Apart from the initial smiles and hugs following the framework agreement orchestrated by Kerry and Zarif in Lausanne, the only issue that both sides could agree on is their mutual disagreement.
The conflicting fact sheets, the ambiguities, the loose ends, the nuances, the continued efforts to sell the agreement back home to hardliners on both sides and the wish to maintain bargaining pressure all led to the point where an agreement was signed but nobody understands exactly what are the terms of the agreement.
The Key Disagreements
- Lifting of sanctions: Iran wants immediate dissemination of sanctions on signing the final deal while the US wants the sanctions to be removed gradually in response to Iran’s behavior.
- Areas of inspections: Iran agrees to the inspections of all nuclear sites registered with the IAEA while the US wants to include military/civilian bases that are suspected of being used to militarize the nuclear program.
- Bases of enrichment: Iran plans to continue enrichment in all nuclear bases that do so today while the US wants enrichment to be carried out in the base in Natanz and nowhere else.
Other points of disagreement include the types of centrifuges to be used, the rights to enrich beyond 3.67% for “research” purposes and sanctions that aren’t nuclear-related.
The Rhetoric of Disagreement
Let’s start with Supreme leader Khamenei since he is the ultimate deal maker/breaker. At best, he is non-committal: he “neither supports nor opposes the deal” since “everything is in the details.” Of course, he blames the “devilish” USA for being deceptive and remains firm on his demands that “all sanctions should be removed when the deal is signed”. In a later statement, he alluded to the problem of the US’s ambiguity as the main hurdle for talks on any issue.
President Rouhani echoes Khamenei’s insistence that all sanctions should end on the day the deal is signed while adding that “the Iranian nation has been and will be the victor in the negotiations” and that the US and the EU could not “overpower” Iran’s “formidable” diplomats, legal experts and politicians.
FM Zarif’s rhetoric is similar to Rouhani’s on all points and Iranian nuclear chief Salehi straightforwardly stated that the centrifuges will keep spinning in a “business as usual” fashion, meaning that nothing within the nuclear program would stop.
On the other side of the world, Secretary of State Kerry is sticking to his fact sheet saying that “the deal is what we said it was” and the White House insists that sanctions relief would be “phased”. President Obama candidly explained that he is “not surprised” at the conflicting views and promised that “we won’t have to speculate on what the (nuclear) deal will be” because the final deal will be detailed and clear of any ambiguities.
It seems ironic that it is the lawmakers on both sides who are not willing to accept a ambiguous deal which is open to disputations: 163 MP’s of Iran’s Majlis have signed a petition demanding that Zarif publish Iran’s fact sheet. Meanwhile, in Washington, Kerry is trying to fight off demands by congress to clarify the discrepancies of the fact sheets.
Some things are clear
If the US and Iran can manage to find a detailed deal that both sides can sign, sanctions will be relieved and Iran’s path to a nuclear bomb may be slowed down. But even Obama has no qualms about the fact that no nuclear deal can keep Iran away from a bomb if it wishes to militarize its nuclear program. With or without a deal, Iran will probably reach nuclear break-out at some point which would eventually lead to a war.
On the other hand, guess who doesn’t really care about the discrepancies? Russia, China, Turkey, India and a host of other countries looking to cash in on the deal…but first and foremost, Russia. Why? Because Russia is in a classic win-win situation: If the nuclear deal is or isn’t inked, Russia will benefit from increased trade and supply Iran with nuclear sites and uranium. Furthermore, Russia has already declared that it plans to sell specialized anti-aircraft missiles on par with the US’s patriot missiles to defend Iran’s nuclear sites. And if a war does erupt over Iran’s nuclear program, you know whose side Russia will be on!