United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Report: Key Criteria for Nuclear Deal

A new report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies outlines key criteria for judging a nuclear agreement with Iran. “Arms control is a process, not an event,” warns author Anthony Cordesman. “Actually implementing an agreement will involve a list of questions and issues, clarifications, and efforts to push the agreement to one side’s advantage that will go on for years.” And given that the adversarial nature of Iran’s relationship with the West is unlikely to change overnight, Cordesman argues that the agreement should be fully verifiable and enforceable and include “clear procedures for change and clarification.” Iran and the world’s six major powers aim to have a comprehensive agreement finished by June 30. The following are excerpts from the report.  

Key Criteria and Tests
1. Compromises and trade-offs are the price of negotiations but they must still must be judged by their relative success. There rarely is any chance of negotiating an agreement where one side decisively wins. Agreements are the product of trade-offs and compromises and the key is not winning a zero sum game, but emerging with more advantages from the best agreement one can actually negotiate than not having an agreement at all.
Accordingly, one key criterion is to judge the value of a negotiated compromise relative to the alternatives, not some one-sided view of the perfect agreement.
2. A static agreement is unworkable, but there must be clear procedures for change and clarification. Second, no real world agreement can ever live in a world where the negotiators can look 10 to 15 years in the future – or usually even 10 to 15 months – and predict all the important changes that will take place in politics, other security issues, technology, and tactics. Arms control either evolves or fails. The arms control process adapts and is revised, or becomes too rigid and ceases to be effective.
This makes it critical to have a well-defined set of reviews, to spell out the conditions for making revisions or changes, and have some agreed forum to decide on how to clarify and revisions the agreement – as well as a clear process for notification and warning if one side chooses to end the agreement
3. Adversarial agreements need to be fully verified. If they are not, they are an invitation to cheat and deceive. In this case, the P5+1 side can scarcely conceal any failure to lift sanctions or honor the civil side of the agreement. Iran has long demonstrated, however, that it can and does conceal and lie.
 As a result, it is not enough to simply give the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) challenge and rapid inspection rights under the revised protocols the negotiators are debating. They have to have full mobility throughout the country and right to inspect any site they want – not some restricted list that makes cheating possible. Equally important, the members of the P+1 as well as outside powers have to commit to providing the IAEA with intelligence data and warning since it and the UN lack intelligence collection capability, and request IAEA action and inspection. Iran, in turn, should have the explicit right to challenge any failure to comply on the part of the P5+1 states.
4. Adversarial agreements need to be enforceable. Iran has a simple enforcement option if the P5+1 does not meet the requirements of any agreement: It can resume its nuclear weapons program. The P5+1, UN, and IAEA do not have that option. Credible enforcement requires an agreement that Iran’s failure to comply with lead to an immediate resumption of sanctions if it is found to be in violation, and the military option should be on the table.
Enrichment Issues
Enrichment issues are important, and any negotiable agreement is likely to be based on some set of compromises. Accordingly, this means an explicit analysis of the trade-offs between agreement and non-agreement relating to Iran’s various nuclear enrichment efforts and its ability to acquire fissile material. These issues include potential limits, controls, and inspection arrangements dealing with
· The number of centrifuges,
· The development of more advanced centrifuges,
· The level of Uranium enrichment and the size of Iran’s stockpiles,
· The potential use of the new reactor at Arak to produce Plutonium,
· How soon Iran could use any of these to get enough material to produce a nuclear device,
· The extent to which any agreement dealing with all of these issues is enforceable,
· How long an agreement will be in force, and
· The incentives to Iran for reaching an agreement, especially the extent to which UN, US, and EU sanctions will be lifted, and the timing of such action.
One critical technical issue will be how soon Iran could acquire enough fissile material to make a crude nuclear device once the agreement is in force. The importance of the one fissile event, one time, criteria, however, should not be exaggerated.
Click here for the full text.
Anthony Cordesman is the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Click here to read his chapter on Iran’s conventional military.

Congressional Actions on Iran

The following is a roundup of Congressional legislation, letters, and other actions relating to the ongoing negotiations over Iran's controversial nuclear program.

Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015
On Jan. 27, 2015, Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced legislation that would automatically impose sanctions on Iran if talks with the world’s six major powers fail to yield a deal by June 30. The following are excerpts from the press release on the bill.
  • Sanctions will be implemented only after the June 30th negotiations deadline, but only if the negotiations fail to produce a deal.
  • The Kirk-Menendez legislation increases the current congressional oversight of the negotiations and requires the Administration to formally submit any new nuclear agreement text or extension to Congress within five days.
  • Congress is allotted 30 days to review any nuclear agreement before the President can waive, defer or suspend sanctions.
  • Subject to a report and certification, the President can only waive sanctions if it is in the vital national security interest of the United States and/or a waiver would make a long-term comprehensive solution with Iran more likely.
  • If there is no final agreement by July 6, 2015, Kirk-Menendez would re-impose sanctions that have been waived while the negotiations have been ongoing, which would begin in August and run through December.
  • New sanctions would close loopholes in existing petroleum sanctions, enhance sanctions on Iran’s oil trade and financial transactions, and impose further sanctions on Iran’s senior government officials, family members and other individuals for weapons of mass destruction proliferation, terrorism sponsorship and other illicit activities, and on Iran’s shipbuilding, automotive, construction, engineering and mining sectors.
Click here for the full text of the bill
Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015
On Feb. 27, 2015, Senator Bob Corker introduced legislation that would require Congressional review of a nuclear deal, and prevent the Obama administration from lifting congressional sanctions for 60 days. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on the bill on April 14. The following are the key provisions of the legislation, from a Senate press release.
  • Congressional Review: Within five days of concluding a comprehensive agreement with Iran, the president must submit to Congress (1) the text of the agreement, (2) a verification assessment on Iranian compliance, and (3) a certification that the agreement meets U.S. non-proliferation objectives and does not jeopardize U.S. national security, including not allowing Iran to pursue nuclear-related military activities.
  • No Suspension of Congressional Sanctions for 60 Days: The president is prohibited from suspending, waiving or otherwise reducing congressional sanctions for 60 days. During this period, Congress may hold hearings and approve, disapprove or take no action on the agreement. Passage of a joint resolution of approval, or no action, within the 60-day period would allow the President to move forward with congressional sanctions relief. Passage of a joint resolution of disapproval (overriding a presidential veto) within the 60-day period would block the president from implementing congressional sanctions relief under the agreement.
  • Congressional Oversight and Iranian Compliance: After the congressional review period, the president would be required to assess Iran’s compliance with the agreement every 90 days. In the event the president cannot certify compliance, or if the president determines there has been a material breach of the agreement, Congress could vote, on an expedited basis, to restore sanctions that had been waived or suspended under the agreement.

Click here for the full text

Congressional Oversight of Iranian Compliance Act
On March 4, 2015, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), along with six other Senators, introduced legislation that would allow Congressional oversight of a nuclear deal with Iran. The Senators issued a press release summarizing the legislation.
“The Iran Congressional Oversight Act:
  • Requires the President to report to Congress at least once every 90 days on Iranian compliance with the Joint Plan of Action or any successor deal, and that the report be accompanied by an unclassified certification by the President, in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, of whether Iran has complied with or violated such deal;
  • Sets up an expedited process for Congress to vote on legislation to reinstate waived or suspended sanctions and prohibit transfers of assets to Iran if the President certifies to Congress that Iran has violated a deal. The expedited process would not be subject to a filibuster;
  • Sets up a process to expedite consideration of legislation that is determined to be necessary by the Majority Leader, after consultation with the Minority Leader, to further respond to a violation by Iran of a nuclear deal during the 30-day period after which the President certifies to Congress that Iran has violated a deal. Under this process, a motion to proceed to consider additional action against Iran would not be debatable.
  • Reaffirms the constitutional role of Congress in repealing congressionally mandated sanctions if, in the context of a final deal, the U.S. commits to lifting such sanctions.”
Click here for the full text of the bill
Sanction Iran, Safeguard America Act
On March 19, Cruz (R-TX) introduced new sanctions legislation, a repeat of his July 2014 legislation that had no co-sponsors and was never passed. Cruz issued a press release highlighting the key provisions of the bill.
“The Sanction Iran, Safeguard America Act:
  • Re-imposes all previous sanctions that the Obama Administration relaxed.
  • Expands sanctions related to the petrochemical and automotive sector.
  • Prohibits funding for negotiations and implementation of any nuclear agreement with Iran unless congressional approval is reached.
  • Gives Iran a clear path towards their removal: dismantling their nuclear program in its entirety; removing all centrifuges, relinquishing enriched uranium, and ceasing all research and development of the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) program.
  • Requires Iran to renounce its state-sponsorship of terrorism.”
Click here for more information on the bill

Kirk-Brown-Boxer-Menendez Amendment
On March 26, the Senate voted 100-0 in favor of a budget amendment introduced by Mark Kirk (R-IL) that would impose new sanctions on Iran if it violates the terms of a nuclear deal.
“The Chairman of the Committee on the Budget of the Senate may revise the allocations of a committee or committees, aggregates, and other appropriate levels in this resolution for one or more bills, joint resolutions, amendments, amendments between the Houses, motions, or conference reports relating to Iran, which may include efforts to immediately reimpose waived sanctions and impose new sanctions against the Government of Iran for violations of the Joint Plan of Action or a comprehensive agreement on Iran's nuclear program, by the amounts provided in such legislation for those purposes, provided that such legislation would not increase the deficit over either the period of the total of fiscal years 2016 through 2020 or the period of the total of fiscal years 2016 through 2025.”
Click here for more information

Stabenow Amendment
On March 26, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) filed a budget amendment in response to Tom Cotton’s letter to Iranian leaders and proposals to cut funding for the nuclear talks. Stabenow’s jab at Cotton is unlikely to be brought up for a vote.
“Purpose: To establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to prohibiting the purchase of stationary [sic] or electronic devices for the purpose of members of Congress or congressional staff communicating with foreign governments and undermining the role of the President as Head of State in international nuclear negotiations on behalf of the United States."
Click here to view the amendment

Tom Cotton’s Open Letter to Iran’s Leaders
On March 10, 2015, Tom Cotton (R-AR) drafted an open letter to Iran’s leadership, signed by 46 other Republican Senators.
“We will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei.  The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”
Click here for the full text
House Democrats’ Response to Tom Cotton’s Letter
On March 16, 2015, Democratic Representatives Waters (D-CA), Cohen (D-TN), Conyers (D-MI), Lee (D-CA), and Ellison (D-MN) sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
“Senator Tom Cotton’s effort to undermine the credibility of our ongoing negotiations with Iran and United States allies not only disrespects the office of the President, but it diminishes confidence among our global allies in the United States’ capacity to enter into binding commitments with other nations and promote international peace and stability.”
Click here for the full text
Bob Corker’s Letter to Demand Congressional Veto of Iran Deal
On March 12, 2015, Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) sent a letter to President Obama to push for Congressional approval of a potential nuclear deal.
“There are now reports that your administration is contemplating taking an agreement, or aspects of it, to the United Nations Security Council for a vote. Enabling the United Nations to consider an agreement or portions of it, while simultaneously threatening to veto legislation that would enable Congress to do the same, is a direct affront to the American people and seeks to undermine Congress’s appropriate role.”
Click here for the full text
House Republicans’ Letter on Suspending Funds for Iran Negotiations
On March 19, 2015, Representatives Roskam (R-IL) and Zeldin (R-NY) circulated a letter addressed to the House Appropriations Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chair Granger (R-TX) and Ranking Member Lowey (D-NY) seeking to suspend funds for the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran.
“Over the past year, negotiations with the Iranian regime have failed to bring us closer to a final agreement that would sufficiently prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. Endless negotiations will only further enable Iran to advance its nuclear technology while reaping the benefit of billions of dollars in desperately needed sanctions relief. Moreover, the deal reportedly under consideration would leave Iran’s nuclear infrastructure virtually intact and expire in ten years, at which point the mullahs could freely pursue a nuclear weapon.” 
Click here for the full text
House Members’ Letter on Congressional Role in Sanctions
On March 19, Representatives Royce (R-IN) and Engel (D-NY) sent a letter to President Obama, signed by 367 House members.
“Iran’s nuclear program poses a grave threat to the national security of the United States and our allies.  As the July 20th deadline for a “comprehensive solution” to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon approaches, we urge greater consultation with Congress on a potential sanctions relief package that may be part of a final agreement.”
Click here for the full text


Iran on Saudi Airstrikes in Yemen

On March 26, Saudi Arabia began conducting airstrikes against Houthi positions in Yemen, which drew strong condemnation from Iranian officials. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif demanded an “immediate halt” to Saudi military actions. Iran is widely seen as the main backer of the Houthis, a Zaydi Shiite movement that has been fighting Yemen’s Sunni-majority government since 2004. The Houthis have controlled the capital city Sanaa since September 2014.

Saudi Arabia carried out the strikes with a coalition of nine other nations. The United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan contributed jets to the operation, while Pakistan and Egypt provided naval support. The United States did not contribute warplanes, but provided intelligence and logistical support, according to a senior State Department official.

The following are excerpted remarks from Iranian officials on the Saudi airstrikes in Yemen.

President Hassan Rouhani
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
"We want an immediate halt to Saudi Arabia's military operations in Yemen.”
"We will make all our efforts to control the crisis in Yemen."
—March 26, 2015, according to the press
"The Saudi-led airstrikes should stop immediately and it is against Yemen's sovereignty."
—March 26, 2015, according to the press
Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab-African Affairs Hossein Amir Abdollahian

"We condemn foreign interference with the situation in Yemen by any country, be it Iran, Saudi Arabia, or the United States.”
"Carrying out airstrikes and starting a war is easy. Putting an end to a war and quitting a war is hard." 
—March 26, 2015, according to the press
Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham
"Iran wants an immediate halt to all military aggressions and air strikes against Yemen and its people."
—March 26, 2015, according to the press
"Resorting to military acts against Yemen which is entangled in an internal crisis and fighting terrorism will further complicate the situation, spread the range of crisis and destroy opportunities to settle the internal differences in Yemen peacefully.”
"This aggression will merely result in the spread of terrorism and extremism and will spread insecurity to the entire region."
—March 26, 2015, according to the press
“These operations are a dangerous step and completely contrary to international obligations in respecting the national sovereignty of other countries.”
—March 26, 2015, according to the press
Head of Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Alaedin Boroujerdi
“The fact that Saudi Arabia has fanned the flames of a new war in the region shows its carelessness."
“The smoke of this fire will go into the eyes of Saudi Arabia as war is never limited to one place only. We hope this military operation will be halted immediately and the Yemen problem solved through political means.”
“America, which leads the fire mongering in the region, has supported this act and no doubt Saudi Arabia and some countries in the Arab cooperation council would not get involved without America's permission."
“Having imposed long years of crisis in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, America has in practice started another crisis and massacre on the Islamic world and this act is strongly condemned."
—March 26, 2015, according to the press
Saudi Arabia

The Saudi Ambassador to the United States Adel bin Ahmed al Jubeir made the following statement about the airstrikes on March 26.
“The Kingdom Saudi Arabia has launched military operations in Yemen, as part of a coalition of over ten countries in response to a direct request from the legitimate government of Yemen. The operation will be limited in nature, and designed to protect the people of Yemen and its legitimate government from a takeover by the Houthis and a Houthi violent and extremist militia. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have tried to facilitate a peaceful transition of government in Yemen, but the Houthis have continuously undercut the process by occupying territory and seizing weapons belonging to the government. In spite of repeated efforts by the GCC, Group of 10 countries and the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General to seek a peaceful way to implement the GCC initiatives and the outcomes of the national dialogue that define the political transition in Yemen, the Houthis have reneged on every single agreement they have made and continue their quest to take over the country by violent means. They captured the capital city of Sanaa, they placed the legitimate president, prime minister and cabinet members under house arrest, they seized the security services and they continue to expand their occupation of the country.
President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi of Yemen made a request to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz to convene a conference under the auspices of the GCC to which all Yemeni political factions seeking to preserve security and stability in Yemen would be invited. The Houthis rejected this invitation and continued their violent onslaught in Yemen to the point where they were threatening to occupy the city of Aden, which had become the temporary capital for the legitimate government of President Hadi after he was able to escape from Sanaa. In a letter, dated March 24, 2015, President Hadi made, based on the principle of self-defense, enshrined in Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, as well as in the Arab League charter’s collective defense mechanism, a request for immediate support - by all means necessary - including military intervention to protect Yemen and its people from the continued Houthi aggression and to support it in fighting al Qaeda and ISIS.â€‌
Based on the appeal from President Hadi, and based on the Kingdom’s responsibility to Yemen and its people, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, along with its allies within the GCC and outside the GCC, launched military operations in support of the people of Yemen and their legitimate government.”
“We will do whatever is necessary to protect the legitimate government in Yemen, prevent it from falling and to encounter the dangers of the militia. The situation in Yemen is dangerous and has never happened in history that a militia was able to control air forces or ballistic missiles and heavy weapons and this is a very dangerous situation and we will do everything we can to protect the Yemeni people and the legitimate government in Yemen.”
—March 26, 2015, in a press conference
Photo credit: Zarif by Robin Wright; Afkham via Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs


Nuke Talks: Latest from Iran, P5+1

On March 26, a new round of nuclear negotiations began in Lausanne, Switzerland between Iran and the world's six major powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States. Officials noted that the negotiations were intensifying, with only a few days remaining before the deadline for a political framework. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif held bilaterial discussions, and negotiators from Britain, China, France, Russia, and Germany joined the talks over the weekend. The following are excerpted remarks from officials involved in the talks.
United States
Secretary of State John Kerry
"Now, what happens if, as our critics propose, we just walk away from a plan that the rest of the world were to deem to be reasonable? And that could happen. Well, the talks would collapse. Iran would have the ability to go right back spinning its centrifuges and enriching to the degree they want, if they want, if that’s what they choose. And the sanctions will not hold, because those other people who deem the plan to be reasonable will walk away and say, “You do your thing, we’ll do ours. You’re not willing to be reasonable, we’re going to do what we think is reasonable.” And then you have no sanctions regime at all.
So then there would be no visible, agreed-upon checks on Iran’s nuclear program. I thought that was the whole purpose of putting the sanctions in place, was to get agreed-upon checks on the program. Now, obviously, you have to know that they are agreed; you have to know that you can enforce them; you have to know you have the insight. And that’s our job – to provide an agreement that is as good as we’ve said it will be, that will get the job done, that shuts off the four pathways to a nuclear weapon: the pathway at Fordow, the pathway at Natanz, the pathway at Arak, and finally, the covert pathway, which is the hardest of all but which I can assure you we are deeply focused on.
So this is not a choice, as some think it is, between the Iran of long ago and the Iran of today. It’s not a choice between this moment and getting them to give up their entire nuclear program, as some think. It’s not going to happen. It’s a choice between a regime that has already developed its ability to master the nuclear cycle, that has already proven its ability to enrich, that has gone from 164 centrifuges in 2003 to over 19,000 today – but is only spinning 9,400 of them, but which would have the ability to free, if we don’t have an agreement, just to expand its program full speed ahead, and you know we can’t accept that. So where does that take you?
Anybody standing up in opposition to this has an obligation to stand up and put a viable, realistic alternative on the table, and I have yet to see anybody do that. So we’ll see where we go."
—March 25, 2015, in a speech to the Global Chiefs of Mission Conference
“We are working very hard to work those through...We are working late into the night and obviously into tomorrow. We are working with a view to get something done. There is a little more light there today, but there are still some tricky issues. Everyone knows the meaning of tomorrow.”
—March 30, 2015, according to the press
Senior State Department Official
“In terms of setting expectations, as you all know and have heard us say many times, we are focused on getting a political framework that addresses all of the major elements of a comprehensive deal done by the end of March. That is the date we are focused on. We made – I think we would say we made more progress in the last round than we had made in the previous rounds, which often happens once you’re getting closer to a deadline, I would say. And we can see a path forward here to get to an agreement. We can see what that path might look like. That doesn’t mean we’ll get there. And I think if you asked many people in the delegation, we truly do not know if we will be able to do this. But I do think it’s important that we see a path forward. We’ve discussed all of the substantive issues at the political and expert level that will need to be part of this.”
We do not know what form this will take if we can get there at the end of March. I know that’s a big question people have. But regardless, we have always said it needs to have specifics. We will need to communicate as many specifics as possible to the public in some form or fashion. What that will look like we truly just do not know at this point yet. Obviously, we’ll be communicating that to Congress as well. But I think what folks are focused on right now is the substance of what we are trying to work towards in a political framework, and as we get closer here, I think to conversations about form for some sort of public announcement will be a part of the discussion, but we truly do not know at this point.
But I do want to underscore that we believe and know that we will have to share as many specific details publicly as we can, with the caveat that the work of doing annexes if we can get to a political framework is very tough work. It involves a lot of details that are very important to the implementation of this deal, so noting that as well.”
“If we get to March 31st and don’t have a political understanding, we will have to evaluate where we are, we will have to look at what we think the path forward is, and we will make decisions based on that going forward. But unlike the previous two extensions, the day after the deadline it does not automatically expire.”
“We very much believe we can get this done by the 31st. We see a path to do that. I don’t think we would have said that even before the last round probably. So to set expectation – not to set them too high, because I think there is a good chance that we cannot get this done. But yeah, we plan for all outcomes.”
—March 25, 2015, in a press briefing


President Hassan Rouhani

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

Zarif gave the following statement to the press on March 31, 2015.


"This (removal of sanctions) is a viewpoint that the government has insisted on since the very beginning."

The negotiations are "good" and "We are making every effort to continue on this path."
—March 25, 2015, according to the press

"We have made progress in reaching acceptable solutions, but we still have to work on some important issues; the key to striking an agreement lies in this strategic choice that the other side should make: pressure and sanctions or interaction and agreement by the other side.”

"I think we now have a better understanding of issues; I think we can move towards a solution through a common understanding.”
 "I think our German and French friends are willing to play a very direct role in both the settlement (of the nuclear issue) and in future relations; we discussed very good points on how to proceed and resolve the problems."
"We have always said that achieving a solution is possible with political will; from my meetings with German and French foreign ministers I realized that the other side has also entered the talks with the same interest.”
"We discussed all issues which need to be resolved and I think we made progress and we are moving ahead; I think we can have the needed progress."
March 29, 2015, according to the press
"We are not close to a deal as reaching a comprehensive agreement needs political will and choosing between pressure and agreement.”
"We are proceeding, we still have work to do and we are trying hard.”
“The reason why I emphasize the other side’s political will is that the Islamic Republic of Iran has the political will at the highest levels.”
March 27, 2015, according to the press


Deputy Foreign Minister Majid Takht-e Ravanchi

"The talks have reached a point where serious decisions need to be made."

He expressed hope that the "other side will be able to make this tough decision."

"One or two fundamental issues remain which we hope will be settled as well."
—March 25, 2015, according to the press

Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi
“We hope to wrap up the talks by Wednesday night ... We insist on lifting of financial, oil and banking sanctions immediately ... for other sanctions we need to find a framework. We insist on keeping research and development with advanced centrifuges.”
—April 1, 2015 to the press
"All differences are serious and we are trying to reduce these differences.”
"We are still hopeful and optimistic, but it is still soon to state if we will be able to obtain a solution on all issues or not.”
"Bilateral and multilateral meetings at the level of experts, deputy FMs, and FMs will be held today and we hope these meetings lead to progress in the negotiations."
March 27, 2015, according to the press

Foreign Ministry Director General for Political and International Affairs Hamid Baeedinejad

"The remaining issues are not only the sanctions, but include a whole raft of issues and we are currently in the final stages of [settling] them."

"All these issues are interrelated. Sanctions, [uranium] enrichment and research development are issues which should be resolved together and in single package."
—March 25, 2015, according to the press

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
One more very important day of the ministerial negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme is over. We can say with a large degree of confidence that framework agreements have been reached on all the key aspects of this issue at the ministerial level, and we hope that these agreements will be put on paper in the next few hours or a day at the most. A corresponding instruction has been issued to the experts. The agreement stipulates a comprehensive approach to settling this issue, including IAEA verification of the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme and detailed provisions on lifting the sanctions.
I’d like to say that the concept underlying this work is based on the initiative that President Vladimir Putin advanced several years ago, when he called for resolving Iran’s nuclear issue by recognising Iran’s unquestionable right to peaceful nuclear research, including uranium enrichment, provided its programme was reliably monitored by the IAEA and the anti-Iranian sanctions were lifted. Russia contributed to international efforts at the earlier stages by proposing the principle of superposition and reciprocity for the settlement of various aspects of this issue, which is one of the most difficult international issues.
These agreements must be now put on paper. I hope that when this happens, they will be made public without delay by Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Javad Zarif.
Our work is not finished yet, but the completion of this stage will mean that we have honoured the commitments we assumed in November to elaborate a political framework for addressing all the key aspects of this issue. As we agreed last November, the experts will be working on the technical details until the end of June, which will take a lot of effort because the devil is in the details, as you know. A complex issue like nuclear research calls for the utmost attention and accuracy. I believe that the result, which we hope to reach soon, looks attainable and will create the basis for resolving all the other issues pertaining to Iran’s nuclear programme.
— March 31, 2015 in a statement
United Kingdom
Foreign Minister Philip Hammond
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier
“The endgame of the long negotiations has begun…And here, with a view of the Swiss mountains, I'm reminded that as one sees the cross on the summit, the final meters are the most difficult but also the decisive ones.”
“That's what has to be done here in the coming hours and days. I can only hope that in view of what has been achieved over the last 12 months that the attempt for a final agreement here will not be abandoned."
Reaching a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran "could perhaps bring a bit more calm to the region.”
March 28, 2015, according to the press
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius
“I came to advance a robust agreement…It's been a long and difficult negotiation. We have had advances in some areas, not enough in others.”
March 28, 2015, according to the press
Top Negotiator Wang Qun
“China has been very forthcoming by coming up with a series of proposals to help to bridge the gaps even at this last stage.”
“And this is the purpose of my minister’s coming here.”
March 28, 2015, according to the press
European Union
Foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini
“We have never been so close to a deal, but critical points still remain.”
“I am optimistic, otherwise we would not be here.”
Negotiators have made some progress the past week, but “we still need to find some solutions.”
March 28, 2015, according to the press

U.S. Officials: Iran's Role in Iraq

In March, U.S. officials acknowledged that Iran’s involvement in Iraq could help defeat ISIS, but cautioned that it could also fuel sectarian conflict. Iraqi security forces and Iranian-backed Shiite militias launched an offensive to drive ISIS out of Tikrit in February. Both the United States and Iran have repeatedly denied any direct collaboration with each other to defeat ISIS, instead coordinating through the Iraqi government. The following are excerpted remarks from U.S. officials on Iran’s involvement in Iraq.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey
“This is the most overt conduct of Iranian support, in the form of artillery and other things.”
The involvement of Iranian-backed Shiites in Tikrit could be “a positive thing” but “it will only be a problem if it results in sectarianism.”
March 3, before the Senate Armed Services Committee
"Iran and its proxies have been inside Iraq since 2004.”
"This is the most overt conduct of Iranian support in the form of artillery and other things. Frankly, it will only be a problem if it results in sectarianism."
"We're watching carefully. If this becomes an excuse to ethnic cleanse, then our campaign has a problem.”
"There's no doubt that the combination of the Popular Mobilisation forces and the Iraqi security forces, they’re going to run ISIL out of Tikrit.”
March 11, according to the press
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter
"You asked about the battle for Tikrit and the presence of Iranian advisers on the ground. That is something we're watching very closely. It is something that is concerning to us, in particular because the sectarian danger in Iraq is the principal thing that can unravel the campaign against ISIS.
That's why it's so important that the -- that none of these battles -- and you named one, which is Tikrit -- there're actually several important battles going on, in some of which, the Iranians play no role at all.
But wherever they are, it's important that sectarianism not rear its ugly head as ISIL is pushed back outside of Iraq. So we're watching that very -- very closely, very carefully, and it's a return to sectarianism that would concern us very much in Iraq."
—March 11, 2015, in a press briefing
Secretary of State John Kerry
"With respect to Iraq, we absolutely have known of Iran’s engagement in the northeastern parts of Iraq and, indeed, we’ve had conversations with Prime Minister Abadi about it.  He doesn’t hide it, and we’re not blind to it.  We know that Iran has been engaged.  We know that General Soleimani has been on the ground.  We know that they have an interest.  We understand that.  And we fully understand some of their engagement with some of the militia.  At the same time, they are deeply opposed to Daesh [ISIS].  And while we are not coordinating with Iran – we do not have conversations with Iran about this – we work through the Iraqi Government.  We do so with the knowledge that they are also opposed to Daesh and are working for Daesh’s defeat.  
Now going forward, I would also note that part of this operation in Tikrit also involves significant participation by Sunni tribes and Sunni participants from the region.  And the governor in Salah al-Din province was well aware of what is happening and of this whole-of-government initiative, whole-of-coalition effort, to continue to press the fight against Daesh.  And even while the fighting in Tikrit is taking place, there are several other fights taking place nearby which involve significant Sunni participation, U.S. support, and others.
So what we made clear some months ago when we first announced the coalition, lots of countries will make lots of different kinds of contributions, and every country can make some kind of contribution, and all of us are committed to the defeat of Daesh.  And the sooner that can happen, the better.  
Now the real measure of the Tikrit operation will not be just in the clearing; it will be in how people are treated afterwards.  It will be in whether or not there is a inclusivity or whether there is, in fact, a breakdown into a kind of sectarian division.  So we’ll watch that carefully.  We will work with the Government of Iraq very carefully to do our best to minimize or avoid that.  But we are not surprised at all by the participation such as it has been with respect to the Tikrit operation itself."
March 14, according to the press

State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki
"We continue to emphasize that it's important that [Iran’s] actions don't raise ... sectarian tensions.”
—March 18, 2015, according to the press
QUESTION: Local media has reported in numerous articles that the Iranian Government is intervening – helping the Iraqi Government retake Tikrit. There are reports that Qasem Soleimani is there. So I just want to know whether you agree with any of these local reports that Iran plays a role in retaking Tikrit.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve spoken to this before. We’ve said previously we are aware Iran has sent some operatives into Iraq that are training and advising some Iraqi Security Forces. We also know that Iran has provided some supplies, arms, ammunition and aircraft for Iraq’s armed forces.
QUESTION: But you’re not opposed to the Iranians being there fighting ISIS, are you?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve addressed this many times, Said. We’ve been clear that Iran – Iraq can best counter the threat from ISIL with a government and security forces that are inclusive, and if the interests of all groups are respected. With respect to the activities of any country in Iraq, including Iran, we believe strongly that Iraq’s sovereignty must be respected and the Government of Iraq must focus on strengthening its internal political and security situation – institutions in an inclusive way. Clearly, that’s what our focus is on. We’re not coordinating with the Iranians; nothing has changed in that regard.
—March 9, 2015, in a press briefing

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