Talks on Iran Nuclear Program Result in Framework Agreement

Talks on Iran Nuclear Program Result in Framework Agreement

On April 2, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, Germany and Iran have reached the hard-fought framework agreement on Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Regarding Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program. The compromise is agreed on, but some questions remain unanswered. The P5+1 and Iran plan to sign a final agreement by late June. From point of view of international law the results of the talks are a good example illustrating the fact that diplomatic efforts can solve any complex problem and manage any crisis. 

This year the United Nations celebrates the 70th anniversary of its founding and the leading world powers have demonstrated that they are able to resolve the most burning international problems. This is the main result of the Lausanne negotiation process. It’s worth noting that this time there was no confrontation between the United States and Russia whatsoever, something that has taken place so seldom recently. Russian experts have been a key part in the Iran nuclear program negotiations, US Department of State spokesperson Marie Harf has told journalists. «His [Russian Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov] experts are still here as well, and their political director, Sergei Ryabkov, and they’ve been a key part of this and certainly bring a lot of expertise», Harf said. Russia applied efforts to make Iran return to the round table. President Putin directly influenced the negotiation process. 

Russia insists that Iran has an indisputable right to implement a peaceful nuclear program, including enrichment of uranium, if the process is monitored by international organizations and the sanctions imposed on the country are lifted. These are the principles the deal is based on. The Iran’s nuclear program is internationally recognized. Abbas Araqchi, the deputy foreign minister for legal and international affairs, pointed to the joint statement, saying it officially recognizes Iran’s nuclear program. «According to this statement, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program will be credited and recognized internationally, and this is our greatest achievement», Araqchi said in a telephone interview with IRIB on Thursday, April 2, night following the release of the document. 

The key parameters of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) envision that «U.S. and E.U. nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps». The issues related to the heavy water research reactor in Arak were the most difficult part of the deal. Iran has agreed to redesign and rebuild a heavy water research reactor in Arak, based on a design that is agreed to by the P5+1, which will not produce weapons grade plutonium, and which will support peaceful nuclear research and radioisotope production. The original core of the reactor, which would have enabled the production of significant quantities of weapons-grade plutonium, will be destroyed or removed from the country. Iran will ship all of its spent fuel from the reactor out of the country for the reactor’s lifetime. None of the nuclear facilities will be dismantled. Iran will enrich uranium only at the Natanz facility. It has agreed to not enrich uranium over 3.67 percent for at least 15 years. Tehran has agreed to convert its Fordow facility into a nuclear, physics, technology, and research center to be used for peaceful use of atomic energy. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will have regular access to all of Iran’s nuclear facilities to ensure the program is implemented for peaceful purposes only. Inspectors will have continuous surveillance of Iran’s centrifuge rotors and bellows production and storage facilities for 20 years. 

Iran agreed to accept these conditions in exchange for lifting the sanctions regime. U.S. and E.U. nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps. World powers will provide significant economic and financial sanctions relief, first with the removal of EU sanctions while US sanctions will be lifted simultaneously with verification of Iran’s compliance. UN sanctions will also be removed but with some restrictive measures remaining, particularly over access to dual-use technologies. Still the United States and the European Union will have retained some leverage over Tehran. The agreement says the US and EU sanctions can also be swiftly restored if Iran does not comply with the deal. 

The key parameters of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action include a provision which says «if at any time Iran fails to fulfill its commitments, these sanctions will snap back into place». It goes further to make precise that «the architecture of U.S. nuclear-related sanctions on Iran will be retained for much of the duration of the deal and allow for snap-back of sanctions in the event of significant non-performance». The deal includes a provision saying «U.S. sanctions on Iran for terrorism, human rights abuses, and ballistic missiles will remain in place under the deal». In his remarks on the deal made on April 3, President Obama emphasized that «other American sanctions on Iran for its support of terrorism, its human rights abuses, its ballistic missile program, will continue to be fully enforced». What if the United States continues the confrontation with Iran under other pretexts? The U.S. will reserve the right to use military force to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon even if a deal is reached on Iran's nuclear program, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said on March 31. "The military option certainly will remain on the table." An agreement «can't be based on trust, it has to be based on verification», Carter said. «I do not know how that will come out», he added. There are some things I’d like to emphasize. 

The results of the talks in Lausanne do not provide a reason to believe that the United States has excluded the option of using force. Washington cannot ignore the fact that two of its leading allies in the Middle East – Israel and Saudi Arabia – take a stand against sanctions relief, no matter the two have a history of confronting each other. An Israeli official castigated the nuclear deal struck between Iran and world powers. According to him, «This is a bad framework that will lead to a bad and dangerous deal», the Israeli official said. «If an agreement is reached based on the guidelines of this framework that would be an historic mistake which will transform the world into a much more dangerous place». In other words, Israel does not believe the deal reached is a success, so the tensions between Israel and Iran will remain in force to affect the situation in the region. Saudi Arabia has launched an operation against Yemeni Shiites. Actually, it’s nothing else but a step on the way to reach the regional dominance. During the Arab Spring Saudi Arabia was directly involved in overthrowing the regimes which were not loyal or opposed it. Only the government of Iran remained in power. Reaching an agreement on key parameters of Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action cannot change the things. 

The formation of new security system in the Middle East is a long process. The United States has to take urgent measures but it does nothing to ensure the engagement of Iran after ending its international isolation, as well as its subsequent inclusion into the Middle Eastern security building process. If the United States really intends to settle all the conflicts at the round table, like it did in Lausanne, then it should revise many aspects of its vision of the world. It should reconsider its role on the international scene. The times of dominance are gone; the world needs concerted actions to counter collective challenges and threats. The concept of US exceptionalism has become obsolete. 

The negotiation process in Lausanne showed that the US has no resources to maintain the world supremacy. America should learn to treat others as equal. Until now the US Iran policy boiled down to only one thing – the change of regime. It’s not clear what is in store for the deal reached in Lausanne. There may be surprises ahead. The main thing is not to let the victory euphoria carry the Iranians away and make them forget about caution. Iran is accustomed to live under sanctions. Will it resist the temptation to become an American friend? It would be a dubious undertaking. US senators have warned Tehran that the decisions of current President cannot be taken for granted.