Arab states quiet on Iran nuclear deal

11:52, Nov 24 2013

Iran’s nuclear deal with global powers has been met with wary silence from Arab states, with Iran’s only two Arab friends Iraq and Syria welcoming the accord but others keeping their opinions to themselves.

Iran and six world powers reached a breakthrough agreement on Sunday to curb Tehran's nuclear programme in exchange for limited sanctions relief, in a first step towards resolving a dangerous decade-old standoff.

The deal between the Islamic state and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia was nailed down after more than four days of negotiations.

All Arab countries apart from Syria and Iraq are ruled by Sunni Muslims who mainly regard Shi’ite Iran as a foe and have been deeply uneasy over the prospect of any rapprochement with the West that would benefit Tehran.

Arab leaders worry that the deal, under which Iran is being given relief from sanctions in return for curbs to its nuclear programme, signals a thaw in the 30 years of hostility between Tehran and Washington which will give Iran more regional clout.

‘‘I am afraid Iran will give up something on [its nuclear programme] to get something else from the big powers in terms of regional politics. And I’m worrying about giving Iran more space or a freer hand in the region,’’ said Abdullah al-Askar, chairman of Saudi Arabia’s appointed Shoura Council, a quasi-parliament that advises the government on policy.


‘‘The government of Iran, month after month, has proven that it has an ugly agenda in the region, and in this regard no one in the region will sleep and assume things are going smoothly,’’ Askar said.

At the time he spoke, Saudi Arabia had yet to give any official response, and Askar stressed that he was giving his personal views.

Other Sunni-ruled Arab states also had yet to respond on Sunday.

In the hours before Sunday’s deal was sealed, Gulf Arab leaders, including Saudi King Abdullah and the rulers of Qatar and Kuwait, met late on Saturday night to discuss ‘‘issues of interest to the three nations’’.

The Gulf Arab rulers oppose Iran on countless fronts across the region, including Syria, where they fund and arm rebels fighting against Iran’s friend, President Bashar al-Assad.

They accuse Tehran of fomenting unrest in a range of countries including Yemen, Bahrain, Lebanon and Iraq. Iran denies such meddling.

‘‘The people of the region know Iranian policies and Iranian ambitions. And they know that Iran will interfere in the politics of many countries in the region,’’ Askar added.

By contrast, Iraq, which has a Shi’ite-led government and is the only Arab state that is openly friendly with both the United States and Iran, was quick to praise the agreement.

‘‘The reaching of a deal between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the six international powers is seen as a major step for the region’s security and stability levels,’’ Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said in a statement.

‘‘Iraq ... expresses its full support for this step and its readiness to back it, so as to ensure the completion of the remaining phases and to promote a climate of dialogue and peaceful solutions,’’ the statement said.

The Syrian government of Assad, a longterm ally of Iran and a member of the Alawite sect that is an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam, was also pleased.

‘‘Syria feels that reaching such an agreement is a sign that political solutions to crisis in the region are the best path for securing peace and stability, far from any threats of foreign intervention or use of force,’’ a ministry official was cited as saying by state news agency SANA.

Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-ruled countries have expressed unease in recent months over what they see as a recalibration of US policy, especially since Washington abandoned plans in September to strike Syria to punish it for a chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb.

Syria agreed to give up its chemical arms to avert the US strikes.


Following are key portions of the text of a U.S. fact sheet on the agreement:

- Iran has committed to halt enrichment above 5 percent and dismantle the technical connections required to enrich above 5 percent.
- Iran has committed to neutralise its stockpile of near -20 percent uranium; dilute below 5 percent or convert to a form not suitable for further enrichment its entire stockpile of near-20 percent enriched uranium before the end of the initial phase.

Iran has committed to halt progress on its enrichment capacity:
- Not install additional centrifuges of any type
- Not install or use any next-generation centrifuges to enrich uranium.
- Leave inoperable roughly half of installed centrifuges at Natanz and three-quarters of installed centrifuges at Fordow, so they cannot be used to enrich uranium
- Limit its centrifuge production to those needed to replace damaged machines, so Iran cannot use the six months to stockpile centrifuges
- Not construct additional enrichment facilities.

Iran has committed to halt progress on the growth of its 3.5 percent stockpile:
- Not increase its stockpile of 3.5 percent low enriched uranium, so that the amount is not greater at the end of the six months than it is at the beginning, and any newly enriched 3.5 percent enriched uranium is converted into oxide.

Iran has committed to no further advances of its activities at Arak and to halt progress on its plutonium track.  Iran has committed to:
- Not commission the Arak reactor.
- Not fuel the Arak reactor.
- Halt the production of fuel for the Arak reactor.
- No additional testing of fuel for the Arak reactor.
- Not install any additional reactor components at Arak.
- Not transfer fuel and heavy water to the reactor site.
- Not construct a facility capable of reprocessing. Without reprocessing, Iran cannot separate plutonium from spent fuel.

Iran has committed to:
- Provide daily access by IAEA inspectors at Natanz and Fordow. This daily access will permit inspectors to review surveillance camera footage to ensure comprehensive monitoring. This access will provide even greater transparency into enrichment at these sites and shorten detection time for any non-compliance.
- Provide IAEA access to centrifuge assembly facilities.- Provide IAEA access to centrifuge rotor component production and storage facilities.
- Provide IAEA access to uranium mines and mills.
- Provide long-sought design information for the Arak reactor. This will provide critical insight into the reactor that has not previously been available.
- Provide more frequent inspector access to the Arak reactor.
- Provide certain key data and information called for in the Additional Protocol to Iran's IAEA Safeguards Agreement and Modified Code 3.1.HASH(0x21871f4)

Verification Mechanism
The IAEA will be called upon to perform many of these verification steps, consistent with their ongoing inspection role in Iran. In addition, the P5+1 and Iran have committed to establishing a Joint Commission to work with the IAEA to monitor implementation and address issues that may arise.

The Joint Commission will also work with the IAEA to facilitate resolution of past and present concerns with respect to Iran's nuclear programme, including the possible military dimension of Iran's nuclear programme and Iran's activities at Parchin.HASH(0x2850288)

Limited, Temporary, Reversible Relief
In return for these steps, the P5+1 is to provide limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible relief while maintaining the vast bulk of our sanctions, including the oil, finance, and banking sanctions architecture. If Iran fails to meet its commitments, we will revoke the relief. Specifically the P5+1 has committed to:
- Not impose new nuclear-related sanctions for six months, if Iran abides by its commitments under this deal, to the extent permissible within their political systems.
- Suspend certain sanctions on gold and precious metals, Iran's auto sector, and Iran's petrochemical exports, potentially providing Iran approximately $1.5 billion in revenue.
- License safety-related repairs and inspections inside Iran for certain Iranian airlines.
- Allow purchases of Iranian oil to remain at their currently significantly reduced levels - levels that are 60 percent less than two years ago. $4.2 billion from these sales will be allowed to be transferred in instalments if, and as, Iran fulfills its commitments.- Allow $400 million in governmental tuition assistance to be transferred from restricted Iranian funds directly to recognised educational institutions in third countries to defray the tuition costs of Iranian students.

Humanitarian Transactions
- Facilitate humanitarian transactions that are already allowed by U.S. law. Humanitarian transactions have been explicitly exempted from sanctions by Congress so this channel will not provide Iran access to any new source of funds. Humanitarian transactions are those related to Iran's purchase of food, agricultural commodities, medicine, medical devices; we would also facilitate transactions for medical expenses incurred abroad. We will establish this channel for the benefit of the Iranian people.

A Comprehensive Solution
- During the six-month initial phase, the P5+1 will negotiate the contours of a comprehensive solution. Thus far, the outline of the general parameters of the comprehensive solution envisions concrete steps to give the international community confidence that Iran's nuclear activities will be exclusively peaceful.
With respect to this comprehensive resolution: nothing is agreed to with respect to a comprehensive solution until everything is agreed to.
Over the next six months, we will determine whether there is a solution that gives us sufficient confidence that the Iranian programme is peaceful. If Iran cannot address our concerns, we are prepared to increase sanctions and pressure.

Reuters, AP