The P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Talks Alert, July 11

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.

This Week In Vienna

The Coburg Palace Hotel, Vienna.

The Coburg Palace Hotel, Vienna.

The Coburg Hotel is expecting some additional guests this weekend. As anticipated in the July 7 edition of The P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Talks Alert, P5+1 foreign ministers will descend on Vienna on Sunday “to take stock of where we are in the talks,” according to the spokesman for the EU High Representative Catherine Ashton. “All available” foreign ministers are invited to attend, the spokesman said.  

At this point it is still unclear if all seven will make it, but State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf issued a statement Thursday confirming U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s travel plans. Harf said that Kerry “will see if progress can be made on the issues where significant gaps remain” and then make recommendations to the President about the “next steps” in the negotiations.

Our sources–on both sides of the negotiation–indicate that behind the scenes, progress has been achieved on several key issues, but differences on the enrichment capacity issue remain. While calls by Iranian leaders for dramatic increases in centrifuge capacity in the shortterm certainly does not reflect the reality at the negotiating table, Iran must be able to sell a nuclear deal domestically. Squaring this circle will require compromise – the P5+1 cannot insist on draconian cuts to Iran’s current uranium enrichment capacity. But creative solutions exist, and the negotiators have 9 days to find one before July 20.–KELSEY DAVENPORT, ACA Nonproliferation Analyst


“Addressing” Missiles in a Comprehensive Nuclear Deal? UN Security Council Resolution 1929 expanded the scope of sanctions and for the first time demanded that Iran suspend any activities related to the testing and development of ballistic missiles “capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” In addition, the resolution banned all transfers of heavy weaponry to Iran. Some members of Congress and independent experts believe limits on Iran’s nuclear-capable ballistic missiles should be on the agenda of ongoing negotiations between Iran and the P5+1. For example, a bill introduced earlier this year by Senators Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) would require that any comprehensive agreement include specific limits on Iranian missiles.

In response, senior administration officials have provided assurances that the issue of Iranian missiles would be “addressed, in some way” during the ongoing negotiations because UN Security Council Resolution 1929 references it, but they have not elaborated how it might be addressed. Iranian officials have publicly and privately expressed their strong opposition to any discussion of Iran-specific ballistic missile limitations in the ongoing nuclear talks. They argue that Iran’s missiles are a legitimate means of self-defense in an unstable region where other countries are threatening to attack it, and they note that the first-phase agreement made no mention of missiles in its framework for a final deal.

The missile issue is certainly relevant to the issue of Iran’s future nuclear weapons potential, but it must be handled very carefully. Attempts by the P5+1 to impose specific, binding limits on Iranian ballistic missile capabilities at this point would jeopardize chances to conclude an agreement that establishes verifiable limits on its ability to produce material for nuclear weapons. Without its ability to produce nuclear weapons, Iran’s ballistic missiles pose much less of a threat to its neighbors.

As the lead U.S. negotiator, Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman noted in a February 4 hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “[I]f we can get to the verifiable assurance that [the Iranians] cannot obtain a nuclear weapon,…then a delivery mechanism, important as it is, is less important.” For further analysis, see: “Leave Ballistic Missiles Out of the Iran Nuclear Talks,” by Greg Thielmann in Defense One, May 20, 2014.


Pentagon “Dials Back” Iran ICBM Threat Assessment Speaking of ballistic missiles, the U.S.-based InsideDefense.com reported July 9 that “a new report to Congress is dialing back a longstanding assessment that Iran could flight-test by 2015 an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking the United States, an apparent break with U.S. intelligence estimates since 1999.”

For the past 15 years, the U.S. intelligence community has speculated that Iran could test an ICBM with assistance from nations such as China, Russia or North Korea. The unclassified executive summary of the January 2014 “Annual Report on Military Power of Iran” does not offer an assessment of the technical feasibility of Iran’s potential to demonstrate an ICBM capability. Instead, according to InsideDefense.com, the summary states: “Iran has publicly stated it may launch a space launch vehicle by 2015 that could be capable of intercontinental ballistic missile ranges if configured as a ballistic missile.”

Greg Thielmann, senior fellow with the Arms Control Association and a former senior State Department intelligence analyst, told InsideDefense.com: “I would regard that as a significant change of language, meaning that the U.S. intelligence community is losing confidence in their earlier prediction of 2015 which has been very heavily quoted, of course, by friends of missile defense and others wishing to pump up the Iranian threat.” Iran’s leaders have explicitly said the nation has no interest in developing ICBMs.

Steven Hildreth, a missile defense expert with the Congressional Research Service, concluded in a December 2012 report that: “It is increasingly uncertain whether Iran will be able to achieve an ICBM capability by 2015 for several reasons: Iran does not appear to be receiving the degree of foreign support many believe would be necessary, Iran has found it increasingly difficult to acquire certain critical components and materials because of sanctions, and Iran has not demonstrated the kind of flight test program many view as necessary to produce an ICBM.”


The Latest Reads… 

Opinion – A Solution for the Iranian Uranium-Enrichment Puzzle: “Solutions that prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, lower the risk of yet another major conflict in the region, and still provide Iran with the means to pursue a realistic, peaceful nuclear program are within reach.” By Daryl G. Kimball, Arms Control Association, in The National Interest http://bit.ly/1r2Xx7l

Opinion – Ensuring Nuclear Fuel For Iran Could Put The Country In A Box: “U.S. and Israeli security concerns could be met by an Iranian centrifuge program that proceeds apace with indigenous power plant construction and is located at a single declared facility, with no premature accumulation of enriched uranium and with attendant verification arrangements.By George Perkovich, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in The Washington Post http://wapo.st/1ztFUzW

Opinion – Five myths about Iran’s nuclear program: “By inviting the hard-liners to tone down their criticism of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, Khamenei is paving the way for Zarif’s team to effectively pursue a deal and receive sanctions relief, while hedging for failure.” By Ariane Tabatabai, Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, in Boston Globe http://bit.ly/1w77hLH

Opinion – Deal or No Deal: Iran’s Nuclear Future Is In Its Hands: “[E]ven as the President’s poll numbers sink, Americans continue to agree with his basic approach to navigating a nuanced world: building and leading international partnerships whenever possible and exhausting tough but innovative diplomacy before turning to military force. And, as blaring headlines have focused elsewhere, the Administration has quietly and persistently led a tough-minded, global effort to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.” By Doug Wilson and Joe Costa, Truman National Security Project, in TPM http://bit.ly/1qOkU2R


Looking Ahead … July 11-13 (est.) – P5+1 Foreign Ministers join talks in Vienna July 15 (13:00-14:30 CST) – Panel Discussion: “A Win-Win Solution for the Negotiations over Iran’s Nuclear Program” organized by Search for Common Ground and the Vienna International Center for Nonproliferation and Disarmament. Location: Donau-City Strasse 6, Andromeda Tower, Floor 13th 1220, Vienna Austria. Speakers: Dr. Frank von Hippel, Senior Research physicist and Professor of Public and International Affairs Emeritus at Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security; Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association; Ambassador (ret.) William G. Miller, Senior Advisor for the US-Iran Program, Search for Common Ground. Register online or email your RSVP to: events@vcdnp.org

July 15 (10:00am-11:30am DC time) – Briefing on a New Survey of U.S. Public Attitudes on Nuclear Negotiations conducted by the Program for Public Consultation and the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland. Location: Choate Room, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1779 Massachusetts, Avenue, NW, Washington, DC.  Speakers: Steven Kull, Director, Program for Public Consultation; Nancy Gallagher, Associate Director for Research at the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland; Suzanne Maloney, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution. Register online.

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


Follow The Negotiations via Twitter at #IranTalksVienna @NegarMortazavi: EU’s Helga Schmidt & her colleagues writing the nuclear deal at #IranTalksVienna. Photo: #Iran Dep FM Araghchi pic.twitter.com/Y9A96C4S6v

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