Former Obama nuclear advisor Samore: Iran might take deal after June polls

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Expectations are low for an Iran nuclear deal before Iranian presidential elections in June, former White House nuclear advisor Gary Samore told the Brookings Institution Monday. After that, it’s possible Iran might agree to a deal on curbing its 20% enrichment, or it will face increasing economic sanctions, Samore said.

“I think it’s possible Iran could decide after the presidential elections to accept the small deal on the table now,” Samore, who served as President Obama’s ‘WMD czar’ until January, told the panel on Iran negotiations Monday.

From Iran’s standpoint, “it’s a good deal,” Samore, now executive director of the Harvard Belfer Center, continued. “If it is looking at ways to create a respite” from economic sanctions, “what’s on offer might do that.”

The panel on negotiating with Iran comes as diplomats from Iran and six world powers return to Almaty, Kazakhstan later this week for the second round of nuclear talks in the past five weeks.

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Iran’s UN envoy on war, peace, and nuclear diplomacy

Iran’s envoy to the United Nations Mohammad Khazaee sat down with Barbara Slavin and myself for a long interview Tuesday to discuss the Iran nuclear negotiations.

“It is possible to close the gap,” Khazaee told us, referring to the two sides’ mismatched proposals for resolving the nuclear dispute. But tremendous mistrust prevails on both sides.

I asked Khazaee about international insistence  that Iran take the first step–something more concrete than the Supreme Leader’s re-issuance of his fatwa against nuclear weapons.

He suggested  that agreement on a 20% deal was “not off the table.”

He also revealed some more details about the P5+1’s proposal to Iran, beyond the requests that Iran take as a first step: stop 20% enrichment, ship out its 20% stockpile, and stop operations at Fordo. He noted what he described as highly provisional language used for proposed reciprocal steps offered in the P5+1 package. “There is no promise in the proposal. “There is ‘consideration, thinking, trying,”’ he said, before giving several examples.

“Step two was capping enrichment at 5% as well as [ending production of] the heavy water in Arak, in exchange for ‘thinking, finding a way’ for removal of unilateral sanctions,” the Iranian envoy said.

The third step “is that Iran should implement fully the Security Council resolutions,”  requiring Iran to suspend all enrichment,” he said. “Then they will ‘consider’ remov[ing] the [UN] sanctions.”

Still, he acknowledged, the P5+1 proposal as he described seemed to lay out at least a provisional road-map for longer term easing of sanctions and normalization of international ties that Iran says it has been seeking. Continue reading