Friday, April 3, 2015

Post 102: Examining the Framework for the Iranian Nuclear Deal

Today's post is a little "off topic" with regard to my normal energy/society/enviroment theme - or maybe not...

The P5+1 and Iran announced today an "agreement" on a "framework" for a final deal on Iran's nuclear program.  Actually, as Secretary Kerry tweeted in a response to a World Post article this afternoon, "we have the parameters to resolve the major issues" the final deal must address. While recalling we were supposed to have the actual deal in place by now (rather than a "framework"), the US Fact Sheet on today's announcement provides a surprising (and encouraging) amount of detail on this "framework".  (I encourage you sit down with a cup of tea or coffee and carefully read the fact sheet.  Much will be said in the media about this agreement in the coming days.  The fact sheet will be one essential primer on the subject.)

I’m surprised at the specificity and the POTENTIAL effectiveness of the elements of the agreement.  Frankly, I had pretty low expectations.  Pleasantly surprised.  This said, I offer a few brief observations from my quick read of the US Fact Sheet:

  • Presuming the final deal actually codifies the content of the US Fact Sheet, it’s all about VERIFICATION.  No one has been successful to date in achieving a level of inspections and verification within Iran that produces the required level of transparency.  And, of course, Iran has been caught “cheating” repeatedly on its previous “agreements”.  So I’m looking very carefully at both the details of the inspection regime/protocols and how Iran complies (or not) with them.  I’m from Tennessee, but my mind is in Missouri on this one…
  • At the risk of being skeptical (paranoid?)… if Iran really is only two to three months from achieving breakout (as the US Fact Sheet asserts), and if (as Hassan Rouhani tweeted in response to the World Post article mentioned above) the actual agreement won’t be finished until June 30…  June 30 is (interestingly) almost exactly THREE MONTHS from today.  Prudent folks should wonder what Iran will be doing behind the scenes during those three months?
  • Unlike US sanctions, there appears to be no “snap-back” trigger for UN sanctions on Iran.   Rather the Fact Sheet simply states “UN sanctions could be re-imposed” in the event of Iran’s “non-performance”.  The US will apparently maintain the sanctions infrastructure necessary to enable us to quickly “snap-back” (reinstitute) our sanctions.  But the Fact Sheet indicates no such effort will be made to enable a UN “snap-back” once the UN sanctions are removed. I wonder how difficult it would be for the UN (an organization not known for quick or 
    harmonious responses) to "snap back).
  • I remain deeply troubled by the absence of any coupling of this nuclear agreement to cessation of Iran’s broader disruptive and destructive behavior in the Middle East.  I really worry about unspoken quid pro quos...   It's really difficult for me to see how Iran will not be emboldened by any agreement that fails to link their broader behavior in the Middle East and around the world to the lifting of sanctions resulting from the nuclear deal (as important as this deal is).
  • Finally, the people who know Iran best (it’s Middle East neighbors) – and who have the most to lose from Iran’s potential nuclear breakout – have been the most critical of this nuclear deal.  I’m assuming they were not privy to the details we have just learned.  It will be telling to see the reaction of Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and others over the next couple of days as they analyze and respond to the details…
Got to go read it again... much detail to ponder...

Just Thinking,

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