September 28, 2022

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Senior State Department Official On the JCPOA Talks

25 min read

Via Teleconference

MODERATOR:  Thanks very much.  Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining the call.  With a break in the talks in Vienna, we wanted to take an opportunity for you to hear from one of our colleagues regarding the current status of things as they stand in relation to a potential mutual return to compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.  What you hear on this call can be attributed to a senior State Department official.  We’ll embargo the contents of this call until its conclusion.

Just for your background and not for reporting purposes, we have with us today .  But this will be on background, attributed to a senior State Department official and embargoed until its conclusion.  So with that, I will turn it over to my colleague.  Please, go ahead.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  Thank you, and thanks again to all of you for joining us.  It’s been a while.  The good news for us is that it means when we are back with you, it means the team is back in D.C., and I think this was – it’s been such a long time, it’s good for everyone to be back home for – even if it’s just for a short while.

I’m sure you’ve heard a lot recently about people saying that this is the endgame, time for political decisions, that we were – one of my colleagues said that we are now in the ballpark.  And I want to sort of deconstruct what all that means.

First, as a matter of timing, we are in the final stretch because, as we’ve said now for some time, this can’t go on forever because of Iran’s nuclear advances.  This is not a prediction.  It’s not a threat.  It’s not an artificial deadline.  It’s just a requirement that we’ve conveyed indirectly to Iran and to all our P5+1 partners for some time, which is that given the pace of Iran’s advances, its nuclear advances, we only have a handful of weeks left to get a deal, after which point it will unfortunately be no longer possible to return to the JCPOA and to recapture the nonproliferation benefits that the deal provided for us.  So again, not an artificial deadline, not an ultimatum, but just a statement of fact that the Iranians have been aware of now for some time that we are reaching the final moment, after which we will no longer be in a position to come back to the JCPOA because it will no longer hold the value that we negotiated for.  So that’s one reason why we say that this – we’re entering into the final – the endgame.

The second reason is substantive.  We’ve been at this now for roughly 10 months, and the last – the last time we were in Vienna, the negotiations in January were among the most intensive that we’ve had to date.  And we made progress narrowing down the list of differences to just the key priorities on all sides.  And that’s why now is a time for political decisions.  Now is the time to decide whether – for Iran to decide whether it’s prepared to make those decisions necessary for a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA.

So that’s the reason why negotiators have returned to – for consultations with their leadership to figure out whether they’re prepared to make the tough political decisions that have to be made now if we want to be in a position to secure that mutual return to full implementation of the JCPOA.  In other words, we will know sooner rather than later whether we are back in the – the U.S. is back in the JCPOA and Iran is back in fully implementing its obligations under the JCPOA, or whether we’re going to have to face a different reality, a reality of mounting tensions and crisis.

I think it’s been clear now for – since President Biden has been in office what the U.S. strong preference is and what we have devoted our efforts to over the past 10 months or so, and that’s full return to the JCPOA.  And that’s because that would advance core U.S. national interests, it would end the current nuclear nonproliferation crisis, it would create an opportunity to depressurize the broader regional crisis.  In other words, it would get us out of the situation that we inherited from the prior administration’s catastrophic error of withdrawing from the JCPOA, which left us with an unconstrained Iran nuclear program and inadequate if not wholly unsatisfactory tools to address it.

So that would be one option, which would also in our view serve regional and international interests.  I think you’ve all seen the strong support for the return to the JCPOA from our Gulf partners, including a joint statement that we and the GCC put out in November, and you’ve also seen – and we mentioned it in our last call – the growing list of seniormost former Israeli officials, in particular security leaders, who now regret the JCPOA withdrawal and call it a terrible mistake.

That’s our preferred path.  We know that it is very possible that Iran chooses not to go down that path, and we are ready to deal with that contingency.  We hope that’s not the decision that Iran makes, but we are prepared to deal with either one of them.

I think that’s the message that all of the P5+1 have heard.  I think they all are united on this notion that we have little time left, that tough decisions need to be made, and now’s the time to make them.  It’s the message that our European partners in particular left the Iranian delegation in Vienna with last Friday, and it’s our understanding that it’s the message that President Macron conveyed to President Raisi when they spoke over the weekend, that there is an opportunity, that it is a significant opportunity, but there is also urgency.  And if we all don’t move with that urgency, that opportunity will very soon disappear.

Before I turn it over to questions, I want to say a word about the other issue, which is our absolute priority, which is the release of our four citizens who are unjustly detained in Iran.  I think you must know that we had a very intensive, discussions, with some of the – always with the families of the hostages, and we had the opportunity to meet with Barry Rosen.  It was an honor to meet him and an honor to thank him for the effort that he’s been making to shine a spotlight on the outrageous detention of our citizens and of citizens from other countries.  And we have – we are negotiating on the release of the detainees separately from the JCPOA, but as we’ve said, it is very hard for us to imagine a return to the JCPOA while four innocent Americans are behind bars or are detained in Iran.

For that, we would want to stress on this that any news, any information on what’s happening in the negotiations, in the talks over the release of the detainees, should come – will come – from this administration, from the State Department, from the White House.  And I would urge journalists and others in particular not to pay credence to what they may see from other sources, in particular Iranian sources, which have been in the unfortunate habit of adding to the cruelty that is being inflicted on the families of the hostages, the cruelty of putting out false information and sometimes raising expectations.  We’re focused on this issue.  We will do everything in our power to get the detainees out.  But any news will come officially from us, and at this point, we have no news to report other than that we’re continuing those discussions with the urgency and priority that they require.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Great, thanks.  Operator, would you mind repeating the instructions for asking a question?

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to ask a question, please press 1 then 0 on your telephone keypad.  You may withdraw your question at any time by repeating the 1-0 command.  If you are using a speakerphone, please pick up the handset before pressing the numbers.  Once again, if you have a question, you may press 1 then 0 at this time.

MODERATOR:  Thank you very much.  We will start with the line of Andrea Mitchell, please.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Your line is open.

QUESTION:  Thank you so much for doing this briefing.  Can you be specific in terms of right now, absent an agreement, how close Iran is, as far as you’re concerned, to breakout?  Is it a matter of weeks?  Less than a month?  What are your concerns about the IAEA not having full visibility for as long as a year to some of the cameras, not being able to see that footage?  And how much progress they’re also making on missiles and perhaps on warheads as well?  So overall what’s your concerns about – in terms of the different elements of Iran’s plan, or program, I should say?  And what do you think is the likelihood of them agreeing to something that would deal with those contingencies, would roll them back?  What do you need to see in order for a response from Iran to be acceptable?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  So thank you, Andrea.  Let me try to take this piece by piece.  So everything you’ve said is actually – that’s exactly – those are the reasons why we think it is in our core national security interest to revive the JCPOA, for us and Iran to be back in compliance, because in the absence of that deal and as a result of the previous administration’s withdrawal, Iran is shortening the breakout timeline – and I’ll come back to that in a second – in ways that are extremely dangerous, and without the visibility that the IAEA had, the unprecedented access that had been negotiated for the IAEA through the JCPOA.  So we are in the situation.  It’s very unfortunate.  We shouldn’t be this situation.  We’re doing everything we can to get back to where we should have been absent that withdrawal.

Back on the breakout timeline, there obviously is information that I can’t share.  I will just refer you to what various think tanks have put out.  And I think it’s fair to say that when it comes to their capacity to have enough fissile material in which it – at weapons grade for a bomb, we’re talking about weeks, not months.  That’s different from the timeline for weaponization, for having a bomb.

But we are very focused, as was the JCPOA, on ensuring that they can’t, that they don’t, reach the – that threshold in terms of breakout timeline on the enrichment side.  And that’s what the JCPOA was very focused on, and we will continue to focus on that.  And we hope with a return to the JCPOA, we know with a return to the JCPOA, that if the constraints are what we had in 2016 – and we should have the same constraints that we’re insisting on this time – we would get back to a breakout timeline that is one that we could – we could accept and that would give us the opportunity to have the kind of reassurance that we need that Iran is not going to seek an undetected breakout.

In terms of the IAEA visibility, same thing.  We obviously are not in a position we’d like – and it is one of the core achievements of the JCPOA – and so we are demanding, as are all the P5+1, a return to the kind of IAEA access that existed back in 2016 and that was negotiated.  So there’s no mystery.  We’re trying to get Iran to go back to the requirements and a constraint that it had accepted in 2016.

As to the question about how much progress they’re making on missiles, we’ve spoken about that separately.  And of course, it’s a huge concern for us and for our partners in the region and for others.  It is not a subject of these negotiations, but we have other tools to deal with it.  We’ll continue to use those tools.  And of course, we hope that – more than hope – it is our objective to get at some point a discussion, a regional discussion that will deal with all these other issues, all of the security issues, the security concerns, and the threats that Iran presents as a result of its missile and other programs.

So how likely?  When you say how likely is it that the deal – that a deal could address those contingencies, the purpose of getting back into the deal is to deal – is to address the nuclear contingency that you mentioned, the issues of enrichment breakout time and the issue of IAEA access, the question of what centrifuges Iran could operate.  All of that was at the heart of the JCPOA.  All of that was why the JCPOA was such an important deal to preserve and why the withdrawal was such a catastrophic mistake.  That’s what we’re trying to restore.

If Iran is interested in and sees an interest in coming back to the JCPOA, we will achieve those  — we will re-establish those constraints, and in return, of course, Iran would get the sanctions relief that it bargained for back in 2015.

MODERATOR:  We’ll go to Francesco Fontemaggi.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Your line is open.

QUESTION:  Hi, thanks, .  What would you say are the main last sticking points to an agreement in Vienna?  Iran said today it was still around removal of sanctions and guarantees that the U.S. will not withdraw.  What would you say on your side?

And then one more is there was an opening last week from Iran about direct talks that you have been asking – do you think – is there a chance that the next round is a direct one, or you are not there yet?  Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  So I apologize in advance because this will be my answer to any specific questions about the negotiations, is that we make it a matter of principle that we won’t negotiate in public, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.  So of course, to try to identify sticking points – what I will – is difficult.  What I will say is that I think we are at the point where some of the core – the most critical political decisions have to be made by all sides.  President Biden has said clearly we are prepared to get back into the JCPOA and to make the political decisions necessary to achieve that goal, and we’re hoping that Iran will do the same.

On the issue of direct talks, we’re not – this is not a matter of seeking – asking Iran to do us a favor with direct talks.  If Iran doesn’t want to talk to us, that is, of course, their decision.  Our point is, not as a favor to the U.S. or as a favor to Iran but as a favor to the process, if our goal is to reach an understanding quickly – which is what we need to do – and to avoid misunderstandings and to avoid miscommunication and to make sure that both sides know exactly what they’re getting into, the optimal way to do that in any negotiation is for the parties that have the most at stake to meet directly.  That’s been our view from the outset.  We’re prepared to meet with Iran if they are prepared to meet with us.  We’re not – we can’t compel Iran, but we can say that we think that it would be very much in the interest of the process.

And again, I think that’s a point on which the P5+1, the Europeans, Russia, and China are absolutely in unison in believing that it would make the most sense for Iran and the U.S. to meet directly.  We have not met directly yet.  We have no indication that’s going to be the case when we reconvene.  All I would say is – say in conclusion is that, again, given how little time is left, given how critical the decisions that need to be are, it would be deeply unfortunate – and I’m using a diplomatic term – if that opportunity were lost in part because there had not been the opportunity, the ability, for Iran and the United States to have a direct conversation.  That would be extremely regrettable.

Again, not our decision.  It would be up to Iran to make its own choice, but it would be very hard to explain, if we faced a crisis, to those who will suffer from the crisis that the reason for that, the reason we weren’t able to get the deal, the reason that Iran could not get the sanctions relief that it wants, was at least in part because Iran was not prepared to sit down with the U.S. and try to overcome the remaining hurdles.

MODERATOR:  We’ll go to Kylie Atwood.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Your line is open.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Appreciate it.  I am – I have two questions.  I know you aren’t going to get into the nitty-gritty of where things stand right now, but I’m just wondering:  Is there a pathway to salvaging the deal that has been laid down in the Vienna talks thus far that the U.S. is willing and ready to accept?  And is that what you are talking about with Biden administration officials this week in Washington?

And then my second question is you spoke to the U.S. being prepared to deal with either situation, whether the Iran deal is salvaged or it’s not.  And I’m wondering if you can be a little bit more explicit about what types of moves the U.S. would consider taking if the deal isn’t salvaged.  Thanks.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  So Kylie, on your first question, again, I think we have been clear from the outset that we’re prepared to do what it would take in terms of lifting those sanctions that are inconsistent with the JCPOA to come back into the deal.  So those – that’s a decision that President Biden and Secretary Blinken and National Security Advisor Sullivan and other cabinet officials made some time ago.  So this is not a difficult call in that respect.  I think we just need to know whether Iran is prepared to make those decisions.  I think, as we’ve said, if they are, they have on the U.S. side a party that is prepared to make the difficult decisions as well.  So we will find out when the talks resume.

We’ve gotten into, in the past, in some of these conversations the issue of what would happen if there’s no deal.  I think it’s a future that is not hard to divine.  Obviously, Iran’s nuclear program in that situation would not be constrained.  It would continue at the alarming pace that it has – that the Iranian leadership has undertaken for some time.  And we would have to fortify our response, and that means more pressure – economic, diplomatic, and otherwise.  And as I said earlier, that’s not a future that we aspire to, but it’s one that we’re ready to – a path that we’re ready to go down if that’s the decision that Iran makes.  And we will use the tools that we have to ensure that our interests are preserved and that Iran cannot acquire a nuclear weapon.

MODERATOR:  We’ll go to Karen DeYoung.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Your line is open.

QUESTION:  Hi, thank you.  You just said that decisions by the United States in terms of what sanctions you are prepared to lift were made a long time ago, and yet you’ve also said in this conversation that political decisions have to be made by all sides.  At the same time, Iran said today that it has given the United States a written statement that it expects a response to.  What are the political decisions that have to be made on the U.S. and P5+1/P4+1 side?  So what – have they given you a written document?  And what – when you say decisions have to be made by all sides, what decisions have to be made here?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  So Karen, I’m not aware of what written document they may be referring to.  There are obviously a lot of exchanges of documents that take place in Vienna, so I’m not sure exactly.  I’ve not seen that statement by the Iranians, so I’m not sure what they are – what they may be alluding to.

Again, your question is kind of a different way to ask the prior question about what we think, where we are in the negotiations, which I don’t want to – I’m not going to address outside of the negotiating room.  I’d say the decisions that need to be made by the U.S. in order to come back to the deal have been made.  We are prepared to go back into the deal.  It doesn’t mean that every detail of the negotiation has been resolved from our side, but we are prepared to make those tough choices.

And again, we believe that Iran has to make a fundamental choice whether – if it wants to get back in the deal with the U.S. back in the deal and then back into full compliance.  It’s a decision that they should make relatively soon for the reasons that I outlined above, and we hope that we’ll be able to when we resume to quickly reach and then implement that deal.  And as I said, the U.S. – and I think I could speak for the Europeans as well – are prepared to do what it takes to be back in – well, the E3 never were out of compliance, but for us to be back in compliance with the deal and for Iran to receive the benefits that it was promised under that deal.

MODERATOR:  Robin Wright, please.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Your line is open.

QUESTION:  Thanks.  Thanks, , for doing this.  Can you help us understand the evolution of Iran’s position?  It played hardball, as we all know, at the beginning.  Has it – did it kind of soften with that posturing?  Has it been demonstrably more flexible in ways that are hopeful?

And secondly, on the process itself, there have always been two parts to it.  One was the substance of the deal, and the second was the sequencing; in other words, who does what when and who goes first.  Can you help us understand?  Is the sequencing not even been dealt with?  Are you just dealing with the first part?

And since the IAEA has not had visibility in key facilities like Karaj, which manufactures centrifuges now for a year, how concerned are you about a sneakout versus a breakout in which Iran is creating alternatives by taking things that haven’t – centrifuges that haven’t been captured on camera and moving them to a place so it has a fallback if it wants to do something after the IAEA gets back?

And finally, can you help us understand why two key team members of your team have left?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  Okay, let me start with your first question.  I don’t want to get into speculation as to what happened on the Iranian side.  I think it is fair to say that when they came back, when the first meeting we had with – when the new government was in – sent its team to Vienna, it was a very tough round in which everyone – again, I think I’m – I think it was shared by all of the P5+1 that what we heard from Iran was inconsistent with all of the discussions that had taken place since March and April, but also inconsistent with what any logical return to the JCPOA would entail.

Since then, I think as we’ve said, we are back in a serious, businesslike negotiation in which, again, there are still significant gaps, so I don’t want to in any way understate those.  But we are in a position where the conversations are, as I said, businesslike and where we can see a path to a deal if those decisions are made and if it’s done quickly.

So Robin, of course, everything has been discussed.  And obviously, sequencing has been discussed, and I think I’ve said on prior calls that we don’t think that that’s going to be the real obstacle to reaching a deal.  We don’t think that the question of who goes first is going to be an insuperable obstacle as long as there’s a sequence agreed and enough confidence by both sides that the steps that the other side – that each side – that the steps that the other side needs to take will be taken.  I think that’s not something that should stand in the way of reaching an understanding.

Yes, of course we are concerned by the loss of visibility by the IAEA.  At the same time, any understanding, if we were to reach an understanding of our return to the JCPOA and Iran resuming full implementation, the IAEA would have to do what is called a baselining to make sure that it has a picture of the state of Iran’s nuclear program.  And we have confidence that – and we’ve discussed this with Director General Grossi – that they would have the tools to meet that requirement.  So yes, and the more time goes by, the more difficult it is; and there will come a time, if there is continued lack of visibility, where it will become extraordinarily difficult.  But right now, we believe we can still – the IAEA can still do the work it needs to do so that we know the state of Iran’s nuclear program.

Finally, on your question about personnel, I think you all know one of my two deputies, Richard Nephew, is moving to another job in the State Department.  I want to say I think Richard was and is an exceptional colleague and somebody who will – wherever he will end up in the department will do extraordinary work.  And so it’s obviously with regret that we see him moving on to some other position, but that’s not unusual a year or two into – a year into a new administration.  And Jarrett Blanc, who has been the other deputy, is still here and continuing in those – in his prior responsibilities.

A lot of the stories that have been said about the team are simply misinformed.  The team presents a wide range of policy options and arguments to the senior-most leadership of our government, but at the end of the day, the team simply implements – the Iran team implements the policies that the President, Secretary of State, the national security advisors, and others in the Cabinet have decided on.  This is not a matter of person; it’s a matter of what the policy of the administration is.  And that’s the policy that’s being conducted, and so it’s not a matter of personal differences.  It’s a matter of a policy that the administration has settled on and that everyone serving the administration is pursuing.

MODERATOR:  Take a final question or two.  David Sanger.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Your line is open.

QUESTION:  Great.  Thank you, , for doing this.  You’ll remember that in 2015 – and it bled into 2016 – the actual implementation of the deal took a while to happen.  You actually had an implementation day by which time all of the excess uranium beyond the limits of the 2015 deal were shipped out to Russia and certain pieces of equipment were dismantled and so forth.

Assuming for a minute that the decisions – political decisions come together, and we understand that may or may not happen, do you now have confidence that you have a schedule in place that would provide a public, visible reduction in the nuclear material back to the 2015 levels, that would be confirmable by the IAEA, visible to everybody, we’d see the shipments and so forth much as we did in 2015?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  So David, we would not come back into deal without the confidence and the verification by the IAEA about – that Iran had met all of its requirements under the deal, and that’s not something I think that is really in dispute in these talks.  I don’t think that’s an issue on which – that Iran would object to.  At least that would come as a surprise.

So whatever – when a deal – if and when a deal – and you’re right to say that it’s sort of a big “if.”  But if and when a deal is reached, of course, each side will have to undertake its obligations.  And on Iran’s side, it has always been understood that the – in terms of the – its disposition of its enriched uranium, that would have to be verified by the IAEA, and so we don’t expect anything different.

MODERATOR:  We’ll go to the line of Guita Aryan.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Your line is open.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Hi, .  I want to try one question one more time in probably another way.  Has the U.S. offered or presented its final offer to the Iranian side with regards to sanctions removal or is there room for some maneuver?

And I have a question also about the possible exchange of prisoners.  Is it – I’m looking for my colleague’s question here.  During the indirect talks with regards to the possible exchange, has Iran raised its demand for the release of Iranians who are under prosecution or imprisonment in the U.S. for federal offenses?  And what is your position on whether dropping charges or granting early releases for those Iranians – is it acceptable as part of a future prisoner swap?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  Thank you.  Let me start with the last one first.  It’s a very sensitive negotiation.  It’s one in which the lives of our fellow citizens are at stake, so I really don’t want to get into any details about what we are – what is being under discussion.  For us, this is an absolute priority to get the four back home and we will not do anything that could complicate either the return or the treatment that they are undergoing while in Iran.

On your other question, if I understood you, you said has the U.S. presented its final offer about what it would do on sanctions relief.  Let me make a broader point.  This is a negotiation, as I said earlier, with very high stakes for national security, for all the reasons that I gave.  And again, it’s not an issue that we should be dealing with, but unfortunately, we’ve been met with this hand and so we have to deal with it, and we’re dealing with it as best we can to protect our core national security interests.

So this – we’re not looking to create theatrics or cinematic moments.  Rather, along with the E3 and in consultation with our other P5+1 partners, we – what we want to do is clarify for Iran what we think are the outstanding issues, and to identify them and to identify areas where we think there’s – what the compromises could look like.

So that’s what we’re doing, trying to communicate to Iran at the same time that there’s time pressure not created by us, and not arbitrarily introduced by us, but created by Iran’s nuclear steps and Iran’s so far refusal to slow them and – slow them down or halt them.

So again, just to repeat, not going to negotiate in public, we’re not going to say what we have – what we suggested and what Iran has suggested on its end, but simply to say this is not – we’re not into this to create drama.  We’re here to get the best outcome possible for U.S. national security interests.  We hope Iran would agree to that, so that it – so that we could come back into the JCPOA, and that Iran will be back in full compliance.  If that’s not the case, we’re ready to deal with the alternative.

MODERATOR:  We’ll conclude with the line of Barak Ravid.

OPERATOR:  Thank you, your line is open.

QUESTION:  Hi, .  Thank you very much for doing this.

First question, I want to follow up on what you said on direct talks, possible direct talks with Iran.  And from what you said, it seemed that your assessment is that if there are direct talks, you can get the deal, so that this is one of the last things you need in order to get the deal, that if you just sit together in the same room with the Iranians, you can get a deal.  Is this actually what you’re saying?

And the other question is for a few weeks now, you’re saying that there are only a few weeks left for negotiations, and you also said that the way for the Iranians to put more time on the clock was to slow down their nuclear program.  Did you see any slowdown in the Iranian nuclear program in the last – in recent days or weeks?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  So on your first question, I don’t think – I think you, Barak, significantly overread what I said and then misread what I said.  I certainly didn’t say that if we had direct talks we can get into the deal.  What I said was this is a complicated negotiation with room for a lot of misunderstanding, a lot of misinterpretation and miscommunication.  And we think it would be facilitated by direct talks and accelerated by direct talks, absolutely no guarantee that if we sat down together, that’s not – that’s not a magical solution.  It may – we still may find ourselves at an impasse.  What I said was it would be regrettable if, looking back, one of the reasons – one of the reasons why we were not able to reach a deal would be because of the inability to sit down and try to overcome the remaining hurdles.

Again, not saying that if we did that, we’d reach a deal; not saying that if we don’t do that, we can’t reach a deal.  Saying that it doesn’t make sense if you want to put all of the – if you want to do everything possible to see if you could reach a deal, a deal that both sides would accept, that you would not agree to sit down together.  But again, we’re not – obviously, we’re not begging for a meeting.  That’s – if there’s no meeting, there’s no meeting.  We just think that it would be the logical step to take if in fact we are determined to do everything possible to get back into deal.  And it is a position that I think all of the P5+1 has echoed, because all of them believe that it’s simply common sense that in a negotiation, parties with a very important – perhaps the central stakes in this negotiation should sit down and try to see what potential solutions are.  But if that’s not the case, we’ll try to reach a deal without that.

On your second point, I would say this – and we’ve said this many times:  At the current pace, at Iran’s current pace, we only have very few weeks to reach a deal.  You’ve said that we’ve said that now for some weeks, so do the math.  There are many fewer weeks left now than there were when we first said it.

MODERATOR:  Thank you very much to our senior State Department official, and thanks very much to everyone for joining the call.  Appreciate your time, and the embargo is now lifted.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  Thank you.

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