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Broad Consensus Emerges On Need For Changes In Nuclear Framework Agreement With Iran

By Missing Peace

This article was first published at Western Journalism.com

Prime Minister Netanyahu issued a statement on Sunday detailing how “Iran has shown again why it can’t be trusted.” The Islamic Republic “insists on removing all sanctions immediately. And Iran refuses to allow effective inspections of all its suspect facilities. At the same time, Iran continues its unbridled aggression in the region and its terrorism throughout the world,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu proposed to make two main changes to the deal:

“First, instead of allowing Iran to preserve and develop its nuclear capabilities, a better deal would significantly roll back these capabilities – for example, by shutting down the illicit underground facilities that Iran concealed for years from the international community. Second, instead of lifting the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear facilities and program at a fixed date, a better deal would link the lifting of these restrictions to an end of Iran’s aggression in the region, its worldwide terrorism and its threats to annihilate Israel.”

The prime minister’s comments came in response to US President Barack Obama’s charge, in comments he made Saturday, that Netanyahu lobbies against the deal but has yet to offer an alternative.

“Iran needs a deal more than anyone. Instead of making dangerous concessions to Iran, now is the time for the international community to reassert and fortify its original demands for a better deal,” Netanyahu said.

Meanwhile, Zionist Union – Israel’s second largest party – showed there is a broad consensus in the country about the need to change the current agreement with Iran. The leftist party said it wants a green light for an Israeli strike on Iran as part of nuclear deal.

Israel should be given permission to act in case Iran violates any future nuclear agreement, as an integral part of any final nuclear deal, Zionist Union announced.

In a policy document published Sunday afternoon, the party said it is “committed to an overarching, extensive and determined struggle to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and we fully support this struggle. We have clarified as much to leaders and policy makers among world powers, especially to the top echelon of the US administration.”

The party calls for the insertion of “necessary changes” in the understandings reached at Lausanne, Switzerland, last week, and “the formulation of extensive understandings on Israel’s capability to cope with Iran in the nuclear arena as well as regarding regional terrorism Iran sponsors.”

In Iran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei finally responded to the deal with the six world powers. He specified conditions for a final nuclear deal with the world and highlighted that Iran doesn’t allow any inspection of its defensive and military centers, Fars News reported.

“They (the foreigners) shouldn’t be allowed at all to penetrate into the country’s security and defensive boundaries under the pretext of supervision, and the country’s military officials are not permitted at all to allow the foreigners to cross these boundaries or stop the country’s defensive development under the pretext of supervision and inspection,” Ayatollah Khamenei said, addressing a large number of Iranian people in Tehran on Thursday.

Elaborating on his position on the recent nuclear statement issued by Iran and the Group 5+1 (the US, Russia, China, Britain, and France plus Germany) in Lausanne, Switzerland, he said, “I am neither in favor nor against it since nothing has happened yet and no binding issue has occurred between the two sides.”

So according to Ayatollah Khamenei, there is no agreement; and nothing has happened yet between the two sides. Khamenei’s remarks triggered a sharp response by Senator Mark Kirk, R-Ill., who is now pushing for a full Senate vote on his Nuclear Weapons Free Act of 2015, legislation he authored with Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. Originally, Kirk intended to shelve his bill until the June 30 final deadline for the nuclear discussions.

“Because Iran refuses to agree to the same framework for a final deal as the United States, and because Iran still strongly disputes basic issues like how a final deal will address comprehensive sanctions relief, uranium enrichment, and coming clean on Iran’s military nuclear activities, I believe the full Senate should vote, sooner rather than later, on the bipartisan Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015,” Kirk told Bloomberg journalist Eli Lake.

Khamenei’s new red lines on IAEA inspections will make verification and enforcing of a nuclear agreement impossible. The  IAEA’s ability to ensure the Iranians aren’t enriching at military bases like Fordow (which they’ve done) or developing nuclear warheads at military bases like Parchin (which they’ve also done) is dependent on inspections. The International Atomic Energy Agency is attempting to gain access to these facilities to determine the possible military dimensions of the Iranian program. The Iranians, however, have stonewalled the agency. The IAEA says there are at least 11 unresolved issues in this area.

Khamenei also demanded the immediately lifting of sanctions once a final agreement is signed.

“This issue is very important, and the sanctions must all be completely removed on the day of the agreement… Should the removal of the sanctions be related to a process, the foundation of the negotiations would be senseless since the goal of the negotiations was to remove the sanctions,” Khamenei said.

The Obama administration seems to be willing to be flexible on this issue as well. The President has made clear that at least some of the sanctions will be lifted after an agreement is signed. He defended his flexibility with the argument that “If Iran violates the deal, sanctions can be snapped back into place.”

AP journalists Bradley Klapper and Matthew Lee beg to differ. In their article “Snap back? Not so fast. Sanctions a big issue in nuke talks,” they wrote:

The Obama administration is tossing around different ideas to ensure it can snap back the U.N. sanctions though there are problems with all of them.

One idea would put the burden on the U.N. Security Council. Rather than voting to re-impose sanctions, it would have to vote to stop the automatic re-imposition, officials said. Or, an extraordinary procedure could be created with the permanent, veto-holding members voting by the majority.

Russia and China are unlikely to accept any process that sees them sacrifice their veto power. And they could block any plan with Iran that would leave them powerless to stop majority votes by the U.S. and its European allies.

More criticism is coming from renowned experts on the Iranian nuclear file.

“The understandings reached last week regarding Iran’s nuclear program are full of loopholes,” wrote Dr. Ephraim Asculai in a paper published by Harvard’s Belfer Center. Asculai worked for the Israel Atomic Energy Commission and is currently a senior research fellow for Israel’s Institute of National Security Studies.

Asculai pointed to several specific loopholes. He noted that the number of centrifuges allowed by the terms of the deal would allow Iran a breakout time of less than a year. (This estimate is consistent with that of Olli Heinonen, former Deputy director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.) While the understandings reached last week would limit the amount of plutonium produced by the Arak reactor, they don’t prohibit other reactors that could produce plutonium.

Asculai also faulted the deal for failing to fully address the possible military dimension of Iran’s past nuclear work, noting that “for almost two years, the agreement Iran signed with the IAEA on resolving outstanding questions on this subject submitted by the IAEA to Iran has been largely ignored by Iran.” He also noted that the understanding doesn’t address Iran’s missile development program at all, even though it is developing missiles capable of delivering a nuclear payload. In addition to these specific critiques, Asculai questioned more general omissions within last week’s understandings.

Other criticism came from former IAEA inspector David Albright and three other experts at the Institute for Science and International Security. They came to the conclusion that the framework needs strengthening on almost all important issues.

“Our goal remains obtaining an adequate deal. To do so, a key goal of the negotiations remains a final deal which provides confidence of the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program and ensures sufficient reaction time, namely, enough time to respond diplomatically and internationally to stop Iran if it does decide to renege on its commitments and build nuclear weapons,” Albright and his colleagues wrote.

Meanwhile, an Egyptian TV host thinks the military option is the only way to end the the nuclear standoff with Iran. He called upon Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu to bomb Iran’s nuclear sites now.