Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Is There an Iran Deal?

by Elliott Abrams
January 23, 2014

Two remarkable statements must be juxtaposed to understand how much trouble lies ahead in trying to get a nuclear deal with Iran. Thus far, the trouble has been over the temporary arrangements, meant to last six months and likely to be extended for another six. That deal was reached last year and an implementation agreement then took two more months to reach. The next task is to negotiate an arrangement that is comprehensive and permanent. How likely is that, and have we really thus far reached any agreement at all?

The first statement is that of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS)  in Washington, reported by The Wall Street Journal. ISIS is led by former UN weapons inspector David Albright.  This is from the Journal’s account of the ISIS report:

The report by Mr. Albright’s institute focuses on denying Iran the ability to make weapons-grade fuel through the two separate tracks Tehran is developing: the enrichment of uranium and the production of plutonium. On uranium enrichment, ISIS said Iran’s activities must only take place in Natanz. A second, underground plant near Qom needs to be closed to guarantee better IAEA monitoring, it said. The study concluded Iran also needs to reduce to 4,000 the total number of centrifuges it is operating from a current capacity of nearly 20,000. This will deny it the ability to quickly produce the highly enriched uranium needed for a bomb.

So denying Iran a weapons capability means it must destroy 15,000 centrifuges. And as the Journal notes, “The institute’s prescriptions aren’t viewed as particularly harsh or hard-line. The report accepts that Iran will maintain some ability to continue producing nuclear fuel as part of a final agreement through the enrichment of uranium at low levels for civilian use.”

How likely is it that Iran will agree to destroy 15,000 centrifuges?

The second statement, that of Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, offers an answer.  Zarif was in Davos this week, and did an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that will be broadcast on Sunday, February 2nd. “We did not agree to dismantle anything,” Zarif said.  And there’s more:

Zarif told CNN Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto that terminology used by the White House to describe the agreement differed from the text agreed to by Iran and the other countries in the talks — the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany. “The White House version both underplays the concessions and overplays Iranian commitments.”

In old-fashioned contract law, a contract (say, for instance, a nuclear deal) is only reached when the parties have a meeting of the minds. As one law dictionary puts it, “when two parties to an agreement (contract) both have the same understanding of the terms of the agreement. Such mutual comprehension is essential to a valid contract.” Black’s Law Dictionary, the most famous one, says that a contract requires “mutual assent,” defined as a “meeting of the minds” in which each of the  parties “agrees to all the terms and conditions, in the same sense and with the same meaning as the others.”

Nuclear negotiations are not private contracts, of course, but the old contract law precepts ought to give us pause. If the parties disagree strongly over what has been agreed, has anything really been agreed?

 

Post a Comment 17 Comments

  • Posted by Dean A. Smallwood

    In Iran as in Syria , Obama and Kerry have been played for a couple of suckers … which is , in fact , what they are . It’s no longer just The United States . Israel is going to pay a hell of a price for this administration’s incompetence .

  • Posted by EMT

    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani can laugh with his fake smile, as most of the world has never understood the difference between right and wrong. Rouhani with his fake smile managed to convince Obama and the West that Iran has changed course. Rouhani and his band managed to make Westerners believe that Iran would cease the race for the atomic bomb without however openly saying anything about it. I can understand that it was the Westerners who had presented their version and their wishes and the Iranians responded with smiles, which gave the Westerners the impression that they have accepted their thinking.
    Obama would like to succeed and he is giving the impression to everyone who wants to listen that there is a deal with Iran. Even the Europeans do not trust Obama. They are complaning among them. But those who believe that israel is sleeping, soon will realize that they are wrong.

  • Posted by Jassem Othman

    There is nothing particularly new or surprising in the Iranians behavior. Iran would never abandon its nuclear program, because this is an integral part of the nature of the evil mullahs regime.
    Negotiations are the best way that would help them to buy more of time, as well as to lift all unilateral sanctions. They just need time to build a few atomic bombs.

  • Posted by EMT

    I agree with the comment of Jassen Othman Obama gave them more time to finish their job to have the atom Bombs. Then the situation will change entirely. After this we have to negotiate as partner as it will be too late. Unless someone from the Iranian population will destroy the atomic installations.

  • Posted by Jassem Othman

    Thank you Sir! Actually nothing can be destroyed there without the U.S. support for the opposition inside and outside Iran. America under this defeatist administration did not stands by dissidents who defend the values and principles of freedom. President Obama has betrayed the democratic aspirations of the Iranian and Syrian people.
    I think that, after gets the dirty bomb, the negotiations will be from a position of power!

  • Posted by ah

    Sorry to burst your bubble of Neocon excitement. Jassem, if you are speaking of the MEK, then sorry to tell you, but they are far from “dissidents who defend the values and principles of freedom.” If you are speaking of the alleged “Green Revolution”, then you are simply being naive.

    The most astounding part of this entire argument is that the conservatives have been pushing for more and more sanctions for years now with the alleged goal of “getting Iran back to the table”… and now Iran is at the table, they are against it and pushing for more sanctions. It is rather clear that they only thing conservatives (and Israelis) want here, is for Iran to be bombed. They do not seek diplomacy, they seek endless war.

  • Posted by Adam

    Ah, you are just trash-talking. The negotiations have been off and on for years. No one is against making a deal with Iran, provided the deal is serious and prevents Iran from getting the bomb. The prospect of Obama signing off on a deal with loopholes for the Iranians is what is a cause for concern, not just in Washington, but across the Middle East.

  • Posted by Jassem Othman

    Ah, obviously you can not implement these principles overnight on such societies, but there are some activists who respect those principles and values, and have a strong desire to build an free and democratic societies that respect human dignity.

  • Posted by Jassem Othman

    Ah, the wars did not started only by the ilk of conservatives. American extern wars didn’t begin with a Republic but a Democrats, after all, most of conservatives prefer Republicans over Democrats.
    No one wants war, neither Israel nor America, but they have a legitimate right to defend themselves even if through a pre-emptive war because there is no escape from the war they have waged in the name of Allah and the mullahs against USA and its interests. As you know, the Iranian fanatic regime is based in large part on hatred of the United States of America and Israel, they would be very pleased to nuke Israel and to kill millions of Americans. So if you will get out of their way, they never get out of your way, the mullahs want to be a nuclear superpower in the region, where they are protected all time by their friends of Chinese and Russians, after all, president Obama has betrayed the Israelis and the Saudis when he made the futile relations is growing closer with that evil regime rather than to important friends and allies in the region.

    By the way most of those who are struggling strongly for the freedom of people consider themselves above all in “American Democratic Revolutionary” and this is the correct term!

  • Posted by EMT

    As I mentioned before, there was no agreement between Iran and 5+1, as the US pretended, but the US has already announced their wishful thinking. A news agency has enlightened the Congress about what the truth is. Only then did the Obama administration send a clear and unequivocal message to Iran, in approximately the following terms: “I want you to confirm all what I have announced in public or I will say the deal never happened and inform all the Europeans and the world that you are liars and cheaters and I will authorize the Israelis to go ahead with their bombing, and the US will supply the needed weaponry to Israel.You have three day to confirm” Likewise it seems after this, the Iranians have confirmed the deal as our president ordered.

  • Posted by ah

    Adam, surely you have more rational reasoning and critical thinking in your head then to support the arguments of Jassim.
    I quote,
    “No one wants war, neither Israel nor America, but they have a legitimate right to defend themselves even if through a pre-emptive war because there is no escape from the war they have waged in the name of Allah and the mullahs against USA and its interests. As you know, the Iranian fanatic regime is based in large part on hatred of the United States of America and Israel, they would be very pleased to nuke Israel and to kill millions of Americans. So if you will get out of their way, they never get out of your way, the mullahs want to be a nuclear superpower in the region, where they are protected all time by their friends of Chinese and Russians, after all, president Obama has betrayed the Israelis and the Saudis when he made the futile relations is growing closer with that evil regime rather than to important friends and allies in the region.”

    No trash talking involved. It is clear that the only thing that will make the current Israeli government happy on this issue is the bombing of Iran. It wants no regional contenders who can put any sort of checks on its overwhelming military superiority in the region. Period.

  • Posted by Jassem Othman

    Ah, there is a big difference, when the nuclear weapons program is in the hands of the leaders of madness and psychopaths, like “Kim Jong and the mullahs of Iran and previously, Saddam and Gaddafi”, and those good and sane. Yes, might Israel possess the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the region but Israel never aimed this force against its neighbors!? In general there are no a speeches of hatred by Israelis and Americans that called for the destruction of Iran or any other country. There are no statements of hatred, which called for demise of Iran or any other country. The leaders of fanatic regime in Tehran have repeatedly declared for the destruction of the Great Satan and to wiped Israel off the map.
    As you know, the regime of mullahs is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, it is a source of terrorism and extremism and destabilization in the region and around the world. While Israel is the most country that at risk by this evil regime. Iran’s nuclear weapons program is not only a great threat to Israel, but it’s a real threat to America and its allies of the moderates in the region, such as “Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Iraq and Turkey”, and it’s an comprehensive threat to international security in general. So if the major world powers will allow Tehran to develop nuclear weapons, this threat would increase dramatically, which is why the major world powers must put an end to this madness, not to endanger the world’s security. Negotiations are just a waste of time because they never intended to negotiate of good faith!

  • Posted by ah

    Your absurd allegations are straight out of the history of US-Soviet relations and the nuclear brinkmanship of that era. All of your statements in slightly modified form, have been said about the USSR “Evil Empire” and about China. Allegations of them being evil, not rational actors, existential threats to our freedom and well being… blah blah blah. “Negotiations will never work because they don’t negotiate in good faith” etc etc etc etc.

    However, in the real world, one can easily see that Iran is a rational actor, acting in its own interests, and that political Islam is simply the narrative of legitimacy used by the regime to justify its own existence and political relations.

  • Posted by Jassem Othman

    Ah, I do not deny that Iranians do not acting in their own interests that make them always reveling in the slaughter of Americans, Right?
    Yes, I entirely agree with you that Iran and its protectors of the opportunistic neutrals “China and Russia” are an rational actors but this is only in your world and the world of the commander of the policy of humiliation and surrender, Mr. Obama.

    Apparently you and those of your type have been forgotten the enormous impact of President Ronald Reagan’s denunciation the USSR as an (Evil Empire), at that time, some policy makers were miscalculated. They didn’t convinced in that warning speeches against the evil empire. some had considered it an dangerous speeches, but at that time, President Reagan strongly believed that Soviet Union an evil power that pose an existential threat to America, and became very necessary to its annihilation. and THEY DID, Mrs. Ah?

    I feel sorry for you, you even do not have the courage to show your real names, the shameful lack of courage, but cats loves to hide under bed;) I really do not blame you on world of shame and humiliation, because the ultimate objective that you ALL are seeking for, is “the humiliation of the United States of America and its credibility and the credibility of the noblemen who defend its Greatness. Pathetic!

  • Posted by ah

    Wow, Jassem Othman (I’m sure that is your real name)
    What is most clear is that you are unable to either think or express yourself in a rational and coherent manner, as demonstrated through your rambling, grammatically incorrect and incoherent thoughts, as well as excessive use of the word “evil”.
    There really is not much point addressing anything in your incoherent rant, because it really is nothing but ad hominem attacks and dribble. If you can’t even take off your partisan blinders to acknowledge than China and Russia are very clearly rational actors within politics, you clearly have no knowledge of world politics whatsoever, as even your apparent idol Reagan and Kissenger and everyone else in his administration would have admitted this.

    This statement, “I really do not blame you on world of shame and humiliation, because the ultimate objective that you ALL are seeking for, is “the humiliation of the United States of America and its credibility and the credibility of the noblemen who defend its Greatness. Pathetic!” must have been edited in Google Translate, because it makes no sense whatsoever. I think it is an attempt at an insult, and I’m really not sure why it has quotes, because I said nothing of the sort. So basically you are just making up unattributed quotes now.

    As for the “you ALL”, which doesn’t make sense, because the emphasis should be on YOU, not all, again, no idea who you are referring to. Or why.

    Please resubmit your comment after it has been edited, cleared of nonsense and spellchecked. I’m afraid all that will be left will be the phrase “I do not deny,” but that is fine.

  • Posted by Jassem Othman

    Yes, this is my real name. I dissident from the Middle East, now living in Poland. I’m sorry for my English, yes, the English is imperfect but I think the thoughts are very clear. At least I address you in your own language. Oh, my dear, the problem is not with the language and grammar, the problem is with people who do not want to understand the dynamics that are roiling the world. As usual, you love to focus on insignificant causes while disregarding the humanitarian causes and the rationales in the right of the oppressed people. In this way you are trying to defend an evil regimes which have committed horrible crimes against its own people and against other innocents, from Saddam to Gaddafi, and from Mullahs to Assad; defend an despotic regimes that have treated its own people savagely, where impoverished them and massacred them rather than of granting them a free and decent life. let alone the sinister intent of founding an evil military arsenals and plotting who to invade next. In such a case, your statements are considered to be as a justification for their atrocities against their own people. We must fight them with all means possible not absolves them from the sinister intent!? Today the Iranian regime is a key partner in the slaughter of the Syrian people, the same is true of Russians, after all, you considered them a “rational”? I am not against the Russians nor the Iranians as a nation. I really love them, but their governments are too bad. For example, the Russian people did not hate Jews, and did not stained their hands with the Jews bloods as the Polish people did. Honestly, there was a great one thing by Russians during WWII, their troops helped liberate concentration camps here in Poland but this does not mean they did not adopt an evil ideology of the anti-Americanism!? however, the Russians today are backing anti-American states, a lot of them considering the United States to be their greatest enemy.
    Ah, I do not think there is any personal insults in my comments. I meant “you”, is not specifically only YOU, Ah. I mean, in general, those who embrace the leaders of madness and kissing their hands which stained with the innocents blood. at the same time, they struggling to promote the principles of communism in that Great country, that is from your narcissistic President to you too.
    As for President Reagan. There is nothing wrong to say about President Reagan and his great administration. The late Regan and the noble and honorable members of his administration were an important players in the destruction of evil empire, they who have brought you to the perfect victory in the Cold War. It was a victory without shedding bloods. Mr. Abrams is one of them. Best regards!

  • Posted by LooisCCBC

    Is there a deal? It seems as though the Persian atomic negotiations are probably going to take longer than the ambitious American diplomacy team had hoped for. Both governments are in precarious positions from which to barter an agreement. However the progress, albeit overstated, is progress nonetheless and will require much more time to realize the ultimate goal or deal . There is an enormous amount of pride on the line for the Persians–let’s remember they became a serious American adversary after 1979 which was plenty of time to galvanize anti-American sentiment. During this period the went to the other side and sought the help of America’s large Cold War opponent Russia–who by the way made all things nuclear a priority. What might this suggest? Perhaps Iran and Israel are more equal in terms of nuclear possessions then one may think.
    Regardless, an American attempt at real diplomacy that could bolster American interests and improve a volatile region in the world should not be regarded as a sleight to Israel.

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