The Iran deal for dummies

MEMRI’s Yigal Carmon has what he calls a Daily Brief summarizing leading aspect of the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action among Iran, the United States and others regarding Iran’s nuclear program. It is a most peculiar deal. Carmon calls his summary “The emperor has no clothes.” John wrote about it here. Carmon’s exposition opens with these observations (footnotes omitted):

What is mistakenly perceived as an agreement under the title of “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” (JCPOA), that was concluded on July 14 in Vienna, and celebrated by the White House as an “historic agreement,” is neither a contract nor even a real agreement between Iran and the P5+1. It is a set of understandings and disputes compiled into a single document.

For example, the JCPOA states that in the event of Iranian violations, sanctions will be re-imposed (snapback). However, the Iranian position, which rejects all sanctions, is incorporated in the same document. In outlining the snapback of the sanctions, Article 37 also stipulates: “Iran has stated that if sanctions are reinstated in whole or in part, Iran will treat that as grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part.” This is not merely an Iranian reservation expressed outside of the negotiating room. It is incorporated into the text of this selfsame document – and one that completely contradicts preceding provisions that stipulate otherwise. Since the parties were unable to arrive at an understanding on this issue in two entire years of negotiations, they decided to resolve this major issue by incorporating this disagreement into the document itself.

The JCPOA is best characterized by bangs and whimpers – by bold prohibitions on Iran that peter out in qualifying terms such as “unless,” “except if,” and the like.

Why isn’t the JCPOA a contract? Because Iran would never have signed any contract with the U.S. – “the Great Satan” – whose demise it seeks. Likewise, it would not have signed any contract with any other party to the negotiations, since it views the sanctions imposed on it by United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions and by EU and IAEA reports as grievous injustice. By signing such an agreement, it would retroactively legitimize these wrongs done to it.

As Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei frequently reiterates, Iran agreed to negotiations mainly to get the sanctions lifted. Therefore, as far as Iran is concerned, the only acceptable name for this enterprise is “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” – under which each party commits to particular action. It is a joint plan, not a contract.

Highly recommended weekend reading, as is much else accessible via MEMRI’s home page.