Reported Deal on ‘Snap-Back’ Iran Sanctions Has 3 Fatal Flaws

Wang Qun, Laurent Fabius, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Federica Mogherini, Javad Zarif, Philip Hammond, John Kerry
The Associated Press

With one month left for talks, news has emerged that the P5+1–six powers negotiating with Iran (Russia, China, France, Britain, Germany and the U.S.)–have reached a deal on “snap-back” Iran sanctions–i.e. sanctions that would be removed as part of a nuclear deal but which would automatically be restored if Iran broke the agreement, due June 30. Reuters suggested that all that remained was for Iran to agree, and a major obstacle would be gone. Yet the snap-back “deal” has three fatal flaws.

The first is that it does not appear to “snap-back” at all. According to Reuters, “suspected breaches by Iran would be taken up by a dispute-resolution panel, likely including the six powers and Iran, which would assess the allegations and come up with a non-binding opinion.” A non-binding opinion is hardly an enforcement mechanism–especially when the country in question has to agree to whatever opinion the panel reaches. In fact, Iran appears to have a veto over renewed sanctions!

The second fatal flaw is that “suspected breaches” can only be found if there are regular, thorough inspections. And there is nothing in the deal about those. In recent days, Iran has insisted that it be given 24 days’ notice before any nuclear inspections are to begin, giving it ample time to hide evidence. And Iran has rejected any access by international inspectors to its military sites, which is precisely where any forbidden nuclear activity is likeliest to be happening.

Third, there is the fact that Russia has already ruled out “snap-back” inspections. Negotiating positions change, of course, but there is no way that Russia would dilute its veto power at the UN Security Council, the final authority over international nuclear inspections. The “non-binding” nature of the review panel clearly preserves the Russian veto and prevents “snap-back” sanctions.

This is a “deal” more for propaganda value as the June 30 deadline for a final agreement looms.