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The Iran Primer

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Kerry Explains the Deal at CFR

On July 24, Secretary of State John Kerry explained and defended the nuclear deal at the Council on Foreign Relations. The following is an excerpted transcript of his remarks.

MR RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: The agreement calls for significant reductions in the quality and quantity of centrifuges that Iran is permitted to possess and operate, as well as qualitative and quantitative limits on the enriched uranium that they can possess for periods of 10 and 15 years respectively, and in return, Iran gets to keep and ultimately have the option to expand its nuclear program and it receives substantial resources as sanctions are lifted.
So help us understand from your point of view what you believe we have gained by this agreement as opposed to what we believe Iran has gained or, to put another way, we have given up?
SECRETARY KERRY: People ask me, “Well, what happens after year 15? What happens 20 years and 25 years from now and so forth?” The fact is that if we don’t accept this agreement, if we don’t keep with this agreement and put it to the test, year 15 or year 20 comes tomorrow, literally. Because Iran already has enough nuclear material for 10 to 12 bombs. That’s what I found as secretary of state when I became Secretary. When President Obama became president, they had some four to five thousand centrifuges. They had already mastered the fuel cycle. They had enough fissile material to make a bomb. They were on their way to produce a plutonium, heavy-water reactor that could produce enough weapons-grade material on an annual basis for one or two bombs.
So folks, everybody is missing this. This is not a question of what happens in 15 years or 20 years. This is a question of what happens now, tomorrow, if you don’t accept this deal, because Iran will go right back to its enriching. They’ve made that clear because they think they have a right. They are an NPT country. Unlike North Korea, they have not pulled out of the NPT. Unlike North Korea, they haven’t exploded any nuclear device and the supreme leader of Iran has said we’re not going to seek a nuclear weapon.
Now, nothing in this agreement is based on trust – nothing. We’re not naive. We know the history. We know what Iran is doing in the region – Yemen, Iraq Shia militia, Hizballah. But the first order of business, my friends, if you’re going to confront them and push back, is to push back against an Iran that doesn’t have a nuclear weapon. Pretty simple equation.
Now, I know there’s been a lot of railing through the years over their program, and people rant and rave. And we know we’ve seen the prime minister with a cartoon of a bomb at the UN and so on and so forth. But what’s happened? What has anybody done about it? Anybody got a plan to roll it back? Anybody got a plan that’s viable beyond bombing them for one or two days or three days that might slow their program down for two years or three years? To which, as most of you as practical human beings, you know what the response will be.
I mean, we can do it, and we haven’t taken it off the table. Let me make that absolutely clear. This President is the only president who has actually developed something called the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, the MOP, which has been written about publicly. And not only has he asked it to be designed, he’s deployed it. And when I became Secretary of State, when he called me into the Oval Office and I sat with him, I said, “Mr. President, if I’m going to be your Secretary of State, I want to know that if I’m going around and talking to countries in the Middle East and I say you’re prepared to use military action, I don’t want to be a Secretary of State for whom you’ve pulled out the rug.”
I can remember Cyrus Vance and other moments of history. And he looked at me and he said, “John, let me tell you something directly. Iran will not get a nuclear weapon and I will do whatever is necessary, but I believe diplomacy has to be put to the test first.” War should be the last resort, not the first.
Now, we have an agreement that six other countries have joined into, five of whom are our friends and allies, all of whom, with the exception of one, are nuclear countries – China, Russia, Germany, France, and Britain. They have experts just like we do. They understand the threat just like we do. And they have joined in this effort with the belief that we can adequately – more than adequately – track Iran’s program, know what they are doing, and hold them accountable.
Let me just be very precise. When we began these negotiations, folks, Iran had 19,000 centrifuges, 9,000 of which were spinning and working. When we began the negotiations, Iran had 12,000 kilograms of highly enriched uranium at 20 percent, which is enough for 10 to 12 bombs. When we began the negotiation, they were rushing headlong to the finishing of a heavy water plutonium reactor called Arak which would produce enough weapons-grade plutonium for one to two bombs a year.
When we began this negotiation, we had no inspectors in there. The IAEA had been stiffed for years. We weren’t getting answers. We didn’t – we knew through intelligence what they’re doing, but not because we were seeing it. And when we began this negotiation, we had an underground facility at Qom called Fordow which was enriching, and we weren’t able to get into it.
In the interim agreement that we negotiated in Geneva, their program was stopped cold. We rolled back Arak. They stopped any production on Arak. We gained 24-hour/7-day-a-week access to Fordow, Natanz, Arak, and we rolled back their production. Their R&D stopped. Their centrifuges stopped. They reduced the number functioning. And we began to have a regime. For two years now, they have lived by that. Two years now, they have lived by every facet of the interim agreement, and it has stopped and set back their program.
So for Israel, for the region, we started with a two-month breakout time, folks. We’ve now pushed that breakout time up to maybe six months or so, and with this agreement for 10 years the breakout time will be one year or more. One year or more. Let’s ask you a very simple question: Is Israel safer with a one-year breakout time or a two-month breakout time? Frankly, two months is more than we need, but we want the cushion, the safety.
And by the way, breakout time is different in this context than the normal arms control breakout time that we refer to. Breakout time historically – I was part of the Senate when we debated the MX missile and START treaty and all those things. Breakout time in most people’s minds refers to the amount of time it takes to get to the making of a bomb. We view breakout time much more conservatively in our application and seeking of this deal. Breakout time for us is the amount of time it takes to have enough fissile material for one bomb, but you still have to make and design the bomb. That takes a lot longer.
So when we talk about a one-year breakout time, that’s for the fissile material for one bomb. And you tell me the country that if they decide to have a nuclear weapon is going to decide to make only one bomb.
So we would have ample time to be able to respond if we had to, first with more sanctions, second with ultimatums, and third with the possibility of the military option if that’s what it really came down to.
Now, and I’ll finish up very quickly here, the choice we face today is not really a choice between some plan that’s a fantasy – I mean, I’ve heard people say, “Why don’t you just ratchet up the sanctions?” Well, I’ll tell you why. Because China, Russia, and France and Germany and other countries don’t think that’s necessary if these guys are willing to negotiate and have a deal.
People say crush them with sanctions. Well, folks, sanctions hasn’t done anything to stop their program. What it’s done is brought them to the table to negotiate, which is precisely what the sanctions were designed to do. I was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee when we passed those sanctions, and the whole purpose of them was to make them negotiate. Read UN Resolution 1929, which says if Iran comes to the – which created the sanctions following on Resolution 1737, and it says that if Iran comes to the table to negotiate, all the sanctions will be lifted. To negotiate, not to conclude a deal. Well, we concluded a deal, and they argued, “You should be lifting all the sanctions.” And guess what? We haven’t.
So I think there’s a lot of misinterpretation of what this deal is about and what it achieves for us. We, by virtue of this deal, will have a limitation on their stockpile of 300 kilograms, not 12,000. We will have a limitation for 15 years for that and for their enrichment at 3.67 percent. Folks, you cannot make a nuclear weapon with 300 kilograms and 3.67 percent. Physically impossible. We will have 24/7 inspection of all their declared facilities. Natanz, Fordow ceases to do any enrichment. There will be no fissile material there for 15 years. They have to – they’re turning it into a technology center, and they’ll have medical isotope research and other stuff. That’s it.
The only enriching facility in Iran will be Natanz – open and visible. We will have a 20-year restriction on their centrifuge production, with live television cameras watching the rotors and bellows and so forth so we have accountability. And quite extraordinarily, we have 25 years of cradle-to-grave accountability for their uranium – mining, milling, yellowcake production, gasification, centrifuge, and waste. That’s – in itself, our intelligence community tells us it will be physically impossible for them to have an entire covert, separate fuel-production capacity. And without it, folks, you can’t make a bomb.
So you say what do we gain? We gain extraordinary insight and accountability to Iran’s program. We gain very specific access and ability to access. We gain restraints on their program for years, including R&D on advanced centrifuges, et cetera.
Now, you’re all going to say, okay, what happens after that when those 15 years are over and there’s a transition? They become an NPT country. They earn their way back by providing this access and visibility. But we don’t give that up at year 15 because they have to pass and adopt and ratify the Additional Protocol before the end of the sanctions. And if they don’t, it’s a material breach of this agreement. We have the ability to snap back all of the sanctions, and again, what we negotiated is a unique arrangement where one nation alone – say, the United States, if we’re not happy, we can go to the Security Council and we alone can force a vote on the snapping back of those sanctions. And the vote is already structured in the UN resolution that was passed the other day as a reverse vote. The vote will be on whether or not to continue the lifting of the sanctions. So one country alone – the United States – could veto that vote and we don’t lift – we don’t continue the lifting and they all snap back. Unique.
We also have a provision for unique access. The whole reason we are in this fight with Iran is we have never been able to close the process of the IAEA and the IAEA questions have gone unanswered. So I sat there and I said we’re not going to negotiate our way into a continuation of this farce. We have to be able to close the IAEA process. So we have a unique process by which five of us out of eight on the Joint Commission – and the Joint Commission are all the negotiating parties including Iran; we’re the implementers – but five of us, which means France, Germany, Britain and the EU high representative, can vote if they don’t provide us access to demand the access. And if they don’t provide it, they’re in material breach: we have all our options. Go to the UN, re-sanction them, or military option if that’s what people think we have to do.
Now, I’m not here to tell you that we may not have a conflict someday with Iran. I don’t know. I’m not naive. We know all the illicit activities they’re engaged in, and part of the strategy that we have is to push back against those, and we’ve made it very clear to Iran. That’s why we held the Camp David summit with all of the GCC countries. And I am going to Doha in 10 days to meet with the GCC and lay out the next progression of our plan that works on counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, training of their special forces, counter-finance, all the things that Iran’s been doing in the region that we disagree with. We will now have the ability to be able to unify the Gulf world, and we hope Israel, push back against it in ways that it hasn’t been, and hold them accountable.
Now, Rouhani and Zarif have indicated that they want to have a different relationship in the region. You know where Zarif is this weekend? In the United Arab Emirates meeting with the bin Zayeds. He has asked to meet with the Saudis. They want to try to negotiate a different relationship. I don’t know if that will work, folks, but I know it would be diplomatic malpractice not to try.
And what happens is if the United States Congress unilaterally walks away from this arrangement that we have reached, we go right back to square one where we were with no alternative. Iran is enriching, we have no inspections, we have no ability to know what they’re doing, we don’t roll back their program, we’re right back where we were, and we are going to head to conflict. Because when they start to enrich, you can hear every presidential candidate in the country saying, “What are you going to do, Mr. President? They’re enriching.” And you know where that’s going to go.
So folks, I’ve got to tell you if this continues, what I’m witnessing where there’s this fear that is governing the – and emotion that is governing people’s thinking about this program, I fear that what could happen is if Congress were to overturn it, our friends in Israel could actually wind up being more isolated and more blamed, and we would lose Europe and China and Russia with respect to whatever military action we might have to take because we will have turned our backs on a very legitimate program that allows us to put their program to the test over these next years.
I’m not telling you they might not cheat, I’m not telling you they might not try to do something on the side; I don’t know. I do know that Ernie Moniz from MIT, who is our Energy Secretary and a nuclear physicist, tells me and our intelligence community tells me we have the ability to know what they are doing, because under the Additional Protocol, which is a lifetime under the IAEA, they will have to provide access. Under the Additional Protocol, there’s all kinds of transparency.
And if they become an NPT regular order country – there are 189 of them – they will still have to provide a declaration of all of their activities which the IAEA checks. And guess what, since they’re an NPT country and they’re allowed to have only a civil nuclear program, peaceful, every one of their facilities are declared and we have access to them every single day. If they change their enrichment from 5 percent to 20 or 20 and above, every red light is going to go off, and we will know that the day it happens, and we will be able to take action to find out what they’re doing, why, and prevent any further exploitation.
So folks, there’s a lot of misunderstanding about this thing. I believe Israel is safer, I believe the region is safer, I think the world is safer. We have a country that is prepared to say they will not make a nuclear weapon, and I think we ought to put that to the test rather than take steps today that guarantee we give them a reason to go do that. It’s a pretty simple equation, and I’m happy to answer any questions, obviously, on the 24 days, on all the things that people worry about here. But I have to tell you one other thing. I’ll just leave one last thought, and then I’ll open up. (Laughter.)
I’m sorry to do this, but in – on June 12th of 2008, under a cover note that was signed by the P5+1 foreign ministers, including Condoleezza Rice, the Bush Administration made a proposal that they suspend all their enrichment and reprocessing, and in exchange here’s what the Bush Administration would do: recognize Iran’s right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes; treat Iran’s nuclear program in the same manner as that of any non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT once international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s program was restored; three, provide technical and financial assistance for peaceful nuclear energy, including state-of-the-art power reactors, support for R&D and legally binding fuel supply guarantees; improve relations with Iran and support Iran in playing an important and constructive role in international affairs; work with Iran and others in the region on confidence-building measures in regional security; reaffirmation of the obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force; steps towards normalization of trade and economic relations; energy partnerships; support for agricultural development; civilian projects; civil aviation cooperation; assistance in Iran’s economic and social development. All of that was offered in exchange for the suspension and stopping of the reprocessing, and then a negotiation.
Well, guess what happened? Iran said no, we’re not going to stop suspension – we’re not going to stop our program. And the Administration – that was the end of the dialogue and Iran went from 123 centrifuges in 2003, from about 300 at this particular moment, to 19,000. They went to the ability to have 10 to 12 bombs with 12,000 kilograms. In other words, despite sanctions, despite everything that was offered, Iran continued its program because they believed deeply that they had a right to do this as an NPT country, to have a peaceful nuclear program, because they resented the fact the United States had supported Saddam Hussein in Iraq against them in the war, because they resented that when their people were gassed nobody took a resolution to the United Nations or represented them, and they felt they needed to have their own independent program because no one was going to come to their assistance.
And Richard will confirm, I know, the degree to which Iran felt isolated by that and the sort of impact of the choices that were made during that period of time. So we’re trying to make up for that now. We’re where we are. We’re not blaming anybody. It was a good thing to say “don’t enrich;” it was the right place to start for sure. But they proved that the sanctions weren’t going to stop them. You’re not going to sanction them into submission – nobody is. And here’s the problem: We have a deal now which six other nations have joined us in putting together and believe in, and if we unilaterally walk away from it, folks, the sanctions are gone, the inspections are gone, verification gone, Iran starts its program again, and you ask yourself what’s the next step after that. That’s where we are.
MR HAASS: And so let’s drill down a little bit. You’re right in talking about how the program, the capacity has built up. But do you – in one bone of your body, do you seriously believe that Iran is doing all this because it’s interested in peaceful uses of nuclear energy, that they want to generate electricity? Isn’t all of this about putting into place the prerequisites of a military program to produce nuclear weapons?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, if it – they already have that. That’s what I just described to you. They already have that. I mean, the horse is out of the barn on that one. So we’re rolling the program back so we build the confidence about our ability to have insight as to what they’re doing. So the choice is whether or not you are going to build up a system that gives you access and insight or whether you decide that’s not worth it, let’s just go to war now.
I mean, that’s really where you’re at in this fundamentally. Because I mean, do you think the ayatollah is going to come back to the table if Congress refuses this and negotiate again? Do you think that they’re going to sit there and other people in the world are going to say, “Hey, let’s go negotiate with the United States, they have 535 secretaries of state”? (Laughter.) I mean, please. I would be embarrassed to try to go out. I mean, what am I going to say to people after this as Secretary of State? “Come negotiate with us.” “Oh, can you deliver?” Please.
So the choice, Richard, is not – it’s not sort of – we have an ability here to put in place what 189 nations live by and for 15 years. Let me tell you what these guys are willing to do. They’re going to roll back their centrifuges that are currently deployed from 19,000 to 6,000 for five years – 10 years, excuse me. They will restrict any research on advanced centrifuges for those 10 years. There’s a very limited amount, but it’s so limited it doesn’t take you to any practical deployment. They will reduce their stockpile of enriched uranium down to 300 kilograms for 15 years. They’ll limit their enrichment to the 3.67 percent for 15 years.
So you know you can get no bomb possible for at least that period of time, and we respectfully submit to people that it is forever. And the reason is we will have 24/7 visibility on their civil nuclear program, and you can’t break out and start enriching without our knowing it.
That’s the simple reality.
MR HAASS: But as the President himself acknowledged, after 10 or 15 years they are no longer under size constraints on their centrifuge or enrichment programs.
SECRETARY KERRY: That’s correct.
MR HAASS: There’ll be monitoring. So – and that as he said, breakout time, which as you said grows in the initial years of the agreement, then begins to shrink.
SECRETARY KERRY: To build confidence, but then it does shrink. Correct.
MR HAASS: So is it not correct --
SECRETARY KERRY: But it never shrinks – there’s no such thing as zero. The breakout time goes down to always somewhere in the vicinity of a month or two because it just takes that long to enrich. And remember what I said: breakout time is enrichment to enough fissile material for one bomb. We will see them doing that. And it’s still a year or two years before they could, quote, “get a bomb.” So you have a choice here between them starting to go do that immediately, right now, or you go for the 15 years and whatever transformation and changes come within Iran at the moment.
Now, take a look at this. I ask you – I mean, if you talk to our intelligence community, and a lot of your people are having conversations and we’re having people briefed – all of the former secretaries and others being fully briefed by the intel community. But the intel community will share with you, and I will today, the IRGC is wholly against this. IRGC doesn’t like this deal. And the reason the IRGC doesn’t like this deal and has been fighting it every step of the way is because it takes away the umbrella they had hoped to have for their nefarious activities in the region.
That is why we have said strategic operative principle number one here ought to be don’t let them get a nuclear weapon. And we believe that the regimen being put in place, in fact, prevents them from being able to do that for the lifetime of their participation in this agreement.
MR HAASS: Are you betting that over the course of this agreement that Iran does, in fact, change significantly? You used the word “transform.” And if it doesn’t, do you still believe this agreement is warranted?
SECRETARY KERRY: No, I am not betting it. I’m suggesting that over 15 years, things happen in countries. And if you look at Iran today – very educated, used to be very friendly with a lot of nations in the region, including Israel. There’s a long history with Persia. And the reality is that those young people who are 20 percent unemployed want a future. I mean, you go to Tehran today – I haven’t been, but I have friends who’ve been and people who tell me it’s teeming with energy and young people who want to – they all have smartphones and they’re buying cars, and they want to be part of the world.
I don’t know what happens in 15 years, except that I know a lot of things change in countries. And nobody could imagine what would happen with China when Nixon went. Nobody could happen – people objected to Reagan negotiating with the “evil empire.” I mean, if you don’t do these things, folks, you can’t create change, you don’t test possibilities.
What I do know is this: If we turn our backs on this deal, folks, we’re sending one hell of a message to the hardliners in Iran. And they’ll feel good and we will see them – and Rouhani made – who knows what happens in an election. But Rouhani and Zarif, who have staked themselves on the potential of being able to negotiate with the West and being able to arrive at a conclusion, will be in serious trouble in my judgment.
MR HAASS: I’m not going to get to most of my questions because I want to open things up, but let me ask one or two more. We talked about the long term. Are you prepared to work with Congress to potentially produce some language about what would be tolerable, and by definition intolerable or unacceptable, in terms of Iran’s long-term capabilities once the durations of this agreement expire? So in addition to a vote on the legislation, could you imagine some associated legislation, resolution, statements, that the Administration would work with Congress to basically put down some limits about the future?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, look, we’ll work with Congress in every way and any way possible. But I think the President has made it pretty clear that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. He’s prepared to use military force if necessary in order to prevent that. And I will tell you in my conversations with the Iranians, we talked about it pretty directly, and they resent enormously any kind of threat. But I made it crystal clear that we had the capacity, and the President was prepared to use it. It’s not our first choice, which is why we’re there negotiating.
So I think, Richard, we’re prepared to work with Congress in ways that would send the right kind of message. We would not want to send a message that, obviously, is counterproductive to the full implementation of the agreement and to the effective transparency and accountability with respect to it.
Can I just leave everybody a couple other thoughts quickly here? (Laughter.) You need to also think about what the real prospect is in the long term for Shia Persia to have fertile ground in Sunni Arab countries. That’s not a easy mix. The Gulf states currently spend about $130 billion a year on their military. Saudi Arabia spends 80 billion. Iran spends 15 billion. So you got to think about – so what’s going on out there? What’s going on is that a lot of these countries have fancy toys, F-16s and missiles in different – missile defense. But they don’t have enough people on the ground who are prepared to fight, prepared to stand up and take the fight to the bad guys.
And that’s why we’re engaged in this training concept and in this capacity-building concept, because when that gets built up, you have a very different equation in the region. So I think that we have a lot of possibilities here if we pursue them intelligently and don’t just react out of kind of gut fear about Iran, because I think our – the steps we have put in place respond to that fear.
One other thing I want to say: I walked away from this deal three – there’s a perception. People said, “Oh, you guys – you wanted the deal and they knew that,” et cetera. I got news for you: No way. Lausanne, I went to Zarif’s room on one occasion at Lausanne and said, “Look, you told me two days ago we’re going to negotiate this and that and if you haven’t done it, I’m leaving tomorrow.” In London, I called him up because they were trying to walk back on the number of centrifuges and I said, “I’m not coming. I’m not – you decide, but I’m not coming to negotiate.” And most recently in Vienna, I made it crystal clear and I came out publicly on a Sunday night and said, “Look, we may not get there.” And I had a conversation with them saying point blank, “You guys just may not be able to do this. You may not have the authority, may not have the breadth or political space, but it’s a problem.”
So we had a very real clarity about what we needed to get here. The President said we got to cut off the four pathways to a bomb: uranium – Natanz and Fordow; plutonium – Arak; and covert. Covert’s the toughest. But that’s why we negotiated the access and the snapback and the lifetime provisions with respect to the inspections.
MR HAASS: Why were the limits or the bans on conventional arms sales and ballistic missile sales lifted over five and eight years at the same time that other issues that were not nuclear-specific, including American prisoners and hostages, Iranian terrorism, human rights abuses – why, in a sense, did we allow the agreement to be expanded in ways that looked to be helpful to Iran’s agenda but not to ours?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I’m happy to answer that. If you read Resolution 1929, it is a nuclear resolution. It’s about the nuclear program. Susan Rice slipped the arms embargo thing in at the very last minute to the great consternation of Iran who felt that it had nothing to do with the nuclear program and didn’t belong in the resolution. So if you, again, read the paragraphs of the resolution as I cited earlier, it says specifically that if Iran comes to the table to negotiate, then the sanctions would be lifted. This is the argument Iran was making. The Russians and the Chinese supported that. So you had three of the seven nations that believed those things were extraneous to the nuclear provisions and we shouldn’t be renewing them. We had four nations – France, Germany, Britain, the United States – who felt otherwise because of Iran’s activities.
We won. We kept them in for eight years on the missiles under Chapter – under Article 41, Chapter 7 of the United Nations and on the arms for five years. But those aren’t the only tools we have at our disposal, folks, to be able to deal with those issues. That’s what’s important. We have the missile control technology regime. We have the nuclear proliferation structure. We have multiple UN resolutions that prohibit Iran from transferring weapons to Hizballah, to the Shia militia in Iraq, to the Houthi, to Libya, to North Korea – all of which we can enforce.
Now, let me underscore to everybody here: there are probably 70- to 80,000 missiles of one kind or another, rockets in Lebanon pointing at Israel, Tel Aviv. Those were put there before we began negotiating. For years nobody has pressed this issue, the transfer of these weapons, sufficiently. But we have begun to do that.
A few months – a couple of months ago, I guess it was, when you saw a convoy coming down out of Iran heading towards Yemen, I was on the phone in an instant to my counterpart, and made it very, very clear that this could be a major confrontation, that we were not going to tolerate it. And he called me back, indeed, within a short span of time and said, “They will not land, they are not going to unload anything, they are not going to go out of international waters,” and then they went home.
We sent the Roosevelt in, the U.S.S. Roosevelt, to interdict. We have interdicted. We interdicted weapons going from Iran through Sudan that were supposed to go to Hamas. So we are engaged now in a very active effort, and we will step that up even more significantly, in order to prevent these kinds of activities.
But we have the authority, folks. Losing the missile thing in eight years, or losing it – which has nothing to do with the nuclear program – does not stop us from enforcing both tracks. And we will do so.
MR HAASS: Do you think Iran ought to be now included in all sorts of regional diplomacy, say, about Syria, Iraq? And if so, do you come away – you’ve spent more time with the foreign minister than anyone has spent with any senior Iranian for decades. Do you see any reason to believe that we can expect any more flexible or restrained Iranian behavior in places like Syria?
SECRETARY KERRY: I have no way to predict, Richard. Zarif did say to me – first of all, he did not have a portfolio to negotiate those issues, and I tried very hard to raise them on many occasions. But he did not have that portfolio. But both President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif have made it clear that, with the agreement, they are prepared to discuss the regional issues. And I am – I welcome the fact that Foreign Minister Zarif is going to the Emirates and I welcome the fact that he is prepared to talk with the Saudis.
I will be meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov in Doha, and we hope to be following up on thoughts we have shared and are working on about Syria. And we want to bring the Saudis in, we want to bring the Turks in, and ultimately, probably, we have to see what the Iranians are prepared to do. But that is a – to deal with Daesh, to kill off Daesh, ISIL, which we intend to do, we have to change the dynamic of Syria. And that’s part of why we have been negotiating with Turkey in these last weeks and now have some shift in what the Turks are prepared to do, and there is also a shift in some of the things that we’re engaged in.
So my judgement is that there are possibilities there, but I am not going to promise them. I can't tell you where they will go and I am not betting on them. I am hopeful.
MR HAASS: Okay, let’s open it up. My hunch is there will be more than a few questions.
QUESTION: So my question is if you could go through your reasoning on a few key provisions.
For example, if you want Iran to comply with 10 to 15 years of obligations, in terms of its nuclear program, why did we frontload the sanctions relief? And I understand you have the snapback sanctions provision there, but doesn't that provision have some flaws, in the sense that Iran already would have a huge injection of capital and the snapback provision would enable it to terminate the entire agreement, so it’s only going to be used in limited circumstances for a monumental breach?
And then, finally, because we’re integrating Iran back into the international community, did you ever ask them to no longer call for the destruction of Israel?
SECRETARY KERRY: Yes, to the last. And I also told them that their chants of “Death to America” and so forth are neither helpful and they're pretty stupid. (Laughter.) And so we absolutely discussed those things.
And by the way, we constantly talked about the American citizens, and we are continuing, even now, very directly engaged with respect to that. But with respect to the frontload, as you call it, we have – the dynamic of this negotiation was always going to be restraints on Iran’s program, access and accountability and transparency, verification – profoundly important verification going forward. And what brought them to the table was the sanctions; for them, it was always going to be relief from the sanctions.
Now, Rouhani came to office principally on his promises to help deal with the economy. And he is somebody who believes in looking outwards and presenting a different Iran. So does Foreign Minister Zarif, who lived here in New York and was very involved at the United Nations for years, and many of you probably have met him and know him. So they want to see Iran re-emerge economically, and the trade was always our getting what we wanted with respect to nuclear satisfaction, and them getting what they wanted with respect to economic possibilities. Now, we even then were very restrained in what we did. We didn’t – there’s no signing bonus – (laughter) – there’s no sort of gift for saying you’ll do something. You have to do something to get anything. So every single bit of what I described – the 300 kilograms has to be reached; the 3.67 percent; the Arak calandria, which is the core of the Arak reactor, has to be taken out and filled with concrete; they have to dismantle all the centrifuges, two-thirds of them have to be taken out; piping and electrical has to be taken out; vast amount of infrastructure undone; we have to undo the centrifuges and the current activities of Fordow and create this lab, all of this has to be done; PMD has to be resolved -- before they get one ounce of sanctions relief. Now, that could take six months, it could take a year. I don’t know how long. Depends how fast they do all of that. But the IAEA has to certify that all of that has been done and we have received our one-year breakout time before they get a dime.
Now, let’s discuss whether it’s a dime or a dollar. It’s not 115 billion that they get. It’s certainly not the 150 you hear some people throwing around. It’s not even 100. They will get, in real money that they can actually access, somewhere in the vicinity of 50-plus million – billion dollars. That’s what they get. And the reason for that is there’s a whole lot of money within the other piece. Twenty billion is wrapped up in infrastructure and contracts to China, there are massive – tens of billions of dollars wrapped up in non-performing loans. There are a host of reasons why that money doesn’t come. But we’ve done a Treasury vet on that, very, very penetrating with our intel community. And by the way, none of that $50 billion is held in American banks.
So folks, if this deal doesn’t go through and our allies walk away, which they’ve – which they will, as a result – we lose the sanctions and the money will still go to them without the ability to be able to know and see what’s going on in the country. So yeah, they’ll get the 50 billion-plus, which by the way, is their money. We’ve seconded it in the context of the sanctions, frozen it, but it is their money. And if China and Russia start to do business with them because they say well, the hell with the rest of these guys, you guys cut a deal, you’re not living by the deal, so we’re not bound – they’re going to do business.
By the way, the French foreign minister is going in the next couple of days. The French commerce minister has already been there for a few days. The Germans are going in the next few days. There’s going to be a rush to do that.
Now, on the sanctions, you asked about the snapback and so forth, we don’t have to snap back all of the sanctions. If you read the language it says, “in whole or in part.” We can restore them in whole or in part. So it’s not just a heavy club, it’s leverage that gives us great discretion as to what we think we need to do. And the reason we left time in between it is to do diplomacy.
We had a problem on the – brief problem on the enforcement – not enforcement, but the implementation of the interim agreement. And we learned through our intelligence, by the way, without – by the way, we also learned that they had Fordow, with our intelligence. We learned in 2003 with our intelligence that they – and then through environmental swabs that they were, in fact, pursuing some nuclear activities where they shouldn’t have been. So that’s before we had all of the kind of inspections that we’re going to put in now. We’re going to have 150 additional inspectors going in under this who will be working out of an office that will be in Iran. So we’re going to have a massive infusion of info. But we wanted to leave time for diplomacy to work as it did in the interim agreement when I called Zarif and said, “Look, we’ve learned that there’s some gas that’s been put into an IR-5. You’re not allowed to do that.” And within 24 hours, folks, it was stopped and remedied.
So that’s the process that we envision here, is a very high degree of combined intelligence gathering. Israel will be feeding information, other countries, with our own inspectors, with our own national technical means, our intelligence community has great confidence well beyond the 15 into the future we’re going to know what they’re doing. And we will know, by the way, by 15 years, folks, whether they’re serious, whether they’re playing games, what kind of hiccups there were in between, where’s the IRGC there, where’s Hizballah in 15 years, where are we in the whole Middle East. A lot of things can begin to happen.
So you have a choice. You can try to test and get to those things, or you can go to year 15 tomorrow and have your clash now. That’s really what we’re looking at.
QUESTION: How do you assess the likelihood of other states in the region now proceeding to buy a nuclear weapon?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, first of all, you can’t just go out and buy a nuclear weapon. You don’t ship them FedEx – (laughter) – that’s not – that’s just not how it works. I believe --
MR HAASS: What about broadening that – develop it, basically to start going out --
SECRETARY KERRY: I am going to give you a serious answer to that. I am absolutely convinced – totally – that the threat of other countries going for a weapon in the Middle East is greatest if you don’t have the deal than if you do. And the reason for that is very simple. If we don’t have this deal and Iran goes back to enriching, which they’ve said they’re going to do, and there are no inspections and we don’t know what is happening, the pressure that existed several years ago to go bomb them is going to mount and the potential of conflict grows, and if the Arab world is looking at an Iran that doesn’t have inspections, doesn’t have accountability, hasn’t reduced its stockpile, is proceeding headlong to enrich, that’s the incentive for them to go out and feel, “We’ve got to defend ourselves and put something together.” So I would say Egypt and Saudi Arabia and maybe Kuwait and others will quickly follow suit.
But with this deal, they’ve told us if this deal does the things that we have laid out and they’re inspecting it and looking at it – Saudi Arabia just the other day with Ash Carter’s visit came out and said they believe it does, that it accomplishes the goal; the Emirates have told me they think it accomplishes the goal. But as long as they believe it does and we’re serious, number one, about implementing it fully, and number two, about pushing back against the other activities by working with them, they will not go after a weapon.
QUESTION: We’re close, we’re on the track for two big breakthroughs – this Iran deal and also the Trans-Pacific Partnership – and I’m just kind of wondering in terms of the impact it has on the international system, the transformational impact, which would you say is more important and why?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, they’re two very different – I mean, they’re two very, very different things. They’re both very, very important to the Administration. We’re working extremely hard on TPP. TPP is critical to the rebalance to Asia which we’re very focused on. I mean, I’ve made X number of trips to the region and Tony Blinken now is following up and we’re really flooding the zone, so to speak. I’m going to Asia next week, actually, for the ASEAN meetings and so forth. So we’re deeply engaged in leveraging that because it represents 40 percent of global GDP. And if the rules are accepted by the standards that we’re putting into the TPP, we are raising the standards of international business, not racing to the bottom, which is what we fear would happen if others were writing those rules.
So we had a very important meeting with the party leader of Vietnam recently, who came to Washington, where Mike Froman, Ambassador Froman’s over there and we’re negotiating out with the last countries and we’re very hopeful. July is a big month for that negotiation. But that is economic power and economic protection, and vital to America’s capacity to do all the other things we do.
But the nuclear deal with Iran is straight security, literally day-to-day security and the structure of the potential of future relationships within the Middle East, which everybody knows has been on fire. Many of us believe that – and I’m not betting on it, I want to make that clear. I’m not saying this will be a consequence. But I know that a Middle East that is on fire is going to be more manageable with this deal and opens more potential for us to be able to try to deal with those fires, whether it’s Houthi in Yemen or ISIL in Syria and Iraq, than no deal and the potential of another confrontation with Iran at the same time. And the possibilities of Sunni-Shia explosion that were to come out of that other confrontation nobody should underestimate.
So that’s again why the potential of this agreement is so important in geostrategic terms.
MR HAASS: If you don’t get the congressional vote, does it have an effect on your ability to act outside the Middle East?
SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, absolutely. Of course it does. I mean, it’s a repudiation of President Obama’s initiative and a statement that when the executive department negotiates, it doesn’t mean anything anymore because we have 535 secretaries of state. (Laughter.) That’s why.
MR HAASS: I apologize. I know the Secretary has got a busy day of meetings. We got to a lot of it but not to all of it. The debate will continue over the next several months, but thank you, sir, for coming here.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. (Applause.)
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Photo credit: Kerry and Haass by US Dept of State via Flickr Commons [US Government work]

Kerry, Moniz Testify on Iran Deal

Secretary of State John Kerry defended the nuclear deal in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on July 23 and a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on July 28. Bob Corker (R-TN), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, accused Kerry of being “fleeced." But Kerry insisted in both hearings that it was “fantasy, pure and simple” that negotiators could have reached a better agreement. He called the deal “the best chance we have to solve this problem through peaceful means.” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew also testified at the hearings in support of the agreement.

Congress is in the midst of a 60-day period to review the deal, which will end on September 18. If lawmakers disapprove, they can pass a resolution to block the deal from being implemented. President Obama, however, has said he will veto any efforts to block the deal. Congress would then need a two-thirds majority to override the veto.
The following are excerpted testimonies and opening remarks from the two hearings.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN)
“Nine months after this agreement goes into effect, we realize that after Monday's U.N. adoption, unless Congress intervenes, in 90 days, this will be implemented, and then six months after that, in a total of nine months from now, all the sanctions that exist against Iran will be lifted. Incredible.
“Now, there'll be a few remaining sanctions, but the big ones that matter will be lifted. So they'll have access to billions and billions of dollars. Their economy will be growing. They'll be shipping all around the world. It's an amazing thing.
“And so what happens -- I think all of us figured this out as we went through the deal -- right now, we have some leverage, but nine months from now, the leverage shifts to them, because we have a sanction snap-back. What they have, if we ever tried to apply that, is what's called a nuclear snap-back.
“The way the deal is structured, they can immediately just begin. They can say, "Well, if you add sanctions, we're out of the deal." They can immediately snap back. So the leverage shifts to them.”
“What I think you've actually done in these negotiations is codify a perfectly aligned pathway for Iran to get a nuclear weapon just by abiding by this agreement. I look at the things that they need to do, the way it's laid out, and I don't think you could more perfectly lay it out.
“From my perspective, Mr. Secretary, I'm sorry. Not unlike a hotel guest that leaves only with a hotel bathrobe on his back, I believe you've been fleeced.
“In the process of being fleeced, what you've really done here is you have turned Iran from being a pariah to now Congress, Congress being a pariah.
“A few weeks ago, you were saying that no deal is better than a bad deal. And I know that there's no way that you could have possibly been thinking about war a few weeks ago, no way.
“And yet, what you say to us now and said it over and over yesterday and I've seen you say it over and over in television that if somehow Congress were to turn this down, if Congress were to turn this down, the only option is war; whereas a few weeks ago, for you, for you to turn it down, the only option is war. I don't think you can have it both ways.
“Let me just say this. If Congress were to say these sanctions cannot be lifted, it wouldn't be any different than the snapback that we now have where, in essence, the United States, on its own, the United States, on its own, can implement snapback. But my guess is, the other countries, as you've stated before, wouldn't come along. So, we've got to decide which way that it is.
“So I'd have to say that, based on my reading -- and I believe that you have crossed a new threshold in U.S. foreign policy -- where now it is a policy of the United States to enable a state sponsor of terror to obtain sophisticated, industrial nuclear development program that has, as we know, only one real practical need.”
—July 23, 2015, in his opening remarks to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing
Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-MD)
“The Iranian Nuclear Agreement Review Act…passed earlier this year, was an effort by the members of Congress to set up the appropriate review for a potential deal with Iran.”
“First, of course, we set up the appropriate review for Congress. It allows us to take action -- or we don't have to take action. It recognizes the fact that the sanction regime was passed by Congress and that we have a role to play in regards to implementing any agreement, as we now see in the JCPOA, that Congress has a role to play.”
“We need to know the breakout times, we need to know what happens after the time periods. Do we have sufficient opportunity to prevent Iran from ever becoming a nuclear weapon state? The commitment they make under this agreement. Are the inspections robust enough to deter Iran from cheating? And if they do, will we discover and be able to take action?”
“I think all of us recognized there was going to be a protocol for inspection, that doesn't get up by surprise. But we need to know whether the 24-hour delay knowing what Iran is likely to do, does that compromise our ability to have effective inspections? And I hope our witnesses will deal with that today because that is a matter of major concern. We need to know the answer to that.
“Have we cut off all pathways for Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon? particularly the covert military operations? We know that's a major concern. That's why the PMD is particularly important, the chairman mentioned the PMD, and the work that the IAEA are inspectors, international inspectors. They have great credibility in this area, but we will want to know whether they have the capacity to do what we're asking them to do.
“Will they have the access that we need? Because we do need to know about their prior military dimension in order to be able to go forward to make sure that we can contain any opportunity they may use for covert activities, will we discover it and be able to take action? these are questions that we -- we're going to ask. We've read the agreement and still have questions, and we still have questions, and we hope we'll get answers as to whether we have effectively prevented Iran from using covert activities to develop a nuclear weapon.
“Will this agreement provide us, IAEA with sufficient access to the people, places and documents, so that we know their prior military dimension? Are the snapback provisions for reimposing sanctions adequate if Iran violates this agreement? That's an issue that I hope we will have a chance to talk about.”
“These are questions we need to have answers to before we can make our judgments. Now, there are other areas. I wanted to be reassured that the United States still has the flexibility to impose non-nuclear sanctions on Iran for the support of terrorism, human rights abuses, and against a ballistic missile program. No one expects Iran's bad behavior to change on implementation date -- we know who we're dealing with.”
—July 23, 2015, in his opening remarks to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing

House Foreign Affairs Committee

Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA)
“The global threat from Iran has been a focus of this Committee for as long as I can remember. Last Congress, we passed comprehensive sanctions legislation by a vote of 400-20. It would have given Iran’s Supreme Leader a choice between its nuclear program or economic collapse. But the Administration was successful in blocking that legislation.
“So instead of us considering a verifiable, enforceable, and accountable agreement, we are being asked to consider an agreement that gives Iran permanent sanctions relief for temporary nuclear restrictions. Should Iran be given this special deal?
“In September, Committee Members will face the important decision of approving or disapproving this agreement. We will have that vote only because of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, passed in May, which the Administration didn’t want. To be frank, the Administration’s preference has been to sideline America’s representatives. So I was not entirely surprised when the Administration went against bipartisan calls and gave Russia and China and others at the U.N. Security Council a vote on this agreement before the American public. That’s backwards – and wrong.”
“If this agreement goes through, Iran gets a cash bonanza, a boost to its international standing, and a lighted path toward nuclear weapons. With sweeping sanctions relief, we have lessened our ability to challenge Iran’s conduct across the board. As Iran grows stronger, we will be weaker to respond.
“Yes, the U.S. would roil the diplomatic waters if Congress rejects this deal. But the U.S. still wields the most powerful economic sanctions in the world – sanctions Iran desperately needs relief from – sanctions that would continue to deter countries and companies from investing in Iran. I understand the effort the Administration has put into this agreement. But these are about as high stakes as it gets. So the Committee must ask if we made the most of our pretty strong hand. Or, are we willing to bet, as the Administration has, that this is the beginning of a changed Iran?”
—July 28, 2015, in his opening remarks to the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing
Secretary of State John Kerry
“Now, the Chairman mentioned in his opening comments some phrase about unless we give Iran what they want. Folks, they already have what they want. They got it 10 years ago or more. They already have conquered the fuel cycle. When we began our negotiations, Iran had enough fissile material for 10 to 12 bombs. They had 19,000 centrifuges up from the 163 that they had back in 2003 when the prior administration was engaged with them on this very topic.
“So this isn't a question of giving them what they want. I mean it's a question of how do you hold their program back, how do you dismantle their weapons program, not their whole program. Let's understand what was really on the table here. We set out to dismantle their ability to be able to build a nuclear weapon, and we've achieved that.”
“Now, if Iran fails to comply, we will know it, and we will know it quickly, and we will be able to respond accordingly by reinstituting sanctions all the way up to the most draconian options that we have today. None of them are off the table at any point in time. So, many of the measures that are in this agreement are there for – not just for 10 years, not just for 15 years, not just for 20 years, not just for 25 years, of which there are measures for each of those periods of time, but they are for life, forever, as long as Iran is within the NPT. By the way, North Korea pulled out of the NPT; Iran has not pulled of the NPT.”
“Let me underscore. The alternative to the deal that we have reached is not what I have seen some ads on TV suggesting, disingenuously. It isn't a "better deal," some sort of unicorn arrangement involving Iran's complete capitulation. That is a fantasy, plain and simple. And our own intelligence community will tell you that. Every single department of our intelligence community will reinforce that to you. The choice we face is between an agreement that will ensure Iran's nuclear program is limited, rigorously scrutinized, and wholly peaceful, or no deal at all. That's the choice.”
“Now, if the U.S. Congress moves to unilaterally reject what was agreed to in Vienna, the result will be the United States of America walking away from every one of the restrictions that we have achieved, and a great big green light for Iran to double the pace of its uranium enrichment, proceed full speed ahead with a heavy water reactor, install new and more efficient centrifuges, and do it all without the unprecedented inspection and transparency measures that we have secured. Everything that we have prevented will then start taking place, and all the voluntary rollbacks of their program will be undone.
“Moreover, if the U.S., after laboriously negotiating this multilateral agreement with five other partners, were to walk away from those partners, we're on our own. Our partners will not walk away with us. Instead, they will walk away from the tough multilateral sanctions regime that they have helped to put in place. And we will have squandered the best chance we have to solve this problem through peaceful means.”
“Remember, sanctions did not stop Iran's nuclear program from growing steadily to the point that it had accumulated enough fissile material to produce those 10 nuclear weapons...The truth is that the Vienna Plan will provide a stronger, more comprehensive, more lasting means of limiting Iran's nuclear program than any alternative that has been spoken of. And to those who are thinking about opposing the deal because of what might happen in year 15 or 16 or 20, remember: If we walk away, year 15 or 16 or 20 starts tomorrow, and without any of the long-term verification or transparency safeguards that we have put in place.”
“Now, over the past week, I have spoken at length about what exactly this deal is. I also want to make clear what this deal was never intended to be.
“First of all, as the chief negotiator, I can tell you I never uttered the words 'Anywhere, anytime,' nor was it ever part of the discussion that we had with the Iranians. This plan was designed to address the nuclear issue, the nuclear issue alone, because we knew that if we got caught up with all the other issues, we'd never get where we needed to stop the nuclear program. It would be rope-a-dope, staying there forever, negotiating one aspect or another.”
“And the highest priority of President Obama was to make sure that Iran couldn't get a nuclear weapon, so we were disciplined in that. We didn't set out…about how we're going to push back against Iran's other activities, against terrorism, its support, its contributions to sectarian violence in the Middle East and other things. All of those are unacceptable. They are as unacceptable to us as they are to you. But I got news for you. Pushing back against an Iran with a nuclear weapon is very different from pushing back against an Iran without one. And we are guaranteeing they won't have one.”
“I would suggest respectfully that we are going to continue to press Iran for information about the missing American, about the immediate release of Americans who have been unjustly held. And there isn't a challenge in the entire region that we won't push back against if Iran is involved in it. But I will tell you, it wouldn't – none of those challenges will be enhanced if Iran gets a nuclear weapon.
“So, the outcome cannot be guaranteed by sanctions alone...it also can't be guaranteed by military action alone. Our own military tells us that. The only viable option here is a comprehensive, diplomatic resolution of the type that was reached in Vienna. And that deal we believe – and we believe we will show it to you today and in the days ahead – will make our country and our allies safer...We believe this is a good deal for the world, a good deal for America, a good deal for our allies and friends in the region, and we think it does deserve your support.”

Click here for the full testimony, delivered at both hearings
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz
“This deal clearly meets the President’s objectives: verification of an Iranian nuclear program that is exclusively peaceful and sufficient lead time to respond if it proves otherwise. The JCPOA will extend for at least ten years the time it would take for Iran to produce enough fissile material for a first nuclear explosive device to at least one year from the current breakout time of just two to three months.”
“Iran will reduce its stockpile of up-to-5 percent enriched uranium hexafluoride, which is equivalent now to almost 12,000 kg, by nearly 98 percent to only 300 kilograms of low (3.67 percent) enriched uranium hexafluoride, and will not exceed this level for fifteen years. In particular, Iran will be required to get rid of its 20 percent enriched uranium that is not fabricated into fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor. This is important because excess 20 percent enriched uranium could be converted into feed for centrifuges, which would be about 90 percent of the way to bomb material.
“Iran’s installed centrifuges will be reduced by two thirds, leaving it with just over 5,000 operating centrifuges at Natanz – its only enrichment facility – under continuous IAEA monitoring. For the next 10 years, only the oldest and least capable centrifuges, the IR-1, will be allowed to operate.
“Iran has an established R&D program for a number of advanced centrifuges (IR-2, IR-5, IR-6, IR-8). This pace of the program will be slowed substantially and will be carried out only at Natanz for 15 years, under close International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitoring. Iran will not pursue other approaches to uranium enrichment.
“The underground uranium enrichment facility at Fordow will be converted to a nuclear, physics, and technology center where specific projects such as stable isotope production are undertaken. There will be no uranium enrichment, no uranium enrichment research and development, and no nuclear material at the site at all for 15 years. In cooperation with Russia, Iran will pursue a limited program for production of stable isotopes, such as those used for medical applications. And the IAEA will have a right to daily access at Fordow as well.
“All of these reasons taken together establish the one year breakout timeline for accumulating high enriched uranium.
“In addition, Iran will have no source of weapons-grade plutonium. The Arak reactor, which according to its original design could have been a source of plutonium for a nuclear weapon, will be transformed to produce far less plutonium overall and no weapons-grade plutonium when operated normally. All spent fuel from the reactor that could be reprocessed to recover plutonium will be sent out of the country, and all of this will be under a rigorous IAEA inspection regime.
“This deal goes beyond the parameters established in Lausanne in a very important area. Under this deal, Iran will not engage in several activities that could 3 contribute to the development of a nuclear explosive device, including multiple point explosive systems. These commitments are indefinite. In addition, Iran will not pursue plutonium or uranium (or its alloys) metallurgy for fifteen years. Because Iran will not engage in activities needed to use weapons grade material for an explosive device, an additional period can be added to the breakout timeline.
“To be clear, this deal is not built on trust. It is built on hard-nosed requirements that will limit Iran’s activities and ensure inspections, transparency, and verification. To preclude cheating, international inspectors will be given unprecedented access to all of Iran’s declared nuclear facilities and any other sites of concern, as well as the entire nuclear supply chain, from uranium supply to centrifuge manufacturing and operation. And this access to the uranium supply chain comes with a 25 year commitment.
“The IAEA will be permitted to use advanced technologies, such as enrichment monitoring devices and electronic seals. DOE national laboratories have developed many such technologies.
“If the international community suspects that Iran is trying to cheat, the IAEA can request access to any suspicious location. Much has been made about a 24 day process for ensuring that IAEA inspectors can get access to undeclared nuclear sites.
“In fact, the IAEA can request access to any suspicious location with 24 hours’ notice under the Additional Protocol, which Iran will implement under this deal. This deal does not change that baseline. The JCPOA goes beyond that baseline, recognizing that disputes could arise regarding IAEA access to sensitive facilities, and provides a crucial new tool for resolving such disputes within a short period of time so that the IAEA gets the access it needs in a timely fashion — within 24 days. Most important, environmental sampling can detect microscopic traces of nuclear materials even after attempts are made to remove the nuclear material. In fact, Iran’s history provides a good example. In February 2003, the IAEA requested access to a suspicious facility in Tehran suspected of undeclared nuclear activities. Negotiations over access to the site dragged on for six months, but even after that long delay, environmental samples taken by the IAEA revealed nuclear activity even though Iran had made a substantial effort to remove and cover up the evidence. This deal dramatically shortens the period over which Iran could drag out an access dispute.”
“This deal is based on science and analysis. Because of its deep grounding in exhaustive technical analysis, carried out largely by highly capable DOE scientists and engineers, I am confident that this is a good deal for America, for our allies, and for our global security.
Click here for the full testimony, delivered at both hearings
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew
“Iran would not have come to the negotiating table were it not for the powerful array of U.S. and international sanctions. These sanctions made tangible for Iran’s leaders the costs of flouting international law, cutting them off from world markets and crippling their economy.”
“To see the impact of these sanctions, consider that Iran’s economy today is around 20 percent smaller than it would have been had Iran remained on its pre-2012 growth trajectory. This means that even if Iran returns to that pre-2012 growth rate, it would take until 2020 for Iran’s GDP to reach the level it would have been last year absent sanctions.
“Our sanctions have cost Iran more than $160 billion since 2012 in oil revenue alone. Iran’s oil exports were cut by 60 percent, and have been held at those reduced levels for the past two years. And Iran’s designated banks, as well as its Central Bank, were cut off from the world. Since 2012, Iran’s currency, the rial, has declined by more than 50 percent. Its inflation rate reached as high as 40 percent, and remains one of the highest in the world.
“We have maintained this pressure throughout the last eighteen months of negotiations. During the negotiation period alone, our oil sanctions deprived Iran of $70 billion in oil revenue. And Iran’s total trade with the rest of the world remained virtually flat.
“The international consensus and cooperation to achieve this sanctions pressure was vital. While views on Iran’s sponsorship of groups like Hizballah and its interventions in places like Yemen and Syria differ markedly around the world, the world’s major powers have been — and remain — united that Iran cannot be allowed to pursue a nuclear weapons capability.”
“To be clear, about 90 days from now when the JCPOA goes into effect, there will be no immediate changes to UN, EU or U.S. sanctions. Iran will not receive any new relief until it fulfills all of the key nuclear-related commitments specified in the deal, thereby pushing back its breakout time to at least one year. Until Iran does so, we will simply extend the limited JPOA relief that has been in place for the last year and a half.
“Should Iran fulfill all of the necessary conditions, we will have reached what it is known as “Implementation Day,” and phased relief will begin. At that time, the United States will suspend nuclear-related secondary sanctions. These are the sanctions that primarily target third-country parties conducting business with Iran — including in the oil, banking, and shipping sectors. Relief from these restrictions will be significant, to be sure. But a number of key sanctions will remain in place. Our primary trade embargo will continue to prohibit U.S. persons from investing in Iran, importing or exporting most goods and services, or otherwise dealing with most Iranian persons and companies. For example, Iranian banks will not be able to clear U.S. dollars through New York, hold correspondent account relationships with U.S. financial institutions, or enter into financing arrangements with U.S. banks. Iran, in other words, will continue to be denied access to the world’s largest financial and commercial market.
“The JCPOA makes only minor allowances to this broad prohibition. These include allowing for the import of foodstuffs and carpets from Iran; the export on a case-by-case basis of commercial passenger aircraft and parts to Iran — which has one of the world’s worst aviation safety records — for civilian uses only; and the licensing of U.S.-owned or controlled foreign entities to engage in activities with Iran consistent with the JCPOA and U.S. laws.
“The United States will also maintain powerful sanctions targeting Iran’s support for terrorist groups such as Hizballah and its sponsors in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps–Quds Force; its destabilizing support to the Houthis in Yemen; its backing of Assad’s brutal regime; its missile program; and its human rights abuses at home."
“I also want to emphasize that secondary sanctions imposed by Congress will continue to attach to these designations, providing additional deterrence internationally. For example, a foreign bank that conducts or facilitates a significant financial transaction with Iran’s Mahan Air or Bank Saderat will risk losing its access to the U.S. financial system. These sanctions will continue to be in place and enforced; they are not covered by the JCPOA.”
“Should Iran violate its commitments once we have suspended sanctions, we have the mechanisms ready to snap them back into place. For U.S. sanctions, this can be done in a matter of days. Multilateral sanctions at the UN also can be re-imposed quickly, through a mechanism that does not allow any one country or any group of countries to prevent the reinstitution of the current UN Security Council sanctions if Iran violates the deal. So, even as Iran attempts to reintegrate into the global economy, it will remain subject to sanctions leverage.”
“No one wants to see the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism receive any respite from sanctions. But it is Iran’s relationships with terrorist groups that make it so essential for us to deprive it of any possibility of obtaining a nuclear weapon. The combination of those two threats would raise the specter of what national security experts have termed the ultimate nightmare. If we cannot solve both concerns at once, we need to address them in turn...walking away from this deal and seeking to extend sanctions would leave the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism with a short and decreasing nuclear breakout time.”
“In any event, we will aggressively target any attempts by Iran to use funds gained from sanctions relief to support militant proxies, including by continuing to enhance our cooperation with Israel and our partners in the Gulf.”
“The JCPOA is a strong deal — with phased relief in exchange for Iranian compliance and a powerful snap-back built in. Backing away from this deal, on the notion that it would be feasible and preferable to escalate the economic pressure and somehow obtain a capitulation — whether on the nuclear, regional, terrorism, or human rights fronts — would be a mistake. Even if one believed that continuing sanctions pressure was a better course than resolving the threat of Iran’s nuclear program, that choice is not available...The terms of this deal achieve the purpose they were meant to achieve: blocking Iran’s paths to a nuclear bomb. That is an overriding national security priority, and its achievement should not be put at risk — not when the prospect of an unconstrained Iranian nuclear program presents such a threat to America and the world.”
Click here for the full testimony, delivered at both hearings

Photo credit: Kerry/Lew/Moniz and Kerry testifying by US Department of State, via Flickr Commons [US Government work]


White House Opens Iran Deal Twitter Account

After Iran and the world's six major powers reached a final nuclear deal on July 14, the White House launched a Twitter account, @TheIranDeal, dedicated to promoting and disseminating information on the agreement. The following are a sample of tweets from the account.


Iran Tries to Sell Nuclear Deal

Iranian officials involved in the nuclear negotiations are trying to sell the final deal at home, particularly to lawmakers. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif framed the agreement as a win for Iran during his remarks to parliament on July 21. “For 12 years, great powers have tried to prevent an Iranian nuclear program. But today they should tolerate thousands of centrifuges spinning, plus the continuation of research and development,” Zarif said. “This shows our power.”

Iran’s parliament has the constitutional right to review and vote on the deal, but Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say on nuclear issues. The Iranian parliament formed a committee to study the final nuclear deal and will wait 80 days before voting on the agreement. Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress has 60 days to review the deal.
The following are excerpted remarks from Iranian officials on the deal.
President Hassan Rouhani
“Even in a football game, when we say we won the game it means we scored three goals and received two. But some folks may come and say that we could have used other opportunities to score more goals. We have to take our opponent in consideration, it is easy to sit and watch the game and demand more."
U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 “is an unprecedented event in the history of the Islamic republic of Iran. Iran's goal was to attain its legal right to enrich uranium and today, the UNSC has explicitly accepted this."
"We were in a [football] field where our diplomats were on one side, and on the other, the six world powers were present. In this competition, the referee favored the other side; we won this competition."
—July 22, 2015, in a cabinet meeting
"The other side claims that based on the agreement, Iran will not be able to acquire the atomic bomb in less than one year, which is a ridiculous claim because the Iranian nation has never been after the Weapons of Destruction (WMDs) and believes that such a quest is against the codes of ethics, religious jurisprudence and the fatwa (religious decree) of Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution (Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei).”
"They have accepted ... that the sanctions have had no impacts on the Islamic Republic of Iran, and that they should give them up. All bodies who had approved Resolutions against Iran, have today annulled them, and this deserves paramount importance."
—July 22, 2015, in a cabinet meeting
“This is a new page in history. It didn’t happen when we reached the deal in Vienna on July 14; it happened on the fourth of August 2013, when the Iranians elected me as their president.”
“How can one be an Iranian and not cheer our negotiating team?”
—July 23, 2015, on state television
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
"Using ballistic missiles doesn’t violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA); it is a violation of a paragraph in the annex of the (UN Security Council) Resolution (2231) which is non-binding.”
"This paragraph (of the annex) speaks about missiles with nuclear warheads capability and since we don’t design any of our missiles for carrying nuclear weapons, therefore, this paragraph is not related to us at all.”
"If for any reason, Security Council sanctions are re-imposed, Iran will not be obliged to abide by its commitments."
“It was proved that the Islamic Republic of Iran will continue resistance for many years and negotiations for two years, under hard conditions of sanctions and pressures.”
“Anger of enemies of the Islamic Republic of Iran and on top of which Zionist regime showed the strengthened might of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the region and the world. The hated Zionist regime has never been so isolated among its allies.”
Iran achieved its goals of “maintaining Iran’s dignity and might, establishing the nuclear program [of the country], enrichment and retaining the heavy-water reactor.”
“Ensuring this obvious issue (that Iran doesn’t build nuclear bombs) is no special privilege, since, based on religious and human principles and the fatwa by Leader of the Islamic Revolution [Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei], Iran has never been and never is after nuclear weapons.”
“We have never claimed and do not claim that the JCPOA is completely to the benefit of Iran; I emphasize that negotiating is basically giving [something] and taking [something in return], and unless a significant level of the two sides’ demands are met, no agreement is reached.”
“In order to meet our demands, we have had certain flexibility concerning restrictions and monitoring; this flexibility has been goal-oriented and well-calculated.”
"According to the plans, Iran is scheduled to move towards more advanced nuclear industry and commercial (uranium) enrichment.”
“For 12 years, great powers have tried to prevent an Iranian nuclear program. But today they should tolerate thousands of centrifuges spinning, plus the continuation of research and development. This shows our power.”
—July 21, 2015, in remarks to parliament
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi
"We have told them (the Group 5+1 - the US, Russia, China, Britain and France plus Germany) in the negotiations that we will supply arms to anyone and anywhere necessary and will import weapons from anywhere we want and we have clarified this during the negotiations.”
"We will take any necessary action to maintain and expand our defensive capabilities, safeguard our independence and sovereignty and help our regional allies to fight against terrorism."
"We are not ready to even negotiate on our security and defensive issues, let alone compromising them.”
—July 21, 2015, in remarks on state television
"The Security Council which once assumed Iran as a threat to the global peace and security based on the past resolutions, does no more consider Iran's nuclear program as a threat under the new Resolution and even recognizes Iran's enrichment and annuls the sanctions.”
"And in addition to endorsing Iran's enrichment, the Security Council also urges other countries to help Iran.”
—July 22, 2015, according to the press
Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi
"We are the only country among the 130 to 140 developing states that can export two of our strategic products to the international markets; enriched uranium and heavy water."
“Enrichment in Natanz will be maintained and the Arak reactor will remain a heavy water facility in nature."
"With the construction of the Arak modern reactor, we will not need any new reactor, and this achievement is one of the major successes… we could achieve in Vienna.”
—July 21, 2015, in remarks to parliament
Translations via Tasnim News, IRIB

Photo credits: Araghchi via Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs mfa.ir, Salehi via Flickr Commons (cropped)


UN Security Council Endorses Iran Deal

On July 20, the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2231, endorsing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which will take effect 90 days after the council's endorsement. The resolution will expire ten years after adoption, and the council will “remove the Iranian nuclear issue from its agenda.” The council affirmed that it would terminate sanctions on Iran upon receiving a positive report from the International Atomic Energy Agency. The resolution also clarified the process of re-imposing U.N. sanctions if Iran does not comply with the agreement.

The following are excerpted remarks from officials on the adoption of Resolution 2231.
United States
Permanent Representative to the United Nations Samantha Power
“It is important today to step back from the JCPOA to its larger lessons – lessons about enforcing global norms, the essential role of diplomacy, the need for ongoing vigilance, and the absolute necessity of the unity of this Council – lessons that have implications both for ensuring implementation of the deal and for tackling other crises that confront us today.”
“There were many occasions over these last two years of grueling negotiations when any party could have walked away. The distances just seemed too great; the history between us searing; and the resulting mistrust defining. But the United States and our partners knew that we had a responsibility to try to overcome these obstacles and resolve the crisis peacefully. One only has to spend a week in the Security Council, any week, and hear accounts of the bloodshed and heartbreak in Yemen, Syria, South Sudan, Darfur, Mali, Libya or any other conflict-ridden part of the world – to be reminded of the consequences of war. Sometimes, as both the UN Charter and history make clear, the use of force is required, but we all have a responsibility to work aggressively in diplomatic channels to try to secure our objectives peacefully.
“This nuclear deal doesn’t change our profound concern about human rights violations committed by the Iranian government, or about the instability Iran fuels beyond its nuclear program – from its support for terrorist proxies, to its repeated threats against Israel, to its other destabilizing activities in the region. That is why the United States will continue to invest in the security of our allies in the region and why we will maintain our own sanctions related to Iran’s support for terrorism, its ballistic missiles program and its human rights violations.
“And this deal will in no way diminish the United States’ outrage over the unjust detention of U.S. citizens by the Government of Iran. Let me use this occasion to call once again on Iran to immediately release all unjustly detained Americans.”
“But denying Iran a nuclear weapon is important not in spite of these other destabilizing actions, but rather because of them…while this deal does not address many of our profound concerns, if implemented, it would make the world safer and more secure.”
“Ultimately, the only proper measure of this deal – and all of the tireless efforts that went into it – will be its implementation. This deal gives Iran an opportunity to prove to the world that it intends to pursue a nuclear program solely for peaceful purposes. If Iran seizes that opportunity; if it abides by the commitments that it agreed to in this deal, as it did throughout the period of the JCPOA negotiations; if it builds upon the mutual respect and diligence that its negotiators demonstrated in Lausanne and Vienna; and if it demonstrates a willingness to respect the international standards upon which our collective security rests; then it will find the international community and the United States willing to provide a path out of isolation and toward greater engagement.
“We hope Iran’s government will choose that path – not only because it will make the United States, its allies, and the world more secure, though it will. But also because it will more fully empower the Iranian people, whose potential all of us should wish to see unlocked.”
—July 20, 2015, in a statement

Foreign Ministry
“The Islamic Republic of Iran declares that it has always been the policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran to prohibit the acquisition, production, stockpiling or use of nuclear weapons.”
“The Islamic Republic of Iran is determined to engage actively in all international diplomatic and legal efforts to save humanity from the menace of nuclear weapons and their proliferation, including through the establishment of Nuclear Weapons Free Zones, particularly in the Middle East.”
“The finalization of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on 14 July 2015 signifies a momentous step by the Islamic Republic of Iran and E3/EU+3 to resolve, through negotiations and based on mutual respect, an unnecessary crisis, which had been manufactured by baseless allegations about Iranian peaceful nuclear program, followed by unjustified politically-motivated measures against the people of Iran.”
“It is clearly spelled out in the JCPOA that both EU and the U.S. will refrain from re-introducing or re-imposing the sanctions and restrictive measures lifted under the JCPOA. It is understood that reintroduction or re-imposition, including through extension, of the sanctions and restrictive measures will constitute significant non-performance which would relieve Iran from its commitments in part or in whole.”
“The Islamic Republic of Iran will pursue its peaceful nuclear program, including its enrichment and enrichment R&D, consistent with its own plan as agreed in the JCPOA.”
“The Islamic Republic of Iran has always fulfilled its international non-proliferation obligations scrupulously and will meticulously declare all its relevant activities under the Additional Protocol. In this context, since no nuclear activity is or will ever be carried out in any military facility, the Islamic Republic of Iran is confident that such facilities will not be the subject of inspection requests.”
“Iran is committed to fully implement its voluntary commitments in good faith. In order to ensure continued compliance by all JCPOA participants, the Islamic Republic of Iran underlines that in case the mechanism is applied against Iran or its entities and sanctions, particularly Security Council measures, are restored, the Islamic Republic of Iran will treat this as grounds to cease performing its commitments under the JCPOA, and to reconsider its cooperation with the IAEA.”
“The Islamic Republic of Iran will continue to take necessary measures to strengthen its defense capabilities in order to protect its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity against any aggression and to counter the menace of terrorism in the region. In this context, Iranian military capabilities, including ballistic missiles, are exclusively for legitimate defense. They have not been designed for WMD capability, and are thus outside the purview or competence of the Security Council resolution and its annexes.”
“The Islamic Republic of Iran expects to see meaningful realization of the fundamental shift in the Security Council’s approach envisaged in the preamble of SCR 2231. The Council has an abysmal track record in dealing with Iran, starting with its acquiescing silence in the face of a war of aggression by Saddam Hussain against Iran in 1980, its refusal from 1984 to 1988 to condemn, let alone act against, massive, systematic and wide-spread use of chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers and civilians by Saddam Hussain, and the continued material and intelligence support for Saddam Hussain’s chemical warfare by several of its members.”
“The Islamic Republic of Iran is confident that the good-faith implementation of the JCPOA by all its participants will help restore the confidence of Iranian people who have been unduly subjected to illegal pressure and coercion under the pretext of this manufactured crisis, and will open new possibilities for cooperation in dealing with real global challenges and actual threats to regional security.”
—July 20, 2015, in a statement
Ambassador to the United Nations Gholamali Khoshroo
"Resolution 2231 that the Council just adopted represents a significant development and marks a fundamental shift in the consideration of Iran's peaceful nuclear program by the Council in the past 10 years. The JCPOA is the result of a series of extensive and collective efforts that sought, for close to two years, to give diplomacy a chance and end the resort to pressure, coercion and threat. This fundamentally different approach, which was a departure from the path travelled during the preceding years, helped all of us opt for the best possible way out, put an end to an unnecessary crisis and accomplish major achievements for all the parties involved and the whole international community.
"The resolution that was adopted and the JCPOA that was endorsed today provide also for the termination of the Security Council resolutions that unjustifiably placed sanctions on Iran for its efforts to exercise its rights. They were grounded on nothing but baseless and pure speculation and hearsay. Nobody has ever presented any proof indicating that Iran’s program has been anything but peaceful. The IAEA that put Iran's facilities under a record inspection has consistently reported that Iran has dutifully stood by every single commitment. For example, in terms of inspection frequency, only Japan has been subject to greater scrutiny than Iran, while Japan has much more extensive nuclear facilities. Last year, Iran even surpassed Japan in the number of inspections.
"Therefore, the involvement of the Security Council was not caused by a suspicious nuclear weapon program, but driven by the stated objective in SCR 1696 to compel Iran to suspend its lawful enrichment program. That demand was not only unnecessary and uncalled for, but in fact ran counter to the unanimous conclusions of the 2000 and 2010 NPT Review Conferences which stipulate that the choices of member-states with regard to their fuel cycle activities must be respected. It also neglected the repeated demands of the majority of the international community represented in NAM. The sanctions imposed against Iran in SCR 1737 through 1929 were all punishments for the refusal of the Iranian people to accept that demand. In engaging with E3/EU+3, the Iranian people have had the foresight to move forward, without losing sight of the past. Therefore, while we hope that the Security Council will open a new chapter in its relations with Iran, we cannot accept or forget its previous treatment of Iran, starting from its inaction in the face of Saddam’s aggression and the use of chemical weapons to its more recent treatment of the Iranian peaceful nuclear program.
The solution that we arrived at is undoubtedly in the interest of strengthening the regime of nuclear non-proliferation in its entirety, as it includes and recognizes the right of Iran to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, including uranium enrichment activities and R&D on its soil. Rights and obligations of States parties to the NPT, as under any other international regime, can only go hand in hand. Obligations would be honoured and these regimes, including the NPT, sustained only if rights could also be achievable. No threats of sanction or war could help sustain the NPT in the long run if big powers fail to honour all its three pillars, including total nuclear disarmament and the right of all to use nuclear energy, and non-parties are rewarded for their intransigence.
"Looking to the future, my Government hopes that the JCPOA and resolution 2231 herald a new chapter in the relationship between Iran with the Council and the JCPOA participants. Iran is both in a position and willing to comply fully with its commitment under the JCPOA; because it is already committed to the Fatwa of its Supreme leader, who has declared all weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, to be Haram, which its defence doctrine also so requires. We hope that our partners as well as the Council do the same with regards to their commitments under the same documents.
"The desire expressed by the Council to build a new relationship with Iran, its encouraging all Member States to cooperate with Iran in the framework of the JCPOA in the field of peaceful use of nuclear energy and related projects as well as its emphasis that the JCPOA is conducive to promoting and facilitating the development of normal economic and trade contacts and cooperation with Iran are positive signs and all encouraging."
—July 20, 2015, in a statement
United Nations

Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon
“I welcome the adoption this morning by the Security Council of Resolution 2231 (2015), which follows the historic agreement in Vienna last week between the E3+3 and Iran on a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear programme.
“Resolution 2231 will ensure the enforcement of the JCPOA. It establishes procedures that will facilitate the JCPOA’s implementation, enabling all States to carry out their obligations contained in the Agreement.
“The resolution provides for the eventual removal of all nuclear-related sanctions against Iran. It guarantees that the International Atomic Energy Agency will continue to verify Iran’s compliance with its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA.
“The United Nations stands ready to provide whatever assistance is required in giving effect to the resolution.”
—July 20, 2015, in a statement
Photo credit: UN logo via Wikimedia Commons, U.S. State Deparment, Foreign Ministry of Iran, Ban Ki-Moon by ITU Pictures from Geneva, Switzerland [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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