Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei has expressed the view today that all sanctions must be limited simultaneously with the signing or conclusion of a final agreement This seems in tension certainly with the US fact sheet on the parameters arrived at in Lausanne, as well as possibly with Iran's own statement which, if the translation from Farsi of Harvard's Belfer Center is to be believed, suggests that the limiting of sanctions will be simultaneous with the implementation of the final agreement. Implementation implies that Iran will have already taken concrete steps to give effect to the commitments under the agreement. Unless Iran were to already have taken those steps leading up to June 30, today's statement or restatement that sanctions relief must be simultaneous with the final agreement would seem hard to square with the position of the US and perhaps other partners as well.
In order to think through this difficulty, we need to make a close analysis of what, according to the US fact sheet, was agreed in Lausanne regarding what Iran is required to do. First of all there are things that Iran is required to do and refrain from doing throughout the course of the agreement or for an extended period of time. For example, providing regular access to all nuclear facilities to the IAEA, or not building any new facilities for enriching uranium for 15 years. One could say that Iran will have only fulfilled in the sense of fully implemented these obligations at the end of the agreement; and of course, it would be completely unrealistic and against the intent of the negotiations, that sanctions relief would be postponed until then. Secondly, there are steps that one might regard as preliminary, or preconditions to making the regime under the agreement operational. For instance, Iran has agreed to implement the Additional Protocol of the IAEA, to allow on-going monitoring of its compliance with its commitments. Steps like these it seems reasonable to insist that Iran take by the time the final agreement is concluded or immediately upon its conclusion. Third, there are specific individual acts the time frame for completion of which is not explicitly stated in the US fact sheet, suggesting this is something to be resolved in the current negotiations. For example, by when must all excess centrifuges and enrichment infrastructure be placed in IAEA storage. Or, by when must Iran convert the Fordow facility into a research center? In the case of this third class of commitments, it seems unrealistic that they could be completed on June 30th, although in some case steps could be taken by then to initiate the required activities.
At the same time, it is equally unrealistic for the US or other partners to lift all the sanctions based on mere promises of future performance of these obligations. Iran must face the fact that there is a serious gulf in trust that is based upon its past behavior, and indeed present behavior in various areas. Confidence-building is required.
One way of moving forward would be as follows. Negotiators would seek to nail down by Jun 30 what might be called a list or schedule of implementation commitments, rather than a final agreement. There would be a preliminary implementation window between June 30 and a final agreement, and the implementation commitments would specify steps that Iran must complete at specific dates within the window. Graduated and limited sanctions relief would be calibrated to these individual steps, so that trust is built on both sides about the will to implement fully. The implementation window would close once, as defined by the schedule of implementation commitments, enough steps have been taken for all the partners to have confidence in the solidity of the bargain. At that point the "final agreement" would be signed, the remaining sanctions lifted, and the agreement entrenched in a new Security Council resolution. Alternatively, a new Security Council resolution could be done immediately following the crystallization of the schedule of implementation commitments on June 30 and corresponding opening of the preliminary implementation window.
I'm not claiming that all of this is realistic and fully worked through or based on a mastery of the technical detail of the negotiations. This is just a kind of model or mental experiment to illustrate what kind of nimble, creative thinking may be needed between now and June 30 in terms of bridging gaps between Iran's expectations and those of other partners..