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AP: Iran Sanctions Snapback “May Prove Unworkable”

Shortly after the understanding was signed between Iran and the P5+1 countries over the country’s illicit nuclear program, a U.S. State Department fact sheet—since disputed by Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif—stated that “U.S. and E.U. nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the [International Atomic Energy Agency] 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.” President Barack Obama mirrored such language in his address in the White House Rose Garden shortly after the framework was signed, saying that “If Iran violates the deal, sanctions can be snapped back into place.”

But as an Associated Press analysis published on Thursday makes clear, the plan for snapping back sanctions that were enacted by the UN Security Council—which were very difficult to create and will be very difficult to reimpose—”remains poorly defined and may prove unworkable.”

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who helped seal last week’s pact, insisted “no one country could block the snapback.”

That assertion rests on an informal compromise reached at the talks in Lausanne, Switzerland, to bypass the typical U.N. Security Council process if Iran breaks the agreement. Normally in that body, any one of the five permanent members — the U.S., Britain, France, Russia and China, which are all party to the Iran negotiations — can veto resolutions.

But many questions remain, including what would happen if two or more countries object. Russia and China have traditionally opposed almost all U.N. sanctions measures, and, perhaps tellingly, neither country’s foreign minister was present when the April 2 framework was unveiled.

Though one possible solution could be for the U.S. to waive sanctions first and only waive UN sanctions following the successful conclusion of the framework, the Obama administration has been resistant to calls from Congress for the legislative branch to be substantively involved. Instead, they are exploring ideas that would start with UN mechanisms—including a proposal that has never been attempted before.

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 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….

In an interview with NPR Monday, Obama said the sanctions would be “triggered” when the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency identified a “very real problem” and a majority of countries involved agreed. But that process also is undefined — and slow.

Further complicating the matter, deliberations by the IAEA board (which sometimes take years) would include representatives from Russia and China—countries against signing off on actions that would punish Iran for violations.

In the past week, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused the White House of “lying and breaching promises” in their fact sheets. NPR reported on Thursday that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran would only sign a final deal if “all sanctions are lifted the first day of implementation.”

[Photo: NPR / YouTube]