NPR: The Deal Struck with Iran Was Not the Deal Announced by President

NPR aired a fascinating segment Saturday morning.  "Iranian and American officials are busy selling the deal back home, but it does seem as if they're talking about two different agreements."  "The American description of [termination of sanctions], as portrayed in the State Department's fact sheet on the deal, asserts that no U.N. sanctions can be lifted until Iran completes a hefty list of tasks, including scaling back its enrichment of nuclear fuel, converting a heavy water reactor and an underground enrichment facility, so that no nuclear fuel can be produced and answering long-standing questions about its past nuclear activity." Yet Iran "stated that all sanctions relief – U.N., EU and U.S. – would be immediate. It was unequivocal. It stated that Iran under the deal was free to pursue industrial scale enrichment to fuel its own reactors – unequivocal. It stated that Iran was unhindered in its ability to conduct centrifuge R&D."

To understand what actually was agreed to, let us put ourselves into negotiators' shoes.  On midnight March 31, the deadline passes – yet there is no substantive agreement.  There is only a nod to giving it another day's worth of trying.  During the next day, there is no agreement either, nor is there one in the offing. 

What to do?  Admitting that negotiations to reach the general "framework agreement" failed would render meaningless the June 30 deadline for reaching the detailed agreement.  Without the "framework agreement" there is nothing to negotiate.  How to save the June 30 deadline without having a March 31 deal -- and without losing face? 

Easy: agree that a framework agreement was agreed on – but do not sign it, and thus simply do not "agree on what they agreed on"!

Hence, "a senior U.S. official, speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the talks, says Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif let each other know in advance that their narratives would be different."

And this is the only thing one can be sure was agreed on in the much-touted "framework agreement."