Background Press Call on the Iran Framework Negotiations
Via Conference Call
4:17 P.M. EDT
MS. MEEHAN: Thank you very much, everybody. This is Bernadette. Welcome, and thanks for joining us for this press call on the P5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran.
This call will be on background, attributable to senior administration officials. There is no embargo on this call. All of you have heard from the President today, from Secretary Kerry. So what we thought we would do is, instead of laying down on top of that, we would just open it up for questions, because we know there’s a lot of interest and a lot of questions out there.
Q Thanks for doing the call. On page three of the factsheet you state that Iran will be required to grant access to the IAEA to investigate suspicious sites, et cetera, anywhere in the country. Is it correct under (inaudible) those so called challenge inspections, one. And two, is there any explicit agreement on the speed with which Iran would have to permit such inspections? In other words, I'm trying to get at whether you have any detailed agreements on the speed with which IAEA inspectors could actually get to any site in the country that they wanted to, so that Iran could not cover things up before their arrival.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hi. Okay, so, indeed, of course the most important thing will be the additional protocol which Iran will undertake provisionally, virtually at the start of a joint comprehensive plan of action. And that will provide access in ways that has not been available in Iran in any particular time in the past.
But in addition, we also are working on putting together a mechanism to ensure access at those points where, in fact, there is a disagreement about whether someone should be able to -- whether the IAEA should be able to get access into a site. We think we have a mechanism that can help achieve that. Because one of the most important things about this agreement is inspections and transparency. As both the President and the Secretary said, there are four pathways to fissile material for a nuclear weapon, and the covert pathway is obviously a quite critical one to shut down. And we can, later on, go through all of the other transparency mechanisms that are in place.
But when it comes to inspections, the AP (additional protocol) is crucial. Obviously we also will have the same inspection regime that we’ve had during the Joint Plan of Action with daily access to Fordow and Natanz, monthly access to Arak, to uranium mines and mills, production plants, et cetera. So all of these pieces will help us to understand the fidelity that we need in the field.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The only thing I’d add is related to the ability to detect a covert path in a potential site is the fact that the inspections do cover the full supply chain of the Iranian nuclear program, as my colleague described.
That will allow us to have the ability to detect any accounting that doesn’t add up. So, for instance, it provides you with a much greater ability than we’ve had before to determine if materials are being diverted because we're going to be looking across the supply chain of that program, which would also inform our ability to uncover any covert site that would need to be inspected.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I might just add that, for example, on that case of the -- like uranium mines, milling, actually following the material, that's a 25-year commitment.
Q Hi, thanks so much for doing the call. And before we get into some of the details, I’m wondering any of you -- particularly the Energy Department senior administration official -- if you could give us a sense of some of the background of how this all came together, how close you might have been to walking away, and what you think going forward might be the most difficult areas so that you can sell this to Congress.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’ll just try to be brief on that. Of course, I just joined these discussions about five weeks ago when who became my counterpart, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization in Iran, Salehi, joined.
And look, the issues were tough. There’s no question about it. After all, we were putting some very, very tight constraints -- requiring some very tight constraints on everything from deployed centrifuges, blocking any deployment of advanced centrifuges for a decade, to some constraints on their R&D, which are, again, quite significant, and all kept us to our objective expressed as this breakout time of a year -- of at least a year for 10 years. Frankly, it goes a bit beyond that.
And then, of course, ultimately, in that parameter, there will be a so-called soft landing as they hopefully earn their way back with trust and confidence in the international community. Although even then, with enhanced transparency measures, that will go on for quite some time.
Now, that covers up what are a lot of very specific issues that, frankly, each one required kind of going to the mat for quite often. But Mr. Salehi, I want to credit him. He was very professional, very results-oriented. And we worked through them, and I think eventually we came to a place where I think we have a very, very good situation in terms of our key objective, confidence that they will not be pursuing a weapon and timely detection if they are.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’d just add, Chris, that the President, when we approached March 31st, he was able to have several videoconferences that he set over the last several weeks with the negotiating team. And it was clear at that point that we could see the outlines of a framework, but there were some very difficult details that had to be resolved. And for the President to be able to have Secretary Kerry on the screen going through in detail what the outlines of a framework could be, as well as Secretary Moniz go through in very technical detail how these pieces fit together and how we could see our way toward solutions, even though the talks are very difficult, the President expressed full confidence because he had, again, such confidence in his team to keep these negotiations going for the additional days.
And so I think in terms of how the President viewed this, having the breadth of expertise that we had on the ground in Switzerland, having Wendy Sherman, who has been in the middle of these Iran discussions for years, even predating this current round, and having that combination of Secretary Moniz’s technical capacity, as well as Secretary Kerry’s very entrepreneurial and tireless diplomacy, he felt that it was worth the investment of time. And I think the direction was to get this done if we can meet our bottom lines. And, frankly, in the ensuing days I think our team either did not sleep or slept an hour or two each night, because really it was just a matter of nailing down some very difficult issues.
But again I just point out the President’s confidence in his negotiating team is what has been the key part of how he has supported this process for many months, and also why he had confidence that even when there was a lot of scrutiny on how long this was going in Switzerland, he knew that the team out there would not take a bad deal and, in fact, was coming up with creative ways of securing a good deal.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’ll just give you one little piece of color -- actually it gives you a flavor, the last tough issue on the R&D program. I will just say that we basically closed that out at 6:00 a.m. this morning. And that's not because we got up early. (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right. And indeed, along with that color, we have what we call the small team, which Secretary Kerry leads, of course, and myself and Rob Malley, and Helga Schmid, who’s the deputy for the European Union, and then bring in expertise as we need with Minister Zarif and his small group across the table. And we started at 9:00 p.m. -- I guess it's now the night before last, or something like that, and went until 6:00 a.m. in the morning. And in the middle of that, Dr. Salehi and Dr. Moniz came and joined. And people came in and out of that as we took up one issue after another of very hard, very tough, very difficult and concentrated negotiations.
Q Thanks very much, guys. Appreciate it. I wonder if you could give us a little bit more -- maybe back here -- about the President, his involvement in this. Take us inside the room just a little bit, and then were there moments where he was brought specific ideas and said, no, that's not acceptable? Were there moments where he suggested ways to get through some of these sticking points? How did he -- what role did he play from back in Washington?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I'll start, and some of my colleagues who were in sessions with the President. But first of all, he has been meeting regularly with the negotiating team. We've had a number of Situation Room meetings when they return from discussions and before they go out for discussions over the course of the last couple of months when this really picked up in intensity. So he was able to review with the team the outcome of the latest round and the outstanding issues where we needed to figure out a way through.
And then before the team would go out to the talks, he had the opportunity to see them and to essentially go through what the plan was for achieving a resolution on certain issues. And then he was also able to have a number of videoconferences over the course of the last couple months with the negotiating team to get an update at critical moments in the negotiation when we were trying to find solutions to these difficult issues.
Last night, for instance, the negotiating team and Secretary Kerry were keeping Susan Rice and the President’s team here at the White House constantly updated. The President was on the phone around midnight with Susan Rice and some of the President’s national security team to go through some of the final issues, and then, again, make sure that the negotiating team had the understanding about what the bottom lines were for the President, and that the President also had an understanding of what types of solutions were being pursued in the discussions.
I guess the one thing I'd say is the President has made clear in a number of these recent sessions that he prioritizes the transparency and inspections portion of the deal, given the fact that it is ultimately the best possible way to prevent a covert pathway to a weapon, which is widely seen as the most likely way in which Iran would pursue a weapon. So he’s gone through in great and exhaustive detail what the nature of those inspections are, what the means are to prevent different ways in which Iran might pursue a covert path. So that's an area that, for instance, he prioritized it in these discussions.
But I don't know if --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: If I may add, because I've been through that probably as long as, if not longer than anybody. The President impresses this team every single day. We talked to all of our colleagues from the other countries and their Presidents and their foreign ministers certainly are focused and see this as a high priority, but I daresay no one has put in the time, no one has learned materiel, no one has been as analytical or as decisive and clear about what the priorities are, what the objectives of this negotiation, clear about the negotiating space, clear about the kind of deal we had to get to ensure we’d shut down these pathways -- it’s really been quite remarkable.
And everybody who is sitting in those Situation Room meetings, or on a SVTC screen knows that the President is going to know almost as much as anybody in the room -- maybe not as much as Dr. Moniz when it comes to centrifuge technology -- but nonetheless, it has really been incredibly impressive. And when I talk to my colleagues and tell them the time, the attention and the clarity with which the President has gone about this, it is quite impressive.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: First of all, I associate myself with my colleague’s comments, but I would add one other thing. First of all, I think I can speak for John Kerry, as well, that I don't think either of us ever felt that we were lacking guidance from the President in terms of the various issues. (Laughter.)
But I think a very important thing which the President directly put forward that helped shape how we thought about the issues was he really came forward and said, don't think about this a deal of X years. It is a layered, phased deal that has multiple provisions in a structured way over multiple time scales, including essentially forever. So John Kerry made that point in his remarks. There were 10-year, 15-year, 20- to 25-year, and some, if you like, permanent provisions. And that's why I think it comes across I think as a very interesting kind of integrated deal that will satisfy some of Iran’s requirements, but certainly meets our requirements over a very, very long time frame.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The last thing I’d just say, Peter, hearing my colleague is that the other thing the President was focused on -- particularly after Secretary Moniz became involved and the issues became highly technical -- was ensuring that we were drawing on the scientific expertise of Dr. Moniz and the associated experts within the U.S. government so that we were looking at these problems in different ways.
And there’s both the politics set of issues and the political framework, but also the desire to make sure that there’s a clear scientific case for the approach that we're taking. And so that was an issue that was discussed at some length in more than one session.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And I would just add to my colleague’s comments, yes, okay, I got involved directly five weeks ago, as I said. However, I really want to emphasize that the Department of Energy and our national laboratory folks, working with others in the National Security Council, State, Department of Defense, have been involved since the beginning in creating kind of technical solutions, analyzing technical proposals that could serve as the foundation for a negotiated position. So I do want to emphasize it’s not just parachuting in the last five weeks. It was a long-term effort in what I have found a very rewarding multiagency approach to this.
Q Hi, thank you. I wanted to talk a little bit about the policy that you mentioned. The President spoke about how he was going to speak with the leaders this afternoon, and he also kind of said in no uncertain terms what would happen if Congress killed the deal, as he said. What is your approach to them going to be? Senator Corker has reiterated that he plans on bringing his bill up as soon as Congress gets back. Is your goal at this point to prevent that bill from coming up? Are you going to try to peel enough people away from it so it’s veto-proof? What approach are you going to take?
And secondarily, I just wanted to ask you about a tweet that Foreign Minister Zarif just put out where he was a little bit critical of the factsheets that were put out. He said, there was no need to spin using factsheets so early on. And the statement that he made and that the EU representative made were pretty general, followed up by a lot of specifics in your factsheet. And I wondered if the issuance of those specifics was part of the agreement that you made, or if you just went ahead and did it yourselves?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So let me take those in order, and then my colleagues may want to weigh in. First of all, with respect to Congress, our principal objective over the course of the last year and a half almost since we finalized the Joint Plan of Action has been to give our negotiators the time and space to get a deal. And that involved ensuring that there were not new sanctions passed during the time of the negotiation that would have derailed the process. And in the context of the Corker bill that ensured -- that involved the President making very clear that we need to give our negotiating team the space to get a deal, and then have a discussion with Congress about the best way for them to exercise an oversight role.
In that context, the President has made clear he would veto new sanctions legislation during the negotiation, and he made clear he would veto the existing Corker legislation during negotiation. The legislation also has a range of provisions that go beyond an up or down vote, as well. And again, we think it’s best for members of Congress to take a look at the framework and then give the space to negotiate the final details between now and June.
All of that said, as the President noted today we have a great deal of respect for the role that Congress has played over the year in Iran policy. There’s a lot of bipartisan interest. The sanctions regime was built in part with congressional involvement, combined with our diplomacy. And we do believe that it’s important for Congress to play an oversight role as we continue these negotiations and finalize a deal.
And so in the first instance, we will be briefing very extensively members of Congress. The President is calling the leadership today. But we're also making calls to many different members of Congress. We’ve been in very regular touch with many dozens of members of Congress over the course of the last several days already. And again, going forward, now that we have this framework, we’ll be able to brief in greater detail the type of deal that we're aiming to finalize in June.
And again, we're open to discussions with Congress about how it plays an oversight role as we finalize that deal. Certainly, Congress will have to take a vote during the duration of the agreement in order to lift sanctions. And again, in the intervening period between now and June, we look forward to consultations with Congress on how they can provide oversight.
I’d note that Senator Corker put out a statement today making clear his intention to take a hard look at these details. And we’re certainly going to be reaching out to Senator Corker and going through with him what’s in the framework and again finding constructive ways for Congress to engage.
What would not be constructive is legislative action that essentially undercuts our ability to get the deal done and that is disruptive to the negotiations. That's been our case all along here: Wait and see what the deal is and then we can determine the best way to continue to engage Congress as it plays its oversight role, but do not do something that could derail the negotiation and leave the United States getting blamed for the collapse of talks in a manner that would deny us this opportunity to resolve the issue diplomatically, and also potentially undercut the international cooperation that's necessary for the sanctions regime.
With respect to Foreign Minister Zarif, the one thing I’d say is if you look at the statement from the EU and Iran that Foreign Minister Mogherini and Foreign Minister Zarif read, it addresses the different elements of the framework. And essentially what our factsheet does is provide a number of the details that underpin those elements.
So the discussions of the Arak reaction and of enrichment and of transparency and of sanctions, these are all addressed in the statement. And what we're doing is providing the details that underpin the framework that was referenced by Foreign Minister Mogherini and Foreign Minister Zarif.
And in any negotiation, obviously, there are issues that are of particular importance to different parties to the negotiation, and I’m sure Foreign Minister Zarif will represent that this is a deal that will enable Iran the ability to access peaceful nuclear energy and he will describe that. We will describe why this is a deal that in that context cuts off Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon and has the type of transparency and inspections that can allow us to verify that Iran cannot pursue a nuclear weapon. So we're obviously approaching this challenge with different national objectives, but it's the same deal that will accomplish those objectives.
But I don't know if my colleagues --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think it probably gives people a chance to ask questions.
Q Can you just spell out a little bit kind of the tick-tock of this? I mean, there was a moment yesterday when it seemed like the whole thing was collapsing, and then suddenly things were back in play. Was that an illusion borne out by an exhausted press corps? Or was there really something that has seemed not to be happening and then there was suddenly an agreement? And how much of this had to do with signals coming from Tehran?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me give you a sense of, if I can, what these negotiations are like besides incredibly tough and incredibly difficult with a lot of moving pieces and a lot of moving people. And of course, it's multilateral. There are six countries plus the European Union -- seven -- and Iran. So it's incredibly complex negotiations. And of course, to ensure that all those pathways to nuclear fissile material is shut down, there are many pieces. You all have heard me in the past talk about a Rubic’s Cube or a jigsaw puzzle. You have all of the pieces in front of you; you’ve got to find a way for them to fit together and just click in in the right way. Otherwise, you lose your objectives, whether that's a one-year breakout timeline, or ensuring that in fact you’ve got the transparency measures in place. And so you look at all of those elements -- it becomes an incredibly complex negotiation.
The other thing I've always said is you can get to 98 percent of where you want to go, and you cannot get that last 2 percent that makes the deal work. And so one of the things that happened over the last days, because we knew we were coming down to March 31st, because there was a lot of pressure on everyone, was to -- we had a lot of up and down moments. We had a moment of hope, and about an hour later you wondered whether you were going to be getting on an airplane the next moment.
There’s a lot of brinkmanship that everybody plays at this point in a negotiation. This effort has been going on for over 12 years in one form or another. As I've also said, if it was easy it would have happened already. So people get tense. People do get exhausted. That plays into it. We're getting messages from Washington; my partners are getting messages from around the world; Iran is obviously getting messages from Tehran.
We joke a little bit that we negotiate with ourselves because we sit and we think about strategies and tactics, how to approach a particular problem, how it fits into the bigger picture. We negotiate obviously interagency and the U.S. government; we negotiate with the P5+1 partners; we negotiate with other countries around the world who have an intense interest and national security interest in this negotiation. We obviously negotiate with Capitol Hill who also has a great interest in this. And then, occasionally, we negotiate with Iran.
And I say that only a little bit tongue-in-cheek because you have to keep all those pieces moving simultaneously. It's why we have such an extraordinary team. And that team reaches not only Treasury and our intelligence community and, of course, DOE, without whom we couldn't work, the White House, every single agency in the U.S. government, our Defense Department, but our embassies all over the world because there are countries all who have an interest in what’s going to be the price of oil, or whether there’s going to be increased conflict in the world. And all of that pressure comes to bear on this negotiation.
So it is very much an up and down road. I would say that yesterday and then today there were moments that we thought it was going to come together and then our hopes were dashed. And it was through the technical creativity of Secretary Moniz, of our incredible team of experts who are here -- Dr. Jim Timbie, who leads our expert team on a regular basis, and the fine folks like Paul Irwin and Chris Backemeyer, who are here with me, but we have a tremendous team backed up by literally hundreds of people in the United States who work on this project.
So it's very tough, very complex, very much up and down. We've had moments where we said maybe -- very directly to Iran -- maybe you just can't get there, we can't find the place and we aren't going to be able to make it happen. Secretary Kerry has noted a couple of rounds ago -- I was here -- no, I guess I was in Geneva at that point -- and he was in London, and I was negotiating with my counterparts, and we weren't getting to where I thought we needed to go. Secretary Kerry thought, and I completely agreed, he should sit in London and see if we could get in the ballpark of where we needed to go before he arrived.
So we think of ways to approach this in every way we possibly can. Dr. Moniz is looking at my favorite little device, which is what I call the whiteboard exercise, because this is so complex, and trying to make sure that we and Iran were seeing the picture in the same way, putting all the elements up on a whiteboard, so it's become what we call our whiteboard chart, which everybody carries around with us so that we make sure that all the pieces that had to be addressed, all of the instructions and mandates that the President had given to us, that we didn’t miss a piece.
We created punch lists to make sure we didn’t find a problem last minute that was going to tank the negotiations. And throughout this process we are constantly consulting with every other member of the P5+1. They’re bringing expert ideas; we have to validate those ideas back home. We have to validate them with other countries. So it is without a doubt the most complex negotiation that I've ever been part of.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And the only other thing, very quickly, Fred, is that we were getting close each of the last several nights. Each of the last several days there was a moment in the day when we thought it was possible that an agreement would be concluded that night. And that creates an anticipation. And then when there’s an issue that arises that can't be closed out, there’s inevitably a letdown factor that filters out around the negotiations.
And so I think as we got progressively closer each night, the expectations went up each night. And that made the perception of the failure to reach a deal more evident by folks who were watching closely.
Q I had a question about the President said in the Rose Garden that success is not guaranteed on June 30th. And I guess I'm wondering what, besides Congress who you clearly think could derail success, what else do you think threatens success? Is it Iran? Is it allies in the region? Do you believe that the Supreme Leader has signed off on this deal? Do you have any insight into where that stands?
And secondly, could you give us a little bit more detail on the color? When did the President finally sign off on this deal? What was he doing this morning? Obviously he was making a number of calls, but can you tell us what’s on the pizza, as they say?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So I'll just take the second question first. As I said, the President, on the 31st in that secure videoconference, had a good understanding of what the remaining issues were and gave I think broad guidance to the negotiating team. Then there were a number of times over the course of the last several days when he has been on the phone directly with Secretary Kerry, or when Susan Rice would update the President based on her conversations with Secretary Kerry.
Yesterday afternoon, I believe, the President spoke to Secretary Kerry and got a good understanding of how close we were and what the final issues were. But they weren't closed out. And then last night, as I said, Susan Rice was able to update him at around midnight. He was in his residence, took that call to provide some final guidance on what would be necessary to get this done. And his direction was, people know what my bottom lines are and I have trust in the negotiating team out there that by the time I wake up they could come back and have this closed out.
Then this morning, after working all night here in support of the team in Switzerland, the President got the full update in his Presidential Daily Briefing this morning around 10 o’clock about the final contours of what the deal was. At that point, he communicated that he was certainly comfortable with the deal that was coming together. And so at that point, essentially, he had signed off on what was going to become the framework. And then before the final plenary among the ministers, the President received word that this was indeed going to be closed out.
Today the President called, in order, Prime Minister Cameron, then Chancellor Merkel, and then President Hollande. He thought it was very important to speak to our close allies in the negotiation to take stock of what had been accomplished and to reiterate that we're going to need to stay coordinated going forward.
Then he spoke to King Salman of Saudi Arabia. He extended an invitation to the leaders of the GCC to come to Camp David this spring in what will be a very important summit meeting.
It relates somewhat to your first question, Carol, which is that we do understand that our partners in the region, the Gulf countries and of course, our close friend and ally, Israel, have very profound concerns about Iran’s policies in the region in support of terrorism, its destabilizing activities. And I think the President wants to make very clear in his engagement, including at the summit with the GCC countries, that we have the commitment of the security of our partners and we're going to be discussing with them ways that we can reaffirm that commitment.
He will be speaking to Prime Minister Netanyahu today. And while of course, they’ve publicly differed on this negotiation, and before, the finalization of the Joint Plan of Action in November of 2013, the security commitment to Israel is ironclad. And so he'll also be discussing not just the deal but how do we continue to enhance our security cooperation as the new Israeli government is formed.
He’s speaking to the leaders of Congress today, and he'll, I'm sure, be speaking to additional foreign counterparts going forward.
So, look, there’s no foreign policy issue that he’s spent more time on in terms of over the last several weeks. I'd say over the course of his presidency other than the war in Afghanistan and terrorism, Iran is an issue that he’s spent more time on than any other issue. The first negotiation that he had on this started in 2009, so he’s very familiar with the Iranian nuclear program and all the different elements. So, again, he approaches it from that perspective.
On your first question, I'll leave it to my counterparts. The only thing I'd just say is that we recognize we have a framework that lays out what the parameters of a deal will be. That's hugely important because we know what the objectives are; we know what has been agreed to that can lead to an implementation of a deal. But there are very important technical details that have to be filled in between now and the end of June.
It took extraordinary political will to get to where we are today and it will take more political will from all the parties to close this out by the end of June. So we operate under the principle that nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed in terms of the details. And there certainly will be more negotiations to come.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would just add a couple of other elements. Obviously the context in which this is happening in terms of events in the world doesn’t enter the room, necessarily, but certainly shapes the environment for these negotiations. And so there were times when you all asked me when we were first imposing sanctions on Russia because of Ukraine whether, in fact -- how did things go with my Russian counterpart. And actually we stayed very focused in the negotiating room. And that has been true at other points of stress or tension with our other partners.
And likewise, as my colleague was pointing out, the calls of reassurance and connection that the President was making, particularly into the Gulf today, concerns about what’s happening more broadly that Secretary Kerry spoke to in his remarks this evening, most definitely, although they don't come into the negotiating room per se, they do set a context. And events can obviously threaten a negotiation. We've been fortunate to be able to keep it outside, but there is no doubt, and we've said in the margins of these meetings there is talk about what is going on, and the concern, the anxiety, the pressure that that creates legitimately about what we're doing, how we're doing it, and what the results are going to be.
I would also say that we all tend to think of Iran as a sort of one-person country, that whatever the Supreme Leader says goes. Actually, Iran has politics -- not quite like our politics, but they have politics. They have hard-liners, they have people who want to see the deal gone. They have the IRGC force interests that has probably done pretty well during the sanctions regime. They have people who have made money because of the sanctions regime on the black market. They have the politics of their people who would like to be able to afford things and have a future for their kids. And those politics come into the negotiating space that Iran has, just as our politics --which are quite different and obviously transparent and open and democratic -- in ways every single day.
Sometimes they get used tactically and may not be quite what we're told they are. But there is no doubt that Javad Zarif will have to sell this deal just like we will. And his task is not simple and a given, nor is ours. This is very complicated. A lot of this is hard to talk about to the American people. Obviously, I thought the President and the Secretary did a terrific job beginning that conversation -- or continuing, actually, continuing that conversation with the American people. But this is tough stuff to put your mind around, and most people just want to make sure that they stay safe.
So that's what they’re looking at. That's what we're looking at here. That is what the President is looking at.
Q How soon will sanctions against Iran be lifted?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, sanctions don't get lifted -- let me let my colleagues take up that question.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think one of the things Secretary Kerry actually said today in his press conference -- one of the core principles of sanctions we will be working out as we proceed through the coming months is kind of the scheduling. But the main principle is that we'll be matching our sanctions with the completion of all of Iran’s major nuclear steps. So, in other words, like the Secretary said, they can do it as fast as they want, and it's in fact in our interests if they do it as fast as they can and get their breakout timeline extended as quickly as possible.
We could, of course, respond just as quickly and provide sanctions relief. But the real important thing is that we link it up to the major components that make out their breakout timeline.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The scheme on the U.S. sanctions side is exactly as my colleague was describing where we've been provided with guidance from the start that sanctions relief would have to be proportionate and only upon verified steps by the Iranians -- that the relief would only come when the steps that they had taken were commensurate with the relief that we were offering and that it be reversible.
Those have been our principles from the start and those have been fully held up in the framework. So what we're going to see in the coming weeks and months after the details are worked out is steps by Iran to be confirmed by the IAEA and sanctions relief coming upon the heels of that.
MS. MEEHAN: Thank you very much, everyone, for doing this call. I know the team out in Switzerland is quite exhausted, so thanks for bearing with us. This concludes the call. As a reminder, this was on background attributable to senior administration officials.
Thanks, and have a great night.
5:05 P.M. EDT