Belfer Iran Brief—Iran takes the field in Brazil and other news

Belfer Iran BriefAs Iran took on Nigeria at the World Cup in Brazil, negotiators began drafting a nuclear agreement in Iran. Updates on the nuclear talks, the crisis in Iraq, and more in this week’s edition of the Belfer Iran Brief, covering June 14-20.

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By Andrew Wojtanik

Highlights

  • P5+1 negotiators began drafting a nuclear agreement with Iran at monthly talks in Vienna, but significant disputes remain.

  • U.S. floated possibility of working with Iran to resolve the crisis in neighboring Iraq.

  • President Rouhani announced his support for sending Iranian volunteers to Iraq to “put the terrorists in their place” and defend holy Shi’a shrines across the country.

Diplomacy and nuclear issue

  • Talks between the P5+1 and Iran continued in Vienna this week.
    • According to Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, negotiators began drafting an agreement and agreed on a title: “The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.” (al-Monitor, 6/18)
    • Zarif: “There has been progress, but major disputes remain.” P5+1 should “abandon excessive demands which will not be accepted by Iran.” (Reuters, 6/20)
    • U.S. lead negotiator Wendy Sherman: “What is still unclear is if Iran is really ready and willing to take all the necessary steps to assure the world that its nuclear program is and will remain exclusively peaceful.”
    • P5+1 diplomat: “We need to arrive at an agreement that gives us…certain assurances…We can’t lock the front door and leave the back window open, in order to arrive at a deal.” (al-Monitor, 6/19)
  • U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns held one-on-one talks with Zarif on the margins of nuclear negotiations in Vienna. (NYT, 6/18)
  • Iranian delegation was reportedly upset that Russia and China concurred with the rest of the P5+1 that Iran must reduce its number of centrifuges in a final deal. (al-Monitor, 6/18)
    • Chinese lead negotiator Wang Qun told reporters that Iran “needs to be more proactive” on the size of its enrichment program. Note: These remarks are significant, as China very rarely speaks to the press about the Iran negotiations.
  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani: “I believe that the July 20 deadline can be met despite remaining disputes. If not, we can continue the talks for a month or more.” (Reuters, 6/14)

Sanctions and Iran’s economy

  • Rouhani: Even “if a deal can’t be reached by July 20, conditions will never be like the past. The sanctions regime has been broken.” (Reuters, 6/14)
    • “The major powers and Iran have agreed on two issues with Iran: We will continue our uranium enrichment activities and all sanctions on Iran will be lifted.”
  • U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew: “As we approach the last month of the agreed upon period for negotiations, Iran’s economy remains in a state of distress that brought the government to the negotiating table in the first place.” (USIP, 6/18)
    Andranik Teymourian of Team Iran
    June 16, 2014 - Andranik Teymourian of Iran's national soccer team during the team's 0-0 draw with Nigeria at the FIFA World Cup. (Amin Mohammad Jamali/Getty Images)
  • Sri Lankan government claimed that the U.S. was allowing it to buy crude oil from Iran via third parties. U.S. denied that there was any such agreement. (Reuters, 6/20)

Iranian domestic politics

  • Iran released a paper explaining the religious foundations of its avowed opposition to producing nuclear weapons. (Fars, 6/17)
  • Iran sentenced a prominent Iranian professor to 18 months prison for criticizing the continuation of Iran’s nuclear program. (al-Monitor, 6/19)

US-Iran relations

  • Deputy Secretary of State Burns briefly discussed Iraq with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif on the sidelines of nuclear negotiations in Vienna. (NYT, 6/18)
    • State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf: “Any discussion about Iraq with Iran will be entirely separate” from the nuclear negotiations. “And any effort to link the two — or any other regional issue — is a nonstarter.”
  • Secretary of State John Kerry indicated the United States is “open to discussions” on resolving the crisis in Iraq “if there’s something constructive that can be contributed by Iran.” (NYT, 6/16)

Geopolitics and Iran

  • President Rouhani announced his support for sending Iranian volunteers to Iraq to “put the terrorists in their place” and defend holy Shi’a shrines across the country. (NYT, 6/18)
    • Iranian Quds Force Gen. Qassim Suleimani arrived in Iraq, ostensibly to provide advice to Nuri al-Maliki’s beleaguered government. (NYT, 6/13)
  • British Foreign Minister William Hague announced that the UK will reopen its embassy in Tehran after being closed in 2011. (BBC, 6/17)
  • In its first game at the World Cup in Brazil, the Iranian national team tied Nigeria, 0-0. (FIFA, 6/16)

Israel

  • No significant developments.

“Red lines,” “points of no return,” and military strikes

  • No significant developments.

Uncertain or dubious claims

  • No significant developments.

 

Andrew Wojtanik is a research assistant at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.