Saturday, November 09, 2013

Iran: the prize and the key

But the main road-blocks to a deal could be in Washington.

 An Iran deal offers an alluring prize, editorial in The Financial Times, 9/11:
Details of any deal [..] could see temporary curbs on Iran’s uranium enrichment, perhaps in return for the partial unfreezing of Iranian assets abroad seized after the 1979 revolution. [..] It would require only an executive decision by President Barack Obama, enabling him to bypass a US Congress sometimes more alert to Israel’s concerns than US national interest.
[..]
The defenders of detente also need to make a convincing case that getting Iran inside the tent can only improve the worst problems of the surrounding region – the Syrian civil war, of course, but also Lebanon, Israel-Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan. If diplomacy is a bit like lock-picking, then this deal has the potential to spring quite a few regional locks, including some that have rusted shut. War with Iran, which Mr Netanyahu all but threatened before Mr Kerry dropped by on his way to Geneva, would fatally convulse a Middle East already close to the limits of turmoil. The Israeli prime minister is right – in the wrong way. Handled right, this could be the deal of the century – not for Iran but for the region as a whole.
From The Guardian: Rouhani's diplomatic progress in Geneva keeps Iran's hardliners at bay:
A Tehran University professor, Sadegh Zibakalam, said by telephone that he anticipated a historic moment in Iran's relationship with the west. "We didn't expect this, but it seems that Rouhani's 'key' is opening many doors and a historic agreement may be under way," he said, referring to the key Rouhani adopted as the symbol of his election campaign.
The Guardian also has this (Iran nuclear deal: Q&A):
The Obama administration would be able to arrange for the unfreezing of Iranian assets without having to go to Congress, but it would still have to convince the Senate not to pass the further raft of sanctions that are currently being prepared. If those were passed, it could derail the deal.
See also White House ambitions on Iran deal face challenge from hawks in Congress:
Congressional distaste for an Iran deal is likely to be fueled by the outright fury to it voiced by Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an influential figure on Capitol Hill.
And Hawks squawk even before Iran nuclear deal is sealed:
Israel's ill-tempered opposition – even before anything has been formally agreed – looks set to further strain its already tense relations with [Washington]. "Netanyahu unwise to challenge US so openly/dismissively on possible Iran nuclear deal," tweeted Nicholas Burns, a former senior US diplomat. "Netanyahu's outburst was a serious tactical error." [..] It is still hard to imagine, however, that Israel would attack Iran – even if it has the military capability to do so alone – while a prolonged and internationally backed agreement is in place.
Iran nuclear deal hopes rise as foreign ministers fly into Geneva and Iran nuclear negotiations at crucial juncture over Arak reactor.

Going back to The Guardian's Q&A (If a deal is signed, does that mean sanctions work?):
Analysts also argue that the west could have clinched today's deal several years ago, but had used sanctions in an abortive attempt to get Iran to stop enrichment altogether. That bid has clearly failed, as acceptance of Iranian enrichment at some level will have to be a part of any workable long-term agreement.
Update (10 Nov, 00:30): the talks have finished without agreement. France appears to have been the stumbling block. From the initial reactions, there is some resentment towards the French, for example that FM Laurent Fabius was the first to announce the "failure of Geneva"  (tweets from Kim Ghattas and Trita Parsi ‏at 00:12 and 00:30). Talks are to resume on the 20th, but not at such a high level as the last day or so, and again there is the danger that further sanctions imposed by the US Congress could torpedo any deal.

Nuclear Talks With Iran Hit a Snag as France Questions Deal By MARK LANDLER and MICHAEL R. GORDON 4:19 PM ET: " France questioned whether a deal would do enough to curb a nuclear reactor that would produce plutonium, the first sign of division among the major powers negotiating a deal."

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