How to strike the final nuclear deal with Iran on time

Tehran, July 3, IRNA – With the July 9th, the real deadline for the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 rapidly approaching, the critics of the Lausanne Nuclear Framework Agreement in Washington and Tehran have stepped up their criticisms.
The foreign ministers of world powers are set to nail down the nuclear accord they hope will end a 13-year standoff with Iran while major differences remain. Since the agreement reached in April 2nd, the critics in Iran have raised eight main criticisms, which some observers of the talks in the West have interpreted as Iran pulling back from its commitments under the framework agreement. These Iranian skeptics emphasize the following points in their rebukes of the Lausanne agreement:

1) Iran has gone beyond its legal obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).

2) The United States, given its history with Iran, cannot be trusted to abide by its commitments under a nuclear deal.

3) The Iranian critics cannot trust a procedure that would see it having to first carry out its commitments and then wait on the IAEA to verify them before any sanctions get lifted. Their doubts on this matter are further entrenched given their belief that the IAEA has been coopted by the United States and is essentially an untrustworthy American tool.

4) The issue of “possible military dimensions” (PMD) to Iran’s nuclear program. Pessimists of the nuclear negotiations in Iran maintain that the PMD issue is a way for foreign inspectors to get “any time, any place” access to Iranian military sites, therein violating Iran’s sovereignty and making its national security secrets vulnerable.

5) Allowing Iranian scientists to be interrogated. This is a major issue, especially given the track record of several Iranian scientists having been assassinated by Israeli intelligence.

6) Iran accepting “irreversible” provisions as part of a nuclear agreement. While both sides tout that their commitments under any deal would be reversible if the other side reneges, Iranian critics highlight some cases like technical changes at Iran’s heavy water reactor in Arak which under a deal would be reconfigured in a way that would take several years to reverse.

7) Iran’s ability to develop its R&D related to nuclear technology. They argue that any deal limiting R&D in Iran is an act of sanctioning science itself.

8) Finally, Iranian critics of the nuclear talks contend the Lausanne agreement prevents Iran from meeting its practical domestic energy needs on time. The 2013 Joint Plan of Action recognizes Iran’s right in this respect. The current contract Iran has with Russia to provide fuel for its nuclear power plant in Bushehr will expire in 2021. Thus, Iran will not, they say, be able to meet its practical needs to operate this power plant after this year with the restrictions laid out in the Lausanne agreement.

These concerns are all legitimate at their core. Indeed, with the proposed Lausanne nuclear deal, Iran would have to abide by certain restrictions and limitations for specific periods that go beyond those set-forth in the NPT. However, the reality is that Iran’s nuclear dossier has gone to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) during President Ahmadinejad’s period and numerous resolutions restricting Iran’s nuclear activities have been passed since 2006.

While from the Iranian point of view, the NPT is the criteria for a final deal, for the P5+1 it is the NPT plus the UNSC resolutions. The UN resolutions mandated that Iran cease all uranium enrichment and related activities, implement the Additional protocol and Subsidiary Arrangement Code 3.1, and allow unlimited access to IAEA inspectors for them to verify the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program. The potential deal being negotiated now, while superseding the requirements of the NPT in some respects, falls short of the demands laid out by these UNSC resolutions. The room for compromise, therefore, exists only in this realm between the NPT and the UNSC resolutions against Iran, in effect representing a give and take from both sides.

For the negotiators to reach final deal, it is absolutely crucial that a deal be “win-win.” Such a deal can be reached even by the set deadline if it meets the following conditions:

1. Iran accepts to adhere to all transparency measures within the framework of the NPT and the IAEA, i.e., implements Safeguards Agreement, Modified Code 3.1 of its safeguards agreement, and the Additional Protocol. This will expand the transparency of Iran’s nuclear program to include a larger number of sites that encompass the entirety of Iran’s fuel cycle, will garner more extensive accountancy requirements from Iran, and will give the IAEA the ability to conduct short-notice inspections and receive earlier notification of any new nuclear facilities Iran intends to build. These monitoring and verification measures will span the entirety of Iran’s fuel cycle and provide verifiable assurance that Iran cannot divert material or construct a parallel covert nuclear weapons program.

2. For specific period and as confidence building measures, Iran agrees to measures beyond the NPT that provide absolute guarantees that the pathways to a nuclear weapon from both heavy water and enrichment facilities are blocked. To this end, the pathway to a bomb at the heavy water facility in Arak is blocked if Iran, for a specific duration, forgoes reprocessing, exports its spent fuel, and makes technical changes to Arak to reduce its plutonium production from 10kg to 1kg a year. With respect to the enrichment pathway, Iran can commit to enriching below 5 percent, synchronize the enrichment capacity to practical domestic needs, and reduce its stockpiles of low enriched uranium from 8000kg to 300kg.

3. In return, the P5+1, in particular the United States, will agree to cease its doubly oppressive and excessive demands that go far beyond the NPT and threaten Iran’s integrity and national security. These include demands to: interrogate Iranian scientists, conduct unconventional inspections, and limit peaceful scientific research. Finally, the key issue the world powers negotiating with Iran should be cognizant of is the realistic recent statement of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei that the “implementation of the lifting of sanctions should be in line with the implementation of Iran’s agreed commitments.”

Ambassador Seyed Hossein Mousavian is a research scholar at Princeton University. He previously served as spokesman for Iran’s nuclear negotiators. His latest book is titled Iran and the United States: An Insider’s view on the Failed Past and the Road to Peace.