Brit FM says Iran framework deal will not be written down

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says that any framework deal reached with Iran before the deadline on April 1 will probably not be written down and will be vague, and short on specifics.


No specifics, nothing written, perhaps not even anything that Iran and the international negotiating partners say as one—that’s the most to expect out of the nuclear talks now running up against the deadline in Switzerland, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Friday.

But even concluding this round of talks with that level of ambiguity, Hammond said, would count as a significant success. And he thinks they’ll get it.

“We envisage being able to deliver a narrative. Whether that is written down or not, I don’t think is the crucial issue,” Hammond told reporters at the British ambassador’s residence during a visit to Washington. “This will be a political statement, or perhaps political statements from the [negotiating partners] and Iran which create enough momentum to make it clear that we’ve now got this boulder over the hill and we are into the detailed work to produce an agreement.”

Whether that will happen by Sunday, as some have indicated, is an open question, Hammond said. He said he’s expecting to fly to Switzerland soon, but wouldn’t commit to a specific date of arrival.

Other sources are also now casting doubt on recent speculation that a deal would come by Sunday.

What form any agreement takes could determine the reactions from senators who have threatened to oppose a nuclear agreement if they deem it insufficiently tough. Some senators have insisted on seeing Iranian commitments in written form before they’d agree not to vote for legislation that the White House says would blow up the talks.

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has said he sees no need for a written document describing an interim agreement in advance of the June 30 deadline for a comprehensive deal.

Hammond said no one should expect that kind of formal document.

“The challenge is: as soon as you write anything down, you’ve got to write everything down,” Hammond said.

Yeah, write everything down. The problem with this free form kind of diplomacy is that both sides can misinterpret the deal as much as they want without penalty. So Iran will be able to trumpet their triumph over the decadent west while Obama can lie through his teeth about how we've got the mullahs in a box. Iran is closer to the truth of the matter, but who's keeping track?

An unwritten deal without specificity is a perfect vehicle for this travesty. The US and western Europe are pretending that anything achieved at the negotiating table will reign in Iran's nuclear ambitions. It looks like the "no deal is worse than a bad deal" crowd is winning the day.