On sanctions relief, Russia and China are on Iran’s side

A lonely position.
A lonely position.
Image: Reuters/Ruben Sprich
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The Iran nuclear talks are now a day into overtime. The Chinese and French foreign ministers have left Lausanne, the Swiss city where the negotiations are continuing after the March 31 deadline for a framework agreement.

The word is that the outcome will be far from the desired grand agreement, one putting at least a 15-year moratorium on an Iranian nuclear weapon. Instead, there will be a broad statement that effectively hopes for the best by the ultimate June 30 deadline.

Iran and the outside world still can’t quite see eye to eye, right?

Right, but that is not the only big problem. It turns out one of the main hitches in the talks is the outside world itself, the so-called P5+1. A red line for the US-led side is robust retention of sanctions to ensure Iranian compliance over the period of the deal. This includes a so-called “snap-back” provision, proposed by the US and France, of harsh sanctions should Iran cheat.

Iran’s negotiating team, however, has demanded that all oil and financial sanctions be lifted simultaneously and immediately, with no snap-back.

This position has attracted some advocates on the P5+1 side. Though ostensibly allied with the US, France, Germany and the UK in the talks, Russia and China are siding with Iran on the issue of the snap-backs. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has publicly said that all the sanctions must be dropped immediately.

All the parties know, however, that a deal lacking continued sanctions and snap-backs would be dead in the water in Washington—Congress would kill it.