Iran nuclear negotiations to take place in monthly meetings through late May
Simon Sturdee, AFP – February 20, 2014
The P5 + 1 and Iran will meet several times through May in the hopes of arriving at a final, comprehensive deal before the interim deal expires on July 20 (though it can be extended by mutual agreement). Comments on the new round of talks in Vienna have so far been positive even while acknowledging the difficulties inherent in such negotiations. After this month’s talks, Chief US negotiator Wendy Sherman will visit Israel, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai to brief allied leaders.
Iranian Supreme Leader, officials less optimistic than negotiators
George Jahn, AP – February 19, 2014
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran urged the government to prepare for the talks to fail and to better arrange the economy so as to resist the remaining sanctions (and any that are renewed if talks fall apart). Commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, directed Iranian negotiators to ensure that “the national pride is not damaged” by any serious concessions. Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Abbas Araqchi said on Tuesday that Iran would not scrap any elements of its nuclear program.
Former US WMD official pessimistic on Iran
Jeffrey Goldberg, Bloomberg – February 18, 2014
Gary Samore, former White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction, is does not believe the P5 + 1 will be able to come to terms with Iran. Samore’s pessimism is rooted in the belief that Iran will not be willing or able to make the concessions the P5 + 1 will demand of it–this despite the fact that Iran has already mentioned the possibility of converting the Arak heavy water reactor to a light water reactor, one of the concessions Samore did not foresee.
Danish PM urges international community to pressure Syria
AP – February 19, 2014
The Danish Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, urged other states to keep the pressure on Syria to remove its chemical weapons according to schedule. Denmark and Norway are helping to ship the chemical weapons from Syria to Italy, where they will be destroyed aboard an American ship.
Intelligence Community “supportive of keeping a US footprint” in Afghanistan
AFP – February 19, 2014
Because Afghan President Hamid Karzai has not yet signed a bilateral security agreement that would keep American troops in the country past 2014, the White House has to take seriously the possibility that the United States might not leave any troops in Afghanistan beyond the end of this year. The Intelligence Community, however, enjoys the drone bases in Afghanistan from which it operates and conducts counter-terrorist strikes both in Afghanistan and across the border in Pakistan. Given the difficulties of working with Pakistan and the slim chances of receiving basing rights there, the Intelligence Community wants to retain at least a modest presence in Afghanistan past 2014.