Iran and major powers have begun the difficult process of finalising by June 30 a historic deal putting an Iranian nuclear bomb out of reach.
Following a negotiating marathon in Switzerland, Iran agreed on April 2 to what US President Barack Obama called a ‘historic understanding … which, if fully implemented, will prevent (Iran) from obtaining a nuclear weapon’.
This will include Iran dramatically scaling back its nuclear activities and submitting those that remain to what Obama described as the ‘most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated’.
In return, the United States and five other major powers committed to lift certain sanctions that have caused the Islamic republic of 75 million people major economic pain.
The accord, if completed and implemented, would draw to a close a crisis that has been raging since Iran’s nuclear activities were first revealed some 12 years ago. It denies wanting the bomb.
It could even potentially see ‘axis of evil’ Iran and the ‘Great Satan’ United States bury the hatchet after 35 years of bitter acrimony – and at a particularly volatile time in the Middle East.
‘With courageous leadership and the audacity to make the right decisions, we can and should put this manufactured crisis to rest and move on to much more important work,’ Iranian Foreign
Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a New York Times op-ed published on Monday.
The talks in Vienna on Wednesday, starting the process of drafting the deal, involved senior EU diplomat Helga Schmid, representing the P5+1 group, and Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, as well as legal and technical experts from all six powers and Tehran.
Other officials including US Under Secretary Wendy Sherman were to join later in the week.
The process of fitting together all the interlocking pieces in what will be a fiendishly complex accord is full of potential pitfalls, experts say.
The main problem looks to be the timing of when US and EU economic sanctions related to the nuclear dossier will be lifted.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said he wants the removal to occur ‘on the first day of the implementation of the deal’.
But Western officials say this will only happen once the UN atomic watchdog has verified that Iran has taken key steps in the agreement such as removing nuclear machinery. Washington says this would take six months to a year.