By Yossi Lempkowicz
Israeli Mideast expert cites six discrepancies between US and Iran accounts of what was agreed in Lausanne
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has demanded that a final deal with Iran include an explicit Iranian commitment to Israel’s right to exist.
The demand was made on Friday in a statement issued after a meeting of the Israeli diplomatic-security cabinet to assess the political framework nuclear agreement reached last Thursday in Lausanne between the world powers (known as the ‘P5+1’ or US, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany) and Iran.
The meeting was convened just before the start of Pessach, the Jewish Passover holiday.
A statement read by Netanyahu after the meeting said: ‘’Iran is a regime that openly calls for Israel’s destruction and openly and actively works towards that end. Just two days ago, in the midst of the negotiations in Lausanne, the commander of the Basji security forces in Iran said this: ‘The destruction of Israel is nonnegotiable.’ Well I want to make clear to all, the survival of Israel is nonnegotiable. Israel will not accept an agreement which allows a country that vows to annihilate us to develop nuclear weapons. Period. In addition, Israel demands that any final agreement with Iran will include a clear and unambiguous Iranian commitment to Israel’s right to exist.”
Asked about Netanyahu’s demand, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Friday, “This is an agreement that is only about the nuclear issue. We have purposefully kept that separate from every other issue. This is an agreement that doesn’t deal with any other issues, nor should it. And that’s what we’re focused on.”
The statement issued after the Israeli cabinet meeting stressed that ‘’the cabinet is united in strongly opposing the proposed deal.’’ “This deal would pose a grave danger to the region and to the world and would threaten the very survival of the State of Israel. The deal would not shut down a single nuclear facility in Iran, would not destroy a single centrifuge in Iran and would not stop R&D on Iran’s advanced centrifuges,’’ it said.
“On the contrary, the deal would legitimize Iran’s illegal nuclear program. It would leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure. The deal would lift sanctions almost immediately and this at the very time Iran is stepping up its aggression and terror in the region and beyond the region. In a few years, the deal would remove the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program, enabling Iran to have a massive enrichment capacity that it could use to produce many nuclear bombs within a matter of months.’’
“The deal would greatly bolster Iran’s economy. It would give Iran thereby tremendous means to propel its aggression and terrorism throughout the Middle East. Such a deal does not block Iran’s path to the bomb. Such a deal paves Iran’s path to the bomb. And it might very well spark a nuclear arms race throughout the Middle East and it would greatly increase the risks of terrible war.
“Now some say the only alternative to this bad deal is war. That’s not true. There’s a third alternative — standing firm and increasing the pressure on Iran until a good deal is achieved.
“And finally let me say one more thing. Iran is a regime that openly calls for Israel’s destruction and openly and actively works towards that end. Just two days ago, in the midst of the negotiations in Lausanne, the commander of the Basji security forces in Iran said this: ‘The destruction of Israel is nonnegotiable.’ Well I want to make clear to all — the survival of Israel is nonnegotiable. Israel will not accept an agreement which allows a country that vows to annihilate us to develop nuclear weapons. Period. In addition, Israel demands that any final agreement with Iran will include a clear and unambiguous Iranian commitment to Israel’s right to exist.”
In a televised address on Iranian tv, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif hailed the nuclear agreement reached in Lausanne as a ‘’great victory’’ and said that under the deal, Iran would have “full nuclear rights, andonly limited certain restrictions for a certain number of years.’’. ‘’We have enrichment and we will continue to enrich uranium,” he said.
In remarks that underscored the emerging gaps between Iran and the world powers in terms of how the agreement is understood, Zarif disputed US statements that the lifting of sanctions would be in phases.
“The termination of sanctions is directly tied to the implementation of a final deal ( by June 30). On the day of the implementation of a deal the US will terminate oil, financial, bank sanctions. We are terminating United Nations Security Council resolutions without any intermittent suspension. It will be direct termination, Z”arif said.
Similarly, he asserted that Iran, under the deal, has the right to continue working on more advanced IR-8 centrifuges, which can enrich uranium 20 times faster than the IR-1 centrifuges it currently uses. “Some said Iran can have no R&D, but we now have the right to develop IR-8, which has 20x output of IR-1,” he claimed.
A leading Israeli commentator and analyst has cited six gaping areas of discrepancy between American and Iranian accounts of what the agreement actually entails.
Ehud Yaari, the Middle East expert and award-winning political commentator for Israel’s Channel 2 news television, said the six discrepancies represent “very serious gaps” at the heart of the framework accord. They relate to issues as basic as when sanctions will be lifted, and how long restrictions on uranium enrichment will remain in place.
Referring to Thursday’s American-issued “Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” on the one hand, and the “fact sheet” issued Friday by the Iranian Foreign Ministry, on the other, Yaar, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East, noted that no deal was actually signed on Thursday, and that the leaders’ statements and the competing fact sheets were thus critical to understanding what had been agreed.
The Israeli media cited Yaari’s six areas of discrepancy between the two sides’ accounts of what was resolved at the Lausanne negotiations last week:
- Sanctions: Ya’ari said the US has made clear that economic sanctions will be lifted in phases, whereas the Iranian fact sheet provides for the immediate lifting of all sanctions as soon as a final agreement is signed, which is set for June 30.
(In fact, the US parameters state that sanctions will be suspended only after Iran has fulfilled all its obligations: “US and EU nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps.” By contrast, the Iranian fact sheet states: “all of the sanctions will be immediately removed after reaching a comprehensive agreement.”)
- Enrichment: The American parameters provide for restrictions on enrichment for 15 years, while the Iranian fact sheet speaks of 10 years.
- Development of advanced centrifuges at Fordo: The US says the framework rules out such development while the Iranians say they are free to continue this work.
- Inspections: The US says that Iran has agreed to surprise inspections, while the Iranians say that such consent is only temporary.
- Stockpile of already enriched uranium: Contrary to the US account, Iran is making clear that its stockpile of already enriched uranium — “enough for seven bombs” if sufficiently enriched – will not be shipped out of the country, although it may be converted.
- PMD: The issue of the Possible Military Dimensions of the Iranian program, central to the effort to thwart Iran, has not been resolved.
The US parameters make two references to PMD. They state, first: “Iran will implement an agreed set of measures to address the IAEA’s concerns regarding the Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of its program.” And they subsequently add: “All past UN Security Council resolutions on the Iran nuclear issue will be lifted simultaneous with the completion, by Iran, of nuclear-related actions addressing all key concerns (enrichment, Fordo, Arak, PMD, and transparency).” The Iranian fact sheet does not address PMD.
The differences between the sides became apparent almost as soon as the framework agreement was presented in Lausanne on Thursday night.
On Sunday, Benjamin Netanyahu urged world powers to step up pressure on Iran as they finalize a nuclear deal in the coming months, saying there was still time to improve what he said was a deeply flawed framework agreement reached last week.
The Israeli Prime Minister’s appearances on multiple American TV news programs signaled the launch of what is expected to be a lobbying effort to scuttle or reshape a deal that he has criticized as “bad”and a threat to Israel’s very existence.