Nuclear Deal-Making in Vienna and Tehran
The latest reports from Vienna indicate that the negotiators from Iran and the "5 +1" nations, i.e., UN Security Council's Permanent Powers plus Germany, have reached a tentative deal and are only inches away from turning it into the final agreement.
According to a source close to the Iran negotiation team, as of July 4th, there were still some residual issues regarding the sanctions, the Additional Protocol, and what is referred to as the "Possible Military Dimension (PMD)," but none of these at this stage is going to "break the deal" and are expected to be resolved in the next few days.
One of the reasons for the rapid progress of the Vienna talks has to do with the important Tehran visit of the head of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which was reportedly successful in closing the gaps between Iran and the agency, which has repeatedly confirmed the absence of any evidence of diversion of nuclear material in Iran and, yet, insisted that it is unable to verify the complete peacefulness of Iran's civilian program in light of the PMD issues.
From Iran's vantage point, however, the PMD has been exploited as a license to access Iran's military secrets, which is why it was important for Mr. Amano to meet with Iranian leaders last week and reach a new understanding on the future scope of IAEA's inspection access. Certainly, the U.S.'s unreasonable demand for inspections "anytime, anywhere," is unacceptable and by now the Americans have realized it and retreated from what could have been a deal-breaker.
On the issue of sanctions, Iran has rightly insisted on the concept of simultaneity, so that the other side will not have the luxury of playing with delays after Iran's fulfillment of its obligations. With respect to the timeline for the removal of sanctions, there would be a UN Security Council resolution that would render moot the existing sanctions resolutions on Iran. By all indications, this is a tremendous diplomatic victory for Iran, thus short cutting a potentially arduous and lengthy process.
Henceforth, with the imminent announcement of a final agreement in Vienna, the stage is set for a tremendous breakthrough in a nuclear stalemate that has blocked normal relations between Iran and the West. In addition to releasing the potential for rapid growth in market relations between the two sides, the final nuclear agreement also carries the seed of "linkage" to anti-terrorism, deemed as a "common threat" by Iran's lead negotiator, foreign minister Javad Zarif, who has exhorted the West to wrap up the nuclear talks so that both sides can focus on a hitherto missing comprehensive strategy to defeat the growing menace of terrorism, reflected in the on-going barbaric atrocities of the self-declared Islamic State (Daesh).
In terms of the reaction by the conservative Arab bloc led by Saudi Arabia, the final nuclear deal ought to bring a new sense of realism to Riyadh, which has been led astray by a senseless, even genocidal, unilateral war on Yemen, which must be brought to an end for the sake of millions of suffering people in Yemen as well as regional stability. Some of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council states such as UAE are eyeing to rip huge economic benefits from the lifting of Iran sanctions and, therefore, it is futile for Saudi Arabia to continue with its anti-deal approach that is bound to put it at odds with some PGCC member states.
Israel, on the other hand, is expected to continue with its current negative campaign against the deal, hoping that the U.S. Congress would ruin it, yet even the Republican opponents of the deal have recently conceded that they lack the votes to override a presidential veto. Hopefully, the nuclear deal will spawn a new era of attention on Israel-Palestinian issue, which has been quietly festering and requires serious global focus, which has to some extent been deflected so far due to the Iran nuclear crisis.
While it remains to be seen how a final nuclear agreement would look like in the technical details, it is a sure bet that it will be complex, multi-layered, and fully dependent on the faithful implementation by both sides, which is why a special dispute resolution commission will be handling the issues of potential non-compliance. A similar panel set up by the 2013 Geneva Agreement was highly successful in this regard and has thus set a positive precedent. One of Iran's informal complaints during the timeline of the Geneva agreement has been, however, that the U.S. had officially agreed to certain provisions, such as the lifting of restrictions on shipping insurance, and yet would send envoys to Europe to discourage the Europeans from entering into new contracts with Iran. Such "double dealings" with Iran must stop after a final deal is signed, which will sound the death knell for the unjust sanctions regime on Iran.