Selling the Nuclear Deal in Tehran

"Iran's goals have been achieved," says Iran's president


How have Iranian authorities been selling the nuclear deal to their own populace? In part, by using the same argument that many critics have used against the deal: that the U.S. and its fellow negotiators repeatedly caved to Iranian demands in seeking an agreement.

For example, on the day the deal was announced last week, Iranian President Hassan Rohani delivered a national address in which he devoted a good deal of attention to the shrinking demands made of Iran by Western negotiators as the talks wore on. But while critics have characterized this process as one of Western capitulation, inept negotiation, and/or a dangerous bet regarding Iran's ultimate nuclear intentions and its possible role as a regional hegemon, Rohani characterized it as a mark of the world powers' increasing "respect" for Iran.

"Since my inauguration as president, I have said that the West can have dialogue with us only if it abandons the threats and humiliation, and starts to respect [us]," Rohani told Iranians. "The agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action, that was achieved today, has its roots in that same dialogue by Iran and in that respect on the part of the P5+1 [negotiators]." (Note that Rohani avoids any direct reference to the United States when describing the negotiations. There's a single pronunciation of "America"; otherwise it's all "the West," "the P5+1," "the other side," and so on.)

Rohani said that Iran had four major goals throughout the negotiations. "The first was to continue the nuclear capabilities, the nuclear technology, and even the nuclear activity. The second was to remove the mistaken, oppressive, and inhuman [sic] sanctions. The third was to remove the Security Council resolutions that we see as illegitimate. The fourth was to remove the nuclear dossier from Chapter VII of the UN Charter and the Security Council in general." According to Rohani, Iran achieved all of its goals.

But the heart of his address contrasted the gradually crumbling positions of "the other side" against Iranian "achievements" in the final shape of the deal. In that sense, his remarks are in notable harmony with the harsh anti-agreement arguments offered by such critics as Charles Krauthammer (see here and here), except of course that where the critics are angry, Rohani is boastful. (Translations from the Farsi by the Middle East Media Research Institute.)

On the number of Iranian centrifuges: "At the start of the negotiations, the other side would tell us that during the period of restrictions – which today is set at eight years – Iran could have only 100 centrifuges. After many deliberations, they arrived at 1,000. Because of great opposition [on our part], they said 4,000 and that this would not change. Today, the agreement is carried out under conditions that state that [Iran] will retain over 6,000 centrifuges, over 5,000 of which will be at Natanz and over 1,000 at Fordo. All centrifuges at Natanz will continue to enrich [uranium]."

On the period of restrictions: "They said, 'The period of your restrictions will be 20 years, in addition to 25 years.' Later they said '20 years and 10 years.' Then they said: 'Last word – 20 years, and we will not capitulate any more.' But in the final days of the negotiations, they went down to eight years."

On the lifting of sanctions: "On the issue of sanctions, they would say, 'Months must pass and you must earn [our] trust so that later the sanctions can be gradually frozen – not lifted. Do not use the term "lift." In subsequent years, if the International Atomic Energy Agency publishes a positive report and it will be possible to trust [you], then the sanctions will be gradually lifted.' Today I announce to the Iranian nation that under this agreement, on the day the agreement is implemented all the sanctions – even the embargo on weapons, missiles, and proliferation – will be lifted as stated in the [Security Council] resolution. All the financial and banking sanctions, and those related to insurance, transportation, petrochemical [industries], precious metals, and all economic sanctions will be completely lifted, not frozen. Even the arms embargo will be stopped. There will be a type of restrictions for five years, and after that they will be lifted. On the matter of proliferation, a committee will examine goods [that have] dual [use, that is, civilian and military nuclear use]."

On the once-secret Fordo uranium enrichment plant: "On the issue of Fordo, they would say 'It is hard to pronounce the name Fordo and it is even harder to hear it, so you will not say it and we will not hear it.' Then they said, 'At Fordo there will be not one centrifuge, and it will be a center for isotope research.' After months of talks, they said 'Only one cascade of 164 centrifuges.' I will be brief and say that today, over 1,000 centrifuges will be installed at Fordo, and part of Fordo will be used for R&D on stable isotopes."

On the heavy water reactor at Arak: "[T]hey would say: 'The reactor will remain but the heavy water [facility] is null [sic, apparently meaning that the Arak reactor will stay, but not as a heavy water reactor].' This is an absolute red line for us. Today the terms were agreed; according to them, the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action explicitly notes the Arak heavy water reactor. This reactor will be completed with the same heavy water nature and with the characteristics noted in the agreement."

On Security Council actions: "With regard to the revocation of the Security Council resolutions, they would say, 'You have not implemented any resolution, how can we revoke a resolution that you have not implemented? At least implement [it] for six months.' Under today's agreement, which will be approved in the coming days in the UN Security Council, all six previous resolutions [against Iran for violations and non-compliance with the International Atomic Energy Agency] will be revoked."

Though the U.S. and Europe are presented entirely as newly "respectful" capitulators, Rohani did offer Iran's Sunni Arab neighbors some platitudes. "Iran and its might are always your might," he said. "We see the security of the region as our security, and the stability of the region as our stability. Iran's science, technology, prosperity, and development will benefit its neighbors."

Interestingly, he also offered a warning to Iran's so-called "Ideological Camp," a reference to such hard-liners as the Revolutionary Guard establishment (in contrast to Rohani's own side, the so-called "Pragmatic Camp"). Rohani expected criticism of the deal from this opposing camp, and noted that the deal was reciprocal. If the other side doesn't adhere to this agreement, he said, "obviously neither will we."  He added that "if anyone wants to criticize – sympathetically criticize – it is allowed, but, "If anyone wishes to harm the people's hopes and confidence with lies, accusations, or inappropriate speech, I will not allow it." None of these categories – "lies" or "accusations," much less "inappropriate speech" – was further defined.

Rohani celebrated the completion of negotiations as "a day when, historically, the largest countries in the world and the superpowers officially recognized Iran's nuclear activity. Today is a day when, after 12 years [of negotiating], the world's superpowers announced that they will assist Iran in the issue of nuclear and modern technology."