Thursday, December 12, 2013

Dore Gold: Conflicting Expectations from the Geneva Document between the P5+1 and Iran

Dore Gold writes about the Conflicting Expectations from the Geneva Document between the P5+1 and Iran. Here is the executive summary of Dore's article:
  • Many questions have arisen about whether the P5+1 (U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany) and the Islamic Republic of Iran interpret the interim understanding reached in Geneva on November 24, 2013, in the same way. Indeed, at times it appears that they are not talking about the same piece of paper.

  • Iranian and Western representatives at the table in Geneva
    Iranian and Western representatives at the table in Geneva --
    at least there was no confusion about where to sit.
    Credit: JCPA
  • From the remarks of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Jarad Zarif on Iranian television, the Geneva document does not legally obligate Iran. Under these circumstances, Tehran’s freedom of maneuver in interpreting the language of the document will be greater.

  • From the standpoint of Western security, one clear purpose of the diplomatic efforts in Geneva was to extend the time the Iranians need to achieve a nuclear breakout. While Iran would never admit that its secret ambition is nuclear breakout to achieve an atomic bomb, it judges that it will need very little time to recover its production capabilities of 20-percent-enriched uranium, once it no longer feels compelled to limit itself in accordance with the Geneva document.

  • Both sides have very different expectations regarding the future of the sanctions on Iran. U.S. spokesmen argue that after the conclusion of the Geneva document, the core architecture of the sanctions remains firmly in place. In contrast, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani declared after the Geneva document was reached: The core architecture of the sanctions will be fractured following the implementation of this agreement.

  • The Geneva document leaves the window open for future uranium enrichment by Iran. The Iranians see enrichment as their right. The U.S. speaks about a limited enrichment program under international restrictions and monitoring. In any case, the Geneva document unfortunately leaves open the possibility that in the future, Iran will not always be under international restrictions.
In the actual article, Dore expands on the first point and notes that the confusion that has arisen over the nature of the agreement is not something new -- and is part of the way Iran has negotiated with the West in the past:
Indeed, this was not the first time that Iran had reached an agreement with the West over the suspension of uranium enrichment. On October 21, 2003, Iran and the EU3 concluded the Tehran Agreement according to which Tehran undertook “to suspend all uranium enrichment activities and reprocessing activities.” Iran’s head of negotiation at the time (and today Iran’s president), Hassan Rouhani, was widely quoted years later proudly confessing that while the talks were underway between 2003 and 2005, Iran constructed its uranium conversion plant in Isfahan where the UF6 feedstock for its gas centrifuges was manufactured. In short, his admission showed how Iran exploited negotiations to advance its nuclear program.

But looking back to that period, there was something else Rouhani did that is worth recalling. He preferred to avoid precise legal definitions, not characterizing the Tehran Agreement as a legal obligation. He also preferred to keep matters vague, including the definition of “suspension” in the Tehran Agreement. Was it to be defined narrowly, as Iran preferred, to mean only a prohibition on inserting UF6 gas into a centrifuge? Or was it to be defined broadly to include issues like uranium conversion or research and development on new centrifuges? Is Iran returning to its negotiating style from 2003?

For this reason, it is important to investigate exactly how the Iranians defined the Geneva document. Amir Taheri, former editor of the Iranian daily Kayhan, wrote in Asharq al-Awsat on November 29, 2013, that the parties haven’t even agreed on how to call the document: an agreement or a memorandum? This becomes clear from the remarks of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Jarad Zarif on Iranian television. For if the Geneva document does not legally obligate Iran, then its freedom of maneuver in interpreting its language will be greater.
Read the whole thing.

There has been nothing announced in the news to contradict the impression that Iran has once again fooled the West.

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