Power: We have to test the Iranian regime before signing permanent nuclear deal

US official dismisses suggestion that Iran’s argument that it retains the “right” to enrich uranium could be a deal breaker.

Samantha Power370 (photo credit: Reuters)
Samantha Power370
(photo credit: Reuters)
The US needs to test the seriousness of the Iranian regime’s intentions before signing a permanent deal on its nuclear program, US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said Friday.
“We have to test this regime,” she said on CBS’s This Morning. “There is so much mistrust that we bring to the negotiations after generations of suspicion, and that cuts both ways.”
She argued an interim deal would allow world powers not only to test Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s intentions, but also stop Tehran from taking advantage of the lengthy negotiations to continue enriching uranium.
Power noted that a quarterly report by the International Atomic Energy Agency published on Thursday showed that between August 20 and November 5, Iran has halted the previously rapid expansion of its uranium-enrichment capacity, and that no further major components had been added to a potential plutonium- producing reactor in Arak since August.
However, the report also noted that the marked slowdown in the growth of Iranian nuclear activity is mostly due to maintenance reasons.
Furthermore, Iran has since resumed conversion.
Power reiterated comments made by US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, saying Washington offers Iran “temporary, modest, reversible, limited relief” in sanctions, in return for the freezing of the Iranian nuclear program, and Tehran diluting some of the high-enriched uranium they already have.
She added that world powers were seeking “a much more aggressive inspection and verification regime” on Tehran’s atom program.
Power also responded to claims made by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials that the deal being offered in Geneva is “a very, very bad deal.”
“The sign that this is not a good deal for Iran is the fact they haven’t taken the deal that’s on the table right now,” she said.
She reasserted US commitment to Israel, saying both countries share the same goal – halting Iran’s nuclear program – and that the United States will continue consulting with Israel on the issue.
Iran and the P5+1 countries are scheduled to meet again in Geneva later this month.
A US official said on Friday that EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif were to meet on November 20 and a wider group – including Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States – would meet Iranian officials there on the following two days.
While the US is hopeful a deal could be reached, the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, cautioned that “there are still tough issues to negotiation.”
The US official also told reporters that estimates of direct sanctions relief being offered – which have ranged from $15 billion to $50b. – were “wildly exaggerated.”
“It is way south of all of that and quite frankly it will be dwarfed by the restrictions that are still in place,” the official said.
The official said imposing further sanctions threatened the good faith effort of negotiations not with Iran but also among the six UN powers.
“The P5+1 believes these are serious negotiations. They have a chance to be successful,” the official said. “For us to slap on sanctions in the middle of it they see as bad faith.”
Oil prices slipped lower on Friday on the reports that Western powers may reach a deal.
Commenting on the IAEA report, the official said it was “a good thing” but did not resolve fundamental questions and concerns about Tehran’s nuclear program.
“We appreciate the step but the reason for our negotiation is to get at certainty that Iran can’t have a nuclear weapon and we are a long way from that,” the official added.
Western diplomats said one of the sticking points during talks was Iran’s argument that it retains the “right” to enrich uranium. The United States argues Iran does not intrinsically have that right under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The official dismissed suggestions that the issue could be a deal breaker.
“I think there is a way to navigate that... we each understand where each other is and what is possible, and what is not,” the official added.

Reuters and Michael Wilner contributed to this report.