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Khamenei Comments: Nuclear Plan, Yemen

In a speech on April 9, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he was “neither for nor against” the nuclear framework announced by Iran and the world’s six major powers on April 2, noting that the details remain to be finalized. He also said that the results of the tallks may determine whether Iran can negotiate with the United States "over other matters as well." Khamenei was also strongly critical of Saudi Arabia's intervention in the Yemeni crisis. The following are excerpts from his speech.

Nuclear framework
 
“Some people would ask why Leader has not yet taken a position on the recent nuclear statement; I would tell them there is no place for taking position at all, since our nuclear negotiators as well as the government say nothing special has happened and no binding agreement has been signed by the two sides.”
 
 
“These ongoing negotiations - part of which is conducted with the Americans - are only related to nuclear matters. They are only related to these matters. In the present time, we have no negotiations with America on any other matter. There is no other matter. Everyone should know this. We do not negotiate with the Americans on regional issues, different domestic issues and international issues. Today, the only matter for negotiation is the nuclear matter. This will become an experience for us. If the other side stops its usual obstinacy, this will be an experience for us and we will find out that we can negotiate with it over other matters as well. But if we see that they continue to behave in the same obstinate and deviant way, well, our previous experience will naturally be strengthened.”
 
“If asked about my position about the negotiations, I would say neither I support nor I oppose the negotiations, since nothing special has happened yet; the crux of the matter and which is the most troublesome part as well is when it comes to painful details, which would push the negotiators, country, and the nation to the wall.”
 
 
“If anyone said the Leader opposed nuclear deal, it is an inaccuracy; I support a deal which secures our national interests and rights; however, I have said before that no deal is better than a bad deal, since it is preferred to a deal which violates the national rights and glory and denigrates our people.”
 
“I would clearly address here an ambiguity: Sometimes it is said that Leader oversees the details of the negotiations; this is also an inaccuracy. The overall framework of the affairs is communicated to the President and, in some cases, to the foreign minister; however, the details are up to them.”
 
 
“I have never been optimistic about the US; this pessimism has not been based on a whim; rather, it is years of experience which indicates that we should be pessimistic about the US intentions.”
 
“Our concerns and mistrust of the US are illustrated with the recent conduct of the White House, when it prepared a statement only two hours after the Lausanne joint statement, which was a distorted, politically motivated statement, and one which should not be trusted.”
 
 
“The Leader’s words addressed to the nation are based on mutual trust and as people trust me, I also trust the nation; here, I would have a recommendation to our officials; our nuclear negotiators and other authorities should sit with the prominent critics of the nuclear statement to find out what they say and use in their words what would be effective in the negotiations process…I stress that negotiations with the US would not go beyond the nuclear issue; and if they continue to deviate from the straight path, our reaction would be mistrust of them which is informed by our experience of their conduct.”
 
 
“I strongly insist that our officials not underestimate our current nuclear achievements; the nuclear industry is a necessity for our country; that some of the so-called intellectuals object that ‘why we would need nuclear industry?’ I believe, is deceiving the public.”
 
 

Yemen

“I strongly warn the Saudis to end adventurism and bloodshed in Yemen; such movements in the region would not be tolerated; killing of children and women and destroying a country’s infrastructure and national wealth is a great crime.”
 
Translations via Mehr News

 

New Polls: A Third of Americans Support Nuke Plan

The following are key findings from four recent polls, which were conducted in the days following the announcement of a nuclear framework between Iran and the world's six major powers. In two of the polls, around a third of respondents said they support the framework.

Economist/YouGov Poll
 
A new Economist/YouGov poll found that most Americans support the nuclear talks with Iran. The survey, conducted April 4-6, found that 61 percent of respondents believe the United States should negotiate with Iran over its nuclear program.
 
 
But barely a quarter of respondents said they would trust Iran to adhere to an agreement.  
 
Support for the nuclear framework announced on April 2 varied along party lines. Among Democrats, 57 percent support the framework, but only 20 percent of Republicans support it.
 
 
Click here for more information on the poll
 
Reuters/Ipsos Poll
 
A new Reuters/Ipsos poll, conducted April 3-7, found that 36 percent of respondents support the preliminary nuclear deal between Iran and the world’s six major powers. When broken down by party, 30 percent of Republicans support the deal compared to 51 percent of Democrats.
 
 
Support
Oppose
Not sure
Republicans
30 percent
30 percent
40 percent
Democrats
51 percent
10 percent
39 percent
Independents
33 percent
21 percent
45 percent
The poll also found little support for using military force as the sole way to curb Iran's nulcear program. Only 5 percent of Democrats, 11 percent of Republicans, and 6 percent of Independents supported that approach.
 
Click here for more information on the poll
 
NBC News/SurveyMonkey Poll
 
A new NBC News/SurveyMonkey Poll, conducted April 6-8, found that the majority of Americans consider Iran’s nuclear program a “major threat.” More than 70 percent of Republicans gave that response, compared to just over 40 percent of Democrats.
 
Iran’s nuclear program is:
All
Republicans
Democrats
Independents
Major threat
53 percent
74 percent
41 percent
50 percent
Minor threat
37 percent
23 percent
47 percent
39 percent
Not a threat at all
8 percent
1 percent
11 percent
9 percent
 
Click here for more information on the poll

 

Americans United for Change/Hart Research Poll

A poll commissioned by Americans United for Change, conducted April 6-8, found that 65 percent believe Congress should allow the agreement to move forward and monitor its implementation, while 30 percent believe Congress should take action to block the deal before it is implemented.

 
Congress should:
All
Republicans
Democrats
Independents
Allow agreement to go forward and closely monitor implementation
65 percent
47 percent
82 percent
64 percent
Block the agreement now and prevent implementation
30 percent
48 percent
15 percent
27 percent
 
Click here for more information on the poll
 

Iran Nuclear Plan: Editorial Roundup

The following is a snapshot of editorials from U.S. newspapers and media outlets on the nuclear framework that was announced by the world’s six major powers and Iran on April 2.

Supporters 
 
The New York Times
 
 
“The preliminary agreement between Iran and the major powers is a significant achievement that makes it more likely Iran will never be a nuclear threat. President Obama said it would ‘cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.’
 
“Officials said some important issues have not been resolved, like the possible lifting of a United Nations arms embargo, and writing the technical sections could also cause problems before the deal’s finalization, expected by June 30. Even so, the agreement announced on Thursday after eight days of negotiations appears more specific and comprehensive than expected.”
—April 2, 2015
 
The Los Angeles Times
 
 
“Iran and the so-called P5+1 — the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany — announced "parameters" for an agreement that were highly specific and, frankly, somewhat reassuring. At a minimum they justify continued negotiations with the aim of producing a final compact by the end of June. In the meantime, Congress should refrain from aggressive actions that could undermine the delicate process.”
—April 3, 2015
 
The Boston Globe
 
 
“The broad parameters of the deal designed to curb Iran’s nuclear program, which were laid out on Thursday after marathon negotiation sessions in the Swiss city of Lausanne, offer the best chance in 35 years to thaw relations between the Islamic Republic and the West. The agreement isn’t perfect, nor is it final. But the concessions made by Iranian diplomats, and the level of specificity offered to the public, show that all sides were negotiating in good faith. It is now up to Congress to give the negotiators the time they need to finalize the deal — and they should do so by refraining from proposing more sanctions that could jeopardize months of hard work.”
—April 2, 2015
 
USA Today
 
 
“It will never be an easy deal to accept. But perfection is not one of the choices. Either the deal will be completed, or hard-liners on one side or the other will get the confrontation they seek.
 
The consequences will be historic, but before setting a course for war, it's usually best to at least give peace a chance, particularly since all other options will remain open if the agreement fails.”
—April 2, 2015
 
Bloomberg
 
 
“The framework's scope and strength are promising. Congress should refrain from passing any legislation that would impose additional sanctions and mandates on the talks, or otherwise seek to tie the president's hands.
 
For many critics of the negotiations with Iran in the U.S. Congress -- not to mention Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- the bottom line remains the elimination of Iran's uranium enrichment capability. Yet a dozen years of diplomacy and progressively stiffer sanctions have failed to produce that outcome, which even a costly and bloody military action could not guarantee.”
—April 2, 2015
 
The Denver Post
 
 
“It may well be that further analysis reveals fatal flaws in the deal, or that Iran has a very different view of it, or that negotiators cannot overcome remaining obstacles as the June 30 deadline approaches. But as Congress considers whether sanctions should someday be lifted, it shouldn't let the perfect become the enemy of the good. The real naivete is among those who think Iran can be pressured into eliminating its nuclear program altogether or say the U.S. must never negotiate with an untrustworthy regime.”
—April 2, 2015
 
The Detroit News
 
 
“Cautious optimism is the appropriate response to the framework for a nuclear weapons deal worked out with Iran by the Obama administration and its international partners. The outline suggests a pact that will be stronger than expected, even as the details to be negotiated in coming months will be critical in determining its effectiveness.
 
The agreement falls short of achieving the goals initially spelled out by the White House. But it does place enough restrictions on Iran's nuclear program to offer at least some hope its ambitions to produce a weapon will be significantly delayed, if not completely deterred.”
—April 4, 2015
 
Skeptics
 
The Washington Post
 
 
“The ‘key parameters’ for an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program released Thursday fall well short of the goals originally set by the Obama administration. None of Iran’s nuclear facilities — including the Fordow center buried under a mountain — will be closed. Not one of the country’s 19,000 centrifuges will be dismantled. Tehran’s existing stockpile of enriched uranium will be “reduced” but not necessarily shipped out of the country. In effect, Iran’s nuclear infrastructure will remain intact, though some of it will be mothballed for 10 years. When the accord lapses, the Islamic republic will instantly become a threshold nuclear state.”
—April 2, 2015
 
The Wall Street Journal
 
 
“The fundamental question posed by President Obama’s Iran diplomacy has always been whether it can prevent a nuclear-armed Middle East—in Iran as well as Turkey and the Sunni Arab states. Mr. Obama unveiled a “framework” accord on Thursday that he said did precisely that, but the claims warrant great skepticism.”
—April 3, 2015
 
San Diego Union-Tribune
 
 
“Before either the American people or Congress endorse this tentative pact, they need assurances that the deal will be enforced with vigorous independent monitoring of a sort Iran has never permitted. They need guarantees that there will be a very low tolerance for Iranian noncompliance. And they need reasons to believe that Obama and Kerry know what they are doing and have thought through possible unintended consequences.”
—April 2, 2015
 
New York Post
 
 
“Even if Kerry doesn’t give away even more when it comes to working out the fine print, the framework leaves intact most of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, including 5,000 centrifuges the West once wanted eliminated.”
 
“Iran has repeatedly stonewalled international inspectors for a decade, and there’s no reason to believe it will suddenly cooperate once sanctions are gone.”
—April 2, 2015
 
New York Daily News
 
 
“Under the best of circumstances, Israel will be left to live for at least a decade under the dreadful shadow of a government sworn to its annihilation having the power of Armageddon within easy grasp. Fearful Arab states could move to match Iran as threshold nuclear strongmen in hopes of countering its expanding regional domination.”
—April 2, 2015
 
Tags: Nuclear

Energy Secretary Moniz Briefs on Talks

The following are excerpt remarks from a press briefing at the White House with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Press Secretary Josh Earnest on April 6.

 
SECRETARY MONIZ: So, first of all, we say that there are four pathways to a bomb in Iran.  One is a plutonium pathway through a research reactor, a heavy water reactor.  I’ll come back to these.  Second, there are two pathways to a uranium bomb; that involves the facilities at Natanz and at Fordow.  And the fourth pathway is covert activities.  So let me just walk through those four and what we have nailed down in the understanding for the final agreement.
 
Let me start with plutonium.  In the plutonium pathway, the Iranians will retain a research reactor using heavy water.  The following characteristics, however, are critical.  Number one, it will be redesigned to have substantially less plutonium production; it will not be weapons-grade plutonium.  However, we have an agreement that all of the spent fuel -- that is the fuel that contains the plutonium -- will be sent out of the country for the entire lifetime of the reactor.  In other words, it will produce less plutonium and it won’t stay in the country anyway.
 
Secondly, with regard to the plutonium produced by any other reactor, like Bushehr, there will be no re-processing to extract plutonium; no re-processing R&D; no other heavy water reactor for at least 15 years; and any excess heavy water will be sold on the international market.  This is lockdown of the plutonium pathway.
 
Let me turn to the uranium pathways, which involve enrichment.  There’s been a lot said about they will continue to enrich with 5,000 centrifuges; this is correct.  But let me put that in context.  We’re starting with 19,000 -- number one.  Number two, they will be, in this first 10-year period, allowed to use only their first-generation centrifuge for that.  Third, in terms of our key objective of having a so-called breakout period of at least one year, what you really need is three numbers together.  You need the number of centrifuges.  You need the stockpile of enriched uranium; that’s going to be reduced from 10,000 kilograms to 300 kilograms.  And it will be enriched only less than 3.7 percent.  Those three numbers come together and say breakout period of at least a year.
 
R&D -- there will be no R&D in the first 10 years at the scale you need to deploy a machine for any advanced centrifuge model.  And that is despite the fact that today they are operating for two models -- such a full-scale cascade, is what it’s called.  That’s going to be torn down and put into storage under IAEA monitoring and seal. 
 
Then there is the facility at Fordow; that’s the one that’s put into a mountain.  Nearly two-thirds of that will be immediately disassembled, stripped down -- centrifuges and infrastructure.  About just over 10 percent there will be some spinning.  However, no enrichment, no enrichment R&D; no fissile material, no uranium, is even allowed in the facility, with continuous monitoring from the IAEA; and a transition of that facility over time to basically a physics research laboratory and medical isotope laboratory.
 
Fourth pathway -- covert.  Actually, the other pathways, as well, depend upon an unprecedented access and transparency for the IAEA.  It starts with the additional protocol.  For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s an add-on to the standard safeguards agreements, which will provide access to undeclared facilities as well as declared facilities.  There will be insight, eyes and ears -- eyes mainly, maybe some ears -- on the full supply chain -- this is unprecedented -- going back to the Iranian mines all the way through to the final facilities.  And, by the way, that insight on the early parts of the supply chain is a 25-year commitment, not a 10 or a 15-year commitment. 
 
So we think that, again, the access and transparencies is unprecedented, and the additional protocol is an example of a forever agreement in what we have negotiated. 
 
And so, finally, just to say that -- I've already said it in effect, but I want to say this is not an agreement for 10 years, or 15 years, or 20 years; it is a long-term agreement with a whole set of phases.  And if Iran earns over this time period trust and confidence in their peaceful objectives, well, then, over time, the constraints will, in phases, ease up, but never get lower than the additional protocol and all of the access that it provides. 
 
So that's the way we think about it.  It's not a fixed-year agreement; it’s a forever agreement, in a certain sense, with different stages.
 
QUESTION: Is the U.S. and Iran on a very different page even in terms of this interim agreement?
 
SECRETARY MONIZ:  No, we're not.  We all recognize that -- we emphasize very strongly, we have to talk about the same agreement.  We understand emphases may be different.  And so let me give you an example.  They emphasize, well, we have 5,000 centrifuges spinning; this is true and we acknowledge that.  But we also say they’re first generation; they must be taken together with this extraordinary limitation on their stockpile.  They fail to mention that, or the 3-plus percent enrichment.  And it's those numbers together that say we have a one-year breakout time.
 
So it's not so much inconsistent as it, as I would say, is emphasizing only certain parts of the agreement.
 
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you said that Fordow will be stripped down, but the President seemed to promise the American people something much different in December of 2013, when he said, “We know that they don't need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordow in order to have a peaceful nuclear program.”  He wasn’t talking about stripping it down.  He was saying either wiping it out or shutting it down altogether.  What changed?
 
SECRETARY MONIZ:  Well, to me, the key is and our objective was to make sure it was not a breakout pathway.  It is not.  There is even no fissile material allowed into that facility.  It is not an enrichment facility.  So it is closed down as an enrichment facility.
 
As I said, it will be transitioning over time to a research facility involving international collaboration.  And, in fact, those international collaborators will, in fact, add additional transparency.  So I'll give you an example of two projects being discussed both with an international partner.
 
One is on the stable isotopes, as I mentioned -- molybdenum for medical treatments; another is to bring in an electronic accelerator for various experimental purposes -- materials, medical research, et cetera.  So over time, as those collaborations build up, that's what the facility will become.
 
QUESTION: Thank you, Secretary.  What if Iran cheats?  The President, in an interview over the weekend, mentioned that there would be some type of mechanism where if you suspect that there’s something going on that's fishy, that you can request an inspection.  And if Iran does not agree to that, that the international community has this mechanism to ensure that.  What is that mechanism?  And how much of the one-year breakout time could that eat up?
 
SECRETARY MONIZ:  First of all, the answer to the last part is a very short time compared to the year.  And at the end of that time, in contrast to some current arrangements around the world where, frankly, things can get -- shall we say, cans can get kicked down a very long road, this has a definite ending, way inside the year.  And if access is denied at that point, that is a breach of the agreement, and with all the consequences that come with that, including snap-back of sanctions, resort to diplomatic or other tools.  No options for the United States or others is taken off the table.
 
QUESTION: So is this like a one-strike deal?  One time we catch Iran doing something they said they wouldn't do in the agreement, the whole thing is off and we ramp up sanctions?
 
SECRETARY MONIZ:  I think clearly one will see how that plays out in terms of -- obviously, judgment has to be used in terms of severity.  Without getting into details, I'll just say that, for example, in the current agreement, everyone is saying that Iran has been studious in honoring the current agreement.  Actually, I don't know if I can say this, but -- I won't get into specifics -- there was one time in which something was done that was not in the agreement.  It was rapidly resolved as a mistake of somebody who didn’t know what they were doing wasn’t there, shut down immediately.
 
So, so far in the interim agreement, they’ve been very good.  We will see if that persists now for the next 10, 15, 20 years.
 
MR. EARNEST:  Major.
 
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, talking about the covert path, what kind of things need to still be negotiated to increase Western and American confidence that covert actions, either at facilities you’ve identified or places not yet identified, can be locked down?  That is to say you can have a level of confidence that on the covert side things will not create a pathway to a nuclear weapon.  And secondly, when you were answering Josh’s question on sanctions, do we have an agreement with the United Nations countries, meaning our partners, P5+1, to snap back the sanctions, or just us snapping back the sanctions if there is a disagreement or a violation?
 
SECRETARY MONIZ:  No, first of all, I should say even more broadly, I think one of the remarkable outcomes of these last weeks -- I've been involved for, roughly, six weeks.  One of the remarkable outcomes is, in fact, the level of coherence among the P5+1.  That was actually quite rewarding, I would say.
 
In terms of the snap-back of the sanctions, there are certainly issues remaining to be negotiated in terms of specific timing and milestones.  However, the key elements are all decided.  And so, for example, in terms of snap-back of sanctions, let’s just say, for example, no one country could block the snap-back of sanctions. 
 
QUESTION: No one has veto power within the conversation?
 
SECRETARY MONIZ:  Correct. I'm not going to go to the majority, et cetera, but that will be evolving and coming out in time as to what the precise arrangements are.  But these are very, very good in terms of our ability; out ability, for example, to snap back, if called upon to do so, will be there.
 
QUESTION: And the access on the covert side that you have yet to negotiate the kind of things you need to achieve between now and July 1st to --
 
SECRETARY MONIZ:  Those are largely in place in terms of the access, as I mentioned, including unprecedented access in terms of the entire supply chain.  I mentioned uranium mines.  There’s also continuous surveillance of centrifuge manufacturing plants.  So it is really quite a strong arrangement.
 
MR. EARNEST:  Jim.
 
QUESTIONS: Two quick questions.  You said that -- which I don't really understand -- they’re going to continue to produce plutonium, small amounts of it, and they’ll send it out of the country.  Why produce it at all if you're going to send it out of the country?
 
SECRETARY MONIZ:  Because, I should add, that any nuclear reactor by its nature produces plutonium.  Our power reactors in the United States produce plutonium as they operate.  That's unavoidable, okay?  The question is whether one optimizes for producing plutonium, especially a weapons-grade.  And I'm saying this redesigned reactor will not do that, and it will produce very small amounts.  You cannot avoid it at some level, but it will produce small amounts and it will go out of the country anyway.
 
QUESTION: After your difficult negotiations, are you convinced that the Iranians are, in fact, content to only produce peaceful nuclear power, that this is their goal as they say it is?  Do you, as one of the chief negotiators, trust their motives?
 
SECRETARY MONIZ:  This is not built upon trust.  This is built upon hardnosed requirements in terms of limitations on what they do at various timescales and on the access and transparency.
 
QUESTION: But are they trying to at any time put in measures that would allow them to continue to produce weapons-grade uranium?  Do you see an effort on their part to somehow save a pathway?
 
SECRETARY MONIZ: First of all, I should reemphasize, they have not produced weapons-grade uranium.  They did produce earlier up to 20 percent, which is still considered low -- it's the limit of low-enriched uranium.  But I would say the answer to that is, no.  Clearly, the negotiation was tough in terms of specific parameters, but we just held to it -- sorry -- like the one-year breakout period is an absolute, unshakeable requirement.  We can shift around a little bit, stockpile number of uranium and number of centrifuges.  But that was the nature of it.
 
QUESTION: So at the end of this, they’ll be held to this and there’s not going to be any wiggle room, there’s not going to be any subject to interpretation?  It seems right now a lot is seemingly up to interpretation whether you're in Washington or in Tehran.
 
SECRETARY MONIZ:  Well, no, I disagree with that in the sense -- in fact, going back to the very first question -- that there’s no doubt that right now there’s a different narrative, but not in conflict with what’s written down, just selective.  However, if you look at our parameter sheet -- I don't know if you have seen that, it's four pages of bullets.  And what is the reaction that we are receiving, and I think quite appropriately, is a certain level of amazement at the specificity.  We got numbers, and those have got to go into the agreement.  Very specific and comprehensive. 
 
QUESTION: The White House has made clear that you're open to having Congress have some way to express their views about this.  But the specific proposals put forward by a lot of members of Congress about voting on a deal, that kind of thing, the President has rejected.  So I'm wondering if you could give us an example of a way that Congress could have a role beyond just listening to briefings from you all…
 
MR. EARNEST:  The White House does take very seriously, and across the administration we take very seriously the responsibility that we have to engage with Congress throughout this process.  And that's what we have done.  That started years ago when Congress passed tough sanctions against Iran that were instrumental to building an international coalition that put enormous pressure on the Iranian economy.  That is what we believe led to Iran sitting down at the negotiating table and to actually engaging in conversations that were constructive.
 
Throughout that process, we’ve kept Congress in the loop on those negotiations.  And just in the last three or four days since an agreement was announced, there have been a substantial number of telephone conversations, starting from the President on down  -- other senior members of the President’s national security team, the Secretary of State, I believe Secretary Moniz even made some telephone calls, the Vice President, the White House Chief of Staff, others who have made calls to members of Congress to make sure that they actually understand the details of what’s been agreed to.  That's the first thing. 
 
The second thing is that we continue to believe that while Congress, certainly understandably, should understand what we're working on here, that it's the responsibility of the President of the United States -- any President of the United States -- to conduct the foreign policy of the United States of America.  This is something that our Founding Fathers envisioned.  This has been true of Democratic and Republican Presidents back through history.  And this kind of effort to reach a diplomatic agreement about preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is consistent with that history.
 
Now, the third thing is that Congress will at some point have to vote to remove the sanctions that they put in place.  That is not something that the President of the United States can do unilaterally.  But what Congress envisioned in their legislation -- they wrote into the bill, into the sanctions bill, waiver authority for the President of the United States to relax some aspects of the sanctions in pursuit of a diplomatic agreement.
 
So, in effect, Josh, what we're planning to do is to implement this agreement consistent with exactly the way Congress described.  Now, there are some in Congress who, you point out, are now suggesting that they have changed their mind and they would rather weigh in on this agreement in a different way.  But because of the longstanding precedent of the President of the United States being the chief negotiator for the United States, and the fact that we know a lot of Republicans in Congress are only using a vote like that -- or proposing a vote like this, because they oppose the deal in the first place.
 
QUESTION: But, Josh, it’s not just Republicans.  I mean, it’s quite a few prominent Democrats on foreign policy.
 
MR. EARNEST:  But to be clear, what I was saying about Republicans -- it’s Republicans who have been most forceful in denouncing this agreement, and those are the people that I’m referring to when I say that they’re trying to use this vote as cover to just try to undermine the agreement.  You’re right that there are other Democrats who have spoken up, saying that Congress should have the opportunity to weigh in on the deal.  And what we have said is, look, it is clearly within the purview of the President of the United States to conduct foreign policy, and we do believe that Congress should play their rightful role in terms of ultimately deciding whether or not the sanctions that Congress passed into law should be removed.
 
QUESTION: And if they [lawmakers] decide they don’t want to remove the sanctions, it actually doesn’t matter because the President already has authority under the existing sanctions to waive them by himself.  I mean, is that an accurate synopsis of the role that you see for Congress?
    
MR. EARNEST:  Well, I would just tailor the last part of what you said, because this is important as well -- that we would envision a scenario where after Iran has already demonstrated sustained compliance over a long period of time, then we would contemplate a situation where we would dismantle the sanctions architecture that did apply so much pressure to the Iranian economy.  And that is something that only Congress could do. 
 
I don’t want to speak for the Iranian regime, but presumably that’s something that they would like to see.  They wouldn’t just want to see a waiver; they’d actually like to see that sanctions architecture dismantled -- and I think for understandable reasons -- frankly, because they know that as long as that sanctions architecture is in place, the President with a stroke of a pen, at a moment’s notice, could snap those sanctions back into place.  And that is part of what Congress originally envisioned when they passed sanctions legislation.  It’s also part of what this administration envisions for holding Iran to account.  Because we have said that if we detect, based on the intrusive inspections plan that we have for Iran’s nuclear program -- if we detect that they are deviating from the plan, then we can at a moment’s notice snap those sanctions back into place.
 
QUESTION: [I]n Tehran, they’re describing the way those sanctions will be lifted as an immediate timeline, whereas what we’re hearing here is that there’s going to have to be some results before sanctions are lifted.  Can you explain the discrepancy between those timelines?  And is the President concerned about that difference and whether or not there will be an agreement before the end of June?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, Julia, this issue that you have highlighted is one of those that still needs to be negotiated.  There are still details about the phase-out, if you will, of the sanctions that have not yet been agreed to.  And it is the strong view of the administration that it would not be wise, and it would not be in the interest of the international community, to simply take away sanctions -- take away all of the sanctions on day one.
 
It is our view that, based on Iran’s history, that it would be most conducive to the success of the agreement for Iran to continue to have an incentive for complying with the agreement.  And that is why we believe that this sort of phased approach is the best one, and it certainly is one that we will insist upon.  There are many of those who are sitting around the negotiating table -- on our side of the negotiating table -- who share that view.  And that’s what we will insist upon.
 
The reasons that you’re hearing a slightly different message out of Iran is that this is -- the details of this arrangement have not yet been agreed to.
The Iranians are insisting that every sanction should be removed on day one.  The President has forcefully advocated in a way that’s consistent with the thinking of the international community that what we should see is a phased reduction in sanctions to ensure that Iran continues to comply with the agreement and continues to have an incentive to comply with the agreement.
 
QUESTION: So there is no bill that could be offered, some sort of accommodation that suggests Congress is getting its proper oversight role and the administration gets to conduct its foreign policy, that you could see the administration signing off on this before June 30th?
 
MR. EARNEST: Well, I wouldn’t be in a position of sort of ruling out hypotheticals like that.  But certainly the legislation that’s being most actively discussed on Capitol Hill right now is the legislation that Senator Corker has put forward.
 
And, again, I’ll mention that Senator Corker is somebody who has considered this issue in a very principled way.  But in this fashion we have a pretty strong disagreement with him -- because in the mind of the President, it could potentially interfere with the ongoing negotiations that are slated to continue through June. 
 
It also could interfere with the ability of the United States to implement the agreement successfully.  And it does interfere with a scope of responsibilities that it’s clearly within the purview of the President of the United States.  So we’ve made clear about what our differences are with the piece of legislation that’s been most actively discussed on Capitol Hill.
 
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Photo credit: Moniz by Energy.gov via Flickr Commons (public domain as U.S. Government work)

Erdogan in Iran to Strengthen Ties

On April 7, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani, and other Iranian officials in Tehran. The leaders signed eight agreements focused on improving economic cooperation, and downplayed disagreements between Iran and Turkey over the conflicts in Yemen and Syria. “I don’t look at the sect,” Erdogan said. “It does not concern me whether Shia or Sunni, what concerns me is Muslims.”

The following are tweets and pictures capturing Erdogan’s visit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos via president.ir

Click here for more information on Iran-Turkey relations

Tags: Turkey

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