By Mick Krever, CNN
Talks with Iran over its nuclear program are “the most complex negotiation I've ever seen,” Chief U.S. Negotiator Wendy Sherman told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview that aired Friday.
“The number of elements that have to be addressed – from enrichment capacity, to facilities, to research and development, to possible military dimensions, existing U.N. Security Council sanctions – I could go and on.”
“It is very complicated, very technical, many pages of annexes ultimately in any final agreement. So this takes a lot of work.”
Iran and world powers agreed, a little over a week ago, to extend negotiations four months in the hope that a permanent deal could be struck.
Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, told Amanpour that the talks are "a historic opportunity for all of us to end a rather prolonged chapter.”
“The point is whether it is possible to make a deal,” he said. “We're not talking about a bad deal or a good deal, but a doable deal. A lasting deal.”
Sherman praised all the negotiators, including Iran – and Zarif, who leads the delegation – as having been “very serious and very focused.”
Iran, she said, has “complied with every commitment” it made in an interim deal, struck last November, meant to lay the groundwork of a permanent agreement.
Even if a final deal is struck, she said, the United States would not immediately lift the severe economic constraints that have been placed upon Iran, which would in any case require the consent of congress.
“What we have said to Iran and what we've said publicly is that we would suspend sanctions, not lift them, because we need to see Iran implement whatever gets agreed to and comply with those agreements over a period of time.”
Members of Congress from both parties have been openly skeptical about President Obama’s negotiations push with Iran, and it remains an open question whether Congress would consent to lifting sanctions even if a permanent agreement were reached.
“What I said to my Iranian interlocutors is the quality of the agreement will make everything possible,” Sherman said.
“We didn't want sanctions during these negotiations; we won't want additional sanctions during an extension, if that gets agreed to, because we think we need to preserve this negotiating space in good faith.”
“But the Congress has an important role; clearly, any lifting of sanctions will have to be done by the Congress, and our sanctions and the European Union sanctions and the U.N. Security Council sanctions are interlinked.”
“Suspension [of sanctions] will indeed start down a road that will give Iran the benefits that it is looking for.”