Iran Abandons Past Nuclear Promises as Deal Deadline Looms

Tehran backslides on past agreements made in talks

Abbas Araqchi
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi / AP

Iran is backsliding on promises made to U.S. negotiators during previous rounds of discussions aimed at reaching an agreement to curb the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, according to recent comments.

While senior U.S. officials have insisted Iran will agree to a deal that they describe as a "forever agreement," a top Iranian negotiator disputed this claim in comments this week.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister and senior negotiator Seyed Abbas Araqchi insisted this week that any agreement reached with Western powers will only be temporary and not binding in the long term.

"If any final agreement is struck, it will last for a specified period of time and none of the measures envisaged in it will be permanent," Araqchi was quoted as saying on Tuesday as he refuted recent comments by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.

Araqchi referred to repeated promises by U.S. officials that a final nuclear deal would last "forever" as "a worthless fallacy."

"Of course, the undertakings that Iran has accepted based on the international treaties, including the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) will continue as long as Iran is a member of these treaties, and the American side's resort to such issues which is done for domestic consumption or satisfying allies is just a worthless fallacy," Araqchi was quoted as saying by Iran’s state-controlled Fars News Agency.

These comments run counter to multiple comments by Obama administration officials claiming that Iran would be subject to certain nuclear restrictions well into the future under the terms of any deal.

On April 2, for instance, Secretary of State John Kerry promised that certain measures to clamp down on Iran’s program "will be in place indefinitely."

"I’d like also to make one more point very, very clear because it has been misinterpreted and misstated, misrepresented for much of this discussion: There will be no sunset to the deal that we are working to finalize—no sunset, none," Kerry said in April from Lausanne, Switzerland, where ongoing talks with Iran have been taking place.

"The parameters of this agreement will be implemented in phases. Some provisions will be in place for 10 years; others will be in place for 15 years; others still will be in place for 25 years," Kerry said. "But certain provisions, including many transparency measures, will be in place indefinitely into the future. They will never expire."

Several days later, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz publicly described a final deal as a "forever agreement" with Iran.

"It’s not a fixed-year agreement; it’s a forever agreement," Moniz was quoted as telling reporters. "The access and transparency is unprecedented."

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf also referred to the agreement as a "forever commitment" in three consecutive press briefings from April 6 to April 8.

Again on April 30, Kerry said Iran has given assurances that a deal will be "forever, forever."

"There are a lot of the assurances and visibility on their program that aren’t for 10 years," Kerry said. "They’re for 15, they’re for 20, they’re for 25, and they’re forever, forever. And the forever alone gives us, we believe, the capacity to know what Iran is doing.  We will not disappoint Israel. We will have inspectors in there every single day.  That is not a 10-year deal; that’s forever there have to be inspections."

However, Araqchi described these statement this week as "more myth than fact."

He also pushed back against claims that Iran would permit international inspectors to have unprecedented access to Iran’s military and non-military sites.

"I have explained this many times that there is no difference between inspection and visiting the military and non-military centers, that are, in fact, non-nuclear; we don’t accept such a thing," Araqchi said last week.

Iran will only permit limited and "managed access" to these disputed sites.

A State Department official did not respond to multiple requests for comment clarifying the gap between the United States and Iran.