JCPOA First ThoughtsPosted: April 2, 2015
Like everyone who reads this blog, I’ve been glued to the news, Twitter, and email today, watching developments unfold in the announcement of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action between the P5+1 and Iran. This is a historic development and one that I very much welcome. Much will be said here and elsewhere in the coming days about this framework agreement, and the process moving forward, but I wanted to share a few first thoughts today.
1. It is vitally important to understand that only the statement that was read in full by EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, the text of which you can see here, represents an agreed statement by the P5+1 and Iran. The “Fact Sheet” that is being widely circulated and commented on by the media, is only a U.S. White House statement of facts, and was NOT AGREED TO BY IRAN OR ANY OF THE OTHER NEGOTIATING PARTIES. It is a unilateral U.S. interpretation of the facts and nothing more. So it should not be treated as a correct representation of the points of agreement between the parties.
2. Within the U.S. White House statement of facts, I think that the following paragraphs are least likely to represent what will actually be agreed to over the coming months by Iran:
Iran will be required to grant access to the IAEA to investigate suspicious sites or
allegations of a covert enrichment facility, conversion facility, centrifuge production
facility, or yellowcake production facility anywhere in the country . . .
Iran will implement an agreed set of measures to address the IAEA’s concerns regarding
the Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of its program.
I cannot see the final June comprehensive agreement including either of these provisions, at least not in any proximity to the way they are written here. For one thing, the word “suspicious” will not, I guarantee you, be a part of any language to which Iran agrees. I also think, more importantly, that the PMD issue will have to be agreed in much more detail and nuance in the months to come. I personally cannot see the Iranians agreeing to a provision that makes the entire deal hinge on the IAEA’s satisfaction in resolving its concerns over the PMD claims. As one friend put it today, that would be a poison pill for the whole agreement. So I would look for this issue to either be left out of a final agreement in June, or handled in a much different way than stated here.
3. Overall I think the framework of agreement is a very good one. Iran definitely made some very significant concessions. In fact, one might be forgiven for thinking that, with all of the specificity placed on Iranian concessions, and really only fairly vague wording on the lifting of unilateral and multilateral sanctions (i.e. regarding timing) in the joint statement, Iran showed the most diplomatic courage in agreeing to this framework. I’m sure there is much that was agreed to that we don’t know about, and I have no doubt that Zarif and his team reached a satisfactory understanding with their negotiating partners on the sanctions question from their perspective. But I suppose I just wanted to highlight that Iran is the party that made the most obvious significant concessions in this framework agreement, and I think that they should be congratulated and respected for this. Though I have zero confidence that the right wing of American politics will see it that way.
UPDATE: This appears to be the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s “fact sheet,” analogous to the one released by the White House.
UPDATE to the UPDATE: Actually, it now appears that that was not an official Iranian fact sheet. Ariane Tabatabai explains here.