The framework agreement with Iran announced last week by the White House consisted of an outline memorandum of what the deal covered.
But there have been so many differences in interpretation between Iran and the U.S., that it makes you wonder if there’s any agreement at all.
Iran supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s claim that the United States is “lying” about the terms of a framework nuclear agreement will not derail the negotiations, the White House said Friday.
“The test of whether or not that framework can be memorialized in a deal is not going to be a comment on any given day by a particular Iranian leader,” deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters.
Whether a final deal is reached will depend on the ability of negotiators from the U.S., Iran and five other world powers to produce a document by the end of June that “meets our core objectives of preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” Rhodes said.
Khamenei on Thursday accused the U.S. of publishing a fact sheet about the framework agreement that misrepresented what was agreed to, particularly on the pace of sanctions relief and inspections of nuclear sites.
The ayatollah’s comments raised concerns that the differences between Iran and other world powers would be too vast to reach a final deal by the June 30 deadline.
Republicans, meanwhile, have seized on his remarks to argue that the “framework” announced last week wasn’t really a deal at all.
“The Ayatollah and President Obama appear to be talking about two separate agreements and unfortunately, I can’t say I’m surprised,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is considering a run for president in 2016, said in a statement Friday.
“President Obama wants a deal way too badly, and his administration has been trying to sell a deal which may not actually exist,” he added.
Under the framework agreement, Iran would accept limits on its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions that have crippled its economy.
Iran has called for the sanctions to be removed upon the completion of a deal, but the U.S. and its negotiating partners want them lifted gradually as Iran proves it is abiding by the terms of an agreement.
Basically, Rhodes is saying only we can spin what the deal means, not the Iranians.
And it isn’t just that the two sides aren’t on the same page as far as what was negotiated in the framework deal. They are talking about two different deals — one with sanctions lifted immediately upon implementation and one where sanctions are lifted gradually. One where nuclear inspections are severe and complete and another where military sites are off limits to inspectors. One where the facility at Fordow is converted into a kind of nuclear school and another where research can continue and 1000 centrifuges can continue spinning.
And that’s just a few of the massive contradictions coming from both sides. In short, it looks like there was no agreement at all — that the two sides simply gave up and stopped negotiating so that the administration could run out in front of the TV cameras and claim an achievement that is all smoke and mirrors and not real in any sense of the word.
It takes a lot of cynicism to pull off this kind of diplomatic lie, as well as complete confidence that the press won’t make a big deal about it. But it is a big deal. President Obama is going to negotiate a final agreement on Iran’s nuclear program that Congress won’t have the opportunity to vote up or down, where the UN Security Council will have the final say, where the ludicrous idea that sanctions, once lifted, can be “snapped back” into place if Iran cheats is pushed on a gullible public, and where the safety and security of the U.S. and our allies may be subject to differing interpretations of what has been negotiated.
Those who say opponents of the framework deal need to come up with an alternative are wrong. There is no deal — never was and never will be unless negotiators on our side cave in and agree that the Iranian interpretation of the framework agreement is correct. There is no way to reconcile what both sides are saying about the deal with reality. The agreement exists in Never-Never Land and with the administration more desperate to complete a deal rather than halt Iranian efforts to get the bomb, Captain Hook has a better chance of beating Peter Pan than the U.S. has of convincing Iran that its interpretation of the agreement is more than just spin.