May 14, 2015 | Quote

Russian Comments Cast Doubt on Iran Nuclear Deal

A major difference between Washington and Moscow over a key term of any deal to curb Iran's nuclear program was underlined when a Russian official rejected the plan to immediately restore sanctions if Tehran violates the as-yet-unsigned agreement. 

Vitaly Chukrin, Russia's United Nations ambassador, told Bloomberg News on Wednesday that “there can be no automaticity, none whatsoever” if Iran is found guilty of reneging on a pledge to dismantle and otherwise contain certain parts of its nuclear enrichment program. Iran maintains its nuclear ambitions are peaceful and practical, a position disputed by the West.

Churkin did not elaborate on the “no automacity” principle, but a so-called sanctions snapback mechanism whereby economic sanctions would be reimposed on Iran if it fails to comply is seen by Washington as essential for any nuclear deal with the Iran.

After Secretary of State John Kerry met Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, the American diplomat said the two nations were “closely aligned” in their thinking on the negotiations.

Churkin's comments, however, cast doubt on assertions by the Obama administration that Russia has agreed in principle to a snapback measure.

The group of nations negotiating with Iran — Britain, China, France, Russia, United States, Germany — are targeting June 30 to reach a deal.

The sanctions imposed on Iran by the U.S. and its allies have crippled the Iranian economy and hindered its ability to export lucrative oil onto world markets.

Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, said after the signing of an early framework agreement in March that “all sanctions should be removed when the deal is signed,” according to Reuters. Washington has not committed to a precise timing on rolling back the sanctions.

Mark Dubowitz, an expert on sanctions at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who has advised the Obama administration and met recently with European negotiators on the deal, said Russia's stance is “an early warning signal that fundamentally snapbacks may sound legally possible, but practically speaking they're going to be very difficult to implement.”

The Russians are saying they're not going to give up their veto on the U.N. Security Council and surrender it to an automatic snapback, Dubowitz said. And after a deal is signed, it will be just as hard to get agreement from U.S. allies in Europe, especially after they start selling products to Iran and buying its oil, he added.

“Snapbacks are going to run into a wall of Russian and Chinese intransigence in the Security Council, and they're going to run into a wall of human greed in the marketplace,” he said.


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