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Lausanne Dispatch: Questions about Sanctions Relief Cast Doubt on Parameters for Nuke Deal

In the understanding reached on Thursday between the P5+1 global powers and Iran in Lausanne, Switzerland, there appears to be a discrepancy in the language on the sequencing of sanctions relief between the European Union/Iran join statement and a factsheet released by the Obama administration on the parameters of the understanding.

The EU/Iran statement says that the “EU will terminate the implementation of all nuclear-related economic and financial sanctions and the US will cease the application of all nuclear-related secondary economic and financial sanctions, simultaneously with the IAEA-verified implementation by Iran of its key nuclear commitments” (emphasis ours). The administration’s factsheet, on the other hand, reads that “the U.S. and E.U. nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps. If at any time Iran fails to fulfill its commitments, these sanctions will snap back into place.” (emphasis ours).

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has taken to Twitter to emphasize that there will in fact immediate lifting of sanctions. “The solutions are good for all, as they stand.  There is no need to spin using ‘fact sheets’ so early on,” one of his Tweets reads. Zarif continued, “Iran/5+1 Statement: “US will cease the application of ALL nuclear-related secondary economic and financial sanctions.”  Is this gradual?” The Iranian Foreign Minister added, “Iran/P5+1 Statement: ‘The EU will TERMINATE the implementation of ALL nuclear-related economic and financial sanctions’.  How about this?”

The last time that Zarif and the Obama administration contradicted one another on a factsheet was over Iran’s “right to enrich” uranium, which was granted in the Joint Plan of Action beginning in November 2013.

The issue of sequencing sanctions relief upon the implementation of any nuclear agreement was one of the key sticking points in the talks this past week. Iran had insisted on the immediate lifting of sanctions, whereas the P5+1 had insisted on a phased lifting.  Both Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani have demanded that the sanctions be lifted “at once” as soon as an agreement is reached. The administration has previously called for phased sanctions relief. On March 16, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said: “[T]he fact is, the President doesn’t believe that we should take that really powerful tool off the table on the front end.  He believes that we should do that nearer to the end, after Iran has demonstrated over the course of a sustained period of time a willingness to live up to the terms of the agreement.”

[Photo: RT France / YouTube