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Posts tagged ‘Mohammad Javad Zarif’

Iran’s Rouhani Eyes Rebuilding Relations With US.

BERLIN — Iran wants to improve bilateral relations with the United States and other Western powers, President Hassan Rouhani said in an editorial published in a German newspaper on Monday, broaching an issue he has so far avoided since he took office.

Rouhani won a landslide election victory in June promising a policy of engagement with the West and has had regular diplomatic contacts with the United States, but they have been limited to negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program.

“We want to rebuild and improve our relations to European and North American countries on a basis of mutual respect,” he wrote in a contribution for the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

“We are striving to avoid new burdens on relations between Iran and the United States and also to remove the tensions that we have inherited,” said Rouhani, who has promised to reduce Tehran’s isolation and to win an easing of sanctions.

Tehran and Washington severed relations after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.

Iran cannot forget everything that has affected relations with the United States over the last 60 years, he said, but added: “We must now concentrate on the present and orientate ourselves towards the future.”

Rouhani’s diplomatic pragmatism has already resulted in significant progress. While in New York for the United Nations General Assembly in September, Rouhani held an historic telephone call with Barack Obama, the first time the presidents of the two nations have spoken in more than three decades.


Iranian officials subsequently emphasized the call was to support a diplomatic resolution of Iran’s nuclear program and did not concern direct bilateral ties. Two months later Iran and world powers signed an interim deal to curb part of Iran’s nuclear activities in return for some sanctions relief.

Rouhani, a former nuclear negotiator, said he was doing whatever he could to end tensions over Tehran’s nuclear activities, which have raised concerns in the West that Iran is seeking to develop an atomic weapons capability. Iranian officials have repeatedly denied such suggestions.

“We have never even considered the option of acquiring nuclear weapons,” Rouhani said. “We’ll never give up our right to profit from nuclear energy. But we are working towards removing all doubts and answer all reasonable questions about our program.”

Iran agreed under the Nov. 24 accord to stop its most sensitive nuclear work — uranium enrichment to a fissile concentration of 20 percent — and cap other parts of its activities in exchange for some limited easing of sanctions, including trade in petrochemicals and gold.

On Sunday, world powers and Iran suspended their technical talks in Geneva on how to implement the agreement until after the Christmas holidays following slow progress.

In a posting on Facebook on Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said they would resume early next week but he described all stages of the talks as complex.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.


US Sanctions Expansion Angers Iran; Russia Sees Nuke Deal Threat.

VIENNA/MOSCOW — A breakthrough agreement to end the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program appeared to face its first major difficulty on Friday with Russia warning that expanding a U.S. sanctions blacklist could seriously complicate the deal’s implementation.

Russia, which, along with the United States, is among the six world powers that negotiated the Nov. 24 interim accord with Tehran, echoed Iranian criticism that it violated the spirit of the deal and could “block things.”

The United States on Thursday blacklisted additional companies and people under existing sanctions intended to prevent Iran from obtaining the capability to make nuclear weapons. Iran denies any such aims.

Diplomats said Iran, in what appeared to be a response, interrupted technical talks in Vienna with the six nations over how to implement the agreement, under which Tehran is to curb its atomic activities in return for limited sanctions easing.

The developments highlighted potential obstacles negotiators face in pressing ahead with efforts to resolve a decade-old dispute between the Islamic Republic and the West that has stirred fears of a new Middle East war.

Western diplomats said the inconclusive outcome of the Dec. 9-12 expert-level discussions should not be seen as a sign that the deal hammered out nearly three weeks ago was in trouble.

But Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency in reaction to the U.S. decision that it was evaluating the situation and would “react accordingly”, adding, “It is against the spirit of the Geneva deal.”

Russia also made its concerns clear.

“The U.S. administration’s decision goes against the spirit of this document,” said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, referring to the Geneva agreement between Iran and the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany.

“Widening American ‘blacklists’ could seriously complicate the fulfillment of the Geneva agreement, which proposes easing sanctions pressure.”

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said she did not think the blacklistings announced on Thursday had made the negotiations more difficult.

“No, I don’t. I think it was always going to be very complicated,” Harf told reporters, adding the United States had told Iranian officials in Vienna that more designations were coming.


Russia built Iran’s first nuclear power plant and has much better ties with Tehran than Western states. It supported four rounds of U.N. Security Council sanctions aimed at reining in Tehran’s nuclear program but has criticized the United States and Europe for imposing additional sanctions.

U.S. officials said the blacklisting move showed the Geneva deal “does not, and will not, interfere with our continued efforts to expose and disrupt those supporting Iran’s nuclear program or seeking to evade our sanctions.”

The new measure, the first such enforcement action since Geneva, targeted entities that are suspected of involvement in the proliferation of materials for weapons of mass destruction and trying to evade the current sanctions.

Some U.S. lawmakers want further sanctions on the Islamic state. But the administration of President Barack Obama has campaigned to hold off on new measures for now to create space for the diplomatic push to settle the nuclear dispute.

Iran’s ambassador to France said expanding the blacklist played into the hands of those opposing the deal — including hardliners in Iran irked by the foreign policy shift and apprehensive that they are losing influence over Iran’s most powerful man, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“This agreement has opponents both inside Iran and outside Iran,” Ali Ahani told reporters at a meeting of business and political leaders in Monaco.

“We are determined to keep to our commitments, but we have to be sure that on the other side they are serious, and that we can show to our people that we can trust them and that the West is a viable partner.”

“The contents of this accord are quite clear. It was decided not to add sanctions. This type of decision blocks things,” added Ahani, speaking on behalf of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who pulled out of the World Policy Conference after his mother was taken ill.


The Geneva deal was designed to halt Iran’s nuclear advances for six months to buy time for negotiations on a final settlement. Scope for diplomacy widened after Iran elected the pragmatic Hassan Rouhani as president in June. He had promised to reduce Tehran’s isolation and win sanctions easing.

Under the agreement, Iran will restrain its atomic activities in return for some easing of the international sanctions that have battered the major oil producer’s economy.

But one diplomat said the Iranian delegation in Vienna suddenly announced late on Thursday — hours after Washington made its blacklisting decision public — that it had received instructions to return to Tehran: “It was quite unexpected.”

A European Union (EU) diplomat said he did not believe the decision was linked to the issues under discussion in Vienna, but rather “their reaction to moves in the U.S. on sanctions.”

The hope was that it was a temporary problem: “The Iranians have been committed to making this work. We are not panicking.”

Iranian officials were not available for comment.

Secretary of State John Kerry said he expected the implementation talks to resume in the coming days.

“We have been hard at it in Vienna . . . we are making progress but I think that they’re at a point in those talks where folks feel a need to consult and take a moment,” he said during a visit to Israel. “There is every expectation that the talks are going to continue in the next few days and that we will proceed to the full implementation of that plan.”

A spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who coordinates the discussions with Iran, also said they were expected to resume soon.

“After four days of lengthy and detailed talks, reflecting the complexity of the technical issues discussed, it became clear that further work is needed,” Michael Mann said.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Democrats, Republicans Spar With Kerry Over Iran Nuclear Deal.

Image: Democrats, Republicans Spar With Kerry Over Iran Nuclear Deal

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry clashed with congressmen on both sides of the aisle Tuesday over the controversial nuclear deal with Iran, exposing deep rifts over a U.S. pledge to refrain from any new sanctions over the next six months in exchange for concessions on enriching uranium.

The disagreement could have broad consequences for the U.S. diplomatic effort to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

In his first congressional testimony since last month’s Geneva agreement,  Kerry defended the diplomacy as having halted and rolled back central elements of Iran’s nuclear program for the first time.

He pleaded with Democrats and Republicans alike not to scuttle the chances of a peaceful resolution to a crisis that has regularly featured U.S. and Israeli threats of potential military action.

“Let me be very clear: This is a very delicate diplomatic moment and we have a chance to address peacefully one of the most pressing national security concerns that the world faces today,” Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “We’re at a crossroads. We’re at one of those really hinge points in history. One path could lead to an enduring resolution in the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. The other path could lead to continued hostility and potentially to conflict.”

Kerry’s appearance came as lawmakers increasingly threatened to undermine the six-month interim pact, which gives Iran $7 billion in sanctions relief over the next half-year in exchange for the Islamic republic’s neutralizing its higher-enriched uranium stockpiles, not adding any new centrifuges, and ceasing work at a heavy-water reactor that potentially could produce plutonium used in nuclear weapons.

Members of both parties challenged Kerry.

The top Democrat on the panel, Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, specifically asked Kerry why the administration was so strongly opposing sanctions that wouldn’t be imposed unless Iran breaks the agreement.

And Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman expressed misgivings about trusting the Obama administration, which he accused of hampering all sanctions efforts against Iran thus far.

Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., are close to completing a bill that would require the administration to certify every 30 days Iran’s adherence to the interim pact, according to legislative aides.

Without that certification, the legislation would re-impose all sanctions and introduce new restrictions on Iran’s engineering, mining and construction industries.

The legislation also calls for a global boycott of Iranian oil by 2015 if Iran fails to live up to the interim agreement. Foreign companies and banks violating the bans would be barred from doing business in the United States.

However, Iran sanctions were left off a defense bill working its way through the Senate this week — much to the dismay of Republicans.

“This is a rather transparent attempt to prevent a vote on enhanced Iran sanctions, so they’re trying to circumvent the Senate, pass major legislation, essentially without amendments,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters.

In the House, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., is drafting separate legislation mapping out how a final deal with Iran should look, aides say.

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, has warned any new package of commercial restrictions would kill the deal.

“If Congress adopts sanctions, it shows lack of seriousness and lack of a desire to achieve a resolution on the part of the United States,” Zarif told Time magazine. “My parliament can also adopt various legislation that can go into effect if negotiations fail. But if we start doing that, I don’t think that we will be getting anywhere.”

Kerry said new sanctions could also be viewed as a sign of bad faith by America’s negotiating partners — Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia. The United States is banking on them to enforce existing oil and financial restrictions on Tehran and to press Iran into a final agreement.

“I don’t want to give the Iranians a public excuse to flout the agreement,” Kerry said. “It could lead our international partners to think that we’re not an honest broker, and that we didn’t mean it when we said that sanctions were not an end in and of themselves but a tool to pressure the Iranians into a diplomatic solution. Well, we’re in that. And six months will fly by so fast, my friends, that before you know it, we’re either going to know which end of this we’re at or not.”

Kerry’s assessment comes just three days after President Barack Obama began to play down chances for success, telling a think-tank forum that he believed the odds of a comprehensive nuclear agreement next year are 50-50 or worse.

Still, Obama defended diplomacy as the best way to prevent Tehran from acquiring atomic weapons and rejected criticism from Israel’s government and many in Congress that his aides bargained away too much without securing a complete halt to Iran’s nuclear program — as demanded by the international community for several years.

Members of Congress generally believe that crippling petroleum, banking, and trade sanctions levied on Iran in recent years were responsible for bringing its more moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, to power and his representatives to the negotiating table.

Many argue more pressure, not less, could break Iran’s will and secure better terms in a final agreement.

At several points, Kerry and lawmakers talked over each other as they argued about whether the deal recognized Iran’s “right” to enrich uranium — which the administration rejects — and about the details of international inspections on Iranian sites and its non-nuclear weapons programs.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., was perhaps strongest in her criticism of the administration, flatly denouncing the agreement in Geneva as a “bad deal.”

“We may have bargained away our fundamental position,” said Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., the committee chairman. “Iran should not be enriching and reprocessing,” he said, criticizing what he termed the administration’s “false confidence that we can effectively check Iran’s misuse of these key nuclear bomb-making technologies.”

Iran insists its program is solely for peaceful nuclear energy and medical research.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Poll: Americans Disapprove of Iran Nuclear Deal.


By Elliot Jager

Americans disapprove of the November deal signed in Geneva between Iran and the United States in which Tehran agreed to curb some of its nuclear activities in return for $7 billion in sanctions relief, The Pew Research Center reported.
The survey did not ask if respondents believed Iran was pursuing a nuclear weapons program.
Some 32 percent of those surveyed supported the deal, while 25 percent had no opinion. Of those who heard about the deal, 62 percent did not trust Iran’s intentions while 29 percent said its leaders were sincere.
Conservative Republicans were far more distrusting of Iranian intentions than liberal Democrats by a 64 to 13 percent margin. Overall, 50 percent of Democrats versus 14 percent of Republicans backed the deal.
There was no majority support for the agreement among any demographic group though the more formal education a respondent had the more likely they were to think it was a good outcome.
Meanwhile, Wall Street Journal international affairs columnist Bret Stephens writes that Obama administration policy is containment not prevention of a nuclear-armed Iran.
During his January confirmation hearing as secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel let slip that the Obama administration’s policy on Iran is containment.
Hagel then corrected himself. “I’ve just been handed a note that misspoke and said I supported the president’s position on containment. If I said that, it — meant to say that I obviously — his position on containment — we don’t have a position on containment, so — I recognize I’ve had more attention paid to my words the last eight weeks than I ever thought possible.”
Stephen concludes, “The media played it as a stumble by an intellectually overmatched nominee. But it wasn’t a stumble. It was a gaffe —an accidental, embarrassing act of Washington truth telling — by a guy who doesn’t do insincerity nearly as well as his boss.”
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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Iran’s Nuclear Negotiators Get Heroes’ Welcome Home.

Iran‘s nuclear negotiators got a heroes’ welcome in Tehran, where hundreds of jubilant, flag-waving Iranians mobbed the deal makers’ convoy, The Christian Science Monitor reported on Monday.

The Monitor reported that despite criticism from hardliners that Iran gave away too much for too little in the six-month agreement brokered in Geneva, most Iranians think the deal could bring about an improved economy and a changed relationship with the outside world.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was praised as an “ambassador of peace” for his part in the talks with world powers. Chants rang out: “No to war, sanctions, surrender, and insult,” the newspaper said.

Zarif posed for a few photos at the airport Sunday night, the newspaper reported. In one, he’s surrounded by a crowd of young female supporters.

There was also a public exchange of letters between Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the centrist President Hassan Rouhani; in his letter, Rouhani praised the “divine success” under Khamenei’s guidance, the newspaper said.

Rouhani said Iran’s negotiating team “showed the big powers can be urged to respect the Iranian nation’s rights” and “through logical and reasonable presentation [can achieve] respecting all [Iran’s] principles and red lines,” the newspaper reported, citing a translation by the Fars News Agency.

In return, Khamenei expressed support for his negotiators.

“Achieving what you have written is worth appreciation and praise to the nuclear negotiating team . . . and can be the basis for future smart moves,” Fars quoted Khamenei as writing. “God willing, resistance against greediness [of the other side] should always remain as an indicator [of] a correct path.”

Most Iranian newspapers covered their front pages Monday with the news, including the reformist Shargh, which showed a large photograph of Zarif clasping hands with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the signing ceremony, both men smiling, and an American flag in the background.

In the past, Iran has called the United States the “Great Satan,” and American flags are still routinely burned after Friday prayers, the newspaper noted, while the United States still considers the Islamic Republic the “most active” state sponsor of terrorism.

There was a mostly muted response to the deal in the Arab world, Al Jazeera reported.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohammed ElBaradei, Egypt’s pro-democracy leader, welcomed the deal, however. In a tweet on his official account, he wrote, “After decades of failed policies, world better off w/ Iran deal.”

The Persian Gulf countries of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates also praised the agreement.

“We welcome this agreement if it will [bring] the end of the fear of any weapons of mass destruction in the region,” Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said in Manama, Al Jazeera reported.

In Gaza, Hamas called the deal a sign of Iran’s rising power and prominence, the newspaper reported.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Cathy Burke

LIGNET’s Fred Fleitz: US, Iran Differ on Major Issues in Nuclear Pact.

Hours after agreement on a pact that President Obama said “halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program,” significant disagreements have surfaced between American and Iranian officials on major aspects of the deal.

The major difference concerns Iran’s so-called “right” to enrich uranium. The Joint Plan of Action agreement on Iran’s nuclear program agreed to between major powers and Iran over the weekend says in the preamble that “a final agreement will involve a mutually defined enrichment program.”

Iran says this means the United States and its allies have recognized an Iranian right to enrich uranium. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said yesterday that “in the present agreement, it has been emphasized at two different points that there will be no solution without [the existence of] a nuclear enrichment program inside Iran.”

The United States disagrees. Secretary of State John Kerry said: “The first step, let me be clear, does not say that Iran has a right to enrich uranium.”

Kerry also said in separate statements Sunday, “There is no inherent right to enrich” and “We do not recognize a right to enrich.”

Russia agrees with Iran. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said after the Geneva deal that that the world recognizes Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear energy, including the right for enrichment.

There also are disagreements on a provision to halt activities at the heavy-water reactor in Arak, which is under construction and will be a source of plutonium. Concerning this reactor, the Joint Plan of Action says Iran “will not make any further advances of its activities.”

There is major disagreement on this provision.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry said the agreement will allow Iran to continue its activities at Arak. Ali Akbar Salehi, who heads Iran’s nuclear energy agency, said Sunday that “the activities of Arak heavy water reactor, 5 percent enrichment of uranium, research and development as well as discovery and extraction, will continue in Iran.”

U.S. officials take another view. President Obama said in a statement Sunday night, “Iran will halt work at its plutonium reactor.”

A White House fact sheet was less definitive on this point and says the agreement calls for Arak not to be activated over the next six months, that it cannot be fueled, and places other restrictions on this reactor. Secretary Kerry has used the language of the White House fact sheet and said on Saturday that “Iran will not commission or fuel the Arak reactor.”

None of the above U.S. provisions and claims about Arak are in the text of the agreement. Moreover, U.S. demands that the Arak reactor not be commissioned or fueled over the next six months are meaningless since this reactor is at least a year away from start-up.

There are other significant differences.

Secretary of State Kerry said late Saturday night the agreement “actually rolls back the [Iranian nuclear] program from where it is today, enlarges the breakout time, which would not have occurred unless this agreement existed. It will make our partners in the region safer. It will make our ally Israel safer.”

The agreement will at best freeze Iran’s nuclear weapons program in place and slow its progress. The trouble is, Iran’s efforts to develop a nuclear weapon are already fairly well advanced. Iran will retain its large reactor-grade uranium stockpile that can be converted into weapons-grade nuclear fuel for one bomb in about two months. Experts believe Iran currently has enough reactor-grade uranium to make from three to eight nuclear weapons if this uranium was further enriched to weapons grade.

Obama officials are claiming that a provision that Iran stop producing 20 percent enriched uranium and reduce its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium means it will take Tehran much longer to produce weapons-grade nuclear fuel.

This is not true. Studies by the American Enterprise Institute, the Institute for Science and International Security, and the Nuclear Proliferation Education Center indicate that it would take Iran only three to four weeks longer using 20 percent enriched uranium to make weapons-grade fuel than using reactor-grade uranium.

For its part, the Iranian Foreign Ministry insists Iran will continue research and development in its nuclear program.

The public disagreement between the United States and Iran over the right to enrich and the Arak reactor is puzzling and troubling. These discrepancies may make it very difficult to enact this agreement and to negotiate future agreements.

More importantly, such stark disagreements — especially U.S. claims that go against the actual text — suggest this agreement was rammed through for political reasons to boost President Obama at home before it was ready.

Israel and Saudi Arabia were strongly opposed to the Geneva talks before the deal was announced and will be more alarmed as they learn that U.S. officials have made exaggerated claims about the agreement and Iranian leaders see the pact as having little effect on its nuclear program.

Given that Iranian uranium enrichment will continue, Iran will not give up its enriched uranium stockpile, and Iran intends to continue work on the dangerous Arak heavy-water reactor, Secretary Kerry’s claim that this agreement makes the Middle East safer is dubious at best.

Fred Fleitz served for 25 years with the CIA, the State Department, and the House Intelligence Committee staff. He is currently Chief Analyst with, Newsmax Media‘s global intelligence and forecasting service. Click HERE to read LIGNET’s latest analysis.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Fred Fleitz

Triumphant Iranians Boast Nuclear Status Preserved, Sanctions Collapsed.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday that Iran‘s historic deal with world powers preserves the structure of the country’s nuclear drive, while insisting the international sanctions regime had crumbled.

“The structure of Iran’s nuclear program was preserved in the Geneva talks,” Zarif told a gathering of nuclear scientists in Tehran, a day after an agreement was clinched in the Swiss city between Iran and world powers over the Islamic republic’s disputed nuclear program.

“The structure of the sanctions crumbled,” added Zarif, referring to a vast array of punitive measures adopted by the United States and the European Union against Iran over its nuclear drive.

Zarif, who led the Iranian delegation at the marathon talks in Geneva — receiving a hero’s welcome when he returned home — reiterated the country’s stance on uranium enrichment.

“Has the right to have a nuclear power plant or reactor been written into the accord?” the official IRNA news agency quoted Zarif as saying.

“Generally speaking, [a country’s] right does not need to be recognized [by others] and it is necessary that other countries respect this right,” he said.

Iran has insisted that its “right” to enrich uranium as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty was accepted in the deal but US Secretary of State John Kerry strongly denies this.

The long-elusive interim accord commits Iran to limit uranium enrichment and curb expansion of its nuclear drive in exchange for limited relief from the sanctions and the freeing up of some of its frozen assets.

The West and Israel suspect Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons capability alongside its uranium enrichment program, which Tehran insists is entirely for peaceful purposes.







© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
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