Kerry gave no indication of when on Saturday that proposal had been approved by the other five powers, nor did he acknowledge explicitly that it was a draft that departed from the earlier draft agreed upon with Iran. Lavrov's remarks make it clear that the other members of the group had little or no time to study or discuss the changes before deciding whether to go along with it.
Although the nature of the changes in the amended draft remain a secret, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has charged that they were quite far-reaching and that they affected far more of the draft agreement that had been worked out between the United States and Iran than had been acknowledged by any of the participants.
In tweets on Tuesday, Zarif, responding to Kerry's remarks in Abu Dhabi, wrote, "Mr. Secretary, was it Iran that gutted over half of US draft Thursday night?" Zarif's comments indicated that changes of wording had nullified the previous understanding that had been reached between the United States and Iran on multiple issues.
The two issues that French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius had raised in Geneva concerned what Iran would be required to do regarding the Arak heavy-water reactor and its stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium.
The agreement that had been worked out with Iran before Saturday had required that Iran not "activate" the Arak reactor, but did not require an immediate end to all work on the reactor, according a detailed summary leaked to CNN by two senior Obama administration officials Thursday night, Nov. 7.
A shift from "activate" to another verb suggesting Iran would be required to suspend all work on Arak -- which Fabius was demanding Saturday on behalf of Israel -- would have nullified the previous U.S.-Iran compromise.
Even more sensitive politically was the understanding reached Thursday night on the disposition of the Iranian stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium. That was the main proliferation concern of the Obama administration, because that stockpile could in theory be enriched to weapons grade.
But the summary leaked to CNN indicated that the agreed text had required Iran to "render unusable most of its existing stockpile," which left open the option of Iran's continuing convert the stockpile into "fuel assemblies" for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) or for a similar reactor in the future.
According to the latest IAEA report made public Thursday, Iran has enriched 420 kg of uranium to the 20 percent level, a little more than half which has been converted to such assemblies. The agreement reached before Saturday evidently anticipated Iran converting most of the remaining 197 kg to fuel assemblies over the course of the interim agreement.
That would have reduced the stockpile to less than 100 kg and would reduce the stockpile to roughly one-fifth of the 250 kg of 20 percent-enriched uranium that Israel has suggested would be sufficient to convert to weapons grade uranium necessary for a single nuclear weapon.
But if the text was altered to change "render unusable" to language requiring the export of most or all of the stockpile, as appears to have been the objective of the Fabius intervention, that would have nullified the key compromise that made agreement possible.
Zarif's tweet, combined with remarks by President Hassan Rouhani to the national assembly Sunday warning that Iran's rights to enrichment are "red lines" that could not be crossed, suggests further that the language of the original draft agreement dealing with the "end game" of the negotiating process was also changed on Saturday.
Kerry himself alluded to the issue in his remarks in Abu Dhabi, using the curious formulation that no nation has an "existing right to enrich."
One of the language changes in the agreement evidently related to that issue, and it was aimed at satisfying a demand of Israeli origin at the expense of Iran's support for the draft.
Now the Obama administration will face a decision whether to press Iran to go along with those changes or to go back to the original compromise when political directors of the six powers and Iran reconvene Nov. 20. That choice will provide the key indicator of how strongly committed Obama is to reaching an agreement with Iran.
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