Nuclear Deal After the Deadline

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Kaveh L. Afrasiabi

Although the intense nuclear negotiations remain strictly confidential, with the approaching June 30th deadline, there is a high probability of a final agreement within a short period after this self-imposed deadline. The parties, i.e., Iran and the world powers known as "5 +1" (five permanent members of UN Security Council plus Germany) have come too far, resolved so many of their differences, and built mutual confidence after marathon rounds since the signing of the interim Geneva agreement in November, 2013, to allow the process end in total failure.   

In other words, failure is not an option. The cost of failure would be too high for regional and global peace and security, as well as for the vested interests of the main players in this nuclear drama. It would not necessarily end in a military conflict – too many factors militate against it, irrespective of the American and Israeli psychological warfare -- but a failed nuclear talks would escalate the tensions and could trigger a number of both intended and unintended consequences in the volatile region which is mired in multiple crisis.   

Even though the nuclear talks are issue specific and have steered clear of "linkage issue" with regional security issues, still it is quite clear that deal or no deal there are important ramifications for regional security. Thus, whereas a nuclear deal would facilitate U.S.-Iran cooperation against the menace of ISIS (Daesh), a failed negotiation would make it unlikely that such a cooperation could transpire, thus benefiting the regional forces of disintegration.   

At this point, however, all eyes are focused on the details of the emerging nuclear agreement, which is reportedly condensed in a 60 to 80 pages agreement with accompanying technical annexes. Considered a "political document," the final agreement would receive the blessing of UN Security Council and then enter its implementation phase after the review period by U.S. Congress. A quid pro quo, there would be a corresponding set of actions and reactions, with respect to either side's fulfillment of their obligations, with specific timelines.

As indicated in the Geneva agreement, the aim of the final agreement is to bring the Iran nuclear file to a state of normalcy, whereby all the punitive sanctions imposed on Iran would be lifted.   

There is, of course, the thorny question of how to distinguish the nuclear and non-nuclear sanctions imposed unilaterally by the Western nations, given the absence of clear demarcation lines in, for example, the U.S. sanctions laws. Nonetheless, it is fairly certain that the main energy, financial, and banking sanctions would definitely need to be lifted rather instantly as soon as Iran starts to implement its agreed obligations. One of the reasons favoring a final agreement is the widespread perception by both sides that this is a historic moment that ought not to be missed and might not recur for a long time if somehow they fail to resolve the remaining differences.

According to the Iran negotiator, Seyed Abbas Araghchi, a number of "parenthesis" in the draft agreement have been deleted and there is an effort to resolve the other "parenthesis" complained of openly by Iran's chief negotiator, the foreign minister Zarif. 

Another reason, giving more hope for a final resolution, pertains to the timely inclusion of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in the Vienna talks, in light of the presence of IAEA chief Yukiya Amano, which is a smart move since the agency is delegated with the crucial task of certifying Iran's implementation of its nuclear obligations and there is therefore the logical necessity of converging the parallel negotiations, between Iran and the powers on the one hand and Iran and the IAEA on the other. Perhaps this should have occurred at an earlier stage, but this late convergence is yet another hopeful sign of solid progress in the talks, irrespective of likely missing the deadline.   

This deadline is certainly extendable and there is little harm to the talks by pushing it further. Iran's team has clearly stated that its aim is to reach a "good deal" that would reflect Iran's interests and uphold the country's dignity, which might require further time to resolve the remaining gaps. 

In conclusion, we are now at a critical decision moment in the nuclear talks and with sufficient political will and prudent diplomacy on the part of negotiating parties, we are likely to witness a historic breakthrough that will hopefully spell the end of the oppressive and unjust sanctions on Iran and the onset of a brand new chapter in Iran's relations with the Western world.

*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: Fararu

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

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