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May 14, 2015 5:02 pm

Russia Rejects Immediate Sanctions ‘Snap-Back’ Should Iran Break Nuclear Deal

avatar by Eliezer Sherman

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P5+1 Talks With Iran in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo: Wikipedia.

The Russian U.N. ambassador flatly rejected any automatic reimposition of sanctions against Iran should it cheat on a future nuclear deal, which is crucial to how the Obama administration has been trying to sell the agreement ahead of the June 30 deadline.

Speaking to Bloomberg, Russian Ambassador to the U.N. Vitaly Churkin said “there can be no automaticity, none whatsoever” in punishing Iran should it be found violating the nuclear deal.

The Russian comments came as top Obama administration officials insisted this week that the nuclear deal would include provisions ensuring a multilateral “snap-back” mechanism for sanctions.

The Obama administration highlighted the snap-back mechanism shortly after negotiators announced a framework agreement in Lausanne, Switzerland last month, to allay the fears of those critical of the nuclear deal.

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“If Iran violates the deal, sanctions can be snapped back into place,” President Barack Obama said on April 2.

But such a multilateral snap-back mechanism would perforce have to bypass the U.N. Security Council, where Russia holds veto power, which helps explain Russian skepticism concerning such measures.

Earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and said it was important that the two countries were “closely aligned” regarding Iran policy.

Earlier, Russia drew the ire of U.S. officials when it announced the end of a five-year ban and its sale of the S-300 missile defense system to Iran, shortly after the Lausanne talks ended.

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  • Julian Clovelley

    Whatever the rights or wrongs of the situation I find the article is incorrect in suggesting there was ever a snap back “mechanism”

    Read Obama’s statement again in full to get the context of the quote but even the complete relevant paragraph gives a clearer picture than here:

    “In return for Iran’s actions, the international community has agreed to provide Iran with relief from certain sanctions – our own sanctions, and international sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council. This relief will be phased as Iran takes steps to adhere to the deal. If Iran violates the deal, sanctions can be snapped back into place. Meanwhile, other American sanctions on Iran for its support of terrorism, its human rights abuses, its ballistic missile program, will continue to be fully enforced.”

    The “snapping back” is clearly in reference to a capacity for action by “the international community” and not some imaginary mechanism – the word “can” is self evident as to the meaning of the sentence. Can is about ability and not about “mechanism”. I feel the writer is confusing “can” with “will”

    Obama’s statement – as I find it on the web – continued:

    “Now, let me reemphasize, our work is not yet done. The deal has not been signed. Between now and the end of June, the negotiators will continue to work through the details of how this framework will be fully implemented, and those details matter. If there is backsliding on the part of the Iranians, if the verification and inspection mechanisms don’t meet the specifications of our nuclear and security experts, there will be no deal. But if we can get this done, and Iran follows through on the framework that our negotiators agreed to, we will be able to resolve one of the greatest threats to our security, and to do so peacefully.”

    Obama quite clearly stated that the question of implementation was still in the process of negotiation – confirming that at that point no mechanism was claimed to exist

    On this basis Russia is merely echoing what had already been agreed on an international level – that each new situation would be examined on its current merits – which is a stance normal for any sovereign power.

    The error here reflects a very common error made by people who use English as their second language – It is caused, in my experience years ago of teaching English as a foreign language, by the absence in English of a Simple Future Tense (or for that matter a fully functioning subjunctive) – The concept of future action is always moderated by an auxiliary verb – normally “shall”, “will” or “to be going to”. Auxiliary verbs such as “might” “can””should” etc also are often used to moderate a future concept

    In this case “can” is perhaps best considered as “able to” – There is an ability but no implied automatic mechanism for dealing with a future situation

    English is a stunning language for expressing nuances of meaning but it is a minefield for the unwary who expect the lesser degree of nuance often found in their own official languages. Unlike other languages English does not have a clear standard form – much as we like to pretend it has. It is a mixture of sources, that includes many different languages – a host of dialects – and slang.. That is why we native speakers sometimes call ourselves “a people divided by a common language”

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  • Mike Graham

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