Nuclear negotiations in Geneva between major world powers and Iran picked up again Saturday morning, with all signs pointing towards a deal that would limit Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanction relief that's close to completion.
The P5+1 countries — China, Russia, France, U.K., U.S. and Germany — reconvened early Saturday morning to continue working on a deal. Deputies and staffers have handled negotiations over the last few days. But Saturday morning, Secretary of State John Kerry, on his second Geneva visit in two weeks, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and the other top diplomats joined the fray . Many see Kerry and Lavrov's attendance as a likely sign a deal is near completion, if not imminent.
"We are not here because things are necessarily finished," British foreign minister William Hague told reporters. "There is a huge amount of agreement...(But) the remaining gaps are important and we will be turning our attention to those over coming hours. They remain very difficult negotiations."
We already know the deal to come out of Geneva will be a short-term commitment, designed to appease both sides enough to facilitate an opportunity for a larger, expanded deal down the road. Iran seemingly wants this deal to happen. After making a deal with U.N. nuclear inspectors for increased access to (some) of the country's nuclear facilities, the country also removed an anti-American billboard campaign in Tehran. Small steps designed to show the west it's ready to make a deal. According to this report in The New York Times, Iran is being asked to:
- Cap uranium enrichment at 3.5 percent enrichment and dilute or eliminate its existing stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium.
- Delay construction on the Arak heavy-water reactor, which could potentially produce plutonium when finished, for six months.
- Hold off installation of advanced centrifuges that could, in theory, expedite the construction of a nuclear weapon.
In exchange for those nuclear rollbacks, The New York Times separately reports Iran will gain access to a frozen $3.6 billion in oil revenue currently held in foreign banks. Additionally, some relief from crippling sanctions that will boost the Iranian economy:
The other calculation is that if Tehran is allowed to sell some petrochemicals, its second-largest export at roughly $11 billion last year, and to build autos from kits brought into the country, the Iranian economy will begin to create new jobs.
Iran will gain roughly $10 billion in economic stimulus if this deal is agreed upon. Nothing is set in stone yet, and all points are fluid. But many think they're close and that this is the skeleton of a deal that could actually be signed by all countries. Not everyone will be happy with the results. Israel, for instance, opposes any deal that allows Iran to continue enriching uranium. But the major powers are pushing for this piece meal deal with the intent of negotiating larger rollbacks to Iran's nuclear program further down the road. Something even Israel would think is a good idea.