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July 17, 2015 Updated July 20, 2015

Iran nuclear deal: The devil may be in interpretation

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

The United Nations Security Council On Monday, July 20, 2015, unanimously approved the 159-page nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries - the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany.

After 18 days of marathon talks in the Austrian capital of Vienna, Iran and the P5+1 group on July 15, 2015,reached an agreement  on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which will put certain limits on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the removal of sanctions against Iran.

Aaron David Miller, vice president at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, argues that even though both sides have agreed to the same words, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Washington and Teheran are on the same page. We encountered this problem with the Lausanne framework released in April; Iran and the U.S. had talking points on some key issues, such as when sanctions would be lifted, and it resulted in more than a few problems. “This accord is supposed to be the final deal. If the creative ambiguity required to produce it is too creative (read: ambiguous), it could lead to the sort of destructive ambiguity that blows things up. Watch for areas of disagreement in how each side discusses the agreement publicly.”

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Miller pointed out that more than a few diplomats have talked about a “draft” in describing the putative accord in recent days. A final agreement should lay to rest the sensitive issues that led to three extensions of the negotiations, he said adding: “Have the Iranians agreed to anywhere, anytime inspections? What specific limits have been placed on research and development of advanced centrifuges? What process has been designated to establish the baseline for past military aspects of Iran’s nuclear program (the “military dimensions” issue)? Iran’s demand to terminate the U.N. Security Council embargo on importing arms led to a last-minute standoff. These are some of the key issues that Congress and opponents of a deal will be scrutinizing. Whether the answers are good or bad, the agreement should provide them clearly.”

After finalization of the wording of the agreement, now comes the turn of those interpreting it, Zvi Bar'el of Haaretz, said adding:

“The agreement is about 100 pages long, but its hundreds of provisions and addenda also include some with a certain share of constructive ambiguity – of the kind, typical of nearly every agreement, that leaves some room for “flexible understanding” on the part of the Western powers and Iran.

“According to diplomatic sources close to the negotiations, without such room for interpretation, it would have been impossible to reach an accord. Great effort was put into making the wiggle room as limited as possible and in clearly spelling out the limits of what is to be permitted and what is not. This constitutes the first possible minefield in an agreement that, without exaggeration, can be dubbed historic.”

Zvi Bar'el agrees with the former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani that the deal breaks a taboo in that for the first time since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Iran and the United States have conducted direct negotiations that are perceived in Tehran as talks between equals rather than something the Iranians engaged in from a situation of weakness or compulsion.

Anyone seeking an ideological rationale for the Iranian motivations in signing the agreement can also find it in the fact that it indeed may prove, from the Iranian standpoint, that the country's revolution has gained legitimization, international recognition and even a chance for preservation since from this point on, the life of the accord is dependent upon that same revolutionary regime. That’s no small accomplishment for a regime that up to now had been such an abomination, Zvi Bar'el concluded.

After 18 days of intense negotiations, the U.S. and five other world powers on July 15, 2015 reached a deal to freeze Iran's nuclear program for the next decade in exchange for gradual sanctions relief that rolls out as Iran complies with a multi-step process.

The accord will keep Iran from producing enough material for a nuclear weapon for at least 10 years and impose new provisions for inspections of Iranian facilities, including military sites. And it marks a dramatic break from decades of animosity between the United States and Iran, countries that alternatively call each other the "leading state sponsor of terrorism" and the "the Great Satan."

Iranian Media

As reported by Breitbart, the Islamic Republic News Agency celebrated the agreement to “remove all misunderstandings on Iran’s peaceful nuclear program and simultaneous termination of unfair economic sanctions on Iran.”

“The agreement has fully observed the instructions and redlines drawn up by the Islamic Republic of Iran leading to the following achievements in the field of nuclear activities and termination of all types of sanctions,” writes IRNA, before listing such bullet points as:

Vital facts on Iran’s peaceful nuclear programs had been ignored in an unfair manner to depict the program as a threat to the international peace and security but it has now turned into a theme for broadening international cooperation with other countries within international standards.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is to be recognized as a nuclear technology power authorized to have peaceful nuclear programs such as complete nuclear fuel cycle and enrichment to be identified by the United Nations.

All unfair sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council including economic and financial sanctions on Iran are to be lifted as per the agreement and through issuance of a new resolution by the United Nations Security Council.

All nuclear installations and sites are to continue their work contrary to the early demands of the other party, none of them will be dismantled.

The policy on preventing enrichment uranium is now failed and Iran will go ahead with its enrichment program.

Iran’s nuclear infrastructure will remain intact, no centrifuges will be dismantled and research and development on key and advanced centrifuges such as IR-4, IR-5, IR-6, IR-8 will continue.

Iran to enter into the world market as the producer of nuclear-related products mainly two strategic products named ‘enriched uranium and heavy water and all sanctions and restrictions imposed on imports and exports of nuclear materials which in some cases took about 35 years will be ineffective.

All economic, financial sanctions in banking, finance, oil, gas, petrochemical, commerce, insurance and transportations leveled by the European Union and the US under the pretext of Iran’s nuclear program, will be lifted on early stages of the agreement.

Iran’s arms embargo is to be lifted or to be replaced with some restrictions in a way grounds for imports or exports of defense related items to be possible per case. These restrictions will be completely removed after five years.

Tens of billions dollars of Iran’s revenues which had been frozen over the past several years due to unfair sanctions overseas will be available.

In short, the whole deal is portrayed as Iran’s victory over the “unfair” sanctions against it.

It is a safe bet that the practical implementation of this arrangement will more closely match the account of Iranian media than White House spokespeople, says John Hayward writing in Breitbart under the title:

Iranian state media calls US Evil, Fawns over nuclear deal.

The British newspaper the Guardian believes that the deal does not mean that Iran will be the US’s new best friend. “That is a myth – mutual distrust and mutual opposition to each other’s role in the region will see to it that any rapprochement will be gradual and limited.”

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America.