3 Apr 2015

Victory for us’: interpreting Iran’s nuclear agreement

Unlike the US, the Iranians are not putting out fact sheets about the scale of nuclear reduction because they would rather be a little vague on the compromises they’ve made.

Yesterday all anyone wanted to talk about was harmony. After eight days of hard negotiations, the US and its allies had finally come to an agreement with Iran over its nuclear programme.

Now all they want to do is emphasise the differences. That’s not because they were covering up disagreement before, but because each side has to persuade hardliners at home that they’ve won.

The Americans got their retaliation in first with a ‘fact sheet’ emphasising the details they think will win over sceptics in Washington. “Iran has agreed to reduce by approximately two-thirds its installed centrifuges,” it said. “Iran has agreed to not enrich uranium over 3.67 percent for at least 15 years.”

It went on to detail how Iran will reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium from 10,000 tonnes to 300 kg, allow intrusive inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and not build any new uranium enrichment facilities for 15 years.
“Iran’s breakout timeline — the time that it would take for Iran to acquire enough fissile material for one weapon — is currently assessed to be 2 to 3 months,” it said.

“That timeline will be extended to at least one year, for a duration of at least ten years, under this framework.”


It was all very factual, numbers and percentages, and the lifting of sanctions wasn’t mentioned until the penultimate section. The Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohamad Javad Zarif, was not impressed. “The solutions are good for all, as they stand. There is no need to spin using ‘fact sheets’ so early on,” he tweeted.

The Americans had said in their fact sheet that EU and US sanctions would be ‘suspended’ once Iran had complied with the provisions to curb its nuclear programme. They were a bit fuzzy about how and when.

“Quoting statement ‘The EU will TERMINATE the implementation of ALL nuclear-related economic and financial sanctions.’
How about this?” tweeted Mr Zarif in response. The Supreme Leader’s ‘red line’ was that all sanctions must be lifted immediately, not in stages, so Mr Zarif has to finesse that point.

In north Tehran, people came out on the streets honking horns and waving Iranian flags. For the first time ever, a speech by a US President was broadcast live on Iranian TV. Such was the excitement some took selfies of themselves with Obama behind.

One even virtually pinched the US President’s cheek and others kissed the TV.

The headlines on state-controlled Press TV were triumphant: “Iran P5+1 statement infuriates Israel.” “No halt in work of Iran N-facilities.”

Quite true – Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is certainly angry about the deal, which he regards as a threat to Israel, and nuclear facilities will continue working, just not in the same way.


As Mr Zarif returned from Lausanne, his car was mobbed. He is the hero of the hour, the man who sealed the deal. The Iranians are not putting out fact sheets about numbers of centrifuges because they would rather be a little vague on the compromises they’ve made.

The middle class North Tehran crowd is desperate for rapprochement with the US but to suspicious hardliners it is still the Great Satan.

Technical experts will be meeting until the end of June, and it will take Iran about six months to adjust its facilities as outlined in the agreement. Realistically that means sanctions are unlikely to be lifted until next year.

The Iranian government has to sustain hope and enthusiasm until then, while the US administration tries to convince a sceptical right-wing Congress that this is not caving in to the Islamic Republic but making the world a safer place.

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4 reader comments

  1. Alan says:

    I made a concerted effort to read this. At least competitors attempt to hide their made up bias. No wonder propaganda sites like RT leave Channel 4 standing.

  2. phild says:

    So now the Iranians have done what was required of them on the basis of very little evidence of a real intention to make a bomb let alone to use one, can we expect to see the colonial apartheid state, Israel taken to task and its actual nuclear bombs removed? But I forget, being a European colony they get special treatment and can be excused any amount of warmongering or brutality. Didn’t the UK actually provide plutonium in H Wilson’s premiership to Israel?

    1. Andrew Dundas says:

      Nobody knows whether Israel actually has any nuclear weapon, or the means to deliver one to an invader.

      What Israel has done is to allow the rumour to be current that they have a nuclear weapon and delivery system. Just as Saddam Hussein fanned the rumours that his regime had such a weapon. We now know how those deceits misled us.
      Given the vast nuclear processing apparatus that Iran has assembled, I suspect that the ‘Israeli H-Bomb’ rumour is a useful deceit: if I was Hamas et al, I wouldn’t risk it. But we have no need to assume the rumour is true.

  3. Andrew Dundas says:

    On the US side of the ocean, America is into Presidential Primaries season, where rival bidders for the Republican Party’s nomination are vying for support from local activists. For them, it’s essential that they rubbish this framework for a future agreement. For two reasons
    1. Because it’s essential to them to discredit Obama and any legacy that may survive his presidency, and
    2. Their activists would prefer to use force against Iran, rather than do any deal.
    Moreover, the Israeli government hates any agreement with Iran and that could turn some Democrat voters their way.
    For all of these reasons, the really tough negotiations are going to be within Congress and in bitter opposition to Obama. Let’s not forget that we’re in the run-up to the November 2016 Presidential election campaigns and the possible first ever Candidate who’s not male.
    Those domestic US considerations are also critical to the closing of this Iran nuclear deal over the coming months.

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