Final Nuclear Deal Must Recognize Iran's Rights, Take Steps to Remove Sanctions

Friday, July 4, 2014

Vahid Nouri
Iran's Foreign Policy Expert

The representative of Iran and the member states of the P5+1 group embarked on the fifth round of their nuclear talks in the Austrian capital city of Vienna with one basic question in their minds: “Is it possible to achieve a final and comprehensive agreement before the six-month deadline for the interim Geneva agreement (which expires on July 20) is reached?” This question was posed in almost all press interviews and was part of the remarks made by representatives of both Iran and the P5+1 group.

The author believes that the answer to this question is positive and the reason for this claim should be sought in the developments that took place in early days of the Vienna 5 talks. In the early hours after the Iranian delegation arrived in Vienna and following the working lunch, a session of trilateral negotiations was held for three hours among [Iranian Foreign Minister] Mr. [Mohammad Javad] Zarif, [European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy] Ms. [Catherine] Ashton, and the American delegation, represented by William Burns [the current US Deputy Secretary of State]. This session was the most prominent point that differentiated the Vienna 5 talks from previous rounds of nuclear negotiations.

In other words, the climax of the Vienna 5 talks was not the developments and press conferences that took place on its last day, but the acme was reached during “political negotiations” in the first day, which were continuation of “bilateral talks between Iran and the United States” that had taken place the previous week. This means that discussions on “technical and legal” issues had largely ended during the previous rounds of negotiations and the two sides had entered the crucial phase of “making political decisions.” In this stage, “the main demands” and “red lines” of both sides of the negotiations are accurately defined and crossing them would need “difficult political decisions.” Of course, it seems that negotiations practically entered this phase during the Vienna 4 talks and the aforesaid difficulties were the main reasons behind the failure of that round of negotiations.

Although there has been no reliable report on the content of that meeting and bilateral talks that took place on June 10, 2014, the remarks made by [Iran's top nuclear negotiator] Mr. [Abbas] Araqchi indicated that “necessary political decisions” for the resolution of the differences have been taken by the American and, of course, the Iranian sides. Speaking to reporters on the first day of talks, Araqchi said, “We have seen no sign to show that the American side is trying to prolong the negotiations. They are trying to pave the way for an agreement by July 20…. We will start writing the text of the agreement as of tomorrow.” Also, before leaving Vienna, Dr. Zarif took part in a press conference to announce that “Mr. Burns has assured me about the commitment of the US president to achieving a nuclear agreement.”

In this context, both sides managed to start writing the preamble to the final nuclear agreement, which is also known as “the Comprehensive Plan of Action.” Of course, the Iranian foreign minister said there have been some differences about the preamble of the agreement and the differential points had been put in parentheses. In technical terms, writing the preamble, which includes the goals, general outline, the two sides’ obligations and dispute settlement mechanisms, is among the most important and of course the most difficult parts of an agreement. Therefore, it is quite natural for the two sides to defer final discussion of the most important differences over Iran's uranium enrichment capacity, international inspections of Iran's nuclear energy program, the number of centrifuges active in Iran and so forth, to the last days and even final hours of negotiations. Therefore, unlike the standstill faced in the Vienna 4 negotiations, the Vienna 5 talks should be considered a “progress and a step forward,” which have raised hopes about achievement of a final agreement during the coming month.

After giving the positive answer to the above question and delineating a bright outlook for achieving a final nuclear agreement over a six-month period, the next basic question is “what would be the contents of that agreement?” There is no doubt that the answer to this question is in the offing and cannot be possibly predicted by analysts. However, the door is open to speculations about possible coordinates of that agreement and offering a number of related proposals:

1. It seems that due to the insistence of the Iranian delegation, the Islamic Republic’s missile program will not be part of the final agreement;

2. It seems that Iran's right to enrich uranium will be recognized by the P5+1 group only up to an enrichment level of 5 percent in the final agreement and that recognition will be “de facto” without being specified as a “right” for the country. As for the viewpoints of the two negotiating sides about the number and type of Iran's centrifuges, conflicting information abounds. According to the latest report on the Iranian nuclear energy program by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), at present, Iran has installed 15,420 first-generation (IR-1) centrifuges (in 90 cascades) and 1,008 second-generation (IR-2) centrifuges (in six cascades) at its enrichment facility in Natanz of which only 54 cascades (about 9,000 centrifuges) have been fed with natural UF6. There are also 2,710 IR-1 centrifuges installed at Fordow facility, but following the interim Geneva deal, Iran has ceased feeding UF6 into those centrifuges. The following points should be taken into account in this regard:

   a. The Iranian negotiators should ask for an increase in the number and type of the country’s centrifuges in proportion to the   increasing level of international inspections of its nuclear facilities. Operating the existing 54 cascades (about 9,000 centrifuges) could be the first step in this regard, but after Iran accepts to take further confidence building measures in the last phase, the number and the technological aspects of those centrifuges can be increased in parallel to suit the country’s real needs;

   b. From the viewpoint of the author, even if an agreement is reached over a lower number of centrifuges, the Iranian negotiating team should not agree to the other parties’ request for dismantling the remaining centrifuges. Having installed centrifuges, even when they are not fed with UF6, would bolster Iran's potential capacity.

3. It seems that the P5+1 group is asking for Fordow facility to be turned in a place for nuclear research and development and nothing more;

4. It seems that with efforts made by the Iranian side, the heavy water reactor in Arak will be finally preserved in the final agreement, though after making some technical modifications. Various technical proposals have been offered on this facility and the final goal of all of them is to reduce the amount of plutonium that Arak heavy water reactor can produce;

5. It seems that stricter supervision will be enforced over Iran's nuclear facilities. Basically speaking, for the P5+1 group, an efficient supervisory and accountability system is much more important than such issues as the quantity or quality of centrifuges. Acceptance of the Additional Protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) by Iran will be probably part of the final nuclear agreement. Of course, acceptance of the Additional Protocol should take place after it is weighed against the other side’s commitment to removing sanctions against Iran. This means that in the first step, the Islamic Republic of Iran should accept voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol and defer its final approval to the time when all kinds of sanctions (including unilateral sanctions imposed by the European Union and the United States and multilateral sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council) are removed;

6. It seems that the process of removing anti-Iran sanctions will take place gradually. In fact, the Iranian negotiating team has accepted the gradual removal of sanctions according to a timetable. This issue can be part of the political decisions to be made by the two sides during the new round of talks in Vienna. The quid pro quo can be political decisions by the US government to decrease the time period considered for the final lifting of sanctions or accepting certain parts of Iran's enrichment program, including the number and type of centrifuges;

7. There have been many speculations about the period of time in which sanctions against Iran would be removed. I personally believe that the Iranian negotiating team should not accept a timetable for the removal of the unilateral US sanctions (including sanctions imposed by the US Congress and those imposed following executive orders by the president) which would go beyond 2016 (at which time the President Barack Obama’s term in office will be finished);

8. Assuming that sanctions would be removed gradually, it would be logical to also assume that Iran's main concerns about the sanctions should be taken onboard in the first step. In return, Iran should also take confidence building measures asked by the P5+1 group in the first step, so that, the way would be paved for the conclusion of a powerful agreement, which would be acceptable to both sides;

9. It seems that the P5+1 group should consider a process of “suspension at first” and “removal at the end” for the removal of sanctions;

10. Suspension of sanctions involving SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) services, unfreezing part of Iran's blocked oil revenues, raising the ceiling for Iran's oil sales, suspending sanctions against Iran's petrochemical sector as well as trade of precious stones and sanction against Iran's national currency should be part of the first step;

11. Unlike unilateral sanctions imposed by the European Union and the United States, sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council are very difficult to lift and their revocation would involve many legal and even political steps. Therefore, it seems that the process for suspending the Security Council’s sections will start in the first step, but their total removal in the short run seems an unlikely possibility.

Key Words: Final Nuclear Deal, Iran, P5+1, Iran's Nuclear Rights,  Sanctions, Enrichment, IAEA, Centrifuges, Additional Protocol, NPT, European Union, United States, Nouri

Source: Tabnak News Website
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

*Photo Credit: Fararu

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