national interests to secure a final deal.
 
            More than 100 lawmakers, students, academics and activists attended the event, which was reportedly organized by Basij paramilitary. Officials of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration attended. Participants carried placards which vowed "Nuclear energy is our absolute right" and "Economic reform does not mean political capitulation."
The conference communique included several demands:
 
•Clear recognition of Iran’s right to enrich uranium
•Continued development of peaceful nuclear activities
•Refusal of additional measures requested by the United Nations beyond the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty
•Imminent removal of financial and banking sanctions
•Release of Iran’s frozen properties
•Transparency on the negotiations and timelines
•Advance approval by parliament and the Supreme National Security Council of any deal with the U.N. nuclear watchdog
 
            The hardliners followed up the conference with a rally after Friday prayers on May 9. Demonstrators calling themselves the “Committee for the Preservation of Iran’s interests” reportedly chanted slogans including “Nuclear development is our absolute right!” and “No Compromise! No surrender! Battle with America!” The group issued a statement accusing the nuclear negotiators of acting with “haste” and lacking expertise.
 
Internet Censorship
            Rouhani campaigned for better access to information and less government oversight. After his June 2013 election, Rouhani warned, “In the age of digital revolution, one cannot live or govern in a quarantine.” But hardliners have sabotaged efforts by his administration to ease web censorship.
 
      In one example, the Committee for Determining Criminal Web Content, part of the judiciary, moved to block WhatsApp, a popular and inexpensive mobile application. Committee secretary Abdolsamad Khorramabadi said the acquisition of WhatsApp by Mark Zuckerberg, whom he described as “the American Zionist manager of the blocked site Facebook,” was one reason for the ban.
 
            Rouhani reversed the decision. “Until the time that we have a replacement for these sites, the government opposes filtering them,” Telecommunications Minister Mahmoud Vaezi told the press.
 
            But Rouhani has failed to unblock Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Last year, Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Ali Jannati said that social media should be “accessible for everyone” and called for filtering to be reduced. In January, he told Al Jazeera that the judiciary was holding back the new government’s attempts to open up society. He has since been publicly chastised. Prosecutor General Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehi told the press that Jannati “is not at the level to define the judiciary’s responsibilities.”
             
Women’s Dress Code
            Although he is a cleric, Rouhani has criticized police enforcement of Iran’s strict Islamic dress code, which requires women to cover their head and shoulders. “If there is a need for a warning on the hijab issue, the police should be the last to give it,” he told police academy graduates in October. “Our virtuous women should feel safe and relaxed in the presence of the police,” he added.
 
            But hardliners have fought against relaxation of dress code enforcement. On May 7, some 4,000 men and women reportedly took to Tehran’s streets to protest “bad veiling.” “Preserving public chastity, observing Islamic hijab and moral security are strategic matters which shall not be forgotten under the pretext of economic sanctions or government change,” the demonstrators warned in a statement. The group dispersed after Tehran’s police chief talked with the group, which did not have an official permit to gather. 
 
Cultural Issues
 
      Shortly after his election, Rouhani said, “A strong government does not mean a government that interferes and intervenes in all affairs.” But Khamenei and other conservatives have warned Rouhani’s government against loosening cultural controls. “Entrusting cultural issues to the people does not negate the regulatory role and guidance of the administration,” Khamenei said at High Council of Cultural Revolution meeting in December. In March, Khamenei said the Rouhani administration should pay attention to cultural issues and advised officials to not be “reckless.”
 
            Even the Revolutionary Guards have weighed in. In April, General Mohammad Ali Jafari said that cultural threats are “the most important threats presently facing the Islamic Revolution” and that the revolution’s “fundamental essence” is “opposing the dominant [Western] system.”
 
            On May 9, two influential hardliners warned Rouhani’s government against expanding freedoms. Tehran’s Friday prayer leader Ayatollah Movahedi Kermani told Rouhani’s culture and science ministers in a sermon to avoid “returning to the Reformist period in the fields of culture and morality.”
 
            Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, one of Rouhani’s harshest critics and the leader of the ultraconservative Endurance Front, warned against following the teachings of the West. He had earlier blamed “those who were educated in the United Kingdom, United States and France” for the cultural division in Iran. The comment appeared to be an indirect potshot at Rouhani and his cabinet, which includes several ministers who earned university degrees in the West—including the U.S.-educated head nuclear negotiator and foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. Rouhani earned a law degree from Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland.
 

Photo credit: Rouhani via President.ir, Tehran bazaar photo by Robin Wright, Khamenei.ir via Facebook

Garrett Nada is the assistant editor of The Iran Primer at USIP

 

Hagel in Saudi Arabia and Israel on Iran

      Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel spoke extensively  about Iran at two stops of his Middle East tour. On May 14, Hagel assured Arab Gulf states that a nuclear deal with Iran would not harm their security. “We will continue to hold Iran accountable for its destabilizing activities across the region,” he said at the U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Defense Dialogue in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Hagel continued to Jordan and then to Israel. He pledged to preserve Jerusalem’s qualitative military edge so that it could counter challenges like Tehran’s ballistic missiles. Both Israel and the Gulf states are concerned about Iran’s latent nuclear capabilities and its potential reemergence as a regional player. The following are excerpted remarks from Hagel’s trip.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel
            “By strengthening the GCC, you will ensure that your collective defense is more than the sum of its parts. You will strengthen your ability to prevent and deter aggression. You will strengthen, not weaken, each of your nations’ sovereignty. And you will expand your common interests – not just in defense, but in a more stable, peaceful, and prosperous future.
            “This approach is how the region must continue to address the threats posed by Iran.
            “As we meet here today, diplomats from the United States and other P5+1 nations are in Vienna. They are in Vienna to see if our concerns with Iran’s nuclear program can be resolved diplomatically.     
            “We got to Vienna thanks to our collective efforts to isolate Iran diplomatically and economically, and to deter it militarily. And as negotiations progress, I want to assure you of two things.
            “First, these negotiations will under no circumstances trade away regional security for concessions on Iran’s nuclear program. Our commitment to Gulf security and stability is unwavering.
            “Second, while our strong preference is for a diplomatic solution, the United States will remain postured and prepared to ensure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon – and that Iran abides by the terms of any potential agreement.
            “No matter the outcome of the nuclear negotiations, the United States remains committed to our Gulf partners’ security. We will continue to consult closely with you as these negotiations progress – as I am here today. We will continue to hold Iran accountable for its destabilizing activities across the region. And we will continue working closely with all of our friends and partners in the Gulf to reinforce their defenses against these destabilizing activities. My proposals today – focused on air and missile defense, maritime security, and cyber security – should make America’s commitment clear.”   
            May 14, 2014 in remarks to the U.S.-GCC Defense Dialogue in Jeddah
 
            “We reaffirmed our commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon – and ensuring that its program is exclusively peaceful. While we noted that Iran’s diplomatic engagement has been a positive development, we continue to share deep concerns about Iran’s destabilizing activities throughout this region, including its sponsorship of terrorism, its support for the Assad regime in Syria, and its efforts to undermine stability in GCC member nations. That is why we committed to continuing to work together to reinforce GCC defenses and capabilities.”   
            May 14, 2014 to media at the U.S.-GCC Defense Dialogue in Jeddah
 
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
            “We’ve been saying all along that Iran is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the international community, so I wasn’t surprised and I’m sure you weren’t surprised by the recent U.N. report on Iran’s ongoing efforts to deceive the international community, to continue to develop its ICBMs and to continually violate its commitments of Security Council stipulations on forbidding it to develop certain parts of its nuclear program.
            “They [Iranians] continue to do that, and I think that requires very clear and firm policy on the part of the world powers, the P5+1, and I think as the talks with Iran continue, one thing must guide the international community, and that is we must not let the Ayatollahs win. We must not let the foremost terrorist state of our time, Iran, develop the capability to produce nuclear weapons.”
            May 16, 2014 in a meeting with Secretary Hagel
 
            “My Israeli counterpart and I “also discussed America's unwavering pledge to preserve Israel's qualitative military edge, including the provision of some of America's most advanced capabilities, such as the V-22 Osprey, the F-35, and sophisticated aircraft radar. We addressed ways to strengthen our nations' cooperation on a host of security challenges, ranging from the conflict in Syria, to Iranian ballistic missiles.”
            May 15, 2014 at a joint press conference with Israel’s minister of defense
 
Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon
             “I believe the United States and Israel share the same goal: not to allow a military nuclear Iran. And I believe that we share the same assessment regarding intelligence, predicting what might come out in the future. We might have differences, even disputes regarding how to get to it. But we have the open channels as we have Secretary of Defense and myself, Ambassador Rice, while she was here, speaking with our prime minister, and other channels.
            “The bottom line is that Israel should be ready to defend itself by itself.”
            May 15, 2014 at a joint press conference with Secretary Hagel
 

Event: Rubik’s Cube™ of a Final Agreement

            The clock is ticking on a nuclear deal with Iran. The deadline is July 20. An unprecedented coalition of eight Washington think tanks is hosting three discussions on the pivotal diplomacy to coincide with the last three rounds of talks. The first event — "The Rubik’s Cube™ of a Final Agreement" — on May 13 explored the disparate issues to be resolved and the many formulations for potential solutions. Speakers included (from left to right) Colin Kahl, Robert Einhorn, Joe Cirincione and Alireza Nader.

            The coalition includes the U.S. Institute of Peace, RAND, the Woodrow Wilson Center, the Arms Control Association, the Center for a New American Security, the Stimson Center, the Partnership for a Secure America, the Ploughshares Fund, and staff from the Brookings Institution and the Center for Non-Proliferation Studies.
           The following is a webcast of the event and key takeaways from the speakers' remarks.
 
 
Robert Einhorn 
• A final deal is possible, but very hard to get by the July 20 deadline.
• A key requirement for a deal is implementing a monitoring mechanism that can quickly detect any breakout steps towards a bomb.
• Iran wants to expand its uranium enrichment capabilities while the P5+1 wants to limit them.
• Iran could produce enough uranium to fuel a weapon in two months. Breakout time needs to be lengthened.
• Iran needs to understand that it will pay a heavy price if it violates a deal by moving to produce a bomb.
• The United States will probably have to demonstrate its Gulf allies and Israel that it is still resolutely committed to their security.
 
Alireza Nader
• Mutual trust is not a requirement for a successful deal.  Stringent inspections and firm commitments to sanctions relief can make up for the trust gap.
• So far, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has supported negotiations and given President Hassan Rouhani considerable space to maneuver. Both are interested in lifting sanctions.
• Both Iran and the United States have vested interests in resolving the nuclear dispute.
• Sanctions aren’t necessarily empowering Iran’s government and hurting the population. The situation is actually more complicated. The government is running out of money and some people are making money off sanctions.
• The United States could still have lots of problems with the Islamic Republic even after a deal.
• Iranian hardliners have accused their negotiators of selling the country’s nuclear rights. Ultra-conservatives fear a nuclear deal because they think it will open Iran’s culture to more Western influence.
• President Hassan Rouhani wants a better relationship with the United States but many Iranians are not ready. Building trust will be a decades-long process.
 
Joe Cirincione
• Every aspect of the talks is difficult, but we have never been closer to an agreement.
• The nuclear deal is step number one. Afterwards, Washington and Tehran could cooperate on shared concerns in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere.
• This deal is not about trust. This is a contract.
• Iran needs a face-saving way to frame the deal because it has invested so much in its nuclear program. A deal would need to assure Iran that sanctions will really be lifted. 
• Imposing sanctions is much easier than lifting them. So the deal will likely be an action for action arrangement.
• Iran’s ballistic missiles are not the list of items to negotiate. Adding too many items to the list might overload the cart.
 
Colin Kahl
• The two sides differ on the preferred length of the agreement. The United States and others are pushing for decades while Iran is pressing for a few years.
• Iran’s enrichment capability will likely need to be capped at five percent, the level suitable for civilian nuclear power. Weapons grade is 90 percent. 
• A nuclear deal must be sellable in both the United States and Iran.
• Tehran will need to account for possible military dimension of its program and what experiments it conducted.
• The concern about the heavy water reactor at Arak is that it could produce one to two bombs worth of plutonium a year if completed.
•Iran needs about one year to construct a crude nuclear device and then a few more years to fit it onto a ballistic missile.
 

State Department Briefing on Eve of Talks

            On May 13, a senior U.S. official cautioned that the beginning of the drafting process does not necessarily mean a nuclear agreement is imminent. “We do not know if Iran will be able to make the tough decisions they must to ensure the world that they will not obtain a nuclear weapon,” said the official in a background briefing on the eve of talks in Vienna between Iran and the world’s six major powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States. The following are excerpts.

BACKGROUND BRIEFING
 
As we’ve said previously, at this round we will begin drafting specific language for the comprehensive plan of action. Everyone has approached these talks with seriousness and with professionalism. It also appears that everyone has come to the table wanting a diplomatic solution, but having the intent doesn’t mean it will necessarily happen. Quite frankly, this is very, very, difficult. I would caution people that just because we will be drafting it certainly doesn’t mean an agreement is imminent or that we are certain to eventually get to a resolution of these issues.
 
There are a range of complicated issues to address. And we do not know if Iran will be able to make the tough decisions they must to ensure the world that they will not obtain a nuclear weapon and that their program is for entirely peaceful purposes, as they have said. 
 
As this process moves forward, there will be a lot of noise out there – some of you might even make – about issues that may be under consideration, people speculating about where we’ve made progress and what the final language on any one issue might look like. There will also be speculation about where the sticking points remain. People will try to read the tea leaves and guess who’s offering what, who’s accepting what, and what is actually on the table for any given topic. I cannot advise you strongly enough not to buy into that kind of speculation.   
 
And I’d also remind people of a very, very critical point: No one can define this agreement by any one element – any element that is under discussion. And no one can predict what the overall comprehensive plan of action will look like from dissecting any one piece of it in isolation. As we’ve said for quite some time now, and I’ve noticed others have begun to pick it up, this process is like solving a Rubik’s Cube. There isn’t only one possible solution to providing the international community with the assurances we need that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful, that Iran will not obtain a nuclear weapon, and that there will be appropriate verification and transparency. Put simply, what we are working on is a package, not a checklist. And how we deal with each individual piece affects the overall eventual outcome.
 
We are quite focused on the July 20th date and we expect to be working every single moment until then. If you remember when we were negotiating the Joint Plan of Action, we were hashing out differences over individual words up until the very last minute, and many of you wrote a few days before it was done, when ministers came to Geneva and then departed, that it wasn’t going to happen, only to come back again and get the deal done.
 
As we’ve said, this process is far, far more difficult even than the Joint Plan of Action. But we’re committed to undertaking this effort because we know the diplomatic path is the one with the best chance of resolving our concerns in a peaceful way with Iran, and that is all that we all want to do. Finally, before I take your questions, again, speaking to the importance of the package of the combination of elements, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. The only percentage that matters is 100 percent, and nothing is agreed until everyone agrees to it.
 
QUESTION: Since last meeting, the tension with Russia [over Ukraine] has reached yet another level. Do you have the feeling that it might impact the unity of the 5+1?
 
SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: All I can tell you is that our Russian colleagues have focused in on this negotiation with the same seriousness of purpose that everyone else at the table has.
 
QUESTION: There’s no impact so far?
 
SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: Not discernible.
 
QUESTION: Talking about the draft, are you going to be approaching it – and I’m not sure you want to answer this – but basically component by component, taking the relatively easy issues first? Or are you going to be looking at it in a totality?
 
SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: One, we’ll have to look at the totality, because, as I’ve said, this is a package. So even if one has a discussion about an element, one will have to return to it again and again and again as you discuss the other elements, which interact with the first element that you might have discussed or the fifth element you might have discussed, to see whether, in fact, the package comes together. That’s why this is so complex. And each one of those has a great deal of technical detail behind it, and so you have to know all the technical details to know whether what you aspire to achieve can actually happen.
 
Click here for the full briefing.
 

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