The devil is in the details, which right now seem slim, but here’s what President Obama had to say about the framework deal just reached with Iran:
“This framework would cut off every pathway Iran could take to obtain a nuclear weapon,” he said.
A fact-sheet accompanying the announcement outlined dozens of key “parameters” the negotiators had agreed to. Among them, Iran agreed to cut its installed centrifuges by two-thirds, from 19,000 today to 6,104 — with just over 5,000 of them enriching uranium for 10 years.
According to the document, Iran agreed not to enrich uranium at its contentious Fordow facility for at least 15 years, and would not build any new facilities for enrichment for the same time period. The framework would allow international inspectors to have “regular access” to nuclear sites. In exchange, U.S. and European Union sanctions would be suspended after inspectors verify Iran “has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps.” Sanctions, the document said, would “snap back” if Iran breaches the commitments.
“If Iran cheats, the world will know it,” Obama said. He said the “vast majority” of Iran’s enriched uranium stockpiled would be “neutralized.” Further, negotiators said the “breakout time” — or the time it would take for Iran to get enough material for one weapon — would extend from two to three months, to a year.
“Our work is not yet done,” Obama stressed.
Secretary of State John Kerry, earlier, tweeted that all sides would soon get back to work on a “final deal.”
“Big day,” he tweeted.
What we don’t know: In what order are sanctions lifted, how quickly are they lifted, and how do they go back into force if Iran is found to be cheating?
Will Obama “allow” the Senate its constitutional say in the matter, or will it forge ahead without little niceties like the mandatory Senate approval?
I see a lot of promises and a lot of carrots, but there’s barely a stick in sight. When dealing with a regime as odious and as aggressive as Iran’s, that’s alarming.
AEI is worried about how solid the verification regime is:
Here, the case of South Africa is especially instructive. As I had explained over at Commentary Magazine, South Africa gave up its military nuclear program in 1991. In order to make sure all of its nuclear materials were present and accounted for, the IAEA required South Africa to provide records and full access to its program going back 20 years. When it comes to Iran, they start with a blank slate. The problem with a blank slate, however, is that it effectively forgives and removes accountability for decades of deception. That might be a risk worth taking if verification was still possible without inspection into the past, but unfortunately it is not. Nor does Obama explain why, if Iran has really turned a corner, they would ever hesitate to allow full transparency into their past actions.
South Africa was also the last vestiges of a racist white regime, which didn’t want the incoming black government to have nukes — so in this case we could trust the vile racists to do the right thing. The Islamists in charge of Iran have no such incentive.
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.
Can snap back into place, or will snap back into place? That’s not a small distinction, and a very worrisome one. Give this Administration an inch, and they will take a mile.
Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said in a statement after the announcements in Switzerland:
“The smiles in Lausanne are detached from wretched reality in which Iran refuses to make any concessions on the nuclear issue and continues to threaten Israel and all other countries in the Middle East.
“We will continue with our efforts to explain and persuade the world in hopes of preventing a bad (final) agreement.”
I can’t imagine what tensions are like in Jerusalem right now, but I suspect it’s a mix of the dread we felt immediately after 9/11, with a dash of Cuban Missile Crisis.
At Quartz, Bobby Ghosh looks at the regional picture:
Oh, great: the world can now look forward to two petro-states run by religious extremists with international ambitions for their sectarian agendas—and unlimited resources with which to pursue them. The removal of economic sanctions on Iran, as part of the nuclear agreement announced today, would free the Islamic Republic to seek parity with its hated rival, Saudi Arabia.
You could argue that Iran is already Saudi Arabia’s mirror image—Tehran’s Shia theocracy reflecting Riyadh’s Sunni-fundamentalist visage. But, constrained by economic sanctions, Iran has lacked the resources to match Saudi Arabia’s influence. They may never be equals, but without the economic restraints, the Islamic Republic will have the ability to spread mayhem across the Middle East, more overtly, more effectively, and with more immediate destabilizing consequences, than the kingdom ever has.
It will be interesting to gauge the Saudi reaction. They started bombing Yemen without so much as a “FORE!” to the White House, so clearly Riyadh just doesn’t give a good got-dam about Obama’s opinion anymore.
Speaking of the Saudis, Angus McDowall reports from Riyadh:
For the kingdom’s Al Saud dynasty, locked for the past decade in a regional tussle with Iran’s revolutionary theocratic rulers, the prospect of Tehran gaining a nuclear bomb, which it denies seeking, is a nightmare scenario.
But it is far from clear whether the Western-allied Al Saud would really risk their country becoming a pariah state by aggressively pursuing a course of action that would bring down demands for sanctions, or whether it is a bluffing.
Top Saudi princes have repeatedly said that Riyadh will push for the same nuclear rights world powers agree with Iran in the talks taking place in Lausanne, but have also hinted that if negotiations fail to stop Tehran acquiring nuclear weapons, they will do the same.
“If Iran possessed a nuclear bomb, Saudi Arabia would have to think very seriously about offsetting that. Saudi Arabia would not sit idly by,” said Abdulaziz al-Sager, head of the Gulf Research Centre based in Jeddah and Geneva.
The White House had better hope its verification scheme is solid — not just for our safety, but to keep the Saudis from doing something crazy.