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.
Ashton, Zarif Meet
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Catherine Ashton, EU foreign policy chief and lead negotiator for the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States), met on Monday in Brussels to discuss the resumption of nuclear talks.
After the meeting, Zarif said he was “optimistic” that negotiators could reach an agreement by the November 24 deadline. No date is set, however, for the resumption of talks at the political director level, although a ministerial level meeting between Iran and the P5+1 is possible on the outskirts of the UN General Assembly, which begins in September.
The U.S. negotiating team also met with the Iranian team earlier this month on August. 7 in Geneva.
Since the July 19 announcement extending negotiations through November 24, meetings have been light, with negotiators consulting in their capitals and taking some well-deserved time off after the marathon three-week negotiating session in July. Hopefully this means negotiators will return to the table well rested and ready to reach a comprehensive nuclear deal.
Update: The September diplomatic flurry is picking up. Today, the U.S. nuclear negotiating team is in Geneva for talks with its Iranian counterparts. France, Germany, and the United Kingdom will meet with Iran’s team on Sept. 11, and there will be a full meeting of the P5+1 and Iran in New York on Sept. 18. The Foreign Ministers are expected to meet after the Sept. 18 talks on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
–KELSEY DAVENPORT, nonproliferation analyst
Mr. Amano Goes to Tehran
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Yukiya Amano flew to Tehran on Aug. 17 to continue discussions on the agency’s investigation into the unresolved concerns about Iran’s nuclear activities. He met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister and lead nuclear negotiator Mohammad Javad Zarif, and head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi.
Amano’s visit took place a week before the Aug. 25 deadline for Iran to submit information on five areas of concern to the agency. Earlier reports suggested the IAEA was concerned that Iran may not meet the Aug. 25 deadline. These reports turned out to be true, as Salehi told press on Aug. 25 that Iran submitted information on several of the actions, but was still completing several others.
These five actions are part of a Framework for Cooperation that Iran and the IAEA reached last November, in which they agreed on a process to resolve all of the agency’s outstanding concerns. Thirteen areas have already been addressed under the framework.
Two of the activities Iran committed to provide information on by Aug. 25 relate to activities that the agency’s alleges are related to nuclear weapons development, the so-called possible military dimensions (PMDs). Other actions relate to the clarity and completeness of Iran’s declaration to the IAEA about its nuclear program.
Tehran was to provide the IAEA with information addressing allegations that Iran conducted experiments with certain kinds of high explosives that could be relevant to nuclear weapons. Iran also said it would provide information on studies “in Iran in relation to neutron transport and associated modeling and calculations and their alleged application to compressed materials,” another area with direct connections to nuclear weapons development. IAEA officials followed up with Iranian experts on Aug. 30 in Tehran, but according to Reza Najafi, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, only three of the five actions have been completed.
During his visit, Amano also followed up on information Iran submitted to the IAEA last May on one of the other PMD issues, exploding bridge wire detonators. In May, Iran provided the IAEA with information saying the detonators had civilian purposes. Salehi said Iran answered all of the agency’s questions and pushed Amano to declare that the detonator issue is resolved. Amano, however, said that the IAEA must evaluate all of the issues together before making any determinations about civilian versus weapons use.
Amano said he also discussed new measures for Iran to take “in the near future” and that he was glad to hear Iran’s commitment to seeing the process through.
For a complete list of the actions under the IAEA-Iran framework, see “Implementation of the Iran-IAEA Framework for Cooperation.”
Pivotal Issue: Iran’s Uranium-Enrichment Program
As talks resume, negotiators must find a way to bridge the gap between the two sides on the size and scope of Iran’s uranium-enrichment program.
There are several ways for negotiators to square the circle and find a formula for Iran’s uranium enrichment that meets the core requirements of all parties.
For Iran, this means postponing industrial scale uranium enrichment, slightly decreasing its current capacity, and extending its fuel contracts with Russia. For the P5+1, this means accepting that Iran’s uranium-enrichment program could slowly scale up over time and research and development activities can continue under certain restrictions and monitoring.
The International Crisis Group (ICG) and the Arms Control Association (ACA), in consultation with a number of prominent experts and diplomats, have developed a proposal to define Iran’s uranium-enrichment program based on meeting the core interests of Iran and the P5+1. This is one of many variations that could meet the core concerns of both sides.
The ICG-ACA proposal has three phases, lasting between 11-16 years. Moving from one phase to the next is based on determinations by the IAEA that Iran has meet certain milestones to resolve past concerns and restores international confidence in its peaceful intentions.
Key elements of the proposal include:
- Reducing Iran’s current enrichment capacity by half for a period of three to five years. This means decreasing the number of IR-1 centrifuges currently operating from 10,200 to 5,000-6,000. In seperative work units (SWU), this is a move from 9,400 SWU to 4,500-5,400 SWU. Iran’s operating enrichment capacity could return to current levels (9,400 SWU) by 2021 and for the duration of agreement, but only if Iran can demonstrate that past experiments with possible military dimensions have halted.
- Reducing Iran’s less than 5 percent enriched-uranium stocks to under 200 kilograms. This combination of limits on the stockpile and centrifuges would increase the time it would take Iran to produce enough bomb-grade enriched-uranium gas to 12 months or more.
- Removing and storing under IAEA seal most of Iran’s IR-1 centrifuges and replacing some with a smaller number of IR2-M centrifuges. Research on machines that are even more advanced would be limited over the course of the agreement. This would allow Iran’s scientists to make the desired shift to more cost-effective machines, but still constrain Iran’s overall enrichment capacity.
- Providing strong guarantees to Iran to help meet its future energy needs, including pre-delivery of fuel for operation of the Bushehr reactor beyond 2021. By that time, the IAEA and Iran could also begin a technical assistance project on reactor fuel fabrication and Iran and the P5+1 could develop a joint venture on a future light-water nuclear power reactor.
In total, this program gives Iran a meaningful uranium-enrichment program and allows it to continue research and development to qualitatively refine its advanced centrifuges.
Reducing Iran’s current uranium-enrichment capacity and capping its stockpile of enriched-uranium gas, would increase the time it would take for Iran to produce enough weapons-grade uranium to 9-12 months, which is a key goal for the P5+1 and a significant increase from the current estimate of 2-3 months.
This combination would meet core requirements on both sides. It is an example of the kind of “win-win” formula that both sides could embrace.
The entire proposal is available here.
Looking Ahead …
September 4 – The Role of the EU in Iran Nuclear Negotiations, EU Nonproliferation and Disarmament Conference. Location: Brussels. Speakers: Camille Grand, director, Foundation pour la Recherche Stratégique and chair of the EU Non-Proliferation Consortium; Daryl Kimball, executive director, Arms Control Association; Abbas Maleki, associate professor of energy policy, Department of Energy Engineering, Sharif University of Technology in Iran; and Bruno Tertrais, senior research fellow, Foundation pour la Recherche Stratégique.
September 9, 9:30-11:00 a.m. – Iran Negotiations Update: Verification vs. Breakout Capacity, organized by the Atlantic Council. Location: Washington, D.C.. Speakers: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, Arms Control Association; Michael Singh, managing director, Washington Institute for Near East Policy; and Barbara Slavin, senior fellow, South Asia Center, Atlantic Council (moderator). Click for more information or to RSVP.
September 15, 9:30-11:00 a.m. – Squaring the Iranian Nuclear Circle, organized by the Arms Control Association. Location: Washington, D.C.. Speakers: Kelsey Davenport, nonproliferation analyst, Arms Control Association; James Walsh, research associate, Security Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Daryl G. Kimball, (moderator), executive director, Arms Control Association. Click for more information or to RSVP.
September 16 – UN General Assembly opens, New York
November 24 – Target date for the conclusion of the comprehensive nuclear deal.