Tuesday, June 30, 2015

U.S. & Cuba to Open Embassies

U.S. and Cuba will announce on Wednesday that they are normalizing ties after 54 years. Embassies in Havana and Washington will be reopened in late July. Secretary of Sate John Kerry will be in Havana to preside over opening of the U.S. embassy and the ceremonies to raise the U.S. flag. Note: I wish I could have been there on that day!

Iran Talks Extended Until 7 July

Iran Talks Updates

P5+1 and Iran have decided to extend JPOA measures until 7 July to allow more time for negotiations to reach a long term solution, said Marie Harf, U.S. State Department spokeswoman. Ministers are expected to leave Vienna on Wednesday morning. Next ministerial meeting will probably be held on 5 July.  

President Obama said he was hoping to reach a deal with Iran, but questioned whether Iran will agree to the outlines of the framework agreement reached in Lausanne, given recent statements out of Tehran (Ayatollah Khamenei's redlines). "Ultimately this is going to be up to the Iranians," Obama added.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani vows forceful return to "previous path," much sooner than "the other side could even imagine," if a nuclear agreement is violated. He did not make it clear if he believes there will be a final deal to begin with.

Secretary Kerry and Russian FM Lavrov hold a two-hour bilat meeting. Lavrov said after the meeting that progress has been made and discussions on some "procedural" issues will continue. He later said the deal is "within reach."

Atomic Organization chief Ali Akbar Salehi and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz meet one-on-one.

After 2 hours of one-on-one between Kerry and Zarif, there was a U.S.-Iran bilat including Kerry, Zarif, Salehi, Moniz, Fereydoun, Sherman.

Kerry and Zarif met one-on-one after the Iranian FM came back from consultations in Tehran with Khamenei and Rouhani. The meeting lasted 1 3/4 hours. Kerry said they had "good conversations." Zarif said he was in Vienna to get a final deal; "And I think we can," he added.

Iran's Foreign Minister Zarif returns to Vienna, along with Atomic Organization chief Ali Akbar Salehi and Hossein Fereydoun, President Rouhani’s brother and confidant.

Russian FM Sergey Lavrov and German FM Frank-Walter Steinmeier will arrive in Vienna on Tuesday to join Secretary John Kerry and French FM Laurent Fabius.

Deadline for the talks is midnight. Expected to be missed, with talks continuing for few more days.

Source: Twitter accounts of @lrozen and other reporters covering Iran Talks Vienna.

Weapons of Iran-backed PMF during Battle of Baiji, current phase

Open-source imagery of Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces during current phase of Battle of Baiji, Salahuddin campaign:

American supplied, formerly Iraqi Army Navistar 7000 series heavy lift vehicle, now in use as multiple IRAM launcher platform with Iran-backed Kata'ib Hezbollah.

Iran-supplied Safir ("Ambassador") tactical vehicle equipped with M40 type recoilless gun

Iranian-produced HEAT round for M40 type recoilless gun

MLR mounted on American-origin pickup truck, operated by Iran-backed Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq

Background: American supplied, formerly Iraqi Army Navistar 7000 series heavy lift vehicle, now in use as rocket launcher platform (possibly Qaher type IRAM) by Iran-backed PMF.

Iranian and American origin vehicles equipped with MLRs, operated by Iran-backed Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq

Iran-backed Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq paramilitaries equipped with AKM-type assault rifles

Iran-backed Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq paramilitary firing RPG-7 type rocket-propelled grenade launcher

American supplied, formerly Iraqi Army M113 armored personnel carrier; now operated by Iran-backed Kata'ib Hezbollah as an improvised infantry fighting vehicle.

Iran-backed Kata'ib Hezbollah paramilitary firing RPG-7 type rocket-propelled grenade 

Advancing Iran-backed Kata'ib Hezbollah paramilitary squad

Iran-backed Kata'ib Hezbollah paramilitary firing PKM type general purpose machine gun

Iran-backed Kata'ib Hezbollah infantry mortar position

Iran-backed Kata'ib Hezbollah operated vehicle in use as IRAM launcher platform

American supplied, formerly Iraqi Army Navistar 7000 series heavy lift vehicle, now in use as IRAM launcher platform with Iran-backed Kata'ib Hezbollah.

Shia clerics armed with AKM-type assault riifles, attached to Iran-backed PMF

Monday, June 29, 2015

Iran nuclear talks at Vienna, in photos

Iran media imagery of nuclear talks with P5+1 currently being held in Vienna, Austria:

United States negotiation team on left led by Secretary of State John Kerry, Iran negotiation team on right led by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, one-on-one

Wendy Sherman, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs

Marie Elizabeth Harf, Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the U.S. State Department.

China‘s Deputy Foreign Minister Li Baodong with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

People's Republic of China negotiating team led by Deputy Foreign Minister Li Baodong

European Union negotiating team on left, led by EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini

Federica Mogherini, European Union Foreign Policy Chief 

French negotiation team on left, led by Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius

German negotiation team on left, led by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Philip Hammond, UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Yukiya Amano, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Note: The P5+1 is often referred to as the E3+3 (or E3/EU+3) by European countries, which is also the nomenclature used in the text of agreements with Iran. [source: Wikipedia]

Photos: Siamak Ebrahimi at Tasnim News Agency, Omid Vahabzadeh at Fars News Agency

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Iran Vienna Talks: Sunday 28 June

Zarif Going to Tehran for Consultation
Zarif will be going to Tehran Sunday night for consultations with the Khamenei and Rouhani. He will be back in Vienna on Tuesday. It appears the two sides are probably getting close to signing a formal agreement on areas of common understanding, deferring the remaining issues to a new phase of negotiations later. No agreement at all seems not to be an option for either side.

Iran will accept IAEA verification before any lifting of sanctions, diplomats say.

Kerry and Zarif met again today at 6:03 PM; the meeting ended at 6:50 PM. Zarif heading to the airport to go to Tehran for consultation. Kerry will stay in Vienna.

P5+1/EU meeting begins at 2:16 PM.

Kerry-Moghirini  meeting began at 12:22 PM.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Moghirini arrives in Vienna, saying talks are tough but there is a political will for the deal. Moghirini adds that Iran talks are a matter of international security, derived from UN Security Council resolutions.

Zarif to meet British FM at 15:30; Chinese DFM on 16:30; German FM at 17:00.

Chinese DFM says he is happy to see political will on all sides. Talks essential to world peace, he adds.

Kerry-Zarif meeting ends at noon.

German FM: If no deal, all will lose. Iran would remain isolated, and new arms race in an already troubled region could be the result.

The second day of Iran Talks begins in Vienna with a meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and their teams. The meeting started at 10:00.

Sources: Twitter accounts of reporters covering Iran Talks in Vienna

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Iran Talks Vienna: Updates

Saturday 27 June 2015

The first round of talks ended on Saturday. The main differences are on the pace and timing of sanctions relief for Iran in return for its steps to restrain its nuclear program and on the nature of monitoring mechanism to guarantee Iran’s compliances with the agreement. In essence this is an arms control agreement to ensure Iran would not build nuclear weapons.

Western diplomats say talks might go into overtime only for few days after the 30 June deadline; but there will be no extension as in the previous two occasions. 

Kerry/Fabius meeting ended at 8:15 PM.

Iranian delegation left Coburg at 6:20 PM.

Kerry-Zarif second meeting ended at 4:13 PM.

IAEA DG Amano visited Palais Coburg, the site of negotiations, and left after a short stay.

French FM Fabius: At least 3 conditions unmet yet for a deal: snapback mechanism, military inspections, lasting limits on nuclear R&D.

Kerry/Zarif meeting ended. It ran from 12:06 to 1:35 PM.

French FM Fabius will arrive in Vienna today.

Federica Moghirini, the EU foreign policy chief, will arrive in Vienna on Sunday.

Kerry told reporters: Some very tough issues, and I think we all look forward to getting down to final efforts here to see whether or not deal is possible.

Zarif told reporters: We are determined to do everything we can to be able to make this effort possible.

Kerry, Zarif meeting began in Vienna at 12:06 pm local time. U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz is attendance.

Source: Twitter, particularly @lrozen.
Photo credit: @GhorbaniSade

Friday, June 26, 2015

Crunch Time for Iran Nuclear Talks

Deadline can be Extended to 9 July
As the 30 June deadline for signing JCPOA approaches, major differences remain between Iran and major world powers on several key issues. Scheduling sanctions relief, inspection of non-declared sites suspected of nuclear work, and the duration of limits put on different parts of Iran’s nuclear program are the most contentious.

“The question of access and transparency, PMD (possible military dimensions), and sanctions remain extremely problematic, “ a Western diplomat told Reuters today. “We can find an agreement on some points, but on major issues there are still big differences. (Reuters, 26 June)

Secretary of State John Kerry left Washington this afternoon en route to Vienna, the site of the latest round of talks before the deadline. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif will also arrive in Vienna soon. The French and British foreign ministers are also expected to join the talks, which will start on Saturday.

Meantime, Colin Kahl, Vice President Joe Biden’s national security advisor, said short-term adjustment to the deadline may be necessary to complete the agreement. Kahl said the negotiators are operating under the view that they have until 9 July to complete a deal, Bloomberg reported today. (If a final deal is submitted to Congress before 9 July, legislators have a 30-day review period. If submitted after 9 July, they have a 60-day review period to accept or reject the deal.)