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Does Geneva Agreement Recognize Iran Uranium Enrichment Right?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Ali Ghannadi
Editor of International Section of Javan Daily

The “Joint Plan of Action” or the agreement which was signed between Iran and the member states of the P5+1 group of world powers in the Swiss city of Geneva on the early morning hours of Sunday, November 24, 2013, is just an interim or transitional agreement, which can be evaluated from various angles. Apart from very important international circumstances under which this plan of action has been signed, it enjoys an equally important legal aspect which has given rise to many debates in this regard. Very important questions have been put forth with regard to this agreement: has it actually recognized Iran's right to enrich uranium on its soil? What is the relationship between the Geneva agreement and other compelling principles of the international law, including the principles enshrined by the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)? Will the agreement be able to override previous resolutions adopted by various UN bodies such as the UN Security Council’s sanctions resolutions against Iran, in which special emphasis has been put on the need for Iran to totally suspend its enrichment activities? There are also tens of other similar questions to be posed here.

A serious issue which has been brought up in recent days is conditionality of Iran's enrichment right on “mutual agreement.” The preamble of the Joint Action Plan has noted that the agreement is prelude to “a mutually-agreed long-term comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran's nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful.” It is noteworthy that such a comprehensive solution should be formulated by the two sides on the basis of the “all or none” principle. The main point, however, which has raised sensitivities in recent days, is the part of the preamble that reads: “This comprehensive solution would involve a mutually defined enrichment programme with practical limits and transparency measures to ensure the peaceful nature of the programme.” Analysts have asserted that this part of the agreement has actually made Iran's right to enrichment conditional upon “mutual agreement,” while the Non-Proliferation Treaty does not recognize such a limitation for its signatories, including Iran. This part of the preamble has been repeated in more detail in another section of the agreement which is entitled “Elements of the final step of a comprehensive solution,” where it says: “The final step of a comprehensive solution … would … involve a mutually defined enrichment programme with mutually agreed parameters consistent with practical needs, with agreed limits on scope and level of enrichment activities, capacity, where it is carried out, and stocks of enriched uranium, for a period to be agreed upon.”

This part of the agreement has explicitly and in more detail enumerated restrictions that will be considered for the enrichment of uranium in Iran as part of the final step of a comprehensive solution. The five restrictions mentioned therein, include: 1. the enrichment by Iran should be mutually agreed upon; 2. be consistent with practical needs; 3. with agreed limits on scope and level of enrichment activities; 4. with limits on where it is carried out; and 5. with limits on stocks of enriched uranium.

The critics are correct in that Iran's right to enrich uranium has been made conditional on “mutual agreement.” However, there is a key point here which has been largely ignored in most analytical reports: that limitation has been considered for a specific period of time. “…For a period to be agreed upon” is the most important phrase included in this section of the agreement, which shows that making Iran's enrichment right conditional on mutual agreement is only related to the period of time in which “the comprehensive solution” will be applied. In more accurate legal terms, conditionality of Iran's enrichment right in the Geneva agreement has been made limited to a specific period of time. In legal terms, considering time limitation for the conditionality of Iran's enrichment right actually renders it unconditional. As noted in the final section of the agreement, “following successful implementation of the final step of the comprehensive solution for its full duration, the Iranian nuclear programme will be treated in the same manner as that of any non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT.” This part, especially, shows that at the end of the day, Iran has been, is, and will be entitled to enforce its right to unlimited enrichment of uranium as per Article 4 of the NPT. Even if the key phrase, “for a period to be agreed upon,” had not been included in the Geneva agreement, Iran's right to enrich uranium could have not been made limited by this agreement for the following reasons:

1. The Geneva agreement is a preliminary, interim, and transitional agreement aimed at building confidence with international community and paving the way for a comprehensive solution or agreement on Iran's nuclear energy program to be reached. The section on “Elements of the final step of a comprehensive solution,” only includes the main topics which should be agreed upon in a final agreement and has nothing to do with putting limitation on Iran's enrichment activities. How an agreement, which has not been formulated so far, can be considered to be aimed at restricting Iran's enrichment right? Therefore, everything actually depends on an agreement between the two sides in later stages and that agreement will be based on the general rule of “agreement over all or none.”

2. At least, two sections of the Geneva agreement have clearly emphasized that the final comprehensive agreement will recognize Iran's full right to avail itself of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in accordance with the contents of the NPT. Therefore, it is clear that any agreement [between Iran and the P5+1 group] will be based on Iran's right to conduct unlimited enrichment activities on its soil. However, this right can be made limited by considering restrictions for a certain period of time on a voluntary basis as a result of the existing political expediencies. This is exactly what Iran has been doing at the present juncture.

3. In legal terms, no bilateral or multilateral agreement can stand in contravention to international treaties such as the NPT, unless through indefinite agreement of the main beneficiary state. In this case, it is clear that Iran will never accept to leave the realization of its unconditional right to enrichment and related benefits to the mutual agreement with the other negotiating parties.

Apart from the above facts, the Geneva agreement has not only given Iran more latitude under the present circumstances, but for the first time, has made the other negotiating parties that oppose Iran's nuclear energy program, to sign a written document on the need to define “the final step” of a comprehensive solution. The previous Iranian nuclear negotiating teams had frequently emphasized on the need for the opposite parties to do this. The agreement has also forced the Western negotiating parties to not only sign a written document to define the clear meaning of “lifting sanctions in the final step,” but also sign a written document which specifies that “following successful implementation of the final step … the Iranian nuclear programme will be treated in the same manner as that of any non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT.” This would amount to nothing short of indirect recognition of Iran's right to engage in unlimited enrichment activities on its soil.

In addition, the Geneva agreement has created cracks in the growing wall of unjust international sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Now, it is for us to decide how to completely demolish this cracked wall. All the commitments that Iran has undertaken in Geneva are limited to what has been put on the paper, which can be reversed through a simple political decision. However, the commitments undertaken by the Western countries are not limited to what has been put on the paper. It should be noted again that “[the realization of] every one of these propositions will depend on how we will act in the future.”

Key Words: Geneva Agreement, Iran Uranium Enrichment Right, Joint Plan of Action, P5+1, NPT, UN Security Council, Ghanndai

Source: Javan Daily
http://javanonline.ir/
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

More By Ali Ghannadi:

*Why P5+1 Mechanism Is Not Efficient Enough to Achieve Broad-based Agreement?: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Why-P5-1-Mechanism-Is-Not-Efficient-Enough-to-Achieve-Broad-based-Agreement-.htm

*Tehran 2010 Agreement Overshadows Perspective of Almaty 2 Meeting: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Tehran-2010-Agreement-Overshadows-Perspective-of-Almaty-2-Meeting.htm

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