TEHRAN - Gary Samore believes that Iran and the six major powers “have made progress on several issues” in the talks on Iran’s nuclear program.
Samore, who served as special assistant to President Barack Obama on weapons of mass destruction, is also of the opinion that Iran and the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) will fail to clinch a final nuclear deal by July 20.
Iran and the 5+1 group “will agree in July to extend the negotiations another six months until January 2015,” Samore told the Tehran Times in an exclusive interview.
He also said, “I think that President Obama is sincere in wanting to normalize bilateral relations between the United States and Iran.”
This is the text of the interview:
Q: Is it possible that Iran and the 5+1 group agree on a comprehensive deal by July 20? If not, what will be the problems or challenges ahead?
A: I think it is unlikely that Iran and the P5+1 will reach agreement on a comprehensive deal by July 20 because the two sides are very far apart on several crucial issues, including the physical constraints on Iran’s enrichment program, the duration of any agreement, and the modalities and timing for sanctions relief. Nonetheless, I believe that the two sides have made progress on several issues and will agree in July to extend the negotiations another six months until January 2015.
Q: Some Western diplomats have said that Iran’s missile capability should be part of the negotiations. Don’t you think that the raising of this issue is due to Israel’s fears?
A: The reason for including the missile issue in the P5+1 negotiations with Iran is because United Nations Security Resolution 1929 of 9 June 2010 demands that Iran “shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology.”
Q: Israel’s interests differ from those of the U.S. in regard to Iran’s nuclear program. So how should the U.S. bridge these differences?
A: The U.S. and Israel (and other regional parties) share the same interest in limiting Iran’s capability to produce fissile material so that Iran cannot produce nuclear weapons. The Israeli government says that any agreement should completely eliminate Iran’s enrichment program while the Joint Plan of Action agrees that Iran will have a “mutually defined enrichment program with mutually agreed parameters consistent with practical needs, with agreed limits on scope and level of enrichment activities, capabilities, where it is carried out and stocks of enriched uranium, for a period to be agreed upon.” The P5+1 are demanding that Iran agree to significantly scale back its existing enrichment program to a few thousand centrifuge machines and maintain this limit for a decade or more. In contrast, Iran is offering to freeze its existing enrichment program of about 9,000 operating centrifuge machines for a few years and then expand to an industrial scale facility of 50,000 or more centrifuge machines. This is the biggest issue in the negotiations.
Q: What is your prediction of nuclear talks? Moreover, some experts say if the nuclear issue is resolved the West will seek new pretexts to put pressure on Iran. What is your analysis?
A: Because of the big differences over Iran’s current and future enrichment program, a comprehensive agreement appears unlikely in the near term, although I think both sides want to continue the negotiations.
Even if a nuclear agreement is reached, Iran and the United States will continue to disagree on many issues, including Iranian support for Hezbollah, Iranian opposition to Israel, and the Syrian Civil War. However, settlement of the nuclear issue will remove the most important source of tension between Tehran and Washington and perhaps open the way to address these other areas of disagreement. I think that President Obama is sincere in wanting to normalize bilateral relations between the United States and Iran.