Press Call: Iran Nuclear Talks, Drafting a Final Deal

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Press Call: Iran Nuclear Talks, Drafting a Final Deal

 Iran Nuclear Talks: Drafting a Final Deal

Wednesday, May 14, 2014
11:00 AM Eastern Time

Negotiators from the six world powers and Iran are meeting in Vienna to begin drafting a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. The panelists on this call will discuss prospects for the negotiations, essential elements of a final agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, and the effects of domestic politics on the international negotiations.


Laicie Heeley
Director of Middle East and Defense Policy, Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation
Heeley’s work focuses on weapons proliferation, defense analysis, and Iran. She has published several reports on Iran’s nuclear capabilities and the effects of sanctions. Heeley has been a frequent contributor to CNN and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Foreign Policy.

Trita Parsi
President, National Iranian American Council   
Parsi is an expert on US-Iranian relations, Iranian foreign politics, and the geopolitics of the Middle East.  A frequent guest on CNN, PBS’s Newshour with Jim Lehrer, NPR, the BBC, and Al Jazeera, he is the author of two books: A Single Roll of the Dice – Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran (Yale University Press 2012) and Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel and the United States (Yale University Press, 2007).

Jim Walsh
Research Associate, MIT Security Studies Program
Walsh’s research and writings focus on international security, particularly nuclear weapons and terrorism. He has testified before the United States Senate of nuclear terrorism and on Iran’s nuclear program, and is one of a handful of Americans who has met with U.S. and Iranian leaders, including President Rouhani, Foreign Minister Zarif, and Secretary of State Kerry, on U.S.-Iran nuclear issues. Dr. Walsh’s comments and analysis have appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, and Reuters.


John Bradshaw
Executive Director, National Security Network
Bradshaw previously served as the Executive Director of the Enough Project at the Center for American Progress, the Washington Director of Physicians for Human Rights, and the coordinator of the Human Rights Leadership Coalition. He is a former Foreign Service Officer and served in Venezuela, Brazil, and Burma, as well as in the State Department’s East Asia and Human Rights bureaus.


To listen to the press call, click here

Please note that the audio for the call starts at 00:12:20.



JOHN BRADSHAW: Good morning everyone. I am John Bradshaw, the Executive Director of the National Security Network. Our call today will deal with the ongoing negotiations between the P5+1 countries and Iran. As you know, they have resumed high-level negotiations this week in Vienna, and are starting the process of drafting a final, comprehensive agreement. Our panelists today will deal with all aspects of that.

Our first panelist is Jim Walsh, Research Associate at MIT’s Security Studies Program. Our next panelist is Laicie Heeley who is the Director of Middle East and Defense Policy at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. And then we will have Trita Parsi who is the President of the National Iranian American Council. Jim will talk a bit about what we can expect in a final deal, some of the ways we can assess that, why the concept of breakout time is not the proper frame for assessing the agreement. Laicie will talk about some of what has been going on on Capitol Hill here in Washington, how a deal is likely to be received there. Trita will then speak about internal Iranian views on this and reactions, as well as more on the issue of sanctions relief on the U.S. side and more on the Hill aspect of it.

JIM WALSH: Good morning everyone, thank you for taking the time to join this conversation. I’m going first, I think, because I’m going to be doing more in the way of context-setting and thinking about how we assess whether an agreement is sufficient and worth it when you do the costs and the benefits, but first, where we are. I’m sure some of you saw or participated in the briefing that came earlier from U.S. officials. There seems to be a little less enthusiasm—at least that’s the message they’re trying to send. They did make progress, it would appear, on Arak and on other issues, but the size of the centrifuge program seems to be one of the core issues that will require hard negotiations. And I think most discussion in the U.S. of the size—what’s required, what’s the minimum and maximum size, number of centrifuges, separated work units, however you measure it—much of that debate has been framed by the question of breakout. And I’ve been rather troubled by our discussion of it. Breakout is an important issue, every agreement should be assessed in terms of looking at the risk of breakout, but breakout is only one issue in many issues, and much of the discussion of breakout seems pretty flawed and ahistorical.

This is not the first case of a nuclear proliferation negotiation, and it’s not the first case of a negotiation with a difficult partner. And when you look at the record of these agreements, and there’s a pretty long record here, spanning decades, do they tend to succeed or do they tend to fail? How do they fail? When do they fail? Well, the record is pretty good. We had agreements with Libya, with Argentina and Brazil when they decided to shut down their nuclear programs in a mutual agreement with each other, the denuclearization agreement with South Africa and Ukraine, the NPT and all the dozens of countries that were thinking about nuclear weapons but did not become nuclear weapons states. So that historical record is one in which breakout is incredibly rare. There’s one example of breakout amongst all those agreements that I mentioned involving dozens of states and decades over time, and that’s North Korea. Now, again, breakout is one way that an agreement can fail, it can fail in other ways. So my position is that, as we look at this agreement, we need to look at its costs and benefits compared to the alternatives, compared to what would happen if we don’t have an agreement, but we also need to assess the agreement in terms of trying to minimize failure and trying to maximize success. And instead what we’ve had a conversation about is only about avoiding failure and then, within that category of avoiding failure, only talking about breakout as one of the causes for the potential failure of an agreement. I think that’s just incredibly narrow and therefore deeply problematic.

Let me talk for a minute about breakout. As you know, breakout, at least in the current vernacular, is defined as a country producing one significant quantity—1 SQ—of fissile material, either highly enriched uranium or plutonium; in other words, one bomb’s worth of material. A country is said to have broken out if it produces one such quantity. And, as I said, breakout is extremely rare in the international system and it’s a definition that itself is flawed. There’s no country that I know of, as someone who studies nuclear decision-making, there’s no country in the history of the nuclear age that has broken out with the purpose of developing one bomb’s worth of material. The smallest arsenal is probably North Korea, if you’re willing to call that an arsenal, I think that’s 6 to 8. South Africa was in those numbers. So if you produce only one significant quantity of material and then kick out all the inspectors or whatever, what do you do if you test? Then you don’t have any material left over for an actual weapon. So it’s an arcane technical term that doesn’t really speak to reality. Any normal program is going to make at least two or three weapons’ worth of material, which would double or triple your breakout time.

I think you also have to characterize the risk. It can’t just be purely theoretical. So you have to ask yourself, does Iran look like a good candidate for breakout, when you look at its past deceptions and the history of the program, does it look like a good candidate? And I think the answer is: not really. The DNI has testified that they have not yet made a decision on whether to pursue nuclear weapons, so it’s not like they’ve made it and are waiting to break out, they haven’t made it. This program is decades old, it started in the 1980s, it has not been a race to the bomb by any stretch of the imagination. And you’d think if they were going to break out they’d do it before signing a new agreement that had onerous verification. If I’m a country and I’m going to break out, I’d do it now, I wouldn’t wait until the rules were harder and inspection was greater. So, again, it has to be treated as a possibility, but it’s just one possibility and there are a lot of other possibilities that lead to problems, and we should attend to all of them and then also try to make the agreement as sustainable and as likely to succeed as possible. That’s the other half of the conversation that no one’s having. I’ve probably gone on too far, but I’m happy to pursue these issues, breakout and how better to overall assess an agreement and what the historical record tells us about our likelihood of success in question and answer.

BRADSHAW: Thanks a lot, Jim. We’ll now turn it over to Laicie Heeley from the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation. Go ahead, Laicie.

LAICIE HEELEY: Thanks, John, and thank you, Jim. I’m going to talk a little bit about what’s been going on on the Hill just recently and some of what I see going on and how I think a potential deal—since we seem to be getting much closer—could play out, and I think Trita will go into more detail on some of those issues.

I think Jim makes a lot of really great points about breakout, and I agree with them completely. Unfortunately, most folks on the Hill won’t care. They are going to be very concerned about both the timeline of sanctions relief and the enrichment capacity issue. I think that folks will need a way to explain to their constituencies that Iran is contained in some way that is not necessarily as nuanced as a lot of us on the nonproliferation side would generally go into detail about that issue. So it’s going to be an issue, but I do see things shifting. Enrichment capacity is important on the Hill. Some of the other issues that I think are going to come into play:

Past military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program. This, I think, should be seen as a separate track. This is something that IAEA is dealing with, this is something that’s happened in the past. This is essentially us asking Iran to admit what it’s done in the past. And really, the admission of guilt isn’t going to help in keeping us safe for the future. So that is one that can be dealt with a little more easily.

Ballistic missile capability is also going to be an issue on the Hill. Also, again, I see this as a separate track. I think that restraining Iran’s nuclear program remains the highest priority and ultimately, without a nuclear weapon, Iran cannot deliver a nuclear weapon with a ballistic missile. So, while I think that the U.S. and its partners will seek to limit Iran’s ballistic missile capability and further R&D on all of these things that it shouldn’t be allowed to be the thing that essentially kills negotiations. We have to make sure that Iran’s nuclear program is contained, and obviously these other things are still a concern for the future, but ultimately we have to take one step before we can take the rest.

So right now on the Hill we are dealing with the defense authorization and the ongoing budget process, and I will say just recently, having just watched the NDAA go through committee in the House, it was an interesting dynamic, very different from other years. Representative Lamborn (R-CO) did offer an amendment that constrains Iran’s nuclear program—it’s a Sense of Congress amendment, so it doesn’t legally constrain Iran’s nuclear program, but it does express the concern that no deal be made without Iran’s program being completely dismantled, and this is something that we’ve heard in the past and an issue that’s come up. The vote in committee, however, was very obviously split. I think—watching on television, of course, I can’t tell exactly, and there was no roll call vote taken—but watching the committee I think that it was split right down the middle, I think I would have even potentially put the vote more on the against side than for. And that’s very different than the past. In the past we had a hard time even gaining Democratic support for the administration’s position on Iran. So I think that’s a major shift on the Hill—especially in the House, it’s not something that we’ve seen before.

I think also we’re seeing the effects of constituencies’ war fatigue. I think that offices are taking this into consideration when they’re thinking about having to deal with rolling back sanctions and dealing with an eventual deal. We’re hearing more people say that they’re preparing ways to explain this than we’re hearing that they’re preparing ways to fight it, although of course we will see people fight, there are certain congress people that will be opposed to a deal no matter what it says. But I do think that in addition to those two things there’s a fear of breaking apart the international coalition and potentially losing all of the progress that we’ve made with sanctions so far, and there’s also the knowledge that sanctions can be put back into place in no time at all and that Congress would obviously act probably in a matter of hours should something happen to put those back into place and to deal probably even more measures out on Iran.

So I do see the climate shifting. That’s not to say that it’s not going to be very complicated. And I think I’ll turn it over to Trita now to talk a little bit about how complicated it is going to be.

TRITA PARSI: Thank you very much. Let me first start off by making a comment on a broader issue, which is I think we should have the expectation that, in this round, the two sides are going to run into some problems. The positive tone in the past, I think, has been valid, but they also never really got into some of the toughest issues, and they are starting to do that now. This is, however, the very natural, nonlinear rhythm of all negotiations. I don’t think it is a cause for any particular concern. It is just an inevitable part of negotiations. And part of the reason I don’t think it is a concern is that the political will and desire on both sides to reach a deal seems to be not only to be tremendously strong but also very symmetric.

On the Iranian side, Rouhani has essentially—I don’t want to use the word gambled—but the negotiations over the nuclear issue are the core issue of his entire presidency. If this fails, and if it fails because there is a perception in the international community that Iran cannot live up to the agreement, that it wasn’t flexible enough, then that will be the end of Rouhani’s presidency as a capable and influential president. He will essentially turn into a lame duck. I’m confident that this is not what Rouhani’s intending to do, and as a result he has successfully so far made sure he has a tremendous degree, an unprecedented degree, of political protection for the negotiation. That doesn’t mean he’s protected in other areas, whether it’s the economy or cultural issues, but on the nuclear negotiations we’ve never seen an Iranian negotiating team being as protected and insulated from political attacks as they are today. This, however, will only last as long as there is a perception in Tehran that things are moving in the right direction and that the prospects for a deal are sufficient to warrant that degree of protection for the negotiations.

And this is where I think one of the problems with sanctions relief is coming in, in the sense that so far the Iranians have either not received the sanctions relief in practical terms that they were promised or it’s essentially come way too late, which is largely an issue of the function of the fact that the sanctions regime has intimidated banks from partaking in any transactions with Iran, even permissible transactions. There’s been a lot of fuzziness in the laws, and at the same time the penalties for violating them have been astronomical, which has caused most banks to essentially make the calculation that it’s not worthwhile, from a business standpoint, to engage in any transactions with Iran because the cost of a mistake is too high and the cost of investigating whether it’s permitted or not is also extremely high. If this psychological sanctions war is not starting to fall apart or be reduced to the degree and at the pace that the administration would like, and the Iranians are not receiving the benefits of a deal faster than they are right now, then I would start getting worried that the political insulation of the negotiations that has existed on the Iranian side would start to disintegrate, and that could be very bad. It would essentially mean that the U.S. side would no longer know that they are negotiating with a team that can deliver.

Moreover, it would create a significant danger for the United States, which is if the perception internationally is that the negotiations stumbled as a result of failure on the U.S. side to live up to its end of the bargain, then that would also cause the international consensus against Iran to start disintegrating, and that would open up a whole new set of challenges for the U.S. and the administration. I don’t think this was seen as a very imminent problem early on, because there wasn’t an expectation that the negotiations would proceed as fast as they have or that there actually would be a symmetric desire to finish things before July. Now, when we see that that symmetry has come into place, I think the administration is quickly getting more serious about this but also discovering that it is a very, very tricky issue. And that’s just talking about using waivers, etc. That’s not even touching upon difficulty of actually trying to get sanctions lifted as part of a final deal through congressional action. I’ll stop there.

BRADSHAW: Thank you very much Trita, and also Jim and Laicie. We’ll open up the lines for questions now. Please state your name and your media outlet, those that are not asking questions please keep your phones on mute. We’ll open it up now and take the first question.

While we wait for any questions—I know we have a number of reporters on the call, they should feel free to break in at any time—let me ask a moderator’s question. There has been a lot of concern that certain members on the Hill are going to try to add a number of conditions that are not related to the nuclear issue to any legislation that would lift sanctions or would move in the direction of lifting sanctions. I think Laicie mentioned the ballistic missile issue, but there’s also a concern about human rights issues and terrorism issues being added into the mix. And I wonder how you can assess, any of you, how that issue should be dealt with and what the complications are with those kinds of extraneous issues being added in?

HEELEY: Yes, I can definitely comment on that. The Lamborn Amendment that was added to the Defense Authorization Act actually does include a provision that Iran cease being a state sponsor of terrorism prior to negotiating a deal. Of course, most folks who look at this, who are in Washington and paying attention to this issue laugh at something like that, because Iran can’t necessarily fix all of its human rights issues and fix every concern we’ve ever had in the past prior to ever fixing this biggest issue, this  priority issue being nuclear weapons. So I think what we all have to see is that if that is the priority—and while some of these other issues could potentially follow, and we hope that they do follow—obviously getting Iran’s nuclear program in check, and having the verification measures in there and being able to watch their nuclear program to ensure it doesn’t advance any further and that everything continues to stay the way it is, is really the priority. And I think that some folks who would add some of these measures in are not seeing that.

On the other side, in committee, we did see Representative Adam Smith (D-WA) stand up and give a very convincing argument as to why we shouldn’t be placing these sorts of conditions or moving the goalposts in the midst of negotiations, and I think there is a large contingent in Congress that understands that this is not realistic and that this is a negotiation—this isn’t a one-sided negotiation, we have to come to an agreement somewhere in the middle—and that Congress has a role in these negotiations, and a very important one, but it can’t try to essentially run the negotiations itself from the outside. So I think we do have this split, and I think we will see these kinds of amendments, and they will likely be Sense of Congress amendments that are not legally binding, and that they’ll be an issue to Iranians who see that happening on the outside, but ultimately I don’t see those particular issues being the ones that Congress uses to scuttle a deal.

WALSH: Can I jump in on that? Just to put it again in context, obviously some folks who are proposing legislation, some are not interested in having any agreement whatsoever and some authentically want to support the negotiation process and think that the legislation helps because it’s “good cop, bad cop” or backing up the President’s threats. I would say that if you’re in Tehran, and if you’re looking across the table from your negotiating partner, that looks like breakout. That fits a lot of narratives that Iranians have that the U.S. wants regime change, and doesn’t care about nuclear, and it’ll say nuclear but if it’s not nuclear it’s going to be human rights or something else, but the bottom line is they want regime change and they’ll use any excuse they can to get it. And so if the other side of the negotiating table is taking a lot of actions that look like they want to circumvent the agreement, or look like they want to kill the agreement, than guess what? You’re not going to be very confident about that. That looks like breakout. Remember that the U.S. broke out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty when President Bush walked away from the Treaty. And if you’re in Iran and you see that the other side is acting a lot like breakout, then that affects your calculations and what you’re willing to give up in the negotiations. So there’s another dimension to this. This seems to be only portrayed as something about being tougher with the Iranians, or threatening the Iranians more so it will help with the negotiations, but when in fact it has exactly the opposite effect.

BRADSHAW: Thanks Jim and Laicie on that. Any questions from reporters on the call?

DEBORAH AMOS (NPR): If there is a successful agreement in July, what will we see? What will be the first indication – will it be internal to Iran, external, is it banking differences—could you just address what we’ll see?

WALSH: Sure, I’m sure all three of us can do that. I think on the nuclear side what you’ll see is greater implementation and expansion of the JPA, the Joint Plan of Action. Obviously there will be some differences too, there will be facilities that are mothballed, the total number of centrifuges that are running will be more modest. There will be some sort of agreement on what to do about R&D and missiles. But in terms of the sort of day-to-day behavior – what you’ll see is sort of locking in the gains of the JPA, which means no 20% limits on low-enriched material that can be stockpiled. And the IAEA, which said it was going to have to double its staff for the JPA, will probably have to have another big jump in staff because they’re going to have to go in and verify it and also complete the process of implementing the additional protocols. So more or less on the nuclear side it’s going to be an extension of stuff that’s already started—some of it will be new, but most of it’s an extension either into new areas or greater transparency and frequency of visits.

On the other side, I think you’re not going to see a vote in Congress to remove sanctions—I think the President’s going to do that, he’ll exercise executive authority—and there’s been some chatter about the first order of business being to try to free up some of Iran’s own money. You’ll know they got several tranches of that in the Joint Plan of Action; the idea is that might be the thing where the spigot could be turned on the fastest in terms of Iran seeing some real results in terms of sanctions relief. Because some of the other sanctions relief—certainly the UN and the other stuff–is going to take time. But Trita and Laicie may have better insights into that.

PARSI: If I may add a couple of things. I agree with Jim on this. When it comes to the sanctions relief, obviously it’s going to start off with waivers but my impression based on conversations is that the administration is going to seek congressional action within the next two years for the very simple reason that this is going to end up being a critical component of Obama’s legacy, and as a result he needs to complete it himself rather than putting the final touches and the final decisive steps in the hands of the next president. Moreover, you’re not going to see any significant concessions from the Iranians in an early phase unless they know that there are steps taken towards lifting sanctions in a timely manner—even though it may not come immediately, but if it’s going to be postponed until much later I fear that the Iranians are not going to put very impressive concessions on the table.

What will happen in Iran, I think, will be very interesting. The balance of power domestically in Iran constantly changes, but every once in a while there are some significant developments that really alter the balance of power. Obviously the elections tend to be the most important ones, and the election last year really altered the balance of power within Iran’s domestic elite and brought to the fore people who have actually been completely marginalized for the last couple of years, people like Zarif himself, who was an advisor to Mousavi in 2009. It’s going to be very interesting to see what a final deal does to the domestic balance of power.

It will probably be very significant, perhaps not as significant as the elections but it will have a tremendous impact, and the momentum will clearly be on the side of Rouhani then. I think the real question is: how far will he be able to go to cement the gains that the pragmatics and reformists have been able to make since the elections, and make sure that the political space that he now has on the negotiations, on the nuclear matter, can then expand onto political maneuverability on a whole set of other issues—particularly human rights, cultural issues—that are very important issues to the domestic audience in Iran?

Moreover, will it also spill over in order to enable the Foreign Ministry to have more impact, say, on some of the regional questions that the U.S. and Iran tend to disagree on, issues that right now are under the control of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) or other elements of the Iranian government and not the Foreign Ministry? Will the Foreign Ministry be able to expand its role there and, as a result of that, will it mean a different posture on those issues as well and not just on the nuclear issue?

HEELEY: I’ll just add quickly that I do think we will see a push to have some sort of action on the Hill, and I think that there’s an ever-expanding understanding on the Hill that there will need to be some action. Of course, there’s no guarantee once we get there. Timing is going to matter a lot. We’re in a midterm election year, and I imagine that should we have an agreement in July there will be contentious debate and that we will likely start with waiver authority and potentially put it off for some time, but eventually Congress will want to weigh in. Congress has shown a rabid desire to weigh in on this issue and will want to, and I think that that will happen eventually.

BRADSHAW: Thanks, Laicie. I might just add that it is now clear in recent days and weeks that the administration is aware not only that they have to go to Congress on this, but that there will be a big fight there. I think up until recently they were pretty sanguine that if they proposed a good deal Congress would just rubber-stamp that, but that is no longer their perception from what I’ve heard from people in the administration. So I think there’s a healthy recognition that they need to really work closely with Congress to move this forward. I believe that Zaid Benjamin from Radio Sawa has a question.

ZAID BENJAMIN (RADIO SAWA): My question is: Yesterday we saw that Saudi Arabia is inviting Mr. Zarif to visit Riyadh. Isn’t this an indication that the negotiations are on the right track, if we took into consideration that Saudi Arabia is informed well on the negotiations?

WALSH: I think they’re unrelated events but they’re both helpful and mutually reinforcing events. In other words, I think this foreign policy team has come into Iran and when you look at the fact that the Foreign Minister’s first visit was in the region, they’re very regionally focused. And historically, when pragmatists in Iran have tried to open the door to better communication with Saudi Arabia, typically the Saudis, even with their regional rivalry, have listened. And hopefully that will move into a more constructive relationship. Anything that progresses in that bilateral regional relationship would make the nuclear negotiations easier. But I think that’s the arrow. It’s not that the nuclear negotiations are going to make the Saudi-Iranian relationship easier; it’s that as both states try to recalibrate their bilateral relations that can create a more positive environment for trying to create progress on the nuclear issue. Trita?

PARSI: If I could add something that’s perhaps a bit more optimistic, is that I think, at a minimum, it indicates that from the Saudi side there’s a likelihood that they have come to terms with the fact that there’s a likelihood that the negotiations will succeed and that the posture that they’ve held so far would be to their own detriment if there was a success in the negotiations. And some internal changes that have occurred in Saudi Arabia in the last couple of weeks may also have made it easier to make this shift, because Zarif has tried to go to Saudi Arabia on a few occasions and has not been received. But now, publicly, the Saudis are agreeing to essentially extending an invitation to him. So that is an important development.

REZA AKHLAGHI (FOREIGN POLICY ASSOCIATION): I would like to know—perhaps Trita can also contribute to this—what are the hardliners’ key concerns in Iran? What are they afraid of losing? If the economy gets better as a result of the removal of or easing of sanctions, it’s good for every Iranian, everybody knows that, things are bound to get better. So if you could specifically underline their key concerns–the hardliners in Iran—what are the specific things that they are afraid of losing as a result of reestablishing relations with the United States and better relations with the West?

PARSI: I think one has to recognize that there are several different groupings within the hardliners. Some of them are mostly worried about the change in the domestic balance that will take place if there is a successful deal. They have already lost much influence as a result of the elections. Will this then be further reducing their influence, and perhaps making it very difficult for them to make a comeback? So to a very large extent it’s political. Similarly, you have a situation on Capitol Hill in which certain Republicans are opposing a deal, not because they have anything particularly against a deal, but because they are out there to make sure that President Obama does not get a success on anything. And you have the exact same type of phenomenon amongst some opponents of a deal in Iran.

Others are more concerned that this will be the first step towards a much larger reorientation of Iranian foreign policy, which they oppose for various different reasons, in which the U.S. and Iran would come closer to terms with each other. And the balance that seems to exist in the thinking of most people in Tehran is that, even after a deal, the U.S. and Iran would continue to be rivals, but it could be a positive rivalry, it could be a rivalry in which there is a lot of collaboration in certain areas, even strategic collaboration in certain areas, but Iran would never position itself to be a competitor with Saudi or Israel or Turkey who would try to be America’s best friend in the region. And part of the reason why they wouldn’t go in that direction, there’s a complexity of issues, but part of it is precisely the opposition from certain hardline elements, that they just don’t want to go in that direction, they’d rather gain power by being a challenger to the United States rather than be below the United States in a relationship.

BRADSHAW: Any other questions from reporters on the call? Well, okay, if we don’t have any further questions, we can go ahead and wrap up the call. If any reporters want access to the audio transcript we will post that later, and you can also be in touch with our staff Kate Brown at the National Security Network. I also want to thank Laicie Heeley, Trita Parsi and Jim Walsh for their participation, and to all the reporters that joined us today. We will wrap up and finish the call.

For press inquires or questions concerning this call, please contact Kate Brown at


Photo Credit: Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman participates in the P5+1 talks on Iran’s nuclear program in Vienna, Austria on April 8, 2014 [State Department photo, 4/8/14]

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A-10 Thunderbolt II at Barksdale Air Force Base, La. [U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Micaiah Anthony, 4/9/13]The NNSA removes last remaining highly enriched uranium (HEU) from the Czech Republic in April 2013, a major nonproliferation milestone reached with the close coordination of Russia. [National Nuclear Security Administration, 3/24/13]