Despite both sides claiming that they are closer than ever to signing a major deal to stop further development of an Iranian nuclear weapon, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned that Iran still had to make some “hard choices” before a deal could be inked. Kerry also commented that the U.S. and Western powers were prepared to walk away from the negotiations if a verifiable agreement could not be reached.
Iran, the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia have been working diligently for many months now trying to settle a 13-year-old dispute over Iran’s nuclear program. The Western powers claim that Iran is trying to develop a nuclear bomb and the hardline Islamic regime denies it.
The current round of talks follows an initial round of negotiations earlier this year. Of note, Kerry’s comments come just 48 hours before the already-extended Iran nuclear talks are due to end.
Statement from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
“We are not yet where we need to be on several of the most difficult issues,” Kerry noted at a presser in the historic Vienna hotel where the negotiations are ongoing. “This negotiation could go either way.”
“We have in fact made genuine progress but … we are not yet where we need to be on several of the most difficult issues,” Kerry told the media. “If we don’t have a deal and there is absolute intransigence and unwillingness to move on the things that are important (for) us, President Obama has always said we’re prepared to walk away.”
John Kerry continued to observe that any deal must be fully verified by a group of international nonproliferation experts, and, “Most importantly, President Obama has made it clear we have to close off the four pathways to the potential of a bomb.”
Kerry warns Iran against last-minute brinksmanship
Given the Iranian’s penchant for delaying serious negotiations until the last minute, it was not surprising to see that Kerry also seemed to be warning them against expecting last-minute brinkmanship to work here.
“We want a good agreement, only a good agreement, and we’re not going to shave anywhere at the margins in order just to get an agreement,” Kerry said. “There are plenty of people in the nonproliferation community, nuclear experts, who will look at this,” he continued, “and none of us are going to be content to do something that can’t pass scrutiny.”
More on Iran nuclear talks
A group of nuclear experts, including several advisers to the American government, wrote in an open letter earlier this year that they would only support a nuclear deal with Iran if it had strong provisions for verification and truly halted the country’s nuclear program. Moreover, the letter emphasized it was essential that the deal be structured to require Iran to carry out their part of the agreement before sanctions were lifted.
According to sources with knowledge of the negotiations, the main outstanding issues in the talks are what steps would be taken to resolve suspicions about Iran’s past nuclear activities, constraints on the development of newer centrifuges after the first decade of a deal, and the exact timing for lifting sanctions.
Political analyst point out that both sides have had the luxury of pushing back the difficult to resolved questions for future rounds of talks. but now the diplomats and experts will try to deal with the major challenge of completing a comprehensive agreement including all of the complex technical details in a matter of a few days.
Another complication to keep in mind is that if an accord is not presented to the U.S. Congress by July 9th, the White House would have to make the call whether to push to finalize a deal later this summer and then submit it for a 60-day review, or to just throw in the towel and give up on the negotiations for now.
Statement from Iranian foreign ministry
The official news agency ISNA posted a statement from Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi: “Many of the issues related to sanctions have been resolved, and there are four or five issues that remain including the important topic of ensuring both sides’ steps correspond to each other and happen at the same time.”