The interim nuclear accord negotiated directly between Washington and Tehran was already secretly in the bag before the two-day talks between Iran and the Six World powers took place in Geneva Thursday and Friday. The plan was for a ceremonial signing to take place Friday, Nov. 8, after US Secretary of State John Kerry flew in from Jerusalem and the Iranian Foreign Minister confirmed “the general outline of an agreement.”
Half a dozen foreign ministers from across the globe flew into Geneva to add their signatures to the interim accord.
But the signing did not take place and the event dragged on into Saturday, Nov. 9.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius remarked: “There is an initial draft that we do not accept… I have no certainty that we can finish up.” He also referred to the concerns of Iran’s neighbors in the Middle East.
French reservations on the accord were not, however, the main obstacle. It may be recalled that a last-minute phone call from President Barack Obama on July 31 persuaded President Francois Holland to return to their hangars the French bombers standing ready at Saudi air bases to strike Syria after its chemical attack.
The French government will no doubt be won round again and give the interim deal with Iran a chance.
The US president’s phone conversation with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (“This is a very, very bad deal!”) early Saturday was a lot more heated. It took place after a three-day visit by John Kerry, which debkafile’s sources reported Wednesday hardly touched on the Palestinian question: Most of the time he was on the phone to the US delegation in Geneva, the White House and the Iranian Foreign Minister.
From those conversations, Netanyahu learned to his dismay that the version of the accord he had received from Kerry in the first of their three conversations differed substantially from the outline prepared for signing in Geneva – especially in the key clause of sanctions relief.
This discovery precipitated the most furious row Friday ever heard by any US or Israeli official between an Israeli leader and an American official.
Netanyahu angrily confronted Kerry with the charge that the Obama administration had deceived Israel every step of the way by letting Iran continue to clandestinely develop the prohibited military elements of its nuclear program, including the underground enrichment plan in Fordo; the heavy water plant for plutonium production in construction in Arak; uranium enrichment up to 20 percent purity; and now, the last straw, sanctions.
While Obama and Kerry have admitted only to lifting “a few minor reversible sanctions” and “modest’ sanctions relief as part of the deal, Israel discovered a far more generous package of concessions was on offer. The Europeans would lead the way in easing sanctions to allow Washington to show clean hands – especially to Congress.
By Friday, the Iranians understood that the Obama administration was so hell-bent on signing the first ever international accord on their nuclear program, that they could afford without much risk to up the price for their signature and extort more last-minute concessions.
So confident is Tehran that the agreement is safe that Reza Najafi, Iran’s ambassador to the UN nuclear watchdog (IAEA) in Vienna, said Saturday that he expects the agency’s director Yukiya Amano to sign a new accord during his visit to Iran on Monday, Nov. 11.
"The Islamic republic of Iran has presented a new proposal that includes concrete actions, and we foresee that the text will be finalized on Monday," Najafi told state television.
debkafile: This item referring to monitoring is a key clause of the interim agreement still to be signed in Geneva and virtually guarantees that the ceremony will take place before Monday.