Iran’s parliament calls for shorter deal, fewer limitations

Lawmakers issue their own ‘fact sheet’ for nuclear accord demanding immediate sanctions relief, more active centrifuges

A general view of Iran's parliament in Tehran,  Aug. 28, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)
A general view of Iran's parliament in Tehran, Aug. 28, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)

The Iranian parliament on Wednesday published a revised version of the “fact sheet” agreed upon as part of the framework nuclear deal reached in Lausanne, Switzerland earlier this month. The document, which is likely to prove of little significance unless endorsed by Iran’s leadership, detailed what legislators asserted were required changes to the framework deal, as Tehran and six world powers push forward in negotiations on a final agreement.

According to the semi-official Fars news agency, members of parliament called for the deal to be limited to five years only — down from 10 and, in some clauses, 15 years stipulated by the unsigned Lausanne framework.

After the five-year period ends, lawmakers demanded, Iran should be allowed to replace all of its current centrifuges with the latest, more efficient generation, without limitations.

They also called for the agreement to allow Iran to operate 10,000 centrifuges throughout that time period at the Natanz and Fordo facilities — almost twice the number specified in the Lausanne understandings.

Iran and Washington have made conflicting statements about Fordo: while the Americans claim the framework deal would see Fordo converted to a non-enrichment facility, allowing active centrifuges in Natanz alone, Iranian leaders say enrichment at Fordo will continue.

A satellite image of Iran's Fordo uranium enrichment facility (photo credit: AP/DigitalGlobe)
A satellite image of Iran’s Fordo uranium enrichment facility (photo credit: AP/DigitalGlobe)

The parliamentary text called for the removal of all sanctions currently placed on Iran in one step, immediately upon implementation of the deal — echoing demands made by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani. The US has said sanctions would be removed in stages, subject to Iranian compliance with the agreement.

Lawmakers also said Iran’s nuclear R&D program should have no limitations placed upon it, in order to allow the country to return to enrichment in full force — if it so chooses — once the deal expires.

It was not clear whether parliament’s document was sanctioned by the Iranian government or whether it was a private initiative. Any text which did not have the approval of the Iranian leadership was unlikely to carry any legal weight.

Following the announcement of the framework agreement in early April, Tehran and Washington have provided contradictory accounts on its content.

US President Barack Obama and Khamenei have issued conflicting statements in the past week on the sanctions issue, with Obama suggesting sanctions would be gradually relaxed only once Iran begins to implement its obligations and Khamenei demanding that all sanctions be suspended upon signing an agreement. Khamenei also vowed that military sites would not be open to nuclear inspectors, which clashes with the American text of the understandings, which says inspectors have the right to visit suspicious sites “anywhere in the country.” Obama acknowledged in an interview, however, that the framework does not provide for so-called anywhere, anytime inspection of non-nuclear sites.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (screen capture: YouTube/PressTVGlobalNews)
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (screen capture: YouTube/PressTVGlobalNews)

The next round of talks is likely to be held within three weeks in New York City, on the sidelines of a meeting of the United Nations Disarmament Commission, and both Obama and Khamenei have said that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

In the coming weeks, both sides will endeavor to sell the deal to their various constituencies — Iran to its domestic hardliners, and the Obama administration to Congress, Jewish groups and skeptical allies, Israel chief among them.

The Obama administration has focused preeminently on the strict limits it is seeking on Iran’s capacity to enrich uranium. These include limiting Iran’s advanced centrifuges to scientific research and reducing the number of active first-generation centrifuges, from 19,000 to 5,060, for 10 years. Enrichment would be limited to 3.67 percent, the level required for medical research and well short of weaponization levels. Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium would be limited to 300 kilograms for 15 years. The deal would also provide for a regimen of intrusive inspections at all Iranian facilities.

“You have assurances that their stockpile of highly enriched uranium remains in a place where they cannot create a nuclear weapon,” Obama told National Public Radio last week.

US President Barack Obama, March 19, 2015 (photo credit: AFP/Chris Jackson/Getty Images North America)
US President Barack Obama, March 19, 2015 (photo credit: AFP/Chris Jackson/Getty Images North America)

According to the administration’s outline, sanctions relief is conditioned on Iran abiding by its commitments. The sanctions architecture will remain in place so sanctions can be quickly reimposed if Iran defaults.

In contrast with the phased relief outlined in the US document, a “fact sheet” published by the Iranian Foreign Ministry posits an immediate lifting of sanctions after a deal is reached.

Khamenei has accused the United States of bad faith. “Hours after the talks, Americans offered a fact sheet that most of it was contrary to what was agreed,” said a tweet posted on his feed Thursday. “They always deceive and breach promises.”

On the enrichment question, the Iranian and American outlines are not mutually exclusive.

“None of the nuclear facilities or related activities will be stopped, shut down, or suspended, and Iran’s nuclear activities in all of its facilities including Natanz, Fordo, Isfahan, and Arak will continue,” said the Iranian document, which goes on to name only Natanz as a site for 3.67 percent uranium enrichment, which comports with the US document. The other sites are deemed acceptable for scientific research in the American version, a status that conceivably comports with “related activities” in the Iranian document.

JTA contributed to this report.

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