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This Week In Vienna
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry left Vienna today after a press conference that set a more positive tone than statements made earlier this week by U.S. officials about the nuclear negotiations with Iran.
With 5 days left before the July 20 deadline, Kerry did not address the frenzied speculation about whether the talks would be extended, but said that negotiators would remain in Vienna through the 20th and that all parties are committed to a diplomatic solution. He said that he would brief President Obama on the status of the talks and return to Vienna later, if necessary.
While Kerry declined to discuss specifics, he said there has been progress on key areas but gaps remain. He would not comment on the U.S. position on the specific capacity of Iran’s uranium-enrichment program, a key issue in the talks, but said that the 19,000 centrifuges currently installed (only about 10,200 are operating) are too many. Kerry also responded to comments made earlier by Supreme Leader Khamenei about Iran’s needs for 190,000 separative work units (SWU), saying that this capacity is a long-term goal and not a new figure.
David Sanger reported in The New York Times yesterday that Iran is showing a new flexibility and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is willing to negotiate on a uranium-enrichment proposal that would freeze Iran’s current capacity (10,200 centrifuges – or about 9,000-10,000 SWU) for several years. While this proposal still raises questions about the duration of limits, it is a positive sign. This hopefully will represent the progress that the P5+1 wants to see on one of the key issues to extend talks past July 20 if necessary.
On a positive note, Kerry stressed that all parties were negotiating in good faith and it is a question of finding the right formula that allows Iran a peaceful nuclear program while ensuring the world that it cannot be used for nuclear weapons. These are realistic and compatible goals, he said.
Kerry’s press conference followed two days of talks at the Coburg palace, including several bilateral meeting with Zarif.
–KELSEY DAVENPORT, ACA Nonproliferation Analyst
Today, the Program for Public Consultation and the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland released the result of an online policy-making simulation involving 784 respondents from June 28-July 7, 2014. A key finding showed that a large majority of respondents prefer negotiated limits over additional sanctions.
Participants received a background briefing before being asked about their attitudes toward the two main options currently being debated by U.S. policymakers: 1) negotiating a long-term deal that limits Iranian enrichment, increases inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and eases some sanctions, or 2) imposing more sanctions in hopes that Iran will agree to stop enrichment altogether.
Participants were then given three arguments for and three against each policy option, and asked how convincing they were. After hearing these pro and con arguments, they were re-asked to rate their attitudes toward the options on a 0-10 scale. They were then asked which option they would recommend.
Key Findings: Large majorities prefer negotiated limits over additional sanctions: Six out of ten (61%) ultimately recommended the first option, while about one-third (35%) favored the second.
Support for negotiated limits is bipartisan: Republicans and Democrats showed slightly stronger support for negotiated limits (61% and 65%, respectively) than did Independents, but a majority of Independents still preferred negotiations to sanctions (51% to 43%).
For the full report on the results from the Program for Public Consultation, a project of theCenter on Policy Attitudes and the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, visit: http://www.public-consultation.org/.
The Iran, P5+1, +535 Talks
Yesterday, Reuters reported that Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Lindsay Graham, R-N.C., circulated a letter among fellow lawmakers “to support demands that Iran accept tough conditions in nuclear talks, including at least two decades of inspections, before Congress would agree to ease sanctions.”
Most observers want a diplomatic solution that verifiably prevents a nuclear-armed Iran. Such an agreement is possible within the next few days, but the talks could be thrown off course if senators try to grab the steering wheel away from U.S. and allied negotiators.
Any agreement that is struck between the P5+1 and Iran should not be evaluated on the basis of any single feature. Instead, it should be judged on its overall impact on reducing Iran’s nuclear capacity and improving capabilities to detect any ongoing or future Iranian weapons program.