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VIENNA - With a deadline looming, Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that there are “very real gaps” in the negotiation with Iran over its nuclear program. NBC News’ Ali Arouzi has been following the events in Vienna and offered his analysis on the historic talks.
What are the "gaps" being referred to by Secretary Kerry? The gaps are first and foremost the scope and scale of Iran's enrichment capacity and the guarantees beyond any reasonable doubt world powers want that Iran cannot have a capability to build weapons. Another sticking point seems to be the length of any agreement; world powers are talking at least double digits whereas Iran wants an agreement to last just a few years. Iran argues that if it makes a deal and world powers agree to it then they have to trust Iran. Insisting that an agreement lasts decades does not convey trust, and treats Iran differently to other countries who have a peaceful nuclear program. But as Secretary Kerry pointed out it was Iran that hid a nuclear facility deep inside a mountain and kept it a secret from the IAEA and everyone else.
Is there a schedule for when the talks are supposed to wrap up? The talks and the interim agreement made in Geneva were set to expire on the July 20th, but an extension was also written in as long as all parties agree to it. With the way things are going, so close to the deadline and both sides still talking about significant gaps, an extension looks likely. It's not ideal but as long as it is a small extension, a matter of weeks, then it may be workable. If it’s any longer than that, you can expect both detractors in Iran and America to become a lot more vocal about their objections. Another scenario could also be that they announce another interim deal on Sunday and then the technical teams will go away and iron out the creases over the next few weeks.
How are other world events -- Mideast clashes, ISIS’ progress in Iraq -- impacting the talks? Both sides are trying not to talk about other issues in the Middle East. At his press conference today Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif refused to answer any questions about the situation in Gaza, saying that they were solely focused on the nuclear issue. It would naïve not to think they were not talking about, ISIS, Syria, Iraq and Gaza, issues on which both Iran and the United States have deep interests.
What are the end goals for both sides? The end goal for Western powers is to be sure Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon. For Iran, it is to keep its nuclear program intact in some way as to avoid humiliation and, most of all, to get rid of sanctions that have had a detrimental effect on the economy.
Outside of the details, what is the atmosphere like between the parties at the talks?The atmosphere is diplomatic, friendly and cordial. Most of the Iranian team speaks English and the negotiations are conducted in English, which makes a big difference. Iran's last nuclear negotiating team did not speak English and the tension between the two sides was palpable.
Has the US and Iran bridged any of the differences in terms of confidence/trust? They may have bridged some differences when it comes to confidence because Iran has taken some steps to slow down its program, which has been acknowledged by the IAEA. But on the main issues between Iran and America, there is a deep-seated mistrust that has been festering over the last 35 years, and that does not go away overnight.