Zarif hails deal as victory, asserts right to R&D on advanced centrifuges

In televised address, Iran FM says sanctions will be lifted as soon as deal finalized — contradicting US claim

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Lausanne, Switzerland, on April 2, 2015. (AFP/Fabrice Coffrini)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Lausanne, Switzerland, on April 2, 2015. (AFP/Fabrice Coffrini)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif on Saturday hailed the political framework of a nuclear agreement reached in Switzerland Thursday with US-led world powers as a great victory for Iran and vowed that Tehran would abide by the deal if the P5+1 keep up their end of the bargain.

In a televised address on state TV, Zarif said that Iran “stood up to the six powers who call themselves the international community,” proving that the people of Iran cannot be spoken to “with the language of force and sanctions.”

“They didn’t design sanctions to bring us to the negotiating table, but to force us to surrender,” Zarif said, adding that the world now recognized that Iran cannot be cowed.

Zarif charged that under the deal, Iran would have “full nuclear rights, [and] only limited certain restrictions for a certain number of years; we have enrichment and we will continue to enrich uranium.”

In remarks that underscored the emerging gaps between Iran and the world powers in terms of how the agreement is understood, Zarif disputed US statements that the lifting of sanctions would be in phases.

“The termination of sanctions is directly tied to the implementation of a final deal [due to be penned by June 30]. On the day of the implementation of a deal… the US will terminate oil, financial, bank sanctions. We are terminating United Nations Security Council resolutions without any intermittent suspension. It will be direct termination,” he said.

Similarly, he asserted that Iran, under the deal, has the right to continue working on more advanced IR-8 centrifuges, which can enrich uranium 20 times faster than the IR-1 centrifuges it currently uses. “Some said Iran can have no R&D, but we now have the right to develop IR-8, which has 20x output of IR-1,” he claimed.

Zarif said Iran would honor the agreement as long as the world powers did the same.

“As long as our counterparts stand by their commitments, Iran will stand by its commitments more than any other country,” he said.

The Iranian FM took a mocking tone at times — “if the US was all-powerful, it would not sit at negotiating table” with Iran, he said.

But he also pledged that Iran has “never been, or will be, after a [nuclear] bomb. We are not after regional hegemony, we want good relations with our neighbors.”

Earlier on Saturday, a leading Israeli analyst cited six gaping areas of discrepancy between American and Iranian accounts of what the agreement actually entails — highlighting the differences over sanctions, R&D on centrifuges, among other areas of confusion.

Ehud Ya’ari, Middle East analyst for Israel’s Channel 2 News and an international fellow at the Washington Institute think tank, said the six discrepancies represent “very serious gaps” at the heart of the framework accord. They relate to issues as basic as when sanctions will be lifted, and how long restrictions on uranium enrichment will remain in place.

Referring to Thursday’s American-issued “Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” on the one hand, and the “fact sheet” issued Friday by the Iranian Foreign Ministry, on the other, Ya’ari noted that no deal was actually signed on Thursday, and that the leaders’ statements and the competing fact sheets were thus critical to understanding what had been agreed.

Ya’ari also highlighted the highly similar language used by President Barack Obama to hail the framework agreement as a good deal that would make the world safer, on Thursday, and president Bill Clinton in presenting the failed US framework deal aimed at thwarting North Korea’s nuclear program in 1994.

Ya’ari cited the following central gulfs between the two sides’ accounts of what was resolved at the Lausanne negotiations last week:

Ehud Yaari (photo credit: Courtesy)
Ehud Yaari (photo credit: courtesy)

1. Sanctions: Ya’ari said the US has made clear that economic sanctions will be lifted in phases, whereas the Iranian fact sheet provides for the immediate lifting of all sanctions as soon as a final agreement is signed, which is set for June 30.

(In fact, the US parameters state that sanctions will be suspended only after Iran has fulfilled all its obligations: “US and EU nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps.” By contrast, the Iranian fact sheet states: “all of the sanctions will be immediately removed after reaching a comprehensive agreement.”)

2. Enrichment: The American parameters provide for restrictions on enrichment for 15 years, while the Iranian fact sheet speaks of 10 years.

3. Development of advanced centrifuges at Fordo: The US says the framework rules out such development, said Ya’ari, while the Iranians say they are free to continue this work.

4. Inspections: The US says that Iran has agreed to surprise inspections, while the Iranians say that such consent is only temporary, Ya’ari said.

5. Stockpile of already enriched uranium: Contrary to the US account, Iran is making clear that its stockpile of already enriched uranium — “enough for seven bombs” if sufficiently enriched, Ya’ari said — will not be shipped out of the country, although it may be converted.

6. PMD: The issue of the Possible Military Dimensions of the Iranian program, central to the effort to thwart Iran, has not been resolved, Ya’ari said.

(The US parameters make two references to PMD. They state, first: “Iran will implement an agreed set of measures to address the IAEA’s concerns regarding the Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of its program.” And they subsequently add: “All past UN Security Council resolutions on the Iran nuclear issue will be lifted simultaneous with the completion, by Iran, of nuclear-related actions addressing all key concerns (enrichment, Fordo, Arak, PMD, and transparency).” The Iranian fact sheet does not address PMD.)

The differences between the sides became apparent almost as soon as the framework agreement was presented in Lausanne on Thursday night.

Nonetheless, the White House expressed optimism on Friday that the June 30 deadline for a final deal would be met, and Obama reiterated that the deal reached Thursday represented a “historic understanding.”

Israel has castigated the framework as a bad deal, and a dangerous capitulation, that paves the way to an Iranian nuclear bomb.

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