Europe and the Iran Nuclear Deal
His Excellency Gérard Araud,
Ambassador of France to the United States
His Excellency Sir Peter Westmacott,
Ambassador of Britain to the United States
His Excellency Peter Wittig,
Ambassador of Germany to the United States
Ms. Barbara Slavin
Senior Fellow, South Asia Center
Location: Atlantic Council, Washington, D.C.
Time: 10:00 a.m. EDT
Date: Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Superior Transcriptions LLC
DAMON WILSON: Good morning, everyone. I’m Damon Wilson. I’m executive vice president here at the Atlantic Council.
And it’s my pleasure to welcome our three distinguished speakers today – French Ambassador Gerard Araud, German Ambassador Peter Wittig and British Ambassador Sir. Peter Westmacott. Thank you very much for being with us. It’s an honor to host each of you and to host all of you together at the time for a conversation on Europe and the Iran nuclear deal.
I’d also like to welcome all of you in the room, as well as those that are following us online through the livestream as well as the TV broadcast. We want to encourage everyone to join the conversation using the hashtag on Twitter, #ACIran.
The Atlantic Council and its South Asia Center launched our Iran Task Force in 2010 to provide insight into the complex issues related to Iran and to explore all possibilities for peaceful solutions. The task force has produced groundbreaking work on the Iranian nuclear program, the intelligence related to the program, the impact of sanctions, Iran’s regional role, internal politics. The task force has published on these issues more than a dozen issue briefs and reports and held more than 50 public and private briefings. In 2013, the taskforce released a series of recommendations for U.S. Iran policy that foreshadowed the current path of negotiations, which we’ll be discussing today.
We are now entering, of course, what could be the final stages of nuclear negotiations with Iran. Negotiators from the United States, Britain, France German, Russia, China – the P5+1 – and Iran are meeting in Vienna to piece together the details of an agreement that will place long-term curbs on Iran’s nuclear program in return for nuclear-related sanctions relief. The negotiations, particularly the joint efforts of the P5+1 and the E3 here today, showcase the critical role of the trans-Atlantic partnership in addressing the most prominent global challenges.
So we’re especially delighted today to be joined by the ambassadors from the E3 nations – France, Germany and the United Kingdom – to discuss this Herculean diplomatic effort, which in large part began with the efforts and persistence of their nations over a decade ago.
I’d now like to invite up Barbara Slavin, a senior fellow who leads our Iran Task Force work here, to introduce each of our – (audio break). She has largely guided all of the work on Iran here at the Council and can be credited for bringing together this discussion today. So let me invite Barbara and our guests to the stage, please.
BARBARA SLAVIN: Damon, thank you very much. And thank you all for coming this morning. I’m delighted everybody has returned from the holiday with an interest in this subject.
We’ve been trying here at the Atlantic Council to bring the three E3 ambassadors here for some time because I think their role and the role of their countries has not been properly recognized in the Iran negotiations. It’s fair to say that the E3 invented Iran nuclear diplomacy back in 2003. The U.S. administration at the time, the George W. Bush administration, had a policy of no acknowledged diplomatic contacts with Iran. There were some, but they were secret and they were not substantive. And so it was Britain, France and Germany that took it upon themselves to try to deal with the issue of Iran’s nuclear program after various facilities were revealed in 2002.
And just a quick note before I turn over to our excellent speakers and introduce them – the Bush administration policy toward Iran at the time and toward the nuclear negotiations, according to Phil Gordon, who was an official in the Clinton and later Obama administrations, was one of “malevolent neglect,” quote, unquote. And I remember when I was doing research for a book on the U.S. and Iran, I was told by a European negotiator that John Bolton once fell asleep, or pretended to, while he was hosting members of the E3 who were giving him a briefing on the negotiations. And of course, John Bolton was the undersecretary of state at the time in charge of nonproliferation, but not very interested in talking to Iran.
The Bush administration policy, of course, changed toward the end. And we’re going to hear about it and we’re going to hear where we are today. But I think it’s fair to say that without the E3 there would be no process with Iran and there certainly wouldn’t have been the progress that we see today.
So with that brief introduction, let me introduce our wonderful guests. Speaking first will be the Ambassador of France Gerard Araud, who has held numerous positions within the ministry of foreign affairs and international development, including director for strategic affairs, security and disarmament, ambassador to Israel, director general for political affairs and security, and permanent representative to the U.N. Ambassador Araud has specialized knowledge of the Middle East and strategic and security issues and, especially pertinent for our purposes, he was the French negotiator on the Iranian nuclear issue from 2006 to 2009.
Seated next to him is Peter Wittig, the ambassador of German. He also served as perm rep to the U.N. and he served in Spain as private secretary to the foreign minister, ambassador to Lebanon and Cyprus, director general for the United Nations and global issues at the Foreign Office in Berlin.
And finally, Sir Peter Westmacott has been Britain’s ambassador here since 2002. This is his second posting in Washington. He previously served as councilor for political and public affairs in the mid-’90s. He’s also been Britain’s ambassador to France, to Turkey and had postings in Tehran and Brussels, as well as serving as foreign and commonwealth officer’s director for the Americas.
I’ve asked each of the three ambassadors to speak briefly. I know there are a lot of questions in this room and a lot of expertise. Ambassador Araud is going to start, I think, with just a history of the talks, especially as he lived through it. So he will talk about how we went from malevolent neglect to active participation on the part of the Obama administration. And then Ambassador Wittig is going to talk a little bit about the Lausanne understanding of April 2nd and where that leaves us. And Ambassador Westmacott is going to look at the regional dimensions of this nuclear agreement in the making.
So please, Ambassador Araud.
AMBASSADOR GERARD ARAUD: Thank you. Good morning. Actually, when it was told I was supposed to speak about history, my intention was to start by Cyrus the Great – (laughter) – but I was told that maybe it was a bit too long.
So let’s start in 2002, when a major Iranian nuclear program – clandestine program was reveled, which didn’t have any identifiable civilian significance. We – and my mother always told me don’t speak saying I – but actually I, as the director for strategic affairs, I drafted the letter of the ministers – the European ministers. And to tell you want was our goal, I have to say that at the time we had a choice between having the signature of U.K. and the signature of Russia.
If we put in the text that we were asking the suspension of enrichment, we had the Russian but not the U.K. And if we put in the letter stopping the enrichment, we had the U.K. but not Russia. And actually, France and Germany – and it was not easy. You know, it was – you remember it was in the spring of 2003, after the Iraqi invasion, we decided that we wanted to have the U.K. because we knew that there wouldn’t be an agreement if at some moment we couldn’t have the trust, the confidence of the United States.
At the time, John Bolton was the undersecretary for strategic affairs, came to Paris. We presented the letter. There was also – with the (signees ?) we had the same consultation. And we got in a sense – from both of them we got a yellow light, but under condition that we would be totally transparent to both of them, and we were. When I was ambassador to Israel between ‘3 and ‘6, actually I was the channel to inform the Israel authorities of where we were, what we wanted. And I think it was extremely productive.
The negotiations between the three Europeans and the Iranians in the fall of 2003, the Iranians, you know, really suspended the enrichment activities. Some people say that an opportunity was missed at this point. I don’t know. It would be to the historians to say. But everything actually stopped in 2005 when Ahmadinejad was elected. Basically, the negotiations stopped there. And I can say that between 2005 and 2012, there was no negotiation whatsoever.
As the French negotiator between ‘6 and ‘9, I met dozens of times the Iranians. We went, actually, the five of us – because the American negotiator, Bill Burns, couldn’t come with us – we went to Tehran in 2008 with a letter signed by the six ministers. We made a lot of different proposals to try to avoid, you know, the question of suspending everything. But at no moment between ‘5 and ’12 the Iranians even entered the negotiation. They never told us it’s not enough. There was no negotiation.
Three hours usually – the first hour has about Cyrus the Great. (Laughter.) The second hour was about Mosaddegh. The third hour was about the rights of the Iranian people. So that’s the reality. In 2006, the Americans, the Russians – which is very important – and the Chinese joined us, which led to the first resolution, 1696, July 2006, which was an ultimatum to the Iranians to suspend the enrichment – to suspend the enrichment.
They didn’t do it, so there were afterwards the different resolutions of sanctions – 1737, 1747, 1803, 1835, 1929. It’s very important the Russians and the Chinese were with us. So we reached the point of 2012 and that’s, I think, the first conclusion that we have to draw. In 2012, Iran took the decision of negotiating. The negotiation had started – or restarted, you know, in 2012. And I stop here.
MS. SLAVIN: (Laughs.) OK. Maybe just a –
AMB. ARAUD: Yes.
MS. SLAVIN: – yeah, a tad more. You say 2012, Hassan Rouhani was not elected president until 2013. So what changed in 2012 in the –
AMB. ARAUD: No, I think – no, 2013. I said – 2013, sorry, sorry. You know, really 2013.
MS. SLAVIN: OK. OK, well, obviously we could – we’ll go more into this in the Q&A. But, Ambassador Wittig, 2013, Hassan Rouhani comes in, Javad Zarif comes in – a new team that speaks English, does not insist on dredging through all past Iranian grievances. Interim agreement –
AMB. ARAUD: Well, they didn’t – they spoke English, you know, in 2006 also. (Laughter.)
MS. SLAVIN: They just chose not to.
AMB. ARAUD: They spoke very good English, actually. (Laughs.)
MS. SLAVIN: They just chose not to.
AMB. ARAUD: Yeah. (Laughs.)
MS. SLAVIN: You got the interim agreement November 2013, and then we have the Lausanne understanding. So tell us what you can about that understanding and where we are right now in negotiations. We have about four weeks to go.
AMBASSADOR PETER WITTIG: Yes. Thank you, Barbara for having me here. It’s great to be here at Atlantic Council.
You know, on April 2nd we concluded, after lots of months of very intense negotiation, a political agreement – a basic political agreement on the parameters – (audio break) – deal, final deal with Iran. The framework is a big and, I would say, potentially hopeful step forward. But I have to add right at the beginning a notion of caution here. The most difficult path might lay ahead of us in the coming weeks. Are we sure that we will get this final deal? No. We’re not sure. But we conduct those negotiations with a lot of determination, in earnest, yet without any naivety and very clear-eyed.
Now, the task is to negotiate a comprehensive solution. And the challenge is transform basically political statements into reliable, I also would say watertight – waterproof provisions that leave no doubt about the duties of the parties involved. And as you know, in this kind of endeavor the devil is, of course, in the details. And therefore details matter. We have to come up with a comprehensive agreement with a lot of annexes. So it’s also not only a political but a very technical negotiation.
So far, since the 2nd of April, the negotiations have been proceeding at a rather slow pace on an expert level. There are a lot of gaps in records, gaps to be filled, brackets to be removed in the documents. Not surprising to you, two issues are in the particular focus. First, the timing of the sanctions relief for Iran and the details of the verification and monitoring mechanisms – those are major topics.
Now, Lausanne laid, we believe, the groundwork for three major goals vis-à-vis Iran: first, strict limitations on enrichment for the first 10 years. Now, Iran agreed to reduce the centrifuges by two-thirds, reduction from 19,000 to 6,104, agreed to not enrich beyond 3.67 percent, and reduce the – for 15 years – and reduce the stockpile of low-enriched uranium from roughly 10,000 kilogram to 300 kilogram for the next 15 years. And on top of that, Iran would have no other, or no new enrichment facility for the duration of the agreement.
Second goal, the modernization of Arak would effectively seal the plutonium path. Now, Lausanne provides the possibility to modernize the existing heavy water facility in Arak, rebuild it, redesign it so there could no – there could no – be no production of weapons-grade plutonium. That was the second.
The third goal, and key really to an agreement, is Iran would be submitted and subjected to an unprecedented transparency and monitoring regime to make sure that any covert program that Iran might be engaging in or would be – would be detected. And strong procedures for intrusive inspections, in accordance with the additional protocol of the NPT, the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and beyond would ensure that the international community is – known what is going on in Iran.
What would be the duties for us in this agreement, if it happens? In return for Iran’s compliance, there would be sanctions relief of the U.N. sanctions, of EU sanctions, of U.S. sanctions gradually – and that’s very important. It would happen gradually in the fields of economy, trade and finance. Iran needs some time to start the implementation of this agreement. So in the best case, sanctions relief would not happen before the end of this year. In addition, this agreement would provide guarantees that sanctions could be back in place if Iran violates the agreement – the so-called snap back mechanism.
Now, what are the prospects that we see for this deal? For Iran, this would be a significant shift. Iran would be deprived of the possibility to produce a nuclear weapon. At the same time it would, Iran, give the opportunity to adjust its relations to the international community. And we believe it could also prevent a nuclear arms race in the region. Now, here again a note of caution: Do we think that we can trust Iran with an agreement? I think the answer is no. And our motto would be distrust, but verify. Trust has been broken in the past and need to be restored. That’s why we can only accept a regime with a long lasting monitoring mechanism.
Now, do we condone Iran’s behavior in the region? Absolutely not. We maintain sanctions that are not immediately related to this agreement. Let’s give an example, the arms embargo. And of course, we would continue to urge Iran to play a very constructive role on all the – in regional conflicts that are on our mind – Syria, Lebanon, Yemen. Now, in concluding, we believe that the alternatives to our diplomatic approach are not very attractive. If diplomacy fails, then the sanctions regime might unravel – the sanctions – the universal sanctions regime. And we would probably see Iran once again enriching, as it has done before negotiations started.
It’s clear the problems that we have with Iran will not go away immediately with a deal. But it has potential to engage in a phase of constructive conflict resolution with Iran. So we believe it serves our security interests in Europe. We believe it serves the U.S. security interests. We serve – it serves the region security interests. And, believe me, Israel’s security is always on our mind. So in a nutshell, a negotiated, satisfactory deal is our best option we have.
MS. SLAVIN: OK. Ambassador Westmacott, I’d like to ask you to look at the regional dimension, but also if you could comment, I was a little surprised, Ambassador Wittig, that you say sanctions relief wouldn’t come till the end of the year. And I wonder, is that because it’s going to take Iran that long to implement the key steps or is this still something that’s being negotiated. The Iranians say sanctions relief is going to be immediate upon its implementation of the key steps.
Do you want to pick up?
AMBASSADOR PETER WESTMACOTT: Not a lot left to say. Thank you, Barbara. Thank you, Damon. Thank you, Atlantic Council for giving us this opportunity to sit up on the stage, I won’t say like the three monkeys, but we are three colleagues who are always pleased to be together. (Laughter.)
Gerard mentions the way the Iranians go back to Cyrus the Great. And of course, when you are talking to Iranians the history is always an important part of it. But there is a certain irony in the fact that it was Cyrus the Great who was the Persian king who liberated the Jews of Babylon from King Nebuchadnezzar, a story we’re all reminded of when the British Museum, Cyrus Cylinder came for a state visit to Washington and other major U.S. cities a little over a year ago. So they are very conscious of their history, but I think it’s worth us being conscious of it as well.
The regional dimension and the point, perhaps, which Barbara picked up, I would like to echo very much what Peter Wittig says on where we think we are now, the importance of the framework that we have got, the quality of that deal. But I would add that, of course, between now and the end of June there is a great deal of detailed work to be completed. You know, it’s not yet in the bag. And we are all very clear that if we can’t get the right deal, then there won’t be a deal.
But this is significantly better, the framework that we have got at the moment – in our judgment, the judgment of our governments – than any of the alternatives that are out there for preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons. So I think it is a piece of diplomacy which is extremely important, which has taken a very long time to get this far.
The regional dimension, of course, this was a big part of the G-7 summit arrangement, which President Obama hosted with leaders from the GCC just the other day. Not least because it is clear that a number of the Sunni Arab regional governments are concerned about the implications of this deal, if it is finalized.
I would say that none of us are doing this on a basis of blind trust. As Peter says, we will distrust but verify. This is the best of the options that are out there. And this represents the best framework that we have been able to come up with for ensuring that for at least a decade there’s not going to be any Iranian breakout towards nuclear weapons and that Iran will thereafter, of course, be subject not only to the provisions of the NPT, but also to the – those of the additional protocol which Iran will be signing.
So we think that this is something which gives us a chance for minimizing the risk of proliferation of nuclear weapons and introducing a degree of regional stability, which is important. At the same time, we need to reassure the regionals, the others around there who are concerned by other aspects of bad behavior by Iran, which are quite separate from the nuclear issue which we have been negotiating on, that there will not be, if you like, a carte blanche for the Iranians to continue to destabilize the region through the use of proxies or through other areas of activity.
It is our hope, but we are not naïve on this, that if we are able to finalize this nuclear deal with the Iranians that there will be spin-off, if you like, in terms of other areas of regional concern. We would like to see Iran doing a great deal less in terms of supporting groups which either destabilize governments we regard as legitimate or indirectly supporting terrorist activity and so on.
And that would be a significant prize. But the fact that we are working on the nuclear thing does not mean in any sense that we are closing our eyes to the other aspects of what goes on in the region and which concerns us. So that’s going to be very important. Regional reassurance on security issues and, of course, full implementation on the deal, if there is a deal, which we conclude by the end of June.
I think, Barbara, on your question of what about implementation, I think it’s very clear that sanctions lift will take place when there is implementation of the agreement. That depends on how long it takes the IAEA to certify that there is full compliance by Iran of the agreements that it undertakes – (audio break) – negotiation. We don’t yet know exactly what day that will be.
Of course, each side is busy explaining why what it has agreed to so far is a good thing for its own public opinion. That is what negotiations are about. Everybody has to return home with something which they are proud of which they are pleased about. Nobody’s going to go home and say we capitulated on everything. This is a lousy deal for my own constituents. That’s not the way negotiations work.
So I think the important thing is to focus on what’s going on in the negotiations themselves, which by definition have to remain largely confidential for the moment, to try to ensure that we get the right deal, and then we ensure that there is full compliance. And as a result of that, then you can move towards suspension of sanctions and so on. Of course, there are different elements of sanctions. There are U.N. ones, there U.S. bilateral ones. There are European ones.
The one thing I would add, I think, on this is that we need to keep in mind, the reason why we have come this far is because there have been an extraordinary degree of trans-Atlantic unity on the application of the sanctions – the EU and the U.S., the financial and the oil and number of other elements – have been, I think, a great deal more effective than many people would have predicted. We have got this far on the basis of that. We now need to make a success for the diplomacy which effective sanctions has given us the chance to complete.
MS. SLAVIN: Very good.
Let me ask a little bit more about unity, not just with the United States, but also among the E3. Ambassador Araud, your foreign minister has a certain penchant for revealing little details of the negotiations at various time that perhaps have not always been helpful. Just the other day, he said that the Iranians are insisting on, I think, a 24-day waiting period before any allegations of cheating can be investigated. Is this helpful to the negotiations, to reveal these little bits? And are you always on the same page in terms of the negotiations?
AMB. ARAUD: Of course it’s helpful, since it’s my minister. (Laughter.) You know, I think in any country, and especially in this country, you know, once one’s country takes an initiative, you know, it’s supposed to be sort of based on a very good analysis of the situation. And when this country, one’s country, commits a mistake it’s out of good intention. And when it’s the other – another country takes an initiative or makes a mistake, it’s out of cynicism or it’s for reckless reasons.
I’m going to tell you, you know, really to your utter disbelief, a secret: The French foreign policy is neither more nor less moral and intelligent than the U.S. one. So it means that what we are doing in the very technical and the very political issue is based on our own analysis. And nuances are legitimate. You know really, in a negotiation, you have to understand that even our technical experts disagree from time to time. You know, really you have the poor ministers or the poor diplomats and you have the nuclear experts who are discussing about the issues. And of course, the ministers and the diplomats don’t understand a word of what is exchanged, but basically there is a disagreement.
The negotiations are extremely complicated technically. They are also extremely complicated because you have a lot of different issues which are linked. The number of – (inaudible) – centrifuges is linked to the stockpile that you are going to allow, for instance. And I could multiple the examples of – which means that it’s very likely that we don’t have an agreement before the end of June, or even after June. You know, the Iranians for the moment are obviously not negotiating to get an agreement very shortly. They want to push the issues to the ministers, the way they did previously. So we are going to have a sort of little drama at the end of June – ministers not sleeping, door slammed, you know, I’m leaving to Tehran, no way, and so on – to try to get the best – to get the best deal.
But even if we get the best deal, you know, afterwards you will have to translate it into the technical annexes. So it may be – you know, we could have a sort of fuzzy end to the negotiation.
AMB. WITTIG: Barbara, can I add something to the unity?
MS. SLAVIN: Yes, if you could, on trans-Atlantic unity, absolutely yes.
AMB. WITTIG: I think it’s hard to exaggerate the degree of cohesion that we, as three Europeans, have on every level. I mean, our experts meet on a weekly basis or are on the phone sometimes on a daily basis. Our leaders meet on Iran. And as you said yourself, the three Europeans were at the genesis of this, at the inception of this whole process. But I want to add two things.
I think it also deserves mention that Russia and China were a very – were very constructive partners over the past 17 months, or how many months that was, since the beginning of negotiations in November 2013. And that maybe came to the surprise of some because you could have feared that, let’s say, the Ukraine crisis would have contaminated all those negotiations around Iran. That did not happen. So there was unity among the 5-plus, one.
And another I think element here in the genesis deserves mention, and that is, as I would say it, a rather courageous step by the American administration to engage directly with Iran. I think that was a catalyst for progress. And of course, it’s – it was not self-evident that after those long years of a vacuum in relations with Iran the administration would engage with Iran directly. And I think those elements helped to forge that unity and make that progress.
MS. SLAVIN: Mmm hmm. Ambassador, any thoughts on the unity of the three? No?
AMB. WESTMACOTT: Nothing to add. I agree. (Laughter.)
MS. SLAVIN: One other, and then I’m going to open up to the audience. And that is the impact of the sanctions on European economies. As you rightly pointed out, Ambassador Westmacott, it was the fact that the Europeans agreed to stop buying Iranian oil, by and large, to stop investing in Iran, to cut back trade drastically, to impose sanctions on the banks that got us to where we are certainly in many respects. How much of an impact has that had on your economies? And if for some reason there isn’t a deal, can you hold the line, really, on sanctions? Can they persist in the European Union, given the eagerness of many of your companies to go back to Iran?
AMB. ARAUD: And the U.S. companies also are very eager to go.
MS. SLAVIN: Well, U.S. companies, another story. They have other problems.
AMB. ARAUD: Not more, not less than European companies.
MS. SLAVIN: OK. Perhaps you want to start with that.
AMB. WESTMACOTT: You know, I think that Iran is a country with immense potential – commercial, political, and in lots of other areas. I sometimes like to point out to people who say to me, I can’t understand why you guys are negotiating with those Iranians, that you don’t see very many Iranian Shias strapping on suicide vest and blowing up airplanes. The young Iranians that I talk to want to get a green card and come to America and make a million dollars. They’re very pragmatic, especially the young. Doesn’t mean to say that the regime is like that, but I think there is a great deal of potential of that sort.
If you go to Iran today, you will find – despite the effectiveness of our sanctions, but precisely because of the black market – that there is an appetite for an awful lot of Western produce. They have to pay a very high price for it because of the way which things like that operate. Things come across certain borders, stretches of water, at a price. So I think it’s not surprising that a lot of companies would like to do business in Iran. It has great potential. It has great natural resource, natural wealth. And at the right moment, hopefully not at the wrong moment, companies will start looking again at that.
I think it’s very hard to be clear about what happens to sanctions in the event that there is not a deal. If there is not a deal because the Iranians simply will not live up to or implement, if you like, the broad parameters which we have agreed in the framework, then I think we carry on with the sanctions regime and in certain areas it may be right to try to raise the level of those sanctions. But this is the area of hypothesis. At the same time, if we were to walk away or if the Congress was to make it impossible for the agreement to be implemented or whatever, then I think the international community would be pretty reluctant, frankly, to contemplate a ratcheting up further of sanctions against Iran.
My sense is that we are probably not far away from the high-water mark of international sanctions against the Iranian economy. But exactly what happens next depends on what happens. If there is clear evidence of bad faith and the Iranians are not prepared to live up to what they’ve said they’re prepared to live up to, if we’re not prepared to have adequate inspection of sites and transparency and so on, then I think we’re in one area of territory. But if we’re in another one because the rest of us have decided we don’t want to do this, then it becomes much more complicated.
And you’re already seeing a number of countries which, of course, don’t respect the embargo on oil – but, you know, Russian and China and India and so on are already – and Turkey – are already buying certain quantities from Iran. I suspect we would probably see more sanctions erosion rather than less, unless the deal collapsed because of reasons that were visibly, clearly, incontrovertibly Iran’s responsibility.
MS. SLAVIN: Ambassador Wittig, the impact on Germany, I know, has been pretty significant, yeah?
AMB. WITTIG: Yes. We had very long, very traditional, very friendly relations with Iran, pre-Khomeini. And we had strong economic ties. So the sanctions regime was hurting our businesses a lot. And many of the companies, especially the big companies, just pulled out of Iran – like the automakers or Siemens. So it did hurt. And that’s a fact.
And I think I echo what Peter has said, the potential for an agreement is, of course, also a potential for all our economies. And it would benefit not only our economies – not that we rush back into Iran. We will be very cautious, and the government advises our companies actively to hold back. But it could be – carry a huge potential, not only for us but also for the young Iranian generation. As Peter said, they are looking to the West. And it might entice or it might trigger some internal change in Iran.
MS. SLAVIN: Ambassador Araud, it’s my understanding that what comes off from the U.S. side initially are the secondary sanctions that inhibit foreign companies from investing in Iran. So you say American companies are eager, but American companies are going to be largely shut out, aren’t they, at the beginning?
AMB. ARAUD: But they are in Dubai, for instance. You know, really I suppose that is for the charm of Dubai, but they are in Dubai. (Laughter.) You know, really, it’s – no, it hurt also, of course, my country. For instance, the automakers, you know, we were providing, I guess, 30 percent of the Iranian market. And all the gears were made in one small city in France. And of course, the city was devastated by the sanctions.
MS. SLAVIN: Which city was that?
AMB. ARAUD: Really a small city in the east of France.
And you know, and also our oil company made – oil company had made a strategic choice of investing in Iran. And this oil company was – of course lost its investment. So it hurt. But there is no – you know, we have held firm for the last 10 years. There is no reasons that we won’t do it in the coming years.
MS. SLAVIN: OK. I’m going to open. Please wait for the microphone and state your name. And, Trita – we’ll start right here. And ask a question. Please, yeah.
Q: Thank you, Barbara. Thank you for putting on this excellent event. And thank you to the three ambassadors for being here.
It was mentioned that there’s been a tremendous amount –
MS. SLAVIN: And introduce yourself.
Q: Oh, Trita Parsi from the National Iranian American Council.
It was mentioned that there’s been a tremendous amount of unity between the EU-3, within the EU-3 and with the United States. And that’s, I think, difficult to doubt. I want to ask you to get into a hypothetical. Let’s assume that there is a deal late June. The president has to then report it to the Senate within five days. The Senate has 30 days or so to be able to review it and cast a vote.
Let’s assume there is a resolution to reject a deal and the resolution passes. The president has the option, or the obligation perhaps, to veto it. What will the EU-3 do between the resolution of rejection passing and the president putting in his veto, and then facing a challenge to that veto?
MS. SLAVIN: Who would like to take that hot potato? (Laughs.) Ambassador, please.
AMB. WESTMACOTT: I’ll make a very brief comment. I mean, forgive me for saying this, but you’re getting a little bit ahead of the game. What we’re focusing on now is trying to get this deal. We’re not there yet. When we get to that stage, then we will see what the different elements are that follow. My government, I have to say, hasn’t yet worked out what the answer to your hypothetical question would be, but we’ll have to take all this in stages.
I think the important point for the moment is to bear in mind the long journey that we have embarked upon. Can we now get this thing over the finishing line at the end of June? We hope so, but that depends on an awful lot of different elements. The president’s commitment has been very clear, if that is the case, to selling this to the United States Congress, to the American people and so on. So I think we take this in one stage at a time.
It may well be that at the stage where we get a deal that there is something that the rest of us can do to help explain that this is not just a U.S.-Iran deal, but this is something which the international community in general and the P5+1, three representatives here, are party to, supportive of, and want to see made into a success. But I do think – I personally can’t go any further into the area of hypothesis that you want to lead us at this stage. (Laughter.)
MS. SLAVIN: OK. Did you have a question? Yeah, Harlan, right here.
Q: I’m Harlan Ullman. Can you hear me? I’m Harlan Ullman. Pleasure to be on Barbara’s Iranian Task Force.
I’m going to ask a question which gives you the opportunity to give you in great trouble with your governments.
Q: I can’t hear you. I don’t think the mic’s on.
Q: I’m going to ask a question –
MS. SLAVIN: It’s still not working, yeah. Bring the other one over if you would, yeah. Dead mic.
Q: American technology. Is this better?
MS. SLAVIN: Yes.
Q: Good. I’m going to ask a question which can give you an opportunity to get into great trouble with your governments.
Obviously we’ve have to be thinking the what-ifs. Assuming the deal does not go through and blame can laid legitimately at Iran’s door, what do you see as viable options because you know, in Israel and the Congress, there are going to be loud voices calling for some kind of military action. And alternatively, if the deal does go through and can be verified, what opportunities do see created in the Middle East, much of which is now in chaos but could obviously benefit from this particular agreement?
MS. SLAVIN: Ambassador.
AMB. ARAUD: I think I won’t answer to the first part because, again, it’s quite hypothetical. So we’ll – you know, well, in a sense, the sanctions will remain in force and the questions will be maybe to increase the level of sanctions, even if, as Peter said, I guess we are very close to the high mark of the sanction.
As for what would happen after an agreement, again, in a very hypothetical way, looking at – in the crystal ball, my bet, personal bet – I’m very good at making personal bets – is that the Iranians will want to prove – the Iranian regime will want to prove that it doesn’t mean that he has changed his policy, that we could have an outburst of anti-American rhetoric during the few months after the agreement – you know, really.
The second element is, I – we have been very careful to dissociate the nuclear negotiation from the other issues. And I think it’s very important, because if you start to make a big deal, you know, you start to exchange Yemen against 1,000 – (inaudible) – centrifuges. So it starts to be very, very dangerous. So the nuclear issue as such.
You know, after that, you have the other geopolitical issues, but I’m not sure that these geopolitical issues are linked to the nuclear issue. You know, really they are linked to the fact that all the region has been geopolitically destroyed – you know, first by the invasion of Iraq – you know, because Iraq has played a major role, as you know, as a sort of a dam against Persian ambitious for 1,000 years – the crisis that we have in the Sunni world, which means that basically nature abhors a vacuum.
So Iran is moving forward basically because there is nothing to stop it. So I don’t think there is a linkage between the nuclear issues and the geopolitical crisis of the Middle East. But that’s personal.
MS. SLAVIN: OK. Elise, wait for the microphone. Yeah.
Q: Elise Labott with CNN. Thanks, Barbara.
I’d like to follow up a little bit on that, and just kind of tie in what you were talking about, the unity of the P5+1. Obviously you’ve gone to great lengths to keep a lot of the geopolitical issues out of the discussions. But I was wondering if you could talk to the extent that this long baggage between the United States and Iran, whether it plays into it at all.
I mean, you know, at the beginning of this process this United States was really the – even before, you know, your current governments, years ago the United States was the one being so tough. I’ve heard diplomats from one or more of your countries speak privately about how the United States now is the one that wants the deal the most.
So, I mean, given all that, given that President Obama definitely wants a deal with this government, you have today the trail of Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian starting, how does that all play into the kind of negotiations and the tone of the room? Thank you.
MS. SLAVIN: Ambassador Wittig, does the U.S. want it more than you now?
AMB. WITTIG: Well, we all want it. But we don’t want it at any price. And I think this is what we made clear. We are here to negotiate to earnest with a lot of determination. But if we don’t get a satisfactory deal, there won’t be a deal. So that is clear. And we are focusing now on the four or five weeks ahead of us and then all those hypothetical questions come afterwards.
But, you know, I want to elaborate also a little bit on the connection to other issues. You could kill this deal if you link it to extraneous issues – you know, what does Iran do in Yemen, does it cease to support Hezbollah, et cetera. If you link it to those issues, you can kill it. This is what we don’t want – no linkage. But of course, there is a potential in a successful deal to improve relations with Iran and to encourage Iran to be a more responsible stakeholder in the region. And that potential we want to explore once the deal is done.
MS. SLAVIN: Wow, so many. I’m going to go to the back to Daryl and then I’ll come back up front. Wait for the mic.
Q: Thank you. Daryl Kimball, Arms Control Association.
Ambassador Araud, I’m glad you went into the history. And I wanted to ask you one question I think you can answer about the history to clarify the purpose of the resolutions that were passed at the Security Council regarding suspension of enrichment. There’s the perception among many here in Washington that those resolutions were designed or intended to require Iran to stop forever uranium enrichment. As I understand it, the purpose was to facilitate a long-term solution that respects a peaceful program.
Could you just elaborate on the thinking a little bit about – and the purpose of the resolutions? It’s something that many in Washington I don’t think quite understand. And this is an issue, of course, for the future of negotiations, updating those resolutions. Could you give us an update on whether that continues to be an issue? Are you confident that that will be resolved in time to facilitate a comprehensive solution?
AMB. ARAUD: So when we started the resolutions of sanctions, the first one, 1737 – actually the rationale of what we were doing was basically to change the calculation of the regime. You know, really basically to convince the regime, for its own survival in a sense, that the program was becoming too costly. You know, really you have to understand, the Iranians have spent billions of dollars on this program, on the program which doesn’t make any civilian meaning – doesn’t have any civilian meaning.
And when we went to Tehran in 2008, the five political directors and Mr. Solana, we met a lot of Iranians. And basically, the sanctions were only starting to hurt, but the management of the economy was so inept that really the situation was very, very serious. And afterwards, it has only worsened. So we do think, but of course there is no evidence for that, that the sanctions have changed effectively the calculation the regime.
As for the enrichment, personally from the beginning I’ve always been convinced that at the end of the day we would want – we would be – we would have to keep some enrichment capability in Iran because, as Peter said, in a negotiation, you know, each side has to be able to come back home saying I am the winner. And considering the investment of the Iranians into the enrichment – financial, but also symbolic – there should be some enrichment capability in Iran. After that, the challenge is to make it innocuous in terms of nuclear proliferation. And that’s all what we are trying to do during these negotiations.
MS. SLAVIN: OK, lady in front here. Wait for the microphone.
Q: Good morning. I’m Natalie Goulet. I’m a French senator.
I have a question. Regarding the amount of mistrust between Iran and the international community, how do you think that international community, including negotiator, will be able to reset the machinery? Because with such a mistrust it’s almost impossible. Could you give us a hint?
MS. SLAVIN: Resell the machinery?
Q: Yeah, reset the position, yes.
MS. SLAVIN: Reset, OK.
AMB. WITTIG: Well, I think we mentioned that one key element of this possible deal is a very, very intrusive mechanism, a regime of transparency and verification. And that’s key to the whole deal. So we’ll have eyes – the International Atomic Energy Organization will have eyes on what Iran is doing. And we are confident that a regime can be devised that would detect any covert operation that Iran is engaging, or would be engaging in. So the regime of verification, of monitoring is key to any agreement that we conclude.
MS. SLAVIN: OK. Laura.
Q: Thanks. Laura Rozen from Al-Monitor.
Ambassador Wittig, you mentioned it’s going very slowly now, post-Lausanne, in trying to draft the deal. And, Ambassador Araud, you said you anticipated a certain degree of brinksmanship and, you know, late nights at the end of June and possibly beyond. Can you talk about why you think it’s going so slowly now? And is there just not substantive seriousness? And related to that, do you think – you know, is – are Kerry and Zarif trying to dominate the process to the exclusion of the other ministers and other nations? Or is Kerry, do you think, trying to do that? Is – are the Iranians waiting for the – you know, the U.S. to send the secretaries? Is that your sense?
AMB. WITTIG: Well, it’s going slow because the substance of the issues are difficult, they are technical. That’s one point. And the second is there is a dynamic in negotiations. You need the pressure of timeline in order to facilitate sort of the heavy lifting of issues. So both factors are at work here. But I’m not particularly worried. I think this is fairly normal.
As I said before, we have a difficult path to walk on. We have tremendously complicated technical issues to clarify. And so small wonder that we are not making a lot of fast progress right now. But it’s not a prediction on what we – on what will happen by the end of June. It’s just sort of a feeling of the pulse right now. So I’m still confident that we can overcome those divergences of views that we have right now.
MS. SLAVIN: I’m going to go here, but before we take the next question, I neglected to mention at the beginning – let me say it now – that I wanted to thank the Plowshares Fund for their great – for their generous support of the Iran Task Force. And also, our regrets that Stu Eizenstat, who was an ambassador to the EU and is chairman of our taskforce, was not able to be here today because he is in Europe, of course.
Q: For anyone on the panel, Jonathan Landay with McClatchy Newspapers.
Over the weekend we heard new statements from Iran that senior scientists would not be allowed to be interviewed. We heard that military facilities will not be open to inspections. And that all links back to an issue that we haven’t talked about here, which is the possible military dimensions of Iran’s program and the IAEA aspect, which seems to have gotten no progress whatsoever at all during the negotiations that have been going on separately.
There is some concern among some that that issue, whether or not the Iranians were, in fact, designing a missile-borne nuclear warhead, will be papered over, will there – some kind of calculation will be made or equation will be made that will allow them not to have to make the admissions they – (audio break) – doing in order to set a baseline for the inspection program that you’re talking about. Can you talk about how a possible military-dimension aspect of this feeds into the talks right now? Because there’s no progress on that aspect right now.
MS. SLAVIN: Ambassador Araud, I’m also going to add to that that Araghchi, the deputy negotiator, said something about managed access to nuclear facilities, which was in direct contradiction to what some of the supreme leader and some of the other Iranian officials have said.
AMB. ARAUD: Actually, I – you know – you know, all these negotiation, you know, really, I – after all these negotiation I feel like writing an article about what is a negotiation, you know, really. So at the beginning of a negotiation there is chest-banging, you know? Really at the beginning of the negotiation – (audio break) – demands – (audio break) – too much importance to the decorations. You know, really at the beginning, you know, the Iranians say: We demand an absolute, immediate lifting of the sanctions. It won’t happen. It won’t happen. And there will be an – and there may be an agreement even if there is not an absolute lifting – an immediate lifting of the sanctions.
On the PMD, I can tell you – and especially the French – we are very keen on having, you know, and element of the – an element of the agreement on the PMD. We are not going to let the PMD issue under the carpet, you know, really. So again, the negotiations for the moment – for the moment – obviously the negotiations is not moving forward very quickly. It means that I guess the Iranians make the calculation that it could be easier to get concessions from the ministers with some dramatization – really a good deal of dramatization because negotiations, there is also – it’s also theater.
There are some theatricals in the negotiations. And you know, I’m not bad at that. So really – so don’t listen to the outside decorations. There will be something on PMD. The sanctions will be lifted if there is an implementation in an incremental, reversible, conditional way. But each side will have to be able to tell its public – its public opinion that actually it got the day.
MS. SLAVIN: Gentleman here’s been very – oh, sorry, please.
AMB. WITTIG: Barbara, maybe to your hint of the declaration of Araghchi, I think correcting or apparently modifying the statement –
MS. SLAVIN: Correcting the supreme leader, yeah.
AMB. WITTIG: I think he was mindful of the additional protocol of the NPT, where it contains provisions that provide for access to military sites. So I think Araghchi is mindful of the obligations of that military – of that additional protocol.
AMB. WESTMACOTT: I’ll add one sentence on that. There’s the additional protocol to the NPT, but there’s also going to be agreement on a joint commission which ensures that there is proper inspections under our own agreement with the Iranians, separate from their NPT obligations, separate from the additional protocol. This is hugely important to all of us, that there has to be a proper inspections regime so that we can, if we have reason to believe or legitimate requests to go and visit this or that site, that we will be able to do so. This is still being discussed in some detail. We’re not going to – as Gerard was saying, we’re not going to let this issue disappear. This will be an important part of the final stage of the negotiation.
MS. SLAVIN: That’s an important clarification.
Gentleman in the middle, who’s been very patient. Please say your name.
Q: Thanks. John Hudson with Foreign Policy magazine.
Ambassador Araud, speaking of the art of diplomacy, the sort of walk-back on the allowance of managed inspections, does this dispel the notion that has been perpetuated for a while that the Iranian negotiations are perpetually boxed in by anything that the supreme leader tweets or says? Is there – is there clearly some give there?
MS. SLAVIN: Yeah.
AMB. ARAUD: I really – again, I really don’t know what are the inner, you know, momentum of the negotiation in Iran. The Iranian negotiators are negotiating. And they’re, you know, really under instructions. They have their own public opinion with their own divisions of the public opinion, the same what that you have in the U.S., you know, and West – and in our free countries. And they have to take into – they have to take into account the sentiment the same way that the U.S. administration has to take into account the opinion of the – of the Congress. No negotiation is really simply a sort of technical or even political without – really without public opinion which is, you know, in a sense, the background of the situation.
MS. SLAVIN: Thank you.
Gentleman here and then – OK.
Q: Thank you, Barbara, for this great discussion. I’m Namo Abdulla with Rudaw, which is Kurdistan’s 24-hour news agency.
I have a question about the potential impacts of a nuclear deal on the situation of human rights in Iran, and particularly for the minorities, such as the Kurdish people. Do you expect their situations improve or will the world basically turn a blind eye for strategic interests? Thank you.
MS. SLAVIN: Who wants to take up the human rights question? I mean –
AMB. WESTMACOTT: I’ll make a general comment. I think that all of our governments remain very concerned about the human rights situation in Iran. There are things which are done there which worry us for all sorts of different reasons – sometimes it’s about the way individuals are treated. Sometimes it is about the way different minorities are treated.
Sometimes there are surprising elements. You can see that there are elements of the Jewish community, for example, in Iran which are able to thrive. There are Baha’is who absolutely reverse – are regarded are heretics and have no level of tolerance. I think there are a number of respects in which Iran has a long way to go in terms of meeting international standards on human rights.
I’m not expert on the situation regarding the Kurdish minority inside Iran, but this is certainly an area, with the broader human rights area, where we would look to Iran, especially if we are able to conclude this agreement, to be moving very much more in the direction of international standards of behavior than we witness at the moment.
MS. SLAVIN: Iran could start by letting Jason Rezaian, our colleague, go. That would be a very good step.
Mark, right there. Wait for the mic.
Q: Mark Katz, George Mason University.
Ambassador Wittig, I was quite reassured when you indicated that Russia and China are being helpful, but I’m just wondering, in this final stage of the negotiations, how helpful is Russia actually being, especially in light of their decision to resume S-300 air defense ballistic missile system shipments to Iran. One would have thought that to be really helpful this would have been sort of held out as a carrot if negotiations were successful, and yet they’ve gone ahead and done this.
I also note there’s rumblings in the Russian press about – that in fact maybe a nuclear deal wouldn’t be such a great thing for Russia, if it means that Iran’s relations with the West improve. And also even rumblings that if the West isn’t understanding on Ukraine, Russia can be less helpful on Iran. I’m sort of from the older generation that sees what happens in the Russian press as not accidental. So I’m wondering if anyone would care to comment on Russia’s motives and how helpful it is, I’d appreciate it. Thank you.
AMB. WITTIG: Well, to be very straightforward, we thought the decision to deliver those kind of weapons were not helpful at all for the process and were a deplorable decision. But also, let me remind you, this was not a decision that violated the arms embargo. So it was not something that violated international law, but it was, we believe, a decision that was not helpful for the process.
AMB. ARAUD: But at the same time, you know, really, again, it has always been very important to have the Chinese and the Russians on board to show that it’s not the West against – ganging against Iran. And the Russians and the Chinese have been really perfect, loyal negotiators in this process, and they are still. They are really doing their part of the job, working with us.
And as for this system of weapons, I of course – we share what Peter has said, but also the Russians have taken the – really emphasized that the system couldn’t be operational before one or two years. You know, really, and they took – you know, really they told us, which means that really they didn’t want to – simply to break the china about – you know, on these negotiations.
MS. SLAVIN: You know, I think I saw something, Mark, in the paper just the other day saying these weapons will probably not go until there is an agreement, so it’s more of a carrot.
Let’s see – gentleman back there.
Q: I’m Peter Baumbusch. I’m a lawyer in Washington.
The question is, are the – is the position of the West credible? Because the position of the West, it seems to me, is that if you do not do this deal we’re going to continue the sanctions or enhance the sanctions. But I’ve heard today how this may be the high-water mark sanctions, our own businesses don’t like the sanctions. Do we have a credible threat in the negotiation?
AMB. ARAUD: Yes. I don’t understand.
MS. SLAVIN: I think what the gentlemen have – the ambassadors have said is that it depends on how negotiations break down, if they break down. If it’s perceived to be the fault of the U.S. Congress or others on this side of the negotiating, then the sanctions regime will unravel probably pretty quickly. But if it’s perceived to be the Iranians walking away from a good deal, presumably there would still be some sanctions discipline, at least in Europe. I don’t know if – is that true for the Russians? Is that true for the Chinese? That’s – you know, would the P5+1 then split?
AMB. WITTIG: Well, I guess I agree with you. It depends on who is to blame if there’s no deal. And I think we should not harbor any illusions about the international sanctions regime. I think many of the emerging countries would consider Congress blocking this deal as – maybe as a trigger to at least question the present sanctions regime. So I would see a certain danger if the blame game, you know, in the international community comes to the conclusion that it’s not Iran that is to blame, then the international solidarity that has been quite strong on the recent years would most probably erode. That’s a scenario.
AMB. ARAUD: But in legal terms, no, because in legal terms the sanctions of the U.N. Security Council couldn’t – could be lifted only because of our vote. So really – so the sanctions at the Security Council remain in – and the vote of the U.S. So the sanctions of Security Council will remain in place. The U.S. sanctions will remain place. And EU sanctions to be lifted also would use a unanimous vote. So the sanctions will remain in any case. So it’s really – it’s –
AMB. WITTIG: But the implementation, you know, that’s the –
AMB. ARAUD: But the most effective sanctions are usually the U.S. sanctions, because of their extraterritorial aspects. So it’s – so I guess that a lot of corporations are implementing sanctions simply because they are afraid – the non-European corporations – because they are afraid of the U.S. sanctions.
MS. SLAVIN: Ambassador Araud, have they started actually drafting a new U.N. Security Council resolution or not yet for –
AMB. ARAUD: I think there is – but I don’t know. I think there is a draft somewhere I read, but in the reports. Yes, I think there is a draft – yes.
One of the questions is about the sanctions, what do – I see you call back – snap back, you know, really the way sanctions will be really reimposed if the Iranians were not respecting their commitments. So there are some text really floating around.
MS. SLAVIN: OK. Right here in the front.
Q: Odeh Aburdene. My question is to His Excellency, the French ambassador.
Your president has been in Saudi Arabia recently and the Gulf. And it seems that France and the GCC have excellent relationship. Now based on that, have you been able to persuade the GCC that the nuclear deal that’s being negotiated will enhance their security rather than undermine their security?
AMB. ARAUD: No, I – you know, I think you should ask more the question to the U.S. administration, since as you know there was the summit in Camp David organized by President Obama. I think it was the American administration, it was a very – I think a very useful initiative because it’s true that we have to give the assurances to the Gulf countries about their security. You know, it’s – and if they need security assurances, it’s not only because of the nuclear deal, but it’s because the geopolitical situation I was referring to, which has given to Iran, you know, the initiative.
Basically, we saw it in Iraq and we are seeing it also in Yemen. So I think the message, which is – which was summarized by the statement after the Camp David summit – Camp David meeting, I think was a very useful one. And it’s basically also what we told our friends from the Gulf countries, that really we consider the security requirements are serious and that we want to take – really to play a role in it. As you may know, you know, we – you know, we have opened – the French have opened – we have military bases in the Emirates since 2009. We have security agreements with the states of the region since the ’90s. So we have had for a long commitment towards the countries in this region.
But frankly, I think their concerns are going well beyond the nuclear issue. And in a sense it’s more the – what I call the geopolitical situation, which is for us a source of concern, especially because they think that the money, in a sense, that Iran will get if the sanctions are partially or totally lifted could be used by Iran for pursuing its adventures in their part of the world. So I think they need particular reassurance because of that.
MS. SLAVIN: Yeah, OK.
Q: Jim Lobe, IPS.
Given that there is so much concern over recruitment by the Islamic State in Europe, and given that Iran is playing probably the leading role in fighting IS – external role that is, in Iraq and indirectly in Syria – does IS figure – I know the nuclear talks are separate, but at the same time does it contribute at all to the urgency or eagerness on the part of the EU-3 with respect to wanting to establish a better relationship with Iran to deal with this question?
MS. SLAVIN: Ambassador Westmacott.
AMB. WESTMACOTT: I’m not sure that I would agree that the Iranians are being that effective. What’s happened in Ramadi recently is not a – is not a great story for General Soleimani or indeed for anybody else.
I think that the Iranians have got their own reasons, of course, for pushing back against ISIL. It’s worth remembering that a decade ago the Iranians were potentially allies of ours against al-Qaida. Partly because our diplomacy did not succeed back in those days, we found ourselves seeing IEDs made in Iran killing American and British soldiers in Afghanistan some years after that.
But the reality is that those Sunni extremist groups – it was al-Qaida, ISIL, whatever you want to call it, there are other fringe groups – they are passionately anti-Shia, anti-Iran. And therefore, the Iranians have got their own reasons for fighting back against what they believe to be groups which are dedicated to the destruction of their religion, if not of their – of their country.
But I think it would be wrong to see the commitment that we are all giving to these nuclear negotiations as part and parcel of our desire to see ISIL put out of business and stop committing the atrocities that we see on a daily basis. As others have said before, as I was saying earlier, this Iran negotiation is worth doing in its own right. It is specifically linked to the question of stopping Iran getting nuclear weapons and stopping proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the region.
If we start linking other things that will not help. It could even, as Peter Wittig was saying, spell the end of that negotiation. So we’re doing this because it is the right thing to do in its own right, and because all the alternatives are worse. Equally, it would be a very useful spin-off if, as a result of achieving that kind of negotiation – successful negotiation with the Iranians – other aspects of Iranian behavior improved.
And indeed, who knows, if there are common enemies where we are making common cause or could make common cause that is something to be looked at in the future. But the one is not linked to the other.
MS. SLAVIN: OK. The lady right here in the middle.
Q: Thank you so much. My name is Hannah Morris and I’m a recent graduate from the School of Foreign Service.
I wanted to ask about the snap-back and how this mechanism would exactly work, especially because I can imagine six years down the line some of these sanction have been lifted, there is increased business, for example, and Germany is benefiting from it. How does the snap-back work if we have slight violations that not everyone agrees with is a violation? Will the snap-back mechanism be tied to certain behaviors that Iran commits? I just want to understand what this mechanism is looking like.
MS. SLAVIN: Material breach – material breach and how do you define it. Who wants to – we have two ex-U.N. ambassadors here. But Ambassador Araud –
AMB. ARAUD: No, we have not – you know, the snap-back – for the moment, the idea actually is – the real problem was that we didn’t want to – in a sense, to give a veto right to some members for bringing back the sanctions. So the French have invented a system which is the opposite, which means that actually the sanctions – the snap-back is automatic, but if there is really a vote in the opposite direction, which changes the veto from one side to the other side. But it has not yet been agreed.
As for the material breach, by definition you can’t define material breach – by definition. So it will be – you know, it will be to the first – to the commission which will be created, as Peter was saying, to discuss this issue. And after that, it will be bring back to the – to the level of the political level.
I want – there is something a bit, you know, really – which is a bit getting on my nerves all the time, is this way the Americans always say all the Europeans want to make money, all the Europeans are ready to rush to Tehran. You know, really basically we actually – not you – we made the sacrifice of the sanctions. You know, really we lost a lot of money on – because of the sanctions, not the Americans because you were not any more on the Iranian market.
So stop taking the high moral ground saying – (laughter) – you know, it’s – well, I know it’s very American – but really on this issue we – we, the Europeans – we have no lesson to receive from anybody. We have done a very tough job. We have done it in a very loyal way. So there is, you know, really – and again, European businessmen are not more greedy than the American ones, and not less, by the way. (Laughter.)
So if the American – if the Iranians are going to – not to abide by their commitments, the Europeans will be very strong, very keen and will work with the other members of the P5 who are not to reimpose the sanctions. And again, we are trying to fix – to have a mechanism which allows us to do it as quickly and as effectively as it is possible. We have not yet reached an agreement. Again, it’s very technical. There are very different elements for an agreement.
MS. SLAVIN: I’m a little confused still. I mean, France is always against automaticite.
AMB. ARAUD: Exactly.
MS. SLAVIN: And so how can you have snap-back be automatic?
AMB. ARAUD: No, what we – in a sense, let’s be frank. What we want to try is to try to avoid – what we want to avoid is to avoid basically the Russians and the Chinese saying we are against it so we don’t – you know, really. So that’s what we want. So we want a system – you know, a system which will be – which will be the opposite. In a sense, you know, it will – it will be to – it will be reinstated automatically, you know, really. But if the five – the P5, you know, agree not to. So really it’s a mechanism which is really – which is not submitted to the veto of our friends, of our colleagues.
MS. SLAVIN: So you – so it’s a majority rule then, three against two, or –
AMB. ARAUD: Exactly, yeah.
MS. SLAVIN: OK, as opposed to giving them the veto.
Q: P5, not P5 and Germany?
AMB. ARAUD: Of course, P5 and Germany. (Laughter.) You know, but we are –
MS. SLAVIN: Which makes it four to two against the Russians and the Chinese.
AMB. ARAUD: No, no, no, it’s P5, because in the Security Council there is no Germany, and we were speaking of the Security Council.
Q: But the Security Council –
MS. SLAVIN: Oh, P5, not P5+1, just P5 here, yeah. So –
AMB. ARAUD: It’s the Security Council. We are speaking of the Security Council resolution sanctions because the U.S. sanctions, you know, the U.S. may reimpose them without asking anybody, the same way the EU may do it.
AMB. WITTIG: Well, I would say in the EU we can organize the snap-back very easily. In the U.N. context, where you guys have the last word, it’s more difficult.
AMB. ARAUD: Yeah.
MS. SLAVIN: OK. Good point. Let’s see, the lady right here in the middle.
Q: Hello. Sharyn Bovat, Voice of a Moderate.
Quick question, when I was here before for a panel, I think Barbara Slavin was on it, she was saying that 70 percent of the Iranian people wanted a peace deal, but then the people who did that poll ended up in jail. I think that was at a panel.
MS. SLAVIN: It was 70 percent of Iranians wanted a normal relationship with the U.S. That was way before the nuclear talks back in 2002.
Q: Exactly. But now we’ve got the nuclear deal and the American mindset is being a little bit more open-minded, maybe because of ISIS, I don’t know. And I’m wondering with you – with each of your countries, what are your average people – like, an average American, for the first time their mind is open that peace could be possible, maybe it’s Cuba, but what about you and your countries? Thank you.
MS. SLAVIN: I would think this diplomacy is pretty popular throughout, or not? What do the polls –
AMB. WESTMACOTT: I think all of our countries, all of our governments have got their own bits of baggage in that part of the world, sometimes with Iran, sometimes with Turkey, sometimes with different countries where we have a history or we don’t have a history. I think if you take the case of Iran, of course, public opinion in this country has been seared by the experience of the hostages blindfolded for 444 days. You know, that was an appalling moment.
In the case of the United Kingdom, public opinion was appalled when only a couple years ago a bunch of government-backed thugs broken into our embassy, trashed the place, destroyed it, made a filthy mess and so on. Iranians have got their own memories, some accurate some not, of what foreign powers have done to their sovereignty over the last 1(00), 2(00), 300 years. We’ve all got a degree of baggage.
But I would say in the case of the United Kingdom, our public opinion is not at a stage of being deeply worried about the concept of a normalized relationship with Iran. We go back a very long way. Others have talked about the historic links of their own companies. The Iran oil industry was actually set up by a British company. So we have deep roots in that sector and we have had our own political and business links – and in political links, the United Kingdom was the dominate power in the Persian Gulf for a very, very long time.
So we go back a long way with all the countries in that region. And I think public opinion, if asked to support the kind of deal that our governments are determined to negotiate – in other words, a good deal not a bad deal – would not have a problem about the normalization of relations with Iran.
However, that said, I would say that I think all of us – whether it’s governments or whether it is public citizens, will want to be seeing Iran behaving in different ways in the years to come thereafter. As I say, the two are not linked, but Iranian bad behavior in other respects – it might be human rights, it might be regional destabilization, it might be support of terrorist groups – you know, we will be looking for progress in those areas as well.
MS. SLAVIN: OK. Gentleman right there.
Q: Will Saetren, I’m a fellow with the Ploughshares Fund.
So my question is in regards to the potential arms race in the Middle East, which Ambassador Wittig briefly talked upon. So Saudi Arabia has famously said after the framework agreement that anything Iran had that they wanted to have too. Now, that inherently seems to me like an opportunity, not a negative thing. If this – if the deal shapes up and gives us confidence that Iran will never develop a nuclear weapon, why shouldn’t we say, Saudi Arabia, you’re more than welcome to sign onto this? Why not use it as a model for arms control in the Middle East?
MS. SLAVIN: Hmm. Ambassador Araud, want to tackle that one?
AMB. ARAUD: I think, again, on the opposite for me it’s the – in the sense it’s the most worrying aspect of the agreement, that we have created a sort of new status of the one-year breakout state. You know, in NPT we had so far only the non-weapon states and the weapon states. And now we have a one-year breakout time state. It’s a new status, you know, really. So when you make a negotiation you have always to think of several elements, and one is, which precedent are you setting for the other countries?
And here I think it was emphasized by Henry Kissinger in a hearing in the Senate – the U.S. Senate. And I think that’s one of the concerns that we will have to address after the agreement that you don’t have – not only Saudi Arabia and not only in this part of the world – simply countries rushing to become one-year breakout states. You know, and we couldn’t object, saying oh they said, oh, Iran got it. And again, it’s not civilian. So why not us?
So that’s – actually it’s the opposite. For me, it’s – I should say that it’s in a sense one of the major weak points of the agreements that we are negotiating because let’s be frank, the agreement is not perfect. It’s a compromise. Any agreement is a compromise. So it’s not a perfect agreement that France would have wanted, but I think the same thing for, I guess, Germany and U.K. It’s what is possible. And I think what we reached is what was possible. But it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have some consequences that we will have to address.
MS. SLAVIN: Of course, I think the questioner also meant the verification measures, though, would be included. So it’s not just a question of one-year breakout, but they would have to accept additional protocol and all of the other transparency measures that are going to be put on Iran.
AMB. ARAUD: Yeah, but nevertheless, even with verification system, to have a one-year breakout state I guess is not positive for the future – for the future of the proliferation system.
MS. SLAVIN: Any comments?
AMB. WITTIG: That’s true. But let’s not forget the NPT envisions the right of countries to enrich for civilian purposes. So that’s something that all the states have that are members of the NPT. And I might add, we are the only country in that 5+1 configuration that is a non-nuclear country. And so we know our obligations come with it and what rights. And it might also have contributed to show the Iranians that we’re not imposing – so that the five nuclear countries are not imposing something on them that it deprives them of rights that others have.
So I think the question whether there will be a nuclear arms race hinges very much upon the kind of verification regime and how that designed and how this works in practice. If we can create a real, intrusive, credible, viable inspection and verification regime, that would, I think, take away a lot of grounds for engaging in an arms race.
AMB. WESTMACOTT: And if we get to that point, then hopefully the other governments in the region will not be looking for exact parity. You know, they can have a nuclear program with only a year’s breakout over a period of a decade or so. It should be about whether they have confidence that Iran is not going to have nuclear weapons. If that is the case, then there’s no reason why others in the region who have been talking about the possibility of buying one off the shelf if the Iranians end up having nuclear weapons – there’s no reason why they should do that.
The arrangements we’ve reached with Iran, we are negotiating with Iran, take account of the existing reality of where the Iran civil nuclear program has got to. They would be starting from scratch. Why would you do that unless you felt genuinely threatened? This is not about they’ve got it, we’ve got to have it for the sake of that. It’s not in Iran’s interest. It’s not in anyone else’s interest. And it’s not in the interest of regional stability.
So I think we have to make sure that there’s a proper regime of verification, as my colleagues were saying, but the Iranians also have an interest in showing that they are serious about implementing their side of the deal if they want to create the regional stability which will discourage others from saying, oh my god, I don’t have sufficient confidence that this thing is going to work, we better reinsure as well. So I think everyone has got a responsibility to this. It doesn’t need to be about parity, equal-equal. It does have to be about confidence that we’re not going to have more nuclear weapons in the region.
MS. SLAVIN: I would add that there are other countries that already are at the one-year or even less breakout – if we look at a Japan, for example – countries that could make nuclear weapons but choose not to. So it may not be an entirely new category in that sense.
AMB. ARAUD: I’m more worried about Middle East than Japan, (to be honest ?).
MS. SLAVIN: I would agree with you on that. (Laughter.) I don’t have a watch on, so how are we on time?
AMB. WITTIG: Yeah.
AMB. WESTMACOTT: Time’s up.
MS. SLAVIN: Time’s up, oh! Ah, OK. (Laughter.) Thank you very much for letting me know, Ambassador from Germany. (Applause.)
Thank you all for coming. (Applause.) Thank you, Ploughshares, for your generous support. And come back hopefully July 2nd – July 6th. That’s our betting now for when we might actually have an agreement.