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IAEA Director General’s Statement and Road-map for the Clarification of Past & Present Outstanding Issues regarding Iran’s Nuclear Program

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano and Vice President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Ali Akhbar Salehi signing a roadmap for the clarification of past and present issues regarding Iran’s nuclear program in Vienna. (Photo: D.Calma/IAEA)

IAEA Director General’s Statement:

“I have just signed the Road-map between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the IAEA for the clarification of past and present outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear programme. “The text has been signed on behalf of Iran by the country’s Vice-President, and President of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Mr Ali Akbar Salehi. “This is a significant step forward towards clarifying outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear programme.

“The Road-map sets out a process, under the November 2013 Framework for Cooperation, to enable the Agency, with the cooperation of Iran, to make an assessment of issues relating to possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme by the end of 2015.

“It sets out a clear sequence of activities over the coming months, including the provision by Iran of explanations regarding outstanding issues. It provides for technical expert meetings, technical measures and discussions, as well as a separate arrangement regarding the issue of Parchin.

“This should enable me to issue a report setting out the Agency’s final assessment of possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme, for the action of the IAEA Board of Governors, by 15 December 2015. “I will keep the Board regularly updated on the implementation of the Road-map.

“Implementation of this Road-map will provide an important opportunity to resolve the outstanding issues related to Iran’s nuclear programme.”

Road-map for the Clarification of Past and Present Outstanding Issues regarding Iran’s Nuclear Program:

1. On 14 July 2015, the Director General Yukiya Amano and the Vice-President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, President of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi signed in Vienna a “Road-map for the clarification of past and present outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear program”. The IAEA and Iran agreed, in continuation of their cooperation under the Framework for Cooperation, to accelerate and strengthen their cooperation and dialogue aimed at the resolution, by the end of 2015, of all past and present outstanding issues that have not already been resolved by the IAEA and Iran.

2. The “Road-map for the clarification of past and present outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear program” is herewith attached for the information of the Board of Governors.

Joint Statement

by the IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano and the Vice-President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, President of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano and the Vice-President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, President of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi agreed on 14 July 2015 the following

Road-map for the clarification of past and present outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear program

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Islamic Republic of Iran (Iran) agree, in continuation of their cooperation under the Framework for Cooperation, to accelerate and strengthen their cooperation and dialogue aimed at the resolution, by the end of 2015, of all past and present outstanding issues that have not already been resolved by the IAEA and Iran.

In this context, Iran and the Agency agreed on the following:

1. The IAEA and Iran agreed on a separate arrangement that would allow them to address the remaining outstanding issues, as set out in the annex of the 2011 Director’s General report (GOV/2011/65). Activities undertaken and the outcomes achieved to date by Iran and the IAEA regarding some of the issues will be reflected in the process.

2. Iran will provide, by 15 August 2015, its explanations in writing and related documents to the IAEA, on issues contained in the separate arrangement mentioned in paragraph 1.

3. After receiving Iran’s written explanations and related documents, the IAEA will review this information by 15 September 2015, and will submit to Iran questions on any possible ambiguities regarding such information.

4. After the IAEA has submitted to Iran questions on any possible ambiguities regarding such information, technical-expert meetings, technical measures, as agreed in a separate arrangement, and discussions will be organized in Tehran to remove such ambiguities.

5. Iran and the IAEA agreed on another separate arrangement regarding the issue of Parchin.

6. All activities, as set out above, will be completed by 15 October 2015, aimed at resolving all past and present outstanding issues, as set out in the annex of the 2011 Director General’s report (GOV/2011/65).

7. The Director General will provide regular updates to the Board of Governors on the implementation of this Road-map.

8. By 15 December 2015, the Director General will provide, for action by the Board of Governors, the final assessment on the resolution of all past and present outstanding issues, as set out in the annex of the 2011 Director General’s report (GOV/2011/65). A wrap up technical meeting between Iran and the Agency will be organized before the issuance of the report.

9. Iran stated that it will present, in writing, its comprehensive assessment to the IAEA on the report by the Director General.

10. In accordance with the Framework for Cooperation, the Agency will continue to take into account Iran’s security concerns.

For the International Atomic Energy Agency:

(signed)

Yukiya Amano

Director General

For the Islamic Republic of Iran:

(signed)

Ali Akbar Salehi

Vice-President of the Islamic Republic of Iran

President of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran

Place: Vienna

Date: 14 July 2015

GATESTONE INSTITUT| Grünes Licht für Iran an der Schwelle zur Atommacht?

von Yaakov Lappin

Englischer Originaltext: Legitimizing Iran as a Threshold Nuclear Power?

Das Hauptproblem des möglichen Abkommens mit dem Iran ist, dass es diesem gestatten würde, eine größere Menge Uran anzureichern – eine Fähigkeit, die es ihm erlaubt, in kürzerer Zeit mit der Herstellung von Atomwaffen zu beginnen.

Der Zweck eines Vertrags aber sollte es sein, es dem Iran schwerer zu machen, Atomwaffen zu entwickeln. Laut Informationen, die von den Gesprächen nach außen gedrungen sind, wird die im Raum stehende Übereinkunft einen großen Teil von Irans bekannten Zentrifugen zur Urananreicherung intakt lassen.

Solch ein Abkommen bietet keinerlei Gewähr, dass dieselbe Infrastruktur nicht später dazu benutzt wird, den Iran zügig in die Phase zu katapultieren, wo er Atomwaffen produzieren kann.

Eine Übereinkunft, die für Israel akzeptabel ist, ist eine, die Jerusalem genügend Zeit für den Fall gibt, dass der Iran vertragsbrüchig wird.

Nach den Bedingungen, die der derzeitigen Vereinbarung zugrunde zu liegen scheinen, wäre die Zeit jedoch nicht ausreichend – was bedeutet, dass Israel sich nicht durch das Abkommen gebunden fühlen müsste.

Israel lehnt nicht die Idee eines Abkommens überhaupt ab, sondern bloß jenes bestimmte, das offenbar derzeit in den diplomatischen Gesprächen diskutiert wird.

In der Zwischenzeit entwickelt der Iran sein Arsenal ballistischer Raketen immer weiter, die als Träger für nukleare Sprengköpfe benutzt werden könnten.

Und iranische Offizielle prahlen bereits damit, dass sie vier arabische Hauptstädte kontrollieren.

Das sich anbahnende Abkommen mit dem Iran bedeutet nichts Gutes.

In den vergangenen Monaten äußerten Vertreter des israelischen Sicherheitsapparats in privaten Gesprächen bereits ihre Besorgnis über die Vereinbarung, die die Obama-Administration und das iranische Regime im Begriff sind auszuhandeln.

Kreise im Verteidigungsministerium, die mit der komplexen, von Irans Streben nach Atomwaffen ausgehenden Bedrohung vertraut sind, sind darum bemüht, politische Stellungnahmen zu vermeiden, und erklären statt dessen ohne Umschweife, warum das Abkommen, in der Form, wie es sich abzeichnet, eine riesige Gefahr darstellt – für die Sicherheit Israels ebenso wie derjenigen anderer Staaten des Nahen Ostens, die den hegemonialen Bestrebungen des Iran im Wege stehen.

Lässt man die vielen technischen Einzelheiten, die Teil des Gesamtbilds von Iran Atomaktivitäten sind, einmal außen vor, dann ist das wesentliche Problem dieses möglichen Abkommens, dass es dem Iran gestatten würde, eine größere Menge Uran anzureichern – eine Fähigkeit, die es ihm erlaubt, in relativ kurzer Zeit mit der Herstellung von Atomwaffen zu beginnen.

Der Zweck eines Vertrags aber sollte es sein, es dem Iran schwerer zu machen, Atomwaffen zu entwickeln. Israel lehnt nicht die Idee eines Abkommens überhaupt ab, sondern lediglich jenes bestimmte, das offenbar derzeit in den diplomatischen Gesprächen diskutiert wird.

Die Stärke oder Schwäche jedes Abkommens hängt davon ab, wie viel Zeit den USA oder Israel für eine Reaktion bleiben würde, falls der Iran das Abkommen bricht. Eine Übereinkunft, die für Israel akzeptabel ist, ist eine, die Jerusalem genügend Zeit für den Fall gibt, dass der Iran vertragsbrüchig wird.

Nach den Bedingungen, die der derzeitigen Vereinbarung zugrunde zu liegen scheinen, wäre die Zeit jedoch nicht ausreichend – was bedeutet, dass Israel sich nicht von dem Abkommen gebunden fühlen müsste.

Laut Informationen, die von den Gesprächen nach außen gedrungen sind, wird die im Raum stehende Übereinkunft einen großen Teil von Irans bekannten Zentrifugen zur Urananreicherung intakt lassen.

Für Israel steckt in dieser ungünstigen Entwicklung die Möglichkeit, dass eine kritische Bedrohung von strategischer Bedeutung sich zu einer existenziellen auswächst. Ein solches Abkommen gäbe der iranischen Atomindustrie international grünes Licht, böte aber keinerlei Gewähr, dass dieselbe Infrastruktur nicht später dazu genutzt würde, den Iran in kurzer Zeit in die Lage zu katapultieren, Atomwaffen herstellen zu können.

Es sieht derzeit ganz danach aus, dass sowohl Teheran als auch Washington ein Abkommen wollen; der Iran möchte sich von den Wirtschaftssanktionen befreien, deren Auswirkungen dazu beigetragen haben, ihn an den Verhandlungstisch zu bringen; und Präsident Barack Obama scheint darauf aus zu sein, ein Erbe internationaler Diplomatie zu hinterlassen, einen Mechanismus, der Konflikte löst.

Doch die Vorstellung, dass der Iran von seinem Ziel, Atomwaffen zu besitzen, ablassen könnte, oder dass er einen Vertrag mit lockeren Bedingungen als irgendetwas anderes betrachten könnte denn als eine Pause auf dem Weg zur Atombombe, entspricht einfach nicht der Wirklichkeit.

Irans Oberster Führer Ajatollah Khamenei hält unbeirrt an der Idee eines die Region beherrschenden iranisch-schiitischen Imperiums fest. Der Iran und sein Netzwerk von hochgerüsteten Handlangern – die im Irak, im Jemen, im Libanon und in Syrien aktiv sind und dabei sind, viele weitere Länder zu unterwandern – hat die eskalierenden Konflikte befeuert und bereits einen unübersehbaren Beitrag dazu geleistet, dass der Nahe Osten heute so gefährlich instabil ist. Der Iran scheint darauf zu setzen, dass seine Stellvertreter eines Tages seine Agenda der Expansion unter dem Schirm von Atomwaffen in die Wirklichkeit werden umsetzen können.

Gleichzeitig aber sieht Khamenei wohl die vielen Hindernisse, die den Iran derzeit noch von Atomkapazitäten trennen. Dazu gehören (laut internationalen Medienberichten) eine Reihe von verdeckten Operationen, die Irans nuklearen Fortschritt verzögert haben; internationale Wirtschaftssanktionen; und die glaubhafte Androhung militärischer Gewalt von Seiten Israels.

Die Folge ist, dass der Iran offenbar bislang kurz vor dem Erreichen der Phase der Produktion von Atomwaffen gestoppt hat.

Nicht gestoppt hat er hingegen die Urananreicherung im großen Stil. Die Zentrifugen laufen weiter, und ihre Zahl wächst und wächst. Die Erforschung und Entwicklung von neueren, effizienteren Zentrifugen schreitet rasch voran. Mit beunruhigender Geschwindigkeit wächst mithin Irans Fähigkeit, Uran anzureichern. Auch die Anlage in Arak, die dazu genutzt werden kann, Plutonium herzustellen – als den alternativen Weg zu Atomwaffen – bleibt aktiv.

Im Schwerwasserreaktor im iranischen Arak kann auch Plutonium hergestellt werden. (Foto: Wikimedia Commons)

Der Iran muss sich nun entscheiden, ob er sein Atomprogramm verlangsamen soll, um im Gegenzug eine Lockerung der Sanktionen zu erreichen. Sollten sich die Berichte über die großzügigen Bedingungen des von der Obama-Administration angebotenen Abkommens als wahr erweisen, wird der Iran wohl kaum der Verlockung widerstehen, einen Vertrag zu unterschreiben, der ihn weiter im Besitz jener Komponenten lässt, die notwendig sind, um – zu einem Zeitpunkt seiner Wahl – einen zügigen Durchbruch zur Phase der Atomwaffenproduktion zu erzielen.

In der Zwischenzeit entwickelt der Iran auch sein Arsenal ballistischer Raketen weiter, die als Träger für nukleare Sprengköpfe benutzt werden können. Er besitzt bereits gut 400 ballistische Raketen, die Israel treffen können, und arbeitet daran, Raketen mit Feststoffantrieb zu entwickeln, die eine noch größere Reichweite von 2.000 bis 2.500 km haben.

Darüber hinaus vergrößert der Iran sein Netzwerk regionaler Stellvertreter. Die Hisbollah im Südlibanon ist die am stärksten bewaffnete Terrorgruppe der Welt, mit einem Arsenal von über 100.000 auf Israel gerichteten Raketen. Viele davon – darunter auch Lenkwaffen – werden auf Bestellung der Hisbollah in der iranischen Waffenindustrie produziert und über ein internationales Waffennetzwerk, das von der Al-Quds-Einheit der Revolutionsgarden kontrolliert wird, in den Libanon geschmuggelt.

Mit der Hilfe des Iran hat die Hisbollah in jüngster Zeit in den Süden Syriens expandiert und strebt danach, dort eine zweite Basis zu errichten, von der aus sie Israel bedrohen kann.

Derweil verstärkt der Iran seine Kontrolle über das Regime des syrischen Präsidenten Bashar Assad in Damaskus; dessen Überleben hängt mittlerweile völlig vom Iran ab.

Auch Irans Hegemonie über das schiitische Regime im Irak ist in den letzten Monaten noch einmal dramatisch gewachsen, da Bagdad den Iran benötigt, um sich gegen den (sunnitischen) „Islamischen Staat“ zur Wehr zu setzen.

Der Iran kontrolliert ferner die jemenitische Hauptstadt Sana’a, nachdem die von ihm unterstützten Houthi-Rebellen dort einmarschiert sind. Die Houthis können nun den Bab-al-Mandab bedrohen, eine strategisch wichtige Wasserstraße, durch die vier Prozent des weltweit täglich produzierten Öls transportiert werden.

Mit Beirut, Damaskus, Bagdad und Sana’a kontrolliere der Iran vier arabische Hauptstädte, prahlen iranische Offizielle unverhohlen.

Diese Entwicklungen und der sich abzeichnende Atomdeal beunruhigen nicht nur Israel. Ägypten, Saudi-Arabien und die kleineren Golfstaaten sind gleichermaßen alarmiert – wenn nicht noch mehr.

Währenddessen rückt die Hamas, die sich vom letzten Krieg gegen Israel erholt, zurück in den iranischen Orbit. Der Palästinensische Islamische Dschihad war ohnehin immer eine iranische Marionette.

Khamenei hat offen erklärt, dass er beabsichtigt, palästinensische Terrorgruppen im Westjordanland zu bewaffnen.

Zusammengenommen bedeuten all diese Entwicklungen, dass ein „schlechter“ Atomdeal – einer, der es dem Iran erlaubt, einen substanziellen Teil seiner Infrastruktur zur Urananreicherung zu behalten – nicht nur den Status des Iran als einem Land an der Schwelle zur Atommacht zementieren, sondern auch seinem Streben nach Vergrößerung seines Einflusses im Nahen Osten und darüber hinaus weiteren Antrieb geben würde.

Quelle: Gatestone Institute

The Boys Are Back in Town: Iran’s Annual Charm Offensive Begins Amidst Fading Hopes for a Deal

In an autumn rite of passage that has become as predictable as the start of school and the changing of the leaves, this week has seen the launch of the Iranian government’s annual American charm offensive, as senior officials began arriving in New York for the United Nations General Assembly meetings. This year, as last, Tehran’s typical U.S. agenda of speeches, media appearances, gala dinners and other festivities is amplified by intense talks on the nuclear issue.

However, in contrast to last fall, when Iran’s UNGA activities seemed to herald a historic breakthrough on the nuclear impasse and even, perhaps, on the bilateral estrangement, the mood has dampened significantly. The stalemated nuclear negotiations have replaced anticipation with anxiety. The flurry of bilateral and multilateral discussions that will take place around this year’s UNGA will determine if a comprehensive nuclear accord can be achieved. This increasingly looks to be a make-or-break moment for diplomacy with Tehran.

As New Yorkers know all too well, the annual UNGA meetings transform the city into a carnival of world leaders and motorcades. But for Iran, the gatherings inevitably assume outsized significance, offering a rare opportunity for the country’s leadership to occupy the world stage from its adversary’s home turf.

During his own eight-year tenure as president, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — who now serves as Iran’s supreme leader — made the New York trip only once, a 1987 visit that happened to coincide with a U.S. raid (and subsequent destruction) of an Iranian mine-laying ship in the Gulf. During the same session, American efforts to win a UN Security Council arms embargo on Iran ended with a statement by the permanent five Security Council members threatening sanctions unless Tehran accepted a cease-fire with Iraq. Needless to say, it was not a particularly amicable visit.

Another decade passed before Iranian leaders began contemplating a return to UNGA. Reformist president Mohammad Khatami’s multiple speeches in New York, where he promoted his vision of a ‚dialogue among civilizations‘ helped energize his embattled supporters at home and won Iran new respectability in the international community. Khatami’s hard-line successor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, astutely recognized the public-relations bonanza offered by UNGA, and over the course of his two terms in office managed to use his annual New York bully pulpit to provoke offense, outrage and ridicule among Iranians and the world.

Rouhani’s maiden American voyage last year came on the heels of his unexpected election. It was preceded by a well-scripted drumbeat of signals from Iran, such as the release of several prominent political prisoners, innovative Twitter diplomacy by Rouhani and his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and a conciliatory Washington Post op-ed piece penned by the new president.

The preparations paid off; the 2013 UNGA saw a series of unprecedented overtures between Washington and Tehran, including a bilateral discussion among the Iranian and American foreign ministers and a telephone conversation between the two countries‘ presidents. Although secret talks were already well underway, the dialogue that took place on the sidelines of UNGA provided an official imprimatur for the newly revitalized process, as well as significant momentum toward hammering out the November 2013 interim deal.

This time around, however, with the deadline for concluding a final agreement only two months away, the mood is decidedly downbeat. Even after a year of serious and somewhat productive nuclear talks, the core issue of Iranian enrichment capabilities remains unresolved, and all available evidence suggests that the Supreme Leader has dug in his heels. From the start, both sides understood enrichment would prove one of the toughest issues to resolve; however, Tehran’s unwillingness to contemplate any reduction in its current enrichment capacity undercuts the implicit bargain undertaken last November, in which Washington backed away from its maximalist position on enrichment in expectation that Tehran would do the same.

UNGA will provide plenty of opportunity for working through these and other differences, but a creeping pessimism has infected even the biggest boosters of diplomacy with Iran. If Khamenei were prepared to compromise, the deal would already be done; Iran gains no real leverage from the perpetuation of severe multilateral sanctions that have eroded its economy. The alternatives to a diplomatic breakthrough remain profoundly unattractive for all sides. However, unless the discussions over the course of the next few weeks generate a quantum leap forward on the essence of this dispute — Iran’s proximity to nuclear breakout — watch for the debate to shift markedly over the course of October.

Reflecting the prevailing cynicism, this year’s UNGA endeavors have included little preemptive Iranian fanfare to smooth its delegation’s U.S. welcome. Instead of happy homecomings for imprisoned dissidents, this year’s visit was preceded by the announcement that a group of young Iranians who filmed themselves dancing to the pop song „Happy“ had been sentenced to lashes and jail terms. Zarif’s Twitter account has been silent for months, and Rouhani only publicly confirmed his decision to travel to New York earlier this week. And — so far — the Obama administration has wisely refrained from fueling the kind of breathless speculation about the possibilities for a presidential rendezvous that some U.S. officials indulged in last year.

Still, the show must go on. A bid to join the Rouhani revelry remains a hot ticket, and even if Iran’s standard public relations juggernaut seems a bit stale, half the American punditocracy will line up to hear Zarif’s justification for the two-month detention of an Iranian-American journalist as a purely internal matter. (Not surprisingly, he has yet to be asked about any other imprisoned dual nationals, such as former Marine Amir Hekmati who has now spent more than three years in Iranian prisons on trumped-up charges.) And the regional context provides a convenient distraction for the Iranians‘ audiences, as the rising threat posed by the dystopian furies of extremist violence in the Middle East overshadows the world’s persistent concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Meanwhile, the real action will unfold off-stage, among the teams of negotiators seeking to hammer out a formula for ending the impasse over Iran’s nuclear program. Everything else is a sideshow.

Source:

Suzanne Maloney

Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Center for Middle East Policy

A Justified Extension for Iran Nuclear Talks, But Hard Choices Ahead

A combination of photographs shows European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton (L) and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as they wait for the begin of talks in Vienna (REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader).

With significant headway already made but major gaps remaining – and especially with the options available in the event of a breakdown of negotiations looking unattractive to all parties – it made good sense for the P5+1 countries and Iran to extend their talks for another four months, which they announced late Friday.

The United States and its partners can well afford to take the additional time. The six-month halt in all significant advances in Iran’s nuclear program will remain in effect, as will the modest but worthwhile lengthening of the time it would take Iran to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a single nuclear weapon – the result of the neutralization of Tehran’s entire stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium gas. Indeed, over the next four months, Iran has agreed to convert a portion of its 20 percent uranium in powdered form to fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor, making it even less readily accessible for use in a weapons program.

Moreover, with an extension of the very limited sanctions relief measures that applied during the six-month deal, including the suspension of certain secondary sanctions and the continuation of the metered-out release of a tiny fraction of Iran’s oil revenues held in overseas restricted accounts (roughly $700 million a month for a total of $2.8 billion by November), the devastating impact of the sanctions will remain intact and Iran will continue to have plenty of incentive to reach a comprehensive agreement.

The Extension Is Better for the P5+1 than for Iran 

It is the Iranian public, more than Western publics, that should be disappointed with the failure to meet the July 20 target date, and especially with the continuation of the debilitating sanctions. Critics of the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), notably the Israeli government, had predicted that the interim deal would result in a rush to do business with Iran and an unraveling of the sanctions regime.

But those predictions have not materialized. Companies and governments all over the world have been exceedingly cautious about engaging in new business with Iran. They have waited for the end of sanctions, which they knew would only result from the conclusion of a comprehensive agreement.

The new deadline of November 24 was well chosen. It is consistent with the provision of the JPOA (announced November 24, 2013)that called on the parties to conclude negotiation of a comprehensive solution “no more than one year after the adoption of this document.” And importantly, the four months is long enough to give governments the time to make important decisions and negotiators the time to craft detailed provisions – but not so long that it would give critics in Tehran, Washington, and elsewhere the impression that the parties are prepared to prolong the talks indefinitely.

Perhaps most important, the extension will allow the parties to step back, take stock, and reflect on the hard choices that will confront them in the months ahead.

In their public comments, all sides have noted that the negotiations have produced significant progress, including in recent weeks and on some major issues. In particular, negotiators are reportedly working on design modifications of the Arak heavy water reactor that will substantially reduce its production of plutonium and opportunities for breakout. Discussions are also apparently underway about how the functions of the underground Fordow enrichment facility will be changed to minimize fears about its potential use in a nuclear weapons program.

But when government spokespersons on all sides talk about major gaps remaining, they are talking primarily about the vast divide that remains between the P5+1 and Iran — and especially between the Washington and Tehran — on the question of the uranium enrichment capacity Iran should be allowed to possess under an agreement.

Enrichment Remains the Primary Outstanding Issue in the Nuclear Talks

Iran has insisted that it must have sufficient enrichment capacity to produce enriched fuel for the Bushehr nuclear power reactor when the Russia-Iran contract to supply fuel for that Russian-built reactor expires in 2021. That would require Iran to expand its current enrichment capacity by a factor of ten or more and would reduce the amount of time it would need to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a bomb to a matter of a few weeks, should it decide to do so.

The United States and its P5+1 partners have called for a sharp reduction of Iran’s current enrichment capacity (i.e., around 19,000 centrifuges, less than 10,000 of them operating) — to perhaps a few thousand first-generation centrifuges or a smaller number of more advanced centrifuges. They point out that such a limited enrichment capacity would nonetheless enable Iran to meet its realistic, near-term practical needs for enriched uranium — to provide enriched fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, a modified Arak reactor, and perhaps a small light-water research reactor — and that Russia is eager to continue supplying fuel for Bushehr beyond 2021 (and could do so reliably and more competently, cheaply and safely than Iran could do on its own).

This gap has been apparent for several months, but seemed to widen when Supreme Leader Khamenei stated, in a July 7 speech, that Iran has a „definite need“ for 190,000 SWUs — or „separative work units,“ a measure of centrifuge performance equivalent to well over 100,000 first-generation centrifuges or smaller numbers of more advanced centrifuges. Ali-Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, elaborated the following day that new-generation centrifuges would be tested, mass-produced, and phased in over the next eight years so that, by the scheduled expiration of the Russia-Iran fuel supply contract in 2021, Iran would be able to produce the 190,000 SWUs the Supreme Leader said was necessary to fuel Bushehr.

Iran’s Negotiating Positions Have Undergone „Rights Creep“

The evolution of Iranian positions on enrichment might be called „rights creep.“ For several years, while the United States held that no enrichment program should be permitted in Iran, the Iranians argued that a central negotiating goal was simply gaining recognition of a „right to enrich.“ Although the United States still does not recognize a „right to enrich,“ it agreed last year that, in the context of an otherwise acceptable deal, Iran could pursue a limited enrichment program. Having won that major concession, the Iranians have begun talking as if the ability to produce sufficient enriched uranium independently to fuel its power reactors – a capability even advanced nuclear-energy state Japan does not possess – is a right and minimum requirement that must be guaranteed and exercised. They now seem to be reaching even further, arguing that they must have that capability in place by 2021.

In an interview with The New York Times a week ago, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif revealed some elements of his government’s position that were presumably intended to be seen as movement toward the P5+1, particularly the notion that Iran would not insist on ramping up its enrichment capacity right away, but would defer an expansion for a number of years and in the meantime would remain at current centrifuge levels. But Zarif’s comments, together with those of the Supreme Leader and Salehi, suggest an Iranian strategy on the enrichment issue that is sharply at odds with the approach of the United States and its partners.

From public reports, it appears that the key elements of Iran’s strategy are:

  • to maintain the current level of operational centrifuge capacity for the duration of the agreement;
  • resist pressures for reducing that capacity; allow unlimited research, testing, production,
  • and perhaps even installation of advanced centrifuges during the agreement;
  • freeze or perhaps even reduce stocks of enriched uranium (even in oxide form);
  • make the agreement as short as possible (perhaps five to eight years);
  • and ensure that, upon expiration of the agreement, Iran would be free to increase the number of advanced, operating centrifuges as rapidly as it is able in order to achieve a capacity of 190,000 SWUs at the earliest possible date.

If Iran pursues such an approach when the talks resume, it will not be acceptable, certainly not to the United States and several of its partners, and it will ensure continued deadlock.

Iranian officials like to say that the United States and its P5+1 partners must show greater „realism“ — meaning Western negotiators must accept the reality of Iran’s declared nuclear plans. But it is Iran that must show greater realism if it truly wants the negotiations to succeed and sanctions to be removed.

Iran’s Approach to Enrichment Fails the Realism Test

The Iranian approach fails the realism test at several levels. Iran has no compelling need to produce fuel indigenously for the Bushehr power reactor post-2021. The Russians are more than happy to extend their fuel supply contract for the life of the reactor, and to provide fuel for any additional reactors that Iran buys from Russia. Citing disappointing past experience — especially the failure of the „Eurodif“ enriched uranium consortium to meet its obligations to Iran — Tehran asserts that it cannot afford to rely on foreign suppliers and must ensure independence in fuel production.

But Russia has proven to be a reliable partner to Iran for decades, defying strong U.S. pressure to abandon the Bushehr project. And even if Iran does not trust Russia or the well-supplied enriched uranium buyers‘ market, it can pursue a variety of means to ensure against a fuel-supply disruption, including purchasing from Russia a continually renewable, five-year supply of spare fuel that could be stored on Iranian territory.

Iran is also not being realistic about its ability to take over Bushehr fuel production from Russia in 2021. As Carnegie Endowment nuclear expert Mark Hibbs points out in the July 7 Iran Fact File, „Iran has no experience and no infrastructure for making commercially significant quantities of VVER [Bushehr’s reactor type] fuel and no intellectual property agreement with Russia giving Iran access to design data for core internals including fuel, which it would need to make the fuel by itself. Were Iran to go ahead without Russian cooperation, a bilateral agreement assigning Russia liability in the case of safety issues arising at Bushehr would be automatically terminated.“

So Iran’s declared plan to produce Bushehr fuel independently by 2021 is not only unnecessary and uneconomical, it is also technically unfeasible, legally questionable, and highly unrealistic in terms of timeframe. If Iran somehow managed on its own to fabricate and load fuel into Bushehr, major safety issues could arise.

Foreign Minister Zarif’s „concession“ that Iran would defer for several years expanding its enrichment capacity to the supposedly-needed 190,000 SWU level is really no concession at all. Iran will not wish to ramp up its enrichment capability using obsolete, current-generation centrifuges. It will want to install much more advanced machines. But further research and testing is likely to take several more years, until Iran is satisfied with their performance, and then they will have to be produced in large numbers. Even without an agreement, Iran would have to put off any buildup to an industrial-scale enrichment capability for a significant period of time.

And if a future industrial-scale capability will require more advanced centrifuges — and if a small, significantly reduced number of current-generation centrifuges are sufficient to meet Iran’s practical, near-term need to fuel a few research reactors — it makes little sense for Tehran to insist on maintaining current centrifuge levels during the agreement.

Iran’s recent public line that it needs an industrial-scale enrichment program to provide fuel for the Bushehr reactor and perhaps future power reactors — especially the Supreme Leader’s authoritative statement about a „definite need“ for a 190,000 SWU capability – may well constrain Iranian negotiators‘ room for maneuver, especially now that Iranian hardliners have taken up the 190,000 SWU battle cry.

But Iran may have left itself some wiggle room. At a July 15 press conference, Zarif said that „this amount [190,000 SWU] is not an immediate need and we have time to reach that level. We also need time in terms of technology to reach that level. And this time provides us with the possibility of reaching a solution.“

The Way Forward on Enrichment

These comments suggest a possible way forward on the enrichment issue. For the duration of the agreement, which should be close to what the P5+1 have proposed, Iran would accept a significantly reduced enrichment capacity that would nonetheless enable it to meet its modest, near-term needs. The agreement would be much longer than Iran would prefer and would require greater reductions in current enrichment capacity than Iran would prefer. But it would permit Iran, within agreed limits and monitoring measures, to engage in certain activities that would better prepare itself for proceeding in the post-expiration period to the more ambitious civil nuclear program that it says it wishes to pursue. Such activities could include research and testing of more advanced centrifuges and acquisition of the required expertise and infrastructure for fuel fabrication.

Such a framework would not require Iran to abandon its declared civil nuclear plans, only to accept a longer and more realistic time frame for pursuing them. It would also require the United States and its partners to make hard choices about the activities Iran would be permitted to engage in during the agreement.

For several years, and especially in recent months, Iranian officials have spoken as if Iran is the aggrieved party in the negotiations, demanding that the P5+1 and the broader international community drop the unjust sanctions, stop trying to coerce unwarranted concessions, and permit Iran’s legitimate exercise of its civil nuclear rights like any normal law-abiding country. Recently, former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani asserted — as many Iranians have asserted before him — that Iran only wants to enjoy its rights, like Japan.

Iran’s Incriminating Nuclear Track Record Has Left a ‚Trust Deficit‘

But given Iran’s highly incriminating track record in recent decades — including numerous violations of its nonproliferation obligations and credible evidence that, at least in the past, it pursued research, experiments, and procurement related to nuclear weapons — it cannot expect to be treated like Japan or other NPT-compliant countries. It cannot wish away or expect the international community simply to forget this record. Iran continues to suffer from what former IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei used to call a „trust deficit.“

Iran’s leaders may or may not still be interested in acquiring nuclear weapons, but if they want the rest of the world to believe their nuclear program is devoted exclusively to peaceful purposes, they must demonstrate it through their actions, not just their words – and that will take time. Until Iran has gained the confidence of the international community in its peaceful intent, it will not be acceptable for Tehran to acquire sufficient enrichment capacity to be able to break out of constraints and produce enough nuclear material for a bomb in a short period of time. Deferring, but not necessarily abandoning, its civil nuclear plans is a reasonable price for Iran to pay to earn the trust of the international community – and to achieve a comprehensive agreement that can remove the sanctions, help re-energize Iran’s economy, and end its international isolation.

Four additional months is not a lot of time to close the wide gaps that remain between the parties. But rather than rush back to the negotiating table, it would be desirable for the exhausted diplomats to return to their capitals and take the time to reflect with their colleagues on the difficult choices and tradeoffs that will be required to arrive at a deal by the end of the extension period. Even with the new deadline, success is far from assured.

Authors

Source: Iran at Saban

Briefing on Iran Nuclear Negotiations

Special Briefing

Senior Administration Officials
Washington, DC
July 18, 2014

 


 

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.

QUESTION: Yeah.

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.

QUESTION: Thanks.

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.

 

Source: Bureau of Public Affairs, U.S. State Department.

Iran Headlines: Four Month Nuclear Extension, Ukraine, and Expat Investment

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and other diplomats leave a news conference in Vienna, Austria.
NUCLEAR NEGOTIATIONS

 

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.”

GAZA STRIP

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.

 

IRAQ

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.

 

UKRAINE

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.”

SOCIETY

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.”

PHOTOS

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.

Authors

  • Hanif Zarrabi-Kashani

Source: Iran at Saban.

Iran Headlines: Rouhani Backs Extension, Assembly of Experts, and Recession

NUCLEAR NEGOTIATIONS

 

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.

 

POLITICS

 

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.”

 

SOCIETY

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.”

ISNA asks, “Are China and India to blame for the fluctuations of Iran’s oil exports?”

PHOTOS

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.

Kerry floats new sanctions on Iran

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a joint news conference in Cairo, June 22, 2014. (photo by REUTERS/Brendan Smialowski)

US Secretary of State John Kerry told lawmakers July 17 that passing new triggered sanctions on Iran might help unlock a nuclear deal, a complete reversal from the policy of the President Barack Obama administration until now, Al-Monitor has learned.

Kerry made the remarks at a State Department meeting with a group of Jewish lawmakers who are regularly briefed on issues pertaining to Israel. He discussed the likely need for an extension of the negotiations of up to four months as well as the Israel-Gaza conflict. He made it clear that he was just floating ideas, several lawmakers said, and had not gotten Obama to sign off on them.

„He said it might be useful as a spur,“ one lawmaker said. „But he said he hadn’t checked with the White House.“

Triggered sanctions would only kick in if negotiations fail to produce results within a pre-determined timeframe.

Kerry’s signals immediately spurred some hawkish pro-Israel lawmakers to consider legislative action.

„I sensed an openness toward a sanctions bill that would be triggered by future events — or untriggered by positive future events,“ said Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif. „So I’d like to work on that.“ Sherman was not among the lawmakers who told Al-Monitor that Kerry floated the idea.

The State Department said official policy remains opposed to new sanctions.

„Our position has not changed — we do not support additional nuclear-related sanctions while we negotiate,“ State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told Al-Monitor in an emailed statement. „We will continue consulting closely with Congress, [which] has played a key role in building the sanctions regimewe have in place right now, about the comprehensive negotiations and the path forward.“

Lawmakers said Kerry told them the administration is weighing a variable mix of duration — possible „months“ — of sanctions relief and further „defanging“ of Iran’s nuclear program as it works out the details of a possible extension.

Supporting new sanctions would represent a sea change in administration policy. When 60 senators signed on to similar legislation in the Senate, the White House stopped just shy of accusing them of warmongering.

„If certain members of Congress want the United States to take military action, they should be up front with the American public and say so,“ National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a January statement. „Otherwise, it’s not clear why any member of Congress would support a bill that possibly closes the door on diplomacy and makes it more likely that the United States will have to choose between military options or allowing Iran’s nuclear program to proceed.“

Some lawmakers suggested that the change in tone is an indication that the administration believes that the negotiations are now far enough along that new sanctions wouldn’t doom them. Rather, triggered sanctions could help by proving to Iran that Congress is determined to pass new sanctions if talks fail, as Kerry and others have warned all along.

The House passed a new sanctions bill with a 400-20 vote in July, but it remains stalled in the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has blocked Iran sanctions bills at the administration’s behest.

Source: Al-Monitor

„Five Myths about Iran’s Nuclear Program“

Op-Ed, Boston Globe

Author: Ariane Tabatabai, Stanton Nuclear Security Predoctoral Fellow, International Security Program/Project on Managing the Atom

Belfer Center Programs or ProjectsInternational SecurityManaging the AtomScience, Technology, and Public Policy

 

As the July 20 deadline approaches for a final agreement between the West and Iran over Iran’s nuclear program, it is vitally important to understand both sides‘ positions. Here are five myths about Iran’s nuclear program.

Myth 1: Iran’s supreme leader will block a favorable deal.

The general view in the West is that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is the hard-liners‘ flag bearer and an obstacle to the conclusion of a deal. This could not be further from the truth. In many ways, Khamenei has been a moderating agent in the polarization of the domestic debate around the nuclear issue. He has reiterated a number of times that he fully supports the negotiating team, while reminding everyone that they should keep their expectations low. This is certainly due to the deep distrust between Iran and the United States. But it is also informed by the opposition of US hard-liners to any diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue. By inviting the hard-liners to tone down their criticism of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, Khamenei is paving the way for Zarif’s team to effectively pursue a deal and receive sanctions relief, while hedging for failure.

Myth 2: The fatwa against nuclear weapons is bogus

Tehran says that the „production, stockpiling, and use“ of nuclear weapons are prohibited by Islamic law and that the highest authority in the country, the supreme leader, has issued a fatwa, or religious decree, to this effect. Many in the West question the validity and utility of such a decree. But the decree can serve a key purpose in the talks. Discourse doesn’t replace compliance, and trust can’t be built without verification, but the fatwa can be an additional confidence-building measure. The decree and its reiteration by various Iranian religious authorities and policymakers have made it extremely difficult for Iran to overturn its position. Stating time and time again over the course of more than a decade that something is prohibited, then violating that prohibition, would come at great political cost, delegitimizing the regime entirely from within.

Myth 3: Iran just wants to defy the international community.

Iranian concerns are often dismissed as mere manifestations of the country’s lack of commitment to its international obligations. Ali Asghar Soltanieh, the former Iranian ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, recently told me that Tehran could have withdrawn from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. This, he argued, would have been understandable and natural, given the change in regime. At that point, many countries had not even joined the treaty. But Iran chose to stay. Later, Soltanieh said, Tehran signaled its willingness to cooperate with the agency in the context of the technical cooperation program. Iran is not just trying to defy the international community; it has legitimate concerns, which must be addressed, or at least recognized and understood.

Myth 4: Iran doesn’t even need nuclear energy.

Western hard-liners certainly did not see eye to eye with Iranian revolutionaries in the 1970s and ’80s, but both groups then questioned the utility of a nuclear program in an „energy superpower.“ While Iranian revolutionaries now think a nuclear energy program is needed, Western critics continue to argue that it is not. After all, Iran holds the world’s fourth-largest oil reserves and second-largest gas reserves. Tehran, then, they argue, must not have any legitimate needs for a nuclear energy program. Therefore, the only reason for Iran’s nuclear program must lay in its military ambitions. But, as other energy superpowers (including some of Iran’s neighbors) are showing, abundant oil and gas reserves are no reason for a country not to pursue other energy sources. Diversification, after all, is something all countries seek. But Tehran has other plans that go beyond nuclear power; arguments for the production of radioisotopes for medical purposes have been presented a number of times. One area that is not discussed as much is desalination, an energy-intensive process that Iran will have to consider more seriously as it deals with growing water scarcity. As noted by Soltanieh, Iran already has plans to this effect, including a contract with Japan for a desalination facility next to its Bushehr nuclear power plant.

Myth 5: Other states in the region are threatened by Iran’s program.

While this is true, it’s not necessarily due to the reasons US officials often present. Many states in the region, especially those that have been vocal in their criticism of Iran’s nuclear program, feel threatened not by the prospects of a nuclear Iran, but by Iranian-Western rapprochement. Political and economic isolation have helped states like Saudi Arabia, who fear losing their military, economic, and political ties and privileges with the United States. After all, Tehran and Washington did have close relations prior to 1979 and, given that the two countries have a lot in common, they could develop ties again.

Ariane Tabatabai is a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

Iran Headlines: Kerry Leaves Vienna, Oil Exports, and Chinese Investment

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrives at Geneva International airport.

NUCLEAR NEGOTIATIONS

ISNA reported that before leaving the Austrian capital of Vienna today, United States Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters that the United States took the fatwa against nuclear weapons issued by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, “very seriously,” and that “both sides have agreed on key issues, but significant gaps still remain.”

Khabar Online quoted Iran’s Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani as saying, “In order to reach a final nuclear agreement, it would be helpful if the West drops its excessive demands for a more realistic approach towards the negotiations.”

According to Mehr News Agency, after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif told reporters, “Iran’s nuclear program is entirely peaceful and we are ready and willing to resolve their concerns of the P5+1.” Zarif added, “We have reached a point in the drafting of the text where a solution is possible…the text of the nuclear agreement will be finalized in a few days.”

Fars News Agency reported that Hussein Fereydoon, the brother of President Hassan Rouhani has left Vienna to return to Tehran today. Fereydoon, a special adviser to President Rouhani, traveled to Vienna “to be informed on the latest developments in the nuclear negotiations and to prepare a detailed report for President Rouhani.”

Citing sources, Alef News wrote that Hussein Fereydoon, the brother of President Hassan Rouhani was in Vienna because “he was carrying a message that contained instructions on how to resolve (the remaining) issues in the nuclear talks.”

An editorial in hard line Javon Online wrote, “Iran’s negotiators need to maintain the stance that if the demands of the West continue to be excessive, it will be the West that will be blamed for failing to reach an agreement,” and that “if the negotiations fail, Iran should be ready to accelerate its nuclear program.”

POLITICS

Mehr News Agency reported that the spokesperson for Iran’s Judiciary announced that Iran’s oil ministry has agreed to accept property as a form of payment regarding the massive debt that billionaire sanctions buster Babak Zanjani owes the oil ministry.

According to Khabar Online, President Hassan Rouhani met with senior Iranian military officials and said, “The administration will do everything it can in order to strengthen its solidarity with Iran’s armed forces, and given the current circumstances, our armed forces, hand in hand with the administration, want to help solve the problems of the people.”

ECONOMY AND ENERGY

Entekhab News reported that Iran’s Statistical Center announced, “Iran’s population has reached 78 million.”

In an interview with ISNA, Head of Iran’s Aviation Organization Alireza Jahangiri said, “Spare airplane parts (purchased under the Geneva interim agreement) have entered the country, and additional parts will be arriving soon; this trend will continue.”

According to Donya-e Eghtesad, Mohsen Ghamsari, the National Iranian Oil Company’s (NIOC) director of international affairs has denied that Iran’s oil exports have decreased in the month of June, as was reported in a recent report published by the International Energy Agency (IEA). “If anything, technical issues might have reduced output at a refinery but overall we have met our monthly average,” said Ghamsari. The article also claimed, “Iran’s oil and natural gas exports seem be around 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd).”

According to Mehr News Agency, “Despite China’s Central Bank being thoroughly prepared, citing vague and unspecified reasons,Iran’s Central Bank has suspended an investment deal worth $66 billion dollars in which Chinese companies would finance projects inside Iran.”

PHOTOS

Hard line students protest in front of the United Nations sub-office in Mashaad in support of Hizballah and Palestinians in Gaza.

President Hassan Rouhani meets with senior military commanders of Iran’s Armed Forces.

Masoumeh Ebtekar, the head of Iran’s Environmental Protection Organization participates in an environmental awareness ceremony.

Authors

  • Hanif Zarrabi-Kashani

Source: Iran at Saban.

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