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How Is Iran Interpreting the Nuclear Deal Compared to the U.S.?

The vagueness of the framework deal struck between the P5+1 powers and Iran is going to work out beautifully for Tehran in that there is apparently enough wiggle room for them to engage in nuclear activities that the U.S. is clearly saying they can't engage in.

Looking at how each side is interpreting the same elements of the deal is an eye opener. The Iranian outlook is from their semi-official press organ, Press TV. The U.S. interpretation is quoted from Politico.

1. Centrifuges

U.S. Interpretation

Iran will dismantle two-thirds of its 19,000 installed centrifuges. Those devices, which spin uranium into material that can be used for a nuclear weapon, will be stored under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) oversight. Tehran will be left with 6,104 centrifuges, lower than some reported offers by the U.S., and 5,060 of those can be used to enrich uranium.

Iranian Interpretation:

According to the solutions, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) for enrichment program will cover a 10-year period, during which more than 5,000 centrifuge machines will continue producing enriched material at Natanz facility up to the 3.67-percent level. Extra machines and the related infrastructure in the facility will be collected by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in order to be replaced by new machines consistent with the allowed standards. Accordingly, Iran will be allowed to allocate the current stockpile of enriched materials for the purpose of producing nuclear fuel or swapping it with uranium in the international markets.

Iran will continue research and development program on advanced centrifuge machines and will be also able to keep initiating and completing its R & D program on IR-4, IR-5, IR-6 and IR-8 machines in the 10-year period of the agreement.

Most independent experts say that Iran doesn't have more than 8,000 working centrifuges, with the rest being in various stages of disrepair. Is Iran saying that its newer centrifuge models can be incorporated into the Nantanz facility? It certainly sounds like that. The newer models are 16 times more efficient than the older ones.

2. Fordow

U.S. Interpretation

Iran can keep open an underground nuclear facility at Fordow, a controversial site because it was built in secret and only revealed by the U.S. in 2009. Iran will not be required to close the facility but will only use it for research that does not include the enrichment of uranium.

Iranian Interpretation

According to the joint statement, Fordow nuclear facility will be turned into a research center for nuclear science and physics. More than 1,000 centrifuges will be maintained at this facility and two centrifuge cascades will keep operating. In cooperation with the P5+1 countries, about half of the Fordow facility will be dedicated to advanced nuclear research and production of stable isotopes which have important applications in industry, agriculture and medicine.

If, as the U.S. claims, there will be no enrichment of uranium at Fordow, why does Iran get to keep 1000 centrifuges and be allowed two working cascades?

3. Inspections

U.S. Interpretation

Rigorous transparency and inspection measures to ensure that Iran doesn’t cheat on any deal. They include granting the IAEA intrusive access to Iran’s nuclear facilities and supply chain, including to its domestic uranium mines and mills. The inspections would continue even after many elements of the deal have expired in 2025, including surveillance of Iran’s centrifuge rotors until 2035. Iran has also agreed to some indefinite transparency measures.

Iran isn't saying much about the IAEA inspection regime, probably because, as in the past, they will simply deny access to international monitors when it suits them. No doubt Iran will allow access to mines and mills. But if the point was to lengthen Iran's breakout time period to construct a bomb to a year, how does allowing them more efficient centrifuges and a large domestic stockpile of uranium accomplish that?

4. Sanctions

U.S. Interpretation

In return for the limits on Iran’s program, the U.S. and E.U. will suspend sanctions after the IAEA has verified Iran’s compliance with the deal; those sanctions can automatically “snap back” if Iran violates the agreement at any time. (Obama can temporarily suspend sanctions passed by Congress, although only Congress can permanently repeal them.) The United Nations will also lift its sanctions on Iran after it meets the deal’s requirements.

Iranian Interpretation

Following the implementation of the JPCOA, all the UN Security Council sanctions as well as all economic and financial embargoes by the US and the European Union, including bans on banks, insurance, investment, and all other related services in different fields, including petrochemical, oil, gas and automobile industries will be lifted. Besides, all nuclear-related sanctions against real and legal entities, state and private organizations and institutions, including those sanctions imposed against the Central Bank of Iran, other financial and banking institutions, SWIFT system, and the country’s shipping and aviation sectors, and Iran's tanker company will be immediately lifted all at once. Moreover, the P5+1 countries are committed to avoid imposing any new nuclear-related sanctions against Iran.

To make matters even more confusing, Secretary of State John Kerry appears to believe in a "gradual" lifting of sanctions:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stressed that if a final deal is reached with Iran, the removal of any sanctions against Tehran will come in phases. "And if we find out at any point that Iran is not complying with the agreement, the sanctions can snap back into place," he said.

Iran is saying that once the UN votes to approve the deal, all sanctions will be lifted. The U.S. appears to be saying that will only happen when the IAEA certifies Iranian compliance. And Kerry obviously fell asleep during that part of the negotiations.

And then there's the question of Iran coming clean to the IAEA about its past nuclear activities. The U.S. said in the past that there would be no deal unless the Iranians detailed their work on a bomb.

That position appears to have slipped a bit:

Iran has refused to answer a list of IAEA questions about its suspected past research into nuclear weapons technology like explosives that can detonate highly enriched uranium. The agreement does not specify how or when that will happen, saying only that “Iran will implement an agreed set of measures to address the IAEA’s concerns” on the military research question. Mogherini said only that the nuclear agency “will have enhanced access through agreed procedures, including to clarify past and present issues.”

The Iranian government has this to say about the overall deal:

In the framework of the agreement, none of Iran’s nuclear facilities as well as the previous activities will be stopped, shut down or suspended and Iran’s nuclear activities in all its nuclear facilities including Natanz, Fordow, Isfahan and Arak will continue.

These comprehensive solutions will guarantee the continued enrichment program inside the Iranian territory and according to this, Iran will be allowed to go on with industrial production of nuclear fuel which is meant for running its nuclear power plants.

And what did President Obama say?

It’s a “good deal,” Obama declared Thursday, calling it “a historic understanding with Iran which, if implemented, will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

“I am convinced that if this framework leads to a final deal, it will make our country and the world safer,” Obama said in a statement in the White House Rose Garden. The deal would “cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.”

We ought to call this deal "The Swiss Cheese Agreement." It's obvious that Iran is going to interpret the deal any way it wants and that the administration's spin is geared to putting a prom dress on a pig, selling it to the press, to Democrats, and to the American people as a "good deal." From where I'm sitting, far from putting Iran in a box, is allows them to continue dual-purpose research and does nothing to shorten the time it would take them to kick out the inspectors and quickly gear up to build a bomb.