September 27, 2013

U.S., Iran hold first major meeting since 1979 revolution

By PAUL RICHTER Tribune Washington Bureau

(Continued from page 1)

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Seated at the table from left, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton attend a meeting of the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany during the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered formal support for the talks, but he also called Rouhani a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and warned against giving away too much.

At home, Obama faces warnings from a Congress that is united in anti-Iran zeal as on few issues.

The gap between Obama and Congress on Iran could provoke an all-out battle if the president starts making concessions.

But some Democrats close to the White House say they believe Obama is excited by the opportunity to make headway on the long Iranian standoff. Some expect him to sidestep Congress by using executive powers to ease sanctions, and note that, as a second-term president, he is somewhat insulated from political backlash.

Iran, aware that Congress may be a roadblock, seems to be preparing to ask for an easing of sanctions that can be granted without lawmakers’ agreement. The Iranian press has reported in recent weeks that the Islamic Republic wants to be reconnected to a Belgium-based financial network called SWIFT that allows countries to move their money around the globe.

Battered by the loss of oil income, Iran is also struggling to access money it is holding overseas.

The United States and allies are likely to be looking for other concessions from Iran to reduce the immediate threat from its nuclear program, which some governments fear may be only months from attaining nuclear weapons know-how.

The West wants Iran to close down its bomb-resistant underground nuclear facility at Fordow; halt operations at a plutonium facility; ship out its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium, which could be rapidly turned into bomb fuel; and halt all uranium enrichment.

But although Iran has signaled some willingness to reduce its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium and to offer more “transparency” in its program, Rouhani has not yet embraced a concept that is key to any deal: an acknowledgment that Iran is willing to accept limits on its nuclear program.

Aaron David Miller, a longtime U.S. diplomat in the Middle East who is now a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, wrote Thursday in a Los Angeles Times op-ed that the new round of negotiations is going to be “a wild and unpredictable ride.” He also said: “If you like happy Hollywood endings, go to the movies.”

 

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