Iranian Nuclear Deal Still Is Possible, But Time Is Running Out

Posted by John Kerry
June 30, 2014
Secretary Kerry at a Press Conference
July 20, the deadline to negotiate a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, is fast approaching.
All along, these negotiations have been about a choice for Iran’s leaders. They can agree to the steps necessary to assure the world that their country’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful and not be used to build a weapon, or they can squander a historic opportunity to end Iran’s economic and diplomatic isolation and improve the lives of their people.
Diplomacy and leadership are marked by tough calls. This shouldn’t be one of them.
Iranian officials have stated repeatedly and unambiguously that they have no intention of building a nuclear weapon and that their nuclear activities are designed solely to fulfill civilian needs. Assuming that’s true, it’s not a hard proposition to prove.
The United States and our partners have demonstrated to Iran how serious we are. During the negotiations to reach the Joint Plan of Action, we extended our hand to the Iranians and met with them directly to understand what Iran wanted from its nuclear program. Along with our international partners, we helped chart a path that would allow Iran to have a domestic program for exclusively peaceful purposes. We proved that we were flexible in offering financial relief.
Throughout these talks, Iran’s negotiators have been serious. Iran has also defied the expectations of some by meeting its obligations under the Joint Plan of Action, which has allowed time and space for the comprehensive negotiations to proceed. Specifically, Iran has been eliminating its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium, limited its enrichment capability by not installing or starting up additional centrifuges, refrained from making further advances at its enrichment facilities and heavy-water reactor, and allowed new and more frequent inspections. In exchange, the European Union and the P5+1 have provided limited financial relief to Iran, even as the architecture of international sanctions and the vast majority of sanctions themselves remained firmly in place.
Now Iran must choose. During the comprehensive negotiations, the world has sought nothing more than for Iran to back up its words with concrete and verifiable actions. We have, over the past several months, proposed a series of reasonable, verifiable and easily achievable measures that would ensure Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon and that its program is limited to peaceful purposes. In return, Iran would be granted phased relief from nuclear-related sanctions.
What will Iran choose? Despite many months of discussion, we don’t know yet. We do know that substantial gaps still exist between what Iran’s negotiators say they are willing to do and what they must do to achieve a comprehensive agreement. We also know that their public optimism about the potential outcome of these negotiations has not been matched, to date, by the positions they have articulated behind closed doors.
These gaps aren’t caused by excessive demands on our part. On the contrary, the E.U. and P5+1 negotiators have listened closely to Iran’s questions and concerns and showed flexibility to the extent possible consistent with our fundamental goals for this negotiation. We have worked closely with Iran to design a pathway for a program that meets all of the requirements for peaceful, civilian purposes.
There remains a discrepancy, however, between Iran’s professed intent with respect to its nuclear program and the actual content of that program to date. The divide between what Iran says and what it has done underscores why these negotiations are necessary and why the international community united to impose sanctions in the first place.
Iran’s claim that the world should simply trust its words ignores the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency has reported since 2002 on dozens of violations by Iran of its international nonproliferation obligations, starting in the early 1980s. The U.N. Security Council responded by adopting four resolutions under Chapter VII, requiring Iran to take steps to address these violations. These issues cannot be dismissed; they must be addressed by the Iranians if a comprehensive solution is to be reached. These are not just the expectations of any one country, but of the community of nations.
To gain relief from sanctions, the world is simply asking Iran to demonstrate that its nuclear activities are what it claims them to be.
Nine months ago, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, wrote in The Post that: “International politics is no longer a zero sum game but a multi-dimensional arena where cooperation and competition often occur simultaneously. . . . World leaders are expected to lead in turning threats into opportunities.”
It was in that spirit that President Obama committed the United States to exploring the possibility of a negotiated solution to Iran’s nuclear standoff. We entered into this negotiating process because we believed it had a real chance to succeed.
It still does, but time is running short.
If Iran is able to make these choices, there will be positive outcomes for the Iranian people and for their economy. Iran will be able to use its significant scientific know-how for international civil nuclear cooperation. Businesses could return to Iran, bringing much needed investment, jobs and many additional goods and services. Iran could have greater access to the international financial system. The result would be an Iranian economy that begins to grow at a significant and sustainable pace, boosting the standard of living among the Iranian population. If Iran is not ready to do so, international sanctions will tighten and Iran’s isolation will deepen.
Our negotiators will be working constantly in Vienna between now and July 20. There may be pressure to put more time on the clock. But no extension is possible unless all sides agree, and the United States and our partners will not consent to an extension merely to drag out negotiations. Iran must show a genuine willingness to respond to the international community’s legitimate concerns in the time that remains.
In this troubled world, the chance does not often arise to reach an agreement peacefully that will meet the essential and publicly expressed needs of all sides, make the world safer, ease regional tensions and enable greater prosperity. We have such an opportunity, and a historic breakthrough is possible. It’s a matter of political will and proving intentions, not of capacity. It’s a matter of choices. Let us all choose wisely.
Editor's Note: This entry originally appeared as a Washington Post opinion piece. For more from the Secretary of State, go to and follow @JohnKerry on Twitter.
About the Author: John Kerry serves as the 68th Secretary of State.



Eric J.
New Mexico, USA
July 1, 2014

Dear Sec. Kerry,

I was just reading your op-ed in the WaPo opinions section this morning and I'm hoiping you can enlighten me as to a certain paradox that seems to exist in the doing of this deal with Iran.

"They can agree to the steps necessary to assure the world that their country’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful and not be used to build a weapon, or they can squander a historic opportunity to end Iran’s economic and diplomatic isolation and improve the lives of their people."

 I don't have any disagreement with this analysis as a matter of simple cause and effect...the paradox exists as a function of whether intent is peaceful or not, when one ayattola or another has been leading chants of "death to America" (and others) for the entire political lifespan of the Islamic Republic of Iran's existance; as a foreign policy goal publicly stated on the record by its ledership for decades.

 I'm probably not the only citizen out there in America who thinks that it might be a good idea somewhere between sanctions and bombs, to simply send the Iranian governmenmt a bill of 1 trillion per year for every year those chants have beern forthcoming, resolve the national deficit with an accounts recievable so large that would total almost half of Iran's oil reserves if they were to get into a preferred payment plan, instead of collection action at some future point.

At the very least sir, any further chanting every Friday at prayers should be indication enough to all in the international community that the government of Iran is not "peaceful" in nature, ergo no nuclear program may be considered "peaceful" so long as Iran's government maintailns ill intent.

  On another note the government of Iran seems only concerned with controlling its population through fear and intimidation. They apparently niether care about their human rights or economic well being. If a voice be raised in protest inside Iran, that voice is declared to be "Warring against God" and silenced by the theocracy. I don't see how that logic used regarding the people's well being will alter the thinking of the Irnian government but I think if folks in this government sent the ayatolla a bill for 34 trillion including daily componded interest,...that would do a lot to get their undivided attention.

  My personal reasoning for this is that sending them a bill is proof positive of this nation's peaceful intent, to address a billable offence committed, rather than having employed the force of arms over all these years to deal with their ill intent by removing the Iranian government from power.

  It's not whether the Iranian people have a right to the peaceful use of atomic power or not. It's a matter of does the international community have the right to deny atomic programs to hostile governments or not, and the legal means to put a halt to them given demonstratable ill intent by the Iranian government.

 This government of ours has been trying to "change the behavior" of the Iranian government, and sanctions have had some limited effect, but the chanting continues and the ill intent of that government hasn't wavered, nor has its policy goals outspoken on many occasion.

 The threat of force is implied should a nuclear deal not be reached and Iran continuing on its path to a nuclear weapons program is a "given", and I don't think anyone is convinced by a fatwa to the contrary issued by the guy who sponsors terrorism the world over on behalf of the Iranian government.

  Can we set the bar just a wee bit higher sir?  IE: No nuclear program period unless the Iranian gov make as radical shift in foreign policy and decides to rejoin the family of nations in good standing, rather than sponsor terror and the detabilization of nations while chanting "death to...." various countries including our's.

  I think it's reasonable to ask for that.

 Best regards,

 EJ 7/1/14




Mel F.
United States
July 2, 2014
We should hold Iran to the same exacting standards to which we hold Israel, with regard to Israel's nuclear weapons program.
Patrick W.
Maryland, USA
July 2, 2014
Hopefully Iran will act wisely for everyone's sake. It does sound like a great opportunity for Iran too improve their relationships with other countries, and start having better trade agreements with the rest of the world. I think that would be good for everyone relationships.
Adam R.
Illinois, USA
July 6, 2014
Frankly, I think it's high time we open up relations with Iran.The reason we oppose the Syrian and Iranian governments is simply because that's what we've been doing for the past few decades. There is nothing more to be gained by keeping that old hatred alive. We have more in common with Iran and Syria than we do with Saudi Arabia, the rebels, and Pakistan. The past decade as confirmed that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are unreliable allies. As bad as Iran's government is, they have no vested interest in a strong Al-Qaeda, and neither the Ayatollah nor Al-Assad are interested in doing away with the Sykes-Picot borders. ISIS is. I understand our attempts to arm the moderate Syrian rebels, but during wars any group looking for aid will say they are moderate. If the Syrian rebels eventually topple Al-Assad I do not believe they will be able to contain ISIS. We cannot choose sides based on who we think is more moral in war; we must choose the side we believe we can work with should they be victorious. I'm not saying we will be friends with either the Iranian or Syrian governments, but we have mutual interests in keeping the area stable.
A. G.
Missouri, USA
July 18, 2014
The United States does NOT negotiate with terrorists. Please Sir, stop the public humiliation of Israel by insisting "they" roll-over to Hamas. Israel must be supported by the U.S. They've suffered enough! Stand up, Sir, please.
Pam S.
South Carolina, USA
July 25, 2014
I think that we cannot do this because Israel is a peaceful country and Iran is not. I do not believe this can be debated at all!


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