Joint statement issued in Lausanne, Switzerland last week "was nothing but a smokescreen meant to disguise difficult, ongoing disagreements between the parties," Col. (ret.) Yigal Carmon, president of the Middle East Media Research Institute, says.
While U.S. President Barack Obama is engaged in a "world war" with Congress over the framework nuclear deal with Iran and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has taken a clear stand on the matter, one of the foremost experts on Iran, Col. (ret.) Yigal Carmon [the founder and president of the prestigious Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)], provides a fresh perspective and some new facts, which may send this hot potato rolling in new directions.
"The U.S. and Iran have, in fact, not reached any nuclear agreement..." ....
"The joint statement in Lausanne, which the Iranians defined as a press release, was nothing but a smokescreen meant to disguise difficult, ongoing disagreements between the parties..." ...Carmon, who along with MEMRI's experts on Iran is currently in the institute's offices in Washington, believes the "fact sheet" released by the White House and the U.S. State Department, detailing the alleged deal with Iran, was "a ploy of incredible deception, meant to prevent Congress from imposing immediate, crippling sanctions on the Iranians."
He recommends Netanyahu change his approach, and inform Obama that since this is clearly a ruse, and that there are no understandings with Iran, let alone a deal, Israel expects and hopes Congress will continue to pursue and intensify its sanctions on Iran.
..."It was, apparently, only after Obama informed the Iranians that Congress would exacerbate the sanctions if the negotiations reach their deadline with no result that Khamenei agreed to a wary, minimal, and limited move, providing Obama with a show of sorts."Q: A show?
"Yes. The Americans called the Lausanne statement 'a joint statement,' but for the Iranians it was no more than 'a press release.' If you read the Lausanne statement word for word, you see it amounts to no agreement. The most far-reaching statement it makes mentions 'solutions for key parameters for the final deal.' The wording is vague and nonbinding, and can be interpreted either way." Binding agreements are left for the future, whenever the final solution is drafted.
Q: But the White House issued a very detailed fact sheet about the agreement reached with the Iranians, a follow-up on what you call "vague and nonbinding" language.
"That document was born when Obama understood that the Lausanne statement was too weak to go with to Congress, to block new, immediate, crippling sanctions," Carmon explained.
..."But then at the end of the day, it turned out that the fantastic achievement was nothing but a fata morgana. A ploy that didn't last even 36 hours," he said.
"When the American fact sheet was first brought to the attention of the Iranian foreign minister he said it was a media spin," Carmon continued. "Later on he and his deputy bluntly challenged [U.S. Secretary of State] John Kerry by saying the fact sheet was false.
"The Iranians ended up releasing their own, very detailed fact sheet, indicating that there are substantial gaps between the two documents. This means there are no agreements, or anything close to agreements."
Carmon has studied the American and the Iranian fact sheets over and over again, and his institute has translated the Iranian document verbatim.
The Iranians, he said, stated with emphasis that the Lausanne statement has no legal bearing and is no more than an "interpretive guide for organizing and writing a comprehensive action plan."
There are countless differences between the two documents, says Carmon, not only in what they contain but also in what they do not contain, and gives just a few examples.
Unlike in the fact sheet released by the White House, "the Iranians made it clear that nuclear-related activities in all facilities will not be ended, suspended or stopped, and that Iran's nuclear activity in the facilities in Natanz, Fordo, Isfahan, and Arak, will continue. This contradicts the American document, which states that enrichment activity will continue in only one facility."
Carmon noted the Iranians had used language that could be interpreted in several ways, when saying that "more than 5,000 centrifuges" would remain operational in Natanz, producing enriched uranium, as well as "more than 1,000" centrifuges would continue in Arak.
"'More than 5,000' could be 6,000 but it could also be 20,000, and 'more than 1,000' could be 4,000 or 8,000. What kind of wording is that for an agreement?" he wondered.
Regarding the stockpile of 10 tons of low-grade enriched uranium the Iranians already posses -- the Iranian document states that Tehran will use it for its own nuclear purposes or export it to international markets.
"This means that they have no binding obligation. The will remain the owners and will use it as they see fit by their own decisions.
"They also write that the 'additional protocol' that provides for surprise inspections procedures, will be carried out "voluntarily and temporarily," and "as a confidence-building measure." The Iranians, Carmon said, "make no mention of the advanced, effective procedure the Americans introduced in their fact sheet."
The documents, Carmon explained, include a detailed record of what is to become of the sanctions.
According to Obama, the sanctions will be lifted gradually, provided that Iran complies with its obligations. The Iranians, however, note the immediate and simultaneous removal of all sanctions, slated to take place as Iran begins the agreement's implementation -- not when it completes it.
Q: How do you explain these differences? Is Obama fooling himself?
"Surely not," Carmon said. "The New York Times quoted unnamed administration officials, who alluded that this was a 'cold-blooded' decision: The Americans explained to the Iranians before they parted ways that they would release something to Congress and the American public, and that it would express different narratives. But that they will try not to contradict each other. Later, Wendy Sherman was clearer in an interview to MSNBC. She said that the negotiating teams discussed the matter before they left Lausanne, and made it clear that there are two narratives, but promised not to contradict each other.
"If this is not a premeditated collusion to deceive Congress and public opinion -- I don’t know what one would be," says Carmon.
Q: Has Congress been duped?
"I certainly hope not, but when members of Congress hear from the president and their State Department of such achievements, in an official document, the 'fact sheet,' they are obligated to at least delay making a decision on new sanctions pending further review. In this respect, this deception has achieved its goal, at least for the short term."
Q: How do you think Israel should act at this time?
"If I were in a position to offer Netanyahu advice, I would advise him not to fight the nonexistent deal but rather explain to Congress that there is no agreement," Carmon said.
"By fighting this nonexistent deal, Netanyahu is playing into Obama's hands, as Obama can say to Congress, 'We have a deal indeed, there are different approaches as to what is the best way to deal with the Iranian threat, as evident by Netanyahu's objections, and we will continue to debate the matter as friends.' But a deal exists and therefore Congress should refrain from added sanctions until we finalize drafting it. This is very convincing, had it not been false and misleading, since Obama has not reached a deal [with Iran]. This has to be stated, loud and clear, in hopes that Congress will continue its efforts to pressure Iran based on the fact that there is no deal."
The absent handshake
Carmon pointed to the fact that once the Lausanne charade had ended, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made sure to avoid even shaking hands with any of the delegation heads.
The Iranian statement on the American fact sheet, he noted, also included a short line about a round of final agreement negotiations, which took place in Lausanne on March 25.
Carmon hedged the Iranians introduced that line "to reiterate what they have been saying this whole time -- there is no two-stage negotiation. You should know that the final agreement has already been discussed."
Q: Why do you think the Americans are going about this in such a devious way?
"There are different explanations about Obama and Kerry's general approach to Iran, but I don't believe some of them. For example -- I heard 'explanations' attributing it to Obama's senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, who some say is his 'spiritual twin.' She was born in Shiraz, Iran. She grew up there. Kerry's daughter is married to an Iranian physician from Los Angeles. I don't subscribe to such 'explanations.' I believe the explanation is political," Carmon said.
"The political explanation is that Obama wanted to spare himself a grave failure and also wanted to spare Iran from new, additional, stricter, and immediate sanctions, and reporting fabricated success is the best way for it. It seems like the goal justified any means, including misreporting and a collusion to misrepresent the results of the negotiations. Telling Congress and the public a tall tale about an alleged agreement and producing a fact sheet, much of which was immediately debunked by the Iranians.
"Iran played along with this charade to a certain extent, but when the Iranians learned of its magnitude, they issued a fact sheet of their own, exposing the American ploy for what it was."
At the end of the day, Carmon said, "This deception will fail. The three months remaining until June 30 will fly by, and given the Iranian position, which adamantly seeks a path that would allow them to freely pursue the development of nuclear weapons, Obama will find himself facing the same failure.
"Congress won't be duped twice. In fact, the negotiations will resume within a week or two, and it will turn out that all of the agreements and alleged Iranian concessions, were really never made; that they were fabled."
Carmon is convinced that "Obama and his administration will eventually be perceived as those who have deceived Congress and the American public, which I find regrettable. The United States is the leader of the free world, and it is unfortunate that its weakness has been exposed. It's bad for the free world, and it's certainly bad for Israel."