The P5+1 (US, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany) have reached what US President Barack Obama has called a “historic understanding with Iran”. The framework agreement chalks out the agenda for future negotiations, the nuanced details of which shall be worked over the next three months. It allays the fears of Iran gaining nuclear weapons under the guise of pursuing a civilian nuclear programme (under these conditions the “breakout time” would be a year, if the deal is broken), and is a big step in ending the decades of sanction and diplomatic apartheid Iran has faced from the West and its allies.
Calling it a triumph of dialogue and diplomacy, India, which has shielded its partnership with Tehran from Western pressure, has promptly welcomed the accord in Lausanne. “A significant step seems to have been taken with agreement on the parameters of a comprehensive settlement to be negotiated by June 30,” India’s external affairs ministry said in a statement.
“The announcement yesterday underlines the success of diplomacy and dialogue, which India has always supported and which we hope would lead to a comprehensive agreement by June 30,” said New Delhi.
The deal has been welcomed by both sides, with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif calling it a “win-win” situation for all parties, and Mr. Biden, US Vice President, tweeting that the deal “meets our core objectives”.
The deal, hammered out after eighteen months of intense bargaining, marks a huge diplomatic win for all sides, given the internal opposition the USA has faced in pursuing it. Only a month ago, Mr. Netanyahu made a very controversial visit to the US and addressed the Senate on the dangers of conceding to any deal with Iran. Soon after, in an extraordinary move, 47 Republican Senators signed an open letter addressed to the Iranian leadership, warning them that a deal may not last without Congress approval. Though dismissed by Mr. Zarif as a propaganda ploy, it showed that fault lines ran deep over the issue.
The basic takeaway from the framework agreement is that Iran can continue enrichment only up to a level for peaceful purposes (for the next 15 years) and keep its extensive nuclear infrastructure, albeit reduced (reduction in number of centrifuges by two-third, core of Arak reactor to be dismantled, vast stockpile of enriched uranium to be neutralized) by agreeing to an unprecedented stringent and robust inspection regime under the scrutiny of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The developments would also be monitored closely by other countries. Therefore, as Mr. Obama put it, “if Iran cheats, the world will know”. With Iran complying with the requirements, nuclear related sanctions imposed by the USA, EU and UNSC, shall be terminated. This is a big positive for Iran since crippling economic sanctions restricted Tehran’s full participation in global trade.
The framework agreement lays down a “solid foundation for a final deal”, as per Mr. Kerry, US Secretary of State, who led the talks in Lausanne which brought together the permanent five of the UNSC and Germany (P5+1) on the negotiation table with Iran. It follows up on the Joint Action Plan on the Iranian nuclear program, signed in November, 2013, between the P5+1 and Iran, which formally initiated the process for negotiations on the nuclear program.
Critics of the deal predictably reacted with scepticism. Israeli spokesperson for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called it a dangerous deal, likening it to the 1990s deal with North Korea, which eventually led to North Korea developing nuclear weapons. He said that the deal left out much – R&D is to continue — and the Iranian missile programme is not being talked about.
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