Iran: One’s Euphoria, Another’s Anger




The Lausanne agreement is historic. The reconciliation with Iran will become an economic blessing once the most reluctant stop resisting.

For now, it’s euphoria in the White House and in the streets of Iran. For Barack Obama, it’s definitely a diplomatic and political victory. Since his first term, he believed that diplomacy should prevail over the use of force in relations with Iran. He wanted to re-establish normal relations with this great Middle East power with whom all ties had been cut in 1979. During these last few days of negotiation in Lausanne, the American president was kept updated on an hourly basis about the progress of the talks.

Obama is convinced that without Iran and its return to the international community, the Middle East cannot find peace. Up until now, and if the negotiation process with Iran is finalized in three months, this diplomatic victory will be the first and only American policy in the region. Neither Afghanistan nor Iraq are at peace, the issue with Palestine has not been settled, and Bashar al-Assad is still in control in a Syria where the Islamic State has just put itself in command of all Syrian border crossings with Jordan. Let’s not mention the third regional war that has started in Yemen.

Scenes of Jubilation in Tehran

The core agreement is also a success for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his government. He hopes that the sanctions that have been crippling the Iranian economy will be lifted. It was one of his campaign promises. Thursday evening, with the announcement of the agreement, thousands of Iranians went to Valiasr — a major thoroughfare in Tehran — to sing and dance. During the night, the return of Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed Javad Zarif was received with cries of joy at the Tehran airport. Some even compared the diplomacy chief with Mossadegh — the former prime minister and father of Iranian nationalism — who was overthrown by an American coup d’etat after having nationalized oil in 1953. The Iranian authorities, and more importantly, the supreme leader of the revolution, the Ayatollah Khamenei, will have to take this popular enthusiasm into account. The supreme leader will be the only one deciding the next step in the agreement, even if the parliament’s conservative wing and the guardians of the revolution resist the Lausanne framework agreement.

Most certainly, Iranians and Americans were quite determined to reach this framework agreement. According to information from Iran, in recent days, the negotiations occurred on three levels for the first time: at the political level between the P5+1 (the United States, Russia, China, France, United Kingdom and Germany) and Iran; at the technical level between the Iranians and the Americans alone; and at the legal level between heavyweights from both sides.

Each Camp Thumps Its Chest

Certainly, both camps’ talks only lead, for now, to an agreement with methods that will have to be specified. But the main points are outlined. Iran’s right to conduct enrichment activities for civil nuclear power is recognized. It’s the main victory for the Islamic Republic; it was one of its great claims. In exchange, the number of the centrifuges must be reduced from 19,000 to 6,104, and then to 5,060 within the next 10 years.

Uranium should not be enriched by more than 3.67 percent for 15 years (20 percent is necessary for an atomic bomb). And the 10 tons of slightly enriched uranium that Iran currently has will have to be reduced to 300 kilograms (660 pounds). Russia volunteered to receive the already retired Iranian fuel.

There are so many details that both sides can use to eliminate the reluctance of many opponents of the American-Iranian agreement. “We just freed a racehorse against a torn flange,” wrote a writer close to the supreme leader in Tehran on April 3. Both camps, while welcoming the historic moment, also made sure to thump their chest, to convince their opponents that nothing has been forgotten. Zarif confirmed that with his return, there would be no closure of nuclear facilities, that the Fordow fuel enrichment facility would continue to function, and that the heavy-water reactor of Arak would be modernized. The Western negotiators themselves specified that only Natanz would remain an enrichment site of civil nuclear power, while the Fordow facility should be reserved for research. Each one tells half of the truth.

An Economic Blessing

To reassure its Israeli and Saudi allies (Barack Obama called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and King Salman of Saudi Arabia), and to defuse the anger of Republican representatives, Barack Obama heavily emphasized the reversibility of the framework agreement, and the importance of audits that will be conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency to make sure that Iran respects its agreement. The sanctions will be lifted one by one. There are three types of sanctions: those imposed by the United Nations, those imposed by the United States, and those imposed by the European Union. The last two kinds of sanctions could be repealed or suspended rather quickly, according to the mediators.

During the next three months and prior to June 30, the development of the framework agreement will be used (certainly with ups and downs) to finalize the text, but also to try to defuse the remaining hesitation from opponents of all sides. Except for the unwavering resistance of Israel, much of the opposition will gradually disappear in the face of the economic interest Iran represents for Western companies and the improvement of everyday life for Iranians. A country of 78 million people, the third largest oil producer in the world, opened up yesterday to the West, which mainly asks to only re-establish relations with it. In these times of economic gloom, it’s a blessing.

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