LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Gloomberg News) — Nuclear talks between Iran, the United States, and five world powers have reached a major milestone, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced Wednesday. Kerry said serious progress had been made, and that thanks to an extraordinary token of good will from Iran, all seven parties have agreed to extend the self-imposed deadline for reaching a deal until June at the earliest.
“I am happy to announce that an agreement, while not yet in our grasp, is within reach,” Kerry said. He admitted that the parties still have much work ahead to close remaining gaps in the negotiations. “But in light of an amazing and very welcome gesture of reconciliation from Iran, everyone involved has agreed to extend the deadline for reaching a deal by at least three months.”
The unexpected breakthrough came when talks resumed Wednesday morning. Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif astonished delegates with a surprise offer. He informed Kerry that Iran was willing to sell the Brooklyn Bridge back to America.
“It had recently come to our attention that the iconic property has been in the hands of one Iranian family for more than a century,” Zarif announced. “We believe this great monument to American ingenuity should belong to America.”
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Zarif said the Iranian government had purchased the bridge from the family and was willing to sell it to the U.S. government at only a small markup. “We have to cover our costs,” he explained. “And we feel a small finder’s fee is appropriate.”
“We are very glad to get this bridge back,” a jubilant White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters a short time later. Earnest admitted that until Iran offered to sell the bridge back, the Obama administration was not aware that it had fallen under foreign ownership. “But we’ve thoroughly checked their deed, and we think it’s authentic.”
Spokeswoman Marie Harf said the State Department was happy with the offered price. “$1.15 billion is not too much to ask for an American landmark of this stature,” she said. She acknowledged that Iran’s insistence on being paid in euros and in bills of small denominations with random serial numbers was inconvenient, but said cargo jets carrying the cash were expected to arrive in Tehran well before the close of business on Thursday.
Iranian records provided to Gloomberg News show that American entrepreneur George C. Parker sold the Brooklyn Bridge to Iranian immigrant Parvīz Golshiri in 1897. Golshiri returned to Iran in 1914, shortly before the outbreak of World War I, taking the deed with him. The records show the bridge had been in the Golshiri family ever since.
The bridge sale was an unexpected twist to difficult negotiations that had already blown past three successive deadlines. Secretary of State Kerry had been scheduled to leave the talks Tuesday, but decided late in the afternoon to remain after negotiators announced they had made sufficient progress to warrant at least one additional day.
Reliable sources within the talks told Gloomberg News that after months of intransigence, Iranian officials had finally agreed to a key compromise, reducing the number of centrifuges they’re demanding to 9,999. Iran had started the current round of talks insisting on keeping that number at 10,000. In return for Iran’s agreement to reduce its demand, the negotiating partners said they would allow Iran to keep existing stockpiles of enriched uranium it already had on hand at the storage facility of its choice and to continue enriching uranium at its attack-hardened underground facility at Natanz.
In addition, the U.S. and its negotiating partners agreed to give Iran three months’ notice before conducting any inspections, a step back from the previous demand that Iran submit to unannounced snap site visits.
The sources say the primary remaining sticking point concerns the timetable for relaxing the crippling economic sanctions against Iran that are now in place. Iran wants the sanctions lifted the moment the deal is announced. The P5+1 partners, consisting of the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, France, and Germany, insist that no sanctions should be lifted until at least the following day.
Negotiators also are at loggerheads over how to frame any arrangement that might be reached. The P5+1 partners have been insisting on calling it an “agreement.” The Iranian side has rejected that, and wants to label it as an “understanding” instead. Gloomberg News has learned that one compromise idea now being floated would refer to it as a “Memorandum of Acknowledgment.”
Diplomatic efforts to restrict Iran’s ability to build an atomic weapon have been ongoing for a decade. The current talks already had been extended twice prior to this week. When asked whether it might be possible that Iran's entire strategy all along has been to play the U.S. for time while enriching uranium at a secret location as some Iranian dissidents recently alleged, Kerry said, “You know, I’ll need some time to consider that. I’ll get back to you.”
Just in case you haven't figured it out by this point, this is satire and not one word about the breakthrough is true. But if you thought it was plausible, then you get the point of the satire. Find more snarkograms here. If you enjoyed this irreverent style of writing, please check out my novel Messages, which applies the same treatment to the TV news industry. And if you'd like to see what the world could look like if current trends continue, go here.
© 2015 by Forrest Carr. All rights reserved.