By Rebecca Shimoni Stoil, TOI and AFP, July 19, 2014
VIENNA – Iran and world powers struck late Friday a deal to extend their Sunday deadline to strike a nuclear accord easing fears Tehran will get the bomb, negotiators in Vienna revealed. With the extension of talks, Iran committed to taking additional steps that US officials said would set back their progress toward a nuclear bomb, and will receive in return an additional $2.8 billion in assets that are currently frozen in overseas banks.
The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, and the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mohammad Javad Zarif issued a joint statement in which they announced the four-month extension that would continue the talks until November 24.
They emphasized that the extension was within the timeframe initially delineated in the JPA, which set out a six month-long period for talks toward a comprehensive agreement, but allowed for a six-month extension.
Secretary of State John Kerry noted that during the initial six-month period, Iran had upheld its obligations under the JPA, including Since its implementation, neutralizing its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium; capping its stockpile of 5 percent enriched uranium; not installing advanced centrifuges; not installing or testing new components at its Arak reactor; and submitting to far more frequent inspections of its facilities.
Senior administration officials said Friday that under the extension, Iran will also make all of its 20 percent enriched uranium into fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor. In its fuel form, administration officials said, it will be very difficult for Iran to use this material for a weapon in a breakout scenario.
The officials also said that Iran has agreed that rotors for advanced centrifuges will now only be manufactured at plants that are under IAEA inspection, and that those rotors will only be used to replace damaged existing machines.
In return, an additional $2.8 billion will be released from the approximately $100 billion of frozen Iranian assets. This amount, officials said, was a prorated amount based on the initial $4.8 billion released in the first six months of the JPA.
Zarif and Ashton noted that over the past few weeks, since talks reconvened in early July, all parties “have further intensified our efforts” but added that “while we have made tangible progress on some of the issues and have worked together on a text for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, there are still significant gaps on some core issues which will require more time and effort.”
This assertion was backed up by US officials, who specified that while progress had been made regarding the Arak heavy water facility and the formerly secret reactor at Fordo, gaps remain on key topics including research and development, domestic enrichment, and particularly enrichment capacity at the Natanz facility.
According to senior US administration officials, negotiators who have spent weeks in Vienna will now head home to their respective capitals, bringing with them a number of possible plans that they will have to review and consider before talks reconvene in late August.
Iran and the six powers have been negotiating almost constantly for months, trying to forge an accord by July 20 when an interim deal agreed in Geneva in November expires.
After a decade of rising tensions, the mooted accord between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany is aimed at easing concerns that Iran might develop nuclear weapons and silencing talk of war.
Iran denies seeking the atomic bomb and wants the lifting of crippling UN and Western sanctions.
This would greatly expand the time needed for the Islamic republic to develop a nuclear weapon, should it choose to do so, while giving the world ample warning of any such “breakout” push.
Washington and Iran earlier this week laid the groundwork for pushing back the deadline after US Secretary of State John Kerry held two days of intense talks with his Iranian counterpart that failed to produce a breakthrough.
“It’s clear that we’ve made real progress in several areas and that we have a credible way forward, but as we approach a deadline under the interim deal, there is still significant gaps between the international community and Iran and we have more work to do,” US President Barack Obama told reporters on Wednesday.
The two sides are believed to have narrowed their positions in recent weeks on a few issues such as the Arak reactor, which could give Iran with weapons-grade plutonium, and enhanced inspections.
But they remain far apart on the key issue of Iran’s capacities to enrich uranium, a process which can produce fuel for reactors but also the core of a nuclear bomb.
The six powers want Iran to reduce dramatically the scope of its enrichment program, while Tehran wants to expand it.
The US and Iranian governments are both under intense domestic pressure not to give too much away.
Some US lawmakers have threatened to ramp up sanctions without a rigorous agreement – and a bill is still waiting in the wings in the Senate that would set an automatic trigger for tougher sanctions should talks fail. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), a sponsor of the additional sanctions legislation responded via Twitter to the Friday evening announcement, writing “more time for deal w/ #Iran = time to build nuclear bomb. Need non-military pressure via Menendez-Kirk sanctions NOW.”
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the other sponsor of the sanctions bill, has called for an accord that dismantles Iran’s nuclear program in a way that is verifiable for 20 to 30 years.
While stating their emphatic opposition to any additional sanctions legislation that they said might harm the diplomatic effort, senior administration officials echoed Menendez’s call for an agreement whose terms would extend “into double digits.”
FreeAllThree.com is deeply disappointed by this development. Iran continues its tactics well intrenched in 1990’s Clinton administration with the same lead U.S. negotiator: Wendy Sherman. However, while Iran enriches uranium, why is the U.S. further enriching Iran’s coffers to the tune of $2.8 Billion over the next 4 months? Another question, which is a hangover from the first round of talks, why hasn’t Iran been required to give up its American hostages? The U.S. has shown and continues to display its good faith (some might say “naiveté”) while Iran’s negotiators simply smile for the cameras and give up nothing. When will the West learn? When?
President Barack Obama and John Kerry owe a personal explanation to the families of PASTOR SAEED ABEDINI, AMIR HEKMATI AND ROBERT LEVINSON and to the American public why these men are remain wrongly held in Iran today!
__________________________________________ About FreeAllThree.com: From January 1-July 4, 2014 there are 184 days or 6 months and 4 days. Iran was given 6 months (180 days) to show good faith regarding their nuclear weapons programs. America must insist that no more billions of US dollars, gold or other resources will be unfrozen and transferred to Iran as a result of further sanctions loosening. Nor should oil exports flow freely to other nations, including Russia that has negotiated a side deal worth $1.5 billion per month known as ‘oil for goods.’ With such a bartering system, Russia would continue to build Iran’s nuclear facilities in exchange for Iranian oil, bypassing the banking system, and then re-selling it on the open market. Finally, the main purpose of the current negotiations, the cessation of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, must be realized and continually verified.