When their Supreme Leader disagrees with ours

Following the announcement of the Joint Plan of Action (interim agreement) with Iran in November 2013, disagreements emerged regarding the terms of the deal represented in public by Iran and the United States. Insofar as could be determined by reviewing the terms of the JPOA itself (as opposed to some secret protocol), I found the Iranian representations to be consistently more reliable than those of the United States.

The announcement of the “framework” of the final agreement to be concluded with Iran (as President Obama refers to it in his statement on the deal) replays this scenario in the theater of the absurd, for there is essentially no script to which to turn. We have a “joint document issued publicly” consisting of “a statement from Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, and Federica Mogherini, the European Union foreign policy chief, that was all of seven paragraphs, as New York Times reporter Michael Gordon puts it in “Outline of Iran deal sounds different from each side.” The joint statement is posted here. Beyond that, we have only the understandings variously written in the hearts of the negotiators at the table.

The White House has posted its account of the putative “framework” of the final agreement under the anodyne heading “Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program.” Amir Taheri takes a close look at Iran’s account of the “deal” in the New York Post column “Iran’s Persian statement on ‘deal’ contradicts Obama’s claims” The discrepancies that Taheri finds between the two accounts are, shall we say, striking.

Taking this all at face value, the Times of Israel has compiled a handy list of apparent differences on key points. The Times of Israel story is “US, Iran publicly at odds over 6 key aspects of nuke deal, Israeli expert finds.” It lists the following six differences:

1. Sanctions: Ya’ari said the US has made clear that economic sanctions will be lifted in phases, whereas the Iranian fact sheet provides for the immediate lifting of all sanctions as soon as a final agreement is signed, which is set for June 30.

(In fact, the US parameters state that sanctions will be suspended only after Iran has fulfilled all its obligations: “US and EU nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps.” By contrast, the Iranian fact sheet states: “all of the sanctions will be immediately removed after reaching a comprehensive agreement.”)

2. Enrichment: The American parameters provide for restrictions on enrichment for 15 years, while the Iranian fact sheet speaks of 10 years.

3. Development of advanced centrifuges at Fordo: The US says the framework rules out such development, said Ya’ari, while the Iranians say they are free to continue this work.

4. Inspections: The US says that Iran has agreed to surprise inspections, while the Iranians say that such consent is only temporary, Ya’ari said.

5. Stockpile of already enriched uranium: Contrary to the US account, Iran is making clear that its stockpile of already enriched uranium — “enough for seven bombs” if sufficiently enriched, Ya’ari said — will not be shipped out of the country, although it may be converted.

6. PMD: The issue of the Possible Military Dimensions of the Iranian program, central to the effort to thwart Iran, has not been resolved, Ya’ari said.

(The US parameters make two references to PMD. They state, first: “Iran will implement an agreed set of measures to address the IAEA’s concerns regarding the Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of its program.” And they subsequently add: “All past UN Security Council resolutions on the Iran nuclear issue will be lifted simultaneous with the completion, by Iran, of nuclear-related actions addressing all key concerns (enrichment, Fordo, Arak, PMD, and transparency).” The Iranian fact sheet does not address PMD.)

The deadline for a final agreement remains June 30. How will the differences between our Supreme Leader and theirs be resolved?

As he does essentially in his statement on the deal, Obama poses the alternatives of the deal or war. If those are the alternatives as Obama presents them, it is apparent how differences in a reaching a final agreement will be resolved. They will be resolved by our Supreme Leader acceding to theirs, as he has done on every key point to arrive at our current position.

UPDATE: The Belfer Center has posted this “Translation of the Iranian fact sheet on the nuclear negotiations.”

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