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July 21, 2014

Stakes Could Not Be Higher for Iran Nuclear Negotiations Says Panel

Washington, DC – “There is the impression that a ‘no deal’ scenario would be a continuation of the current status quo, and I think that is fundamentally erroneous,” said Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), speaking on an Atlantic Council panel with former White House Director of Nonproliferation Jofi Joseph and moderated by Atlantic Council Senior Fellow Barbara Slavin. “A no deal scenario,” said Parsi, “would lead to a deterioration of the situation with clear economic, military, nuclear, and diplomatic consequences.” 
 
Coming just one day before the nuclear negotiations deadline was extended to November 24th,  the event focused on a new NIAC memo outlining the consequences if diplomacy fails to yield an agreement. Failure to secure a deal, according to the memo, could lead to increased Iranian enrichment levels, an ejection of IAEA inspectors, a collapse of sanctions, and the outbreak of war between Iran and the U.S. 
 
The speakers expressed optimism that a good deal is within reach and could ultimately be brokered. Joseph suggested there were creative solutions to bridge at least one major sticking point in the negotiations–the number of centrifuges Iran will operate under  a deal. The P5+1, he said,  may be amenable to Iran maintaining its current number of operational centrifuges, a major Iranian demand, if Tehran agreed to the immediate export of its low enriched uranium to a third country. “[The Iranians] seemed much more hung up on preserving their existing infrastructure…and they are less concerned about the optics of exporting [enriched uranium],” Joseph said. 
 
Joseph also dismissed the utility of new Congressional sanctions as the negotiations proceed. “The Iranians have to know that if the process breaks down, much more sanctions will be coming…so there’s really no need for Congress to ratify that,” he said. Parsi warned that new Congressional sanctions would backfire. “I think Tehran is going to read [new sanctions] differently. I think they will read it as ‘this is evidence that President Obama is not strong enough to be able to push back against those forces, and as a result, how can we trust that he can deliver on the promises that he will make as part of the deal?’” 
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