Background Briefing on Nuclear Nonproliferation Efforts with Regard to Iran and the Brazil/Turkey Agreement
What we thought we’d try to accomplish here with three Senior Administration Officials is – well, number one, bring you up to date on what is happening with respect to the draft Security Council resolution regarding Iran, where that stands and give you kind of the foundation as to why we, the United States, together with the P-5+1 and others, have been pushing this to put pressure on Iran to answer the questions that the international community has about its nuclear program.
Obviously, there have been a lot of questions in recent days about how the resolution fits with the proposal that was made by the Vienna Group on October 1st of last year, regarding the Tehran research reactor. We have a Senior Administration Official who will kind of put that in context. There were some questions raised in terms of how these things fit in with what Brazil and Turkey tried to accomplish in their respective trips to Tehran a few days ago.
We have engaged both Turkey and Brazil consistently over weeks and months on this. As` we’ve said publicly, we appreciate their work on the diplomatic front to try to push Iran to be more forthcoming. Typical of this engagement, on Tuesday coming up, in addition to other bilateral meetings that the Secretary will have, she’ll once again sit down with Foreign Minister Davutoglu here in Washington on Tuesday just to compare notes about where we are in this overall process. So we thought it was a good idea here to kind of put this whole issue in context for you.
Now this will be a background call involving three Senior Administration Officials. (references deleted) Let me reemphasize again, these individuals should only be identified as Senior Administration Official Number One, Two, and Three. But now you at least understand who the individuals are who will be speaking to you this afternoon.
So, we’ll let – each one of them are going to give one or two minutes of opening comments, and then we’ll open it up for questions. But we’ll, first of all, introduce Senior Administration Official Number One.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Thank you. Let me briefly touch on where we are on the resolution effort here in New York. We’ve been working with the full Council for nearly two weeks on the draft resolution elements and making good progress on that. This is a priority effort for the Council at this point. And as you know, the reason we are doing a resolution is it’s been two years since the previous resolution, a year and half since the Obama Administration has come into office. And during that period, we’ve seen the following things happen: We’ve had an effort under the Administration, from the very beginning, to engage with Iran and with our partners on the underlying core issue of concern, which is very important for people to keep in mind, and that has been the doubts that exist and the confidence needed to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is intended exclusively for peaceful purposes. And it’s been Iran’s inability to resolve this issue to the satisfaction of the IAEA and its Board of Governors that has led to the situation where we have five resolutions, including three sanctions resolutions, in place trying to get Iran to satisfy the needs the IAEA has to ensure that the program indeed is simply for peaceful purposes. You’ll recall that there was great interest in the U.S. engaging directly with Iran as one way to help resolve this issue. And when the Administration came in, it obviously devoted much of its first year, year and a half to pursuing engagement. We have not had a resolution on Iran in terms of the pressure track, as I said, since 2008.
The other side of the coin is throughout this period, as the Administration and our P-5+1 partners have explored every avenue to engage and resolve this issue diplomatically, the Iranian side has actually continued with its proscribed activities. Under existing Council resolutions, they should be suspending all enrichment activity until these questions are answered. Moreover, during this period there was the revelation of yet another clandestine enrichment facility at Qom, concealed from the IAEA and the international community and for which the IAEA still has not had full, unfettered access to individuals’ documentation to satisfy itself that indeed that is for purely, peaceful purposes. And we can go into, in questions, the reasons to believe that it is not.
Moreover, earlier this year, Iran announced and began enriching to 20 percent, turning the LEU into HEU – highly enriched uranium – a challenge, again, to the nonproliferation regime that the IAEA is part of and is trying to ensure is adhered to.
The Security Council’s role in this, as you know, is to try to give weight to the decisions of the IAEA and deal with this potential threat to peace and security, as represented by Iran’s continued enrichment program against a backdrop of doubt whether it is exclusively peaceful. And so two years later, it is time now, in view not only of continuing breaches of its obligations, but increased challenges to the international community as reflected by the revelation of a clandestine facility and by enrichment to 20 percent, for the international community to react.
And this is what this resolution will do. It will reinforce the framework of the existing resolutions, which are based on a dual-track policy, that is, offer of engagement, commitment to resolve this issue diplomatically through dialogue and negotiation, but at the same time, increasing pressure on Iran to ensure that it understands the costs of continued violation of its international obligations.
Let me stop there, if you want to take over.
MR. CROWLEY: Yes. And now, just to kind of put then the TRR proposal from last October in context with the resolution, we’ll go to Senior Administration Official Number Two.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Thank you. Last June, the Iranians went to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna and said that their research reactor in Tehran – Tehran Research Reactor, TRR – was running out of fuel; could the IAEA help? The IAEA approached the United States and Russia, and we thought we had a win-win proposition to propose. We – it involved taking 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium at 3.5 percent and sending it to Russia, where it would be boosted to 20 percent level needed for the fuel, sent on to France to be fabricated into fuel assemblies, and then sent to Tehran, where it would fuel this research reactor that’s used to produce medical isotopes for cancer patients in Iran. The U.S. and Russia proposed this to the IAEA. The IAEA took it as its own proposal and proposed it to the Iranians.
On October 1st, in a – in Geneva at a meeting of the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany, together with Iran, in a private bilateral meeting between the United States and Iran, Iran actually accepted this proposal in principle, all of the elements of it. But in the succeeding weeks, they began to pull away from their agreement in principle and came up with a range of counterproposals that were not acceptable to the three countries that had agreed to participate in the program, which is – which are United States, Russia, and France. And the situation remained deadlocked for quite some time.
Then Brazil and Turkey, wanting to find a way out of this impasse, have been quite active diplomatically, and finally reached agreement with the Iranians in Tehran on May 17th in their tripartite joint declaration. Now, we very much recognize the sincere efforts that were made by Brazil and Turkey – in Brazil by President Lula and Foreign Minister Amorim. But unfortunately, I think the motives of the parties were quite different. I think Brazil and Turkey were genuinely looking for a way to make progress on the nuclear issue and to deal with this problem. I think Iran’s main interest was to have a proposal in play that would reduce momentum toward a sanctions resolution. I think that was the main motivation of the Iranians.
Anyway, the Iranians turned to be – turned out to be difficult negotiating partners with Brazil and Turkey. And the agreement they arrived at – this May 17th joint declaration – falls quite a bit short of the original objectives of the IAEA October TRR proposal.
And I’ll just mention quickly a few of those difficulties. One of the main difficulties is that it does nothing to address Iran’s recent decision to enrich uranium up to 20 percent. The only rationale they had for going to 20 percent – because they said it was necessary to provide fuel for the TRR because the United States, France, and Russia were not prepared to provide that fuel. But under the joint declaration, TRR fuel would be provided, so what’s the rationale for the 20 percent? Yet after the agreement, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said that even if the deal is – materializes, Iran will continue to enrich at the 20 percent level; which, by the way, is a big step toward a weapons-grade level of enrichment. That’s one problem.
Another problem is that between September and October, when this idea was first put to Iran, and now, Iran has roughly doubled the amount of its low-enriched uranium. One of the original purposes was to build confidence for Iran to send about 80 percent of its low-enriched uranium out of the country, and it would have taken them about a year to replenish that stock and build up to the amount of low-enriched uranium necessary for a single nuclear weapon. That would have bought a lot of time for diplomacy. Now, they’ve doubled their stock of low-enriched uranium. And even if you send 1,200 kilos out, there’s more than enough remaining to produce a nuclear bomb. So, time has overtaken the original proposal, and this has not been corrected in the joint declaration.
And I’ll just mention one other element – or two other elements of it. The joint declaration purports to grant Iran the right to conduct uranium enrichment, but this is despite the fact that there are – I think my colleague said five Security Council resolutions, several of which mandate that Iran must suspend its enrichment program. So how can this declaration be inconsistent with the mandate of the UN Security Council?
And finally, this TRR proposal is simply a confidence-building measure. It doesn’t address the fundamental, the core issues surrounding Iran’s defiance of the UN Security Council. And so even if – even with this deal – this deal is separate from the basic factors which have brought this issue to the Security Council. And so in our view, the joint declaration falls short of what’s necessary. But regardless of the (inaudible) of this TRR proposal, it’s important that we proceed to New York to adopt this resolution.
MR. CROWLEY: Thank you very much. I think there’s been a fair amount of reporting that somehow this marks a strain in our relations with the United States and Brazil. I think we can say safely we are very grateful to the efforts by Brazil and Turkey to try to prod Iran to be more forthcoming, as our first two speakers have indicated. But we do have a broad range of activities on which we engage with Brazil. To kind of put that into context, we have Senior Administration Official Number Three.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: Thank you. First of all, I want to reiterate your point you made at the outset that this has been a long series of discussions with Turkey but also with Brazil, including at high levels. In late February, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nick – Bill Burns went to Brasilia, met with Foreign Minister Amorim and discussed this issue at length. Shortly after that, on the 3rd of March, Secretary Clinton went to Brasilia and met with Foreign Minister Amorim, with President Lula as well, had long conversations about the issue. Our ambassador, Tom Shannon, has raised the issue repeatedly. So this has been a long, running series of conversations. And a conversation in the context of an overall bilateral relationship which touches on dozens and dozens of very, very important issues, from economic to political to Haiti to energy and climate issues and so forth.
So this is a very strong, positive bilateral relationship within which we have a different approach on this very, very important issue. And we’re dealing with it at high levels and very frankly and forthrightly with them, and will continue to do so.
MR. CROWLEY: Okay. With that, operator, we’ll open it up for questions.
OPERATOR: Thank you. We will now begin the question-and-answer period. If you’d like to ask a question, please press *1 on your touchtone phone. Please un-mute your phone and record your name when prompted. You may withdraw your request by pressing *2. Again, it is *1 on your touchtone phone if you’d like to ask a question. One moment, please, as we wait for questions to queue.
Our first question from Glenn Kessler. Your line is open, and please state your affiliation.
QUESTION: Yes, it’s Glenn Kessler with The Washington Post. I was – wanted to just follow up on some of the points that [Senior Administration Official] was making when he discussed the objections to the original TRR proposal.
As you know, the President sent a letter to President Lula and, I guess, also to Erdogan. The letter to Lula has appeared on a Brazilian website in its entirety. This is a letter dated April 20th. And I understand that this letter was sent kind of in the context of what the Brazilians and the Turks were talking about at the time trying to do with Iran, and this letter was intended to kind of point out what the original proposal was. But if you look at this letter in its full form, you know, you don’t see any of these objections listed, such as the fact that, you know, a deal would need to address the fact that Iran had begun enriching to 20 percent, the fact that since September Iran has nearly doubled the LEU that it has, you know, on its books.
And, you know, from the Brazilian perspective, they feel like they took this letter from President Obama and met each of the points that he laid out here, particularly the whole idea of it being held in escrow in Turkey, which the President in the letter says, you know, if you – essentially, if you get this, this will show that Iran is serious.
So I’m just wondering, why wasn’t these other points raised – I mean, it may have been raised in conversations, but why wasn’t it raised in a formal communication between the United States and Brazil and Turkey, that said if you go there, these are the things that you really need to get? Because at the moment, the Brazilians say, you know, we got everything that the U.S. asked for, according to the President’s letter, and now they’ve, you know, basically changed the goalposts.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Glenn, we weren’t asking Brazil and Turkey to go out and negotiate on our behalf. If we were doing that, we would have specified all of the elements that would have made a deal acceptable to us. We were reacting to some of the ideas that they had put before us, and were reacting to some of the Iranian positions that they had adopted since October. So we didn’t feel we needed to be comprehensive about what would we require for an acceptable deal.
But we have made clear in separate discussions with officials from both of these countries that we were concerned by the 20 percent enrichment level, which had no justification whatsoever, especially if the TRR deal was to go through. And by the way, any level of enrichment, 3.5 or 20 percent, would be in violation of Security Council mandates. So we didn’t feel we needed to give a comprehensive set of conditions for our acceptance of a deal, and we didn’t in that letter.
QUESTION: I see. So in other words, the Brazilians and the Turks misinterpreted the purpose of this letter? Because they’re kind of holding this out, and obviously leaking it, to show that they were simply fulfilling the – you know, the requests of the President of the United States.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Well, I can’t speak for how they’re interpreting it. All I can say, it wasn’t intended as negotiating instructions. It wasn’t designed to give them a comprehensive sense of what was acceptable.
And by the way, there are elements in the joint declaration that are simply not acceptable. We have tried to engage with – the P-5+1 countries have tried to engage with Iran ever since October to focus on the nuclear issue. They agreed on October 1st that they would do precisely that, to sit down and talk to us about the international community’s concerns about their nuclear program. In the joint declaration, there’s a paragraph there that makes very clear that Iran is not prepared to sit down and talk to us about (inaudible). They’re only prepared to talk to us about issues on which the positions of the P-5+1 countries and Iran are in common. And of course, that does not include the nuclear issue.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: I might just add here – Official Number Three here – I might just add that in the conversations that did take place in Brasilia, these issues were also raised very clearly – concerns about enrichment, concerns about not talking to the P-5, and so forth, all of those were made very clear.
QUESTION: Right, okay –
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: If I may, Glenn, it’s Number One. The other interesting point is the – this has been a series of high-level discussions, including foreign ministers, where all of these issues actually were discussed. I attended, as you know, the dinner that Foreign Minister Mottaki had with the representatives of the Security Council on May 7th. On May 7th, we had the opportunity to ask a number of questions, and it was the Brazilian ambassador who asked Mottaki what would happen with enrichment to 20 percent if there was agreement on a TRR fuel swap. It was the one question that was asked, knowing – I think reflecting full well that – the importance of this issue and that this was an issue known to Brazil at the time.
QUESTION: I say – as you probably have seen, the Brazilian foreign minister has stated publicly, essentially no one told us that 20 percent was a deal breaker. There seems to be a contradiction there.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I think it’s fair to say the Brazilian foreign minister knew full well the importance of this issue.
QUESTION: All right. Thank you.
OPERATOR: Next question from David Sanger. Your line is open, and state your affiliation.
QUESTION: Hi, it’s David Sanger from The New York Times. [Senior Administration Official Number Two], on your presentation, two questions, and one of them is just raw statistics. You said that by the U.S. estimates now, the Iranians have doubled the stockpiles since – I assume your starting date on that was sometime early October? And that they now have – if they – if they would have one bomb’s worth left after they put this amount in Turkey, the 1,200 kilograms in Turkey, that means that the U.S. assessment is that they now have more than – slightly more than two weapons’ worth? Am I doing the math right, here? We’ll know more about this on Monday, I assume, when the IAEA reports.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: It’s a rough estimate, David, because you know, it depends on how sophisticated the technology, how efficiently they could use the uranium, and so forth. But my base level is about September, which is when Mohamed ElBaradei first put this to the Iranians, and the Iranians had about 1,200 kilos at that time. Now they have somewhere over 2,400 kilos, so they’ve roughly doubled their stocks. And according to some estimates of what – how much LEU it might take – of, say, 1,200 – even after taking 1,200 out, they would have enough for about one nuclear weapon. But that’s – these are rough estimates.
QUESTION: Okay, so – but the reason I’m getting at this point is that for all of the discussion about the technical difficulties that they have run into, and you know those better than I, what you’re saying is that they managed in the space between September 1st and end of May here now to produce as much as they have produced the entire rest of the program.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: That’s right. I mean, they’ve maintained a steady pace of accumulation of --
QUESTION: Well, that’s more than a steady pace. That’s an increasing pace.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Well, but the pace over – since about September. If you look at the IAEA reports, you see that their rate of production has not increased.
QUESTION: Okay. And then the second one just goes to the question of what else you might have told the Brazilians and the Turks in an effort to convince them of this. So you’ve laid out for us – we’ve seen the letter, of course. You’ve said that there have been other discussions that went to their NPT and Security Council resolutions. At any point, did either or both of these countries get the security briefing that would give them a full sense of why the United States believes that there is actually a weapons program underway? Either the presentation that was made at the IAEA in early 2008 or presentations the U.S. has been given? In other words, did you go to the leadership and say, here’s our case that this is really about a bomb?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: I am pretty sure that both Brazilian and Turkish officials have received intelligence briefings. I’m not sure whether they received them in capitals, in Vienna, or in New York, but I’m pretty sure there were intelligence briefings.
QUESTION: And did they indicate that they believed these? Didn’t believe them? I mean every time you hear their public statements, they come out and say there’s no evidence that this is a bomb program.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah. I think all you have to do is read the reports of the IAEA director-generals, and especially the new Director General Amano’s most recent --
QUESTION: The February report, yeah.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION TWO: Yeah – to have considerable skepticism about the motivations of Iran’s nuclear program.
QUESTION: Okay. Very good. (MR. CROWLEY), if you’re still on the line, if you can let us know later on whether they did, in fact, get these briefings or where, whether it came from the IAEA or the U.S.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: Yeah, this is Number Three here. There was – I will verify this with (the MR. CROWLEY), but there was some sort of a briefing in Brasilia. I’ll get more details on when that was and so forth.
QUESTION: Okay, and same thing for Turkey if we can learn it.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: Right.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
OPERATOR: Next question, from Jill Dougherty. Your line is open, and state your affiliation.
QUESTION: Yes, I’m from CNN. Thanks a lot. You know, I think this raises a question of why Brazil and Turkey wanted to do this, because there are contradictions in their approach. It appear – it would appear, at least, they didn’t go as far as the offers from the IAEA to Iran. They come back with less than you would expect, and yet they seem to be touting it as a legitimate and credible attempt to bridge the gap, which raises the question if they had briefings, if they knew what needed to be done. I mean, the IAEA offer and the follow-up offer were out there. Why did they do it? And why would they come back with less than they would expect? What was the idea of this?
MR. CROWLEY: Let me start off, and then my colleagues can react to this. I think that the one area where we have had extensive discussions and perhaps an agreement to disagree is over the interaction between the two tracks. As we’ve said many times, we have a diplomatic track; we have a pressure track. We don’t think that they are exclusive. We think they’re, in fact, complementary. And I think, as the Secretary said with Foreign Minister Amorim in New York, I believe on March 31st when they were together for the Haiti conference, we see the pressure track as part of the diplomatic effort.
But where there has been perhaps an agreement to disagree is you have – Brazil and Turkey have seen the TRR as perhaps a means to put the sanctions efforts through the Council on hold. We believe that, notwithstanding the TRR, that it’s necessary to continue to apply pressure in order to get the ultimate result that we seek, which is Iran to be far more forthcoming than they’ve been willing to be so far in revealing the true nature of their nuclear program.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Let me reinforce that point. I think that’s the way we see it here as well, that there was a conflating of these two issues. One of them, the TRR deal, the confidence-building step devised in October that would have bought time and space for discussions and eventually dealing with the real underlying issue, which was the doubts about the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program. But none of the elements of the fuel swap deal that is represented in the TRR proposals of October or the Tehran declaration have anything to do with what is called for in this resolution, which is a suspension of all enrichment activities, not 20 percent enrichment but all enrichment activity until these issues are clarified to the satisfaction of the IAEA, with measures that would be suspended as soon as we had confirmed suspension of that enrichment. The fuel swap deal was a vehicle, as the other official referred, that would have removed a substantial quantity, the vast majority of the stockpile of LEU in Iran at the time. The confidence deriving – that we would have derived is Iran would not have been able to further enrich that quantity that was sufficient to develop a nuclear weapon. And that would have allowed us the time because we would have had de facto confidence that they would not be pursuing that activity with the LEU out of the country.
But the underlying issue – we need to come back to this and keep focus of – it’s not fuel swap for a research reactor that produces medical isotopes. It is the underlying problem that Iran continues to enrich uranium. And that is what it is obliged to suspend under three Council resolutions. That is one of the many questions associated with the doubts that the IAEA has. And the confidence that the original TRR deal would have done is clearly greatly diminished.
I think – I don’t want to speak for the Turks or the Brazilians, but I do believe that they thought that the fuel swap arrangement could have forestalled or should have forestalled sanctions on the underlying concern, which was the continued enrichment. And I think that was, in essence, grasping at straws that somehow this would help resolve the issue. But it is an area, as the other official noted, we don’t agree with them on, and doesn’t address the underlying issue, which is why we are continuing with the sanctions resolution.
QUESTION: If I could just have a quick follow-up then. Where do they stand or what feedback are you getting from the Brazilians and the Turks on sanctions at this point, then?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: The Brazilians and Turks publicly – or at least certainly the Turkish foreign minister, if I’m not mistaken, soon after the declaration was issued – but here, as well, in our discussions, argued that sanctions – there should be no sanctions. The Turkish position is related specifically to the TRR deal. The Brazilian position, a little bit more complicated. I think they genuinely do not agree with the dual-track approach that underlies the framework of the several resolutions that are in place. They do not believe in the pressure track.
MR. CROWLEY: Let me just come back to one – to the – I think the point that Glenn was making earlier, did we move the goalposts. In bilaterals that the Secretary had with both Foreign Minister Davutoglu and Foreign Minister Amorim before the leaders went to Tehran, they understood fully that we did not agree that success in the TRR arrangement meant that we would stop the efforts to pursue a sanctions resolution. And on that there was just simply an agreement to disagree, and there remains an agreement to disagree.
QUESTION: Thank you.
OPERATOR: Next question from Viola Gienger. Your line is open. And state your affiliation.
QUESTION: I’m from Bloomberg News. I want to go back to the letter that was sent to Brazil. Why – I mean, knowing how they felt about the process and about what was going on even then, why was it not laid out in that letter exactly what would be acceptable? Even if you were responding to a specific inquiry, you must have known the direction generally that they were going. Why not lay it out there? It seems almost like some diplomatic niceties got in the way of practicalities or something. And where do you go from here on these issues, and how do you see the discussion on – that Secretary Clinton will have with Foreign Minister Davutoglu going next week?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATON OFFICIAL TWO: Well, again, I explained the reason before. We felt no need to lay out a comprehensive position. We were not asking these governments to negotiate on behalf --
QUESTION: Right. I understand that. You weren’t asking them to, but they were clearly offering and soliciting, you know, feedback on what would be acceptable.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATON OFFICIAL TWO: Well, if they had come to us, I guess, and said look, we have the makings of a deal, we’d like you to react to this draft agreement, we could have reacted to that. But they didn’t do that. They went to Tehran and they announced the deal. We didn’t know what was in the deal before they made it public, so we didn’t have an opportunity to comment on its deficiencies ahead of time.
In terms of what is next, I think Speaker Number One mentioned what is next. We plan to move ahead in New York with the adoption of this new resolution. That’s not the end of diplomacy. We – as we’ve pointed out, we have a dual-track approach. We hope that the adoption of this new resolution will provide incentives for Iran to begin negotiating seriously. We don’t believe they’ve begun to negotiate seriously, and we don’t believe that this May 17th statement is an indication that they’re ready to negotiate seriously about the international community’s concerns about their nuclear program.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: And to just add --
QUESTION: Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: -- Speaker Three here. What Speaker One has said about the underlying problem, that has been made very clear to both Brazil and Turkey in this range of discussions that we’ve referred to.
OPERATOR: Next question from Margaret Warner. Your line is open, and state your affiliation.
QUESTION: Hello, it’s Margaret Warner from the PBS NewsHour. Stepping back even just from the Brazil and Turkey matter, where do you think you are on the Security Council now? Where is Russia? Where is China? And are you going to go ahead while Brazil and Turkey are still members, and do you expect them to vote no?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, the state of play, as you know, we have agreement among the P-5+1 that we reached on the 17th, coincidentally the same day the declaration was issued in Tehran. And we’ve been working with the full Council trying to resolve any outstanding issues. The Turkish and Brazilian delegations have not engaged in any detail on the text right now. So we’ve not heard their specific views on it. We are proceeding apace, as I mentioned. This is an important issue. The underlying questions need to be addressed. And while this TRR issue is out there, it’s a parallel and not directly related issue, and whatever clarifications will need to be addressed will be handled in one track. But the effort here in New York will continue; and as soon as we have a good sense that the Council is ready to move on this, we will have a vote on it.
QUESTION: And can you be any more specific? And also, how does – is there any – does this review conference of the Nonproliferation Treaty factor in this at all, or is that quite separate?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I can tell you it’s been completely unrelated. We – the issue has never come up, and of course, as you know, the conference ends today.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: So the resolution obviously will not intersect in any way with that. I can’t give you any more precision (inaudible) dates for votes is a dangerous undertaking that I don’t --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: -- participate in anymore.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: I might add – this is Speaker Three here again – you were asking about the Brazilian position on sanctions. Brazil has stated publicly many times in the past their position on sanctions in general, not directly related to this issue, that they have a great skepticism about sanctions in other parts of the world as well. And they’ve drawn on that --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: -- with respect to this issue.
MR. CROWLEY: We have time for probably one or two more.
OPERATOR: Our next question from Farah Stockman. Your line is open, and state your affiliation.
QUESTION: Hi, it’s Farah Stockman from the Boston Globe. You just said that the TRR is a parallel issue but not directly related to the sanctions that are moving forward at the UN. But Iran clearly sees them as related and has issued a warning that if the sanctions go forward, basically, the hopes of engagement are dead.
Are you basically feeling that hopes for engagement, you know – engagement were never alive to begin with, that they haven’t taken engagement seriously enough anyway, and so you’re not losing anything for – by going forward with the sanctions? Or do you just think they’re bluffing with how fiercely they will respond to sanctions? They seem to be really desperate to avoid them and going very far out of their way at this time.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I think the record shows very clearly that the Iranians are paying lip service to engagement. The – when the Administration came into office, I remember at the time there was hue and cry about why the United States had not engaged with Iran.
Everyone was saying that the key to unlock this impasse was to have direct contacts. This Administration, as you know, invested a great amount of effort on the engagement track – direct communications, meetings, including bilateral meetings, sitting down with the Iranian foreign minister at dinner, through P-5+1, through other mechanisms, and bilaterally – more than has ever happened in the past 30 years of our relationship.
And what has happened? Every time that we try to sit down and engage in a serious, meaningful, substantive manner to discuss the nuclear issue, the Iranians don’t produce. And now we’re in a situation where they have repeated indications as recently as last Friday by the EU foreign policy head, Cathy Ashton, ready to meet with the Iranian side to discuss the nuclear issue whenever they want. And there’s been no response. And so it’s odd that after demonstrating U.S. willingness to engage, we now find that they are seeking other parties through which they purport to seek engagement.
Now, the underlying issue was addressed earlier. The Iranians are not interested in dealing with this issue in a serious way, and therefore, have seized on the fuel swap issue as the end-all, whereas the real issue continues to be their violations of their own undertakings under the NPT, under the IAEA, and with respect to Security Council resolutions. So there – I don’t follow the issue directly, but my sense is there will be opportunities to flesh out the positions coming out of the Tehran declaration because there are things that need to be asked. As other officials have mentioned, there’s things that are unacceptable and there are things that are vague, there are things that need to be fleshed out. That does not mean that we will not proceed with the sanctions track, the pressure track, to deal with two years of continued and escalating violations and refusal to sit down and deal with this in a serious, constructive, meaningful way through direct engagement.
MR. CROWLEY: One more question.
OPERATOR: Our next question from Fernando Castro. Your line is open, and please state your affiliation.
QUESTION: Yes, hello. I’m Fernando from TV Global from Brazil. I want to go back to the letter sent by Obama to President Lula. There is a lot of confusion here in Brazil about this letter, as you can imagine. My question has to do with the timing of the letter. The letter was sent about a week before Lula signed the agreement in Tehran. And what the Brazilian officials have been saying ever since is that they basically only did what the Americans told them to do.
So going back to the letter – I know this has been being talked about, but why did not the letter say anything about the secret plant, about the fact that Iran kept on enriching uranium since September? I mean, why was it not as specific as it should have been?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATON OFFICIAL TWO: This is Speaker Number Two. I can answer that. It’s because we had had these discussions all along. We had talked about the continuation of the enrichment program despite all of the Security Council resolutions. We had talked about the enrichment up to 20 percent, which had no justification whatsoever. We had talked about the secret facility at Qom. This is a covert enrichment facility that was revealed at the end of September. There was no need to go over all of that material in the letter because we had already had these discussions, both with the Brazilian and the Turkish governments.
QUESTION: Okay. What about the timing? At the time that Mr. Obama sent the letter to Lula, did he know that Lula was going to sign this agreement a week after that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATON OFFICIAL TWO: Actually, the letter is dated April 20th and the Tehran agreement didn’t come till May 17th, so --
QUESTION: Okay, so it’s about two weeks, uh-huh.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATON OFFICIAL TWO: -- about four weeks afterwards. We weren’t sure what President Lula and Foreign Minister Amorim were going to do after they came to Washington for the Nuclear Security Summit. They indicated that perhaps they would continue with this effort. But they wanted our reaction to some ideas that they had presented to us. We provided those reactions in the letter. But we didn’t – we wouldn’t presume to instruct the president of Brazil on his negotiations with the Iranians.
QUESTION: Okay. And everything in the letter has to do only with the September agreement, right? I mean, because what the officials here in Brazil are saying – that the letter basically did everything that was on the original UN agreement. I mean, is that true or not?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATON OFFICIAL TWO: The letter dealt specifically with the ideas being put forward regarding this Tehran research reactor. That was the scope of the letter. But it didn’t include all U.S. concerns about Iran’s activities with respect to this idea, in particular this notion of boosting their enrichment to the 20 percent level.
But some of these ideas had been discussed with these leaders while they were in Washington. I know I participated in one discussion – it was with the Turkish side – in which we pointed out that with the passage of time and the accumulation of more low-enriched uranium by Iran, the confidence-building value of getting 1,200 kilos out of Iran had diminished very significantly, and that one might have to think of updating this idea to restore the original confidence-building value that existed back in October.
QUESTION: Okay. So you’re saying that the fact that the – Iran kept on enriching uranium and the fact that now, the stockpile is much bigger – this had been told to Brazilian officials before the agreement, right?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATON OFFICIAL TWO: Yes. We had made clear that this – that the original proposal was of diminishing confidence-building value. That was correct.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: This point also came up in the dinner with Foreign Minister Mottaki, with the Brazilian ambassador present. As I mentioned, she herself asked the question about enrichment, knowing it was a core issue. We’ve had discussions here with them that we know have been reported back, and we know are – were understood by the government.
QUESTION: Okay. So now it makes more sense. Thank you very much.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATON OFFICIAL TWO: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Okay. We’ve run out of time. Just to reiterate, the comments by Senior Administration Officials Number One, Two, and Three are to be used on background attributable to a Senior Administration Official or a Senior U.S. Official. Any comments I made, you’re free to use on the record. With that, thanks very much for the call and have a very nice weekend.
OPERATOR: You may disconnect at this time. Today’s conference has concluded. Thank you for your participation.