Iran’s heavy water nuclear facilities near the central city of Arak. Photo by AP /ISNA,Hamid Foroutan
In light of their November 2014 failure to bridge the gaps and arrive at an agreement, Iran and the P5+1 group together decided to extend the validity of the November 24, 2014 Geneva Joint Plan of Action by an additional six months, to June 2015.
Following this agreement, the U.S. planned a two-stage continuation of the talks, as follows:
1. Three months (by the end of March 2015) to reach a framework agreement
2. Three additional months (by the end of June 2015) to agree on the technical specifications of this agreement.
However, in a February 18, 2015 speech, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei announced that he completely disagreed with this procedure, and determined that an agreement would be arrived at not in two stages but in one stage to be completed by the end of June 2015, and that the agreement would include the removal of all sanctions on Iran. This means that the March 31, 2015 deadline is completely unimportant to Khamenei.
The U.S. is disregarding Khamenei’s announcement, and is attempting, without success, to force Iran into the two-stage process that it set out. Iran is refusing to sign any interim document, and for this reason Western foreign ministers involved in the negotiations, such as U.K. Foreign Minister Phillip Hammond, are saying that understandings which might be reached at this stage will only be oral ones.
It should be emphasized that Iran has not backed down in any way, at any stage, from the positions with which it began the talks:
1. Tehran rejects the removal of its enriched uranium from Iran.
2. Tehran rejects a gradual lifting of the sanctions.
3. Tehran rejects restriction of the number of its centrifuges.
4. Tehran rejects intrusive inspections and snap inspections.
5. Tehran rejects any halt to its research and development activity.
6. Tehran rejects any change to the nature of its heavy water reactor at Arak.
7. Tehran rejects any closure of its secret enrichment site at Fordow.
8. Tehran rejects all restrictions to its nuclear activity following the agreement’s expiration.
9. Tehran rejects the inclusion of its long-range missile program in the negotiations.
10. Tehran rejects reporting on its previous clandestine military nuclear activity.
11. Tehran rejects allowing inspections of military sites suspected of conducting nuclear activity.