The red lines in Iran's negotiations

The red lines in Iran's negotiations
3 min read
20 May, 2015
Analysis: Iran's nuclear negotiations could hit a hurdle as hawks in Tehran draw up a list of no-go areas, says Farah al-Zaman Shawki.
Iran's supreme leader holds a monolpoly power [Anadolu]
Nuclear negotiations between Iran and the West have entered a final and critical stage.

Debates about the specifics of the final deal have heated up in Iran, which is expected to be signed in June. 

A face-off between Iran's conservative and reformist camps has flared up again, but the significance of this has been downplayed as the only ones able to consent to the deal are the country's highest powers: the supreme leader and the Revolutionary Guards. 

Objections in Tehran began soon after the framework agreement was announced in April. Conflicting translations were being circulated on the way and timeframe for the lifing of sanctions and how nuclear facilities would be monitored and inspected.  

Today, the Iranian nuclear delegation led by foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif prepares to resume talks in Vienna and finalise the deal.

Many people have warned the delegation against agreeing to major concessions and certain points in the deal would mean that Iran would cross a red line.

Red lines

One of these is inspections of Iranian military sites. Many Iranian officials think these sites are unrelated to the nuclear negotiations.

Iranian official media reported that Yukiya Amano, the director general of the UN nuclear agency, the IAEA, met with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi last week on the sidelines in Vienna talks. 

It was reported that they discussed "the possibility of inspecting Iranian nuclear facilities in keeping with the additional protocol of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty".

One main point of contention is about the inspection of military sites. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has ruled out inspectors visiting military sites.

An important part of the additional protocol will be empowering IAEA inspectors to make immediate and surprise on-site visits to Iranian nuclear facilities.

But there seems to be a dispute about the specifics of the protocol. For Iran to sign it, it would require the consent of the conservative majority in the Iranian parliament. It would appear the majority are against some aspects of the deal. 

Araghchi admitted during his meeting with Amano that the additional protocol allowed inspections of some military sites but that it was "under specific conditions".
     [We] will not comply with the increasingly irrational demands of some parties.
Abbas Aranghchi, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator 

He did not specify what these conditions were even though he has said Iran will not open up its sites to "whoever wants to come in". 

"[We] will not comply with the increasingly irrational demands of some parties on the negotiation table," Araghchi added. 


On the increasing demands Javad recently singled out the US saying sometimes held "divergent positions".

Conservatives are not happy with Araghchi's statement. Ismail Kosari, a member of the Iranian parliament's security and foreign policy commission Ismail said, Araghchi must correct what he has said.

"Iran cannot agree to open up its military institutions to anyone," Ismail commented. This would cross Iran's "red line", he added. 

Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman for the national security committee agreed: "Opening up military facilities is unacceptable... signing the additional protocol requires parliamentary approval in any case and members of parliament could vote against it." 

According to Boroujerdi, another point of contention for the conservatives about the lifting of sanctions is that the US is "untrustworthy" and might go back on commitments.

He asked the delegation to make a detailed schedule for the lifting of economic sanctions to be a deciding factor in Iran's signing of the deal.

It is still unclear whether the sanctions imposed on Iran will be lifted as soon as the final deal is signed or gradually lifted if Tehran commits to its part of the bargain. The latter appears to be the case judging from recent IAEA reports.  

Parliament could put pressure on the delegation, which could further complicate negotiations, which have encountered numerous problems.

After so many concessions, Parliament could help the delegation hold onto important points in the deal that they are not willing to compromise on.

The concessions have been criticised at home but the delegation have calmed its critics with reassurances that sanctions will be lifted - something that should prove popular with the population.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.