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The Iran Deal and NEGOTIATION – the UN, the IAEA, and the Arrest of American Journalists (an overview)

by merlin on June 19th, 2015
  • Sumo

While the United States was busy with the nature of Bruce Jenner’s gender transformation, the violence in South Carolina, and the implications of new trade agreements in the Pacific, this country was also involved as one of the forces to be reckoned with in the nuclear negotiation room, via its status as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, along with Iran and Germany. The countries negotiating with Iran are known as the P5+1, being five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, and also include the United Kingdom, France,Russia, and China.  Specifically, the primary formal purpose for the negotiation was to properly balance Iran’s interest in obtaining a stable power source and the international community’s interest in preventing Iran from recklessly plunging into the development and manufacture of unregulated nuclear weapons.  This post will focus on the present status of the application of the art of negotiation in an international context.  What many do not realize is that negotiation is performed using similar tactics in extreme circumstances involving nuclear and hostage deals and in small-world situations involving divorcing couples and criminal defendant sentences.  The stakes change, and the degree of pressure accompanying them also changes, but the tactics themselves are often reflections of one another.

Turning to the present Iranian negotiations:

According to the U.S. Department of State page devoted to the outline of the solid points from the protracted negotiation (arguably a more reliable source than the White House’s earlier synopsis, given the disparagement notably made by both the Iranian Administration and GOP politicians), the key points of the negotiations are as follows:


  • Iran has agreed to reduce by approximately two-thirds its installed centrifuges. Iran will go from having about 19,000 installed today to 6,104 installed under the deal, with only 5,060 of these enriching uranium for 10 years. All 6,104 centrifuges will be IR-1s, Iran’s first-generation centrifuge.
  • Iran has agreed to not enrich uranium over 3.67 percent for at least 15 years.
  • Iran has agreed to reduce its current stockpile of about 10,000 kg of low-enriched uranium (LEU) to 300 kg of 3.67 percent LEU for 15 years.
  • All excess centrifuges and enrichment infrastructure will be placed in IAEA monitored storage and will be used only as replacements for operating centrifuges and equipment.
  • Iran has agreed to not build any new facilities for the purpose of enriching uranium for 15 years.
  • Iran’s breakout timeline – the time that it would take for Iran to acquire enough fissile material for one weapon – is currently assessed to be 2 to 3 months. That timeline will be extended to at least one year, for a duration of at least ten years, under this framework.

Iran will convert its facility at Fordow so that it is no longer used to enrich uranium

  • Iran has agreed to not enrich uranium at its Fordow facility for at least 15 years.
  •  Iran has agreed to convert its Fordow facility so that it is used for peaceful purposes only – into a nuclear, physics, technology, research center.
  • Iran has agreed to not conduct research and development associated with uranium enrichment at Fordow for 15 years.
  • Iran will not have any fissile material at Fordow for 15 years.
  • Almost two-thirds of Fordow’s centrifuges and infrastructure will be removed. The remaining centrifuges will not enrich uranium. All centrifuges and related infrastructure will be placed under IAEA monitoring.

Iran will only enrich uranium at the Natanz facility, with only 5,060 IR-1 first-generation centrifuges for ten years.

  • Iran has agreed to only enrich uranium using its first generation (IR-1 models) centrifuges at Natanz for ten years, removing its more advanced centrifuges.
  • Iran will remove the 1,000 IR-2M centrifuges currently installed at Natanz and place them in IAEA monitored storage for ten years.
  • Iran will not use its IR-2, IR-4, IR-5, IR-6, or IR-8 models to produce enriched uranium for at least ten years. Iran will engage in limited research and development with its advanced centrifuges, according to a schedule and parameters which have been agreed to by the P5+1.
  • For ten years, enrichment and enrichment research and development will be limited to ensure a breakout timeline of at least 1 year. Beyond 10 years, Iran will abide by its enrichment and enrichment R&D plan submitted to the IAEA, and pursuant to the JCPOA, under the Additional Protocol resulting in certain limitations on enrichment capacity.

Inspections and Transparency

  • The IAEA will have regular access to all of Iran’s nuclear facilities, including to Iran’s enrichment facility at Natanz and its former enrichment facility at Fordow, and including the use of the most up-to-date, modern monitoring technologies.
  • Inspectors will have access to the supply chain that supports Iran’s nuclear program. The new transparency and inspections mechanisms will closely monitor materials and/or components to prevent diversion to a secret program.
  • Inspectors will have access to uranium mines and continuous surveillance at uranium mills, where Iran produces yellowcake, for 25 years.
  • Inspectors will have continuous surveillance of Iran’s centrifuge rotors and bellows production and storage facilities for 20 years. Iran’s centrifuge manufacturing base will be frozen and under continuous surveillance.
  • All centrifuges and enrichment infrastructure removed from Fordow and Natanz will be placed under continuous monitoring by the IAEA.
  • A dedicated procurement channel for Iran’s nuclear program will be established to monitor and approve, on a case by case basis, the supply, sale, or transfer to Iran of certain nuclear-related and dual use materials and technology – an additional transparency measure.
  • Iran has agreed to implement the Additional Protocol of the IAEA, providing the IAEA much greater access and information regarding Iran’s nuclear program, including both declared and undeclared facilities.
  • Iran will be required to grant access to the IAEA to investigate suspicious sites or allegations of a covert enrichment facility, conversion facility, centrifuge production facility, or yellowcake production facility anywhere in the country.
  • Iran has agreed to implement Modified Code 3.1 requiring early notification of construction of new facilities.
  • Iran will implement an agreed set of measures to address the IAEA’s concerns regarding the Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of its program.

Reactors and Reprocessing

  • Iran has agreed to redesign and rebuild a heavy water research reactor in Arak, based on a design that is agreed to by the P5+1, which will not produce weapons grade plutonium, and which will support peaceful nuclear research and radioisotope production.
  • The original core of the reactor, which would have enabled the production of significant quantities of weapons-grade plutonium, will be destroyed or removed from the country.
  • Iran will ship all of its spent fuel from the reactor out of the country for the reactor’s lifetime.
  • Iran has committed indefinitely to not conduct reprocessing or reprocessing research and development on spent nuclear fuel.
  • Iran will not accumulate heavy water in excess of the needs of the modified Arak reactor, and will sell any remaining heavy water on the international market for 15 years.
  • Iran will not build any additional heavy water reactors for 15 years.


  • Iran will receive sanctions relief, if it verifiably abides by its commitments.
  • U.S. and E.U. nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA 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.
  • The architecture of U.S. nuclear-related sanctions on Iran will be retained for much of the duration of the deal and allow for snap-back of sanctions in the event of significant non-performance.
  • All past UN Security Council resolutions on the Iran nuclear issue will be lifted simultaneous with the completion, by Iran, of nuclear-related actions addressing all key concerns (enrichment, Fordow, Arak, PMD, and transparency).
  • However, core provisions in the UN Security Council resolutions – those that deal with transfers of sensitive technologies and activities – will be re-established by a new UN Security Council resolution that will endorse the JCPOA and urge its full implementation. It will also create the procurement channel mentioned above, which will serve as a key transparency measure. Important restrictions on conventional arms and ballistic missiles, as well as provisions that allow for related cargo inspections and asset freezes, will also be incorporated by this new resolution.
  • A dispute resolution process will be specified, which enables any JCPOA participant, to seek to resolve disagreements about the performance of JCPOA commitments.
  • If an issue of significant non-performance cannot be resolved through that process, then all previous UN sanctions could be re-imposed.
  • U.S. sanctions on Iran for terrorism, human rights abuses, and ballistic missiles will remain in place under the deal.


  • For ten years, Iran will limit domestic enrichment capacity and research and development – ensuring a breakout timeline of at least one year. Beyond that, Iran will be bound by its longer-term enrichment and enrichment research and development plan it shared with the P5+1.
  • For fifteen years, Iran will limit additional elements of its program. For instance, Iran will not build new enrichment facilities or heavy water reactors and will limit its stockpile of enriched uranium and accept enhanced transparency procedures.
  • Important inspections and transparency measures will continue well beyond 15 years. Iran’s adherence to the Additional Protocol of the IAEA is permanent, including its significant access and transparency obligations. The robust inspections of Iran’s uranium supply chain will last for 25 years.
  • Even after the period of the most stringent limitations on Iran’s nuclear program, Iran will remain a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which prohibits Iran’s development or acquisition of nuclear weapons and requires IAEA safeguards on its nuclear program.”

Of note is that the majority of these concrete terms specifically focus on the issues of prior enrichment at two named facilities, and decreasing enrichment according to certain established progress indicators.  The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is to act as a regulator in this matter, and this is a preferable thing to either the violation of sovereignty that would be perpetrated if one of the individual nations in the agreement were to occupy that role or the potential for suspicion on the parts of the other nations in such an event.  The IAEA is serving this purpose because they are specifically intended to conduct their activities in accordance with the UN Charter.  As for the IAEA, they have specifically addressed this issue in a report derestricted on March 4 of this year, and said as much as can be said by any party other than Iran as to their compliance with the benchmarks.  In that report, it appeared that Iran was complying but the IAEA was unable to properly determine whether the nuclear fuel they had inspected was all of the nuclear material in Iran’s possession.

Another report was derestricted by the IAEA on June 11, 2015.  In that report, though the same terms of uncertainty were not stressed, it was noted that “[w]hile the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material at the nuclear facilities and LOFs declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement, the Agency is not in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.”

Essentially, therefore, it seems the IAEA is not being permitted to do its most important purpose.  This lack of trust for a neutral arbiter is exactly what this post revolves around, at its essence, since negotiation involves certain matters of genuine trust, and that trust appears to be lacking though the sanctions imposed, which will not be lifted until the benchmarks monitored by the IAEA are verifiably met, continue to harm the Iranian people.

A fruitful negotiation requires that the parties approach the dispute between them according to a manner best calculated to reach a solution that, while not giving them the outcome they might prefer the most, when that outcome necessarily disadvantages another party, is still something that they can work with.  It is the outcome that least disadvantages all of the parties to the negotiation.

The following are tips and methods of negotiation which were listed in an article from the National Institutes of Health, and they were a pretty logical approach to this process.

1. Unbundle the goals

They advised the parties to first, unbundle the items to be negotiation – meaning that instead of seeking an overall resolution, the situation is broken up into the smaller portions that, together, make up the entire deal.  As an example from the Iranian nuclear talks, the individual nuclear power plants that must be monitored may each make up an area that involves a separate treatment, or the issue of enriched uranium, or the economic sanctions on one area of the economy, specifically.


Next, the article speaks about the idea of anticipating the other part’s wants and needs, and it speaks about it in terms that were specifically treated when I studied the art of negotiation and mediation advocacy in law school.  Specifically, the article talks about the idea of a BATNA (“Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement”).  The article put this best, when it asked “what is likely to be his or her next best choice?”  This issue is, plainly, a nonstarter with the countries involved, since the only alternatives to the negotiations are actual aggression (escalating to outright war – be it nuclear, conventional, or otherwise) and continued economic sanctions (the brunt of which is certainly being felt strongly by the ordinary people of Iran, who will likely respond with resentment and anger, directed at BOTH their leaders and those of the other involved countries, which – again – does not help the situation at all).


A. Time deadlines

June 30 is a key deadline for the benchmarks listed by the negotiations to begin to take effect.  However, there is widespread pessimism regarding the realistic likelihood of meeting this deadline.  If the reader is so inclined, they can look at articles commenting on French pessimism about this time deadline, from as early as late March of this year, in U.S. News and World Report, though the Russian ambassador, as recently as June 16, continued to express confidence in this deadline being met, as recounted in this link from Press TV.

Ultimately, though, this is an artificial deadline and the end goal being met is more important to the parties than meeting the deadlines (they are only aspirations, as opposed to true “deadlines”).  According to Bloomberg, the deadline may be missed and that is NOT fatal to these negotiations, given the accurate view taken by the parties to this that there is tremendous importance on having the right framework in place.  Of course, it also may be merely a stalling tactic, since the goals that the IAEA is supposed to make sure are being met by Iran seem to be slipping by due to Iran’s poor efforts at meeting them, and these goals appear to be oriented toward the production of nuclear weapons despite the efforts of the other countries involved.  The overzealous behavior of the United States in these negotiations has been displayed very plainly, after all, leading Iran to reasonably wonder at  the veracity of the nuclear intelligence that the United States has provided to the IAEA, via Operation Merlin.  Specifically, the article linked to revealed that the CIA had been actively “committed to deception about the Iranian nuclear program.”  The ultimate conclusion of that article makes the delay of the negotiation seem reasonable since “the International Atomic Energy Agency concludes that U.S. assertions about an alleged Iranian nuclear weapons program lack credibility, top officials in Washington will have themselves to blame.”That leads us to the use of other basic negotiation strategies, which can muddy the waters a little.

a. Other Countries and Their Economic Interests

Keep in mind that the economic goals are incredibly important to other countries involved in these negotiations.  Several of these countries had an ongoing trade relationship with Iran, and it is costing them time and money to enforce the sanctions that are being brought to bear against Iran, as well as the costs involved in initially imposing these sanctions (pulling out of the country), and they want those deadlines to be as inflexible as possible.  There was an excellent discussion of the roles played in these negotiations (which also discusses why both the United States and Russia are so important to achieving a nuclear deal with Iran) in an interview on PBS Newshour, between Hari Sreenivasan and Gary Sick, who was on the National Security Council staff under Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan.

b. Keeping the United States CIVILLY Honest

There is no reason why the United States should NOT maintain civil honesty as far as the sanctions being imposed in this matter, and the repair of the damage that results from the long-term crushing effect of economic sanctions is a matter that the United States theoretically stands to economically benefit from.  In this matter, I am referring to the FCPA as a guard against the opportunism of American companies that might act to help Iran regain its economic feet if the benchmarks are met and the sanctions are lifted.

B. Peripheral Goals

One of the issues that has arisen loudly in the Western media lately concerns the imprisonment and trial of journalists on free speech issues.  Attention has come to this issue from a variety of sources, such as Jon Stewart’s recent movie Rosewater, and even the New York Times, which talked about the secret trial of Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, who has been imprisoned since July.  The details of his farcical trial are of note, because they are so loudly broadcast and their importance is stressed to force the negotiations to conclude faster and more in one party’s favor than they might otherwise be.  It is the longstanding position of the United States that it does not negotiate with terrorists, etc., but prisoner exchanges are a reality, and the presence of a national of one state in the other state’s prison system, for good reason or for no reason at all, can be a valuable asset to obtain a concession from the other party to such a negotiation.  This has a direct parallel in the case of negotiation for divorce settlement between two parties looking to keep marital property or to negotiate custody rights and visitation privileges, or to a criminal defendant or a civil party looking to obtain a better outcome to their ordeal.  The second article has a list of other Americans detained by Iran, which shows the depth and degree of power over peripheral matters that Iran maintains in this negotiation.

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