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Good News From Geneva!

There appears to be good news from Geneva, where the U.S. and our P5+1 partners are conducting the latest round of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. While details are still emerging, it appears that the two sides may be close to reaching a reasonable deal that would advance U.S. interests by freezing Iran’s nuclear program. Reports indicate that this is the first step in building confidence on both sides to ultimately achieve a deal that ensures Iran will never acquire a nuclear weapon.
If true, this deal would be a major victory for America. The alternative to a diplomatic deal is a breakdown in the international consensus against Iran, continued Iranian nuclear activity, and the increasing likelihood of military confrontation. While some continue to argue that the U.S. can achieve a deal in which the Iranians capitulate on every point while the P5+1 gives up nothing, such a deal is neither realistic nor reasonable. These dangerous demands are destined to fail and risk drawing the United States into yet another war in the Middle East.
With Secretary of State John Kerry having arrived in Geneva moments ago, this issue promises to continue to evolve. However, if the initial reports of significant progress are true, we strongly encourage Congress to support the Administration in its diplomatic efforts.
Below is a compilation of news, analysis and other resources on this developing issue.
A Reasonable Deal
  • A realistic, meaningful nuclear deal with Iran is within reach- Negotiators are now very close to reaching a historic framework deal that will pause Iran’s nuclear progress in exchange for a partial and temporary lifting of certain sanctions. News reports indicate the scheduled Nov. 7-8 meetings will go into overtime and possibly conclude onSaturday, Nov. 9. The deal being discussed would be a clear win for the U.S. It would provide time to quickly negotiate a more permanent, far-reaching agreement to reduce Iran’s capacity to produce material that could be used for nuclear weapons, put in place much more intrusive international inspections to guard against a secret bomb program, and further scale-back the oil and financial sanctions that are devastating Iran’s economy. [Arms Control Association, 11/8]
  • U.S. sees 2-phase Iran nuclear deal- The U.S. and five world powers are looking to reach agreement on the first phase of a two-part nuclear deal with Iran that would halt the expansion of Iran’s nuclear program while negotiations on a comprehensive final deal take place. A senior U.S. official argued forcefully against Congress implementing new sanctions at this time, saying U.S. experts believe new sanctions “would be harmful to…and undermine” the negotiating process. “We all have an obligation not to take that risk. For the first time, Iran appears to be committed to moving this negotiating process forward quickly,” the official added. “That’s a key shift… For the first time, we do not see them using the negotiating process to buy time.” [Al-Monitor, 11/6]
  • Let’s make a deal… The battle lines on this issue are easy to identify. On one side are Obama and Kerry, the U.S. negotiating team, most of the arms control community, and much of America’s national security apparatus, including 79 well-connected former officials who endorsed the administration’s efforts yesterday. On the other side are Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the hardline elements within the Israel lobby, and various Congresspersons who are beholden to the above. Opponents of an agreement are already working to derail it by trashing any short-term deal in Geneva or by sponsoring new sanctions legislation designed to discredit the diplomatic approach and ultimately scuttle any deal. Opponents in Congress should think twice about killing the deal because their fingerprints would be all over the murder weapon. [Foreign Policy, 11/8]
  • Iran is offered temporary relief from some sanctions if it freezes uranium enrichment- A deal that would give Iran limited relief from economic sanctions in exchange for a temporary freeze of some of its nuclear activities was near completion late Thursday. Although many details are unclear, a senior U.S. official said the freeze proposal would include a suspension of nuclear activities and other restrictions in return for “limited, targeted and reversible” easing of some financial sanctions. [Washington Post, 11/7]
Negotiations
  • World’s top diplomats to join Iran nuclear talks- French, British, Russian, and German foreign ministers are joining Kerry in Geneva. Their decision to fly to Geneva comes after signs that global powers and Iran were close to a first-stage deal. [AP, 11/7]
  • Kerry arrives in Geneva to try and seal nuclear deal with Iran- Kerry arrived in Geneva Friday in hopes of completing an international deal. An agreement, which U.S. officials described as a “first step” in a comprehensive pact restricting Tehran’s ability to seek atomic weapons, could herald a significant shift in U.S.-Iranian relations after years of enmity. [Washington Post, 11/8]
  • Iran’s Foreign Minister says deal is ‘reachable, doable’- Javad Zarif said that “a piece of paper” could be signed on Friday to seal a “first step” ahead of comprehensive final deal. Zarif expressed optimism amid increasing pressure on Iran to halt its nuclear program in return for what a senior U.S. official called “very limited, temporary and reversible” relief. Zarif reiterated that Iran would never agree to completely suspend its nuclear program, but he indicated there were areas of compromise possible, including Iran allowing greater transparency in inspections to prove that it is not seeking to build a nuclear weapon. [NBC, 11/7]
Analysis
  • 79 NatSec Officials praise Obama for Iran diplomacy- A group of 79 prominent national security names and officials have commended President Obama for using “diplomacy in an effort to reach agreements with Iran” over its nuclear weapons program. In a letter signed on Thursday, a bipartisan collection of figures praised the Obama administration for seeking to work with Iran’s President Rouhani, especially as Tehran signals its openness for a diplomatic resolution. The signees include Council on Foreign Relations President Emeritus Les Gelb, along with former Ambassadors Thomas Pickering, Morton Abramowitz and Ryan Crocker. [Defense One, 11/7]
  • Iran talks: Do we want a deal or a war? Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council, argues that the negotiations in Geneva will produce “a durable deal that enhances America’s security and nonproliferation goals while making Iran much less hostile and U.S. allies in the region much safer. The alternative to this deal – the continuation of the sanctions path – will see Iran continue to inch toward a nuclear weapons option while the U.S. and Iran gravitate toward a disastrous military confrontation. Those in Congress worried that even the offer of modest sanctions relief in the talks will cause the collapse of the current sanctions infrastructure must consider how quickly sanctions can fall apart if there isn’t a deal. [CNN, 11/6]
  • Only diplomacy, not force, will prevent nuclear-armed Iran- The U.S. should remain committed to a reasonable, verifiable and enforceable deal, as all other roads lead to a nuclear-armed Iran or a devastating regional war. The road to a negotiated solution with Iran will not be easy, but it must be tested precisely because it represents the most effective approach to achieve America’s goals of preventing a nuclear Tehran. Congress should embrace this pragmatic and achievable approach to assure Tehran never develops the bomb, and drop a rush for new punitive sanctions that risk undercutting our diplomats at the negotiating table. [Defense One, 11/7]
  • How Israel can help the U.S. strike a deal with Iran – and why it should- Diplomacy serves Israel better than Netanyahu’s naysaying: Iran’s position on Israel is far more likely to change in the direction Israel desires if U.S.-Iranian relations improve and the first tangible steps are taken to rehabilitate Iran into the region’s political and economic structures. Neutralizing Iran’s interest in fanning anti-Israeli sentiment would be no small gain and would significantly enhance Israel’s security and political position. Israel should moderate its rhetoric and stop encouraging Congress to undermine diplomacy. By doing so, Israel can both help diplomacy and ensure that the final outcome of the talks addresses key Israeli security concerns. [Foreign Affairs, 10/1]
  • Former Israeli intelligence chiefs keep door open on Iran talks- Former Israeli military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin, who is now the head of Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, said that Israel “needs to influence the talks but the question is whether more influence can be brought to bear through adopting extreme positions or through heart to heart talks that create trust.” Yadlin, who has said that it would be “reasonable” to allow Iran some kind of uranium enrichment capabilities as part of any long term deal, added, “there needs to be a scrutiny of the details before determining whether the ‘holy of holies’ was destroyed today.” [Think Progress, 11/8]

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