United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Event: Rubik’s Cube™ of a Final Agreement

            The clock is ticking on a nuclear deal with Iran. The deadline is July 20. An unprecedented coalition of eight Washington think tanks is hosting three discussions on the pivotal diplomacy to coincide with the last three rounds of talks. The first event — "The Rubik’s Cube™ of a Final Agreement" — on May 13 explored the disparate issues to be resolved and the many formulations for potential solutions. Speakers included (from left to right) Colin Kahl, Robert Einhorn, Joe Cirincione and Alireza Nader.

            The coalition includes the U.S. Institute of Peace, RAND, the Woodrow Wilson Center, the Arms Control Association, the Center for a New American Security, the Stimson Center, the Partnership for a Secure America, the Ploughshares Fund, and staff from the Brookings Institution and the Center for Non-Proliferation Studies.
           The following is a webcast of the event and key takeaways from the speakers' remarks.
 
 
Robert Einhorn 
• A final deal is possible, but very hard to get by the July 20 deadline.
• A key requirement for a deal is implementing a monitoring mechanism that can quickly detect any breakout steps towards a bomb.
• Iran wants to expand its uranium enrichment capabilities while the P5+1 wants to limit them.
• Iran could produce enough uranium to fuel a weapon in two months. Breakout time needs to be lengthened.
• Iran needs to understand that it will pay a heavy price if it violates a deal by moving to produce a bomb.
• The United States will probably have to demonstrate its Gulf allies and Israel that it is still resolutely committed to their security.
 
Alireza Nader
• Mutual trust is not a requirement for a successful deal.  Stringent inspections and firm commitments to sanctions relief can make up for the trust gap.
• So far, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has supported negotiations and given President Hassan Rouhani considerable space to maneuver. Both are interested in lifting sanctions.
• Both Iran and the United States have vested interests in resolving the nuclear dispute.
• Sanctions aren’t necessarily empowering Iran’s government and hurting the population. The situation is actually more complicated. The government is running out of money and some people are making money off sanctions.
• The United States could still have lots of problems with the Islamic Republic even after a deal.
• Iranian hardliners have accused their negotiators of selling the country’s nuclear rights. Ultra-conservatives fear a nuclear deal because they think it will open Iran’s culture to more Western influence.
• President Hassan Rouhani wants a better relationship with the United States but many Iranians are not ready. Building trust will be a decades-long process.
 
Joe Cirincione
• Every aspect of the talks is difficult, but we have never been closer to an agreement.
• The nuclear deal is step number one. Afterwards, Washington and Tehran could cooperate on shared concerns in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere.
• This deal is not about trust. This is a contract.
• Iran needs a face-saving way to frame the deal because it has invested so much in its nuclear program. A deal would need to assure Iran that sanctions will really be lifted. 
• Imposing sanctions is much easier than lifting them. So the deal will likely be an action for action arrangement.
• Iran’s ballistic missiles are not the list of items to negotiate. Adding too many items to the list might overload the cart.
 
Colin Kahl
• The two sides differ on the preferred length of the agreement. The United States and others are pushing for decades while Iran is pressing for a few years.
• Iran’s enrichment capability will likely need to be capped at five percent, the level suitable for civilian nuclear power. Weapons grade is 90 percent. 
• A nuclear deal must be sellable in both the United States and Iran.
• Tehran will need to account for possible military dimension of its program and what experiments it conducted.
• The concern about the heavy water reactor at Arak is that it could produce one to two bombs worth of plutonium a year if completed.
•Iran needs about one year to construct a crude nuclear device and then a few more years to fit it onto a ballistic missile.
 

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