Why there is still no Iran nuke deal in Vienna: Escobar

VIENNA – As the Iran-P5+1 negotiation hit the crucial stage on Monday night, and the technical teams pushed for a clean text to be released on Tuesday – albeit unsuccessfully – the top sticking point turned out to be the conventional arms embargo imposed on Iran by the UNSC, a senior European diplomat told Asia Times.

BRICS members Russia and China had a coordinated position; “yes” to the end of the embargo. The US and the UK voted “no.” And, crucially, France was wavering.

If this was a decision solely in the hands of French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, the vote would be “no.” But arguably if the final decision rests with President Francois Hollande, it would be a “yes.” There is nothing the French weapons industry would like better than to add Tehran to its still meager list of customers for Rafales and Mistrals.

Turning to the Big Picture, Iranian diplomats were stressing that, “all nuclear-related sanctions should be removed. That was agreed upon in Lausanne.” This means the conventional arms embargo – imposed by the UN in 2007, and tied up in the nuclear sanctions – should also go.

So what was reported by Asia Times early this week continued to apply; there are severe cracks within the P5+1 on several key issues — thus their need to spend more time negotiating amongst themselves than with Iran.

That’s the key reason for a new deadline extension — to Thursday, July 9. And even that may not be the end of the road.

All those brackets

With only 24 hours left before this Tuesday’s D-Day, signs were extremely mixed. The Iranian delegation emphasized, “this was not a deadlock”; after all, the P5+1 foreign ministers were meeting late into the night for the second time in a frantic day. Iranian negotiators were insisting, “Iran is ready to continue as long as there is opportunity of progress.”

Still, the new tentative deadline — Thursday — was already being floated. The Russians, for their part, were getting ready to leave Vienna by Tuesday night; the next immediate destination – which initially should count on the presence of Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif as well – is the crucial, simultaneous BRICS and SCO summits in Ufa, Russia. The SCO will actively start discussing accepting Iran as a member as early as next year in their summit in India.

Although always careful to point out they were not pressed for time, a measure of frustration regarding the real intentions of their American counterparts started to seep in among Iranian diplomats; “If they cannot translate political intention into political decisions we will have to close down these negotiations.”

Still, “both sides don’t want to lose momentum.” Kerry’s rather undiplomatic Sunday move — “the deal could go either way” — was interpreted by the Iranians as a message to placate the internal front (in the US), and win the battle for public opinion at home. Mostly what the Iranians retained was “we’re progressing.”

It’s hard to fathom the complexities hidden in an exhaustively detailed, 85-page text with five attachments. Iranian officials describe it as “a package of 85 pages with lots of brackets.” As one of them put it, “even for a word, or sometimes a preposition, we have to spend a full two hour meeting on the technical level.” “Success” is measured when negotiators are able to clear 15 to 20 brackets a day.

What was soon defined at the final stretch is that after the agreement, “a resolution will be tabled.” The UNSC will “take note” of what was agreed at in Vienna. And then this resolution will suspend all past resolutions on the day of implementation. “The benefit of this resolution,” adds an Iranian technical expert, “ is to record the agreement in Vienna. And then everything passes under the jurisdiction of the UNSC.”

Deep into a warm Viennese night, with the legendary Café Sacher already closed, it was still a long way to go. In a hotel room, an Iranian diplomat mused; “The Americans created a structure of sanctions they don’t want to destroy. Emotionally, they want to keep it.” It’s no wonder that most of the unresolved brackets in the final text still relate to US and EU sanctions.

And there was the rub, once again; would the Obama administration, to its credit, finally let go of the weapon of choice of US foreign policy? That would be worthy of a gala celebration at the Vienna Staatsoper.

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Categories: AT Top Writers, China, Empire of Chaos, Middle East, Pepe Escobar

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  • MahmudH

    It’ll be the pressure from the Saudis to keep sanctions on Iran. Otherwise Iran will be able to buy the weapons it needs to defeat ISIS and alqaeda in Iraq and Syria. But alqaeda is a crucial tool of Saudi foreign policy, and the USA and Britain defer to Saudi Arabia in all important policy matters.

  • dinesh

    Time for the domination of UN by US and UK are gone. They still want to control their imperial control over the rest of the world. But they do not have any notions today that they are sidelined forever. Only thing they know that the guns are superior to their dumb brains.
    The rest of the world has advanced but they are still remained in the cave ages.It is time to BDS them in the future and also the get rid of the UN.

  • Jack Temujin

    The balance of power has already shifted from West to East. The Western war mongers are at their final stage of total transfer of power.

  • Bluhorizons

    I guess you do not know what “5+1” means.

  • Bluhorizons

    I am sure you will prefer the new power brokers: China and iran.

  • Bluhorizons

    Obama has put almost two years into this project and his ego prevents him walking away from it. Talk about making concessions:

    (1) defund the Lebanese civil-governmnt initiative that was an alternative to Iran-sponsored Hezbollah; (2) remove the Khan nuclear-proliferation network from the sanctions list; (3) eliminate sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile program; and (4) end sanctions on 23 of 24 Iranian banks.

    Plus: (i) early elimination of all nuclear sanctions, (ii) waiving answers to outstanding International Atomic Energy Agency questions before signing a deal, (iii) a huge “signing bonus,” (iv) the lack of “anywhere, any time” inspections, (v) subjection of “snap back” sanctions to an unrealistic administrative process, (vi) failure to dismantle any centrifuges (which will simply be stored) or facilities (which will continue to operate), and (vii) the sunset provision that guarantees Iran nuclear capability at the end of the agreement.

    Apparently signing such a sham document appeals to Obama more than just having the guts to walk away.

  • Sarastro92

    Sort of guessing that if the talks fail, blocs will separate and go their own way effectively ending the sanctions with no nuclear deal. That’s the risk the Anglo-Americans run if the haggle forever.

    With the Chinese alternative to SWIFT just about ready, evading sanctions will be a lot easier.

  • Jack Temujin

    Anybody but diabolical Israel and their lapdogs in Europe and Mideast. New world Disorder is over, whether you like it or now.

  • Dan Kuhn

    There will be no deal because a gambling magnate and the Prime Minister of Israel are the real puppet masters controlling the strings of the US and UK bargaining teams. They do not want a deal and there will be no deal. Obama said just yesterday that the prospects for a deal are fading. What else does one need to know? It was doomed from the beginning because jewish money dictated to two of the main players.

    In the end Russia, China and Germany will break with the sanctions regeime because they will recognise that the most influential player in these negotiations was not even sitting at the table with them and that all they have been doing was just a charade and that the real decisions were being made in Tel Aviv and Las Vegas.

  • Bluhorizons

    I am sure you will be delighted with the new world leaders: Islamic Europe, Iran, China and Russia. They will certainly supply the democracy, freedom of speech and religion you so desire that you do not seem able to find in the west. Hope you aren’t Muslim. the Ruskies and Chinese take a dim view of them–ask the Ulgers and Chechens.

  • Bluhorizons

    The part you missed is that the sanctions deny money to the Iranian economy which they could use to support Assad and Hamas. While it is obvious that China and Russia will end their sanctions, continued sanctions by the US and Europe will hurt considerably as does the embargoes on Iranian banks and currency. So, not having an agreement has more advantages than an “agreement” that is unenforceable and does not accomplish its objectives..

  • Bluhorizons

    I think you were right–about 6 years ago. Perhaps you missed the realignment of US/Middle east relations under Obama. Obama who is attempting a fundamental realignment of U.S. foreign policy, reducing America’s military role in the Middle East. He is trying to transform Iran from an enemy to a friend, diminishing the alliance with Israel. I doubt he will succeed but you just need to catch up about 6 years.

  • MahmudH

    He is indeed trying to get a treaty signed with Iran, but that is less to do with a ‘realignment’ than with a ‘re-pivoting’, a desire to withdraw from the middle east. It doesn’t mean he wants to make friends with Iran, it doesn’t mean he is breaking the alliance with Saudi Arabia and Israel.

    Under Obama, the USA intensified sanctions against Iran to force them to negotiate. They supplied money and weapons to Syrian Islamist insurgents to undermine Iranian influence in Syria. They have supported a brutal bombing campaign by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf dictatorships to smash Yemen. At the same time they have continued to veto any UN SC resolution to criticise Israel, and they did nothing to stop Israel’s regular brutal assaults against the Gaza Strip.

    As such US policy has very much not been ‘realigned’ in the last 6 years, and under Hillary Clinton it seems likely to remain un-realigned. Whether a treaty with Iran will allow them to shift military forces to surrounding China instead of Iran remains to be seen.

  • Jack Temujin

    I’m not Muslim, Chinese or Russian. I’m just a partner for peace. Freedom/democracy is an illusion created by those with power for those without it.