After investing so much political capital in achieving a
nuclear deal, it is understandable that all sides of the stand-off would
claim the Lausanne accord arrived at this week to be an "achievement".
US President Barack Obama declared it "an historic" landmark
in American-Iranian relations, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
hailed it as a success in which all key disputes are settled.
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was greeted
as a hero by jubilant Iranians on his return to Tehran from Switzerland.
Zarif emphasised that the framework accord produced
in Lausanne after more than a week of intense negotiations will allow Iran
to continue enriching uranium and that none of its nuclear research
facilities would be shut down, as Washington and its Western allies had
Another crucial point made by Zarif
was that all economic sanctions imposed on Iran by the West and the United
Nations Security Council would be lifted "immediately" on conclusion of the
final Joint Plan of Action comprehensive agreement, scheduled for signing
on June 30.
Iran's need to talk up the diplomatic success is
understandable. After all, President Hasan Rouhani was elected in 2013
on the ticket that he would resolve the decades-old nuclear dispute with the
West through enlightened negotiations and thus lift the crippling sanctions
that have brought so much hardship to bear on ordinary Iranians. Rouhani's
appointment of the US-educated Zarif as foreign minister was supposed to be
the embodiment of this policy of reasoned engagement.
So, the Iranian government needs to show its diplomatic
gambit worked first and foremost by being able to declare that the end
of the gruelling economic and financial sanctions is nigh. On the other
hand, the moderate Rouhani diplomatic team need to placate more hardline
political elements within Iran who insist that the country's right to all
aspects of nuclear technology is inviolate.
However, a closer look at the details of the so-called
framework accord to emerge from Lausanne shows that Iran falls short on both
counts of sanctions removal and nuclear rights.
Zarif is certainly correct that no Iranian nuclear
facilities will be closed. But the new restrictions outlined in this week's
Joint Statement mark a dramatic curtailment that goes well beyond what Iran
had previously declared were red lines.
Enrichment of Uranium nuclear fuel will be limited at the
designated low five per cent level for the next 10-15 years and will only be
permitted at just one of Iran's several nuclear sites — at Natanz. Other
nuclear sites at Fordow and Arak will cease enrichment activities and will
be converted into research facilities under international cooperation.
Iran will be compelled to reduce its number of centrifuges
required for enrichment by two-thirds of the existing numbers and its
stockpile of already-enriched Uranium will be cut from 10,000 kg to 300 kg.
Skeptics may say that if Iran is genuinely pursuing
peaceful applications of nuclear technology then these restrictions are not
onerous. But the cessation of uranium enrichment and the curtailment
of infrastructure is a grave infringement on the legitimate rights of Iran
as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. No other signatory to the
NPT is obliged to conform to such unprecedented restrictions.
On the issue of sanctions, again, Iranian declarations
of success from Lausanne also seem premature. The wording of the Joint
Statement talks about the US, European Union and United Nations ending
nuclear-related economic and financial sanctions "simultaneously with the
IAEA-verified implementation by Iran of its key nuclear commitments."
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN
nuclear watchdog, thus holds the key as to when Iran will be deemed clear
for sanctions relief. If the IAEA reports that Iran has not removed the
requisite quantity of low-enriched uranium, centrifuges or converted its
designated nuclear facilities to international research applications — all
this within three months — then the clear implication is that Iran will not
be entitled to sanctions relief.
In the past, the IAEA has shown itself to be infiltrated
by Western and Israeli intelligence by publishing reports that have
undermined, somewhat scurrilously, Iranian claims of peaceful nuclear
Days before the latest round of talks opened in Lausanne,
the IAEA issued an assessment which claimed that Iran had not fully
cooperated with inspections to verify non-military applications of all its
It is thus not hard to imagine how the Western-dominated IAEA
could very well write unhelpful reports over the next three months — and
indeed years — implying that Iran is not meeting its "international
obligations" under the Joint Statement. That will in turn postpone the
signing of a final nuclear deal and result in the continuation of Western
Within hours of the joint statement being
heralded at Lausanne, Washington and its allies began shifting their
interpretations — much to the chagrin of Iran's Zarif.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius — who in the
past has shown a flare for sabotaging delicate P5+1 talks — described the
Joint Statement as a "positive development". But, he added with a
mischievous overtone, "serious questions remain". That is code for more
backsliding and prevarication.
President Obama gloated over the "most intrusive
inspection regime in history" being imposed on Iran, and he explicitly said
that the lifting of sanctions would be "phased in" over the lifetime of any
agreement, which could mean up to 15 years from the signing of a final
accord in three months times.
Therefore, contrary to what Iran's top diplomat Mohammad
Zarif is saying, it is far from clear that all sanctions against his country
will be annulled immediately in the coming months.
Iran might then find itself in an invidious position
whereby it has made strategic concessions on its nuclear rights only to be
placed under further duress from the vicissitudes of Western blockade on its
economy and development.
The devil is not so much in the detail of the so-called
nuclear negotiations. The devil is in Western politicised interpretation.
That inscrutable quality makes for mercurial and untrustworthy "partners".
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