Diplomacy wins out as Iran agrees nuclear curbs

Diplomacy wins out as Iran agrees nuclear curbs
Comment: After decades of talks and setback, world powers and Iran have fleshed out a nuclear agreement - but opposition and the threat of sabotage still looms, says Soraya Boyd.
3 min read
02 Apr, 2015
Opponents could not stop the deal thrashed out in Switzerland [AFP]

Finally, after decades of disagreements, threats disappointments, diplomats have delivered to the world a "framework deal" to limit Iran's nuclear programme in return for the lifting of crippling sanctions.

Iran says the deal is not a surrender, as it retains some capacity, while world powers led by the US say they have prevented Iran from ever building a nuclear bomb.

How far relations have come, and how close we are to a binding deal, even in spite of noisy and sometimes furious opposition from within the US and its allies.

Yet the shadow of sabotage looms. Obama warns disgruntled hardliners in Congress not to derail the agreement, but that dissent continues to fester in the US and its ally Israel. Republicans pushed for tougher sanctions against Tehran even as the Obama administration worked on the deal. Some agitated for the withdrawal of the federal cash that funded the US negotiations.

As US diplomats sat with their Iranian counterparts, a band of 47 Republican senators sent a memo, on Senate letter-headed paper, warning the "Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran" about their nuclear ambitions.

Marco Rubio, a signatory to the letter, said he would without hesitation repeal Iran's right to retain uranium enrichment capabilities once the Obama presidency ended.

Going this far shows the depth of feeling among those who oppose the deal. Such a letter tests the limits of the Logan Act, which carries a prison term for US citizens who try to directly influence US policy without US authority.

Israel: don't do as I do, do as I say

     The right-wingers will no doubt continue to cheer on their nominated 'negotiator', Israel's prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu

The right-wingers will no doubt continue to cheer on their nominated 'negotiator', Israel's prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, whose government on Thursday called the deal a step on a very "dangerous path".

Perhaps we should compare Israel and Iran.

As a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), Iran has a right to pursue a civil nuclear programme. Iran does not have a bomb. It has demonstrated extraordinary goodwill not only during these negotiations but over time, by allowing UN inspectors access to nuclear sites.

Israel, meanwhile, has never signed the NPT, never allowed UN inspections of its nuclear programme and never declared its nuclear stockpile.

Reaching the destination

The Iranian nuclear talks ultimately brought down the number of core disputes from more than 100 to three.

Iran did not agree with restrictions on research and development of new efficient centrifuges, as this could make it dependent on foreign technology. The deal appears to grant this standpoint.

Iran wanted the immediate lifting of all UN sanctions, while the "P5+1" group of nations wanted to gradually phase out the sanctions, and issue that will be resolved no doubt in the binding agreement

Iran wanted the lifting of an EU oil embargo to include the removal of banking restrictions - something the EU appears to have conceded provided Iran sticks to its promises. All sanctions can be reimposed if it doesn't.

But ultimately, it appears that Iran has got what it wants - the ability to operate a nuclear programme even on a vastly reduced capacity, much to the chagrin of those who oppose it.

And one must remember that, as the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov put it, that all negotiations should have been carried out on the "basis of the recognition of the country's inalienable right to pursue peaceful atomic research, including uranium enrichment".

Even with sustained attempts by right-wingers to crash the talks, diplomacy appears to have saved the day.