Case in point, the Associated Press pointed out on Monday that Obama himself had spoken by phone with Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman in order to reassure him about one of the common concerns regarding the nuclear negotiations: that Obama has been pursuing a general rapprochement that would limit the US’s willingness to stand with its Arab allies in opposition to Iran’s foreign policies and pursuit of regional hegemony.
During the call, Obama referred to “Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region” and promised that the US would work with the Arab states to address it. But Saudi Arabia has expressed definite concerns that the lifting of sanctions after a final nuclear agreement on June 30 would provide Iran with additional wealth to channel into its proxy forces elsewhere in the region, including the Houthi in Yemen, against whom a coalition of Arab countries launched airstrikes beginning in March.
Depending on how the framework agreement is interpreted and how it is modified by further negotiations over the coming several weeks, these concerns may be either eased or further exacerbated.
The Obama administration has attempted to claim that the framework deal establishes that sanctions will be gradually eased only after Iran demonstrates compliance with its agreements – a situation that would moderate any economic recovery an allow the world community to react to escalating problems related to Iran’s nuclear work or regional activities.
But Tehran has made contrary claims, opening up questions about what the framework agreement really says and whether key points such as this have actually been agreed at all. Hot Air reported on Monday that Washington and Tehran had each released their own fact sheets on the content of the agreement, and that the Iranian version defined the American one by declaring:
“After the implementation of the Comprehensive Joint Plan of Action, all of the U.N. Security Council resolutions will be revoked, and all of the multilateral economic and financial sanctions by the EU and unilateral sanctions by the United States, including financial, banking, insurance, investment, and all related services in various fields including oil, gas, petrochemicals, and automobile manufacturing will immediately be annulled.”
According to the American narrative, the verification process will be established before any of this happens, but now there are questions about the seriousness of verification, as well. The Wall Street Journal noted on Monday that an Israeli nuclear physicist familiar with the Iranian program, Raphael Ofek, has recently contributed to Israeli opposition to the agreement by determining that it leaves Iran open to too much potential cheating.
This contradicts Obama’s assertion, immediately after the announcement of the framework, that if Iran cheats the world will know. But Obama arguably contradicted his own narrative in an interview with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times on Saturday. The Tower points out that Obama was asked about whether Iran would be subject to snap inspections of any suspicious sites and the president responded by saying no.
Under the framework, if new suspicions arise a request can be made for inspection of relevant sites, but this can be opposed by Iran and send to an unspecified process of arbitration. This could potentially give Tehran time to sanitize illicit nuclear sites or otherwise cover up their recent activities. In any event such a potentially lengthy process does not seem to support the notion that cheating will be immediately revealed, and it may thus support claims that a longer breakout time for an Iranian nuclear weapon is preferable because of the length of time involved in finding out that the country has made further progress toward such a weapon.
Concerns such as these pose serious challenges for the Obama administration as it continues it campaign to convince entrenched skeptics that the emerging deal is preferable to other alternatives.