Iran could be allowed a small peaceful nuclear program, should an agreement be reached in diplomatic talks, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman said on Saturday night in Jerusalem.
“At the end of the day, if they [Iran] do want to have a small, discreet, limited program that addresses practical needs, it is envisioned as a possibility in the joint plan of action,” Sherman said.
“It would have to be highly constrained, monitored, and verified on a regular basis,” Sherman said.
She spoke both publicly and privately with Israeli journalists as part of a drive to solicit support for the diplomatic process, which she said is the best way to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Sherman arrived in Israel on Friday to update officials on the talks held this week in Vienna between Iran and the P5+1 countries (US, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany). The EU was also party to the talks.
Last week, the sides set a framework for negotiations toward a final agreement that is expected to be hammered out by July 20.
Israel has said that Iran will continue to be a nuclear threat as long as it has the ability to enrich uranium, and that a peaceful nuclear power program does not require that ability. It has warned that Iran is using the talks to play for time to develop nuclear weapons.
“I would like there to be zero enrichment,” said Sherman.
“I would like there to be no facilities, I would like there not to be an indigenous program.
I would like many things in life. But that does not mean I will get them.”
The key words when monitoring a potential peaceful nuclear program, she said, would be “verify, verify, verify.”
Sherman noted that in the first month of the process, Iran appeared to have met its commitment, although she noted that it is just the start of a very long road. The talks are progressing, said Sherman, who heads the US team. She urged critics of the process to give the six powers time to allow diplomacy to work. It would be a mistake, she said, for the US Congress to pass legislation for new sanctions at this time, even if the start date for those sanctions were after July 20.
“It would send the wrong signal” and could “create real problems,” she said.
“Our view is that if an action risks the negotiation and risks the diplomacy, then the onus comes on the person who has created that risk,” she said.
“This is a very difficult negotiation and the consequences are enormous. We are asking everyone to be thoughtful about the steps that they take, so that we have the time and space to get to a comprehensive agreement,” Sherman said.
She said she had explained the need for patience when she met with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which favors additional sanctions. Sherman said she imagines it will be a topic of debate when AIPAC holds its policy meeting at the start of March in Washington.
“I would urge AIPAC to create this space [for diplomacy],” she said.
In response to a question by The Jerusalem Post, Sherman said, “I understand that sanctions with tremendous leadership by the US Congress helped bring Iran to the table.” However, she said that with the diplomatic process under way, additional sanctions would only place international cooperation for the process at risk.
The US and Israel are joined in the goal of ensuring that Iran does not have nuclear weapons, but do not agree on every tactical approach, she said.
She promised that a comprehensive agreement would address all concerns and that the US would maintain its veto power until it is certain that the nuclear danger had been thwarted.
Sherman said progress had been made in Vienna and that a framework had been reached to guide negotiations for the next five months.
“Unless we are satisfied, there will be no agreement. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” Sherman said.
She heads from here to Saudi Arabia.