June 23, 2015


Endgames with Iran (ROBIN WRIGHT, 6/22/15, The New Yorker)

The legislation's tough language is very much about sovereignty--and suspicion. "Our nuke facilities were inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency, but some information was given to others," Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the bill's sponsor and chairman of the Committee on Foreign Policy and National Security, told me, as the bill was being prepared. "We lost some of our scientists--assassinated by Mossad. If they ask for interviews with scientists, would it guarantee that they would not be assassinated? Trust is a two-way street. Mistrust is a two-way street, too. If they don't trust us, we don't trust them."

Tehran has already acknowledged, however, that it will have to sign the so-called "additional protocol," which gives "further inspection authority" to the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency "to provide assurance about both declared and possible undeclared activities and to get a more complete picture of a state's overall nuclear program." In these final days of negotiating a deal, the challenge for the Americans and the Iranians will be defining precisely the difference between "complete" and "everything."

The deal--a twenty-page draft and five annexes, expected to total about seventy pages--has taken so long because every word is being parsed, a senior Administration official in Washington told me, noting, "Words are staggeringly important. It's all about words."

The Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, now the lead Iranian negotiator, described the often tortuous talks as an "unholy exercise." If the diplomacy fails, he told me, "It won't be the end of the world. The U.S. will have lost a major opportunity, probably unique. But, for us, our population is accustomed to making necessary sacrifices to preserve its dignity and its rights." He went on, "It's not about nationalism or chauvinism. It's simply about having historical depth. Several years are a brief period in the history of a country with millennia as its depth."

In a hopeful sign, the proposed Iranian legislation stripped out the tougher amendments and, in the end, limited its own power to kill a deal. It mirrored congressional action last month in the United States, when Republicans and Democrats backed off some of their most demanding amendments. "We want to help the country and not create new problems," Ali Larijani, the speaker of parliament, said. The legislators ultimately opted to defer a final decision on the nuclear deal to the Supreme National Security Council. It is led by President Rouhani, a former nuclear negotiator who won the presidency, in 2013, by vowing to end a decade of tensions--and international sanctions--over Iran's nuclear program. The other members are appointed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, effectively giving him the final word.

Posted by at June 23, 2015 3:04 PM

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