VIENNA – The decision mechanism at the UN Security Council (UNSC) is the main sticking point preventing a nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 being reached this Tuesday, a top Iranian official told Asia Times.

This is directly related to “the credibility of the UNSC at stake,” after “so many imposed resolutions” considered as unjust and illegal by Tehran.

Iranian diplomats insist on a “fundamental shift” at the UNSC; “The Iranian file should not have been sent to the UNSC in the first place,” says another official. And here Iranian diplomats open a complex discussion on two fronts; the politicization of the IAEA, and the UNSC being used to arbitrate on an eminently technical dossier.

So it’s no wonder that for Iran, the removal of past UN resolutions is considered “only as a starting point.”

Iran has floated the idea of a UN resolution revoking all previous sanctions immediately after the announcement of a deal in Vienna. Iranian negotiator Abbas Araghchi had advanced on Iranian TV the idea that a deal — including the annexes — could be endorsed by the UNSC as early as this week.

That’s extremely unlikely; the US Senate would go ballistic — as in US sovereignty being seriously compromised. This does not prevent the fact that the extremely sensitive text of a UN resolution erasing all previous sanctions is being discussed at the negotiating table in Vienna.

There are serious ongoing efforts in Vienna to curb misunderstanding. This time, both sides will try to release a joint fact sheet — so there won’t be mutual accusations of spinning.

A wealth of bracketed language remains to be cleared in the all-important annexes to the 85-page deal which refer to sanctions. These will be the de facto road map for the easing of sanctions. Araghchi has also clarified that “the day of the agreement would be the day the legal procedures in respective countries have taken their course.” This would set the actual implementation date any day from October to December.

Watch the checklist

Iranian diplomats recognize the Americans are presumably conducting a lot of legal work to unblock frozen Iranian assets — at a total of $110 billion – all across the world.

Another key sticking point in the negotiations is the role of the Joint Commission – Iran and the P5+1 plus the EU — able to intervene in all disputes. Which brings us to the “snap back” mechanism — which “will have to work both ways,” as the Iranians stress. If the Joint Commission rules that sanctions may be “snapped back” because of a particular problem, Iran deserves the same treatment in case the U.S./EU/UN don’t fulfill their commitments.

A top Iranian official also confirmed to Asia Times the IAEA “will be able to verify all previous issues by the end of the year. They will be check listed” – with Iran subsequently cleared of all commitments. The push is for every examination to be “less qualitative as possible,” and not open to subjective interpretation.

One way to — subjectively? — interpret this is that the IAEA’s Yukiya Amano has gotten direct orders from Washington to get things done. It’s no secret that Amano’s de facto handler is John Kerry.

US Secretary of State John Kerry in Vienna
US Secretary of State John Kerry in Vienna

Iranian diplomats insist the country so far has fully cooperated with the IAEA. Still, a final IAEA statement, by the end of the year, might eventually contain ambiguous language of “this installation might serve for dual use” kind. The heart of the matter though is that a final statement is being treated as a face-saving device by both sides.

What changed substantially this Monday is that expectations of an imminent breakthrough are being played down. A senior Iranian official said; “If this goes past July 9, it’s not the end of the world.” Iranian negotiators calmly assert at every opportunity they are not under pressure by the timeline.

Once again, they emphasized the concept of “simultaneity” has been agreed upon – Iran and the P5+1 proceeding on parallel tracks. The devil is in the (working language) details.

Iranian diplomats also stressed the “privileged relations” with BRICS members Russia and China – which will be discussing Iran and Eurasia at their summit in Urfa this week. They stress Iran is sowing “no divisions” inside the UNSC, and commend the seriousness of all players.

On red lines, a senior Iranian official said, “every country has their own red lines. But now the red lines are pretty close.” Three months ago, he added, “a lot of issues were unresolved. Now there are only a few items left” – but arguably unlikely to be solved following an ultra-tight schedule up to Tuesday night.

Divide and Rule, forever

Iranian diplomats are very much aware that powerful opponents of the deal are coordinating all across the spectrum.

On the internal front, they stress, “the position of the Revolutionary Guards is Khamenei’s position. We can say we have military unity. No institution in Iran is against the deal. What does exist are concerns about the nature of the deal.”

Inside Iran, everyone knows President Rouhani’s team is crammed with Khatami-era reformists. This opens the field to hardliners – not the IRGC though – blaming Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif for being too soft and desperate to get a deal. Detailed conversations with the Iranian team in Vienna could not offer a more different perspective.

Divide and Rule, meanwhile, proceeds unabated. Even before Kerry’s quite undiplomatic Sunday pre-empting of the deal — saying it could go “either way” — US corporate media has been actively poisoning the field to blame Iran in case the deal fails.

The New York Times, blaming Iranian negotiators, referred to a negotiating “tactic to try to squeeze additional concessions or because they have not been able to secure the necessary flexibility from Ayatollah Khamenei.”

That’s a flat out lie – on both counts. Insider accounts of what really goes on at the negotiating table, on the contrary, suggests the usual, exceptionalist American posturing. Kerry flash-bombing the deal he’s supposedly coordinating (and which the Obama administration wants so badly) also doesn’t exactly qualify as a diplomatic breakthrough.

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