Oman to be Iran-U.S. mediator
Iran has asked Oman to transmit to Washington a set of new proposals designed to prevent a showdown with the Trump administration over the controversial nuclear deal reached with six major powers, sources in Tehran confirmed yesterday. Known as the Comprehensive Plan for Joint Action (CJPOA), the deal envisages the temporary lifting of some sanctions against Iran in exchange a freezing of aspects of the Iranian nuclear program.
Asharq Al-Awsat reports in its article Iran Offers Nuclear Deal Compromise with US via Oman that the Iranian demand was put to the Omanis by Islamic Republic Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, during a “working visit” to Oman for talks with his Omani counterpart Youssef bin Alawi bin Abdullah. President Donald Trump claims that Iran has violated the spirit of the deal and is reportedly planning to refer the whole issue back to the US Congress, effectively ending the periodic suspension of sanctions against Iran. Trump has three objections to the deal, all of which are expected to be addressed in the compromise formula Zarif has taken to Muscat. The first of these is that the CJPOA includes “sunset clauses” that envisage the ending of all sanctions on Iran in periods of between 10 to 30 years. In the new Iranian formula, a mechanism will be agreed to end the “sunset” concept and link the full lifting of sanctions to certified performance by Iran.
Trump’s second objections is that Tehran has refused to ratify the Additional Protocols to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), thus keeping all options open for a full resumption of the military aspects of its nuclear project. What Zarif is offering now is to fast-track the arousal of the additional protocols through the Islamic Majlis, the Iranian parliament, before March 2018 when Iran and the 5+1 foreign ministers are due to hold a “revision conference” to assess mutual performance.
The third American objection is that Iran has tried to exclude its missile development project from the deal, thus ignoring resolutions passed by the United Nations’ Security Council. The compromise formula now suggested by Iran would provide for arbitration on the issue, allowing Iran to continue its project but offering guarantees that missiles thus developed would not be designed to carry nuclear warheads.
Before flying to Muscat, Zarif said that if the US wants “stringent inspection” of Iranian nuclear sites to continue, it must continue to abide by the terms of the CJPOA. The Islamic foreign minister also said the US “could be sure Iran would ratify the Additional Protocols.”
As an additional “sweetener,” Zarif renewed Iran’s offer of cooperation in the fight against ISIS and suggested that Iran’s regional policies be separated from the nuclear issue. In a separate interview, Zarif said that despite Iran’s flexibility, chances of the US remaining committed to the CJPOA was “50-50”, adding that Tehran already had contingency plans to deal with any outcome.
Trump must notify the US Congress by October 15, leaving a narrow window of opportunity for any mediation by the Omanis.