US Sanctions Expert to Leave Nuclear Talks

US Sanctions Expert to Leave Nuclear Talks
US Sanctions Expert to Leave Nuclear Talks

With the decision last week to extend the talks on a nuclear deal with Iran for another seven months, some key members of the US negotiating team, including the State Department’s deputy sanctions chief Richard Nephew, are moving on, Al-Monitor reported.

But Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman will stay on as the lead US negotiator, and US officials said some attrition on the team is normal given the grueling nature of the negotiations, which have been underway mostly in Europe for over the past year, and have now been extended until June 30, 2015. “Our negotiating team has changed over time and will likely continue to do so given the grueling nature of it and the rhythm of people’s lives and other work commitments,” State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf told Al-Monitor on Wednesday. “None of those changes have affected the policy or way forward — that continues at the direction of President Obama and Secretary Kerry, no matter who is on the team.”

Nephew will leave at the end of the year to spend more time with his family, Harf confirmed to Al-Monitor’s Barbara Slavin.

“Richard [Nephew] has been an exceptional colleague in our negotiations with Iran over the past couple years,” former deputy secretary of state Bill Burns told Al-Monitor in a statement. “His skill and creativity, especially on sanctions issues, have been invaluable.”

Another top official in the State Department sanctions shop — although one not directly involved in the Iran nuclear negotiations — Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Counter Threat Finance and Sanctions Peter Harrell, also plans to leave the State Department at the end of the year, US officials told Al-Monitor.

Ambassador Brooke Anderson may also leave after serving for the past year as a senior advisor on the Iran nuclear negotiations to Sherman and Secretary of State John Kerry, US officials told Al-Monitor.

“These are interest-based negotiations, and I don’t think personalities matter that much,” Kupchan said at an Atlantic Council Iran event on Tuesday. With the Iran talks extended from their original November 24 deadline until June 30, 2015, it is also not clear how long former European Union high representative Catherine Ashton will stay on as the top negotiator for the P5+1 — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany — after being succeeded in the top EU foreign policy job in November by Italy’s Federica Mogherini.