Is Iran being victimized by sanctions it doesn’t deserve?

By Yousaf Butt
June 20, 2014

A security official stands in front of the Bushehr nuclear reactor

Iranian officials met this week with their six-power counterparts to try to hammer out the outlines of a comprehensive nuclear deal set to last for several years. But its precise duration remains undecided.

Reaching an agreement will be a monumentally challenging task because all the parties have veered away from international law and are trying to make ad hoc arrangements. They should instead aim for a permanent, straightforward and legal solution whose basis already exists. Successfully sealing a deal with Iran may also help Western efforts to stabilize the situation in Iraq, where Iranian and Western interests align.

Late last year, the United States, Britain, China, Russia, Germany and France reached an interim deal with Iran to freeze and roll back some of its nuclear program in exchange for limited relief from sanctions. These interim arrangements are set to expire July 20. According to the agreed “Joint Plan of Action,” another six-month stopgap deal may be signed after the first one expires. But a comprehensive long-term agreement should be reached within a year, by late January 2015.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wait for the begin of talks in ViennaThough there was a great deal of optimism initially, the negotiations have recently bogged down, with the duration of the comprehensive deal a sticking point. Tehran appears to favor a three-year timeframe, while Washington insiders have suggested a 10-year or 20-year agreement.

The timeframe is important because, according to the existing Joint Plan of Action, after the comprehensive deal expires, “the Iranian nuclear program will be treated in the same manner as that of any non-nuclear weapon state party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty” — meaning leniently.

So whatever is decided will be temporary — by design.

Up to now, one main point of contention has been the number of centrifuges, used in the enrichment of uranium, that Iran will be allowed to have. Such limits are important, according to the Institute for Science and International Security, because they would lengthen the time needed for Iran to “break out” and enrich uranium to weapons-grade in any presumptive race to build a bomb. But because the comprehensive deal would be temporary by design, this is hardly a lasting solution.

Others have suggested that such limits are meaningless. As one commentator said, “This is completely wrong. Breakout is precisely the wrong measure of whether a deal is successful,” because the Iranians, according to this argument, would use a covert facility to break out if they wanted to do that.

Iran's ambassador to the IAEA Najafi attends a news conference in ViennaInstead of obsessing over breakout capability, more emphasis on verification and intrusive inspections above and beyond what is codified in international law has been suggested.

There are two problems with these approaches. First, they are ad hoc requirements imposed on Iran that are not based on any international law. Second, the proposed solutions are not lasting. They may sound like they are harsh on Iran,  but they evaporate after an undetermined number of years.

A better solution is to craft a lasting agreement based on existing frameworks in arms control law.

One such framework is the Additional Protocol. This is a legal document complementing Iran’s existing safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (AIEA). The protocol enables “the IAEA not only to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material but also to provide assurances as to the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in a state.”

Although it is far from perfect — even with this protocol in force, a nation could fool the IAEA if it wanted to — the protocol is a step above the “bare” safeguards agreement between Iran and the IAEA.

There may be some risk that Iran would cheat on this protocol, but the historical record suggests otherwise. Iran has never been accused of manufacturing nuclear weapons. The IAEA did determine that Iran was in “non-compliance” with its safeguards agreement in 2005. But this was a technical matter dealing with accounting for nuclear materials. “Non-compliance” did not mean that Iran was making nuclear weapons.

For example, South Korea, in 2004, and Egypt, in 2005, also  violated their safeguards agreements. But these U.S. allies were never even referred to the United Nations Security Council, let alone targeted for sanctions. Pierre Goldschmidt, a former deputy director of safeguards at the IAEA, has noted the “danger of setting bad precedents based on arbitrary criteria or judgments informed by political considerations” at the IAEA.

In any case, a decade ago Iran did not have the enriched fissile material needed to make bombs. Even if it wanted to. Hans Blix, a former head of the IAEA, has stated: “Iran has not violated the [Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons].” He added, “there is no evidence right now that suggests that Iran is producing nuclear weapons.”

In 2011, following his more than decade-long tenure as the director of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said that he had not “seen a shred of evidence” that Iran was pursuing the bomb. “All I see,” ElBaradei said, “is the hype about the threat posed by Iran.”

IAEA records show that all substantial safeguards issues raised in 2005 had been resolved in Iran’s favor by 2008. So Iran was again in compliance with its safeguards agreement at that date.

All U.N. Security Council sanctions ought to have been dropped at that point. Yet Iran’s nuclear file still remains tied up at the Security Council due largely to the IAEA’s and Security Council’s mishandling of the case. The poor quality of the scientific evidence against Iran – some of it possibly fabricated – does not justify continued U.N. sanctions.

Out of all the countries it inspects, the IAEA spends the second-highest amount of money on nuclear inspections in Iran. Only Japan, which has a vastly larger nuclear infrastructure, accounts for a larger amount. About 12 percent of the IAEA’s $164 million inspections budget is spent on Iran, but that percentage has increased to 17 percent during the interim deal because of the even more intrusive — and therefore expensive — inspections being carried out. On a “per nuclear facility” basis, in fact, the IAEA spends the largest amount of its inspections budget on Iran.

Comprehensive deal or not, the IAEA will continue to conduct in Iran one of the most thorough and intrusive inspections it carries out anywhere.

Given this history and the critical situation in Iraq today, it makes little sense going for broke trying – and failing – to get a very stringent but temporary deal. Getting Tehran to agree to ratify the Additional Protocol permanently would be a far more meaningful and sustainable accomplishment — and would have the benefit of being within existing arms control law.

 

PHOTO (TOP): A security official talks to journalists in front of Bushehr main nuclear reactor, 1,200 km (746 miles) south of Tehran, August 21, 2010. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

PHOTO (INSERT 1): European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton (L) and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wait for the begin of talks in Vienna, June 17, 2014. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

PHOTO (INSERT 2): Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency Reza Najafi attends a news conference at IAEA headquarters in Vienna, December 11, 2013. REUTERS/Leonhard Foege

838 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Heya terrific blog! Does running a blog like this require a lot of work? I have very little understanding of programming however I was hoping to start my own blog soon. Anyways, should you have any recommendations or tips for new blog owners please share. I understand this is off subject nevertheless I simply needed to ask. Kudos!|

Thanks for your publication. What I want to say is that when you are evaluating a good online electronics store, look for a web-site with entire information on critical factors such as the level of privacy statement, security details, payment procedures, and also other terms and also policies. Constantly take time to see the help and FAQ pieces to get a far better idea of what sort of shop performs, what they can do for you, and just how you can make use of the features.

A person essentially support to make seriously articles I would state. This really is the very first time I frequented your site page and thus far? I surprised with the research you produced to make this certain publish incredible. Fantastic job!

Basically to follow up on the up-date of this topic on your web site and wish to let you know basically how a lot I loved the time you took to create this valuable post. Within the post, you really spoke of how to really handle this matter with all ease. It would be my pleasure to collect some far more ideas from your internet page and come as considerably as offer other men and women what I learned from you. Numerous thanks for your usual terrific effort.

nowadays we would usually use eco-friendly stuffs like, eco friendly foods, shoes and bags~

When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get three e-mails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove me from that service? Many thanks!|

Wonderful article! This is the type of info that should be shared across the net. Disgrace on Google for no longer positioning this publish higher! Come on over and seek advice from my website . Thank you =)|

Hello there! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a collection of volunteers and starting a new project in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us valuable information to work on. You have done a outstanding job!|

I’ll gear this review to 2 types of people: current Zune owners who are considering an upgrade, and people trying to decide between a Zune and an iPod. (There are other players worth considering out there, like the Sony Walkman X, but I hope this gives you enough info to make an informed decision of the Zune vs players other than the iPod line as well.)

It’s amazing to go to see this site and reading the views of all colleagues about this paragraph, while I am also zealous of getting know-how.|

You should be a part of a contest for one of the highest quality blogs on the web. I will recommend this web site!

Water-resistant our wales in advance of when numerous planking. The particular wales surely are a selection of heavy duty snowboards that this height ones would be exactly the same in principle as a new shell planking having said that with a lot far more height to assist you thrust outward inside the evening planking. planking

Another thing is that while searching for a good on the web electronics store, look for web shops that are regularly updated, trying to keep up-to-date with the newest products, the most effective deals, as well as helpful information on products. This will make sure that you are handling a shop that stays atop the competition and provide you things to make educated, well-informed electronics purchases. Thanks for the essential tips I have really learned from the blog.

I’m impressed, I must say. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s both equally educative and interesting, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. The issue is something not enough men and women are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I found this in my search for something concerning this.

Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you penning this write-up plus the rest of the site is extremely good.

Appreciating the dedication you put into your site and detailed information you present. It’s great to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same unwanted rehashed information. Fantastic read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.|

I used to be suggested this web site by means of my cousin. I am no longer positive whether this post is written by means of him as no one else recognise such detailed approximately my difficulty. You are amazing! Thanks!|

Howdy! I just would like to offer you a big thumbs up for your great information you’ve got right here on this post. I will be coming back to your website for more soon.