Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said Thursday he wants to press forward for a final nuclear deal with the P5+1 nations but added that the West needs the deal more than Iran does.
“We do not want to speak about not reaching an agreement; agreement is what everyone needs; of course the 5+1 group needs this agreement more than us,” Rouhani told reporters in Iran on Thursday.
Rouhani went on to offer a possible explanation for his assessment of the deal saying, “if we do not reach an agreement, the sanctions regime will not continue like before.” He added, “They know that the sanctions regime has been disrupted and they know that this regime will not last.”
There have been signs that, even before a final deal is reached, sanctions against Iran are weakening. China is planning to build a new “Peace Pipeline” to transport natural gas from Iran to Pakistan. The Iranian portion of the pipeline is already complete but the Pakistanis had held off on completing their end of the project out of deference to U.S. sanctions. Meanwhile, Russia announced this week that it would resume shipment of advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Iran which it had previously claimed were stopped because of sanctions.
The complete removal of sanctions under the terms of the nuclear deal has become a point of contention between the U.S. and Iran. Iran’s leaders have repeatedly said the sanctions must be dropped the moment the deal is in place. President Obama and other U.S. administration officials have suggested sanctions relief will be phased in based on Iranian compliance with the terms of the deal.
The framework agreement announced April 2 has two basic parts. On one side is relief from international sanctions placed on Iran by the United Nations and the U.S. The other half of the deal consists of measures designed to ensure Iran’s nuclear program remains peaceful. These included upgraded inspections, a reduction in the number of operating centrifuges, and changes to a reactor currently capable of producing Plutonium.
In his comments Thursday, President Rouhani touched on another element of the deal which has become a point of contention. Rouhani said Iran’s objective was to prove claims that Iran had pursued nuclear weapons research were “baseless and unreal.”
Rouhani was referring to evidence collected by the IAEA since 2005 which indicates Iran had engaged in a detailed program of weapons research including nuclear missile designs. Iran has long claimed the documents collected by the IAEA were fabricated, but the current deal was expected to be a moment where Iran would finally come clean. However, President Rouhani’s statement Thursday is the second time in the past two weeks he has emphasized that Iran is not changing its story regarding past nuclear research.
Observers, including former Secretary of State James Baker and current IAEA Director Yukiya Amano say that is a problem because a confession of past illicit work would build trust and also allow inspectors a baseline from which to estimate Iran’s current behavior.
Iran hosted Director Amano for talks on the past military dimensions of its nuclear program this Wednesday. Afterwards, the IAEA issued a brief statement saying it had been a “constructive exchange” but there was no indication of any breakthrough developments.