04 February 2014
A top U.S. official says a six-nation coalition eager to prevent the development of nuclear weapons in Iran has made notable progress on implementing the early stages of an agreement to achieve that end.U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman appeared before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 4 to account for the implementation of the Joint Plan of Action forged between Iran and the P5+1 nations (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Germany) in November 2013.Taking effect on January 20, the interim agreement is designed to do two things, Sherman told the panel. It stalls any further Iranian activity in the nuclear sector, and it creates room for negotiations to continue in pursuit of a long-range agreement.
Iran has taken a number of steps to rein in progress and even roll back its nuclear program, Sherman said. The International Atomic Energy Agency has verified that Iran has stopped producing enriched uranium; disabled the centrifuge cascades that produce the volatile material; begun diluting the stockpile of enriched uranium; and stopped further development of nuclear facilities.
For its part, the United States is ready to begin to return Iranian funds that have been frozen in U.S. financial institutions for years. The interim agreement includes a promise to return more than $4 billion, to be paid in installments.
Later in February, Sherman said, P5+1 negotiators will meet with Iran to continue their pursuit of a comprehensive solution. “Our goal for these negotiations is to reach a mutually agreed, long-term, comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful,” she said.
The initial steps taken under the Joint Plan of Action create the platform to begin the talks that will ensure a peaceful nuclear program in Iran, Sherman said. Iran has agreed to address concerns raised in U.N. Security Council resolutions passed over the years emphasizing the importance of a peaceful nuclear weapons program to avoid regional instability.
“In addition, Iran has committed to implement agreed transparency measures and enhanced monitoring,” Sherman said.
Some members of Congress have expressed concern over Iran’s good faith in these negotiations. Suggestions have even rumbled through the Capitol building about the possibility of imposing more sanctions, in sharp contrast to the Obama administration’s tactic to hold out looser sanctions as a reward.
By no means have negotiators dropped sanctions from the potential consequences if a comprehensive solution remains elusive, Sherman said. “If [Iran] fails to live up to its commitment, or if we are unable to reach agreement on a comprehensive solution, we would ask the Congress to ramp up new sanctions,” she said.
Sherman said more and tougher sanctions now could be very disruptive to the negotiation process and to the U.S. agreement with its allies.
Even in the hopeful glow of negotiations, the P5+1 nations have not lost sight of Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region and its human rights abuses, Sherman said.