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  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday he would soon send a team led by his national security adviser to Washington for talks with the United States on a final nuclear deal with Iran.

    "I spoke last night with President Obama. We agreed that in the coming days an Israeli team led by the national security adviser, Yossi Cohen, will go out to discuss with the United States the permanent accord with Iran," he said in public remarks to members of his Likud party.

    "This accord must bring about one outcome: the dismantling of Iran's military nuclear capability," said Netanyahu, who has described Sunday's interim deal between world powers and Iran as a historic mistake.

  • Reuters has a special report on the interim Iran nuclear deal entitled "'Great Satan' meets 'Axis of Evil' and strikes a deal"

    From Reuters: 

    Saturday night had turned into Sunday morning and four days of talks over Iran's nuclear program had already gone so far over schedule that the Geneva Intercontinental Hotel had been given over to another event.

    A black tie charity ball was finishing up and singers with an after party band at a bar above the lobby were crooning out the words to a Johnny Cash song - "I fell into a burning ring of fire" - while weary diplomats in nearby conference rooms were trying to polish off the last touches of an accord. Negotiators emerged complaining that the hotel lobby smelled like beer.

    At around 2:00 a.m., U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and counterparts from Britain,China, France, Germany and Russia were brought to a conference room to approve a final text of the agreement which would provide limited relief of sanctions on Iran in return for curbs to its nuclear program.

    At the last minute, with the ministers already gathered in the room, an Iranian official called seeking changes. Negotiators for the global powers refused. Finally the ministers were given the all clear. The deal, a decade in the making, would be done at last.

    Now that the interim deal is signed, talks are far from over as the parties work towards a final accord that would lay to rest all doubts about Iran's nuclear program.

  • On @drshow , Harry Reid doesn't rule out further sanctions on Iran. Leaving it to Tim Johnson (banking comm.) and Menendez (for. relations).
  • Reid echoes the administration and says that the Iran deal is an "important first step."
  • Israel's Netanyahu is still criticizing the interim deal reached in Geneva this weekend. On Monday, Netanyahu released a series of tweets criticizing the deal, which many in the international community have heralded as a positive first step.

    From Netanyahu's Twitter account: 

    Netanyahu has long been a vocal opponent of any deal with Iran. And on Monday he announced he would be sending his national security adviser to Washington for talks with the United States on a final deal with Iran, according to Reuters.

  • According to Business Insider's Rob Wile, Iran might be getting more out of the new nuclear deal than the White House has revealed. 

    From Business Insider: 

    But in its account of the deal, the White House appears to have fudged two key details of the deal dealing with concessions to Iran.

    In its fact sheet on the agreement, the White House says that Iran must now "dilute below 5% or convert to a form not suitable for further enrichment its entire stockpile of near-20% enriched uranium before the end of the initial phase." 

    That's technically true, but it glosses over a key point.

    The accord states that half of the 20%-enriched uranium will be converted into a powder fuel destined for the Tehran Research Reactor — you know, for research. However not everyone is convinced the fuel will be used for that purpose, and Israel has said it would be relatively simple to reconvert the powder back into the enriched uranium used to make a nuke. "They have no problem converting back what they allegedly turned to nuclear fuel," Israel's former military intelligence chief said earlier this year. "Within a week, it could be turned into nuclear material for a bomb."

    Actually, there is disagreement concerning how long the reconversion process would actually take. Carnegie Endowment fellow Mark Hibbs says three weeks.  As we reported, Harvard's Olli Heinon says two months, and that in any event reconversion is expressly prohibited by the agreement (which may explain why the White House omitted that fact). The Wall Street Journal says that the full process of reconverting the fuel and then constructing a nuke would take six months. Plus, the new inspection regimes are now daily, which increases the odds that any attempt at a "breakout" from the agreement to build a nuke detected in real time, though Hibbs says the reconversion process can be carried out on the sly.

    Read more at Business Insider 

  • Hague now in the Commons: Iran has "made a number of significant commitments", including "diluting half of its" 20% enriched uranium
  • Hague: Iran will not commission the heavy-water reactor in Arak as part of the Geneva deal
  • Iran will see "proportionate, limited" lifting of US and EU sanctions in coming months, Hague tells the Commons
  • Core sanctions on Iranian oil and gas will continue to remain, Hague updates UK MPs on Geneva deal
  • There will be no more nuclear-related sanctions adopted by US, UK and EU in the next six months under the Geneva deal, Hague tells UK MPs
  • Britain's Hague says he discourages Israel from taking any steps to undermine the interim Iran nuclear deal, according to Reuters.
  • Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states, despite their mistrust of Iran, gave a qualified welcome on Monday to Tehran's interim deal with world powers over its disputed nuclear program.

    U.S.-allied Saudi Arabia, locked in a struggle with Iran for influence across the Middle East, is worried that its adversary is secretly seeking atomic weapons, a charge Tehran denies.

    "If there was goodwill, this agreement could represent a preliminary step towards a comprehensive solution to the Iranian nuclear program," Saudi Arabia's cabinet said in a statement carried by state news agency SPA.

  • Israel should avoid taking any action that would undermine the interim nuclear agreement 
    reached between Iran and world powers, Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Monday.

    "We would discourage anybody in the world, including Israel, from taking any steps that would undermine this agreement and we will make that very clear to all concerned," Hague told 

    Hague, who gave an update on the nuclear talks in Geneva, added he had not seen any signs that any country opposed to the agreement would try to disrupt it "in any practical way" but said Britain would be "on its guard".  

  • Lebanon's Hezbollah on Monday hailed a nuclear deal between its patron Iran and world powers as "a major victory" for Tehran.
    The agreement, struck over the weekend, will see some sanctions that were imposed on Iran over its nuclear programme eased in exchange for Tehran halting some of its most sensitive atomic work.
    "What was achieved through this agreement is a major victory for Iran and to all the people of the region and it is a defeat for the enemies of these people," Hezbollah said in a statement. "(It is) a model victory and world class achievement which the Islamic state adds to its record which shines with victories and achievements."
    Israel, which has fought Hezbollah, denounced the nuclear deal as a "historic mistake".
    The Shi'ite Muslim Hezbollah, founded with Iranian help in the 1980s, has grown into a powerful political and military force and is fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad's army in Syria's civil war.

  • The European Union could relax some sanctions on Iran as soon as next month, French and EU officials said on Monday after major powers reached a landmark deal with Tehran to curb its nuclear programme.
    EU foreign ministers will meet in December to discuss a proposal from EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to ease sanctions, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.
    "We are proposing a lifting of the sanctions, but it will be limited, targeted and reversible," Fabius told Europe 1 radio.
    Asked when sanctions could start to be lifted, he added: "It will begin in December."
    Ashton's spokesman Michael Mann said that the timing would be coordinated with Iran since it was up to both sides to keep their bargain and it was not yet clear when decisions could be taken to change sanctions legislation.
    "It could be in December, it could be in January, it depends how long the legislative process takes," Mann told reporters in Brussels.
    The breakthrough deal reached on Sunday between Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia offer's Tehran limited relief from international sanctions in exchange for halting its most sensitive nuclear work.
    The West fears that Iran has been seeking to develop a nuclear weapons capability. The Islamic Republic denies that, saying its nuclear programme is a peaceful energy project.

  • #Saudi welcomes P5+1 nuclear agrmt w/Iran as primary step towards comprehensive solution to Iranian nuclear program & a ME free of all WMD
  • Germany's Foreign Minister Westerwelle gave an interview to German daily Bonn General-Anzeiger about the outcome of the Iran nuclear talks. Here is an English translation of that interview, as posted on the German Foreign office website:

    Is Tehran’s willingness to compromise credible?

    After nearly a decade of difficult negotiations without any result, we now for the first time have agreed on important initial steps. During these talks, President Rouhani and the new Iranian leadership did what they previously announced, also at the United Nations General Assembly in September: they made substantial concessions and worked seriously towards reaching a solution. We have taken a major step towards our goal of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran.

    Is Israel's blunt rejection of the project exaggerated?

    We and our partners in theE3+3 group will now talk to Israel to explain the agreements that have been reached, as well as our position. We will not lose sight of the common objective we share with Israel, namely preventing Iran from securing a nuclear weapon. Already in the coming months, we will see whether Iran is verifiably adhering to what has been agreed. Also, negotiations with Iran will continue. Saturday night’s agreement will last for six months. We want to fully use this time to work towards a permanent solution. Of course, we will always bear in mind the interests of Israel.

  • #Iran FM @JZarif : voluntary nature of actions means that neither sides have legal responsibilities. 1/2
  • #Iran FM @JZarif : actions are reversible from both sides,4 instnce if US congress pass new sanctions we can reverse actions instantly 2/2
  • Although Secretary of State Kerry did most of the heavy-lifting when negotiating the deal with Iran, it is President Obama who has taken 'ownership' of the Iran issue, and it bears his personal stamp of a long-time belief of the necessity in 'thawing' relations with Iran. Reuters' Matt Spetalnick continues with his analysis:

    Last weekend's Iran pact - a preliminary agreement on modest sanctions relief in exchange for temporary curbs on Iran's nuclear activities - was no case of accidental diplomacy.

    Obama promised to seek direct engagement with Iran and other U.S. enemies during the 2008 presidential campaign, drawing accusations from Republicans that he was promoting appeasement.

    He then used his first inaugural address in 2009 to offer to extend a hand if the Iranian leadership would "unclench their fist." After being snubbed, he galvanized international support for crippling sanctions that ultimately forced Tehran into the latest negotiations.

    Obama instructed his aides to arrange the historic telephone conversation he had with Iran's relatively moderate new president, Hassan Rouhani, in September, and authorized secret bilateral talks that laid the groundwork for the more formal Geneva rounds between Iran and world powers, U.S. officials say.

    On Saturday, Kerry spoke by phone to Obama from Geneva to discuss the outstanding issues in the final tense stages of negotiations, a senior State Department official said. "This went all the way up to (Obama) personally approving the final language," the official said.

    Read more
  • U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on Monday the Senate will consider legislation next month to impose tighter sanctions on Iran, but only after studying the issue and possibly holding hearings.

    Reid said he would look to fellow Democrats Tim Johnson, chairman of the Banking Committee, and Robert Menendez, who heads the Foreign Relations Committee, for a decision after the Senate returns from its Thanksgiving holiday recess on December 9.

    "They will study this, they will hold hearings if necessary, and if we need work on this, if we need stronger sanctions, I am sure we will do that," Reid said on National Public Radio.


  • EU sanctions against Iran could begin easing next month

    European Union sanctions against Iran could be eased as soon as December, officials said Monday in response to a historic interim deal that gives Tehran six months to increase access to its nuclear sites in exchange for keeping the core components of its uranium program.

    The deal, announced in Geneva Saturday, also envisions lifting some of the sanctions that have crippled the country's economy. The sanctions were instituted over fears that Tehran is using its nuclear program to build atomic weapons, something Iran has denied.

    "A Europe-wide decision is necessary" to ease EU sanctions, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told Europe 1 radio. "That's expected in several weeks, for a partial lifting that is targeted, reversible."

    "It could be in December, it could be in January, it depends on how long the legislative process takes," EU foreign affairs spokesman Michael Mann told reporters in Brussels.

    President Barack Obama on Monday defended the agreement, declaring that the United States "cannot close the door on diplomacy."

    Read more at Al Jazeera America

  • The Associated Press has a fascinating look at what some of the 66 Americans who were held hostage in Iran for more than 400 days at the start of the Iranian revolution think of the interim deal. 

    From the AP:

    "It's kind of like Jimmy Carter all over again," said Clair Cortland Barnes, now retired and living in Leland, N.C., after a career at the CIA and elsewhere. He sees the negotiations now as no more effective than they were in 1979 and 1980, when he and others languished, facing mock executions and other torments. The hostage crisis began in November of 1979 when militants stormed the United States Embassy in Tehran and seized its occupants.

    Retired Air Force Col. Thomas E. Schaefer, 83, called the deal "foolishness."

    "My personal view is, I never found an Iranian leader I can trust," he said. "I don't think today it's any different from when I was there. None of them, I think, can be trusted. Why make an agreement with people you can't trust?"

  • According to The Associated Press, leading Republican and Democratic senators are crafting legislation geared toward new sanctions against Iran just in case the deal reached in Geneva doesn't work out. 

    From the AP:  

    Leading Democratic and Republican senators are crafting legislation to reinstate the full force of sanctions and impose new ones if Iran doesn't make good on its pledge to roll back its nuclear program, brushing aside the Obama administration's fears about upending its diplomatic momentum.

    Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., hope to have the bill ready for other lawmakers to consider when the Senate returns Dec. 9 from its two-week recess, according to legislative aides. Many in Congress are skeptical, if not outright hostile, to the deal reached by Iran and world powers over the weekend in Geneva.

    The Kirk-Menendez measure would require the administration to certify every 30 days that Iran is adhering to the terms of the six-month interim agreement and that it hasn't been involved in any act of terrorism against the United States.

    Without that certification, sanctions worth more than $1 billion a month would be re-imposed and new sanctions would be added. The new measures would include bans on investing in Iran's engineering, mining and construction industries and a global boycott of Iranian oil by 2015. Foreign companies and banks violating the sanctions would be barred from doing business in the United States.

  • According to The Boston Globe, Sec. Kerry opened a 'secret channel' to Iran back in 2011. 

    From the Globe: 

    It was early December 2011 and the US Senate was poised to hold a crucial vote on the nomination of Richard Cordray to head President Obama’s controversial new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But John Kerry, the senior senator from Massachusetts, was nowhere to be found.

    His office was uncharacteristically mum about his whereabouts, saying only that he was not in Washington. “Does anybody know why Kerry did not vote on Cordray’s nomination?” asked a Democratic blogger, puzzled that Kerry would miss casting a vote for a former campaign worker.

    It turns out Kerry was on a secret trip to Oman — a trip with an importance that can be appreciated fully only now, following the historic nuclear agreement reached with Iran over the weekend.

    Kerry, then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was sequestered in an ornate palace in Muscat, the Omani capital. There, in a delicate meeting with Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, the ruler of the desert kingdom who overthrew his father in 1970, Kerry was trying to open a secret dialogue between the United States and Iran.

    Al Jazeera America cannot independently confirm this account. Read more at the Boston Globe
  • Iran says the new nuclear deal will make its oil exports smoother and cheaper, according to Reuters. 

    From Reuters: 

    Iran's nuclear deal with the West will make it easier, cheaper and less stressful to trade its oil, thanks largely to a partial lifting of the European shipping insurance ban, a senior Iranian industry official said on Tuesday.

    Iran and six world powers reached a deal on Sunday to curb Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for limited sanctions relief, including a pledge to allow some Iran oil shipments to be covered by UK-dominated providers of shipping insurance.

    U.S. and European Union (EU) sanctions that have slashed Tehran's oil exports from 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd) to around 1 million bpd remain in place and Washington has said that it will not allow exports to rise above current levels.

    "Based on this deal, Iran's crude oil exports will not decline and our customers will be able to purchase oil from Iran without any anxiety and they will not have to look for alternatives," Ali Majedi, deputy minister for international affairs and trading, told oil ministry news service Shana.

  • Iran Supreme's Leader Ali Khamenei has publicly blessed the nuclear deal reached in Geneva, protecting it from hardliner naysayers, according to The Washington Post. 

    Khamenei sent a public letter to Iranian President Rouhani praising the deal and criticizing its opponents: 

    What you have gained, an appreciation and thanks for the nuclear negotiation body and officials is befitting, and can be the basis for the next wise steps. Undoubtedly, the ... prayers and the backing of the Iranian nation was the factor in this success, and will be in the future. God willing, persistence against those who want too much has to always be the criteria for the straight path of the officials, and will always be, God willing.
    (Translation via Al-Monitor's Arash Karami)
  • Senators ready Iran sanctions to the dismay of Obama administration

    Leading Democratic and Republican senators are putting together legislation that would reinstate sanctions and impose new ones if Iran doesn't make good on its pledge to roll back its nuclear program as agreed to by world powers and Iran on Saturday in Geneva, brushing aside the Obama administration's fears about upending its diplomatic momentum.

    Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., hope to have the bill ready for other lawmakers to consider when the Senate returns Dec. 9 from its two-week recess, according to legislative aides.

    Despite what many called a landmark agreement, several lawmakers in Congress are skeptical, if not outright hostile, of the deal reached by Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the U.S. with Iran over the weekend in Geneva.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • Explainer: What Iran and world powers agreed in Geneva

    The agreement reached in Geneva between Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, plus Germany) represents a modest but important "first phase" deal, which is designed to constrain Iran’s nuclear potential while seeking “a mutually agreed long-term comprehensive solution that would ensure that Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful.”

    The deal, spelled out in a Nov. 24 “Joint Plan of Action,” will verifiably halt and, in some areas, roll back progress in Iran's nuclear program, which has the capacity to produce material for nuclear weapons. The agreement also significantly bolsters International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitoring capabilities at key Iranian nuclear sites to detect and deter noncompliance.

    In exchange, the P5+1 states will extend limited, reversible relief from certain sanctions now in place, including the repatriation of $4.2 billion in frozen Iranian oil revenue, and a pledge not to impose new nuclear-related sanctions for the duration of the agreement if Iran abides by its commitments. The core of the existing international financial and oil sanctions regime will remain in place.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • The White House on Tuesday warned the US Congress against voting for fresh sanctions on Iran, saying they could potentially threaten ongoing diplomatic efforts to curb Tehran's nuclear program.

    "For Congress to add additional sanctions before this diplomatic window could be pursued would undermine our credibility about the goal of these sanctions," said deputy White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

    "We're not sanctioning just for the sake of sanctions and we're not sanctioning the Iranians specifically to punish them.

    "We have these sanctions in place to pressure Iran to consider and pursue a diplomatic option.
    That diplomatic opportunity has presented itself and we should pursue it," he added as President Barack Obama arrived in Los Angeles for a visit.

  • I, as Hassan Rouhani, am not anybody to meet. Who they rushed to meet at #UNGA was the elected representative of the great Iranian people.
  • In relation to nuclear issue, I want to assure our people that framework set by the Leader, incl our rights,will be defended & remain intact
  • Enrichment, which is part of our rights, will continue. It continues today and will continue tomorrow. #100DayReport
  • In accordance with NPT, every signatory state has right to develop peaceful nuclear energy program.
  • At the same time, the inhuman & illegal oppression our people face must be removed. We must get rid of threat and break the sanctions.
  • We seek constructive engagement w/ the world; step by step, we're moving towards place where we will achieve comprehensive agreement w/ P5+1
  • Some think Iran seeks an atomic bomb. We have never sought any WMDs, incl nuclear bombs. We only seek peaceful development.
  • The important thing abt the agreement in Geneva is not what happens during the coming 6 months, but the principles on which we have agreed
  • i.e. we'll have enrichment on our soil & will end sanctions in a comprehensive accord; Iran will be treated as any other member of the NPT.
  • Agreement in Geneva is a very positive first step, but the journey before us is long. #IranTalks
  • Atmosphere has changed. Before,there was the question of whether more sanctions would be imposed or not. Now, there's a freeze in sanctions.
  • Investment will increase, economic activity will increase. You have witnessed how the stock exchange has benefited.
  • In an apparent effort to test Iranian goodwill following a landmark nuclear deal, the United States on Tuesday asked Iran for help in finding retired Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared during a business trip to an Iranian island in the Persian Gulf in March 2007.

    "We welcome the assistance of our international partners in this investigation, and we respectfully ask the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to assist us in securing Mr. Levinson's health, welfare, and safe return," the White House said in a statement on Tuesday.

  • Here is an interesting piece from the Christian Science Monitor about how Iranian officials frequently took to Twitter during the recently concluded talks in Geneva. After France decides to make some last minute changes, Iran consults Tehran about how to proceed, but then gets blamed for delays:

    You, as Iran's Foreign Minister
     Mohammad Javad Zarif, are presented the revised document late, as talks are drawing to a close. But the changes mean that you must consult with Tehran, forcing another round of talks: Geneva III.

    Later you are surprised to hear US Secretary of State John Kerry blame Iran for the breakdown, for not being able to accept the deal "at that particular moment," despite "unity" by the P5+1 over their "fair proposal."

    How do you respond? In the old days – and if Iran and the US had not severed diplomatic ties 34 years ago – you might have issued a demarche to Washington, demanding a more accurate accounting.

    But instead you turn to Twitter, as a member of Iran's new presidential administration who has become adept as communicating directly with the outside world through Twitter and Facebook.

    "Mr. Secretary, was it Iran that gutted over half of US draft Thursday night? and publicly commented against it Friday morning?" you tweet, referring to the French role as spoiler. Within minutes, your tweet has been picked up by the wire agencies, and Iran's complaint is "official."

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