New details are still leaking out about the diplomatic hoops diplomats were required to jump through in order to make the historic nuclear deal between the U.S. and Iran happen. In this chapter, all they had to do was return a stolen chalice.
According to this insane L.A. Times story, the U.S. was debating how best to acknowledge Hassan Rouhani's election as Iran's new president. The two countries were already knee-deep in secret, back-channel negotiations, but, on the surface, the relationship was cold as ever. One diplomat convinced the President's foreign policy team the best way to get in the country's good graces, is to return the 7th century, priceless Iranian chalice they've long wanted.
An art dealer illegally smuggled the chalice, looted from an Iranian cave, into the U.S. in 2003 to orchestrate a multi-million dollar sale. The State Department heard about his plan, confiscated the chalice, and it sat in a climate-controlled warehouse ever since. The diplomats knew Iran wanted it back. 
Most importantly, retrieving the chalice earn Rouhani praise in Iran, endearing him to hardliners and building confidence among his people. So when both leaders were in New York for the U.N. General Assembly, the plan was set. Instructions were given to the diplomat who cares for the chalice explaining how to return it
U.S. and Iranian diplomats can talk with one another on a short list of issues, such as helping the Iranians set up a bank account or get diplomatic license plates.
The U.S. diplomat called the Iranian contact for such matters and said he had something to deliver before Rouhani left. The Iranian agreed to meet.
Quickly, the diplomat took a photo of the griffin and printed a card explaining its history and why it was in U.S. hands. The Iranian contact might not recognize the object, he worried.
Thinking a cardboard box was no way to present a precious object, he bought a white gift bag at Hallmark, choosing that color so as not to imply it was a gift.
"Plain white gift bags are actually kind of hard to find," he said in a recent interview.
The Iranians love the gift, and accepted the gracious offer to build relations. Two days later, Rouhani and Obama were talking on the phone like it was no big deal, as if the two countries speak more often than once every three decades.

Sun Dec 01, 2013 12:13
US President Willing to Visit Iran
US President Willing to Visit Iran
TEHRAN (FNA)- A Kuwaiti newspaper said that US President Barack Obama is waiting to receive an invitation from his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani to visit Iran.
The Arabic-language Kuwaiti newspaper, Al-Jarida, added President Obama is willing to be the first American president who would visit Iran since the victory of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in that country, the Islamic republic news agency reported.

Al-Jarida was quoting a US diplomatic source.

The source said that President Obama is willing to visit Iran by mid-2014.

Late in September, the Iranian and the US presidents talked over phone before President Rouhani’s departure from New York.

The two presidents talked over the phone as President Rouhani was in a car and heading towards the New York International Airport.

President Rouhani and President Obama discussed different issues during their phone conversation.
The Iranian and US presidents underlined the need for a political will for expediting resolution of West’s standoff with Iran over the latter’s nuclear program.

President Rouhani and President Obama stressed the necessity for mutual cooperation on different regional issues.

On Friday, President Rouhani underscored that Iran and the US have to begin confidence-building measures before they could repair their damaged ties.

Speaking in an interview with The Financial Times published on Friday, the Iranian president said that the ongoing nuclear negotiations are allowing the two sides to “test” whether they are capable of having a different relationship.

“Problems of 35 years cannot be resolved in a short period of time. We need to decrease tensions at this stage and create mutual trust step by step,” President Rouhani underlined. “If the steps taken in (the interim nuclear deal agreed in) Geneva are implemented carefully and precisely, it would mean that we have taken one step forward towards trust,” he added.

“I found him (US President Barack Obama) to be someone with very polite and smart language,” said the Iranian president, adding, “The problems with the US are very complicated ... but despite the complexities there has been an opening over the past 100 days which can later widen.”

The United States and Iran broke diplomatic relations in April 1980, after Iranian students seized the United States' espionage center at its embassy in Tehran. The two countries have had tense relations ever since, but have shown willingness to attend talks to help resolve regional issues, including security in Iraq. Yet, the two countries have avoided talks on bilateral issues for the last thirty years.

Sun Dec 01, 2013 5:32
Deputy Minister: Iran to Introduce Long-Term Oil Contracts to Foreign Firms
Deputy Minister: Iran to Introduce Long-Term Oil Contracts to Foreign Firms
TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian oil ministry plans to replace its current short-term contracts with long-term deals, a senior energy official announced on Sunday.
Speaking to FNA, Deputy Oil Minister for International and Commercial Affairs Ali Majedi pointed to Iran’s recent diplomatic victory in Geneva, and said, “Iran's crude customers can sign long-term, six-month contracts with us and this contract will fill the place of short-term contracts …”

He reiterated that Iran’s customers can be confident that there would be no obstacle in the way of their oil purchase from Iran in the next six months and they can easily purchase Iranian crude supplies.

Last month, Head of the Oil Ministry's Committee for Oil Contracts Revision Mehdi Hosseini announced that the Iranian oil ministry plans to hold a conference in London in March 2014 in order to introduce the revised version of its oil contracts.

“Revision of oil contracts and removal of such obstacles as international sanctions are expected to persuade international oil companies to return to Iran’s energy sector,” Hosseini said.

Also last month, a member of the committee which has been appointed by the Oil Ministry to revise oil contracts said that the ministry's new contracts must be drawn up based on a win-win approach.
“The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) must view foreign companies and investors as partner and not contractor. The contracts must be also drawn up [based on] win-win,” Nasrollah Espiari said.

“The key point in the methods of developing hydrocarbon fields in different countries is the structure of contract the relevant ministry or body drafts for exploration, development and operation with domestic and foreign companies,” he said.

“Moreover, foreign parties always expect the risks and rewards they accept in the contracts to be reasonable and appropriate, particularly the rate of return of capital must be more and the duration of return must be shorter so that they will be able to buy more stocks in their own countries’ stock markets and provide the necessary financial resources and fund,” he added.

“The contracts should be drawn up so as to be compatible with the Islamic Republic’s laws, be attractive and serve the interests of both sides (investor and outsourcer,” Espiari said.

Espiari, a former managing-director of National Iranian South Oil Company, said the oil contracts revision committee is comprised of jurists, financial and technical experts, adding that the contracts will be similar to technical services contracts (TSC) or buy-back, but with more reasonable attractiveness in them than the previous contracts.

He said in the new contracts being drafted by the committee, risks are lowered particularly in the exploration phase, the investor’s capital returns more quickly, local contents are used further and the contract’s duration is longer.

“This type of contracts is forecasted to be more attractive than the previous contracts for investors,” said Espiari, a former senior oil manager.

“Merely using buy-back, production sharing contracts or technical services contracts will not serve our interests. Sometimes, signing a production sharing contract with the help of a technical and legal team well familiar with the details of contracts could prove much better than an inappropriate buy-back contract,” he added.

Regarding production sharing contracts, Espiari said that these contracts are often signed between the government and a company or a consortium of companies. Under these deals, in case the project comes to fruition, the contractor will be reimbursed the costs and also receive a share in production.

“Under these agreements, oil and gas reservoirs remain in the hands of host government,” he said.
Espiari said 60 to 65 percent of the contracts used in the oil and gas industries are concessional, 30 to 35 percent are production sharing contracts and two percent are service contracts.

He noted that in Iran, there is no legal restriction for using production sharing contracts.

Espiari recommended that development of at least two hydrocarbon fields which Iran shares with neighbors be awarded to a consortium of Iranian and foreign companies under a production sharing contract.

“I prefer production sharing contracts, specifically for joint fields and fields located in Zagros and are high-risk, because they are more flexible and attractive than the current contracts and the contractor is present until production starts and will supervise recovery. Moreover, the contract will work more effectively in the transfer of new technology and knowledge,” he said.

“The flexibility of proposed contracts depends on such effective factors as shared status of the field, geological complications, level of risk as well as volume and quality of reserves. Therefore, production sharing contracts, technical services contracts or buy-backs have no preferences per se and depending on the conditions of the field, the most attractive contract could be proposed to the contractor,” said Espiari.

“The type and contents of the contract are also important and we can draft the production sharing contract so as to guarantee our interests as the European and Americans do now,” he said.