Be a Fly on the Wall in A Room Where History Was Made

by Jasmin Ramsey

To describe the process that led to the final deal on Iran’s nuclear program as long and difficult is both talking point and reality. The Europeans, known then as the EU-3 (France, Germany, UK), began the negotiations with Iran in 2003 before the US, along with China and Russia, finally joined the talks in 2006 and formed the E3+3 (or P5+1). It would take five more years of talking and not talking, threats of war, “crippling” sanctions, sabotage, assassinations, cyber warfare, and a change of presidents in Tehran and Washington before an interim agreement was finally reached by all parties in 2013.

How did the negotiators react the moment they realized the 12-year process had come to an end? Although the details of the talks were kept mostly private during the last 18 months, Indira Lakshmanan of Bloomberg News scooped a picture of what it was like to be in the room when the negotiators realized they finally had a deal.

The gravity of the moment seemed to hit the US and Iranian negotiators particularly hard:

Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran was impassioned. He said the day marked the end of what he and his government considered an utterly unjustified isolation of his country and the start of future cooperation.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke last and was ardent. He began by saying he was in his early 20s when he went to war in Vietnam. His voice cracked. He stopped, collected himself and began again. Because of that experience in war, he went on, he had come to believe that diplomacy must be thoroughly exhausted before force is used.

When he finished, the ministers applauded, something that hadn’t happened during these talks. Other officials, including Iranian diplomats, were seen wiping their eyes.

Be sure to also check out this juicy take of how those last 18 days in Vienna played out by the Guardian’s diplomatic editor, Julian Borger. The veteran journalist describes the ordeal—fueled by candy, wine and flaring tempers—as one of the “most epic diplomatic marathons of modern times.”

Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.