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Are negotiators close to an Iranian nuclear deal?

According to the Associated Press, a draft nuclear agreement would decrease Iran’s centrifuges by 40 percent. While negotiators report progress, there’s still no deal yet. Gwen Ifill talks to George Jahn, the Associated Press reporter who broke the story of the latest negotiations.

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    And with me now is George Jahn, the Associated Press reporter who broke the story about the latest negotiations.

    George, this draft proposal that would bring down Iran's centrifuges, its hardware by 40 percent, how real is it?

  • GEORGE JAHN, Associated Press:

    It's as real as anything we're getting out of these confidential negotiations.

    We do vet our stories very carefully. And several officials who are close to the talks did tell us that this document is being discussed between Iran and the United States. Of course, it's part of a bigger deal, if a deal is going to be shaping up. So it's — we're not there yet, but it's definitely on the table.


    So when the White House says that it's not accurate, the report is not accurate, they mean it's not accurate that it's a done deal or that these things are floating around?


    They're not denying that there is a draft. They're basically saying it's not being handed around to a wider circle. It's between — at this point, mostly between U.S. and Iranian negotiators.


    But the question about hardware and centrifuges, that's not the whole story we're talking about here in these negotiations.


    Oh, not at all. Not at all.

    The centrifuges are very, very crucial to a deal. Numbers are very crucial to a deal, but centrifuges are part of the enrichment program, and enrichment is only one of the things that is being negotiated, although it's probably the most important issue.

    We have been told several times over these negotiations that, if the enrichment issue is basically done and dealt with, the other components should fall into place.


    So, on one hand, we have Iranian issues saying everything's done but the technical details, and we have the White House and others who are more cautious. Are they basically saying the same thing; they're just less willing to go as far?


    Everybody in these negotiations has a message.

    The French apparently are even tougher than the Americans on what they want from the Iranians and they are spreading their own message. So, what is being spread publicly isn't necessarily what's happening at the negotiating table.

    I think if you look at what the Iranians are saying and what the Americans are saying, there is one common denominator. There is progress being made, but both sides are saying that they're not there yet.


    You know, it's interesting, George. Here, we — this is all falling — coming out against a backdrop of congressional threats, action and inaction.

    Does that influence or does that cast a pall over the course of these negotiations at this point?


    In some ways, yes.

    We queried some U.S. officials at the start of this round. And it was interesting that the Iranians brought up that issue several times at the initial meetings which began earlier this week. So it's definitely something that they're finding hard to ignore.

    Of course, I would expect the American negotiators to basically play down the congressional threats and say, at this point, we need to have a deal. The Obama administration is behind the deal if we get one. The administration has a lot of tools, if you will, to make sure that a deal is honored.


    What is the timing now? We are thinking March 31. Are we coming — are we more or less likely this week to reach that deadline, to make that deadline?


    Well, if I had a crystal glass, I would be writing another exclusive.

    I think it's possible that there will be an announcement in this round. It's also possible that this round will be extended beyond Friday, which was the original end date, but remember there's still more than a week to go until the end of the month. So it's quite possible, if they almost get there this time, they will just call another round just to finish things off.


    And a lot could happen between now and then. You're right about that.

    George Jahn of the Associated Press, thank you.


    My pleasure.

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