While the president is fighting for his Iran nuclear pact over the objections of the majority of congress, his Arab allies and Israel, it seems like another element of his promised agreement is falling apart. One of the items the president has promised is included in the deal is that it contains and automatic snap back of sanctions should Iran violate the deal. As a matter of fact at a press conference with the prime minister of Italy in mid-April Obama said the snapback provisions were a key part of the deal.
Apparently no one told that to Russia or China according to Bloomberg News:
“There can be no automaticity, none whatsoever” in reimposing UN sanctions if Iran violates the terms of an agreement to curb its nuclear program, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told Bloomberg News on Wednesday. He didn’t elaborate.
While the Obama administration maintains that Russia agreed “in principle” to the need for a sanctions “snapback” mechanism if Iran fails to comply with the agreement now being negotiated in final form, the Russian government has offered no corroboration.
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…Putin isn’t going to want to let the U.S. and European allies get their way on Iran without Russia’s agreement, said Yury Barmin, an analyst at the Delma Institute in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
“It’s highly doubtful to me that Russia could agree to automatic renewal of sanctions against Iran if there are violations,” Barmin said in an e-mail. “Russia may agree to discuss the issue at the UN Security Council, but not to quickly reapply economic measures.”
Those statements really shouldn’t really surprise anyone except those who believe the Administration is being honest. Reuters reported toward the very end of Lausanne that the Russians and Chinese were still rejecting the automatic. snapback. But when the framework deal was announced President Obama declared from the Rose Garden that in fact “if Iran violates the deal, sanctions can be snapped back into place”
Just a week after the Rose Garden announcement the Associated Press reported that, no, “Russia and China will probably refuse to accept any process that sees them sacrifice their veto power” At the end of April the American Enterprise Institute quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov saying the exact same thing that Churkin told Bloomberg News and reported at the top of this post. Ryabkov said, “in the hypothetical situation that Iran should fail to honour its commitments, then this process should not in any way be automatic.”
And yet the conversation from the Administration has been proceeding as if the automatic snapback is a real thing that could actually be in the final agreement.
Part of the reason is that Obama had assured lawmakers for literally years that sanctions relief would be phased out only as Iran met a series of nuclear obligations. But after Lausanne, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei set a new red line, in which he demanded that the relief must be immediate. The administration began trying to find ways to concede to his demand without violating its previous ‘phase out’ promises, which is how the Wall Street Journal reported $50 billion signing bonus for Iran happened
Apparently the signing bonus failed to convince Iran, so instead the administration went all-in on snapback. At his press conference with Renzi in the middle of April the President signaled the that he was prepared to cave on upfront sanctions relief because – he told journalists – what was actually important was the snapback:
“with respect to the issue of sanctions coming down, I don’t want to get out ahead of John Kerry and my negotiators… [o]ur main concern here is making sure that if Iran doesn’t abide by its agreement that we don’t have to jump through a whole bunch of hoops in order to reinstate sanctions. That’s our main concern.”
If Obama chose to be honest with America, something he so rarely does he would admit that snapbacks are not in the realm of possibility.