White House: Pres. Obama convenes national security team to discuss Iran nuclear talks

World Today

With stubborn disputes unresolved, nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers pushed past a self-imposed deadline and into overtime Wednesday as negotiators renewed marathon efforts to hammer out the outline of an agreement.

“Tonight, the President convened a secure video teleconference with members of his national security team to discuss the P5+1 negotiations with Iran. The President received an update on the current status of the negotiations from Secretaries Kerry and Moniz and other members of the negotiating team in Lausanne, Switzerland and thanked the team for their continuing efforts.” White House National Security Council Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said.

Participants in tonight’s meeting included:

  • The Vice President, Joe Biden
  • Secretary of State, John Kerry
  • Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter
  • Secretary of Energy, Ernie Moniz
  • White House Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough
  • National Security Advisor, Susan Rice
  • White House Counsel, Neil Eggleston
  • Deputy National Security Advisor, Avril Haines
  • Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, Benjamin Rhodes
  • National Security Advisor to the Vice President, Colin Kahl
  • Under Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman
  • Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf Region, Phil Gordon
  • Katie Beirne Fallon, Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Legislative Affairs
  • Deputy to the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Jeremy Weinstein
  • Associate Counsel to the President, Christopher Fonzone
  • NSC Senior Director for Iran, Iraq, Syria and the Gulf States, Robert Malley
  • NSC Senior Director for Legislative Affairs, Caroline Tess
  • NSC Spokesperson, Bernadette Meehan
  • NSC Director for Iran, Sahar Nowrouzzadeh

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP)  —  Secretary of State John Kerry, who had planned to leave the talks Tuesday, was remaining. And an Iranian negotiator said his team could stay  “as long as necessary” to clear the remaining hurdles.

In Washington, White House press secretary Josh Earnest suggested that talks meant to produce an outline that would allow the sides to continue negotiations until the June 30 final deadline had not bridged all gaps. He said the sides were working to produce a text with few specifics, accompanied by documents outlining areas where further talks were needed.

“If we are making progress toward the finish line, then we should keep going,” Earnest said. President Barack Obama held a video conference Tuesday night with Kerry and other members of his national security team, including Vice President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

Officials had hoped to wrap up the current talks by Tuesday night with that joint general statement agreeing to start a new phase of negotiations to curb Iran’s nuclear program. That statement would be accompanied by more detailed documents that would include technical information on understandings of steps required on all sides to resolve outstanding concerns.

Those documents would allow the sides to claim that the new phase of talks would not simply be a continuation of negotiations that have already been twice extended since an interim agreement between Iran and the so-called P5+1 nations was concluded in November 2013.

Obama and other leaders have said they are not interested in simply a third extension.

The softening of the language from a framework “agreement” to a framework “understanding” appeared due in part to opposition to a two-stage agreement from Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Earlier this year, he demanded only one deal that would nail down specifics and not permit the other side to “make things difficult” by giving it wiggle room on interpretations.

But if the parties agree only to a broad framework that leaves key details unresolved, Obama can expect stiff opposition at home from members of Congress who want to move forward with new, stiffer Iran sanctions. Lawmakers had agreed to hold off on such a measure through March while the parties negotiated.

The White House says new sanctions would scuttle further diplomatic efforts to contain Iran’s nuclear work and possibly lead Israel to act on threats to use military force to accomplish that goal.

Critics will likely accuse the Obama administration of backing away from promises of a tougher March agreement.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said Tuesday that extending the talks “proves once again that Iran is calling the shots.” He said the Obama administration has made “dangerous concessions” to the Iranians over the past week, though he did not specify them.

In a letter signed by Cotton and 46 other Republican senators in early March, the lawmakers warned Tehran that any nuclear agreement with the Obama administration that lacks congressional approval could be unraveled by future presidents.

Kerry late last year said the focus for March was agreement on “the major elements” of a comprehensive deal that would set a “clear path” for a June deal. If that failed to materialize, “we can revisit how we then want to choose to proceed,” he added.

Obstacles remain on several main issues — uranium enrichment, where stockpiles of enriched uranium should be stored, limits on Iran’s nuclear research and development and the timing and scope of sanctions, among other issues, according to negotiators.

The U.S. says any final deal will accomplish a goal of stretching the time Iran would need to make a nuclear weapon from several months to a year. But Netanyahu said Washington initially promised “years” to a breakout time.

Source: Associated Press


Jamal Abdi of Nat’l Iranian American Council discusses Iran nuclear talks

CCTV interviewed Jamal Abdi, the policy director at the National Iranian American Council, an organization that advocates on behalf of the U.S. Iranian-American community, about the ongoing nuclear talks.

Jamal Abdi of Nat\'l Iranian American Council discusses Iran nuclear talks

Jamal Abdi of Nat\'l Iranian American Council discusses Iran nuclear talks

CCTV interviewed Jamal Abdi, the policy director at the National Iranian American Council, an organization that advocates on behalf of the U.S. Iranian-American community, about the ongoing nuclear talks.


Dr. Mohammed Marandi from the University of Tehran on the talks
For an Iranian perspective on the talks CCTV spoke with Dr. Mohammad Marandi. He’s a North American Studies Professor at the University of Tehran.

Dr. Mohammed Marandi from the University of Tehran on the talks

Dr. Mohammed Marandi from the University of Tehran on the talks

For an Iranian perspective on the talks CCTV spoke with Dr. Mohammad Marandi. He's a North American Studies Professor at the University of Tehran.


Mohsen Milani, professor at the University of South Florida about the talks
For a Western viewpoint of the nuclear talks in Switzerland, CCTV spoke to Mohsen Milani, Executive Director of the Center for Strategic and Diplomatic Studies. He’s also a professor of Politics at the University of South Florida.

Mohsen Milani, professor at the University of South Florida about the talks

Mohsen Milani, professor at the University of South Florida about the talks

For a Western viewpoint of the nuclear talks in Switzerland, CCTV spoke to Mohsen Milani, Executive Director of the Center for Strategic and Diplomatic Studies. He's also a professor of Politics at the University of South Florida.