New York - A draft United Nations resolution on the Iran nuclear deal that says UN sanctions would "snap back" if Iran fails to meet its obligations also contains a surprise: The crucial mechanism will end in 10 years.
The draft, obtained on Wednesday by The Associated Press, states that none of the seven previous UN resolutions on Iran sanctions "shall be applied" after 10 years, and "the Security Council will have concluded its consideration of the Iranian nuclear issue."
But a US official familiar with the details of the resolution said the five veto-wielding permanent members of the council agreed that a new resolution would be adopted at the end of 10 years to reinstate the snap back mechanism for an additional five years. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
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The US introduced the draft resolution on Wednesday, and diplomats said they expect a vote on it early next week.
President Barack Obama has cited the snap back mechanism as a main defence of the Iran deal in responding to sharp criticism from the US Congress and some American allies. France also has stressed the significance of sanctions coming back into force quickly if Iran breaks it promises.
But Russian officials have given mixed accounts of how the mechanism would work. Moscow has traditionally opposed any voting procedures in which it would lose its Security Council veto power, though Obama said on Wednesday that "in the agreement, we've set it up so we can override Iran's objection, and we don't need Russia or China in order for us to get that override".
"If they continue to object," Obama said, "we're in a position to snap back sanctions and declare that Iran's in violation and is cheating."
The snap back provision in the draft resolution has been described as very clever by the UN observers.
Here's how it works: If one of the parties to the nuclear deal, like the United States, determines that Iran is not fulfilling its commitments, it can ask for a Security Council vote on a resolution to continue the deal's lifting of all Iran sanctions resolutions. When a vote takes place, the US or the four other permanent members could then veto the resolution, and the sanctions would automatically "snap back" in 30 days.
As the US official said, "we flipped the presumption so the veto works to our advantage".