Landmark Deal Depends on Faithful Implementation

Friday, July 17, 2015

Kaveh L. Afrasiabi

The landmark Iran nuclear agreement reached after intense negotiations in Vienna is a balanced "good deal" that reflects the needs and interests of both sides in the multilateral nuclear diplomacy between Iran and the "5 +1" nations, i.e., UN Security Council's Permanent Five plus Germany. The agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, will receive the UN's seal of approval in the near future, thus acquiring the status of an international agreement. It faces the challenge of approval in U.S. Congress as well as Iran's Parliament (Majlis), but perhaps its biggest challenge is the faithful implementation by both sides. From Iran's vantage point, there is real concern since, as the Supreme Leader has stated, some of the "5 +1" nations cannot be trusted. After all, the Iran nuclear history is rife with examples of breached contracts, disrespect for Iran's legitimate rights, and so on, thus raising the Iranian concern that the Western governments led by the U.S. may be up to their old habit of making pledges that they would not eventually keep under one excuse or another, all the more reason for Iran to seek to close the potential loopholes that would lend themselves to such Western shenanigan as President Obama's first post-agreement statement suggesting that it calls for simply "some sanctions relief" that would be "phased in." 

Iran's Majlis Speaker, Ali Larijani, has rightly questioned Obama's interpretation as a "fantasy," while the chief U.S. architect of the deal, namely, Secretary of State John Kerry, has suggested that Iran's heavy water reactor will not go on line for at least another 15 years, at the same time indicating that gradual sanctions relief will not be forthcoming until after the IAEA-verified Iran's implementation of its obligations such as the destruction of the reactor core at Arak. But, the problem with Kerry's statement is that first of all there is no such lengthy timeline on Arak heavy water reactor listed anywhere in the text of the nuclear agreement and, naturally, Iran is determined to complete the reactor with a new core in a considerably shorter time span. As for Kerry's suggestion of a sequential U.S. lifting of sanctions, it collides with the content and spirit of the final agreement's principle of simultaneity. Not only that, the agreement's provisions for the removal of sanctions are riddled with conditions, above all the IAEA's confirmation of Iran's peaceful nuclear activities, which might not be forthcoming due to the agency's pro-West biases. The lack of IAEA's certificate would then open a Pandora's Box with respect to Western governments' fulfillment of their obligations, and reneging thereto, thus imperiling the agreement. As a result of the IAEA preconditions set for the lifting of sanctions, the latter is bunkered behind the trip wires of "ifs" and "buts" that each can potentially act as the stop station for the implementation track, derailing the agreement. 

Indeed, the administration of President Hassan Rouhani should take this matter very seriously, since there is a risk, however slight, that Iran would fulfill its part of the bargain and then face the prospect of Western governments reneging on their obligations, such as with respect to the sanctions removal, in which case the Rouhani administration would feel the heat of public questions about the deal's one-sided implementation.  In that case, the administration's nuclear victory would be short-lived.

*Kaveh Afrasiabi, Ph.D, is a former political science professor at Tehran University and the author of several books on Iran’s foreign policy. His writings have appeared on several online and print publications, including UN Chronicle, New York Times, Der Tagesspiegel, Middle East Journal, Harvard International Review, and Brown's Journal of World Affairs, Guardian, Russia Today, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Mediterranean Affairs, Nation, Telos, Der Tageszeit, Hamdard Islamicus, Iranian Journal of International Affairs, Global Dialogue.

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*Photo Credit: Tristate

*These views represent those of the author and are not necessarily Iran Review's viewpoints.

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