Iran Foreign Minister Heads Home, Brings With Him Plenty Of U.S. Concessions

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif left the P5+1 negotiations yesterday heading back to Tehran to consult with senior Iranian leaders. At issue are recent “red lines” set by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei which indicate a step back from the “framework deal” announced in early April, including the banning of inspections at Iran’s nuclear sites and the demand that all sanctions be lifted as soon as a deal was signed. The Ayatollah tweeted out a list of his red lines on Wednesday.


Despite the Supreme Leader’s new redlines,  Zarif’s trip home and agreement by all parties that the June 30th deadline would not be met, a deal seems very close. “Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong told reporters in Vienna that a comprehensive deal could be possible within one week, saying all sides were only “steps away,” the state news agency Xinhua reported.”

Zarif wasn’t going home empty-handed there are reports that he brought home another major concession by the U.S.. On Sunday reporters covering the talks in Vienna were briefed on how the inspection regime will work. The mechanism will be one of “managed access” and the Iranians will get a voice when and/or whether the IAEA gets access to places the Iranians might be cheating, which will in theory give them the ability to safely cheat for months before having to shut down.

This gets added to the list of major American concessions to Iran that includes:

  • Only Nuclear-Related Sanctions Will Be Lifted-Originally Congress and the American people were promised sanctions placed on Iran because of their missile program or support of terrorism would not be lifted. But now, according to an Associated Press report, “Administration officials say they’re examining a range of options that include suspending both nuclear and some non-nuclear sanctions.”
  •  Iran Will Have To Disclose Its Past Nuclear Activities-Secretary of State Kerry stated back in April that Iran would have to disclose its past activities. But two weeks ago the Associated Press reported that the P5+1 are ready to sign a final agreement that doesn’t include an Iranian disclosure of their past atomic research. Kerry confirmed this during a June 16 press conference:

“Michael, the possible military dimensions, frankly, gets distorted a little bit in some of the discussion, in that we’re not fixated on Iran specifically accounting for what they did at one point in time or another. We know what they did. We have no doubt. We have absolute knowledge with respect to the certain military activities they were engaged in. What we’re concerned about is going forward. It’s critical to us to know that going forward, those activities have been stopped, and that we can account for that in a legitimate way.”

  • Sanctions To Be Gradually Lifted-When he announced the “framework deal’ on April 2, President Obama said that sanctions relief will be phased in as Iran proves it is adhering to each element of the deal. But The Wall Street Journal reported Iran will receive somewhere between $30 billion and $50 billion upon signing the agreement. Obama told Jeffrey Goldberg the number could be up to $150 billion.
  • Iran Will Give Up Most Of Its Nuclear Stockpile– In November the NY Times reported that Iran has tentatively agreed to ship much of its huge stockpile of uranium to Russia as part of a broad nuclear deal. But on Sunday the same NY Times reported that Iran’s deputy foreign minister told Iranian reporters, they’ve ruled out an agreement that involved giving up a stockpile that Iran has spent years and billions of dollars to amass
  • Fordo Plant To Be Dismantled– In April 2012, The NY Times reported that the Obama administration and Europe are “demanding the immediate closing and ultimate dismantling” of Fordo (Iran’s nuclear facility built inside a mountain).  A year and a half later, in December 2013, President Obama said, “We know they don’t need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordo in order to have a peaceful program.” However according to former deputy director-general of the IAEA, Olli Heinonen, and Director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Simon Henderson, the 1,044 centrifuges at Fordo will remain but will only be used for nuclear isotopes.  
  • Nuclear Enrichment-Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the NSC said in April of 2012 “Our position is clear: Iran must live up to its international obligations, including full suspension of uranium enrichment as required by multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions.”  But Michael Singh, Managing Director at Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told The Hill,  “We basically went from zero [centrifuges] to a number that kept going up…the number [went] from hundreds, to thousands, to eventually, 6,104, which is where they ended.”  
  • Ballistic Missile ProgramThe Wall Street Journal reported in February 2014 “Every issue is on the table as part of the comprehensive negotiations, including Iran’s ballistic missile program,” said a senior administration official at the talks.  In March 2015, the Associated Press reported “diplomats say the topic [ballistic missiles] has not been part of formal discussions for weeks.” In June 2015 Reuters added,  “Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif merely laughed and ignored” U.S. negotiators when they sought to discuss Iran’s missile program and the possibility military dimensions of Tehran’s nuclear work.”

Those came before the most recent concession where Iran will be able to manage the access of inspectors.