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Reporting from Vienna, Austria, journalist Gareth Porter says we could see a final agreement on Thursday

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JAISAL NOOR, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore. With no deal reached so far, negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program have yet again been extended. Speaking in Vienna, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the talks will go on. FEDERICA MOGHERINI: We are continuing to negotiate for the next couple of days. NOOR: The remaining points of contention between Iran and the P5+1, that’s China, France, Russia, the UK, the U.S., and Germany, include the lifting of sanctions on Iran with the ban on import and export of conventional weapons set to be a key stumbling block. A deal must be presented to Congress by Thursday for an expedited 30-day review. Otherwise the process could take up to 60 days. Well, we now go to Vienna for the latest from Gareth Porter. Gareth is an investigative historian and journalist specializing in U.S. national security policy. His most recent book is Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare. Thanks so much for joining us, Gareth. GARETH PORTER, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Thanks very much, Jaisal. NOOR: So Gareth, tell us what you’re hearing on the ground. Is the lack of an agreement, and this yet another extension, a sign that a potential agreement is in jeopardy? PORTER: Not in this case, Jaisal. The situation is one of simply a very heavy load of brackets that have to be cleared away that require a lot of time. And this is not to say that there are no issues that are still under discussion or negotiation. There are clearly some issues where brackets still exist that are tough, tough issues that require a bit more time. But all of the indications at this point that I have heard are that these issues can be cleared up, can be resolved in the final two days, that the momentum now is clearly in the direction of resolution of the issues. Both sides now understand–not just that they understand, but they are determined that they’re not going to go home without the final result being achieved. NOOR: And so talk about what the key stumbling blocks are. We’re hearing it’s the United Nations arms embargo, and some have warned of the repercussions for the already ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. And the New York Times recently cited unnamed American officials who say that Russia and China who profit from arms sales to Iran have been pressing for a lifting of these weapons embargoes. PORTER: Well, I think that there’s no question that the arms embargo is one of the very few remaining issues that are still to be resolved in which there are some tough bargaining, tough negotiating going on. I have heard from a source that was involved in the talks, a senior European diplomatic source that the P5–sorry, not the P5+1 but the P5, the permanent five members of the UN Security Council, met last night and the meeting was specifically about the question of whether the permanent five would support the continued, the continuation in a new Security Council resolution of this arms embargo, conventional arms embargo against Iran, or whether this would be dropped in the new Security Council resolution. And the report of that I got was that China and Russia were opposed to continuation of the arms embargo in the new UN Security Council text. France was wavering. They had not taken a clear position one way or another. And of course the United States and Britain were calling for the continuation of the arms embargo against Iran in the new text. So what that means to me is that the P5+1 cannot present a united front to continue the arms embargo, and that it is very, very likely that they will be forced to give way on this issue in the final text that will be produced for the comprehensive agreement. NOOR: And so this would be a big point of contention for two of the big opponents of the deal. That’s Saudi Arabia and Israel, they do not want to see Iran, this arms embargo on Iran lifted. PORTER: Well, of course. That goes without saying, that Iran’s strongest foes in the region, both Israel and Saudi Arabia, will not like that outcome. But as the Iranian official who briefed the press, the foreign press, yesterday pointed out, there is no logical connection between the question of a conventional arms embargo against Iran and the nuclear issue. It simply does not belong in any United Nations sanctions against Iran. And that it was unjustly added to the UN Security Council resolution, which imposed the sanctions in 2007, when the Security Council did in fact push this arms embargo against Iran. So legally and from a logical point of view, the Iranians have a very strong case. It’s difficult to understand how it could be justified that the Security Council membership could re-impose that arms embargo in the new Security Council resolution, which is part of a resolution of the entire Iranian nuclear issue after so many years of negotiations. NOOR: All right. Well, Gareth Porter, thank you so much for joining us. And we’ll be sure to have you back on in these next few days as we get closer to this next deadline, which is Thursday, for a deal to be signed and given to Congress for this review to happen within 30 days. Thank you so much for joining us. PORTER: Thank you. NOOR: Thank you for joining us at the Real News Network.


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Gareth Porter is a historian and investigative journalist on US foreign and military policy analyst. He writes regularly for Inter Press Service on US policy towards Iraq and Iran. Author of four books, the latest of which is Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam.