Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei’s open letter to President Rouhani in regards to the nuclear agreement represents re-adapting the signed JCPoA to his red lines, the same red lines he presented to his negotiating team before they signed. In his letter, Khamenei gave his “blessing” on the deal but added his own red lines which, in some cases, aren’t in tune with the JCPoA that was forged by FM Javad Zarif and the P5+1.
Apart from his suspicious anti-American tone, Khamenei’s letter includes 4 distinct discrepancies:
- Written declarations by leaders:
- Khamenei stipulates that “EU and the US president” issue written statements which will “reiterate(d) that these sanctions will be fully lifted” as a prerequisite to implementing the deal. These statements are meant to allay Khamenei’s suspicions regarding the willingness of the EU and especially the US to implement the JCPoA but in the process, he creates two major discrepancies.
- The first discrepancy is that, according to Khamenei, the JCPoA won’t be implemented until these statements are issued which is not a requirement according to the nuclear deal and furthermore, belittles the nuclear deal since the issue of sanctions is detailed there (the word “sanction” shows up 139 times in the deal).
- Second, according to the JCPoA, sanctions will be lifted gradually depending on Tehran’s implementation of the deal and therefore, any statement, even if written out of courtesy to Khamenei demands, cannot include the total lifting of the sanctions.
- Khamenei’s demand for written statements not only adds another stipulation that wasn’t included in the deal, it is, in fact, a renegotiation of the issue of the lifting of sanctions.
- Nuclear and non-nuclear sanctions:
- As far as Khamenei is concerned, the JCPoA means the end of all sanctions against Iran “including repetitive and fabricated pretexts of terrorism and human rights” while the JCPoA provides only for “lifting of all UN Security Council sanctions as well as multilateral and national sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear programme“.
- In other words, nuclear-related sanctions will be lifted while other sanctions can remain or be added without breaching the deal. The Iranian negotiating team worked hard to keep the negotiations focused only on the nuclear issue and effectively blocked efforts by the P5+1 negotiators to introduce issues of human rights, terrorism, subversion etc…
- Now, it is Khamenei who is tying these issues to the nuclear deal.
- Timing of sanctions:
- Khamenei always sought a total termination of all sanctions before Tehran will begin implementing the JCPoA but, as was stated earlier, the JCPoA stipulates that sanctions will gradually be lifted until the termination of the deal after 8 years.
- Without the gradual lifting of the sanctions, the P5+1 would have to “slap-back” sanctions if and when Tehran doesn’t comply with the deal which would be much more complicated (perhaps impossible if Russia/china veto) than relieving the sanctions on the go.
- By requiring the full lifting of all sanctions, Khamenei is re-bargaining after the deal was closed.
- Dealing with “ambiguities”:
- Khamenei points out that there are many “ambiguous points in the JCPoA” and adds that the “interpretation provided by the opposite party is not acceptable“.
- Khamenei’s letter includes many “interpretations” for points which he finds “ambiguous” and which he provides his own binding “red lines”.
- According to his letter, Tehran, through a “smart panel” will decide what is and what is not acceptable and Tehran’s interpretation is to be the final one.
As expected, President Hassan Rouhani, FM Javad Zarif, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, Judiciary Chief Sadeq Larijani and numerous other leading Iranian politicians openly accepted Khamenei’s guidelines – it’s hard to imagine them not doing so.
But the question arises what they will do if and when the stipulations of the JCPoA clash with their Supreme Leader’s red lines? Will they side with him and literally scrap over two years of negotiations or will they try to convince him otherwise? And if Khamenei will take the day, as he surely will, what was the use of negotiating with anyone except him? And what is to become of Rouhani?
Once again, the astute Supreme Leader has proven that he is more focused on his visions of a reovlution than Rouhani’s visions of reason and the Iranian people will have to pay the price.