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The P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Talks Alert, July 18

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IRAN-NUCLEAR-POLITICS By the research staff of the Arms Control Association. To get this P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Talks Alert delivered to your inbox, sign-up now.

Extension Announcement Expected Soon

Two days before the July 20 deadline to conclude a comprehensive nuclear agreement, it's still not clear when the P5+1 and Iran will agree to the terms of an extension of their nuclear talks or when the extension will be announced.


While an extension seems almost certain given comments by a number of leaders and senior officials about progress on some areas and the need for more time to close the gaps in other areas, there are a number of unknowns.

The two sides could agree to additional actions beyond the terms of their interim agreement, formally known as the Joint Plan of Action (JPoA). Negotiators may also decide to extend the JPoA and the deadline to conclude a comprehensive agreement for a period of several weeks or up to several months. The Nov. 2013 interim agreement called for the conclusion of a comprehensive agreement within a year.

When to resume negotiations on a comprehensive deal is also a question. While it is important to allow negotiators a break, and time to go back and consult in their capitals, it is important not to lose momentum.

Negotiators are working through these issues and talked late into the night yesterday and have resumed their meetings again this morning.

A press conference announcing how and when the talks will continue is likely later today or tomorrow.

--KELSEY DAVENPORT, ACA Nonproliferation Analyst

Additional Sanctions Legislation? No Thanks Says Kerry

Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry briefed members of both chambers of Congress on the status of the P5+1 talks with Iran in closed-door sessions.

Following the meetings, some members of the House of Representatives were reported to have claimed that Kerry expressed an openness to new congressional legislation that would impose new sanctions against Iran.

"I sensed an openness toward a sanctions bill that would be triggered by future events - or untriggered by positive future events," Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) told Al-Monitor.

The State Department and the White House said the administration remains opposed to any additional nuclear-related sanctions while negotiations are ongoing.

State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said via Twitter that: "It should come as no surprise that members of Congress in AM session w/@JohnKerry raised their own proposals re triggered sanctions," and "@JohnKerry does not support new nuke-related sanctions while we negotiate bc it would be counterproductive to negotiations."

Pivotal Issue No. 5: Sanctions Against Iran

Iran has been subjected to comprehensive U.S. sanctions since the early 1980s for a variety of reasons, including the regime's support for terrorism, human rights violations, and proliferation concerns.

Since the UN Security Council took up the Iran nuclear file in 2006, Iran has also been subjected to increasingly rigorous multilateral sanctions aimed at encouraging compliance with its nuclear nonproliferation obligations and addressing international concerns about the nature of its nuclear program.

These sanctions focus on preventing Iran from acquiring the technologies and materials needed for its nuclear and missile programs by requiring all countries to restrict sensitive exports to Iran.

The sanctions geared toward slowing Iran's nuclear and missile programs appear to be increasingly effective as additional countries strengthen controls over exporting sensitive goods to Iran. But they have not prevented Iran from improving its domestic capabilities nor led Iran's leadership to abandon the pursuit of a nuclear capability. In 2006, when the last major round of negotiations to limit Iran's nuclear potential broke down, Iran had some 300 first generation centrifuges; today it has nearly 20,000, of which 10,200 are operating.

In recent years, U.S.-led sanctions have increasingly targeted the Iranian energy sector, the most critical part of its economy, to impose economic pressure on Iran in the hopes of influencing the decision-making of Iran's leadership. More recently, the Iranian banking sector has been targeted by sanctions designed to isolate it from the global financial system by both the United States and the European Union.

To secure a comprehensive agreement, the P5+1 will need to agree to phase out the tough, multilateral nuclear sanctions regime now in place, including the international oil and financial sanctions that are devastating Iran's economy.

Iran will likely insist that, with each of the successive steps that it undertakes as part of a comprehensive agreement, there will be commensurate actions to waive, suspend, and then lift sanctions.

The step-for-step approach of a possible comprehensive agreement will require a new UN Security Council resolution on Iran's nuclear program and positive, follow-up actions by the EU states and approval by the U.S. Congress of legislation that unwinds U.S. nuclear-related sanctions that impact other nations' affairs with Iran.

Contrary to the views of some in the Congress, an early congressional vote to maintain or to relieve key nuclear-related sanctions against Iran following the possible conclusion of talks on a comprehensive agreement would be counterproductive.

If such a vote resulted in the removal of key sanctions, it would prematurely relieve pressure on Iran before it had a chance to follow through on its nonproliferation commitments. If such a vote were to block the President's authority to waive certain sanctions called for by a comprehensive agreement, or otherwise block the later removal of certain sanctions, it would blow up the deal - the result being no limits on Iran's nuclear potential, no additional international inspections, and the increasing risk of another war in the Middle East.

For a detailed analysis on how the sanctions architecture can be removed over time as Iran takes required nonproliferation steps, see: "Easing US Sanctions on Iran," by Kenneth Katzman of the Congressional Research Service, for the Atlantic Council, June 16, 2014.

The Latest Reads...

Opinion - Don't Worry About the Deadline and Keep Talking With Iran: "It will be disappointing if Sunday comes and goes without a permanent agreement in which Iran convincingly commits itself to a purely peaceful use of nuclear power in exchange for an end to economic sanctions. But a missed deadline need not be a disaster - unless members of Congress jeopardize an extension of the negotiations by pressing for additional sanctions against Iran." The Editorial Board, the Los Angeles Times. http://lat.ms/1qkbJcH

Interview - Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif: 'It's a Historic Opportunity for All of Us': "I think we have made enough serious discussion for us to think about the feasibility of continuing these discussions," Zarif said. "I think Secretary Kerry made that recommendation. I have made the recommendation." Interviewed by Christiane Amanpour, CNN http://cnn.it/1jEMfnl

Opinion - Keep Talking With Iran: "Should the talks collapse after Iran made concessions, it would empower the more militant, conservative and anti-Western elements of Iran's government and likely scuttle the chance for any deal in the near future. Mr. Rouhani's moves toward reform and openness were greeted with skepticism in the West when he took office last year, but so far he has largely stayed true to his word. Undermining him at this point would only put the United States and its allies further at risk." The Editorial Board, The Baltimore Sun. http://bsun.md/1mVXUxZ

Opinion - Iran's Highly Enriched Bargaining Chip: "[U]nless Iran agrees to rein in its enrichment program, it will be impossible for the country to reassure the international community of the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program. And that means it will be impossible to get a deal that resolves the nuclear crisis. Even if talks are extended beyond the looming July 20 deadline, the moment for thin rationalizations and excessive revolutionary pride has passed. If Iran's leaders mean what they say about their nuclear intentions, now is the time to prove it. " By Colin H. Kahl, Foreign Policy. http://atfp.co/1kCDMMv

Looking Ahead ...

July 18 or 19 - possible announcement on extension of the deadline of negotiations.

July 20 - original target date for the conclusion of the comprehensive nuclear deal.

Follow the Negotiations via Twitter at #IranTalksVienna

@julianborger: Big question hanging over #IranTalksVienna. Is West too fixated on centrifuges number and theoretical breakout times? 1/2

#IranTalksVienna 2/2. Iran is agreeing to a much bigger role for IAEA inspectors. That could be greater prize, as insurance v covert prog.