Eye on Iran: Accord Reached With Iran to Halt Nuclear Program

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NYT: "The United States and five other world powers announced a landmark accord Sunday morning that would temporarily freeze Iran's nuclear program and lay the foundation for a more sweeping agreement. It was the first time in nearly a decade, American officials said, that an international agreement had been reached to halt much of Iran's nuclear program and roll some elements of it back. The aim of the accord, which is to last six months, is to give international negotiators time to pursue a more comprehensive pact that would ratchet back much of Iran's nuclear program and ensure that it could be used only for peaceful purposes... Iran, which has long resisted international monitoring efforts and built clandestine nuclear facilities, agreed to stop enriching uranium beyond 5 percent, a level that would be sufficient for energy production but that would require further enrichment for bomb-making. To make good on that pledge, Iran will dismantle links between networks of centrifuges... Its stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent, a short hop from weapons-grade fuel, would be diluted or converted into oxide so that it could not be readily used for military purposes. Iran agreed that it would not install any new centrifuges, start up any that are not already operating or build new enrichment facilities. The agreement, however, does not require Iran to stop enriching uranium to a low level of 3.5 percent, or to dismantle any of its existing centrifuges... In return for the initial agreement, the United States agreed to provide $6 billion to $7 billion in sanctions relief. Of this, roughly $4.2 billion would be oil revenue that has been frozen in foreign banks. This limited sanctions relief can be accomplished by executive order, allowing the Obama administration to make the deal without having to appeal to Congress, where there is strong criticism of any agreement that does not fully dismantle Iran's nuclear program. The fact that the accord would only pause the Iranian program was seized on by critics who said it would reward Iran for institutionalizing the status quo... But some experts, including a former official who has worked on the Iranian issue for the White House, said it was unlikely that Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, would ever close the door on the option to develop nuclear weapons. Instead, they said, any initial six-month agreement is more likely to be followed by a series of partial agreements that constrain Iran's nuclear activities but do not definitively solve the nuclear issues. 'At the end of six months, we may see another half step and six more months of negotiations - ad infinitum,' said Gary Samore, a senior aide on nonproliferation issues on the National Security Council in Mr. Obama's first term. Mr. Samore is now president of United Against Nuclear Iran, a nonprofit group that advocates tough sanctions against Iran unless it does more to curtail its nuclear program." http://t.uani.com/IoKDfl

NYT: "The Obama administration's successful push for an accord that would temporarily freeze much of Iran's nuclear program has cast a spotlight on the more formidable challenge it now confronts in trying to roll the program back... The questions that the United States and Iran need to grapple with in the next phase of their nuclear dialogue, if they want to overcome their long years of enmity, are more fundamental. 'Now the difficult part starts,' said Olli Heinonen, the former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency... Iran's program to enrich uranium also needs to be dealt with in detail. The Obama administration has made clear that it is not prepared to concede at the start that Iran has a 'right' to enrich uranium. But the interim deal, reflecting language proposed by the American delegation, says the follow-up agreement would provide for a 'mutually defined enrichment program with practical limits and transparency.' So the question appears to be not whether Iran will be allowed to continue enriching uranium, but rather what constraints the United States and its negotiating partners will insist on in return, and how large an enrichment program they are willing to tolerate. The interim accord makes clear that it must be consistent with 'practical needs.' Iran and the United States are likely to have very different ideas of what those needs are. 'This, of course, will be one of the central issues in the negotiations for a comprehensive agreement,' said Gary Samore, who served as senior aide on nonproliferation issues on the National Security Council during the Obama administration and is now president of United Against Nuclear Iran, an organization that urges that strong sanctions be imposed on Iran until it further restricts its nuclear efforts. 'We will want very small and limited,' Mr. Samore said, referring to Iran's enrichment efforts. 'They want industrial scale.'" http://t.uani.com/1c4A90b

NYT: "In its delicate negotiations with Iran over freezing its nuclear program, the Obama administration is gambling that the gradual relaxation of punishing sanctions will whet Tehran's appetite for greater economic relief, inducing the country's leaders to negotiate a further deal to roll back its nuclear progress. Yet, President Obama's biggest critics - in Congress, the Arab world and Israel - argue that he has the strategy entirely backward. By changing the psychology around the world, they argue, the roughly $100 billion in remaining sanctions will gradually be whittled away. Wily middlemen, Chinese eager for energy sources and Europeans looking for a way back to the old days, when Iran was a major source of trade, will see their chance to leap the barriers... At the heart of the dispute is a fundamental disagreement about how best to negotiate with a savvy, skilled adversary, one whose own decision-making processes have long baffled American intelligence agencies. Mr. Obama and his aides have argued that unless they give President Hassan Rouhani and his Western-educated chief negotiator, Mohammad Javad Zarif, something to take home and advertise as a victory from the first round of negotiations, there is little chance they will return to negotiate a second, permanent deal. 'Zarif says he has at most six months to get a deal before the hard-liners rise again,' one of the Obama administration's strategists said recently. 'And we believe him.' ... The Saudis and the Israelis clearly believe that the negotiation is not in their interest. One Saudi official visiting Washington recently called the effort 'a fool's game' because once the momentum to impose sanctions is reversed, every deal maker and middleman in the Middle East will find ways to evade other elements of the sanctions regime... 'We have the Iranians in boiling water right now,' a senior Israeli official said the other day. 'Bring it to a simmer, and they will have a nuclear capability they can live with and the sanctions will erode.' Much of this argument is based on psychology as much as economics. The fear heard in Congress - echoed in arguments the Israelis have made in an intense lobbying campaign - is that any easing of the business climate around Iran from toxic to tolerable will erode the fear businesses now have of dealing with the country. Once Iran's economy improves even slightly, its incentive to negotiate will disappear, they argue." http://t.uani.com/IgrME7

Nuclear Agreement

AP: "In a nationally broadcast speech, Rouhani said the accord recognizes Iran's 'nuclear rights' even if that precise language was kept from the final document because of Western resistance. 'No matter what interpretations are given, Iran's right to enrichment has been recognized,' said Rouhani, who later posed with family members of nuclear scientists killed in slayings in recent years that Iran has blamed on Israel and allies." http://t.uani.com/1bOY9Rs

Times of Israel: "'The agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1 "provides disproportionate sanctions relief to Iran,' a former US ambassador and CEO of the United Against Nuclear Iran advocacy organization complained early Sunday morning. Mark D. Wallace, who served in the past as the US representative for UN management and reform, warned in a lengthy statement that 'by not agreeing to dismantle a single centrifuge, Iran has not rolled back its nuclear infrastructure and with the many centrifuges that it is currently operating, Iran retains the ability to breakout and produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a nuclear weapon in as little as 2 months.' 'At the same time,' he added, 'the carefully constructed sanctions architecture developed over decades has been significantly rolled back.' Wallace complained that attempts to characterize sanctions 'as a spigot that can be turned off and back on' were 'unrealistic' and warned that 'if Iran's industrial-size nuclear program is not rolled back, Tehran will inherently maintain the breakout capacity to build such a weapon.' The CEO - whose organization includes on its advisory board former International Atomic Energy Agency deputy director general Olli Heinonen, former Mossad director Meir Dagan and Fouad Ajami, professor and director of Middle East Studies at The Johns Hopkins University School for Advanced International Studies - described the agreement as 'a disappointment for those of us who have worked to pressure Iran's economy and impose the toughest sanctions in history on Iran - the same sanctions that brought the regime to the negotiating table.' Wallace warned that 'those touting this agreement do not appear to understand the fragility of sanctions, or the dangers of rolling them back and easing the economic pressure on Iran.'" http://t.uani.com/19W135C

Reuters: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced a nuclear deal with Iran as a historic mistake on Sunday that leaves the production of atomic weapons within Tehran's reach and said Israel would not be bound by it. Having lost its battle against easing sanctions, Israel appeared to be charting a new strategy: intense scrutiny by its intelligence services of Iran's compliance with the interim agreement and lobbying for stronger terms in a final accord that world powers and the Islamic Republic are still pursuing. The terms of the deal and re-engagement of the West with Iran, after a protracted, volatile standoff, are a setback for Netanyahu, who had demanded Iran be stripped of its nuclear enrichment capabilities altogether. His military options in confronting Tehran now seem more limited and likely to risk Israel's isolation. A grim-faced Netanyahu said in a statement in English after meeting his cabinet that Israel would not be bound by the accord. 'What was concluded in Geneva last night is not a historic agreement, it is a historic mistake,' he said. 'Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world took a significant step towards obtaining the world's most dangerous weapon.'" http://t.uani.com/Idjdd5

AFP: "Sunni-ruled Gulf monarchies feel let down by their US ally and want good relations with their Shiite neighbour Iran but also fear the Geneva nuclear deal will boost its regional ambitions, analysts say. Saudi Arabia and the oil- and gas-rich nations of the Gulf were weighing their reactions on Sunday hours after the agreement was signed between Iran and Western powers. Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear programme in the breakthrough interim deal that world powers claimed was the biggest step in decade-long efforts to deny Iran an atomic bomb. But Gulf states have never made a secret of their concerns about Iranian regional ambitions. 'In principle, the Gulf states want good relations with Iran,' Saudi analyst Jamal Khashoggi told AFP. 'But the (Geneva) agreement has reduced the Iran problem to the nuclear level only, while its regional interference is of key concern to these countries.' Khashoggi said Gulf states 'fear Iran will see this accord as encouragement to act with a free hand in the region.'" http://t.uani.com/18jeKSi

Globe & Mail: "Striking a distinctly harsher tone than its closest allies, Canada is balking at lifting any of its sanctions against Iran until the Islamic regime fully abandons its nuclear weapons' ambitions. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Sunday he is 'deeply skeptical' of a weekend deal to curb Iran's nuclear program signed with six leading powers - the United States, Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France. At least in tone, Canada is positioning itself somewhere between Israel, which has called the agreement a 'historic mistake,' and the optimism expressed by the negotiators of the breakthrough deal. 'We have made-in-Canada foreign policy,' Mr. Baird explained to reporters in Ottawa. 'We think past actions best predict future actions, and Iran has defied the United Nations Security Council and defied the International Atomic Energy Agency. Simply put: Iran has not earned the right to have the benefit of the doubt.'" http://t.uani.com/1aMXFi1

AP: "The United States and Iran secretly engaged in a series of high-level, face-to-face talks over the past year, in a high-stakes diplomatic gamble by the Obama administration that paved the way for the historic deal sealed early Sunday in Geneva aimed at slowing Tehran's nuclear program, The Associated Press has learned. The discussions were kept hidden even from America's closest friends, including its negotiating partners and Israel, until two months ago, and that may explain how the nuclear accord appeared to come together so quickly after years of stalemate and fierce hostility between Iran and the West... President Barack Obama personally authorized the talks as part of his effort - promised in his first inaugural address - to reach out to a country the State Department designates as the world's most active state sponsor of terrorism. The talks were held in the Middle Eastern nation of Oman and elsewhere with only a tight circle of people in the know, the AP learned. Since March, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Jake Sullivan, Vice President Joe Biden's top foreign policy adviser, have met at least five times with Iranian officials." http://t.uani.com/18jbypC

AFP: "Syria's regime hailed the 'historic' nuclear deal between its ally Iran and world powers Sunday as proof that negotiations rather than military action were the best way to resolve crises. Syria 'considers it to be a historic accord which guarantees the interests of the brotherly Iranian people and acknowledges their right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy,' the foreign ministry said, quoted by local media." http://t.uani.com/1jBogPQ


Roll Call: "Two top Democrats said Sunday they expected the Senate would still move forward with enhanced sanctions against Iran, despite news out of Geneva of an interim agreement regarding the Iranian nuclear program. 'As for additional sanctions, this disproportionality of this agreement makes it more likely that Democrats and Republicans will join together and pass additional sanctions when we return in December. I intend to discuss that possibility with my colleagues,' New York Democratic Sen. Charles E. Schumer said in a statement... 'It was strong sanctions, not the goodness of the hearts of the Iranian leaders, that brought Iran to the table, and any reduction relieves the psychological pressure of future sanctions and gives them hope that they will be able to gain nuclear weapon capability while further sanctions are reduced,' Schumer said. 'A fairer agreement would have coupled a reduction in sanctions with a proportionate reduction in Iranian nuclear capability.' That statement came just after Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez expressed a similar sentiment. Both Menendez and Schumer are senior members of the Senate Banking Committee, which has lead jurisdiction over the sanctions issue... 'In my view, this agreement did not proportionately reduce Iran's nuclear program for the relief it is receiving. Given Iran's history of duplicity, it will demand ongoing, on the ground verification,' Menendez said. 'Until Iran has verifiably terminated its illicit nuclear program, we should vigorously enforce existing sanctions. I do not believe we should further reduce our sanctions, nor abstain from preparations to impose new sanctions on Iran should the talks fail. I will be monitoring the enforcement of existing sanctions not covered by the interim agreement to ensure they are being robustly enforced.'" http://t.uani.com/182kj1y

Reuters: "Republican and Democratic U.S. senators on Sunday voiced skepticism about a nuclear deal reached with Iran but Congress looked likely to give President Barack Obama room to see if the agreement works. The deal does not need to be ratified by Congress and Obama is using his executive power to temporarily suspend some existing U.S. sanctions on Iran. On Sunday, influential Democrats - who control the Senate - made clear that any new sanctions against Iran would include a six-month window before they took effect. That would allow time to see if Iran is sticking by the pact, worked out between Tehran, the United States and other world powers... Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, who is known as a hawk on Iran, said forthcoming legislation would 'provide for a six-month window to reach a final agreement before imposing new sanctions on Iran.' That gives supporters of the pact some breathing space but allows Obama to have a series of new sanctions approved by lawmakers in the coming weeks and ready to impose on Iran if need be." http://t.uani.com/1etPFmo

Reuters: "The easing of a ban on European insurance for shipments of Iranian oil may lift Iran's crude exports to big oil buyers in Asia, including India and China. The easing of EU shipping insurance sanctions was part of a deal on Sunday between Iran and six world powers to curb Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for limited sanctions relief. Oil buyers in Asia, Turkey and South Africa have reduced imports of Iranian oil to avoid the threat of U.S. sanctions, but also have had imports curtailed by the ban on UK-dominated providers of shipping insurance. Iranian oil sales have fallen by more than half from 2011 levels to about 1 million barrels a day as a result of EU and U.S. sanctions on oil trade, shipping insurance and banking. 'The relief in EU sanctions on oil shipping insurance is a big deal and creates the conditions to make it easier for Iran to get at least up to the sanctioned levels,' Olivier Jakob from Petromatrix energy consultancy said. 'A lifting of the insurance ban could free up some of Iran's strained tanker fleet for increasing use in domestic floating crude oil storage,' Goldman Sachs said in a note... Kevin Book, managing director at ClearView Energy Partners in Washington, said the easing on insurance could provide for an increase of 200,000 to 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) in Iranian exports, particularly to Indian refiners." http://t.uani.com/1jBl5Yq

WSJ: "The relaxation of sanctions on Iran promises an opening for international companies that have been sidelined from one of the Middle East's largest consumer markets. Iran needs imported products for all aspects of its economy, as well as foreign-made parts for some domestic industries, such as automobile production. In its vital oil-and-gas industry, infrastructure has long strained under sanctions, which have all but cut off the country from selling oil to the rest of the world. Sanctions relief agreed to by Western powers over the weekend-designed as an incentive for Iran to cooperate on nuclear-arms talks-doesn't directly ease restrictions on selling crude. It does, however, lift sanctions against insuring shipments of Iranian oil, making its transportation less expensive, and gives Iran access to proceeds from the limited sale of crude in installments. The agreement also will allow Iran to regain access to much-needed goods, including parts for aircraft and cars, and will allow the country to sell refined petrochemical products in global markets. Some Western companies said Sunday they were still determining how they might benefit and waiting for legal clarity about what activity will be allowed and when. Many companies, particularly in the U.S., still may avoid conducting business in Iran because doing otherwise could result in bad publicity, executives said. As a result, the companies to profit in areas such as airplane parts may not be the original manufacturers but instead middlemen, who operate out of public view but whose businesses nonetheless were curtailed by the sanctions. Many European companies, such as car makers and energy companies, continued doing significant business in Iran until as recently as last year so have fresher contacts in the country. Even those companies responded cautiously, though they expressed hope that the deal could pave the way to wider access." http://t.uani.com/1bNv88I

WSJ: "Part of the strength of the Iranian sanctions regime has been U.S. pressure, first personal and then legislative, to get foreign companies to exit the market. The campaign, with an assist from U.S.-based pressure group United Against Nuclear Iran, has worked, getting companies from France's Total SA to Italy's Fiat SpA to leave. But would they come back under the right conditions? A Wall Street Journal report said Western companies are eager to get back to business, though some companies said they were still waiting for legal clarity on what will be allowed, and when." http://t.uani.com/1jBd8CL

WashPost: "The nuclear deal with Iran will allow the country to export more crude oil than it did in October, although still slightly less than it has averaged this year, according to estimates by the International Energy Agency. The deal also will suspend U.S. pressure for progressively deeper cuts by importers of Iranian crude oil, including countries such as China, India, Japan and South Korea that would have come up for new sanctions compliance reviews by the State and Treasury departments on Dec. 2, oil analysts said. During the first nine months of the year, Iran exported an average of 1.1 million barrels a day, the IEA said in its most recent monthly report on the oil market. And the White House fact sheet on the deal said that 'Iran will be held to approximately 1 million bpd [barrels per day] in sales.' Yet Iran exported only 715,000 barrels a day of crude oil in October, according to IEA estimates. The agency said that the National Iranian Oil Co. was having so much trouble selling oil that it had stored 37 million barrels on tankers awaiting customers... Robert McNally, who served on President George W. Bush's National Security Council as an adviser on energy affairs and who is now president of the Rapidan Group, a consulting firm, said: 'The deal included an explicit if partial easing in oil sanctions. This was unexpected, as officials had been strongly signaling oil would be untouched in the preliminary deal. It eases sanctions by replacing current U.S. law's requirement for significant reductions with holding steady... Also, I suspect you will see importers willing to buy more crude in general as they will fear U.S. sanction less.'" http://t.uani.com/1fCUc9g

Reuters: "Iran's currency jumped more than 3 percent against the U.S. dollar on Sunday as news of a breakthrough deal to curb Tehran's nuclear programme raised hopes that the economy would start recovering from international sanctions... The rial traded at around 29,000 against the dollar in Tehran's free market, up from about 30,000 before the nuclear deal was announced, Iranian traders said. Heavy supplies of dollars appeared as speculators anticipated capital flight from Iran would slow with the easing of diplomatic tensions. At some times on Sunday, nobody in the market was willing to buy dollars, traders said - a dramatic contrast from last year, when the rial lost about a third of its value in a few months. A firmer outlook for Iran's currency could help to revive its foreign trade in a range of agricultural and consumer goods other than oil, by reducing the foreign exchange risks which have deterred many traders over the past two years. Also, foreign and Iranian businessmen may become more willing to do deals - even under the existing sanctions framework - if they feel that political trends have shifted in their favour, and that they will not face even harsher sanctions or enforcement from Western governments in the future. 'Up to now, the trend has been towards more restrictions on trade,' said Hossein Asrar Haghighi, a founder of the Iranian Business Council in Dubai, which is a major conduit for Iran's trade with the rest of the world. 'What we can say now is that the restrictions are not going to increase still more. And if people do not expect them to increase, they will gradually look at ways to develop business under the current situation.'" http://t.uani.com/1gbASNZ

Bloomberg: "Efforts by PSA Peugeot Citroen and Renault SA to boost sales outside Europe's slumping car market stand to get a boost from a deal to lift sanctions on Iran... Peugeot, Europe's second-largest carmaker, sold 458,000 vehicles in 2011 in Iran prior to the trade sanctions, making the country the automaker's second-biggest market after France. Chief Financial Officer Jean-Baptiste de Chatillon said last year that the sanctions had cut 10 million euros ($13.5 million) a month from operating profit. 'Any indication that we could resume doing business with our partners in Iran goes in the right direction,' said Jean-Baptiste Thomas, a Peugeot spokesman. 'We'll see how we can do that the day sanctions are lifted.' ... Renault sold more than 100,000 vehicles in Iran in 2012 and took a first-half charge of 512 million euros as a result of its forced withdrawal from the country. 'This is good news for us as Iran is an important market for Renault,' said Florence de Goldfiem, a Renault spokeswoman. 'We're waiting to see what the conditions of redeployment of our activities in the country may be.' ... 'We're closely monitoring the current political developments in Iran, but we don't currently plan to reenter the market,' Daimler spokeswoman Ute Wueest von Vellberg said." http://t.uani.com/IoOJnZ

Bloomberg: "Lifting petrochemical sanctions will permit $1 billion in exports for Iran, according to U.S. officials close to the talks. Iran may not feel an immediate impact because it's been able to ship materials such as polyethylene resins to China in violation of sanctions, Paul Hodges, chairman of International eChem, a London-based consulting firm, said in an interview. Any future increase in Iranian supplies of oil and gas would trickle down to Europe's chemical industry, creating a potential game changer for energy-intensive industries, including those making polyvinyl chloride, the plastic known as PVC, said Hodges, a former executive of Imperial Chemical Industries. .. That would be a bonus for companies from German plastics maker Bayer AG and synthetic rubber supplier Lanxess AG to Arkema SA of France and Solvay SA of Belgium, he said. Linde AG of Germany, whose industrial and specialty gases are used by petrochemical customers worldwide, said it's too early to say if the company will seize on the lifting of sanctions. 'We withdrew a few years ago from Iran because of the political situation,' Uwe Wolfinger, a spokesman for Munich-based Linde, said by telephone. 'We'd need to wait a bit before deciding whether it's worth returning.'" http://t.uani.com/1aMU5ED

Human Rights

IHR: "Six prisoners among them two women were hanged in the prison of Yazd (Central Iran), reported the official site of the Iranian Judiciary in Yazd today. According to the report the executions were carried out early Thursday morning, 21. November." http://t.uani.com/1etKdAf

Domestic Politics

NYT: "The smiling started early in Tehran on Sunday, when President Hassan Rouhani kissed a young schoolgirl in an Islamic head scarf before dozens of cameras, signaling that Iran's future had taken a new turn... People from across the Iranian political spectrum, including many hard-line commanders and clerics who had long advocated resistance and isolation from the West, told state news media on Sunday that the deal that Mr. Rouhani's negotiating team had made was a good start. One man's nay could have undone it all. But Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been working for some time to engineer a way out of the economic and diplomatic quagmire of sanctions. Soon after Mr. Rouhani spoke to reporters, Ayatollah Khamenei issued a short message online saying he considered the deal a success. 'The nuclear negotiating team deserves to be appreciated and thanked for its achievement,' Ayatollah Khamenei said, according to the semiofficial Fars News Agency. He added that 'their behavior can be the basis of the next wise measures.'" http://t.uani.com/1ek4Myj

Foreign Affairs

Reuters: "But one common thread running through their opinions about Iran three decades later is the feeling that Tehran needs to acknowledge the 444-day ordeal of 52 Americans - 39 of them are still alive - or be held accountable for it. The hostage-taking from November 1979 to January 1981 prompted Washington to break diplomatic ties and set the stage for decades of mistrust between the two countries. 'I personally believe there should be no relationship established whatsoever until Iran has had extracted from them some type of reparations,' said Kevin Hermening, who was a Marine guard at the embassy when it was over-run by supporters of the Islamic Revolution... Seeing Iran talk to the United States without acknowledging blame for the hostage crisis upsets Rodney 'Rocky' Sickmann, a former Marine guard at the embassy. 'It hurts that here we are negotiating with Iran, and Iran acts like nothing really happened.' Sickmann was locked in a room with 24-hour armed guards, enduring mock firing squads and Russian roulette, and allowed outside only seven times during '444 traumatic days' of captivity. 'They told us in my interrogation it is not you the American people we hate, it's your government, but we will use you to humiliate your government,' he said. 'And they've done it for 34 years.'" http://t.uani.com/1ejZz9D

Opinion & Analysis

UANI President Gary Samore Q&A in The New Yorker: Early on Sunday morning in Geneva, Iran and the six world powers known as the P5-plus-1 announced the terms of a potentially groundbreaking six-month interim agreement to curtail Iranian nuclear enrichment.For more on the deal and its implications, I spoke to Gary Samore, who served as White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction during President Obama's first term. Samore, who has worked on non-proliferation issues for the U.S. government for more than two decades, was extensively involved in negotiations with Iran and North Korea, as well as the New Start treaty with Russia. He now serves as the executive director for research at Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and is president of United Against Nuclear Iran, an advocacy group that supports tougher sanctions against Iran to halt its development of nuclear weapons...

This is a temporary deal, which is meant to last for six months. What is the significance of that time frame? Why a temporary deal rather than a permanent one? What should we be looking for in the next six months to determine whether a more permanent agreement can be reached?The reason for an interim deal rather than a permanent agreement is because Iran is not willing to accept the limits on its nuclear program demanded by the P5-plus-1 as a condition for permanently lifting nuclear-related sanctions. In particular, the U.S. wants Iran to accept physical limits on the scope and scale of its enrichment program so that Iran cannot produce significant quantities of highly enriched (weapons grade) uranium quickly and to halt construction of the heavy-water research reactor or replace it with a type that would produce less plutonium. In essence, these measures would require Iran to give up its nuclear-weapons program, at least for the time being. Unless Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, makes such a fundamental decision, a permanent agreement is unlikely.

You worked on these issues in the first term of the Obama Administration, and you've been following them for a much longer time. Can you describe the evolution of U.S. and Iranian thinking on this issue in the last several years? How did we get to this temporary deal? The reason for the temporary deal is because Iran is seeking relief from the unprecedented sanctions that the U.S. and its allies have imposed over the past several years. For the U.S., the temporary deal is an opportunity to slow down and limit Iran's efforts to develop nuclear weapons capability, and hopefully create time and space to negotiate a comprehensive deal that rolls back Iran's nuclear program. At this point, I think the fundamental dispute between the U.S. and Iran over Iran's nuclear program has not been resolved, but it may be possible to have a series of interim agreements that reduces tension over time and creates opportunities for improved relations.

Does this mean that the sanctions worked? Yes, the sanctions have worked to pressure Iran to accept temporary limits on its nuclear program, but whether the remaining sanctions and the threat of additional sanctions will be sufficient to force Iran to accept more extensive and permanent nuclear limits is unclear. For supporters of the interim deal, the limited sanctions relief will create incentives for Iran to make additional nuclear concessions in order to obtain further sanctions relief. For opponents of the deal, the limited sanctions relief will make it easier for Iran to live with the status quo and therefore resist further nuclear concessions. In six months, we'll have a better idea which argument is correct.

What are the Administration's options going forward in terms of further sanctions relief, or, if necessary, ramping sanctions up again? According to the White House, the main oil and financial sanctions against Iran will remain in place during the interim deal. No doubt, the Iranians will try to exploit the limited sanctions relief to create loopholes to evade the remaining sanctions, and the U.S. will need to enforce the remaining sanctions to maintain leverage for negotiating a final deal or another interim deal. Our ability to rally international support to ramp up sanctions will depend heavily on being able to demonstrate that Iran has reneged or cheated on the agreement or is blocking diplomatic progress. Without a credible threat to increase sanctions, I doubt Iran will make additional nuclear concessions.

Did Iran's involvement in Syria play a role in this deal? Probably not a direct role. Indirectly, however, Iran views its involvement in Syria as a success-defending the Assad regime against opponents backed by the U.S. and Iran's main regional enemies, such as Saudi Arabia-and that probably gives Tehran more confidence that it can resist pressure from Washington for additional nuclear concessions. In other words, Iran's involvement in the Syrian Civil War probably makes a final nuclear deal less likely...

A lot of commentary has focused on Iran's new President, Hassan Rouhani, and his eagerness to end Iran's international isolation. But if the Supreme Leader, Khameini, is the one really calling the shots here, has he also taken a softer line than in the past? What might account for his change of position, if that's the case? I think Khamenei has given President Rouhani and Foreign Minster Zarif enough flexibility to make tactical concessions in hopes of obtaining sanctions relief without giving up Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions. Our job is to make sure that Khamenei doesn't get comprehensive sanctions relief unless he accepts comprehensive limits on Iran's nuclear program." http://t.uani.com/17T4YWo

Eli Lake in The Daily Beast: "For years the United States has pressed other countries to support and enforce U.N. Security Council resolutions that demand Iran stop all of its enrichment activities and enter negotiations. On Sunday morning in Geneva, U.S. negotiators signed an interim agreement that would tolerate 'a mutually-agreed long-term comprehensive solution' for Iran, according to the text of the deal. The agreement signed in Geneva says Iran and six world powers will negotiate over the next six months 'would involve a mutually defined enrichment program with practical limits and transparency measures to ensure the peaceful nature of the program.' To be sure, the idea that Iran would be able to enrich uranium after a final status deal has been floated in negotiations for the last two years. But the offer represents a significant softening of earlier demands from the United States and even the Obama administration... Already this language has drawn fire from top Republicans. In a statement Sunday morning, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said, 'The text of the interim agreement with Iran explicitly and dangerously recognizes that Iran will be allowed to enrich uranium when it describes a mutually defined enrichment program in a final, comprehensive deal. It is clear why the Iranians are claiming this deal recognizes their right to enrich.' ... David Albright, a former weapons inspector and the president of the Institute for Science and International Security, said the document does not explicitly acknowledge that Iran has a right to enrich uranium, the process for creating the fuel needed for a peaceful nuclear reactor and also a nuclear weapon. But he also said he was troubled that the language on enrichment was so vague. 'I would have hoped some of the parameters were clarified in the initial deal," he said. "How many centrifuges are we talking about? Is it 18,000 or 3,000? How long will these limitations last, five years or twenty years?' ... Robert Zarate, the policy director for the Foreign Policy Initiative, a think tank that has supported more sanctions on Iran, said the deal signed in Geneva was dangerous. 'We're another step closer to a nuclear-1914 scenario in the Middle East or elsewhere,' Zarate said. 'If we cannot say no to Iran -- a country, by the way, that's repeatedly violated the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, international nuclear inspections and U.N. Security Council resolutions -- then good luck getting countries who haven't broken any rules, including some of America's allies and partners, to refrain from getting enrichment and reprocessing or, perhaps eventually, nuclear weapons.'" http://t.uani.com/18jjXcA

Michael Doran in Brookings: "One's evaluation of the nuclear deal depends on how one understands the broader context of US-Iranian relations. There are potential pathways ahead that might not be all that bad. But I am pessimistic. I see the deal as a deceptively pleasant way station on the long and bloody road that is the American retreat from the Middle East. By contrast, President Obama sees this agreement as stage one in a two-stage process. Six months from now, he believes, this process will culminate in a final, sustainable agreement. In the rosiest of scenarios, the nuclear rapprochement will be the beginning of something much bigger. Like Nixon's opening to China, it will inaugurate a new era in Iranian-American relations. Whether Obama himself is dreaming of such an historic reconciliation is anybody's guess, but many commentators certainly are. I, however, am not among them. On the nuclear question specifically, I don't see this as stage one. In my view, there will never be a final agreement. What the administration just initiated was, rather, a long and expensive process by which the West pays Iran to refrain from going nuclear. We are, in essence, paying Ayatollah Khamenei to negotiate with us. We just bought six months. What was the price? We shredded the six United Nations Security Council resolutions that ordered the Islamic Republic to abandon all enrichment and reprocessing activities. We exposed fractures in the coalition against Iran. And we started building a global economic lobby that is dedicated to eroding the sanctions that we have generated through a decade of hard, very hard, diplomatic work. That's the price that we can see clearly before our eyes. But I also wonder whether there were hidden costs - in the form of quiet commitments to Iran by third parties. I assume that the Iranians demanded economic compensation for every concession that they made. Will all of the promised payments appear in the text of the agreement? Did parties less constrained than our president by US congressional oversight also offer up sweeteners on the margins? At this point we do not know whether there is, in effect, a secret annex to the deal. Only time will tell. But a hidden cost that is more easily verified is the free hand that the United States is now giving to Iran throughout the region. This is the price that troubles me most. In my view, that free hand was already visible in the chemical weapons deal that Obama cut with Syria's Bashar al-Asad. I have long suspected that Obama's retreat from Syria was prompted, in part, by his desire to generate Iranian goodwill in the nuclear negotiations. The evidence for that case is growing by the day. We now learn, for example, that the administration had opened a bilateral backchannel to Tehran well before the Syria crisis. I can only assume that the president backed away from the use of force against Assad because, in part, he saw the Syria challenge as a subset of the Iranian nuclear negotiation... The nuclear deal will further subject the Arab world to the tender mercies of the Revolutionary Guards. Iran will now have more money - our money - to channel to proxies such as Hezbollah. Washington cannot expose the mailed fist of the Qods Force without endangering the nuclear rapprochement, so it has a positive incentive to ignore all Iranian subversion and intimidation in the region. Whether he realizes it, Obama has now announced that the United States cannot be relied upon to stand up to Iran. Therefore, Israel and our Arab allies will be forced to live by their wits. Some actors, like the Saudis, will prosecute their proxy war with Iran with renewed vehemence. Others will simply hedge. They will make a beeline to Tehran, just as many regional actors began showing up in Moscow after the Syrian chemical weapons deal. American influence will further deteriorate. That, in sum, is the true price that we just paid for six months of seeming quiet on the nuclear front. It is price in prestige, which most Americans will not notice. It is also a price in blood. But it is not our blood, so Americans will also fail to make the connection between the violence and the nuclear deal. It is important to note, however, that this is just the initial price. Six months from now, when the interim agreement expires, another payment to Ayatollah Khamenei will come due. If Obama doesn't pony up, he will have to admit then that he cut a bad deal now. So he we will indeed pay - through the nose." http://t.uani.com/1bOVOWE

Elias Groll in FP: "At the center of that debate -- whether the agreement represents a clear-eyed test of Iran's true intentions or a victim of Iran's savvy bait-and-switch negotiating tactics -- is the question of whether the document recognizes what Tehran describes as its right to enrich uranium. Immediately after the agreement was announced, Fars News, the Iranian state-sponsored news outlet, proclaimed that the accord 'includes recognition of Tehran's right of uranium enrichment' and that the 'right to enrichment has been recognized in two places of the document.' Secretary of State John Kerry, meanwhile, made exactly the opposite claim on ABC's This Week on Sunday: 'There is no right to enrich. We do not recognize a right to enrich.' Over the next few weeks one of these two narratives will become the dominant interpretation of the Geneva agreement -- and which one catches on will go a long way toward determining its ultimate success. Either the West has by force and calculation compelled Iran into accepting a change in its strategic outlook and abandoned its nuclear ambitions. Or the West has backed down - 'appeased' Iran, if you will -- and allowed Tehran to hold on to its nuclear program in the hopes of avoiding war in the Middle East... What the document does do is allow Iran to continue some of its enrichment activities, and that has handed Iranian hardliners an important rhetorical victory. Throughout the negotiating process, Iranian leaders have repeatedly emphasized that they refuse to give up the ability to enrich uranium. As recently as Friday, just before the deal was struck, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif laid out Iran's negotiating position. 'Our right to enrichment is our red line. The enrichment program that Iran has, will continue. ... Any agreement should include enrichment program for Iran,' he said in an interview with Iran's Press TV. 'We will not accept anything else other than that.' On that point, Zarif can now claim victory. The agreement allows Iran to continue the enrichment activities it has in place, though that enrichment cannot go beyond 5 percent and the uranium already enriched to 20 percent -- a level that is a hop, skip, and a jump from weapons grade -- must be diluted or converted into oxide. The Geneva agreement thus produced a diplomatic breakthrough by completely ignoring one of the thorniest issues on the table. The West insists Iran has no right to enrich uranium. Iran considers that right sacrosanct. The agreement solves the complete lack of overlap between those two negotiating positions by making no mention of that conflict. Regardless of the substance of the agreement, it's a neat diplomatic trick... By skirting the debate over the right to enrichment, the Geneva agreement lays out a clear compromise position: Iranian leaders are welcome to crow to their domestic audiences that they have finally squeezed the West to grant its right to a nuclear program. Western leaders are willing to take that political blow in order to keep the Iranian nuclear program contained at a manageable level. Western leaders will meanwhile make exactly the opposite argument to their domestic audiences and hope that the Iranian position doesn't catch on and become the accepted interpretation of the agreement." http://t.uani.com/18BANkW

Mansour Farhang in ICHRI: "'An ambassador is an honest gentleman sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.' The endurance of this remark by Sir Henry Wotton, a 17th century English diplomat, is due to the fact that it contains an element of truth. Politically astute diplomats, however, know the limits of such practice. They are aware that credibility cannot be sacrificed if they are to be effective in what they do. Mr. Javad Zarif, Iran's foreign minister, has produced a YouTube video in which he asks all countries, particularly his negotiating partners in Geneva, to trust the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program... The problem with Zarif's performance in the video is that he goes far beyond what 'an honest gentleman' must do to serve his country. Indeed, the disconnect between his claims and the reality inside Iran today demands a response. Zarif asks, 'What is dignity? What is respect?' The government of Iran must not know, for it affords neither to its own citizens. Dignity is the right to free expression-without being arrested for voicing criticism of the state and forced, under torture, into making public 'confessions' of crimes 'against national security.' Respect is the right to engage in peaceful dissent, without disappearing in the middle of the night-and emerging days later in a body bag, beaten to death by interrogators for blogging articles critical of the government. Yes Mr. Zarif, you are right, dignity and respect are not negotiable, which is why there are still many in Iran who continue to stand for human rights-including mothers who have spent years in prison while their children grow up without them, because they did their job as lawyers to uphold the law and represent imprisoned human rights defenders. Zarif proudly states that free will 'has been the essence of the collective demand of us Iranians for the past century.' Yet this reference back to Iran's Constitutional Revolution in 1905 brings into sharper relief the tragedy of the continued thwarting of democracy in Iran, where only candidates deemed acceptable to the Supreme Leader are allowed to run, where peaceful protests over the disputed 2009 presidential election were met with the ruthless state violence, and where opposition leaders remain under extrajudicial house arrest, without charge, for almost three years now." http://t.uani.com/1aSEceR