Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is warning that western negotiators have completely caved in to Iranian demands about its nuclear program, setting the stage for the construction of a nuclear weapon.
He may be on to something. A week ago, most observers believed that there was little chance that an agreement could be achieved any time soon. But in the last 3 days, the U.S. has made massive concessions to the Iranians on inspections, sanctions relief, and Iran’s past nuclear activities. These were all Iranian “red lines” that Tehran was refusing to back down on.
No worries. It was the west doing the backing down.
Three major sticking points obstructing world powers and Iran from making an historic nuclear deal appear to have been resolved by their technical experts over the weekend.
The US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany reportedly have agreed with Iran on a mechanism that would allow sanctions to snap back into place should Tehran violate any final nuclear agreement. The six world powers are negotiating with Iran to cap, restrict, monitor and partially roll back its nuclear program for a finite period in exchange for sanctions relief.
Instead of restarting automatically, a committee made up of representatives from each nation would vote on whether sanctions should be reimposed in the event of “significant noncompliance.”
Good luck with that. In a few months, no one is going to want sanctions to “snap back” — especially Russia and China, who would veto any UN attempt to reimpose sanctions on Iran.
A majority would decide the vote.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and his delegation remained largely silent at the Imperial Hotel in Vienna through another tense day of negotiations on Saturday, just blocks away from the Palais Coburg where the main negotiations are taking place. Kerry and US Secretary of Energy Earnest Moniz met with their Iranian counterparts over the weekend.
A second hurdle challenging world powers has been Iran’s reluctance to cooperate with the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, on its investigation into the possible military dimensions (PMD) of its nuclear program. Negotiations first began in 2013, in no small part to resolve these concerns, and the IAEA’s reports provided a basis for sanctions resolutions out of the United Nations Security Council.
IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano visited Tehran last week for talks on the matter, as well as to negotiate the access it needs to verify Iran’s compliance to any future deal.
His initial statement out of that meeting suggested substantial gaps remain between his understanding of the IAEA’s needs and that of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
However, Amano said on Saturday that his agency’s full PMD report may be ready by the end of the year.
“With cooperation from Iran, I think we can issue a report by the end of the year on the assessment of the clarification of the issues related to the possible military dimensions,” Amano said.
Iran has refused to answer virtually all of the IAEA’s questions since 2006 when it suspended its participation with the organization’s protocols.
As for sanctions relief, here’s what Iran is saying about it in their semi-official news organ:
“On the day of the agreement, all economic and financial sanctions by the EU, the US, and the Security Council will be removed and we will take measures to meet commitments,” the top Iranian negotiator said during a live program from Vienna broadcast by IRIB on Saturday.
Both sides are trying to meet the July 7 deadline, but Iran is not bound by the date, Araqchi said, adding that Tehran will not accept a bad deal and is looking for an agreement that respects its red lines and the Iranian nation’s rights.
“We had never advanced this far during the past talks,” he added.
It appears that the reason we’re so close to a deal is because John Kerry has caved on every major issue. Charles Krauthammer is calling the deal the worst in U.S. diplomatic history.
From what we know, it’s hard to argue with him.