In the several past week or so we have seen several bumps in the road on the way to a final deal between the P5+1 and Iran regarding the nuclear framework arrangement agreed upon in Lausanne, Switzerland on April 2.
First, there has been continued discrepancies over when the sanctions regime would be lifted: The Iranians believe it will happen immediately upon a final deal being deal reached; the U.S. belief is it will happen incrementally, and will be on Iran behaves and is complying with the agreement. This is an issue that must be resolved as it goes to the heart of enforcement of the deal. The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) laid out a series of excellent questions/concerns with respect to the sanctions regime and enforcement.
The questions posed by the organization are as follows:
-Would UNSC sanctions relief be predicated on resolution of PMD issues, and if so, would this be a prerequisite for suspending U.S. and E.U. sanctions?
-Would U.S. and E.U. sanctions relief occur at the outset of a comprehensive agreement (as claimed by Iran) or be contingent on Iranian compliance over a given period? If the latter, what would be the timeframe, and would they be linked to the sunset clauses on enrichment?
-Would sanctions relief include the releases of tranches of Iranian assets currently frozen in overseas escrow accounts? If so, how much and under what conditions?
-Under the interim agreement, Iran has received roughly $10 billion from these accounts, with an estimated $100-120 billion still frozen.
-What mechanism(s) or process(es) would allow the IAEA to verify Iran’s compliance, and how would disputes about Iranian compliance be resolved?
-What specifically is meant by the “key nuclear-related steps” Iran would have to take before U.S. and E.U. sanctions could be suspended?
-What measures would be included to ensure sanctions could be re-imposed or snapped back into place, were Iran to violate the agreement?
-Would a superseding UNSC resolution that implements the deal and suspends sanctions also spell out consequences for Iranian non-compliance, including but not limited to sanctions?
-How would UNSC sanctions automatically snap back, when each of its permanent members can exercise a veto?
-What could guarantee the IAEA’s and UNSC’s ability to enforce an agreement, including snap-back sanctions, given contrasting attitudes among veto-wielding UNSC members toward rebuilding economic and strategic ties with Iran?
-What limits on Iran’s nuclear program would be contained in a superseding UNSC resolution?
-Would UNSC sanctions remain in place after the sunset of an agreement?
The second, and what would certainly appear more alarming, stumbling block is Russia’s sale of missile systems to Iran. This is an issue that will surely rankle the feathers of the P5+1. According to an article in The New York Times, Russian President Putin seeks to show the West that sanctions are not having an effect on the Russian economy. This sale to Iran is a quid pro quid as he seeks to trade with the Mideastern state. Russian involvement seemingly only complicates matters.
It is not yet fully known where all this will lead; however, there is one thing we can be certain of: there will be a lot of rhetoric back and forth and posturing until a final deal can be worked out. It is incumbent upon the negotiators before signing any deal that they can be certain that there are mechanisms in place to be sure inspectors have proper access in order to verify Iranian compliance. This is easier said than done as we have seen in the past.