Finessing the Iran-Sanction Issue

Despite discouraging headlines about last-minute troubles facing the nuclear deal with Iran, negotiators have devised a clever way of sidestepping the touchy issue of when Iran would get sanctions relief — by delaying the actual signing until initial steps have been taken, reports Trita Parsi.

By Trita Parsi

Contrary to public posturing on the timing and pace of sanctions relief, a framework for handling this critical matter of the nuclear deal has been resolved, according to Iranian sources.

Iranian officials have on numerous occasions insisted that sanctions relief must come immediately upon the signing of an agreement. This has been at direct odds with the position of the U.S. government and its allies, who insist that relief only can come after Iran has taken numerous steps limiting its nuclear activities.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei sitting next to President Hassan Rouhani and addressing the cabinet.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei sitting next to President Hassan Rouhani and addressing the cabinet.

As oftentimes is the case in diplomacy, the solution was found in a combination of a play with words and practical measures. This is exactly what the diplomats did to reconcile the Iranian insistence on front-loaded sanctions relief and the Western position of relief being provided only after the International Atomic Energy Agency has verified Iranian steps to curtail its nuclear program.

According to Iranian sources, the agreement is divided into three phases. The initial phase called “adoption of agreement” takes place as the two sides agree on a final deal. This phase will kick in over the next few days if a deal is reached.

The next phase the operationalization of the agreement will begin once the domestic political processes of various parties have conclusively approved the agreement. This phase has been added primarily as a result of the U.S. Congress passing the Corker bill, in which the American legislature gave itself the right to review and vote on the nuclear deal.

The timing of the second phase is directly related to the duration of the Congressional review process. If the two sides come to an agreement prior to July 10, the review process is set at 30 calendar days, in addition to 22 calendar days for Congress to pass a resolution to accept or reject the deal and for the President to use his veto, if need be. If the two sides fail to reach a deal by July 10, the Congressional review process increases to 60 calendar days.

While other states in the negotiations may also initiate some form of internal review and approval process, none of them are expected to take as long as the Congressional review. As such, the U.S. Congress has significantly delayed the implementation of a presumptive deal.

Once the deal has survived the Congressional review whether through a resolution of affirmation or the failure to pass a resolution of rejection the Iranians will begin implementing the first steps of their commitments. This is phase III.

The initiation of the implementation of their end of the deal must then be verified by the IAEA, after which the U.S. and its allies will begin relieving sanctions. It is at this point that the deal will be “signed,” enabling the Iranian demand for sanctions relief to occur upon signing of the deal to be upheld.

The exact timing of this schedule depends on the date the deal is adopted, the duration of the Congressional review and the time it takes for Iran to implement the first steps of the agreement. But at best it will begin a few months after the adoption of the deal. This is reflected by President Hassan Rouhani’s statement earlier in June that he expected relief from sanctions within a “couple of months” after an agreement is reached.

While agreement on these principles of the process is a very important step forward, some question marks remain. What kind of a binding commitment will the U.S. and its allies make to reciprocate Iranian implementation of the deal, as the first steps taken will be Iranian? At what point will the UN Security Council adopt a resolution that affirms the deal?

While these are important details that must be settled, it is more important that the framework for the process has been agreed upon.

Trita Parsi is the President of the National Iranian American Council and author of  A Single Roll of the Dice, Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran (Yale University Press, 2012). [This article first appeared at HuffingtonPost.]

8 comments for “Finessing the Iran-Sanction Issue

  1. saurabh sharma
    July 1, 2015 at 08:33


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  2. Peter Loeb
    June 30, 2015 at 05:17


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    oppression. Jews sought their own identity in the Holocaust…
    among groups [Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, women,
    gays and lesbians] Jews were not disadvantaged in
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    Holocaust have taken hold among American Jews not because
    of victim status but because they are NOT victims…”
    Norman G. Finkelstein, THE HOLOCAUST INDUSTRY,
    in paperback, p.32

    This book is so inciteful in so many areas, it is overwhelming.
    iT is a necessity for all who follow the policies and actions
    of Israel and the US.

    —Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

    • Joe Wallace
      July 2, 2015 at 16:47

      Peter Loeb:

      “This book is so inciteful in so many areas, it is overwhelming.”

      Do you mean inciteful or insightful? I ask only because the word “inciteful” is in neither of my dictionaries. If this is a coinage, it serves a purpose even if the word is not yet generally accepted. The insights of a book might be inciteful, for example, in that they provoke a reader to take action

  3. Joe Tedesky
    June 29, 2015 at 04:55

    Already the media is starting to report on how Iran wants the sanctions lifted immediately upon reaching an agreement. You can bet your pay check, our MSM will wear out the theme of Iranian resistance against a ‘show of good face’ with this P5+1 negotiation. This is what you are going to get from our established corporate news machine. Add to that, now that you have the ‘Corker Amendment’ along with the 2016 presidential campaign, well how could anything go wrong? I’m not even mentioning of how the U.S. is arming everyone in the Middle East with weapons up to their teeth. Seriously, how can anything go wrong? While all of this develops we Americans will get a heavy dose of how terrible Iran is with this negotiation. There will not be any serious commentary in regard to how Iranians may see this nuclear limitation process. Why all of a sudden would our media become objective? That maybe un-American! Lastly, what excitement should an Iranian have to look forward to. Shouldn’t the average Iranian thrive on the hope of U.S. cooperation passing through a newly elected American president?

  4. Abe
    June 28, 2015 at 22:25

    In the bio on his website, Parsi proudly notes that he served as an adjunct scholar at the venerable Middle East Institute (MEI), publishers of Middle East Journal.

    The Middle East Institute hosted Parsi for a discussion on the prospects for a diplomatic solution to the Iran nuclear crisis in the wake of UN and US sanctions.

    Parsi apparently agrees with Graham E. Fuller, former CIA official and an Advisory Editor of Middle East Journal, that Iranian regional power is “exaggerated”

    The Middle East Institute recently admitted former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford as a Senior Fellow.

    On the MEI website in June, Ford outlines various scenarios of “Iranian support” for the embattled Syrian government.

    Ford reassures us that we can stop “hand-wringing about unlikely scenarios like the Islamic State or Nusra taking over” and start using “additional policy tools like serious material aid to the more moderate opposition” — you know, what worked so well before — “and perhaps even a no-fly zone”.

    Birds of a feather definitely do finesse together.

  5. Abe
    June 28, 2015 at 20:50

    chaos might be triggered by the barely contained secret that the United States will not only renew its defense aid agreement with Israel when it expires in 2017, but that it will likely be INCREASED significantly beyond its current three billion USD. The posturing and denial swirling around this poorly concealed secret is almost fodder for a tragic comedy: no one is willing to admit this is meant to be a ‘kiss and make-up’ defense deal to put Israel more at ease with the Americans engaging Iran. Netanyahu himself staunchly declares that even if a new deal is reached and for significantly more money that it will still not change Israel’s overall opposition to American engagement with Iran. In other words, the U.S. is going to give more money and weapons to an irritated Israel in order to keep it ‘calm’ about allowing Iran the chance to dabble with nuclear energy. Iran, of course, is not going to be blind to this development. From its side it will no doubt see its own international agreement as trying to constrain its ‘national defense sovereignty’ while then watching the Americans follow it with another with Israel that will subsequently arm it to the teeth

    Hammer and Nail: Spinning War from Peace in Iran’s Nuke Deal
    By Matthew Crosston

  6. Zachary Smith
    June 28, 2015 at 14:16

    Frankly, I can’t keep up with what’s going on regarding the Iran negotiations, and understand precious little of what I do read. Hopefully the whole issue will be resolved, and everybody will live happily ever after. But I wouldn’t put much of my own money on that outcome. For example, here is a blogger pointing out that one outlet of the Neocon News Network – the New York Times – has already predicted failure.

    The NYT Pre-Announces Iran Deal Failure

    Israel really doesn’t want this to happen, and the shitty little apartheid literally owns the US Congress – both houses.

    I’d wager Iran isn’t very confident either; witness this recent announcement. That nation has let it be known that it has evaded Western sanctions and acquired the technology to filter out EMP effects.


    It seems that they suspect that one way Israel could do some serious harm would be to explode a specialized weapon high above that nation.

    EMP is one of those topics I’ve found it impossible to research with any confidence. Governments are using lip-glue, and internet speculation just isn’t reliable.

    But it seems to have recently dawned on Israel that it is also quite susceptible – I’ve read reports that they’ve started taking precautions and installing protective “stuff”. After all, it’s an unusual weapon which can’t be pointed in two directions, and Iran may have a few tiny A-weapons purchased from the collapsing USSR. If that didn’t happen, there is always North Korea. As a force multiplier, high-quality EMP bombs would be extremely useful to NK. Despite all the whining about their ICBMs, it’s going to be a long, long time before NK has accurate missiles. If your bomb has a CEP of several hundred miles, it’s basically useless – unless it’s optimized for the EMP effect.

    Given the Iranian declarations about nukes, could they use such a weapon? I suspect the answer is ‘yes’. The Vatican refuses to sanction condoms for sex, but I doubt it would object if the things were used on the ends of rifle barrels in a “just war”. So as a retaliation weapon which didn’t directly kill or injure anybody, I’d say the Ayatollahs might well allow them. It would be very foolish for Israel not to prepare for such retaliation.

    • Peter Loeb
      June 29, 2015 at 05:26


      Iran wants relief from Western sanctions. The West—primarily
      the US— wants to invade, conquer and eliminate Syria and will
      not commit to lifting of sanctions until more and more conditions
      are met (called by various technical names etc.).

      As I have written previously in these spaces, I anticipate no deal.
      Were I a consultant to Iran I would advise them to sign absolutely
      nothing—NOTHING—until a firm commitment to the lifting of sanctions
      including date etc. were made by the West.

      Why there should be any deal at all when the West is merely trying
      to come up with unfirm and indecipherable so-called formulas as
      preconditions is beyond me. The schemes of the West (almost
      all involve the West getting what it wants and Iran getting nothing
      it wants,

      A confidence-building gesture from the US to the Syrian Regime (B.
      Assad) would be to ship them immediately the same number of
      “non-lethal” weapons. The term “non-lethal” must mean that these
      weapons do not provide any advantage whatsoever to the recipient.
      They must be harmless in any conflict. What are they and which
      US defense contracgtors produce them and pocket the profits?

      Since this “non-lethal” assistance must be …”non-lethal”—
      one can only suppose that that must mean that no ones
      is assisted in killing anyone else. Otherwise, would such
      “non-lethal” assistance not be an act of war and in defiance
      of almost all international law?

      As to the so-called “safe havens”, perhaps Syria could
      control some similar “safe havens” in the US.
      Perhaps a large desert area would be appropriate.
      There they could build bases and have their own “troops on
      the ground”. Isn’t it all for “peace”?

      —-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

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