US Resorts to 200 Envoys to Send Tehran Message

US Resorts to 200 Envoys to Send Tehran MessageUS Resorts to 200 Envoys to Send Tehran Message

When US Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman addressed a roomful of 200 foreign ambassadors to the United States last week, she asked them to tell their capitals to pass two crucial messages to the Iranians: the importance of seizing what may be the last opportunity to reach a nuclear deal, and that no agreement will be possible without Iran reducing the scope of its nuclear enrichment program, Al-Monitor reported on Monday.

“Sherman’s remarks on Iran were focused on the importance of seizing this opportunity to resolve international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, and the fact that no agreement — and no relief from sanctions — will be possible unless Iran agrees to reduce — significantly and verifiably — the size of its uranium enrichment activities,” a senior US administration official familiar with Sherman’s briefing told Al-Monitor.

Sherman’s message on Iran at the briefing to Washington’s diplomatic corps comes ahead of what is expected to be an intense and frenetic diplomatic drama as nuclear negotiations between Iran and the six major powers resume in New York this week.

The nuclear negotiations are picking up with renewed urgency after an August lull in which little progress was made in closing the major obstacles to a nuclear deal.

****Enrichment Capacity   

“We are not optimistic because many differences remain,” an official from a member of the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany), speaking not for attribution, told Al-Monitor on September 12. “Basically it’s a question of numbers. The 3+3 (P5+1) thinks there should be a limited number of centrifuges, and the number the Iranians are talking about is much higher. It is difficult to reconcile.”

“When we pushed back the dates, we were hoping something would come up,” the official said, referring to the decision in July to extend the final nuclear deal talks until November 24. “That Iran would take a step forward. Maybe they think the same from us.”

But “we are far apart,” the official said, adding there is still hope that some sort of breakthrough could be reached in New York that would give momentum to the negotiations, though no reason to expect that will occur.

****Fundamental Impasse

“I think the fundamental impasse remains,” former US Iran nuclear negotiator Robert Einhorn told Al-Monitor on September 11. “I think they (the Iranians) genuinely want a deal. But I think they believe they can live without one. I think some in Iran may be underestimating the difficulties they face, economically, without an agreement.”

“So it is hard to tell whether Iran’s current tough position on enrichment capacity is a bargaining tactic or really their bottom line,” Einhorn said. “I suspect there is more give in their current position, but how much give, I just don’t know.”

****Key Differences Remain

Sherman, speaking to the diplomatic corps, said some progress had been made in the talks to date, but acknowledged key differences remain.

“The talks have been serious and have identified potential answers to key questions, but we remain far apart on other core issues,” she said, according to the US official. “The status quo — or something very close to the status quo — is not acceptable.”

“The world will agree to suspend and then lift sanctions only if Iran is willing to take verifiable steps to demonstrate convincingly that its nuclear program is and will remain wholly peaceful,” Sherman said. “The ideas the P5+1 has presented to Iran uphold this standard, and are also fair, flexible, and understanding of Iran’s scientific know how and desire for a civilian nuclear program.”