MODERATOR: Great. Thank you, everyone, for joining. For those of you in Vienna, I know it’s a late night here, and welcome to everyone from Washington. Tonight’s conference call is on background. We have three people who will be speaking; all will be Senior Administration Officials. There will be no embargo to this call. So you know who’s speaking, the first Senior Administration Official will be [Senior Administration Official One]. The second will be [Senior Administration Official Two]. And the third will be [Senior Administration Official Three].
So each of them will give a few brief opening remarks and then we will open it up for questions. Again, this is all on background to Senior Administration Officials. So with that, I will turn it over to [Senior Administration Official One] to get us started.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Thanks, [Moderator]. I’ll just make a few comments and turn it over to my colleague. First of all, you all have been following these negotiations closely over the last six months, so I’ll just give a brief overview of how we got to where we are today. 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.
And as my colleague can discuss, 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.
So you had, again, Wendy Sherman working this constantly the last several weeks with a significant team of technical experts who have done extraordinary work in Vienna. You had Jake Sullivan and Bill Burns assisting in those negotiations, and you had Secretary Kerry traveling to the region to engage in two days of intensive discussions with Foreign Minister Zarif and Cathy Ashton and the other P5+1 ministers who were there earlier this week.
After that trip, Secretary Kerry came back to Washington. He briefed President Obama about the status of the negotiations on Wednesday. It was President Obama’s determination out of that meeting that it was worth pursuing an extension, given the progress that had been made, and given the potential prospect for comprehensive resolution. That’s no means assured, but we believe that the progress justified the continued investment of time and effort. And that is what, over the last several days, our negotiators have been developing with the Iranians in Vienna.
And so today, we have the agreement to extend the discussions until November 24th. As a part of that agreement, again, we wanted to continue to hold in place the progress that is in the Joint Plan of Action. We also wanted to see if there were additional elements that could be negotiated with Iran as more of a down payment on the negotiation.
With that, I’ll hand it over to my colleague, who can discuss the conduct of the broader negotiations as well as the specific terms of the extension where we aim to get at some of our additional proliferation concerns.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Thanks very much, [Senior Administration Official One], and thank you all for joining. Some of you have been holed up here in Vienna. It’s a beautiful city if one gets to get out in it, but for now from the 1st of July until – what day is this today, the 18th?
QUESTION: The 18th.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: The 18th of July. A staggering number of people have been at the Coburg Hotel or at the Marriott Hotel or staying in their embassies, and literally working day and night in all kinds of formats, in bilaterals, trilaterals, in plenary sessions, with the Iranians, coordinating with each other, calling back home, getting instructions, trying to move this effort forward, working when ministers came in to try – working with our extraordinary team of experts not only here in Vienna but in the U.S. Government. The team here is backed up literally by hundreds of people, including people in our labs, people in the Department of Energy, people in Treasury, and really in the White House, of course, throughout the government. So it’s really quite a massive effort, and I’m quite proud to be part of this team.
We have worked very hard to try to move the Comprehensive Plan of Action forward. And [Senior Administration Official One] has outlined some of the areas in which we have made some progress. As you all know, because you’ve heard me many times before, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. So you have to put these elements on the table. You have to work them through. You have to see how they work with each other and change the nature of the Rubik’s cube, as I’ve said, that you’re trying to put together.
We made some progress. [Senior Administration Official One] has outlined some of those areas, Secretary Kerry did in his statement today, on Arak, on Fordow, 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.
So for the past days, we have been negotiating that extension. We reached agreement tonight. For those of you who don’t know, it’s 2:00 in the morning here. And about an hour, hour-and-a-half ago, Cathy Ashton and Javad Zarif held a press conference where they put out statements. 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.
I’m going to stop there – be happy to take your questions – and turn it over to [Senior Administration Official Three]. And I thank – some Treasury colleagues have been here, and they have just been fantastic, and very grateful for Treasury’s extraordinary role in this process.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: Great. Thank you. Thanks, [Senior Administration Official Two], and I’ll be brief. Just want to touch a little bit on the sanctions side and the relief side of the agreement.
When we entered into the Joint Plan of Action last November, we explained that in return for important limitations on Iran’s nuclear program, we were committing to limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible sanctions relief that would leave Iran still deep in an economic hole. That same approach is what is reflected in the extension agreement, that for a limited and reversible relief that does not come close to fixing Iran’s economy, we are still obtaining significant limitations on Iran’s nuclear program.
So to be more specific, the – in the JPOA extension that has been agreed to, for the next four months 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.
So as [Senior Administration Official Two] mentioned, this four-month extension will provide additional time for the negotiations to proceed. It will not change the basic fact that drove Iran to the negotiating table in the first place, and that’s the unprecedented and severe pressure on Iran’s economy from the international sanctions regime. That also has not changed.
With that, I – why don’t I conclude and turn it over for questions? Go for it, [Moderator].
MODERATOR: Great, thank you. And if the operator could remind people how to ask a question, please.
OPERATOR: Sure. Again, if you’d like to ask a question, please press * then 1 on your touchtone phone. And if you are using the speakerphone, please pick up the handset before pressing the numbers. Again, * 1 to queue up to ask a question.
And our first question comes from Anne Gearan from The Washington Post. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi, and thanks to all for doing the call at what I know is a ridiculously late or early hour for you. 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? I mean, there – this doesn’t seem to fundamentally change what’s on the table right now, but what’s on the table right now, as you well know, is less than acceptable to a lot of people in Congress, and Israel has never liked it from the beginning. So what do you do now that you’re sort of pushing the ball down the court a bit?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Sure. Thanks, Anne, for the question. I’d say a few things. First of all, just to reiterate a point that was made in the opening, the extension to November 24th has a clear logic in that the agreement that was reached on November 24th of last year specifically indicated a goal of one year to achieve a comprehensive resolution. So it was not an arbitrary date; it was one that was embedded in the initial agreement. The point there being that we are not simply re-upping a six-month agreement of the Joint Plan of Action as a new normal, a new status quo. We are, rather, extending, within a natural deadline, the benefits of the Joint Plan of Action so as to give the negotiations time to conclude.
The next point I’d make is that we have been in regular – you mentioned Israel – 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. And we – you saw Susan Rice lead a delegation to Israel; Wendy Sherman was regularly able to discuss the ongoing negotiations with some of her counterparts; other members of the U.S. Government, such that I think there’s a good understanding on our part of what Israel’s various positions and concerns are related to the negotiation, and we are able to give them a sense of understanding about how the negotiations are, moving forward.
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. I don’t want to overstate that there are not still, in Israel and other places, concerns about the prospect of what may be contained in a potential agreement. So in the sense of transparency and consultation, and in the sense of the success of the JPOA, we believe that we’ve made good progress.
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.
Were we to not take this step, not only would we be denying ourselves the opportunity to reach an agreement, but we would also be putting at risk the international unity that has gotten us to this point, given the fact that our partners feel like there’s the same progress that we see. So again, all – I think all of that adds up to the case we will continue to make to Congress. And as I said, we’ll continue to consult with our Israeli partners and other partners around the world.
Next question, [Moderator]?
OPERATOR: Thank you, and our next question comes from Jo Biddle from AFP. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hello, good evening, good morning, thank you very much. A couple of logistics questions and a couple of clarifications, please.
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?
On the clarifications side, when Secretary Kerry mentions in his statement that 25 kilograms of the 20 percent fuel, which has been converted – is going to be converted into – which has been diluted, is going to be converted into fuel, is – how much of this is actually – how much of the 20 percent stocks actually remains, and how much of this is going to be converted? How much of the 20 percent stocks is going to be converted into fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor?
And just a question for [Senior Administration Official Three], if possible. You mentioned that there was now more than $100 billion in assets, given the oil revenues which have continued to flow into these frozen accounts. Are you able to give us a more accurate figure of how much is actually still in these accounts? Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: So let me take a couple of those questions. Yes, everyone is leaving Vienna. We’ve had quite enough of the Coburg buffets, wonderful as they were. We’ve all been eating and sleeping here.
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.
On the 25 kilograms, in all there are about a hundred – probably slightly less but about a hundred kilograms, so 25 percent, a quarter of the 20 percent enriched uranium oxide will be converted into fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor. And for those of you who haven’t had to learn all of this yet, welcome to learning all of this. I haven’t learned it all yet, but I am surrounded by brilliant people who do.
Once oxide – once enriched uranium is converted oxide into fuel plates, then Iran would find it quite difficult and time-consuming to use this 20 percent enriched material for further enrichment in a breakout scenario. So you want to turn this into metal plates because it makes it much more difficult, if not nearly impossible – not entirely impossible, but nearly impossible – to use it to further enrich the highly enriched uranium that could be used for a nuclear weapon.
So even putting in this language that this will – all of it will happen in a timely manner, Iran has said in the past that it wanted to convert all of its oxide of 20 percent enriched uranium into metal plates, but they’ve been doing it at incredibly slow rates, at about 1.5 kilograms a month. And so this will accelerate that process, and they have now reaffirmed in this document their commitment to do this with all of the 20 percent fuel. And that’s quite important.
QUESTION: Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: And just briefly on the – on your last question, I cannot give you a precise figure on it. I can tell you though that 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: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Great, thanks. Next question.
OPERATOR: And that comes from Laurence Norman from The Wall Street Journal. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: All right, thanks. A couple of questions. First of all, one of the officials mentioned the – on the enrichment, and I think it was PMD issues, the ideas are put on the table that — I think the phrase was “have enough stature” that they were worth pursuing. Now, what we had all sensed in Vienna was that the enrichment issue hadn’t moved very much, so I’d just be intrigued to see if that really was a significant movement that in any way could narrow the gap.
And then secondly – and I apologize for this but it is 2:00 in the morning in Vienna – 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: Sure. Let me take the last first, Laurence and glad you’ve been here with us in Vienna. So what Iran committed is to combine its entire inventory of up to two percent uranium, which we estimate to be at least three metric tons, with depleted uranium to form natural uranium. So that’s a form of dilution back to natural uranium, which means that there are many steps to go for it to become enriched material that would ultimately become highly enriched material, which, of course, Iran does not yet do. It enriches up to 20 percent. So 25 – of up to 5 percent – sorry – they’ve stopped doing any of the 20 percent enriching as part of the JPOA. They now only enrich up to 5 percent, but once did, and that caused great concern because it’s not far from 20 percent, once you’ve mastered that, to get to highly enriched uranium.
So that’s what they’ve done on the two percent. And what was your other question? Sorry, I’m a little —
QUESTION: It was also on the R&D and then to go back to the comment that I think you made about ideas put on the table about enrichment and PMD that were worth pursuing from this round.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: So what they did on the two issues that were of concern to us that we got included in this extension paper, non-paper, is that they have confirmed that rotors for advanced centrifuges at the Natanz pilot plant will only be produced at facilities to which the IAEA has monthly access. That’s obviously important because then we know what’s going on, as opposed to covert production of rotors which could be used for advanced centrifuges.
And then secondly, 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.
And then there was one last point on PMD.
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, as you’ve heard I’m sure, Laurence, 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.
MODERATOR: Great, thanks. Next question.
OPERATOR: And that comes from the line of David Sanger from The New York Times. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Thanks. Thanks, all, for doing this at this late hour. I wanted to ask you a little bit about Minister Zarif’s proposal that he made public on Monday about trying to do a freeze that would basically continue the temporary agreement forward into the future. And of course, that would not involve any build-down or destruction of current equipment and centrifuges, which is something that’s been a central American and your partners’ demand.
Were you able in the days – in the last days of these negotiations to close that down any? And 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: David, you probably know as well if not better than everyone – than anyone that I’m not going to get in a discussion of specific proposals or specific elements of the negotiation. What I will say is what the Secretary has said, what we have said, what the President has alluded to in his statements, that we expect there to be a significant reduction in Iran’s enrichment program. We believe that that is necessary, because remember we’re doing this because of more than a decade of violations of Iran’s obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the passage of multiple Security Council sanctions and resolutions, including all the members of the Security Council. So that’s what we are about here, which is to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, which would allow them to project more power into the neighborhood, already quite a volatile and difficult and complex region, and obviously would be a threat to their neighbors and would probably set off a race for nuclear weapons throughout the region and the world, which wouldn’t make any of us more secure. So we can’t forget what we’re trying to do here and what this is about.
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.
MODERATOR: Great. I think we have a few more questions. Go ahead, Operator.
OPERATOR: And our next question comes from Josh Lederman from the AP. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay. Thanks, guys. Following up on Anne’s 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: Thanks, Josh. This issue came up in January, and the President made clear that he did not think that – well, first of all, the President made clear that any new sanctions bill along those lines would likely derail the negotiations and divide the P5+1 and unravel the existing sanctions regime. And in that context he said he would veto any such bill. Congress then essentially did not move forward with that legislation.
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.
Moreover, our original concerns have not changed. If anything, our P5+1 partners are more invested in this process because of the progress that’s been made. So, 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.
And so, this is something we’ll be continuing to discuss with Congress in the next days and weeks. Right now we have an agreement on an extension. I think Congress can hear us out on the progress that’s been made. Congress can look at the terms of the extension and the additional elements that Iran has put on the table as a part of that extension. And it will continue to be our position that new sanctions are not necessary during the duration of the negotiations because they could put those negotiations at risk, as well as the unity of the United States and our partners.
The next question?
OPERATOR: Thank you. And that comes from Lou Charbonneau from Reuters. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah, hi. 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: Thanks, Lou. As you all know, we have said and the Joint Plan of Action literally says that UN Security Council resolutions must be addressed for successful implementation. So – of any agreement in a comprehensive fashion. So Iran may indeed not like to talk about these subjects, but 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.
MODERATOR: Great. Let’s do the next question, please. I think we have time for two more.
OPERATOR: Thank you. And that first one is from Michael Wilner of The Jerusalem Post. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi there. Thanks for doing this so late over here. Yeah, I just wanted to follow up on David’s question and on his interview. I know Senior Administration – I think it’s Senior Administration Official Two and the Secretary say you won’t comment on press reports, and I understand that. But I’m not sure that’s entirely sufficient here because if it’s obviously the party across from him, Foreign Minister Zarif, who chose to discuss the proposal in public, and the proposal suggests there is a flaw in the justification for this extension, and that’s to say that progress has been made.
So, I think it’s important to answer that question, and that is: Is the position characterized in David’s piece on the table, or is it just playing politics through The New York Times? And if the position he represented is accurate, how can you say progress has been made when what he proposed was effectively to make permanent the interim JPOA that you just extended?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I’ll take a quick cut at that and then my colleague may want to jump in. We would not agree to the proposal on the table there. We have made an assessment that there’s enough progress made in a number of areas which we specified that gives us confidence that we’re moving in the right direction, and that there’s been creativity and movement in these negotiations that allows us to see the potential for an agreement that we could hold up as the right agreement and a good agreement. So we are confident that we wouldn’t be pursuing this additional time if we did not think we could get a good deal, and a good deal would be one that is better than the proposal that you’re referencing.
We understand that there are ideas that are discussed publicly, privately. We’re focused on what is an agreement that can assure that the Iranian program is peaceful. We see a pathway to that agreement. It’s by no means assured. There are still gaps, particularly in the important area of enrichment. But again, we see movement in important areas that reflect pathways to a weapon that have been of major concern to us and our partners at Arak, at Fordow, with respect to stockpile, and we also see the potential to have ongoing discussions and proposals around the issue of enrichment. And frankly, it’s necessary for there to be additional time to get the additional space for that negotiation to take place because to make tough political decisions on all sides, to make hard choices, everybody has to go back to capitals and take stock of where things stand. And so that’s a necessary element of this extra time as well. We wouldn’t simply want to keep our negotiators in Vienna not just because they’ve been there for so long, but also because it’s important, again, for folks to be able to take ideas back and to see what additional room can be achieved through discussions in respective capitals.
But I don’t know, [Senior Administration Official Two], if you have anything to add to that.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: No, I think that’s well said. And I — as some senior official said in David’s piece that you’re referring to, some of the ideas have been discussed, some of them we’ve never heard of before, and some of them had more flexibility to them. So I think that Minister Zarif is a very skilled communicator and he makes quite good use of all of you on the telephone.
MODERATOR: Last question at 2:43 a.m. in Vienna.
OPERATOR: Thank you. And that comes from Kasra Naji from the BBC. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi, it’s Amir Paivar. Kasra is with me from BBC Persian. My question is to [Senior Administration Official Three.] In the past six months when funds were unfrozen, we understand, although they would end up in accounts of Iranian Central Bank, say in Switzerland – and correct me if I’m wrong – there were difficulties to transfer them actually into Iran. Are there any provisions seen this time in this next four months that these funds do actually get into Tehran? I do understand that the Treasury probably – I mean, you’ve been speaking about Iran getting less than what it was supposed to. The problem with that is it makes it difficult for President Rouhani to sell the deal back in Iran. Have you made any facilities this time for them to get the money in Tehran?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: Sure, I can take a shot at that. The agreements that we reached in – initially last November in the Joint Plan of Action we’re carrying through here gives Iran access to its restricted assets in specific tranches. And we have made a very serious effort from the outset to ensure that Iran is able to access the funds from restricted accounts that it has overseas and to move those funds to the destinations that Iran chooses. There have been reports of some difficulties that Iran had at the outset in getting access to these funds. I can say that we have done everything in our power to ensure that the banks that are involved understand that they can move the funds that are made available and to have the funds ultimately end at the destination that the Iranians have specified. I don’t anticipate there being any difficulties going forward in this extended JPOA period with the $2.8 billion that’s going to be released in tranches.
MODERATOR: Great. Well, thank you, everyone, for joining. For those of you who joined late, this was all on background, all of this attributable to Senior Administration Officials. Thanks for hanging with us for these last 20 days, and I’m sure we will be talking about this much more over the coming four months. So with that, everyone have a great weekend and we will see you all back in Washington. Thanks, guys.
Citing unconfirmed reports, Fars News Agency reported that if an extension is agreed upon by Iran and the P5+1, it will most likely “be a four month extension.”
Mehr News Agency reported that during an extensive television interview, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the head of Parliament’s national security and foreign policy commission, revealed that when President Hassan Rouhani was secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council during the presidency of Mohammed Khatami, “Rouhani barred Mohsen Mirdamadi, the chairman of the national security and foreign policy commission (of the sixth Parliament) from National Security Council meetings because his participation politicized the meetings.”
In an interview with Tasnim News Agency, MP Ali Iranpour said, “We support the nuclear negotiations and don’t think negotiating with the P5+1 is a bad idea. As long as our negotiating team defends the rights of the Islamic system and doesn’t operate outside the framework of the negotiations, we will support them.”
ISNA reported that “seven out of the eight installments of frozen Iranian oil assets have been paid and total $3.65 billion dollars,” and that “even though there was a 22-day delay in the payment of the seventh installment, the final eighth installment (to be deposited on July 20) will be disbursed soon.”
Mehr News Agency reported that Ali Larijani, Speaker of Iran’s Parliament held separate telephone conversations with Ramadan Abdullah, the political leader of Islamic Jihad, as well as Khaled Meshal, the political leader of Hamas.
Fars News Agency reported that Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council traveled to Iraq and met with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Shemkhani discussed the ongoing developments with ISIS with both men.
Mehr News Agency quoted Hamid Habibi, deputy director of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization as saying, “Iran is prepared to allow transit flights to alter their flight plans and use Iranian airspace if necessary due to the unsuitable conditions of flight paths over Ukraine.” Habibi’s comment was made In reference to Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 which was shot down by a missile over Ukraine.
ECONOMY AND ENERGY
Ali Husseini, member of Iran’s National Saffron Council was quoted by ISNA as saying, “Last year, 126 tons of saffron was exported to 45 countries around the world, 50 percent of which was re-exported to Spain and the UAE.” Husseini added, “The current export value of saffron is $500 million dollars but with the support of the government, we can raise that export value to one billion dollars by 2016.”
Pedram Soltani, vice-chairman of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce wrote an editorial in Khabar Online and argued that the most important prerequisite to entice Iranian expatriates living abroad to invest inside Iran is “reaching a deal in the nuclear negotiations and the lifting of sanctions.” Economic policy reforms such as liberalization and privatization are also necessary according to Soltani.
Fars News Agency reported that according to a Pakistani official, “Islamabad has decided to export basmati rice and wheat to Iran in order to settle a debt of over $ 100 million dollars for importing Iranian electricity.”
Mehr News Agency reported that “1.4 million people in Iran are infected with hepatitis B,” and that health measures adopted in recent years have decreased infections from three percent to less than two percent overall.”
Meetings and negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 were held at the Coburg Hotel in Vienna, Austria.
The working class residents of a small village on the outskirts of Eslamshahr (Tehran Province) go about their day.
Friday prayers were held in Tehran’s Mosalla Mosque.
- Hanif Zarrabi-Kashani
Source: Iran at Saban.
During a speech to members of the media, Khabar Online quoted President Hassan Rouhani as saying, “It’s clear today that if the (P5+1) respects our views and national rights within the international framework, the nuclear negotiations will be extended…a win-win situation in the negotiations will be a victory for everyone, not just Iran.” Rouhani added, “Sanctions did not force us to negotiate.”
Tasnim News Agency quoted Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi as saying, “We made good progress in our discussions with the P5 +1, but more time is needed.”
Reformist Shargh Daily reported, “There has been much speculation whether the nuclear negotiations will be extended for a few weeks, but what isn’t clear, taking into account the current conditions of the talks, is whether one should remain optimistic or not?”
Mehr News Agency quoted Mashaad Friday prayer leader Ayatollah Ahmad Alam Alhoda as saying, “Today in Vienna, we are witnessing the Iranian negotiating team standing firm on our (nuclear) red lines…a number of European countries and the U.S. have asked for additional sanctions not to be placed on Iran because they know it unites the Iranian people.”
According to ISNA, “If the nuclear negotiations are extended, the extension will be based on the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) and will probably see a continuum of many of the original stipulations (from the Geneva interim agreement).” The one stipulation that has yet to be reported on is whether Iran would receive additional frozen oil revenue.
Fars News Agency reported that Ayatollah Mohammed Yazdi, a member of both the Assembly of Experts and the Guardian Council explained the rejection process when vetting candidates for the upcoming Assembly of Experts election in 2016. “When a candidate is rejected, he immediately thinks he isn’t Muslim (enough). The reality is that the person did not establish the qualifications to be a candidate.”
According to Mehr News Agency, Ahmad Toyserkani, head of the State Organization for Registration of Deeds and Properties said, “757,197 marriages were recorded in the last Iranian calendar year, a 4.4 percent decline with the previous year.“ In addition, „158,753 divorces were recorded in the last Iranian calendar year, which is a 4.6 percent increase with the previous year,” said Toyserkani.
During a board of trustees meeting, ISNA quoted Hamid Mirzadeh, the chancellor of Islamic Azad University as saying, “In the next four years, we plan to build a new (600,000 square meter) seven-campus university in Tehran.”
ECONOMY AND ENERGY
Masoud Nili, President Hassan Rouhani’s senior adviser for economic affairs, told Tasnim News Agency, “The effects of the economic recession that began in the winter of 2011 and ended in the winter of 2013, will be felt until 2016.”
Mehr News Agency quoted Hamid Karghar, head of Iran’s National Carpet Center as saying, “Iran’s hand-woven carpet exports are booming.” According to customs statistics, “Carpet exports in the first quarter of the Iranian calendar year have netted more than $ 57 million dollars, which is a 23 percent increase from the same period last year.”
Zahra Imamzadeh, who is 94 years of age, is cared for by her ten grandchildren.
Iranians in Isfahan donate blood on the 19th day of Ramadan which symbolizes the anniversary of the assassination attempt of Imam Ali, considered to be the first Imam in Shia Islam after the Prophet Mohammad.
President Hassan Rouhani and members of his cabinet spoke to members of the media in the Summit Hall in Tehran.
Research Assistant, Saban Center for Middle East Policy
MODERATOR: Hello. Hi, everyone. Welcome back to Vienna. Thank you for you flexibility today and for coming tonight. First, to start with ground rules. This is all on background as Senior U.S. Administration Officials. Most of you are familiar with our team up here. [Senior U.S. Administration Official One] will give some opening remarks and then we’ll open it up for questions. We have a bunch of folks up here who can answer them, including, I think most of you know [Senior U.S. Administration Official Two], and has been doing these talks for a long time as well, so – but all of that will be on background. No matter who it is, Senior Administration Officials. Please keep us honest on this.
So in a moment I’ll turn it over to [Senior U.S. Administration Official One] and then [Senior U.S. Administration Official One] will give some brief opening remarks and then we’ll do questions. When we do Q&A, please, even though we know most of you, identify yourself and your outlet so we make sure we all know who you are. So, with that.
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Okay. Thank you. Thank you all for being here this evening and welcome to today’s backgrounder.
It’s been a very busy 10 days since we arrived in Vienna. We all have to stop and remember what day of the week it is. They’ve all sort of blended together, so I know for all of you, it’s been a difficult 10 days as well, because we try to keep it fairly buttoned up, so appreciate your patience.
We’ve had a mix of plenary sessions, expert meetings, bilaterals with all of the other countries here, and of course with Iran, and coordination sessions that are led by the High Representative of the European Union Catherine Ashton, who coordinates and leads these talks. Today, I want to say a few words about what we expect from Secretary Kerry’s visit here tomorrow and about what’s happened in the talks during this round, and then of course, I and my colleagues would be happy to take your questions.
The Secretary is coming to Vienna for consultations with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif, EU High Representative Ashton, and other foreign ministers from the P5+1, whose schedules allowed them to be here at this time. He will talk with them about where the negotiations currently stand. He obviously will meet with Foreign Minister Zarif and assess Iran’s willingness to make the critical choices it will need to make if we have a chance of getting a comprehensive agreement. And he will see if progress can be made on the issues where significant gaps do remain.
He will then make recommendations to President Obama about next steps in the negotiation. You all have probably noticed there isn’t a whole lot of time left until July 20th, and this is clearly a critical time in these talks. So in many ways, you could consider this a check-in point by the ministers and all of the delegations, even those who cannot bring ministers here because of scheduling conflicts – the BRICS conference is about to start at the beginning of next week – are sending high-level representatives to add to their delegations.
A few additional points: We remain very united in the P5+1. Everybody has their national positions, of course, but when it comes to having one negotiating position for going forward, we have stayed quite united. The sessions that will take place tomorrow are not meant to be a formal ministerial. There will not be a formal plenary session, but rather, a chance for people to check in with their teams on the ground and with each other. As I noted, the Russians and Chinese both have important business to attend to in Brazil this week at the BRIC summit, which complicated their efforts to come, but are sending senior diplomats to Vienna for these meetings as well. So while I know it’s easy to write a story that the P5+1 is in danger of not being united, it’s simply not true.
Second, in terms of what has happened thus far in this round, we’ve made some progress. But on some key issues, Iran has not moved from their – from our perspective – unworkable and inadequate positions that would not in fact assure us that their program is exclusively peaceful, which, as I’ve said to you many times, we have two objectives: that Iran not acquire a nuclear weapon and that they assure the international community that their program is exclusively peaceful. And so far, on some key issues, Iran has yet to be able to take the decisions that are necessary to meet those objectives.
All you had to do is listen this week to the public comments coming from some in Iran’s leadership to see that we are still very far apart on some issues, and obviously, on enrichment capacity. The numbers we’ve seen them putting out publicly go far beyond their current program, and we’ve been clear that in order to get an agreement, that their current program would have to be significantly reduced. So this is one of the gaps, although, of course, not the only one that remains, but a key and core one.
And finally, as we said the other day, it’s worth remembering that this is not a negotiating – a negotiation between two equal parties. It’s certainly a negotiation among sovereign nations and we respect the sovereignty of every country. This is not, however, a mediation. This is the international community assessing whether Iran can come in line with its numerous nonproliferation obligations, to which it has been in violation for years.
To conclude, and then I’ll be happy to take your questions, we do believe there is a way forward here. What the Secretary and all of us will be doing over the coming days is to determine what that path might look like and how we can give all of us the best chance of solving this problem diplomatically, which is what President Obama hopes that all will be able to achieve.
With that, let’s move to your questions.
MODERATOR: Great. And again, and when I call on you, please identify yourself and your outlet.
Yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: Amir Paivar, BBC Persian. We were told that what the Iranian leadership says in public is something you are not focusing on as much as what you hear in the negotiation room. Are you being told the same numbers you referred to in the negotiation room as well?
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: What I think I’ll say to that is there is no question that we have heard about Iran’s aspirations for its nuclear program in very specific terms and very specific numbers. And that remains far from a significant reduction in their current program.
MODERATOR: Yes. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Ali Arouzi, NBC News. You say the Secretary’s coming here to gauge Iran’s willingness. Isn’t it getting a bit late in the day to gauge Iran’s willingness? And secondly, you said Iran has to make some very tough choices. The Iranian delegation has consistently said also that the United States needs to make some tough choices. Do you agree with that, and if so, what are the tough choices you have to make?
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I think that the United States has already made a number of very tough choices, and I think that’s evident in the Joint Plan of Action that was negotiated among the P5+1. In that, the President of the United States took, I think, a very bold decision to say that we would be open to discussing a very limited enrichment program to meet the practical needs of Iran.
He also agreed that we could sit down and negotiate a Joint Plan of Action, that we would make some limited sanctions relief available to Iran and some of their frozen assets in bank accounts around the world if they would take very concrete steps. Iran chose to take those very concrete steps, and we followed through in what our obligations were.
So I think the good news of the JPOA, it shows that in fact we can each take difficult decisions to try to reach an agreement. Now we’re talking about a comprehensive agreement and we’re talking about the very heart of Iran showing the international community, not just with its words, because of course we have the Supreme Leader’s fatwa and saying that Iran has never had an interest in having a nuclear weapon. Now we have to have concrete actions that are verifiable.
I think that everyone at the table has come with ideas. We have presented a number of proposals, concepts, ways forward, that we think are very thoughtful and acknowledge the tremendous scientific knowhow that Iran has, but at the same time really does mean that Iran must address the international community’s concerns. We’re talking about a decade of violations of obligations under the NPT, such that the UN Security Council has passed four resolutions and required international sanctions that have been imposed by the international community. So that’s really what’s at stake here.
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: And I would just add that it is certainly late in the day in these negotiations, but it’s not too late for Iran to take the steps that are necessary to give the international community confidence.
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Good point.
MODERATOR: Go ahead, Lou.
QUESTION: Thanks. Lou Charbonneau, Reuters. I wanted to maybe first follow up on the comment that [Senior U.S. Administration Official Two] just made. And so if it’s not – there are only a few days left until July 20th, and here we’ve heard how large the differences are. Is one of the issues that will be discussed a possible extension of the talks? And, I mean, how workable is this? It does seem that some in Congress – we had a story yesterday that it seems like it would probably go through. And then the Brits have released a statement saying that Gaza will be discussed tomorrow, the situation there. And so I don’t know if maybe you could say a word or two on that.
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: So let me say a couple things and then Senior Official sitting to my right here might want to add something.
The ministers are not coming here to discuss an extension. The ministers are coming here, as we said in the statement about Secretary Kerry’s coming, to assess the situation, to see whether more substantive progress can be made while they are here, to see that in fact we get done everything we can possibly get done. If, at the end of that process, we have not come to a final agreement, then we will assess where we are and the Secretary will make recommendations to the President about next steps.
We have always said that if we can make some significant progress, that if we thought we needed some additional time, we thought the world would probably want us to take it, and to get to a final agreement. But what the ministers are coming here to do is to assess whether, in fact, we have made and are making and will make, in the eight days remaining, enough progress that it warrants, indeed, us continuing that work if we cannot get to a final agreement. And as you’ve noted, it’s difficult to do – not impossible, but it is difficult to do.
In terms of the issue on Gaza, these are foreign ministers. Whenever they show up anywhere, they discuss whatever is happening in the news and in the day. But they are coming here very focused on this negotiation. None of them are going to be here for a long, long time, so their first priority is going to be to see what they can do to move this negotiation forward and to make substantive progress. I would be very surprised if foreign ministers, wherever they show up, wouldn’t talk about the issues of the day.
QUESTION: A quick follow-up on that, if I may?
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, and then —
QUESTION: For – just what you said about —
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, yeah.
QUESTION: So are you planning to work down to the wire, up to the 20th and now —
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: We have always said we would work till the last moment. We have always said so. I don’t know whether [Senior U.S. Administration Official Two] wants to add something, particularly about Congress, because some of us have lived here in Vienna now for 10 days. Some people got to go home for a few days, but that person did spend some time chatting with members of Congress, so you might want to add something.
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: I would just add two points. First, as we’ve made clear, the Secretary, Secretary Kerry, is focused on determining whether a comprehensive agreement can be reached in the next few days, and that’s going to be his focus when he’s here.
Now if that can’t happen by July 20th, both the Administration and Congress are on the same page, which is that we obviously have to consider all of our options. But we – it would be hard to contemplate things like an extension without seeing significant progress on key issues. And that’s what we’re going to be looking for here over the next few days. We’re going to be trying to get to a comprehensive agreement and then we’ll think about everything else as we go forward. And in that, I think Congress and the Administration are approaching this with the same perspective.
On Gaza, the one point I’d like to underscore is that Iran has a longstanding record of supplying weapons, rockets to various terrorist groups in Gaza, including Hamas; that those rockets are being used to fire at civilian areas; and that Iran has a responsibility to cease and desist from continuing to supply weapons of war that are fueling this conflict. And any opportunity that we get to communicate that message to them, we will take.
MODERATOR: Yes, George. Go ahead.
QUESTION: It’s kind of a – George Jahn, Associated Press. It’s kind of a peripheral issue, this whole issue of unity, but it pops up every so often, and Mr. Ryabkov today spoke to some Russian media and said, basically, our national interests trump unity. And they do have national interests with Iran that are quite strong and they’re trying to develop them even further. Why would he choose to make this comment at this point? Thank you.
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: You’ll have to ask Mr. Ryabkov – (laughter) —
QUESTION: He’s —
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: — why he – and he’ll be back here, I think, sometime tomorrow, I believe. But – he’s here already?
QUESTION: Yes, he’s already here.
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Excellent, so then you – excellent. He was trying to get back sooner. He was in Brazil himself getting ready for the BRIC meeting, so I’m glad to hear he’s back. He’s a good colleague.
QUESTION: I have a follow-up question (inaudible).
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: But – so —
MODERATOR: Do you have any more you’d like to say?
QUESTION: Is that it?
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: What I would say is you’ll have to ask the Russians why they said what they said. All I can tell you is that we all have national interests; of course we do. But we have all been completely unified in the objective of this negotiation and the key issues that need to be pursued.
MODERATOR: Yes. David Sanger.
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Please introduce yourself.
QUESTION: I’m David Sanger from The New York Times. The statement that you made earlier about the public statements that have been made by Iranian officials, I assume you were referring to the Supreme Leader’s comments a few days ago. What they seem to reflect was a fundamental argument by the Iranians that they still need to be able to move to industrial production; if not right away, then I think in this – in the talk, he said five years from now or sometime after that.
As you look at the fundamental differences right now – not the numbers, but the fundamental differences – is there still a view among the Iranians that industrial production is their key goal? And is it still your view that only, as you said, a very limited enrichment capability for a long period of time is your key goal?
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Absolutely, our key goal is a very limited enrichment program. As you know, we believe that what would be best is no indigenous enrichment program at all, but if there is to be one, then it should be limited for a very long duration of time. And the United States is on record worldwide, believing that no one should have an industrial-scale enrichment program, that it’s not necessary, that fuel is available on the open market. You all know that we negotiate 123 agreements all over the world about what people’s programs – nuclear programs are going to look like, their civil-nuclear program, how they’re going to provide fuel for those programs.
QUESTION: But we have one in the United States.
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Huh?
QUESTION: We have one in the United States.
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Indeed we do, but we are one of the original NPT states, so for non-nuclear weapons NPT states, we have worked worldwide to really limit those who have indigenous enrichment.
Now the reality is that, as well, as you know, President Obama has been a leader in the world to decrease the number of nuclear weapons in the world, including our own, and hopes that sometime in the future – maybe not in my lifetime, I hope in the President’s lifetime – that in fact, we have no nuclear weapons.
So I don’t – I think where we are, David, in this negotiation, is we believe that right now, we are at a place where Iran is in violation of its NPT obligations and its obligations to the UN Security Council. For some period of time, they’re going to have to have a very limited, very constrained program that will have inspections, verification, monitoring, and a lot of limitations on what they can do. At the end of that duration, they will be, like any other non-weapons – nuclear non-weapons NPT state and will make their own choices.
QUESTION: When you said a limited period of time, how long a period of time?
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Yes.
QUESTION: Can you measure this in years, decades? What’s your concept?
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: We’ve said always double digits, a long time.
MODERATOR: Great. The gentleman from Bloomberg on the far right, the non-Indira Bloomberg reporter. I know that’s a good title to have.
QUESTION: I’m happy to be called a gentleman, thank you. (Laughter.) And thank you, Mr. Sanger, because my question fits into that. Mr. Lavrov is going to a country tomorrow where Russia has announced it will be negotiating nuclear deals. Now the country he’ll be visiting tomorrow developed a indigenous enrichment program by military junta in secret using a technology, gaseous diffusion, that had exclusively been used for bombs. And that country, which is Argentina, announced 10 days ago that it was going to implement an industrial-scale 20,000 (inaudible) program.
So I know you don’t answer questions directly, but I would like to ask you, what can Iran, and the P5+1, for that matter, learn from the Argentine instance?
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, look, every situation is sui generis to some extent, and there is a long history to where Argentina is today. What I would say is that we are looking at this instance and this particular situation where Iran has been outside of its obligations to the NPT and the UN Security Council for over a decade. And I think, quite wisely, Iran came to the negotiating table wanting to re-enter the international community, to meet its obligations, to become a normal nuclear non-weapons NPT state. It’s going to take them some time to get there. There are a number of things they need to do to be able to get there. But there is a path for them to do so, and quite frankly, to have a very modern, civil nuclear program that meets the needs of their people within constraints that will give the international community assurance that they will not obtain a nuclear weapon and that their program is exclusively peaceful.
Should they choose to do that, and I hope that they do because I think it’s in the interests of their own country to do so, though they will define those interests – not me, as they tell me all the time – if they do so, then I think the return for the country economically, politically, domestically, and in the world is quite substantial.
MODERATOR: Laurence Norman from The Wall Street Journal. I’ll introduce you.
QUESTION: Thanks, hi. Two – a couple of questions if I may. First of all, just a detail of how long people are going to be here for. You said they’re not coming for very long. Can we take from that that Mr. Kerry will be leaving on Monday definitely, or is that still in play?
And secondly, there’s a lot of focus on the enrichment issue, but you said at the beginning that there are some issues that have made some progress. I know you don’t know – I certainly know you’re not going to sit here and list them off for us, but can you give us a sense of whether you feel that those other issues are really – that we all know are really beginning to come together to take shape could be turned into a deal?
And just finally, you said double digits before. Just for the sake of a clean quote, can we say that the U.S. position is asking for at least 10 years as a duration of this accord?
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I think it’d be better to leave it just to double digits, even though I take your point. Trying to get a number is a good thing, but I’m not going to give you one.
Second, in terms of the Secretary’s schedule, those of you who have had the pleasure of traveling with the Secretary of State, for me to try to predict his schedule would be an insane feat on my part. I don’t think that, had you asked me in the beginning of the week whether the Secretary of State was going to be in Kabul today, I would have said yes. So if you ask me if he’s going to leave here – come here tomorrow and leave here tomorrow, I can’t tell you a thing.
All I can tell you is that the ministers are coming here for a check-in. They are not coming here to be the negotiators, to work text. They are here to see if they can help move substantial progress on the areas in which there are some serious gaps. And I think you all understand well enough, in a negotiation, that when parties know ministers are showing up, they’re going to wait to see what can be accomplished. And we hope that something can be further accomplished, because as [Senior U.S. Administration Official Two] pointed out, we need to see some additional progress in this.
As to areas in where there has been progress, there has been some. There are areas in which the gaps have narrowed so that one can see if everything else fell in place, that that would probably fall in place. Remember we’ve talked about this Rubik’s Cube concept 100 times here. You can have every piece fall in place and that last one won’t go into the tumbler until everything else is in place. So one can see that there are places where there’s progress and you might get that final step taken if something else falls into place as well. It’s a negotiation.
QUESTION: Can I just follow that up (inaudible)?
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah.
QUESTION: Are they significant areas? Are these other areas where there’s been progress, are they significant keys?
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: They can become significant areas once other pieces fall into place.
MODERATOR: Great. Laura Rozen.
QUESTION: Laura Rozen from Al-Monitor. Thank you for doing this. You all have had the chance to be in the room with the Iranians when they do show flexibility or there has been progress after weeks and weeks or – I’m sure of arguing over differences. Can you just give us a sense, not on the specific substance necessarily, but how do you see movement with them? Things that were intractable in conversations two weeks ago, how might it move? Because many of us are trying to wonder on these big things, because we understand both your positions very well, how might they move, or you might move? Thank you.
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, look, when we came in here, we did not have a text. We have a text that we are working off of. There are brackets that remain in that text. But nonetheless, it has made some progress moving forward. Some of the brackets have been taken out. I think Baroness Ashton and her deputy Helga Schmid have worked constantly, very difficult. The Iranians are very good negotiators. Their English is quite good and we – as you all know, this is done in English and words mean a great deal. My lawyers tell me that every single day as we look over this.
So this is a process of discussion, but also of coming up with ideas, ways that one might get from here to there. Sorry I’m not giving you a whole lot, but doing the best I can.
QUESTION: Can I ask one follow-up?
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah.
QUESTION: Because so much of what they’re arguing for in terms of industrial-scale enrichment and not having to be dependent on a foreign power to provide fuel for their power program at some point is a pride – I mean, kind of. And I noticed you using language today talking about their technological achievements. Are there ways that, recognizing their research potential or right, would be able to compensate them for a longer delay in this thing that’s very important to them?
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Right. We’ll see. As I said, there are a number of ideas that are on the table, a number of ways forward. We’ve also talked in this room that this is a package; this is not about any one element. All the pieces have to come together to reach the objectives of making sure they can’t acquire a nuclear weapon and that their program is exclusively peaceful. I think that what we are talking about here is how you get from where we are today to normal, and that’s going to be a long duration of time because of past history, under a lot of constraints, but there will come a point, if Iran does make these choices, where they will be free to be like any other non-nuclear NPT state, non-nuclear weapons NPT state.
MODERATOR: Okay, let’s see, who haven’t I – Michael Wilner. Who haven’t I gone to yet?
QUESTION: Yes. Hi. Michael Wilner with The Jerusalem Post. My question is on the role of Congress, and I know I’ve asked you this before, but they don’t seem entirely thrilled with what they’ve gotten. No surprise there. They sent this week a letter; 344 members of Congress signed onto it. And what they said was that there is no such thing as nuclear-related sanctions that are designated in the laws that they’ve passed. Now, your colleague, Catherine Ashton, has said that her mandate is to negotiate specifically on only nuclear-related issues and that that doesn’t include ballistic missile issues or technology, it doesn’t include certainly terrorism-related matters. Do you agree with her on that and do you read the law differently? Is your understanding that the U.S. does demarcate nuclear-related sanctions?
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: What we have said to Iran and what was discussed in the Joint Plan of Action where we promised, working within our system which has checks and balances, that we would not – we would work with our Congress so that there would be no new nuclear-related sanctions, and we make a distinction between nuclear-related sanctions and sanctions on human rights, sanctions on terrorism, and they – those will all stay in place.
We are in consultations with Congress. Congress has played a very critical role in this negotiation. I do not believe that Iran would be at the table except for the leadership that Congress has shown on their concerns for these issues and for the sanctions that were passed in addition to the very critical UN Security Council resolutions which passed international sanctions, and the European Union’s actions, and individual countries’ actions around sanctions. I think Congress plays in that regard a critical and leadership role, and we see them as very important partners.
Both the letter from the House and the letter from the Senate really talk about wanting to ensure that partnership continues, that Congress will play an active role in anything that comes out of these negotiations, and we would absolutely agree that they will.
You want to add?
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah, I would just add that I think we agree with Congress that sanctions are not an end in themselves; they’re a means to an end. And many of the sanctions that Congress has passed in partnership and consultation with the Administration have been designed to help produce progress at the negotiating table. We believe the Joint Plan of Action was the result of the strategy we developed. We believe that progress in these talks can be connected to that as well.
To say that there is not one single sanction that can be lifted in the context of a nuclear agreement, of course, is not a plausible position. Equally true to say that all sanctions get lifted in the context of a nuclear agreement is not plausible because there are, as my colleague said, terrorism and human rights-related sanctions that are quite specifically targeted at other behavior of Iran.
So ultimately, this is going to be a negotiation within these talks, and then consultation with Congress to determine what are effectively nuclear-related sanctions and what are not. And we believe that we can find a way forward on that that works for everybody.
MODERATOR: Yes, Paul Richter, the L.A. Times.
QUESTION: Hi. If the Secretary determines that Iran is not willing to go ahead, is that the moment when you begin discussing an extension, or does his determination mean the show has ended and there’s no purpose in further discussions?
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, as I said, Paul, I think we’ve made some progress, and I think that we hope that the ministers being here will build on that progress, and that we can keep moving forward toward that comprehensive agreement. And as I said, it’s not impossible to complete it by the end of these eight days – difficult. But we certainly want to make substantial progress such that we can make an assessment about the best way forward from there.
I don’t want to prejudge what the Secretary will think or say or what he will recommend to the President of the United States. So this is the check-in. He will have direct discussions with Baroness Ashton. He will have direct discussions with his ministerial partners in the P5+1, with the senior diplomats who are coming here from Russia and China, and with Minister Zarif. And then he will assess where we are and give those of us who are here to continue negotiations – and I would include my colleagues who are sitting up here as well – as I think most of you know, Deputy Burns has returned here as well.
So we will see what is possible and then we will decide what’s the best way forward. But right now, we are entirely focused on seeing what additional substantive progress can be made.
MODERATOR: Let’s just do two more, I think. Who hasn’t had one? Hannah Kaviani.
QUESTION: Yeah, thank you. Hannah from Radio Free Europe. I want to go back, unfortunately, to digits. You mentioned in your comments that Supreme Leader’s words last week basically shows where the gap is, and I wanted to see his position on the timeframe that Iran should have met its practical needs in its nuclear program, is also where it shows you the gap in your positions, or this timeframe that he mentions – not now, not two years, not five years – is something that can help you in the process of negotiations?
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, there is no question, Hannah, that those statements that talk about what Iran’s aspirations are, but not necessarily aspirations that are met today, are – is important. And we certainly have noted that and we hope that that will be considered in working through an agreement for a period of time that is necessary to provide the assurances that the international community is looking for.
MODERATOR: Okay, let’s do one more. We’re going to go up here.
QUESTION: Yeah, if I may, a totally different subject.
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Tell me your name and where you’re from.
QUESTION: My name is (inaudible). I’m with Suddeutsche Zeitung in Germany. So I would be interested if you can give us an idea what the Secretary and his German counterpart are going to talk about on the recent spy cases in Germany. I understand that the U.S. Government is not happy that the German Government has asked the highest-ranking intelligence official to leave the country. What is the Secretary going to offer to kind of smooth things, as has been said in Washington?
SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, our relationship with Germany is a very critical one and a very important relationship. We very much look forward to the conversation between Foreign Minister Steinmeier and Secretary Kerry tomorrow. They are close colleagues who consult frequently on every subject that’s taking place in the world, but tomorrow they will be focused on how they can get substantive progress in this nuclear negotiation.
MODERATOR: Great. Well, thank you all for coming. As a reminder, especially for those who walked in late, this is all on background: Senior U.S. Administration Officials. We’ll keep you posted on when we’ll have further backgrounders, and we’ll do a transcript tonight as well, and there’s no embargo. So with that, have a great rest of your evening.
Fars News Agency reported that on his way back from Afghanistan; United States Secretary of State John Kerry will join the nuclear negotiations in Vienna, Austria, this Saturday (July 12).
Fars News Agency also reported that Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization downplayed the absence of the Russian and Chinese foreign minister this weekend in Vienna and said, “The (Russians and the Chinese) will make decisions and coordinate amongst themselves, and we are optimistic about reaching a deal.”
Mehr News Agency reported that while speaking on a network television program, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, Tehran’s interim Friday prayer leader explained that during the eras in which both Saeed Jalili, as well as the current Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani were Iran’s nuclear negotiators, Khatami was briefed by both men on the status of the nuclear negotiations. When asked whether current Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif had briefed him during the current negotiations, Khatami said, “I have sent Mr. Zarif a message telling him that if he has an opinion on the nuclear talks, I am ready to hear it.”
An Irannuc.ir report asks, “What’s the purpose of P5+1 foreign ministers traveling to Vienna?” According to a diplomatic source, „The foreign ministers (of the P5+1) are traveling to Vienna to speed up the negotiations. There hasn’t been too much movement in the past few days, and difficult decisions need to be made that the current negotiators can’t make.” The source also refuted reports of an additional six month interim agreement by saying, “The more likely scenario would be an extension of a few days or few weeks.”
Mehr News Agency reported that during an interview on network television, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, member of the Assembly of Experts claimed, “We begged (Ayatollah) Hashemi (Rafsanjani) to distance him with the sedition (and protests) of 2009.” Khatami went onto explain that Rafsanjani’s association with the sedition ultimately resulted in him losing the assembly’s chairmanship position to Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani.
ISNA quoted the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Major General Hassan Firoozabadi as saying, “In his recent remarks to government officials, the Supreme Leader fully approved (the policies) of the Rouhani administration, and as such we are obligated to do everything every possible to help the government in this important and sensitive time.”
Alef News reported on comments made by Ali Younesi, a senior adviser to President Hassan Rouhani, regarding former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani. “The situation with Rafsanjani (and the Supreme Leader) goes back 50 years. This is what Ahmadinejad tried to exploit (during his presidency), but he wasn’t able to. There was always a chance that Ahmadinejad would not obey (Khamenei). Rafsanjani or (Akbar) Nateq-Nouri might have a difference of opinion; but they always follow the command of the Supreme Leader.” Younesi also spoke about reformist politicians and said, “Reformists need to reform themselves and understand that this is the Rouhani administration, not the (Mohammed) Khatami administration.”
In an interview with Khabar Online, political commentator Amir Mohebbian said, “People (in Iran) have the expectation that if the negotiations lead to a nuclear agreement, some of their current (economic) problems will be resolved.”
Khabar Online also reported that according to Iran’s Central Bank, “The monthly expenses of an urban middle-class family amount to around 300 thousand toman, but in actuality, the minimum in monthly expenses for an urban middle-class family in Tehran is 600 thousand toman.”
Friday prayers in Tehran were once again held at Mosalla Mosque instead of Tehran University.
Iranian boys compete in a youth weightlifting competition in Isfahan Province.
The Friday Mosque in Bastam, located in Semnan Province was built in the eight century.
- Hanif Zarrabi-Kashani
Source: Iran at Saban
Catherine Ashton, Mohammad Javad Zarif (© AP)
Die Atomverhandlungen zwischen dem Iran und den fünf UN-Vetomächten sollten am Dienstag in Wien fortgesetzt werden. Am Vorabend solcher Treffen hatten Irans Außenminister Mohammed Javad Zarif und EU-Außenbeauftragten Catherine Ashton zuletzt immer ein Arbeitsessen. Am Montag wurde die Lady von ihrem Gegenüber versetzt.
Irans Außenminister Mohammed Javad Zarif hat ein für Montagabend geplantes Abendessen mit der EU-Außenbeauftragten Catherine Ashton in Wien abgesagt. Nach Angaben iranischer Medien erfolgte dies aus Protest gegen das Treffen Ashtons mit Dissidentinnen während ihres Besuchs in Teheran in der vergangenen Woche. Darüber sei angeblich das iranische Außenministerium nicht informiert worden.
Die konservative Opposition im Iran hatte Ashtons Treffen als Gefährdung der nationalen Sicherheit ausgelegt. Dem Außenministerium wurde vorgeworfen, entweder das Treffen wissentlich verheimlicht zu haben oder aber unfähig gewesen zu sein, es zu verhindern. Auch die iranische staatliche Nachrichtenagentur IRNA bestätigte die Absage des Abendessens.
Gespräche sollen drei Tage dauern
Die Unterhändler beider Seiten wollen in Wien bei den voraussichtlich dreitägigen Gesprächen weitere Hürden auf dem Weg zu einer umfassenden Lösung des Streits ausräumen. Der Iran strebt eine Aufhebung der Wirtschaftssanktionen an, soll dafür aber den friedlichen Charakter seines Atomprogramms garantieren.
Bis zum Juli wollen die fünf UNO-Vetomächte (USA, Russland, China, Großbritannien, Frankreich) sowie Deutschland mit dem Iran ein entsprechendes Abkommen aushandeln. Knackpunkt ist unter anderem der Schwerwasserreaktor in Arak, dessen Plutonium zur Herstellung einer Atombombe benutzt werden könnte.
Einfluss des Ukraine-Konflikts unklar
Unklar ist, ob die aktuellen Spannungen mit Russland im Ukraine-Konflikt die Iran-Verhandlungen beeinflussen werden. Die USA hofften, dass die Krise auf der Krim die Atom-Verhandlungen nicht substanziell gefährde, sagte ein hoher US-Regierungsbeamter. Klar sei aber, dass eine Einigung nur gemeinsam möglich sei.
Zudem betonte die US-Seite, dass es keine Teil-Lösungen in diesem Konflikt geben werde. Entweder die Verhandlungspartner einigten sich in allen kritischen Punkten oder der Konflikt bleibe in Gänze ungelöst. Es sei wie mit dem berühmten Zauberwürfel (Rubik’s Cube), der nur dann als gelöst gelte, wenn alle Seiten perfekt seien. Es werde allerdings anerkannt, dass der Iran bisher alle konkreten Schritte zur Überprüfung seines Atomprogramms penibel einhalte. So hat die Internationale Atomenergiebehörde (IAEA/IAEO) attestiert, dass Teheran den Bestand an hochangereichertem Uran deutlich gesenkt hat.