In the period between March and September 2006 I followed the Iranian nuclear ordeal with the “international community” by keeping a score card. Following the Lausanne Nuclear Declaration earlier in the week, it is once again my pleasure to report the score in this recent round. It is Iran 0 – International Community 0.
Why this 0-0 score when there is so much talk about gains and losses by both sides? Because the game itself has yet to start and as everybody knows the score at the start of every contest is zero-to-zero, nil-to-nil. Of course, a game can also end in a zero-zero score. That is what we call a tie. Of course, some would like to spin the outcome of the recent grueling negotiations as “win-win,” even though there is no such a thing as a “win-win” score—there is only win, tie, or loss—and according to each outcome one gets 2 points, 1 point, or 0 points, respectively.
Semantics matter, politically. Some refer to the Lausanne Declaration as an agreement. Some refer to it as a statement, a political agreement, or an agreement framework as if to suggest that the Declaration is not biding. This latter interpretation suits the Iran’s Supreme Leadership who, on the record, had wanted one single comprehensive agreement, not two agreements. Legally, from an international law perspective, the Declaration is a treaty—an agreement between States, in writing, and governed by international law. Any other designation—such as protocol, memorandum of understanding, joint declaration, convention, etc.—does not matter.
What the negotiators produced in Lausanne was an agreed-upon table of contents for the book that they have given themselves 90 days to write. In this effort to write a comprehensive agreement, as in any project, “the devil is in the details.” The Lausanne Declaration has produced the chapter headings—the story in each chapter is yet to be written. The outside world in not privy to what else the parties have agreed to or have addressed that they are not disclosing. From the leaks in the media about the vintage of the allowable centrifuges—a matter not contained in the Declaration—my guess is that there is a lot more that has been bartered, agreed upon, that will make perhaps the writing of the book a bit easier.
What will bedevil the drafting of the final agreement are two issues—sequencing and security. The Declaration offers a glimpse of the sequence of events that will take place. First on the chopping block is the future of Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant located deep under a mountain range; it cannot be penetrated by the run-of-the-mill ordnance, if at all. Fordow will be converted into a research center. On the question of sequencing the suspension and elimination of sanctions one wanders if the sanctions will be eased or eliminated in tandem with the conversion of Fordow, or the change in them happens after Iran completes the conversion? This question of sequencing the changes in the sanctions regime applies to all the curtailment aspects of the agreement, including the reduction in the number of centrifuges, reduction in the stockpile of fissile material, and modifications to the reactor in Arak.
The conversion of Fordow will leave Iran with one enrichment facility--in Natanz. The facility at Natanz is vulnerable, as it is above ground and its underground infrastructure is not as impenetrable as Fordow. That means a hostile power, who shall remain nameless, could destroy the place by overcoming the air-defense system that rings the installation. This begs the question of weather the Lausanne Declaration’s provision about international cooperation in the areas of nuclear security also extends to giving Iran the guarantee that the international community will cease and desist from sabotaging the various components of the Iranian nuclear program, including the targeted assassinations of its scientists? Will the international community ensure the security of Iran’s nuclear facilities from military and cyberspace attacks regardless of source? Does the issue of nuclear security extend also to serious efforts to achieve nuclear disarmament in Southwest Asia (Pakistan and India) and globally in general, especially with respect to that certain country in Eastern Mediterranean that has a nuclear ambiguity as its state policy? Will the international community guarantee that no country in the Arab world will be given access to nuclear weapons or be allowed to develop them?
Assume Iran complies with all the requirements on a timely basis, but for some reason the multilateral sanctions imposed by the United Nations and the European Union fail to be lifted or suspended. To avert such an eventuality, as the drafting of the final agreement progresses, the United Nations Security Council and the European Union ought to adopt resolutions that automatically and simultaneously enter into force upon ratification of the final agreement by the parties or the achievement of certain specified milestone by Iran. Another scenario worth considering is where the sanctions that are suspended or eliminated are re-instituted under other pretexts such as human right abuses, abetting international terrorism, or enmity to the peace process in the Middle East. To avoid such an eventuality, any and all sanctions that have been imposed on Iran because of the nuclear issue, once suspended or eliminated, cannot be instituted for non-nuclear reasons.
Perhaps the most far-reaching provision of the Lausanne Declaration is giving Iran the ability to access to advanced nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Of course, one must be crystal clear as to what one means by “peaceful purpose.” Installation of and operation of nuclear reactors for the purposes of power generation, certainly, is a peaceful purpose, as well as fuel-cycle activities. Certainly, the use of atom for medical purposes too is peaceful activity. But would the development of miniature nuclear explosive devices for the purpose of geophysical modification be viewed as a peaceful activity allowed under the final agreement? The use of atom for redirection or diversion of rivers, for example, like the Soviet Union did in the 1950s and 1960s, requires the development of detonation technology. Another issue is whether Iran would be allowed to develop nuclear reactor and fuel technology for the purposes of propulsion such as in submarines, carriers, spacecraft and so on.
To conclude—let me state that, contrary to prevailing opinion, the sanctions against Iran did not bring Iran to the negotiating table. It was Iran’s rapid development of indigenous nuclear technology, while under sanctions, is what brought the international community to the table—to negotiate—a turn about from its prior dictatorial stance dating back to when Bill Clinton was president. Now, we will see if the international community can deliver on what it has promised given the level of chaotocracy in Washington DC and buyer’s remorse on the part of certain European governments that are still trying to exorcize its anti-Semitism of the past two centuries by kowtowing to that certain East Mediterranean government. That is why it is not only an appropriate thing but also a prudent thing that the resolutions pertaining to the lifting or suspension of the multilateral sanctions be in place prior to the ratification of the final agreement.