Saturday, July 18, 2015

iran nuclear deal

Iran nuclear talks hit snag over arms embargo

Vienna (CNN)One of the final sticking points standing in the way of a historic nuclear deal with Iran is the wording of a United Nations Security Council resolution and the issue of a conventional weapons embargo, CNN has learned from multiple sources Monday taking part in talks.

The talks, which have blown through repeated deadlines, extended into Tuesday. Earlier Monday, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Mohammad Javad Zarif signaled to reporters from his Vienna hotel balcony that there would be no deal Monday.

But a deal could come quickly, as an errant tweet from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani suggested.

It read, "#IranDeal is the victory of diplomacy & mutual respect over the outdated paradigm of exclusion & coercion. And this is a good beginning."
The tweet was later re-posted with the word, "If" at the beginning.
Western diplomats tell CNN the hope is that there will be an Iran nuclear deal some time late Monday or early Tuesday. A senior Iranian diplomat directly involved in the talks said Monday night that "We are very close but not there yet. Let's see what's gonna happen in the next few hours."

Iran has been pushing for any resolution which forms part of a deal to curb its nuclear program including the lifting of an embargo against the sale of conventional weapons and missiles. Russia has supported the move. The United States in particular has been resistant to it.

"Under no circumstances should we relieve pressure on Iran relative to ballistic missile capabilities and arms trafficking," said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey last week on Capitol Hill.

Despite that declarative statement from the top U.S. general, administration officials and western diplomats tell CNN the issues are not insurmountable, but negotiators still have to unpack all of the details -- and negotiating every word is tedious and takes time.

RELATED: Understanding the U.S. talking points on the Iranian nuclear deal

Western officials have said negotiators made good progress over the weekend and the talks were reaching the "endgame."

6 times Kerry talked about progress on the nuclear talks
6 times Kerry talked about progress on the nuclear talks 01:00
Negotiators met Monday in a Vienna conference room after Western diplomats said the major hurdles to a deal had been overcome. Those diplomats also acknowledged some important issues needed to be resolved and capitals still needed to sign off. Those loose ends kept Iranian officials from sounding more optimistic iran nuclear deal terms

"There are two or three things that need to be worked out," a senior Iranian official told CNN on Sunday.

Western officials had hoped for the announcement of a deal Monday.

"We are nearly there," one Western diplomat said.

An Iranian official said whether or not a deal gets struck hinges on the negotiators' appetite for getting it done.

"It only depends on political will," the official told CNN.

Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday said he is "hopeful" a deal can be reached.

Optimism in Iran nuclear talks
Optimism in Iran nuclear talks 02:34
The negotiators, facing another deadline, on Friday extended the talks through Monday. This was the third extension of the final round. The parties also extended the interim agreement, known as the Joint Plan of Action, through Monday.

On Saturday, after one of his meetings with the European negotiator and the Iranian Foreign Minister, Kerry tweeted "Still have difficult issues to resolve."

Several of the European foreign ministers had left Vienna late last week, but have since returned.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who just arrived back to the Iranian nuclear negotiations in Vienna, said he was optimistic the talks were nearing completion.

"I hope we are finally entering the final phase of these marathon negotiations," he told reporters, outside the Palais Coburg. "I believe it."

In another signal that talks are entering a critical stage, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is back in Vienna to join negotiations.

But a senior State Department official cautioned against too much optimism at this stage.

"We have never speculated about the timing of anything during these negotiations, and we're certainly not going to start now - especially given the fact that major issues remain to be resolved in these talks," the official told CNN. source:

Here’s the reported US concession that could clinch the Iran nuclear deal

A nuclear deal with Iran looks like a certainty, with one observer of the talks currently in Vienna telling Business Insider that there is a “99.9%” chance that the negotiations won’t go past July 14th.

According to New York Times Tehran correspondent Thomas Erdbrink, Iranian state TV has announced that the text of the deal has been completed and only needs to be proofread before the agreement can be finalized. State media agency Fars News also reported that the final document is around 100 pages long.

According to the Associated Press, the deal will be announced early on July 14th.

iran talks
REUTERS/Carlos Barria
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (L), French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (2nd L), Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (3rd L), European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini (Centre in red), U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (4th R) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) meet at a hotel in Vienna July 13, 2015.

Resolution of the talks between the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany (the so-called P5+1) and Iran has apparently been delayed by a single issue: the lifting of a UN arms embargo implemented over the course of 2007 and 2008.

Iran wants the embargo lifted, as do P5+1 members China and Russia. According to Politico, the discussion in Vienna is over “how” to lift the embargo.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration would face domestic opposition to facilitating arms flows to a US-designated state sponsor of terrorism by lifting an embargo that’s arguably unrelated to the nuclear issue.

The P5+1 has arguably made deeper concessions than the lifting of the arms embargo, which adds to the irony of a prospective deal meant to stem the spread of nuclear weapons hinging on a matter relating to conventional arms.

zarif iran
REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif stands on the balcony of Palais Coburg, the venue for nuclear talks, Austria, July 13, 2015.

The installation of 1,000 centrifuges at the illicit Fordow nuclear facility, the exemption of Iran’s potentially nuclear-capable ballistic missile arsenal from the nuclear talks, and a retreat from international insistance on full disclosure of Iran’s previous nuclear weaponization activities are all more significant negotiating achievements for Iran’s clerical regime.

Other, more important concessions have already been agreed to. Iran could leave the arms embargo alone and still emerge with a fairly favorable agreement.

At the same time, the debate over the arms embargo isn’t as much of an aberration as it might seem, and is in some ways a reflection of how the nuclear talks have often progressed.

kerry iran
REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (2nd L) meets with foreign ministers and delegations from Germany, France, China, Britain, Russia and the European Union at a hotel in Vienna, Austria July 13, 2015.

The latest round of negotiations began on June 27th, with an initial June 30th deadline, meaning that US Secretary of State John Kerry and his team have now been in Vienna for over 2 weeks.

The incentive to wrap up an agreement is strong on the US side, especially in light of the time and political capital that president Barack Obama and his administration have poured into a potential deal. In contrast, the Iranians have the backing of P5+1 members China and Russia in their effort to get the embargo lifted.

It looks like the negotiating dynamics are lining up in Iran’s favor, and Tehran is naturally pressing its advantage.

Compromise over the arms embargo could echo other P5+1 workarounds
On uranium enrichment, the P5+1 agreed to a phased lifting of limitations over the life of the deal, with most enrichment restrictions disappearing after 10 years. Iran also gained the ability to enrich uranium at the heavily armored Fordow facility at year 15.

Iran Nuclear Map
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
On sanctions, Iran will reportedly gain the immediate repeal of UN sanctions authorizations days after a deal is signed, but will have to wait a period of months until US measures are suspended.

And on inspections, Iran will initially agree to “provisional” rather than binding acceptance of the Non-Proliferation Treaty’s additional protocol and will reportedly be able to manage inspector access to military sites.

All of these formulations are substantively concessions to Iran. Tehran will get expanded enrichment and full sanctions relief over the life of the deal, along with a certain amount of influence over the verification process.

These compromises are arguably necessary trade-offs for gaining Iranian approval of the aspects of a deal that have the most direct bearing on the country’s ability to accumulate bomb fuel — Iranian concessions such as modifications to the Arak heavy water reactor in addition to restrictive centrifuge and uranium stockpile caps.

john kerry
REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry leaves his hotel on the way to mass at the St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, Austria July 12, 2015.

And now a similar trade-off seems to be unfolding around the arms embargo. According to Politico, the P5+1 and Iran are now discussing how the embargo can be repealed, with the US “insisting on a slower phase-out.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest would not directly address whether the embargo was still up for discussion during a July 13th press conference, meaning the White House isn’t denying that there’s discussion of relieving the embargo as part of a deal.

The Obama administration may hope that the phased fulfillment of yet another Iranian negotiating objective can preserve a wider nuclear agreement designed to keep Iran a year away from building a nuclear weapon for more than a decade.

But despite reports that an agreement will be announced on July 14th, the negotiations have already dragged on longer than most observers anticipated.

And in a sensitive arms control negotiation between two long-time geopolitical foes, nothing is agreed to until everything is.

Iran, world powers push for Tuesday nuclear deal

Nuclear negotiations between Tehran and six world powers were set to miss a midnight deadline on Monday to reach a final deal, but diplomats from all sides said they hoped for a breakthrough in the coming hours.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said an agreement was possible on Tuesday, but Western and Iranian officials warned that sticking points remain, including a U.N. arms embargo, and that things could still fall apart.

The White House said significant issues remained to be resolved and Iran faced some tough decisions.

Officials close to the negotiations spoke of the increasing frustration on the part of European delegates regarding Kerry's apparent unwillingness to walk away, but the White House said "genuine progress" had been made and the U.S. negotiating team would stay in Vienna as long as negotiations remained useful.

"There, there continue to be significant issues that remain," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. "They're not going to sign on to an agreement until all of our concerns have been addressed. And as long as they continue to make progress in doing that, then the talks will, will continue."

For days, Iran and six world powers have been close to a deal to give Tehran sanctions relief in exchange for limits on its nuclear program, but officials said success was not guaranteed.

Meetings continued late into Monday with some diplomats hoping a breakthrough could happen overnight as they continued to struggle over issues such as U.N. sanctions and access to Iranian military sites.

Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sat in silence when asked if the deadline might be extended or if he could rule out an extension.

His Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said "there shouldn't be any extension", according to the semi-official Fars news agency, only to add: "But we can continue the talks as long as necessary."

Zarif spoke with Kerry and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini for more than an hour. source:

Reports say an Iran nuclear agreement is likely within hours
VIENNA — An Iran nuclear agreement appeared likely within hours, Associated Press reports.

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AP reports that three diplomats familiar with the talks said the announcement could come early Tuesday, possibly during pre-dawn hours in Vienna. According to AP, one diplomat said some of the top officials involved in the negotiation needed to leave Austria's capital in the morning, thus hastening the declaration.

The diplomats weren't authorized to speak publicly on the status of the negotiations and demanded anonymity, AP said. Their reports of a breakthrough capped a seesaw day of developments that started with high hopes for an accord. The mood soured as vexing questions including the future of a U.N. arms embargo on Iran proved troublesome.

As a midnight target for a deal approached in Vienna, diplomats said the nuts and bolts of the written nuclear accord had been settled days ago. And Iranian President Hassan Rouhani briefly raised expectations of an imminent breakthrough by proclaiming on Twitter: "Iran Deal is the victory of diplomacy & mutual respect over the outdated paradigm of exclusion & coercion. And this is a good beginning."

Minutes later, Rouhani's tweet was deleted. He then retransmitted it, adding the word "If" in front of "Iran Deal" to reflect that negotiators weren't there yet. The proposed pact would impose long-term and verifiable limits on Iran's nuclear program and provide the Islamic Republic tens of billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions.

At the White House, press secretary Josh Earnest said the talks were "making genuine progress," and the American negotiating team under Secretary of State John Kerry would remain in Vienna as long as the negotiations advanced. If a deal wasn't reached Monday, he said, the 20-month-old provisional constraints on Iran's enrichment of possible bomb-making material and other nuclear activity would remain in force as the diplomacy continued. The current round of talks is already in its 17th day.

Already Sunday, diplomats spoke of clinching the complete agreement within hours, only to then say the final signoff would have to come the following day. As Monday evening arrived, they offered a similar refrain.

"No deal on Monday, nuclear agreement possible on Tuesday," Iran's state-run Press TV said in a bulletin attributed to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

The U.N. ban on Iran importing or exporting conventional weapons wasn't clearly defined when world powers and Tehran reached a framework deal in April.

A U.S. statement issued at the time said the final agreement would result in "the comprehensive lifting of all U.N. Security Council sanctions" on Iran, which could be interpreted to include the arms embargo. But the U.S. also said at the time that "important restrictions on conventional arms and ballistic missiles" would be incorporated in any new U.N. guidelines for Iran.

Washington wants to maintain the ban on importing and exporting weapons, concerned that an Iran flush with cash from the nuclear deal would expand its military assistance for Syrian President Bashar Assad's government, Yemen's Houthi rebels, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and other forces opposing America's Mideast allies such as Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Iranian leaders say the embargo must end as their forces are combating regional scourges such as the Islamic State. And they're getting support from both Russia and China, who want at least a partial lifting of the restrictions. Moscow, in particular, hopes to expand military cooperation and arms sales to Tehran, including the long-delayed transfer of S-300 advanced air defense systems — a move long opposed by the United States.

Diplomats reported at least two other issues beside the arms embargo proving difficult: How to finalize a long-stymied U.N. investigation of alleged nuclear weapons work by Tehran and Iran's demand that any U.N. Security Council resolution approving the broader deal no longer describe Iran's nuclear activities as illegal.

On the International Atomic Energy Agency's probe, the Iranians insist they have never worked on weapons and top Iranian officials say military sites and nuclear scientists are off-limits to investigators. On the legality of its program, it hopes to receive positive recognition of its diplomatic effort with the six world powers on the other side of the negotiating table — with a quick lifting of U.N. sanctions without the stain of being adjudged in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Some diplomats expressed exasperation.

"There should not be an extension in the talks," Zarif said in remarks carried by Iran's official IRNA news agency. Later, from the balcony of the ornate manor-turned-hotel hosting the talks, he told reporters that negotiators are "sleepy and overworked."

A Final Hurdle in Iran Talks Deals With Conventional, Not Nuclear, Arms

VIENNA — One of the last major obstacles to concluding a historic nuclear deal with Iran is a dispute over a set of United Nations sanctions that appeared to be resolved months ago and only peripherally has to do with nuclear weapons.

The sanctions, passed in a series of resolutions by the United Nations Security Council beginning nine years ago, ban the shipment of conventional arms into and out of Iran.

For those worried about Iran’s continued muscle-flexing in the Middle East — supporting the forces of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Hezbollah forces in Lebanon, Palestinian terror groups and Shiite militias in Iraq — keeping the ban in place is critical for containing Tehran, even after a deal is reached.

Continue reading the main story

People attending demonstrations for Qds Day, or Jerusalem Day, in Tehran on Friday.Iran Opens Campaign to Lay Blame on U.S. if Nuclear Talks FailJULY 10, 2015
A protester held up an anti-American sign at a funeral procession in June for 270 Iranian servicemen killed in the Iran-Iraq war. Iraq returned the remains to Iran in May.Iran’s Hard-Liners Sharpen Attacks on U.S. as Nuclear Talks ContinueJULY 8, 2015
Mohammad Javad Zarif, center, the foreign minister of Iran, sat next to Federica Mogherini, the European Union's foreign policy chief as they meet with other foreign ministers in Vienna on Tuesday.Arms Embargo Takes on Larger Meaning as Iran Nuclear Talks Enter EndgameJULY 6, 2015
President Obama’s secretary of defense, Ashton B. Carter, even told Congress this week that part of the ban, on technology for ballistic missiles, was critical to America’s own security, especially since Iran’s ballistic missiles would be dangerous weapons if they were ever equipped with chemical, biological or even nuclear warheads.

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Key Developments on Iran Nuclear Negotiations
An outline of major developments since the framework agreement in April that could influence the final round of talks.

“The reason that we want to stop Iran from having an I.C.B.M. program is that the ‘I’ in I.C.B.M. stands for ‘intercontinental,’ which means having the capability of flying from Iran to the United States,” he said, adding with a bit of understatement, “We don’t want that.”

But to the Iranians, this is a matter of reciprocity and national pride. The sanctions were imposed over Iran’s nuclear program, they say, so they should be lifted as part of any deal. More broadly, it crystallizes the issue of whether a nuclear deal will mean that Iran is no longer treated as a pariah and is accepted as a major power in the region.

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, has also sought to use the issue to split the six-nation coalition he is negotiating with. He has tried to slice off Russia and China, two countries that are eager to resume a highly profitable arms trade with Iran, and has made little secret of how much he has enjoyed touching off a bit of infighting on the other side of the negotiating table.

It is far from clear that the arms embargo will be a deal stopper. Secretary of State John Kerry, asked Friday afternoon about progress during a meeting with some of his staff in the garden of the Coburg Palace here, where the negotiations are underway, said: “A couple differences have been decided. It’s safe to say we have made progress.” He did not specify on which issues.

To Mr. Zarif, the arms embargo, including on ballistic missile technology, is part of the “nuclear-related sanctions” imposed on Iran starting in 2006, as the United States slowly assembled partners to force Iran to limit its then-nascent nuclear enrichment program. And the key trade-off contained in the still-fluid 80 pages of agreements and annexes being drafted here is that Iran’s program will be constrained for more than 10 years in return for the lifting of those sanctions around the globe.

“That’s been our position, that’s been Russia’s position, that’s been China’s position, and that is the requirement,” a senior Iranian official told American reporters on Thursday night. “And one way or another, something of that nature needs to be achieved.”


Continue reading the main story

Continue reading the main story

Continue reading the main story
Then the official, unable to contain himself, added that when he looked across the table at Mr. Kerry and others, “our friends spend more time coordinating their positions than negotiating with us.”

“That tells you about the state of play,” he said.

The arms embargo issue is not a new one to American officials, but they thought it had been worked out, or at least finessed, when negotiators completed an earlier round of talks in Lausanne, Switzerland.

A fact sheet describing the main provisions of an eventual accord — distributed by the American government in early April, when the outlines of a potential deal were ostensibly agreed to with Iran — suggested that the nuclear accord itself would not specify the continuation of the arms ban.

Continue reading the main story
A Simple Guide to the Nuclear Negotiations With Iran
A guide to help you navigate the talks between Western powers and Tehran.

But a United Nations Security Council resolution that would endorse whatever final deal is negotiated here would incorporate “important restrictions on conventional arms and ballistic missiles,” the fact sheet said. It did not say for how long the ban would be in effect or under what circumstances it might be relaxed.

American officials insist that all of the elements in the text they issued in April were agreed to behind closed doors with the Iranians. But the Iranian summary of what was agreed to in Lausanne made no mention of the arms issue.

That, it turned out, was a portent of problems to come. When talks resumed here in late June, the Iranians reopened the question, adding yet another issue for negotiators, who were already dealing with tough questions about inspections and what kind of nuclear research and development the Iranians could conduct.

The issue is important politically to both sides. For the Obama administration, the idea of allowing Iran to use the billions of dollars it would obtain through sanctions relief to buy missiles and weapons from Russia is a nonstarter.

It could doom the ultimate agreement in Congress, which will take an up-or-down vote (which the president can veto) on the accord. White House officials fear that any suggestion that the arms embargo would be lifted could turn Democrats in Congress against the agreement — votes Mr. Obama desperately needs.

Moreover, lifting the embargo would allow Iran to ship arms openly to Mr. Assad, just as Russia does. While Iran is supplying Mr. Assad now, the supplies are sent covertly.

The issue raises such strong feelings that Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the soon-to-depart chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was adamant on the issue when, alongside Mr. Carter, he testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“Under no circumstances should we relieve pressure on Iran relative to ballistic missile capabilities and arms trafficking,” he said.

It is possible that Mr. Kerry and Mr. Zarif, who met briefly Friday morning, will find a way out of the quandary this weekend. And some Iranian officials have floated a compromise that could ease the restrictions over time. But because the language of the Security Council resolution will be made public, it might be difficult for either side to spin.

“It is a really hard issue to compromise on because of the political resonance on both sides,” said Robert J. Einhorn, a former State Department official now at the Brookings Institution.

“For the U.S., allowing the embargo to be lifted would be attacked as giving Iran license to send arms to its proxies and Russia license to sell advanced weapons to Iran,” Mr. Einhorn added. “For Iran, allowing the embargo to be preserved would be attacked for maintaining restrictions on capabilities unrelated to the nuclear issue.”

“While the remaining issues are politically sensitive, both sides need to prioritize what is intrinsically most important to them and not lose track of the value of the overall deal,” Mr. Einhorn said.

Iran nuclear deal prospects put pressure on oil price
Oil prices have fallen sharply on the possibility of Iran adding to the global oil surplus and continued worries over Greece.

A comprehensive agreement on the future of Iran’s nuclear programme is likely to be unveiled on Monday. Iran is expected to accept curbs on its nuclear plans in return for significant easing of sanctions that would allow it to increase oil exports.

Brent crude fell almost 3%, or $1.70 to $57.06 a barrel. The oil price plunged from $116 a barrel in June 2014 to less than $50 in January as investors reacted to concerns over world economic growth and an abundance of oil as a result of increased US production. News that European leaders had reached an agreement on Greece pushed up the price off its lowest levels to about $57.30 a barrel.
Mike van Dulken at Accendo Markets said more drilling platforms in the US were also putting downward pressure on the oil price.

“An increase of 17 [rigs] in the last two weeks has big implications for production while Iran nuclear talks trudge on in the background, an imminent deal adding fuel to the fire of oversupply concerns.”

The news on Iran added to concerns about demand for oil caused by economic events. Chief among these was the Greek crisis and its potential knock-on effects to the eurozone before gruelling overnight talks resulted in a deal on Monday morning.

Investors are also concerned about China, the world’s second-biggest economy. The country’s stock market has been through weeks of turbulence and a 7.5% increase in crude oil imports published on Monday was said to be caused by stockpiling rather than increased demand.  Iran nuclear deal

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