UPDATE 1845 GMT: There is still little information about the discussions, but they have adjourned tonight with some optimism and a resumption on Wednesday:
— Negar Mortazavi نگار (@NegarMortazavi) February 19, 2014
Little detail emerged on Tuesday from the opening of talks between Iran and the 5+1 Powers in Vienna on a comprehensive nuclear agreement.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the European Union’s Catherine Ashton led the two delegations in the 40-minute morning plenary session, with the two sides also meeting in the afternoon.
The Vienna discussions are expected only to set the agenda and framework for further rounds of talks. Issues include the final level of centrifuges for Iran’s uranium enrichment, the status and inspections of facilities such as the Fordoo enrichment plant and the Arak heavy-water reactor, and the lifting of US-led sanctions on Tehran.
The Vienna discussions are expected only to set the agenda and framework for further rounds of talks.
In November, the two sides signed an interim agreement which came into effect on January 20. Iran has suspended enrichment of uranium to 20%, diluting its existing stock to 5% or converting it to oxide powder, while limited easing of sanctions has begun. Tehran and the International Atomic Energy Agency have also had a series of discussions and inspections in the last three months.
In the absence of firm news on Tuesday’s discussions, Iranian State media is featuring cautious remarks by Zarif about a “great deal of concern” in Iran about whether the US is “serious about wanting to reach an agreement”:
Unfortunately what we have seen in the last two months has not encouraged us to believe that everything is in order.
I can understand the politics… in the United States… but from the general perspective of the Iranian populace, what has happened in the last two months has been less than encouraging.
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi reiterated that the 5+1 Powers cannot demand a halt to Tehran’s enrichment of uranium or try to discuss matters such as Iran’s missiles, “Dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear sites is not on the agenda….We emphasized that the yardstick for talks will be the joint plan of action and no issue outside the framework of this program can be on the agenda of the negotiations.”
Supreme Leader Reaffirms Call for “Resistance Economy”
The Supreme Leader repeated on Wednesday his long-standing call for a “resistance economy” to overcome Western sanctions.
Ayatollah Khamenei said the Government should “monitor sanctions and increase the costs for the enemy” of imposing them.
The Supreme Leader first set out the concept of the “resistance economy” in August 2012, setting out 12 key principles such as the development and increase of indigenous production.
Khamenei reiterated the call for production today, adding Iran should “choose strategic customers; diversify export methods; have the private sector participate in oil sales; and increase the exports of gas, electricity, petrochemicals and oil by-products”.
The Supreme Leader also said the Islamic Republic should decrease its energy consumption, use barter deals in foreign trade, diversify the origins of imports; increase food and health security, reform financial markets, encourage foreign investment to increase non-oil exports, and increase tax revenues.
“All branches of the Islamic regime must immediately carry out these policies within a specific timetable and should devise laws and regulations for a road map in various fields so that people and the business community can take part in this holy jihad,” Khamenei said.
Rouhani Urges Unity in Persian Gulf; Foreign Ministry Reiterates Ownership of Strategic Islands
Tehran turned its attention to the Persian Gulf today, with President Rouhani declaring that unity within the region can guarantee peace and stability.
In a meeting with Kuwaiti officials Rouhani stated, “Solidarity and consolidation of relations among Persian Gulf littoral states can provide the security of the region and the Persian Gulf.”
The president’s comments come on the same day that Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham reiterated Tehran’s claim to sovereignty over the strategic Persian Gulf islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb, and Abu Musa.
The claim that Iran’s ownership of these islands is a “historical and undeniable fact” will likely to stir tension with other regional states, especially the United Arab Emirates, which recently requested the United Nations Security Council put the question of the islands’ sovereignty on its agenda.
IRGC Chief Hits Back at Criticism of Critics of Nuclear Negotiations
Head of the IRGC Mohammad Ali Jafari hit back at President Rouhani’s accusation that critics of the interim nuclear deal are “illiterates.”
Jafari said “We witness that when we say such words they accuse us of being uneducated and illiterate, but that we must have scientific jihad. Humanities based on Qur’anic, revolutionary and religious bases are different than other sciences [President Rouhani criticized treatment of humanities inside Iran]. Science does not only mean to only follow the West, you the Guards have taken a step in a very difficult path and face difficult claims. Anyone who feels that they cannot act like this should move aside.”
Nuclear Scientists Fired, MP Blames Foreign Intelligence
MP Alireza Zakani announced the firing of nuclear scientists from Natanz and new appointments at this nuclear site. He stated, “Apparently, the story is about revenge, but at the heart of the matter I do not doubt it to be connected to foreign intelligence services with one or two degrees of connection.”
(Hat tip to IranTracker)
Government Fires Head of Tehran University
Higher Education Minister Reza Faraji Dana has dismissed the Chancellor of the University of Tehran, Farhad Rahbar.
The move was expected — Rahbar, who assumed his post in 2008, is seen as an ally of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The step is likely to provoke criticism from hard-line opponents of the Government.
Faraji Dana appointed Mohammad Hossein Omid, the head of the College of Agrigulture and Natural Resources, as the new Chancellor.
Head of Revolutionary Guards “We Will Hit Enemies From Within Their Borders” If They Attack
As nuclear talks opened in Vienna, the head of the Revolutionary Guards continued recent warnings to the US and other countries.
Mohammad Ali Jafari said to Iranian cadets on Tuesday:
The enemy is afraid of massive and long-term ground attack on Iran.
Their desired military option includes missile and air attack on sensitive and nuclear sites, but they themselves know that we will not leave them alone after such an act and will threaten them from inside (their borders).