The U.S. expects that the text of any potential deal with Iran, including detailed technical annexes, will be made public but not be signed by the negotiating parties, a senior administration official told reporters Thursday.
The official, who briefed reporters on the eve of Secretary of State John Kerry’s travel to Vienna for a final round of negotiations, said this sort of agreement is not typically signed.
But that could open the door to critics who say the arrangement gives Iran an opportunity to violate it.
Criticism from former Obama allies
The arrangement comes as several of President Barack Obama’s former military and foreign policy advisers expressed disapproval of the terms of the deal that is coming together ahead of a June 30 deadline.
“The agreement will not prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapons capability,” said a letter signed by 18 notable figures, including former CIA Director David Petraeus and former White House Iran adviser Dennis Ross. The letter also claims that the known terms of the deal will “fall short of meeting the administration’s own standard of a ‘good’ agreement.”
The senior administration official acknowledged Thursday that the June 30 deadline might slip but said that if the deal comes together, it will be “close” to the official deadline.
READ: More hurdles for Iran nuclear deal
“We didn’t make March 30, and we may not make June 30,” the official noted.
But the official added that, as with the March deadline set for a preliminary deal, the parties don’t expect the talks to go past the deadline by more than a few days. The official said all parties remain committed to the deadline and that this won’t be a “piecemeal” deal with just a political understanding with annexes to follow.
The official also said that all parties are conscious of the July 9 date that Congress has set for receiving the deal in order to review it.
The official told reporters that the U.S. does require that Iran give the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the access it needs to verify Iran’s compliance with a deal and address concerns about previous nuclear work.
However, the official said that the U.S. is not looking for a “confession” from Iran on its past nuclear activities, because “we already made our national judgment.”
Iranian leader criticizes enforcement plan
On Tuesday, however, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shed doubt on Tehran’s willingness to work with IAEA inspectors. “It should not be said that you carry out the commitments, then, IAEA verifies so that the sanctions will be lifted. We will never agree with it,” he said, referring to international demands of verification of Iranian compliance before sanctions relief.
He slammed the IAEA directly, saying that “the agency has repeatedly proved that it is not an independent and fair body.”
The open letter to Obama pushes for Western negotiators to take an even harder line on lifting sanctions.
The letter, published by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, concludes that sanctions should not be lifted until Iran complies with all of the terms of the deal and in fact new sanctions should be prepared in the event Iran does not honor its commitments.
The signatories suggest a “good” deal would rule out a possible military dimension of Iran’s nuclear program, curb Iran’s development of advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium and would allow monitoring and verification of all Iran’s nuclear sites, including military facilities.
In addition to Petraeus and Ross, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright and two of the president’s former top proliferation advisers, Robert Einhorn and Gary Samore, also signed on.
The delegations gathering in Vienna are not planning on doing any so-called “shuttle diplomacy” – once they’re there, the plan is to stay and work towards a deal until either it’s reached or they reach an impasse.
But the official noted European foreign ministers will trickle in over the weekend at least for a “check-in,” and since those ministers are closer geographically, they can come and go while their teams remain on the ground.