Iran, World Powers Discuss ‘All Concerns’—Deal Drafting Is Next

Just talking, or making progress? Illustrative. Photo Courtesy of UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Just talking, or making progress? Illustrative. Photo Courtesy of UN Photo/Evan Schneider

If the goal for the first set of talks between Iran and the major world powers was to discuss every concern related to Iran’s nuclear program, then consider things a success so far. Of course, it means nothing if an actual deal isn’t reached—so don’t expect the actual negotiations and drafting of a deal to be easy. But it is next.

A senior US administration official, in comments released by the State Department, said that the deal drafting stage is the next step, but, “I would caution everyone from thinking that a final agreement is imminent or that it will be easy. As we draft, I have no doubt this will be quite difficult at times.” What’s more, just as everything was discussed, everything has to be agreed upon as well.

In discussing how much of the deal has been agreed upon, the US official said, “The only percentage that matters is the one when we either get a comprehensive agreement or we don’t… The Joint Plan of Action says that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. So one could agree to even 95 percent, and that last 5 percent might mean you’d never get to the agreement.”

That’s going to be tough, especially since the Iranians keep saying that their missile program is off limits. The US has repeatedly said that it’s a concern addressed by the United Nations with potential nuclear dimensions and therefore is on the table. So far, the topic was covered—the US official said, “When I say that all concerns have been discussed, all concerns have been discussed”—but that doesn’t mean any progress was made.

In the meantime, the next hurdle might not be even at the negotiating table. Russia and Iran have reportedly been discussing a possible oil deal, with the US official warning that if the deal violates sanctions against Iran, Russia would be hit with sanctions of their own.

“I’ve been very clear about it, others in our government have been very clear about it, that anyone who takes sanctionable action faces the potential for sanctions.”

Despite the dire warning, the official expressed hope that Russia would hold off on any deal. “They are in talks,” noted the US official. “Nothing is consummated, nothing is executed, nothing is done. I think that both Iran and Russia understand the stakes here. I expect and suspect that they understand that the priority in the first instance is to try to reach a comprehensive [nuclear] agreement if we can reach one.”

July 20 is the target date for that nuclear agreement. But just because the timeline for reaching it is halfway done, doesn’t mean the sides are halfway to a deal. The toughest half of the process is the next one.

(By Joshua Spurlock,, April 10, 2014)

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