The World Reacts to Nuclear Framework with Iran

Reaction to the recently-announced framework for a nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 countries was intensely polarized, ranging from strong support and cautious optimism to skepticism and outright denunciation.  The White House has initiated a full-court press to shore up support for the agreement, while leaders around the world have weighed in.

Here are the highlights:

The Obama administration’s communications strategy has placed Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, a nuclear physicist, front and center.  In a White House press briefing, Secretary Moniz said the agreement will block the “four pathways to a bomb in Iran.”  Moniz said the divergent accounts of the framework in the U.S. and Iran reflect different “emphases” but the “same agreement.”

Addressing concerns about the “PMD” issue, Secretary of State John Kerry, in a PBS interview, said Iran must disclose any past nuclear weapon-related efforts as part of a final agreement.

President Obama, in an interview with NPR, perhaps inadvertently drew attention to a potential weakness of the agreement, expressing the “fear” that “in year 13, 14, 15, [Iran has] advanced centrifuges that enrich uranium fairly rapidly, and at that point the breakout times would have shrunk almost down to zero.”

On this point, President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appear to have found a rare point of agreement.  In a press statement, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “Israel shares the view that upon the expiry of the nuclear agreement with Iran the latter’s breakout time to achieve nuclear weapons will be zero.”

The White House, in turn, repurposed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s infamous “bomb” graphic to argue that under the framework agreement, “Iran’s uranium enrichment pathway to a weapon will be shut down.”  Media outlets described this move as the Obama administration “trolling” the Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, in Iran, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei remained noncommittal on the deal, saying he is “neither in favor nor against” the nuclear framework.  He did re-affirm his support for Iran’s nuclear negotiators and appeared to issue a red line: all sanctions must be lifted when the final agreement is signed.

Official opinion in Iran has generally been supportive, with the Commander of the IRGC expressing his support for the framework agreement and Iran’s negotiating team.

The cabinet of Iran’s chief rival in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, meanwhile welcomed the framework agreement and drew attention to the larger regional dynamic, expressing hope for a nuclear-free Middle East.

Reaction in the Arab world more broadly ranged from support to skepticism, reports David Pollock of the Washington Institute.

Meanwhile, in the latest example of “dueling fact sheets,” media outlets reported on a French “fact sheet” on the nuclear agreement, which reportedly states that Iran would be allowed to use more advanced centrifuges in a “gradual and precisely defined increase in (enrichment) capacity between the 10th and 13th years with the introduction of advanced IR-2 and IR-4 centrifuges.”