The Times West Virginian

Headline News

November 16, 2013

U.S. officials: Deal offers Iran minor relief

WASHINGTON — Iran would get only minor relief from economic sanctions under an international proposal to prevent it from producing nuclear weapons, two Obama administration officials said Friday, seeking to calm concerns in Israel and on Capitol Hill that the U.S. and its allies are giving away too much to Tehran.

While playing down the sanctions relief being discussed, the administration was hoping it would be enough to finalize an initial agreement with Iran next week in Geneva.

Last week’s negotiations failed to reach an agreement between Iran and six world powers — the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany — that would resolve a decade-long standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. The countries worry that Tehran is trying to assemble an atomic weapons arsenal. Iran insists it has a right to pursue a nuclear program solely for peaceful energy production and medical research

Obama administration officials are optimistic that an initial deal with Iran can be reached during the next round of talks, although tough issues remain unresolved. The initial deal, designed to stop the Iranian nuclear program from advancing and roll it back in key areas, would be the first step toward negotiating a comprehensive agreement. The initial agreement would include stepped-up monitoring and verification aimed at preventing Iran from doing anything in secret.

One official familiar with the negotiations said the sanctions relief being offered to Iran was “way south” of “wildly exaggerated” estimates that have been reported, which have ranged from $15 billion to $50 billion.

Another official, who is familiar with details of the sanctions relief being considered, said the relief being discussed as part of an initial six-month agreement would be “limited, temporary, targeted and reversible.”

The officials would not disclose the exact details of the proposal offered Iran because negotiations have not yet been concluded, but they offered explanations on the implications of what sanction relief is being discussed. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss negotiations publicly.

Sanctions have taken a toll on Iran’s economy. Last year, Iran’s economy contracted by more than 5 percent and Iran’s oil exports are down from about 2.5 million barrels a day in 2011 to about 1 million barrels a day now. These declining exports cost Iran about $5 billion a month and overall about $120 billion during the past several years.

Sanctions also have limited or barred Iran’s access to about $100 billion in reserves, the official familiar with the sanctions said. If the agreement allows Iran to repatriate some of that money during the initial phase, it would not be anywhere near enough to ease the effect of sanctions on the Iranian economy, the official said. Moreover, core sanctions, such as the U.S. trade embargo, restrictions on Iranian banks and Iran’s use of its oil revenues, will all remain in place as well as sanctions over Iran’s support of terrorism and abuse of human rights.

Overlapping international sanctions have isolated Iran from the international banking system. Because of the sanctions, Iran cannot easily move money around the world. Even if Iran is given limited access to some of its funds, it would continue to have a difficult time moving and using the money.

Administration officials are worried that if Congress slaps new sanctions on Iran, as some members have discussed doing, Tehran will think the U.S. is negotiating in bad faith. But Democratic and Republican lawmakers argue that if the deal does not force Iran to put its nuclear program on hold, the U.S. shouldn’t ease sanctions.

Four Republican senators — New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte, Florida’s Marco Rubio, Texas’ John Cornyn and Illinois’ Mark Kirk — wrote to Obama on Friday expressing serious concerns that the United States was considering sanctions relief for Iran “valued at up to $20 billion — and, in exchange, Iran would not be required to dismantle a single centrifuge, close a single facility or ship outside its borders a single kilogram of enriched uranium.”

Still, the Democratic-controlled Senate could delay a likely vote on a new round of sanctions on Iran. Republican and Democratic aides said Friday that debate on the annual defense bill could be delayed until later next week, in part because of Senate action on a separate pharmaceutical bill. The sanctions were likely to be added as an amendment to the defense bill. That vote could slip until December, which would be after next week’s talks in Geneva.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also is vigorously opposed to the proposal being discussed with Iran. He has spoken out in many forums and took to Twitter on Friday to continue to warn against rushing into what he said was a “bad deal.”

“The proposal enables Iran to develop atomic bombs and build long-range missiles to reach the U.S. and Europe,” he wrote. “Iran is getting everything and giving nothing.”

The administration insists the proposal being discussed with Iran is tough.

“We’re continuing to convey to those who are opponents and those who have claimed that this proposal is not a fair deal or one that makes too many concessions, that if that is actually the case, why didn’t the Iranians accept the deal a week ago?” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki asked.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also said Friday that he was hopeful about the next round of negotiations but said any agreement that does not recognize and respect the rights of the Iranian people has no chance of being approved. Iran refuses to completely give up uranium enrichment — but the level of enrichment has become a key aspect of the ongoing Geneva talks.

The U.S. and others no longer appear to demand a complete halt to enrichment and are concentrating on curbing the highest-level production, currently at 20 percent. Such material is needed for Iran’s lone research reactor, which makes isotopes for medical treatments, but is only just several steps away from warhead level at more than 90 percent enrichment. Energy-producing reactors use uranium enriched at levels of about 3.5 percent.

1
Text Only
Headline News
  • Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 12.51.22 PM.png VIDEO: Toddler climbs into vending machine

    A child is safe after climbing into and getting stuck inside a claw crane machine at a Lincoln, Neb., bowling alley Monday.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Solemn tributes mark Boston Marathon bombing anniversary

    Survivors, first responders and relatives of those killed in the Boston Marathon bombing marked the anniversary Tuesday with tributes that combined sorrow over the loss of innocent victims with pride over the city’s resilience in the face of a terror attack.

    April 16, 2014

  • Questions linger year after Boston Marathon bombs

    A surveillance video shows a man prosecutors say is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev placing a bomb near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, just yards from where an 8-year-old boy was killed when it exploded.

    April 15, 2014

  • Little sign of progress as Obama, Putin speak

    Speaking for the first time in more than two weeks, President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin showed little sign of agreement Monday, with the U.S. leader urging pro-Russian forces to de-escalate the situation in eastern Ukraine and Putin denying that Moscow was interfering in the region.

    April 15, 2014

  • 3 dead after suburban Kansas City shooting

    A man opened fire outside a Jewish community center on Sunday, killing two people before driving over to a retirement community a few blocks away and killing someone else, authorities said.

    April 14, 2014

  • Couple: Truck was on fire before deadly bus crash

    A couple said a FedEx tractor-trailer was already on fire when it careened across a median, sideswiped their car and slammed into a bus carrying high school students, adding a new twist to the investigation of a crash that killed 10 people.
    Initial reports by police indicated the truck swerved to avoid a sedan that was traveling in the same direction in this town about 100 miles north of Sacramento, then went across the median. There was no mention of the truck being on fire.

    April 13, 2014

  • ‘Obamacare’ under attack as conservatives eye 2016

    Republicans eyeing the 2016 White House race battered President Barack Obama’s health care law and nicked each other Saturday, auditioning before a high-profile gathering of conservatives that some political veterans said marked the campaign’s unofficial start.

    April 13, 2014

  • Finance officials: Global economy turns the corner

    The world’s top finance officials expressed confidence Saturday that the global economy finally has turned the corner to stronger growth. This time, they may be right.
    Despite challenges that include market jitters about the Federal Reserve’s bond-buying slowdown and global tensions over Ukraine, policymakers said they believe there is a foundation for sustained growth that can provide jobs for the millions of people still looking for work five years after the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

    April 13, 2014

  • There’s a new ‘face,’ but old problems for health care law

    Abruptly on the spot as the new face of “Obamacare,” Sylvia Mathews Burwell faces steep challenges, both logistical and political.
    Burwell, until now White House budget director, was named by President Barack Obama on Friday to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who oversaw the messy rollout of the health care overhaul.

    April 12, 2014

  • Australia leader confident sounds are from Flight 370

    With the Malaysian jetliner mystery now five weeks old, officials have narrowed the search zone for the missing plane and are “very confident” the underwater signals they have heard are from its black box, Australia’s prime minister said Friday.
    At the same time, however, those electronic signals are fading, Tony Abbott added.

    April 12, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads