Middle East Briefing: Don't call nuclear negotiations a 'deal'

Published accounts of nuclear talks vastly different; Israel, US left to trust Tehran

By Gil Elan

Exactly a week ago President Obama stood in the Rose Garden of the White House and formally announced, in front of the world’s TV cameras: “Today, the United States, together with our allies and partners, has reached a historic understanding with Iran, which, if fully implemented, will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon. I am convinced that if this framework leads to a final, comprehensive deal, it will make our country, our allies, and our world safer.”
Assuming everything the president mentioned is in the final “agreement,” and based on how Iran understands this “framework,” let’s fact-check the veracity of some of the details mentioned in the president’s address. Below are a few of the points made, followed by my analysis:

  1. The proposed framework would “cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.”
    Analysis:  Since Iran is currently about six weeks from “breakout,” and the “framework” does not address the bulk of its stockpiled enriched uranium, its “pathway to a nuclear weapon” is, in fact, a wide-open highway.
  2. Iran agreed to robust and intrusive inspections and transparency in its regime.
    Analysis:  Not according to top Iranian leaders who claim “national sovereign rights.”
  3. “This deal is not based on trust. It’s based on unprecedented verification.”
    Analysis: Only if the IAEA is allowed in to verify, including into the yet undisclosed locations . . .
  4. The core of its heavy water reactor at Arak will be dismantled and replaced.
    Analysis:  Not according to the Iranians (see below)
  5. Iran’s installed centrifuges will be reduced by two-thirds.
    Analysis: According to the Iranians, the old generation IR1 centrifuges will be replaced by thousands of the new and much more efficient IR3 and IR4 models, some of which are already assembled on-site.
  6. Iran will no longer enrich uranium at its underground Fordo facility.
    Analysis:  But the centrifuges will continue to operate and not be dismantled … and inspections will be limited to the “civilian research facilities.”
  7. Iran will not enrich uranium with its advanced centrifuges for at least the next 10 years.
    Analysis: Maybe not at the known locations, but what about the yet undisclosed military facilities?
  8. The vast majority of Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium will be neutralized.
    Analysis: This was promised over three years ago. The world is still waiting for the first batch to be “treated.”
  9. International inspectors will have unprecedented access to Iranian nuclear facilities and the entire supply chain that supports them.
    Analysis: Iranians: “We will decide what they can inspect.”

In return for full Iranian compliance to all the above, the president said, “the international community has agreed to provide Iran with relief from certain sanctions. … If Iran violates the deal,” he went on, “sanctions can be snapped back into place.”
During the briefing, the president made a number of telling statements:

  • The “framework” deal is not signed!
  • Key details are still to be finalized.
  • “Nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed.”

It’s amazing how far the president has moved the Iranian nuclear goalposts since he said, at a March 6, 2012, news conference: “…we will not countenance Iran getting a nuclear weapon…my policy is to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon — because if they get a nuclear weapon that could trigger an arms race in the region, it would undermine our non-proliferation goals, it could potentially fall into the hands of terrorists.”
So did the latest talks in Switzerland actually produce a “deal,” a “framework” for a deal” or even an “understanding”?
No…all one has to do is look at the “summary” papers put out by the State Department (1,318 words in English), and the Iranian government (512 words in Persian), that offer totally contradictory understandings of what, if anything was agreed on in Luzon last week.
According to Amir Taheri in the New York Post April 4: “The American statement claims that Iran has agreed not to use advanced centrifuges, each of which could do the work of 10 old ones. The Iranian text, however, insists that “on the basis of solutions found, work on advanced centrifuges shall continue on the basis of a 10-year plan.”
Taheri adds: “The American text claims that Iran has agreed to dismantle the core of the heavy water plutonium plant in Arak. The Iranian text says the opposite. The plant shall remain and be updated and modernized.”
The State Department summary paper talks about “phased sanctions relief” linked to Iranian compliance, while Iran claims, both in its official summary paper and in public announcements over the weekend that the sanctions would be “immediately terminated.” No wonder they were celebrating in the streets.
Bottom line: Since nothing has been signed, and since the sides obviously still disagree on key elements of the negotiations, we clearly do not have an “agreement” or even an “a historic understanding with Iran”…as we were led to believe in the Rose Garden last week.
What we do have are more negotiations, with flexible “deadlines” and no leverage, since many of the sanctions have been pretty much busted or bypassed.
Call it whatever you want (“The 2015 P5+1 Capitulation” comes to mind…) — just don’t call it a “deal”!
Agree or disagree, that’s my opinion.
Lt. Col. (IDF res) Gil Elan is President and CEO of the Southwest Jewish Congress, and a Middle East analyst. Email: gil@swjc.org. Upcoming briefings and SWJC events are listed at: www.swjc.org

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