Iran Edition––Negotiating down to the wire and more

Iran EditionBrett Cox provides weekly updates on news and analysis on the Iranian nuclear challenge in Persian language media. In this week's edition, President Rouhani's brother joins the Iranian delegation in Vienna as P5+1 talks approach their July 20th deadline, and more.


By Brett Cox

July 7, 2014

“We have faith in our negotiators and are confident they will not permit Iran’s rights to be fooled with.”

––Supreme Leader announces public support for Iran’s negotiators in Vienna

In last week’s Iran Edition, I mentioned the political rift some analysts have observed in Iran over the nuclear negotiations: the Valiant, the Worried, and the Composed debating and distinguishing their positions. I thought it important to point out that the Supreme Leader voiced his support for the team of negotiators in Vienna as they embarked on their final round of talks before the July 20th deadline.

Ayatollah Khamenei and President Rouhani
July 14, 2014 - Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei meets with President Hassan Rouhani and cabinet ministers in Tehran. ( Agency/Getty Images)

July 13, 2014

“Our nuclear program will start up again and the sanctions will resume…”

­­–– Abbas Araqchi on what will happen if the talks fail

“And this scenario will benefit nobody,” he concluded in an interview with Al’alam on Sunday. Khodnevis reported on Araqchi’s views on the current round of negotiations, their future, and some of the major sticking points.

“Differences exist in nearly every important issue and we were unable to reduce them; of course, gaps were closed in some areas and in others we were able to reach a solution, but various options were suggested and we are working on these options.”

When asked about the Fordow installation, he said it was “absolutely not on the agenda, and that the other side has accepted that operations there will continue.”

Despite the remaining gaps, Araqchi expressed hope that the presence of the foreign ministers at the talks will lead to “tough political decisions.” He emphasized, “If we are unable to reach an agreement with the foreign ministers’ presence, our work will be much harder and it is possible we won’t reach a resolution by July 20th.”

He added that should the sides’ differences prevail, they may be forced to extend the negotiations if there is any hope to reach an agreement.

July 14, 2014

“We have until next Sunday to make history.”

––Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Twitter

Zarif’s tweets were widely reported over the weekend across reformist and conservative news sources alike. Other messages included:

“Trust is a two way street. The concerns of all sides must be addressed.”

“I will not engage in the blame game, it is not my style. What I will engage in is a sincere attempt to reach an agreement, and I expect the same from all involved.”

Rouhani sends brother to Vienna, and Araqchi talks Bushehr

Etemad, a reformist paper in Iran, reported on the excitement and speculation surrounding the high level meetings over the weekend. Foreign ministers from France, England, and Germany were in Vienna over the weekend to meet with the Iran envoy ahead of the July 20th deadline for a deal. US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived on Sunday and met with Foreign Minister Zarif late into the night.

The Shargh Daily, another reformist paper, noted the absence of the Chinese and Russian foreign ministers was due to their attending a BRIC meeting in Brazil and a diplomatic tour of Latin America. According to international affairs expert Ardeshir Zarei-qanavati, they had other obligations and have no major differences to settle with Iran.

Iran’s president has sent his brother to Vienna “with the latest message and orders” from Tehran aimed at making progress in the talks. Faridoun joined Zarif in both multi-party and one-on-one meetings with other senior diplomats. President Rouhani explained via Twitter that his brother went to Vienna to “provide extensive reports on Iran’s negotiations in Vienna to the President.”

Iran’s Assistant Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi announced that they have yet to wrap-up and it is still too early to tell if a resolution can be reached or not. He did clarify the recent demands coming from the Supreme Leader and conservatives regarding the number of centrifuges Iran requires, stating that the fuel for Bushehr is supplied by Russia for the next few years, but after that Iran will need more enrichment capacity to supply its own fuel.

Etemad’s political analysts write that it is clear the two sides have been discussing enrichment on Iranian soil and limits thereof, but the primary disagreement here is over the arrangement of how Iran can enrich on its own, arrangements for increasing enrichment, what its actual enrichment needs are, and for how many years Iran is willing to accept limits on enrichment.

“Washington now needs to make political decisions to reach a solution.”

­­­­­­––Iran Foreign Minister Zarif after four meetings with US Secretary of State Kerry

On Tuesday, Kaleme reported on Zarif and Kerry’s thoughts regarding their meetings over the last several days. “Washington now needs to make political decisions to reach a solution that will smooth the ground for an agreement and end the deadlock,” said Zarif.

Zarif added that he and Kerry had a good exchange, but that conversations with political leaders are needed.

“We have made tangible progress in the negotiations though serious differences remain regarding Iran’s nuclear program,” Kerry on Tuesday, before reportedly cancelling his trip to the Middle East to return to the US to deliberate with President Obama and Congress on Iran’s latest suggestions.

Last week, Iran’s Supreme Leader announced that Iran needs 190,000 centrifuges to meet all of its nuclear fuel needs. Kerry said that 190,000 is way too much, but added that the Supreme Leader was referring to Iran’s longer-term needs. Responding to the Supreme Leader’s recent statements, Kerry continued, “We take the Leader’s fatwa seriously. America declares that Iran has the right to peaceful nuclear energy according to the NPT. But the most important point is how to verify that the program is peaceful.”

Responding to a reporter’s question about the number of centrifuges, Kerry said, “Publicizing the exact number of centrifuges will not help the negotiations. This is a matter that stays at the negotiating table.” He added, “Iran must decrease its nuclear enrichment capacity to preserve an agreement.”


Brett Cox is a research intern at the Project on Managing the Atom at the Belfer Center and a student at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.