(/sites/default/files/uploads/2015/03/366376_Ayatollah-Khamenei.jpg)The deadline for the “first phase” of nuclear talks between the Islamic Republic and the six world powers (known as the P5+1; the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China) is approaching.
The prolonged negotiations appear to be making progress, according to Secretary of State John Kerry. In addition, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stated that both sides came to “a better understanding” at the negotiation.
After the interim nuclear deal was reached in November 2013, the nuclear negotiations between the two sides were again divided into two stages in order to reach a final and comprehensive nuclear deal. Kerry previously proposed the two-phased nuclear negotiations.
The question that is being ignored by the mainstream media is: What are the real objectives of dividing the final negotiations into two stages?
According to Kerry and Iranian leaders, the first phase is aimed at reaching a general outline by the end of March, while the second phase will chart a way to agree on the nuances and technical issues by June. But didn’t both sides previously reach an interim deal and discuss the major talking points for the final nuclear talks?
The major objective of this strategy by the Obama administration is to avoid criticism by projecting a pointless picture that “progress” is being made, that Iran is complying with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and sanction rules, and that the Obama administration’s policy on Iran is effective. The administration appears to ignore that Iran is already skirting the sanction, as at least $1 billion has been smuggled into Tehran by the Iranian government in bank notes.
For President Obama, striking a ceremonial, pointless, and redundant deal by the proposed March deadline – rather than waiting until June to reach a final accord – would buttress his argument that “progress” is being continuously made with respect to his administration’s efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear program.
Domestically speaking, the administration has been heavily criticized by Congress (by both the Republicans and Democrats) for allowing the Islamic Republic to buy time, making unnecessary and unprecedented concessions, prolonging the talks, and not showing signs of real progress towards a credible final and comprehensive nuclear deal.
In addition, by striking a pointless deal in the “first phase” and projecting that “progress” has been made, President Obama would desire to ratchet up his leverage in vetoing any sanctions bill that might be proposed by Congress against the Islamic Republic’s nuclear and sanctions defiance.
In other words, President Obama will need this unnecessary first-phase deal in order to avoid further domestic pressure, show the effectiveness of spending so much political capital on the nuclear talks with Iran, ease sanctions on Iran, and justify making compromises.
It is in the interest of both President Obama and Hassan Rouhani to reach a deal in the first phase.
In addition to the aforementioned political reasons and interests of the Obama and Rouhani administrations to strike a deal in the first phase, other factors contribute to the increasing likelihood of reaching a general accord by the end of March.
The first phase agreement will not include the technical details regarding Iran’s nuclear program. The accord will likely include the major talking points that both sides repeatedly discussed previously. Some of the crucial points are:
· US possible flexibility on the breakout timeline (The amount of time that Tehran will need to build a nuclear bomb from highly enriched uranium or Plutonium);
· Iran’s flexibility for the immediate sanction reliefs;
· Iran’s acceptance of providing more data regarding the military dimensions of Tehran’s nuclear program;
· The heavy water Arak Reactor, and the production of plutonium at this site;
· Flexibility on both sides to reduce and further discuss the scope and capacity of Tehran’s uranium enrichment; and
· The possibility of allowing Iran to maintain an additional number of centrifuges.
The nuances and the technical details are not part of the first phase accord. The following crucial questions are less likely to be included in the first phase of the agreement: What exactly will the minimum “breakout” time be? What will the duration of the deal be? 10 years? 15 years? 20 years? How many years will it take to remove all economic sanctions against Iran? Will Tehran keep 1,500, 4,500, or 6,500 centrifuges? What is the exact scope of nuclear research and development that Tehran can maintain?
Since the aforementioned crucial and nuanced questions are not part of the first phase accord, striking this dispensable accord of the first phase is very likely and not a strenuous task.
As a result, reaching this general outline by end of March will not be historic as some mainstream media suggest. It is in fact pointless, unnecessary, redundant, and it is more likely to occur.
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