A senior American official involved in the ongoing negotiations with Iran said during a press briefing on Sunday for Israeli journalists that the rest of the world powers involved in the talks are "not in a rush."
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According to the official, the U.S. is looking to meet the goal of reaching an understanding with Iran by March 31. "We want to meet the goal, but we want to get the right deal and not be under pressure of time," said the official.
Another round of talks took place in Switzerland last week between Iran and the six world powers – the U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, also participated. After the round of negotiations, both sides reported progress, but added that there were still fundamental disagreements. The sides agreed to resume talks on March 15, outside of Geneva.
The head of the U.S. negotiating team, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, spoke over the weekend with Israeli colleagues, primarily Netanyahu's national security adviser Yossi Cohen. Sherman updated the Israeli officials on the details of the latest round of talks. Next week, Major-General Herzi Halevy, head of IDF intelligence, will make his first trip to the U.S. since being appointed in September to discuss the Iranian nuclear issue.
Kerry also visited Riyadh, where he updated King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud about the progress in negotiations with Iran. Kerry also met in Riyadh with foreign ministers from other Gulf states to hear their positions on the talks with Iran. On Saturday, Kerry met in Paris with foreign ministers from Britain, France and Germany, to coordinate their stances on the ongoing negotiations.
The senior American official highlighted that the goal of is to reach a multi-phase deal with Iran that would last for over ten years. " We are able to get a deal that will be way longer than a decade," said the official, adding, "We are not talking about a 10 year agreement – but about several phases that will continue indefinitely to know that Iran's program is peaceful."
The official clarified that even after the agreement expires, Iran won't be free to do as it wishes with regard to its nuclear program. Iran would still be required to uphold the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which it is a signatory, and strict supervision agreements that is has yet to sign. For example, as part of the agreement, Iran would have to sign the "Additional Protocol" of the NPT, which safeguards the pact as it allows UN nuclear inspectors to make unlimited unannounced visits to any suspicious site in the country.
"We want a long term solution and we are aware of the concerns regarding what happens the day after the agreement is finished," the official said. "We expect several phases of any deal – a term with big limitations for a long time and then another phase with limitations and verification for a long period of time. And then Iran will be an NPT country and will have to apply the additional protocol and uphold the same commitments any other country has."
The official added that if Iran were to try to develop nuclear weapons after the deal expires, the U.S. would be able to impose additional sanctions or even to use military force against it.
"We are worried about what they might do covertly," the official said. "We need limitations and monitoring that will give us visibility into their program, the kind of limitations that will continue for a considerable period of time."
During his speech to Congress, Netanyahu warned that a deal with Iran would prompt a race toward nuclear armament in the Middle East and drive other countries in the region to develop nuclear weapons. The American official rejected that notion, saying that the close, long-term supervision of Iran's nuclear program would dissuade other countries from pursuing nuclear weapons.
"I don’t think other countries will be interested in that," the official said. "Most countries understand this is not the right way to go – it costs a lot of money"