Background Briefing on the Negotiations With Iran
Senior Administration Officials
July 7, 2015
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thank you for your patience. We are doing a backgrounder today under normal rules. So you all know [Senior Administration Official], who will give some brief opening remarks and then we'll go to questions. This will be all on background as a Senior Administration Official and we'll embargo it till the end, as always.
With that, I think I'm going to turn it over. You saw our statement earlier. I know you all saw that. I'm going to turn it over to [Senior Administration Official].
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Hi. So I thought before I get to the very difficult substance that I'd add a little, hopefully, levity to your reporting. I asked my team to put together some fun facts for you all, so here they are.
We were here 11 times last year. This is our sixth or seventh time this year. Depends on whether you've had to be here seven times or only six. We have been here enough to celebrate virtually every member of the team's birthday in Vienna at least once – (laughter) – including, of course, David Sanger's birthday. Our experts have flown across the Atlantic 69 times since we began negotiations for a JCPA in February 2014.
One of our team members calculated he has traveled 400,000 miles, roughly the distance of circumnavigating the earth 16 times. (Laughter.) Our team is sustained by a healthy diet of favorite snacks. Since the beginning of June we've gone through at least 10 pounds of Twizzlers – strawberry; 30 pounds of mixed nuts and dried fruit – very popular; 20 pounds of string cheese; over 200 rice krispie treats; and three liters of Zanoni & Zanoni gelato yesterday alone. We had a birthday. [Staff]'s birthday was yesterday.
The number of espresso pods we've gone through is in the hundreds. And Da Capo's in the first district is our go-to restaurant as a delegation team on the rare occasions when we can go – usually the last night we're here. There have been three trips to the hospital over the past 18 months for various reasons. Everyone has been sick at some point. That's probably true for you, too. But that bears no relationship to our wonderful diet. (Laughter.)
We have photos of almost everyone in the delegation falling asleep at some point – except me. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Probably because you're taking the photos.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No, I take them.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: [Senior State Department Official] takes the photos. (Laughter.)
We have more than once contemplated who would play each member of the team in a movie version of this experience.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: And obviously, the team thought [Wendy Sherman would] be played by Meryl Streep from The Devil Wears Prada. (Laughter.) No resemblance to the character, however.
We refer to ourselves as a big, happy family, and that's really true because we have seen more of each other than our actual families, over at last – at least the last six months. Like any family, we don't always see eye-to-eye, but we stick together and we work incredibly well, which is why we have gotten as far as we have. People have come and gone on the team, but everyone shares the characteristics of professionalism, integrity, and selflessness that makes this really an incredible group. No one is here for themselves. Each person on the team works for the benefit of achieving the President's and the Secretary's and our country's overall objectives. Even when the temperatures are rising – and you all know firsthand how high they are rising today – so literally and figuratively, we always find a way to help each other move things forward.
Everybody misses their families. I'm sure you do too. We keep in touch with them and we're all very grateful that FaceTime, emails, phone calls, and every other form of connection exists. But it's hard. We miss very important milestones. That's true for you as well. One of our team members is missing his wife's birthday this week, and it's one of those ones that ends in zero. But he's a really smart guy, and knowing how these things go he booked the big celebratory birthday trip to Italy for late August. (Laughter.) No clue there. (Laughter.) I don't know where we'll be at that point, but we all hope that [Staff] is in Italy. (Laughter.)
At any rate, I just thought I'd give you a little fun facts before we get to the tough business ahead.
QUESTION: [Senior Administration Official], can I ask one thing about your fun fact?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Sure.
QUESTION: The three trips to the hospital – does that include the Secretary and his leg?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: No, actually. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: So in fact it's four.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: It's four. You are quite right. Matt Lee gets it right again. (Laughter.)
[Identifying information withheld]
QUESTION: Did you have a favorite actor to play the Secretary?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Ted Danson.
QUESTION: Ted Danson.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Ted Danson. You don't think we don't have actors to play all of you too?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: We do, we do, we do. (Laughter.) We do. So you can do your own casting and then we can compare. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Who was Marie?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Kirsten Dunst.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Kirsten Dunst.
[Identifying information withheld]
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Okay, enough of this. (Laughter.) Enough of this joy.
As you heard the Secretary say earlier this week, we have never been closer than we've ever been on this agreement. And we are still not where we need to be to finalize a deal. As he said yesterday, this negotiations could still go either way, and I have said to you for many, many months – some of you years now – that this is a Rubik's cube. Until the last piece clicks in, you don't know if you can get there. Or I've used the – you can get 90 percent of the way there, 95 and 99 percent of the way there, and you can't get there in the end. So I don't know.
I know there's been – quite frankly, I'm astonished by the speculation in the press about the likelihood of getting to an agreement soon. I just put that down to the fact that you all would like to go home. (Laughter.) But I quite frankly think expectations need to be based more on a sense of reality. This is very, very hard, tough stuff.
If very tough political decisions, hard choices can get made soon, I do believe we can get to an agreement. I know the Secretary believes that. I do too. It is possible, but it is very hard. And we all knew when you came down towards the end game that the hardest things are left to last. And in part, every negotiator generally does that because you hope that the weight of the rest of what you've accomplished helps you get past those very hard issues. But they are very hard issues.
If they're made, we'll get a deal. If they're not, obviously we won't. All of us feel it would be really more than unfortunate, it would be quite a tragedy if we've come this far – we have really made a significant and substantial amount of progress, quite extraordinary – it would be very, very unfortunate if we could not get it done. But it's not just up to us. It's not up to the delegations of and the ministers and the countries of the P5+1. It is also up to Iran. It is up to all of us.
As the President and the Secretary and I have always said, we will not take a deal that's not a good deal and is the right deal. And that remains the case today and it will remain the case until we either get there or we say we cannot.
So I think given the limited time, it'd be better for me to take your questions and see what kind of a conversation. I have a couple of colleagues with me today. They just wanted to come to see all of you. But if there is a particular technical question, I'll probably turn to them for some assistance.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Okay. Sorry, go ahead, Arshad.
QUESTION: In repeatedly giving yourselves more time, as you did on the 30th until today and as Federica Mogherini said today, do you not feel that you are giving the Iranians more and more and more time to string things out?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: So this is always a very difficult calculus in any negotiation, but we're taking this a day at a time. On any given day if we feel like we're just not going to get there, that'll be that. They know that. We're all – we're all quite well aware of what is left to be done, and everyone understands that time does not help get those decisions made. Time, in fact, works against those difficult decisions being made. As difficult as it is – might be for the Americans to go home and deal with the politics of this situation in America, it is pretty darn hard for the Iranians to go home and deal with the politics in Iran. People don't generally think of Iran having politics, but it does.
So I think everyone understands that once we leave here, we are not – we are in less control of what happens in this negotiation. It gets more complicated, not less complicated. That puts pressure on all of us to make best use of the time and to try to really punch through or find out we can't. And sometimes things have to align in history at a moment in history to be able to do something. We are probably closer than we've ever been because there is more of an alignment of that moment in history. But whether it clicks into that final cube, we don't yet know.
And we're taking this day by day, Arshad.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Indira.
QUESTION: Thanks. I wanted to ask about the remaining sticking points, and we understand that there are several serious issues that remain. Could you elaborate a bit on the issue over the UN arms embargo? And you probably know – or maybe you know that Defense Secretary Ash Carter as we're doing this is speaking and saying the embargo on Iranian arms exports must remain. So tell us about that issue and also about the issue of the snapback of UN sanctions.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, you all saw the parameters from Lausanne. You know that we have – we all believe that restrictions have to stay on that are in the United Nations Security Council resolutions, and we are going to do so.
How the – can I help you?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No, we're okay. Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: We're okay, thank you. The duration of that, the nature of it, how we'll proceed, how the – what the UNSCR is like, all of that is part of this negotiation. We will – our intent is to end this negotiation with a drafted UN Security Council resolution. That resolution, of course, will be subject to the UN Security Council's deliberations, but since we have all of the permanent members of the Security Council here, it's probably a better than even bet it will look something like the resolution that we're negotiating. But it's very – it's a very complex negotiation because we want to – this mandate came out of the UN Security Council, we want it to remain in the UN Security Council, and working through how we're going to proceed forward.
So of course the Secretary of Defense is correct. There will be an ongoing restriction on arms just like there will be ongoing restrictions regarding missiles.
QUESTION: So that – despite – no matter what the UN Security Council resolution says, apart from that, there will be a remaining UN --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: No, it's not apart. It will be part of the Security Council resolution.
QUESTION: Okay. That the UN arms embargo will remain on Iran importing or exporting weapons?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I'm not going to go into the details.
QUESTION: Okay. And the second thing you said that will remain is --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Missiles.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Ballistic missiles restrictions.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Missiles, missiles. A restriction on missiles.
QUESTION: Does that mean the same restrictions that currently exist or just some other restrictions?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I'm not going to go – I'm not going to go into details on any element. I never have and I'm not going to start today.
QUESTION: To clarify from what you just said, you said that the resolution that is being drafted here would encompass the ingredients of Indira's questions, which was about whole snapback and the existing arms embargo.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: What I said is that a UN Security Council resolution will address all of the parameters that are appropriate to the resolution that you know from Lausanne, and that includes the arms embargo, missiles, and the snapback process.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Michael.
QUESTION: After the first 10 years of the emerging agreement, if you get it, Iran will be allowed to increase the number of centrifuges it has beyond the 5,060 that are specified and to employ new, more efficient centrifuges. And its plan for doing so, as I understand it, is supposed to be conveyed to the IAEA in the form of an Additional Protocol to explain its own plans, its own schedule, when and how this will happen, how quickly this – the centrifuges will increase and which ones will be employed.
Will this plan be made public in some form when the agreement, if the agreement is promulgated? And if you don't make this information public, how will anybody be able to evaluate how quickly the breakout time degrades after year 10 – between years 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, which has been an issue in the debate?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: So here's what I can say about that today. We have had a lot of discussion about the importance of the glide path, and quite frankly, the development of a program has its own glide path. You can only go so far so fast. And given the parameters that were agreed to in Lausanne, that puts on some immediate parameters to what is accomplishable after the first 10 years of this agreement. So we are confident that we know where Iran plans to head and that it will be in a way that assures an appropriate development of their program, but not one in which it would undermine the confidence that has been gained by the first 10 years.
An AP declaration is a document between a country and the IAEA. And we, as I said, have confidence that we know where Iran is headed, and we will convey our confidence in the appropriate ways.
QUESTION: Well, let me just take one last try at this.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Sure, be my guest.
QUESTION: The – because the issue can't, won't – will have to come up if you have to defend the agreement.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Sure.
QUESTION: And the question is not do you have confidence as the negotiator of the agreement. The question does – does the Congress have confidence, does the public have confidence, how does the media evaluate it? And so the question is: Is this information that I guess under the Additional Protocol might remain public, but there are features of the agreement that go beyond the Additional Protocol.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Right.
QUESTION: So will this information about the pace of Iran's program in terms of how many centrifuges it would have and what new types it employs --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: -- will that be made public so that people who are not negotiators of the agreement can evaluate --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: So what I said is we will --
QUESTION: And what I heard you say is --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah.
QUESTION: What I heard you do, frankly, is avoid that question. So can you just answer it? Will it be made public or not?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: You're talking – as I said, the AP declaration is a document between a country and the IAEA.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: That's not ours to make public.
QUESTION: Right. But the information in it could be made public.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: We will deal with this in every appropriate way.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Lou.
QUESTION: Thanks. Two things. One on the – going back to Indira's questions. When you said there will be ongoing restrictions on arms trade, missiles, will that – is that UN restrictions, U.S. restrictions, or all of the above?
And then as a second question, some of the – and not just the Iranians – some other members of the P5+1 don't really believe that the U.S. is ready to walk away from these talks. They feel that the Administration needs a deal or wants the deal so badly that they're not – I mean, how do you respond to those kinds of comments?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, let me deal with the second part first. I think the world wants a deal, but that doesn't mean any deal. And that is true for President Obama, and that is true for Secretary Kerry, and that is true for me. Of course, we would prefer to find a peaceful resolution to this very difficult and vexing problem and a problem that is of concern to the entire international community, or we wouldn't be here. We wouldn't have made those 69 transatlantic flights. So of course we do.
But wanting a deal and agreeing to a deal are two very different things, and we will only agree to a deal that is the right deal. We will only agree to a deal that is a good deal. We will only agree to a deal that shuts down the pathways to fissile material for a nuclear weapon and will provide confidence over a very long duration that Iran's program is exclusively peaceful. And anyone who thinks that we are just dying for a deal hasn't lived here, lovely as all of the people of Vienna are and as lovely as the people are at the Coburg Hotel where only a couple of us stay – most of my colleagues stay in various and sundry places around town in a hotel room with nothing else for weeks on end – knows that we aren't just running after any old deal. That would be an irresponsible act and not any – not anything that anyone on this team, that the President, the Secretary, or I would do.
On your first question about missiles, arms, this is a very complex arena. The United States has many unilateral tools regarding arms and regarding missiles – many. We have our own arms embargoes. We have our own web of laws in this regard and executive orders. The UN has other resolutions that are country specific on Yemen, Syria, regarding arms. There are countless, countless, and myriad laws and executive orders and UN Security Council resolutions that touch these issues.
What we are talking about here principally are the arms provisions and the missile provisions that became part of UN Security Council resolutions in response to Iran's nuclear program. So it is related to that sphere and that context, but there is quite a bit more beyond it.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Laura.
QUESTION: Thanks. Can I follow up a little bit on that (inaudible)? Would the U.S. be willing for there to be language in the new UN Security Council resolution that would enshrine a prospective deal that would advise countries in a nonbinding way not to export conventional arms to Iran but – but not prohibit it?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I'm not going to talk, as I won't about anything about the details or the provisions of what we're going to have in the UNSCR.
QUESTION: Then just to follow up on that, is it fair that given Lavrov and Ryabkov's public statements to believe that there is disunity within the 5+1? There --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: How did --
QUESTION: On this issue, on this issue.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: How do you think there's – oh. I don't think it's any secret that different countries have different views on arms embargo. But that has not – and I can assure you of this, having spent many hours over the last two days with all of the ministers – has – it has not changed the unity of the P5+1 in the least.
QUESTION: But is there a single 5+1 position on this issue being given to Iran?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Yes.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Margaret. (Inaudible.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: We stay united while conscious of each other's particular sovereign approaches to these issues.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Margaret.
QUESTION: Thank you for doing this. We often hear U.S. officials say that deadlines can be decision-forcing mechanisms. Do you think that in this case, deadlines can work counter to the interests of the negotiators? There is obvious concern that Iran has flipped the deadline that was set by the Congress and used it against the United States – or at least publicly, they speak to the fact they're more than willing to keep on talking, whereas the sense of rushing has come to the Americans. Can you speak to what your sense of deadline is now, whether there's still the goal to get a deal this week to the U.S. Congress, and what difference that makes?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: So as I said and as was said in a statement released to you all earlier today, we are not rushing to an agreement. We will take what time we need to get the right agreement, and at the same time, we don't particularly think the time necessarily makes any of these decisions easier or helps get them done, and time can even make it more complicated. So we don't feel the pressure of time in the sense of "Oh my gosh, we got to make decisions, we got to make choices, we got to do things, whatever they are, no matter what." That would be ludicrous. And quite frankly, when people say that we're rushing to an agreement, I find it somewhat insulting, quite frankly – to me, to the team, and to the Secretary and to the President. We are responsible negotiators who take the national security of our country very, very seriously, or we wouldn't put ourselves through all of this. And we are going to get the right deal. And we will do it if we can, and if all of the parties at the table can't make the choices to do that, then we won't be able to get there.
QUESTION: Is the goal still to get a deal to the Hill --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: We are taking this a day at a time.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Carol.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: We are not focused on deadlines that have been created here or elsewhere. Plenty of people have written lots of pieces – "just agree to another three to six month extension." We're not doing that. We're not setting a new space. We are taking this a day at a time. We have some technical things we have to do to make sure we have additional days and can continue to do certain things, but that's a technical matter, not a negotiating matter.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) extending the interim.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Mm-hmm.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Carol.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Sure, and then Carol.
QUESTION: -- particular point? Sorry, Carol. At what point, though, do you say we cannot do this? I mean, there must be a point. You must have in your own mind an idea of how long you're willing to give this particular --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: So I don't want to talk about this in particular, but I'll talk about Lausanne, because it's instructive. Lausanne was supposed to be done on March the 30th. We got to March the 30th, and I couldn't tell you on March the 30th whether we were going to get there or not. It could have gone either way. But we thought there was enough there that it was worth staying another day. And then we thought there was enough there to stay one more day. And it came together. So it is really a sense of you always get to a place where you're at a precipice. You're either going to pull back from the precipice, or you're going to go over the cliff. I don't know if that's a good metaphor or not, but anyway – (laughter). So – and in Lausanne, when we didn't know which way it was going to go and everybody was really clear about what they could do and what they could not do, then you find out whether you can punch through those last pieces or you can't. We were able to in Lausanne.
So it's very hard. You know when that moment comes – you know.
QUESTION: So maybe Susan Sarandon should play you. (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Why?
QUESTION: You're a Thelma and Louise (inaudible). (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Oh, yeah, well, no thank you. I have no desire to drive a car off a cliff. (Laughter.)
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Carol and then Andrea.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Or into a canyon, or whatever.
QUESTION: I'm hoping you can clear something up for me, and thank you for doing this.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Sure.
QUESTION: You all have said that you were going to take the necessary steps so that the JPOA, the limits remain in place. But when Mogherini came out today, she seemed to make a point of saying that while you would continue talking, this was not officially (inaudible). Is there some meaning to this that's going over my head? What is --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: No. There is no meaning. We're just – the JPOA will just continue. But in other times of negotiations, we've had a big negotiation about the extension of the JPOA. This is more we've all agreed we'll keep going and take it a day at a time, and if at some point we think we need to do something more than we are doing, we'll deal with it. But we are focused on this negotiation and trying to get the JCPA done. But there was no meaning. The EU has some technical provisions about how they have to do their – even a day or two extension, which probably led her to say that for the benefit of the 28.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Andrea.
QUESTION: I know you're not focused on the calendar. You're --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I'm – actually I'm focused on a hopeful vacation at a lake in August. Yes, I'm focused on that calendar.
QUESTION: That's our focus. We – (laughter) – we're still trying for – to salvage July. I know you're not focused on the calendar --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: This is our second Fourth of July here. We were here last year, too.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes, we were.
QUESTION: I wanted to drill down a bit on the congressional issue, just on the technical side. So at this point, you're assuming there is this 60-day review, not the 30-day review?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, we – no. We're not to the 9th.
QUESTION: Or not? Is there still a window in which you would --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: We'll see. As I said, we're taking this a day at a time. I believe that a deal is possible. I also believe that it is possible we cannot do it.
QUESTION: And what are the – what degree is there concern about that political context, or is that --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: We have to do what we have to do.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: James.
QUESTION: I also wanted to introduce some levity with the not altogether extrinsic fact that today is Ringo Starr's 75th birthday.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Makes me feel young. Great. Thanks, James. (Laughter.) Appreciate that.
QUESTION: He brought – he made the Beatles nuclear. Two questions. First, I want to ask you to draw on your experience as a negotiator and tell us why we shouldn't believe that if you have a tough negotiator sitting across from you who appears hesitant to make very difficult decisions but which are nonetheless clear to all for an extended period of time what they need to be, the willingness on our side to continue providing more time and more time doesn't incentivize that negotiating adversary, if you will, to keep taking more time, and dis-incentivize them from making the tough decisions you're asking them to make. That's the first question.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: So to be very candid, I think that's a way too simplistic notion of a negotiation. Negotiations are much more complex than "are you giving them enough time or are you giving them too much time." There's a lot more that's going on in a negotiation. There are, over the last two days, six ministers who have been here, all of whom have all manner of interests in what's going on here and put all kinds of pressure and incentives on the table to get to a deal. The incentives are not just the ones that are on the table in a negotiation room; there's a whole context that's playing out around you that has an impact on that negotiation. There are politics back home for us; there are politics back home for every single member of the P5+1 and Iran. And they have an impact. So quite frankly, deadline may have less – a time deadline may have less of an impact than what Minister Zarif has to face back home. It may be that another member of the P5+1 has an election coming up, and that is a greater factor on their decision making. It may be that there are events that are going on in the world that create a different context for the negotiation. It may be inside the negotiation room there is an incentive substantively that is very important for the person on the other side of the table, and that is the most compelling thing, not the calendar. Two in the morning may be the time you get something and you couldn't have gotten at four in the afternoon. So to think that there's one element or one dimension of a negotiation that gets something done, to be very direct, is just way too simplistic.
QUESTION: The other question I wanted to ask was that we had heard repeatedly from the podium at the State Department that this was not an agreement about missiles. And yet now we're seeing missiles form a very central part of what's being negotiated. And along those lines, I wanted to bring to your attention what the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, said on April 21st of this year, when he spoke about the economic relief that Iran could be expected to receive. And Mr. Earnest stated, "But that would not include relief from sanctions that are related to their weapons programs. That would not relate to sanctions that relate to human rights or their support for terror."
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Right, and that – we have many of those, as I said, that are unilateral sanctions, and they will all remain in effect. That is correct. The Security Council resolution --
QUESTION: He didn't differentiate, by the way. He didn't – it wasn't saying unilateral --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I can't speak to that, James. I wasn't there and I don't have that in front of me, so I'm not going to speak to that particular quote. I don't know what the context was. But what I will say is that in the 1929, it talks about ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. And it's true, I have even said to Congress in public testimony that this agreement is fundamentally not about Iran's missile program and they have a right to have conventional missiles. What they – we are concerned about are missile technology that become a delivery system for a nuclear weapon, and that is the reason that that is in 1929. It is why that builds on 1737, which addressed missile technology.
So there are places in which missiles are appropriate to this conversation and there're places where missiles are not appropriate to this conversation. And we will take the steps we think are appropriate to the deal we believe is the right and the good deal to get to the President's objective, which is to ensure that Iran's program is exclusively peaceful and that all of the pathways to fissile material are shut down, including covert.
QUESTION: Thank you.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Michael Wilner. Do a few more.
QUESTION: Thanks. Just three very quick ones. One, has the issue of managed access to military sites as the IAEA requests it – has that largely been resolved?
Two, when was the last time you briefed the Israelis? I understand – we reported it was two weeks ago, but did you brief them recently?
And then three, the Russian foreign minister – he mentioned eight sticking points. Where did that number come from?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I have no idea. You'll have to ask the minister.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Ask Lavrov.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Ask Lavrov, who has left, as will Foreign Minister Wang Yi, to go to the BRICS summit.
QUESTION: Who else is leaving? Do you know, just to – is Zarif leaving as well?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Hammond is leaving tonight, and he has the budget tomorrow morning then will come back. I think Fabius is leaving and coming back too, right?
PARTICIPANT: Yeah, he's --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah.
PARTICIPANT: -- (inaudible).
QUESTION: Coming back at 21:45.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: 21:45, there you go.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: No, Zarif is staying.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Zarif is staying, so --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: So --
QUESTION: Are you meeting with Zarif today?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Yes.
QUESTION: The big group?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: No.
QUESTION: One on one?
QUESTION: Just --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Wait, wait, wait. Let me finish.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Guys – yeah.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: How about answering these questions – these three questions that I was just asked.
On access, in order for us to have a good deal, we have to be satisfied on the access question. I believe that we will be. On – and as the AP lays out – for the Additional Protocol, that is managed access.
Israelis, I did have a contact with them – and you'll have to figure out how to do this, since I'm a senior Administration official – soon after I got here. We tried to schedule another contact and we couldn't get schedules to connect. We tried like three times. So I'm sure at some point I'll touch base again with the national security advisor.
And on Minister Lavrov, ask him yourself. It will always be entertaining. (Laughter.)
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Paul.
QUESTION: Regarding Lavrov's question, it does make you wonder whether – are the number of important issues that haven't been resolved, are they dwindling or, because of these things like missiles – the missile embargo and the arms embargo – have other issues been raised in the last few days that are making life more difficult?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, look, we always knew there was going to be a basket of very tough decisions that would have to be made at the ministerial level, and an arms embargo was always going to be one of them – always. Missiles as well. So this is no surprise, and you'd probably be able to guess what the other handful issues are that are tough.
But I think the other thing – and I'd ask my colleagues to come up with an example – why this takes so long and why this is so difficult – let me just give you one small example that readers would probably understand. So you know that we agreed to establish a dedicated procurement channel, because if we're going to have an agreement and we're going to modify the Arak reactor, we're going to change things at Fordow, we're going to change the centrifuges at Natanz, we're going to do new things with the IAEA, that will require things, materials, even permissible technology. And so we decided we'd set up a procurement channel to monitor and approve on a case-by-case basis the transfer to Iran of certain nuclear-related and dual-use materials and technology. Very novel concept, but it will provide a way both to monitor, have a non-proliferation reason, but also a procurement facilitation so that these projects can get done, because otherwise it's going to be very hard to get these projects done.
Implementing such a requirement and such a concept requires agreement on dozens of details in order to implement it – I mean literally more than dozens of details. So who decides whether a transfer is appropriate for the JCPA? Do you set up a separate physical body or do you do it all virtually? Do you utilize mechanisms that have been created at the IAEA or the UN, or do you create something brand new? Once you make a decision, how will we communicate it to international suppliers, shippers, and banks? All those complicated details – who participates, how are decisions made, how long does it take to make the decision, what's the basis on which you make those decisions, how do you reach a decision, by what procedure – all of those things have to be agreed to just on that one item. I mean, and if you think about it, that's hours of negotiation time, most of which has been done by my colleagues before it gets up to my level.
So it's just – it is each one of these things is just layers and layers and layers of details, and the reason the details matter – you could say, okay, we'll deal with that after we come to an agreement. But making these decisions has an impact on the quality of the agreement and the durability of the agreement and whether the agreement is really what you thought you got. So you've got to do them now. You cannot wait. So that's why this takes such an incredible amount of time.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We're just going to do a couple more because of time for people who haven't had them, so I'm going to go Lawrence and then Nick and then we'll end probably back up here.
QUESTION: Thanks, [Senior State Department Official]. [Senior Administration Official One], two questions, one very simple: Is it right to say that you and the U.S. team will not leave here till either there is a deal or this process has broken down? Is that correct?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Or I go to the hospital.
QUESTION: Leave Vienna. You can go to hospital in Vienna. (Laughter.)
And second question: Do we – the IAEA had officials again in Tehran. I think it was yesterday. How does that fit into the (inaudible) together of a final deal here? Do they have to finish their negotiations on PMD with the Iranians and have that all set and done before a final agreement can come together, or is that still a separate process?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I'm not going to answer your question on Vienna because it's a hypothetical and I can think of some variations of it which would not mean that the deal was either done or not done. So I don't think there's a simple answer to your question about when and how we leave Vienna.
QUESTION: Can I amend it, then?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: You can try.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Quickly.
QUESTION: Is there any chance that this carries on through the summer?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: God, we hope not. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: That sounds like a yes.
QUESTION: Or leaves Vienna and goes to another venue.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I can't – guys, I believe we will in the near term either get this deal or find out we can't, but it is very hard to predict these things and it is very hypothetical. And again, what we're going to do is we're either going to get the right deal or find out we can't. And what form that will take, how it will happen – we will know it when we know it.
On the trip by the IAEA to Tehran, I'd urge you to speak with them directly, of course. On the question of PMD in particular, we have always said that we have to have some sense that PMD will be addressed as one of the nuclear steps that Iran will need to deal with before we have the simultaneity of sanctions lifting.
QUESTION: Sorry, [Senior Administration Official One], can I push you on that? Are you saying that PMD therefore has to be nailed down? What the Iranians are deciding with the IAEA has to be nailed down before a final nuclear agreement is completed? That's not quite the same as what you just said.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I would say you should talk with the IAEA.
QUESTION: But on the sanctions thing, just to get it in my head: The major lifting of sanctions that we're talking about, one of the conditions will be --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Addressing PMD, yes.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Nick.
QUESTION: Having established that Mr. Lavrov's mathematics may not be accurate on the figure of eight, he did characterize these issues as requiring polishing. Is that the right word for whatever number of issues are outstanding?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I'm not going to agree or disagree with Foreign Minister Lavrov's characterization.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: That's his characterization and that's how he sees it. It's as legitimate as how any of us see it. I think there are some tough choices that yet have to be made.
QUESTION: More than a polish?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: More than polish.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Okay. Let's end over here --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: There's some polishing as well.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: For folks who haven't had a question yet, because I think we're a little short on time, David and then we're going to end with Karen.
QUESTION: Just as a sanctions question --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: You've already had, like, four, Indira. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: I have one about sanctions.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I know. Choose wisely. Sanger.
QUESTION: Right. Two questions, one narrow and one broader: The question that you were trying to get to on arms sales, it was our – it was my understanding at the time that we were covering the imposition of these sanctions in 2006, then 2007, that while they were part of the nuclear program, they weren't exclusively about the nuclear program – that the impetus for putting some of these conventional arms embargos on were also about Iraq and Iran's behavior elsewhere. So I'm just trying to understand whether or not there is really a clear division here between what is nuclear and what is non-nuclear.
And the broader one is: Do you sense from talking to the Iranians that at this moment, you're so deep in the details that the question of the bigger relationship that might be possible after this agreement is something that is weighing on their minds or not really anymore, that they're really just negotiating about this deal and not about where it could take the United States and Iran in five years or ten years or fifteen years?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: So the UNSCRs that apply to Iran's nuclear program are only – only reference nuclear. So the only reasons referenced in the resolution for any of the provisions of it is that it is nuclear-related, and that's the best I can say about what happened in 2006 and 2007.
QUESTION: Which means that as they come off, they are considered nuclear weapon-related?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: They are the way that the – the way that the resolution is written, yes.
Secondly, I don't think – look, you have seven ministers sitting in a room – six ministers, a high representative – seven ministers and a high representative sitting in a room. They don't live in a vacuum.
QUESTION: A rabbi walks in. (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: A rabbi walks – (laughter) – how many ministers does it take to change a light bulb? Yes, all of those jokes.
But joking aside, of course they understand this lives in a context. Of course everybody wonders what it will mean or not mean if it happens or it doesn't happen. They – they're not just – they don't just live in this one silo. They are all doing things all of the time. I mean, we've spent the weekend with wall-to-wall Greece, and for the Europeans, of course, that is staggeringly consequential. So they understand how all of these things interact with each other and what happens in that regard. So of course it's present. Of course.
QUESTION: Can I just get – can you --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Guys, I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Can I just clarify one thing --
QUESTION: It's clarification of something you said, just --
QUESTION: Iran has said that they are – that they had asked for faster sanctions relief and that they're expecting to get some of their money before the holding is over. Is that at all on the table?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I don't even know what that means – "faster sanctions relief."
QUESTION: They mean that they're expecting to – they're trying to accelerate sanctions relief and they're expecting to get some of their frozen assets unfrozen or other things to happen like (inaudible) --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, the JPOA gives them installments of their frozen assets already, Indira, so --
QUESTION: Okay. Nothing (inaudible).
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: -- I don't know what this particular issue is talking about.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Karen, really the last question. Thank you.
QUESTION: I have one specific follow-up on David's question and then a more general question. I still don't understand the – when the UN resolution said that – referred to ballistic missiles, and just looking – you said that they all referred to the nuclear program. I believe that's what --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: It's the basis for the provisions that are in the resolution.
QUESTION: The – but just looking at the fact sheet from Lausanne, it says "Important restrictions on conventional arms and ballistic missiles" --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Mm-hmm.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: "Will continue."
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: "Will continue."
QUESTION: -- et cetera, et cetera – "will also be incorporated" in the resolution.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: "Will continue." Yes.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So what are the ballistic missile provisions that will be incorporated in the new resolution --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: That remains to be seen, doesn't it?
QUESTION: -- that are non-nuclear? Are there non-nuclear ballistic missile provisions in UN resolutions?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: The appropriate things that would be any continuing restrictions would be something that is appropriate to what we are trying to achieve here, which is that Iran is not able to obtain a nuclear weapon.
QUESTION: So can I clarify further? So if something is conventional and not a – I'm sorry. You're (inaudible).
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Go ahead.
QUESTION: I just wanted to clarify that. I mean --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: A country – as I said to you earlier, this is not a missile negotiation, and countries are allowed to have a conventional missile program. That said, there are provisions in the Security Council resolutions that address both technology and missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons as part of the nuclear-related bases of those resolutions. And that is what we are addressing.
QUESTION: But what about non --
QUESTION: But then when it says they will be incorporated in the new resolution --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: What that means is there will be continued restrictions in this area, and we have always said that.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: In the new resolution.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: In the new resolution.
QUESTION: And my broader question actually goes back to what James asked in terms of time, whether more time gets you where you want to go. And you spoke of the various elements that are influencing various negotiators – political pressure from home, upcoming elections – all of those things that are – are going to exist whether there's more time or not. So how does (inaudible) --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I'm just saying at any point in time – at any point in time, those things have an impact on what the people in the room are thinking about and may play into the negotiation one way or another. And they change as the calendar changes, so what might have been relevant six months ago when we were at one point in this negotiation aren't relevant anymore at this point in the negotiation.
My only point to that is that a negotiation is what's happening in the room at every level, all of which are different. The context in which that negotiation is taking place, what's happening in the world, what's happening domestically for each of the principals at home – a negotiation does not happen just in a closed room cut off from everything else that's going on. They don't. You all asked me for months whether the Ukraine situation was making the Russians behave differently. To their credit, they have been very constructive, they have been very focused, they have really stayed inside the room. But it could have been otherwise. It could have been otherwise.
QUESTION: I guess I would ask: If we're talking about a matter of days here, what's going to change outside of the room?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I don't know.
QUESTION: The temperature?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Okay. Thank you.
QUESTION: I just – there's just one thing she said – wait a minute.
QUESTION: Can I just – I want to clarify one thing --
QUESTION: Wait a minute. There's one thing you said and if I don't get (inaudible).
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Okay. I'm going to do the two of you. I swear to God, no questions after that. I'll do both of you.
QUESTION: I have to go.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Okay, Andrea. Go first, then, and then I'll do Laura.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: You'll have another chance too.
QUESTION: I'm just confused about the distinction in the previous UN resolutions between ballistic missiles and other conventional weapons.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Do you want to take it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Sure. So --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: He knows the UNSCRs better than I do.
QUESTION: As to what will be wrapped up in this new one?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Oh.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I'm not going to talk about what's going to --
QUESTION: Oh, okay. Okay.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: -- be wrapped up in this new one, Andrea. I'm not.
QUESTION: Okay, okay, okay. The distinction of --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Right. So --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: We can tell you about history.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: This goes exactly to David's question, is the rationale for which these sanctions were put in place, which was to address Iran's nuclear program. So you shouldn't – look, it's not necessarily what the sanction does or what it prohibits; it is why it was put in place. And these sanctions were put in place in order to put enough pressure on Iran in order so that it would negotiate over its nuclear program. And these resolutions even lay out a pathway, a roadmap, to resolving the nuclear issue. So that is the basis for those sanctions.
QUESTION: The rationale, not the content of the resolutions.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Right.
QUESTION: Got it, okay.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Laura, last question.
QUESTION: I was trying to clarify if I heard you correctly. On access, in order for us to have a good deal, something – we have to be satisfied we have good access, and I believe that we will be? Will you – because that would be a big deal if access has been --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I said to have the right deal, to have a good deal, we said in Lausanne – this is nothing new, it's in the parameters in Lausanne – that we need to make sure – and in the case of the Additional Protocol, it's managed access – that if the IAEA feels that it has a justifiable reason to go for a visit someplace, that they are able to do so.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Great. Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Okay.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I'm going to stay and talk a little bit about logistics.
QUESTION: Can we now file, though? The embargo is lifted?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Embargo – the embargo is lifted --
QUESTION: All right.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: -- to use a phrase from today.
QUESTION: Could you just explain, who was it that met with Zarif today?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The Secretary met with him very briefly this morning.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Okay. Okay. Thank you.
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