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How a Mandatory IAEA Mechanism Saved the Iran Nuclear Talks (Le Monde, France)


What was it that saved the Iran nuclear talks from what seemed imminent collapse just over 24 hours ago? For Le Monde, special correspondent Yves-Michel Riols writes that when the deadlock over lifting sanctions on Iran seemed insurmountable, it dawned on negotiators that even if an immediate lifting of sanctions were agreed to, the IAEA will first have to confirm that Iran’s nuclear program is entirely non-military – a process that under the best of circumstances is likely to take some years. In other words – they fudged it!

Le Monde, correspondent Yves-Michel Riols begins by describing how the tensions over the issue of lifting sanctions seemed an impenetrable barrier to the deal, and how the inevitability of bureaucratic delay saved it:

Lausanne: In the final stretch of negotiations in Lausanne, the question of lifting international sanctions against Iran was at the heart of all the tension. And not just between Iranians and Westerners, but also within the “P5 1,” which includes the United States, Russia, China, France, the U.K. and Germany. That was particularly evident in the evening of Tuesday, 31 to Wednesday, April 1, when the talks appeared to be on the verge of collapse.

To obtain a lifting of U.N. sanctions would allow President Rohani to present the nuclear deal as a victory by arguing that the country has regained respectability, which would facilitate additional concessions on its nuclear program,” says Ali Vaez, an Iran expert at the International Crisis Group.

Hence the intense debate that took place in Lausanne to reach a compromise on this difficult issue. France put forward a proposal that would consider lifting some U.N. sanctions in exchange for the adoption of a mechanism called Snap Back, which would reimpose sanctions if Tehran fails to keep its commitments. Russia, however, is reluctant to approve an automatic process that would deprive permanent Security Council members of their veto rights.

Another obstacle for France in particular was the demand that without clear assurances of the total absence of a military dimension to Iran’s nuclear program, U.N. sanctions should not be touched. In any event, the diplomats judged that without the approval of the International Atomic Energy Agency, these cannot be lifted, and that is a process that is likely to take several years.

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