The third deadline has expired. There is no agreed framework. While the negotiators in Lausanne are continuing to talk, their language is telling.
By yesterday there was supposed to be an agreed framework outlining the contours of a nuclear deal. Instead, negotiators said they would release a statement explaining which issues are agreed and which are not yet resolved.
The truth is clear: For all the hard work of American and European diplomats, this endeavor has failed. Why?
Because, as it has for over twelve years now, Iran is playing games. Ayatollah Khamenei has decided to roll the dice and pursue endless concessions. In doing so, he’s rolled out four obstacles to prevent a deal from taking shape.
First, as the New York Times notes, Iran is now intransigent about the future of its existing nuclear-fuel stockpiles. Before, Iran had agreed to ship its stockpiles to Russia to be transformed into fuel rods for its civilian nuclear-power program.
Second, Iran is demanding that advanced centrifuges — and future centrifuge research and development — be included in its post-deal nuclear portfolio. The West’s concern? Even if a deal restricted Iran to a lower number of centrifuges, Iran’s nuclear-weapon “breakout” time would be dramatically reduced if those centrifuges were of an advanced nature.
Third, Iran wants rapid sanctions relief the moment any deal is reached. This is an impossible concession for the P5+1. It would invite Iran to continue its enrichment or military programs covertly. Instead, to prevent Iran from cheating on any deal, Khamenei must understand that he has a personal responsibility to foster trust. So far, he’s disdainful of that very principle. Moreover, according to the BBC, Russia is now saying that while it would accept a rapid return of sanctions in the event of an Iranian breach of any deal, its U.N. veto power would have to be respected. This allows Russia to placate the U.S. and EU with tentative cooperation, but also allows Mr. Putin the option to veto any new sanctions.
#related#Fourth, the status of Iran’s heavy-water reactor at Arak appears to remain unresolved. While there had been signs of concession by Iran before March, Arak now looks to be another casualty of Khamenei’s hardening position. Without inspectors to monitor Arak, Iran would have an avenue to a plutonium-based nuclear weapon as a counterpart or alternative to a uranium-based weapon.
These aren’t just “a few outstanding issues.” Instead, they’re the core of any realistic deal. Without this core containment, any deal will invite political fallout across the Middle East.
But Iran believes it can win this diplomatic waltz. It’s determined not to blink first and to pressure the West, and it’s once again threatening the U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf.
We’re entering the end game.
— Tom Rogan is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He is a panelist on The McLaughlin Group and holds the Tony Blankley chair at the Steamboat Institute.