United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

US Elder Statesmen on Iran Deal

Since the nuclear deal was announced on July 14, top foreign policy-makers in six administrations have commented publicly on the terms. The following are excerpts.

Brent Scowcroft, National Security Advisor to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush
"In my view, the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] meets the key objective, shared by recent administrations of both parties, that Iran limit itself to a strictly civilian nuclear program with unprecedented verification and monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the U.N. Security Council. Iran has committed to never developing or acquiring a nuclear weapon; the deal ensures that this will be the case for at least 15 years and likely longer, unless Iran repudiates the inspection regime and its commitments under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and Additional Protocol.
"There is no more credible expert on nuclear weapons than Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who led the technical negotiating team. When he asserts that the JCPOA blocks each of Iran’s pathways to the fissile material necessary to make a nuclear weapon, responsible people listen. Twenty-nine eminent U.S. nuclear scientists have endorsed Moniz’s assertions.
"If the United States could have handed Iran a “take it or leave it” agreement, the terms doubtless would have been more onerous on Iran. But negotiated agreements, the only ones that get signed in times of peace, are compromises by definition. It is what President Reagan did with the Soviet Union on arms control; it is what President Nixon did with China.
"And as was the case with specific agreements with the Soviet Union and China, we will continue to have significant differences with Iran on important issues, including human rights, support for terrorist groups and meddling in the internal affairs of neighbors. We must never tire of working to persuade Iran to change its behavior on these issues, and countering it where necessary. And while I believe the JCPOA, if implemented scrupulously by Iran, will help engage Tehran constructively on regional issues, we must always remember that its sole purpose is to halt the country’s nuclear weapons activities."
—Aug. 21, 2015 in an op-ed for The Washington Post
Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State in the Clinton administration
"After careful review of its provisions, I have given the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action my strong endorsement.
"The prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran has rightfully earned a place at the top of the long list of threats to global stability. No diplomatic agreement or military action could guarantee that Iran will never obtain a nuclear weapon, but even most opponents agree this accord puts that goal firmly out of Iran's reach for a decade or more. From any vantage point, that is a positive development, but at a time of great turmoil in the Middle East it is especially welcome.
"One of the main criticisms that has been leveled against the JCPOA is that it does not address other abhorrent aspects of Iran's behavior -- its support of terrorism, its jailing of several Iranian-Americans, its rhetoric against the United States and Israel or its other destabilizing activities in the broader Middle East. In theory, the United States could have pursued a comprehensive agreement with Iran covering issues beyond the nuclear file, but experience suggests that such an approach would not have yielded results.
"By zeroing in on the nuclear issue, the Obama administration took on the most dangerous threat posed by the Iranian regime and brought together the international community around the issue that most united it in opposition to Tehran.
"The completion of the nuclear accord does not preclude progress on these other issues. In fact, it gives the United States new tools to shape Iranian behavior. Going forward, the United States should do so by focusing on three key areas:
"First, we must subject the implementation of the JCPOA to the strongest oversight possible. …
"Second, we must maintain a robust deterrent in the region, increase our efforts to counter Iranian proxies and further enhance the conventional military capabilities of our allies and partners relative to Iran. …
"To that end, the third leg of our approach should involve carefully calibrated engagement with Iran."
—Aug. 31, 2015 in an op-ed for CNN
Dick Cheney, Vice President in the George W. Bush administration and Secretary of Defense in the George H.W. Bush administration
"Nearly everything the president has told us about his Iranian agreement is false. He has said it will prevent the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons, but it will actually facilitate and legitimize an Iranian nuclear arsenal. He has said this deal will stop nuclear proliferation, but it will actually accelerate it, as nations across the Middle East work to acquire their own weapons in response to America’s unwillingness to stop the Iranian nuclear program.
"President Obama told us he would never accept a deal based on trust. Members of his administration, including his secretary of energy and deputy national-security adviser, said the nuclear deal would be verifiable with “anywhere, anytime” inspections. Instead, the Obama deal provides the Iranians with months to delay inspections and fails to address past clandestine work at military sites. Inspections at these sites are covered in secret deals, which is historic, though not in the way the president claims. Under the reported provisions of the secret deals, the Iranians get to inspect themselves for these past infractions. Inevitably these provisions will be cited by the Iranians as a precedent when they are caught cheating in the future.
"The president has tried to sell this bad deal by claiming that there is no alternative, save war. In fact, this agreement makes war more, not less, likely. In addition to accelerating the spread of nuclear weapons across the Middle East, it will provide the Iranians with hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief, which even the Obama administration admits likely will be used to fund terror. The deal also removes restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile program; lifts the ban on conventional weapons sales; and lifts sanctions on Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, on the Quds Force, and on Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani. Under Mr. Soleimani’s leadership, the Quds Force sows violence and supports terror across the Middle East and has been responsible for the deaths of American service members in Iraq and Afghanistan."
"The Obama nuclear agreement with Iran is tragically reminiscent of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s Munich agreement in 1938. Each was negotiated from a position of weakness by a leader willing to concede nearly everything to appease an ideological dictator. Hitler got Czechoslovakia. The mullahs in Tehran get billions of dollars and a pathway to a nuclear arsenal. Munich led to World War II. The Obama agreement will lead to a nuclear-armed Iran, a nuclear-arms race in the Middle East and, more than likely, the first use of a nuclear weapon since Hiroshima and Nagasaki."
—Aug. 28, 2015 in an adapted book excerpt featured in The Wall Street Journal from “Exceptional: Why the World Needs a Powerful America,” co-authored with Liz Cheny  
Samuel R. “Sandy” Berger, National Security Advisor to President Bill Clinton
“I think the agreement is a strong agreement. I think it prevents Iran from developing a nuclear weapon for at least 10, probably 15 years. I don’t think it depends on trust. I think it’s verifiable. If they cheat, we can go to the U.N. I think Jim [James Woolsey] is wrong about the way of reimposing the sanctions. The way the agreement is written, Russia, China and Iran cannot stop us from reimposing the sanctions.
“If we or our allies believe Iran is cheating, and we go to the U.N., we cannot be blocked by Russia, China and Iran alone or in combination. That’s a pretty strong provision. And I think it’s essential to the fabric of this agreement. We’re not relying upon anything other than our own judgment as to whether or not they’re cheating on this agreement.”
—July 14, 2015 on PBS News Hour
“We’re not giving them [Iranians] a nickel. Let’s understand what this is. This is a return of their money, which is being held in Chinese banks, European banks, during the sanctions. That money was being held. The sanctions were for the purpose of getting them to the table and negotiate an agreement. They have done that now. And so the money comes back. Now, having said that, it’s not $100 billion. It’s probably less than that. They don’t get it until they’ve done everything that they’re obligated to do under the agreement. So we’re not writing a check for Iran.”
—Aug. 12, 2015 on CNBC
Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense in the Ford administration and the George W. Bush administration
Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense in the George W. Bush administration and the Obama administration
“We must now face the reality that there are serious consequences to voting down the agreement or pulling out of it. I think we swallow hard, acknowledge our negotiators got out-negotiated, and that we have a flawed deal, and make the best of it. ... The agreement rests on the overly optimistic belief, the hope really, that [removing] sanctions will lead Iran over time, in effect, to become a normal country. We should harbor no illusions about the regime we are dealing with. ... Once the sanctions are lifted, it will be nearly impossible to get them reimposed by the United Nations, by Russia and China especially, despite the administration’s assurance of snap-back provisions.”
—Aug. 5, 2015 in remarks to state legislators in Seattle
Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter
“Ultimately, the basic implication is war or peace... This agreement involves a compromise by Iran, a significant compromise, in the sense that it has abandoned many of the things that it has valued and sought. Rightly or wrongly. But it has abandoned them at least provisionally by signing this agreement. But secondly, it achieves something even more important. A degree of cooperation between – substantive cooperation between the United States and China in the present circumstances with Russia. This is not trivial. This is very important. It affects, first of all, the region, to which it applies, and help, maybe, to stabilize it. And secondly, it affects our relations with China and Russia in different ways, point perhaps, and I don’t want to sound naïve, but pointing perhaps to the possibility of more serious reconstructive dialogue between us and Russia regarding Ukraine.”
—July 15, 2015 on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe
“My feeling is that this agreement is different from many, I would even say most agreements. Most agreements in international affairs are like pacts. You do this, we do this, we agree, we do it. This is a process. This agreement is a process. And I want to repeat that. This agreement is a process. In other words, there are a series of reciprocal actions over a longer period of time in which we move forward, there is reciprocity, we then move forward, then there is agreement, there is a look at it, investigation, perhaps additional side negotiations. It is a process designed to change an incredibly complex relationship into a more positive one in which the domestic evolution of public attitudes towards each other, I’m talking of America and Iran, takes time. But there is the real possibility that if it succeeds, Iran rejoins the international community and becomes a force of good. If it doesn’t, and especially if it doesn’t because war is abetted from the outside, we’re going to have a mess on our hands in the Middle East like none that we have known before.”
—Aug. 18, 2015 on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe
William Cohen, Secretary of Defense in the Clinton administration
“I think once we decided that Iran would be allowed to go forward with an enrichment program on its own soil, then I think we were just negotiating from behind the curve at that particular point. You may remember that Russia, at one point early in the game, said “We will do the enrichment of the uranium on Russian soil and then we’ll transfer it to you so you can have enriched uranium to the right level for commercial purposes. And Iran said no. And we didn’t really come out strong enough, I don’t think, at that time. Once we said, “No, no, you have a right to enrich.” Well, then the question is how much do you need, what percentage do you need. And of course they went up to 20 or 25 percent, which is closer to purposes for making a nuclear weapon as opposed to you know building a pharmaceutical plant. So I think that we were behind the curve on that one and conceded too much up front. And as a result of that we’ve been negotiating, I don’t think, from a position of strength, but one from weakness.
“[T]his is a deal you’ve got, unless there are major holes that we can point to saying this is not verifiable, they’re not removing this type of equipment, they’re not putting it in safe storage, they’re going to be able to constitute it within a very short period of time. Unless you can show that, I think the deal is going to go remain in force and we’ll have to hope that 10 years from now or 15 years from now, when the restrictions run out, that Iran will have become so embedded into the international system as a welcome partner that they’ll forego trying to build a nuclear weapon. I remain skeptical about that, but that is the hope at this point.”
—July 14, 2015 on Bloomberg television  
William Perry, Secretary of Defense in the Clinton administration
“We applaud the announcement that a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has been reached with Iran to limit its nuclear program. We congratulate President Obama and all the negotiators for a landmark agreement unprecedented in its importance for preventing the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran.
“This JCPOA will put in place a set of constraints and monitoring measures that will help to assure that Iran's nuclear program will be for peaceful purposes only. Major U.S. objectives have been achieved: uranium enrichment limited to 3.67% and only at the Natanz plant; the Arak reactor will be re-designed to minimize the amount of plutonium produced and Iran is barred from separating plutonium and all spent fuel will be removed from Iran; a 98% reduction in Iran's stockpile of low enriched uranium for 15 years; unprecedented surveillance of nuclear activities and control of nuclear related imports; a two-thirds reduction in the installed centrifuges for ten years; constraints on research and development of advanced centrifuges. The agreement will set up a highly effective multilayered program to monitor and inspect every aspect of Iran's nuclear supply chain and fuel cycle, including continuous monitoring at some sites for 20-25 years, and permit inspections on short notice. We have followed carefully the negotiations as they have progressed and conclude that the JCPOA represents the achievement of greater security for us and our partners in the region.
“We acknowledge that the JCPOA does not achieve all of the goals its current detractors have set for it. But it does meet all of the key objectives. Most importantly, should Iran violate the agreement and move toward building nuclear weapons, it will be discovered early and in sufficient time for strong countermeasures to be taken to stop Iran. No agreement between multiple parties can be a perfect agreement without risks. We believe without this agreement, the risks to the security of the U.S. and its friends would be far greater. We have also not heard any viable alternatives from those who oppose the implementation of the JCPOA.”
—July 20, 2015 in a statement released by a bipartisan group of 60 national security leaders
Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense in the Obama administration
“The key to this deal, indeed the key to any arms control deal, is in the inspection and verification protocol. The most important question Congress will ask will be whether the inspectors can visit any site, talk to anybody, and review any document. Vigilance is the only thing that will ensure this deal is a success.”
—July 16, 2015 in a post for TIME
Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State in the Obama administration
“We have to treat this as an ongoing enforcement effort, which I certainly strongly support and as President would be absolutely devoted to ensuring that the agreement is followed… This does put a lid on the nuclear program, but we still have a lot of concern about the bad behavior and the actions by Iran which remains the largest state sponsor of terrorism which does go after and undermine governments in the region, that poses an existential threat to Israel, that unfairly, unlawfully confines and tries Americans on trumped up charges. That bad behavior is something we have to address.”
—July 14, 2015 in remarks to reporters
“Do I trust the Iranians? Absolutely not.” The deal’s critics, she said,  have “a respectable argument… No one should be deluded about the continuing threat that Iran poses to the region.”
—July 16, 2015 in remarks to supporters and the press
“I'm hoping that the agreement is finally approved and I'm telling you if it's not, all bets are off.” Rejecting the deal, she said, would be a “very bad signal to send in a quickly moving and oftentimes dangerous world… The Europeans, the Russians, the Chinese, they're gonna say we agreed with the Americans, I guess their president can't make foreign policy. That's a very bad signal to send.”

—Aug. 10, 2015 to supporters


Moniz on Science of Iran Deal

 The final nuclear deal will permanently improve the international community’s capability to verify Iran’s activities, according to U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. “The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — is built upon a foundation of deep nuclear science and technology in both limiting Iran’s nuclear program and introducing necessary verification measures,” he wrote in a new article. From February to July, Moniz played a key role in the negotiations between Iran and the world's six major powers. The following are excerpts from his piece on Medium.com.

The Iran Nuclear Deal
Here’s the top line. With the agreement, there will be an extensive and extended rollback for 15 years of Iranian nuclear activities with a permanent improvement in verification capability by the international community. This is the fundamental architecture of the agreement. This would also include unique verification options for 25 years that could become the basis for the strengthened global nonproliferation verification regime highlighted earlier in the support letter from the scientific community.
Without the agreement, the Iranian nuclear program is likely to go right back to a rapid expansion and, without a strong verification program, the nuclear weapons concern will be magnified.
With the agreement, the international unity that was so critical for both sanctions effectiveness and the negotiation process will be preserved.
Without the agreement, international unity, which arose from the shared commitment to bring Iran to the negotiating table, will likely unravel, along with economic sanctions. American leadership on global issues will suffer.
With the agreement, Iran’s commitment within the JCPOA is to never acquire or develop nuclear weapons or to engage in the development of key nuclear weaponization capabilities — a feature highlighted in the scientists’ letter as unique.
Without the agreement, the world will have far less insight into possible covert weaponization activities.
With the agreement, reprocessing activities that could lead to plutonium separation will not be pursued — without it, they will not be proscribed.
With the agreement, the scope and scale of the Iranian nuclear program will be rolled back in multiple dimensions. Not only will the number of centrifuges engaged in enrichment be scaled back very substantially, but the stockpile of enriched uranium will be reduced by 98 percent for 15 years. This alone accounts for a significant extension of the time to reach a weapon-equivalent of highly enriched uranium should Iran decide to “break out” through uranium enrichment.
With the agreement, Iran’s potential “plutonium factory”, the Arak reactor, will be redesigned to allow effective peaceful uses but not rapid accumulation of plutonium suitable for weapons. All the plutonium-bearing spent fuel for the lifetime of the Arak reactor will be removed from Iran, greatly complicating any Iranian attempts to make nuclear weapons from plutonium. These uranium and plutonium measures underscore the statement of U.S. military leaders that this agreement is more effective than military action in pulling Iran back from the nuclear weapons threshold over a significant period.
Without the agreement, Iran will likely resume expansion of its enrichment program and buildup of huge stocks of enriched uranium, and the Arak reactor will be completed as now designed, providing a potential plutonium pathway to a bomb.
With the agreement, significant verification measures are put in place, including daily access to Iran’s major nuclear facilities for international inspectors. Most important, the Additional Protocol that allows inspector access to suspicious sites anywhere will be permanently followed by Iran and supplemented with special measures for as long as 25 years.
Two unique measures in the agreement are a fixed time frame for providing access to suspicious sites and full uranium supply chain surveillance. These provide a very significant deterrence value against cheating, since the odds of getting caught — with the concomitant strong response from the international community — are raised substantially. The sanctions regime has already shown Iran the severe consequences of not following their Nonproliferation Treaty obligations, and the stakes are raised substantially with the JCPOA.
Without the agreement, all of these verification benefits would be sacrificed.
Our Director of National Intelligence General Clapper has stated that, while there can never be 100% certitude in detecting any particular covert activity, the intelligence community will gain much greater visibility into the Iranian nuclear program with the JCPOA.
Although future Iranian behavior is most important, resolution of possible military dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s previous activities, up to 2003, has attracted attention. It should be emphasized that the IAEA has already done substantial work on PMD. The JCPOA achieves the objective of requiring Iran to promptly cooperate with the IAEA so that the IAEA can finally finish the job, in particular through access to the military site Parchin. The U.S. intelligence community and the IAEA have already published reports that identify Iranian activity associated with nuclear weapons technologies up to 2003, but completing the PMD report is viewed as important for the integrity of the IAEA process going forward.
With the agreement, Iran and the IAEA developed the protocol for Parchin inspection, a site that has been visited previously by the IAEA. This protocol by standard practice is confidential between the country and the IAEA; indeed the confidentiality ultimately is to the benefit of all countries, including the United States. Terming this protocol a “secret side agreement” is a severe distortion and serves no legitimate purpose. The IAEA has a strong self-interest in assuring the integrity of the inspection process and producing a complete PMD report in December for the Board of Governors, which includes the United States.
Director General Amano has rightfully objected to characterizations that Iran will “self-inspect”. He has been clear that the negotiated procedure for Parchin inspection, specifically designed for closing out the existing PMD issue, does not compromise the integrity of the safeguards system. Given available information, a “red team” of DOE national laboratory experts that I convened supported the integrity of the protocol.
With the agreement, the international unity exhibited in the P5+1 negotiations and in the application of economic sanctions has extraordinary value in looking forward to implementation of the JCPOA and denial of any Iranian aspirations to a nuclear weapons program.
Without the agreement, the loss of this unity would weaken U.S. moral authority and collective backing for any response — diplomatic, financial, or military — to potential Iranian actions that do not comply with the JCPOA. The idea of renegotiation lacks credibility. As designed, sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table — and now is the time to harvest the fruits of that negotiation.
Without the agreement, the U.S. standing in negotiating other regional issues in collaboration of major powers would be seriously compromised. …

Click here for the full text.

Kerry on Amir Hekmati’s Detention in Iran

On August 28, Secretary of State John Kerry released a statement marking the four-year anniversary of U.S. citizen Amir Hekmati’s detention in Iran. Iranian authorities arrested Hekmati—a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen born in Arizona and a former Marine— in August 2011 for allegedly working for the CIA. A 2012 retrial overturned the espionage conviction and instead charged him with “cooperating with hostile governments.” He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.  The following is the full text of Kerry’s statement and information on recent Congressional action on this issue.

Four-Year Anniversary of the Detention of Amir Hekmati
This Saturday marks the four-year anniversary of U.S. citizen Amir Hekmati’s detention on false espionage charges while visiting his relatives in Iran.
We repeat our call on the Iranian government to release Amir on humanitarian grounds. The Hekmati family needs Amir - their brother, their son, their uncle - to be home where he belongs. 
This is a milestone no family wants to mark, and the Hekmati family has shown inspiring perseverance in the face of this injustice. And as befits a former Marine, Amir has shown tremendous courage in the face of this unjust detention.    
As President Obama said recently in his speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, we are not going to relent until we bring Amir home. I join the President in his steadfast commitment to reunite Amir with his family.   
We also call on the government ‎of Iran to release Saeed Abedini and Jason Rezaian, and to work cooperatively with us to locate Robert Levinson, so that all can be returned to their families.
Congress Calls on Iran to Release U.S. Citizens
On May 11, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution calling on Iran to immediately release three Americans held there and to help locate another who is missing. Concurrent Resolution 16 passed 90-0. On June 15, the House of Representatives unanimously passed a similar resolution, introduced by Dan Kildee (D-MI), who represents the Hekmati family in Congress. The full text of the Senate resolution is below, followed by statements from Kildee’s office.
Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring),
(a) Findings- Congress makes the following findings:
(1) Saeed Abedini of Idaho is a Christian pastor unjustly detained in Iran since 2012 and sentenced to eight years in prison on charges related to his religious beliefs.
(2) Amir Hekmati of Michigan is a former United States Marine unjustly detained in 2011 while visiting his Iranian relatives and sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage.
(3) Jason Rezaian of California is a Washington Post journalist credentialed by the Government of Iran. He was unjustly detained in 2014 and has been held without a trial.
(4) Robert Levinson of Florida is a former Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) official who disappeared in 2007 in Iran. He is the longest held United States citizen in United States history.
(b) Statement of Policy- It is the policy of the United States that--
(1) the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran should immediately release Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati, and Jason Rezaian, and cooperate with the United States Government to locate and return Robert Levinson; and
(2) the United States Government should undertake every effort using every diplomatic tool at its disposal to secure their immediate release.
Congressman Dan Kildee (D-MI)
“I applaud the Senate for taking bipartisan action to tell Iran that it cannot continue to hold innocent political prisoners like Amir Hekmati. It is important that Congress speaks with one voice on this important matter telling Iran that it must release the Americans it holds if they expect to be accepted or trusted in the international community. Iran says it seeks to reengage other world nations, and the world is now watching and waiting to see if their words will be matched by actions. Iran can act today to release Amir and the other American political prisoners they hold.”
—May 12, 2015 in a statement
“Today Congress spoke with one voice to tell Iran that it cannot continue to hold American political prisoners like Amir Hekmati if they are serious about reengaging the global community,” Congressman Kildee said. “The world needs to know Amir’s name because he is a real person – not just a pawn in a geopolitical struggle between Iran and the rest of the world. He is innocent, yet has been held prisoner in Iran for 1,386 days. It is long past time for him to be reunited with his family in Michigan.
“I thank Chairman Ed Royce, Ranking Member Eliot Engel and every Member of Congress for unanimously supporting this bipartisan resolution. The onus is now on Iran to do what is right and release Amir and the other Americans it holds.”
—June 15, 2015 in a statement


The Final Deal: U.S. Officials React

The following are excerpted statements by U.S. officials on the final nuclear deal that was announced by the world’s six major powers and Iran on July 14.

Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power

"If the United States rejects this deal, we would instantly isolate ourselves from the countries that spent nearly two years working with American negotiators to hammer out its toughest provisions. Those partners believe that this is a sound deal—with a rigorous set of inspection measures that would allow us to know if Iran is not playing by the rules. And those countries have been very clear that they are not prepared to walk away from this deal to try to secure different terms. So if we walk away, there is no diplomatic door number two. No do over. No rewrite of the deal on the table." 

"In the case of Iran, the United States persuaded other countries to apply pressure for a purpose—in order to secure significant, long-term constraints that would cut off all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon. If we move the goalpost now—arguing, for example, that there should not be sanctions relief until Iran stops supporting terrorist proxies or until it permanently gives up nuclear enrichment for peaceful purposes—we would give detractors a powerful tool to try to obstruct our future efforts on issues unrelated to Iran. Our efforts to reach this deal have affirmed the view of the United States as a tough but principled leader; rejecting it would be read in many quarters as a superpower intent on inflicting pain for its own sake."

"The Iran nuclear deal has been championed by the president of the United States, every one of America’s European friends and countless other countries around the world. If Congress rejects the deal, we will project globally an America that is internally divided, unreliable and dismissive of the views of those with whom we built Iran’s sanctions architecture in the first place."
—Aug. 26, 2015, in an op-ed in Politico 

Secretary of State John Kerry

“If Congress doesn't pass this, if Congress were to kill this, then we have no inspections, we have no sanctions, we have no ability to negotiate, because I assure you the ayatollah, if the United States arbitrarily and unilaterally kills this, you're not going to have another negotiation. And they will feel free to go do the very things that this prevents.” 
“We're expanding that breakout from those two months to one year for 10 years and longer. And we have lifetime inspection, adherence to the IAEA, adherence to the advanced protocol, 25 years of tracking and monitoring their uranium, from mining, to milling, to yellow cake, to gas, to centrifuge, to waste. That's unprecedented. And we would not have had that without this agreement.” 
 —July 19, 2015, on CNN’s State of the Union
“There's no such thing in arms control as anytime, anywhere [inspections]. There isn't any nation in the world, none, that has an anytime, anywhere. And the truth is, what we always were negotiating was an end to the interminable delays that people had previously…We have a finite time period. That's never happened before. And we have one nation's ability to take this to the Security Council to enforce it. That is unique. And we think it was a huge accomplishment to be able to get this finite period.”
“The same way that Ronald Reagan negotiated with the Soviet Union, and the same way that Richard Nixon negotiated what we then called Red China, we have now negotiated with somebody who took our embassy over, took hostages, killed Americans, many of the things you hear people say, supported terrorism. But what we need to recognize is that an Iran that we want to stop the behavior of with a nuclear weapon is a very different Iran than an Iran without a nuclear weapon. And we saw this opportunity. The president saw it, and committed us to try to find a way through diplomacy to end that program of nuclearization with a weapon, and that's exactly what we have done.”
“We believe that Israel, we believe the region will ultimately be much safer because of this deep. Now, if you don't -- if we don't do this deal, if Congress says no to this deal, then there will be no restraints on Iran, there will be no sanctions left. Our friends in this effort will desert us. We will be viewed as having killed the opportunity to stop them from having a weapons. They will begin to enrich again, and the greater likelihood is what the president said the other day; you will have a war.”
 —July 19, 2015, on CBS’s Face the Nation
Resuming diplomatic relations with Iran is “not being contemplated. We don’t have relations at this point.”
 —July 19, 2015, on ABC’s This Week

Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman


Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz
"Today’s announcement between the P5+1 and Iran is a historic accomplishment. Building on the Lausanne framework, it will ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is – and will remain – a peaceful one, or that the international community will have more than enough time to respond if Iran’s program proves otherwise. This deal will extend the time it would take for Iran to produce enough fissile material for a first nuclear explosive device to a year for at least ten years, from the current breakout time of just two to three months.
Drawing on the vast scientific and technological expertise from across the Department of Energy’s National Laboratory system, Department and Lab experts helped shape the nuclear negotiations through rigorous technical analysis. The Department of Energy backs the deal and stands ready to assist in its implementation.
This agreement will be implemented in phases – with some provisions in place for 10 years, others for 15 and others for 20 or 25 years. Iran has committed to the Additional Protocol indefinitely as part of its adherence to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty regime.
This agreement is the result of tireless work from our experts at the Department and the National Labs, our interagency colleagues and specifically, Secretary of State John Kerry and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman. The U.S. multi-agency delegation worked together collegially and seamlessly, and the P5+1 displayed remarkable cooperation and cohesion throughout this complex endeavor. These are tributes to Secretary Kerry’s personal commitment and leadership.
I also want to thank the Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Salehi (MIT PhD ’77) for his dedication to this process. His professionalism, dedication and commitment to advancing Iran’s nuclear science and education programs, while at the same time building the international community’s trust in Iran’s nuclear program, were key to this agreement.
This is a good deal for America, for our allies, and for our global security. Most important, this deal is based on hard science and analysis. The facts of this agreement meet the nuclear objectives set down by President Obama: verification of a peaceful Iranian nuclear program and sufficient lead time if it proves otherwise."
—July 14, 2015, according to the press
“With regard to the Americans unjustly held or missing, again, the secretary -- I was there -- every meeting, this was always raised, and remains, I think, an area of considerable focus.”
 —July 19, 2015, on CNN’s State of the Union
“Under IAEA engagements, they have no time frame for resolving issues when going to undeclared sites. So, first of all, getting a defined time frame is very, very critical. There has to be a process to go through with the P5-plus-one to force -- in case of a dispute, to force inspection. Iran otherwise is in breach. Now, 24 days, we feel very confident in the capability of IAEA with environmental sampling to detect any nuclear activity very, very long after it has occurred,” commenting on the 24-day waiting period for inspections of undeclared nuclear sites.
“For the long term, we are certainly better off with regard to any weapon possibility with this deal than without it. That starts day one. And it goes on essentially indefinitely.
 —July 19, 2015, on CBS’s Face the Nation
U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice
“Let’s say that the United States, for example, gathers some information that we believe indicates that there is a suspicious or secret site. We would take that information to the IAEA. The IAEA would investigate. The IAEA would go to Iran and say, 'We want to visit this site. We want to check it out.'
“And by checking it out, it's not just visiting, it's doing environmental sampling, soil sampling, radioactive materials would be tested for and if they are detected. If the Iranians said, 'No, you can't see that site,' whether it's a military site or not, the IAEA, if it deems the site suspicious, can ask for access to it. So there are no limitations on the type of facility that can be accessed but there has to be a reasonable suspicion.”
“It's not a request. It's a requirement.”
“We are working very hard…on the issue of our Americans who are detained in Iran and have been not only throughout this process but since the time of their detention.
“And we were very specific about the need not to link their fate to that of the negotiations because we had no idea for certain whether negotiations would succeed or fail. We didn’t want to give the Iranians a bargaining chip to use against us in the negotiations.”
“In our judgment, and I think in the judgment of many thoughtful people in those countries, the best thing we can do for their security [Israel and the Gulf states] is to ensure that they don’t have a neighbor with nefarious intentions armed with a nuclear weapon. And this deal does that.”
“What [opponents] are arguing is that in Iran, out from under sanctions, if in fact eventually Iran fulfills its obligations under this deal - and they don’t get any sanctions relief until they’ve completely fulfilled their key obligations - but if they have, and we can then verifiably determine that they are not in a position to obtain a nuclear weapon, then there will be incremental sanctions relief.”
“I also want to make sure people understand that this deal was never about trying to prevent Iran from using proxies in the region, or destabilizing the region.
“This was always about our principle and primary concern as shared by the government of Israel and their neighbors in the region. Israel has said that an Iran with a nuclear weapon is an existential threat. We are addressing that threat directly and effectively in this deal.
“But we understand that Iran has played a very destabilizing role in the region, it continues to foment unrest and to have supported terrorism, so we want to do what we can to bolster the capacity of our allies and partners in the region to resist that.”
“There will be no sanctions relief including of the oil sanctions unless and until Iran fulfils all of the steps that it needs to take under this agreement related to its nuclear program.
“So it's got to dismantle two-thirds of its centrifuges. It's got to get rid of 98 percent of its uranium stockpile. It's got to allow continuous and extraordinary access to its nuclear facilities. It's got to take steps to make inoperable its current heavy-water plutonium reactor, among other steps.
“It's got to satisfy the IAEA that any questions that the IAEA has that remain about Iran's past history of pursuing nuclear weapons have been resolved satisfactorily. Those are all prior steps, before any sanctions relief, that Iran has to take.
“So let's say they do all those things. And based on their performance under the interim agreement, where they've done everything they said they would do, I think there's reason to expect that they will fulfill those steps.”
—July 15, 2015, in an interview with Reuters
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew

“Today’s Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is an historic deal that will cut off all pathways to a nuclear weapon, cements intrusive inspections that will be at an unprecedented level, and ensures that Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful.  This significant accomplishment would not have been possible without strong and rigorously applied economic sanctions, which were designed and enforced by the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations, alongside many others worldwide.  These sanctions disrupted Iran's access to the materials and infrastructure necessary to develop its nuclear program, more than halved its oil exports, and severed its banking system from the world – providing the leverage necessary to compel Iran to negotiate in a constructive and serious way.

“Today, Iran committed to take far-reaching steps, some of them permanent, to ensure that it will not develop a nuclear weapon.  Only after Iran takes those steps, the P5+1 will relieve broad nuclear-related sanctions on Iran in a phased manner as international inspectors confirm that Iran has upheld its commitments.  All current sanctions will remain in place until such steps have been verified, with the only exceptions being the limited sanctions relief that has been in place since negotiations began.  No new U.S. nor international sanctions are being relieved today.
“When Iran does what it needs to do, we will provide timely guidance to governments and businesses worldwide to clearly explain the changes to U.S. sanctions on Iran.  As Iran fulfills its responsibilities, we will make good on our JCPOA commitments.  However, we retain the ability to snap back both U.S. and international sanctions if Iran does not abide by the agreement reached today.  While we hope that does not come to pass, we have ensured through this deal that we will have the means to respond swiftly and powerfully. 
“Furthermore, we harbor no illusions about the Iranian government’s nefarious activities beyond its nuclear program.  Make no mistake: we will continue to impose and aggressively enforce sanctions to combat Iran’s support for terrorist groups, its fomenting of violence in the region, and its perpetration of human rights abuses. The JCPOA frees the world of the specter of a potential Iranian nuclear weapons program and we retain the tools to confront both terrorism and regional destabilization without the added risk of nuclear weapons.  This is a very positive development.
“Reaching this deal today is a milestone that means that the world will no longer be threatened by an active Iranian nuclear program.  We look forward to working with Congress and our international partners in the coming months to ensure successful implementation of the JCPOA‎.”
—July 14, 2015, in a press release
Photo credit: Moniz by Energy.gov via Flickr Commons (public domain as U.S. Government work)


Heated Debate in Iran on Nuclear Deal

Garrett Nada

The debate over the nuclear deal is heating up in Iran. President Hassan Rouhani’s administration has been trying to sell the agreement since it was announced on July 14. But hardliners' criticism of the deal is mounting.
Part of the debate is over whether or not the agreement and its accompanying U.N. Security Council resolution have crossed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s guidelines. “Some parts of the [U.N. resolution] draft have clearly crossed the Islamic republic's red lines, especially in Iran's military capabilities,” said Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the Revolutionary Guards commander, on July 20.
Supreme Leader Khamenei has expressed serious skepticism about the intentions of the West, especially the United States. He has vowed that the deal will not open Iran to American influence. Khamenei, however, has not explicitly declared support for or opposition to the deal.
Powerful officials, especially in the military and parliament, have argued that the deal does not further Iran’s national interests.
Khamenei’s foreign policy advisor, Ali Akbar Velayati, said that the deal is not free of weak points. Yet in a televised exchange with a news anchor critical of the deal, Velayati defended Iran’s negotiating team. “Whatever I say about the deal won’t convince you … I don’t want to argue with you… If there is something that hasn't been achieved, definitely they [negotiators] could not have done more.”
Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi also defended the negotiating team. “There are those who claim that the [Rouhani] administration wanted to give the chalice of poison to our supreme leader. This is not criticism. This is an accusation, and it is destructive,” he told Etemad newspaper on August 26. “Whatever was achieved during the negotiations is the result of work by the supreme leader, the government and the negotiators.”
Among hardliners, Hossein Shariatmadari argued that the supreme leader’s position was clear. “One can definitely say that the supreme leader is not, by any means, satisfied with the text of the deal,” the editor of the hardline paper Kayhan wrote in an August 15 editorial. In the past, Shariatmadari has been regarded as the unofficial mouthpiece of the supreme leader’s office.
The editorial sparked a whole separate debate over who speaks for Khamenei. In a reflection of divisions among hardliners, Shariatmadari’s comment, prompted a swift retort from Hamid Reza Moghaddam-Far, the IRGC media advisor. “How come a revolutionary brother like you is insisting on instilling in his audience a feeling that the supreme leader’s line of thinking is like his?” Moghaddam-Far wrote in an Entekhab op-ed on August 16. (It was translated by Iran Front Page.) “Don’t you think it would be better if you expressed your own views, rather than talk on behalf of the supreme leader?”
Other top revolutionary names have also come under fire during the internal debate. Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar, who was the spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy hostage-takers, has (ironically) supported the nuclear agreement. “Everyone is going to benefit more or less [from the diplomacy],” she told BBC reporter Kim Ghattas in August. But Ebtekar added that the deal has given reformists “a lot of leverage among the Iranian political groups.”
A front-page article in the hardline newspaper Vatan Emrooz then attacked Ebtekar for her “partisan sentiment.” It also warned about possible U.S. attempts to influence Iran’s domestic politics through the nuclear deal.
The following is a sampling of remarks by supporters and critics of the deal in Iran.

President Hassan Rouhani
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
Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani
“This is definitely a trade-off, and no one would claim a maximal gain for Iran in the JCPOA. However, the major issues of concern for Iran had been well-balanced vis-à-vis the Western demands, which is first to retain the enrichment right and second removal of sanctions, which will not be without its own consequences.”
—Aug. 8, 2015 in an address to Parliament’s Joint Budget Commission as reported by Khorosan
The nuclear deal is a “national achievement” that should lead to growth in production and prosperity in the cultural, defense and science fields.
—July 23, 2015 according to IRIB News
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
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.”
“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 via Iran Front Page and The New York Times
Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar
“This is ultimately a step forward. This agreement is a step for the future of not only Iran and the region, but for peace at the global level.” 
“I think that there is this internal debate and you can hear these different voices - some criticizing the agreement, and some opposing it entirely.”
“But in general... the majority of the Iranian people view this as a successful step forward.”
—August 2015 in an interview with the BBC
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, chief nuclear negotiator
“I completely support this agreement, and honest to God, I believe we should celebrate [it].”
—Aug. 9, 2015 at a public event in Tehran via Al Monitor
Revolutionary Guards Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari
“Some parts of the [U.N. resolution] draft have clearly crossed the Islamic republic's red lines, especially in Iran's military capabilities… We will never accept it.”
—July 20, 2015 via Reuters
Kayhan Editor Hossein Shariatmadari
“Even by simply looking at the deal you can see some vital red lines of the Islamic Republic have not been preserved.”
—July 2015 in an editorial
Ibrahim Karkhaneh, a member of the parliamentary committee to review the nuclear deal
“The limitations [imposed on Iran] go beyond the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty].”
—Aug. 1, 2015 according to Fars New Agency
Foad Izadi, University of Tehran professor
“People realize that Iran has given away a lot of things. The nuclear program has become a symbol of national pride – and people didn’t like that the agreement came at a great price.”
—July 2015 in an interview with The Telegraph
Hossein Nejabat, a member of the parliamentary committee to review the nuclear deal
“We will not allow any intrusion to our defense and military installations… There are points of contention in the agreement.”
—July 26, 2015 via Tasnim News
Commander of Iran's Basij Force Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi
“Any Iranian who reads the Vienna documents will hate the US 100 times more [than in the past].”
“All paragraphs of the resolution that the U.S. proposed to the U.N. Security Council are full of enmity towards Iran and show the U.S.’ deep grudge against the Iranian nation.”
“The U.S. needs the agreement merely to legalize the sanctions and continue pressure against Iran.”
—July 21, 2015, according to Fars News Agency

Garrett Nada is the assistant editor of The Iran Primer at USIP.


Iranian Lawmakers on Nuclear Deal

On August 19, Iran’s parliament selected 15 members for a panel that will review the nuclear deal between Iran and the world’s six major powers. Two dozen law makers volunteered to serve on the panel; 15 were then elected by the full parliament. The group includes 13 conservatives.
In an interview with Alef news, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that the nuclear deal is not a treaty, and therefore does not require Parliament’s ratification. “As a person who has taught law for quite some time, I have to tell you that the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] is, in fact, under the management and supervision of the U.N. Security Council’s resolutions, which has nullified the previous resolutions,” he said in the interview, which was published on August 21.
Another senior member of the negotiating team, Deputy Foreign Minister Majid Takht Ravanchi, also does not see a need for  ratification. “The JCPOA’s nature is not like a protocol or an international treaty. The other parties [to the deal], namely the six countries that negotiated with Iran, are not going to ratify it. Thus, there is no need for its ratification by the parliament,” he said on August 26.
On August 16, a petition signed by 201 out of 290 members of parliament called on the government to formally submit the deal for review. The following is a translation of the petition, as published by Entekhab News and translated by Iran Front Page, along with key remarks by the 15 lawmakers on the review panel.
Petition Signed by 201 Lawmakers
In line with our legal obligations, we, the deputies of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, who have signed this petition announce that:
1. We thank the nuclear negotiating team for its tireless efforts in the course of the talks.
2. Under Articles 77 and 125 of the Constitution, the review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action falls under the purview of the Islamic Consultative Assembly and requires cooperation from all relevant institutions.
3. The executive branch should immediately present the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in the form of a bill.
4. Any voluntary measures and implementation of the deal – be it temporary, permanent or conditional – would be illegal before the approval of the Islamic Consultative Assembly and subsequent confirmation of the Guardian Council.
Members of the 15-member panel to review the deal
Alaeddin Boroujerdi (Tehran), National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Chairman
“We are still distrustful of the United States because of the country’s arrogant nature and its support for the Zionist regime [Israel] in the massacre of the oppressed people of Palestine and its move to back Saudi Arabia’s killing of the Yemeni people. In this climate of mistrust, there are concerns and if they renege [on the nuclear agreement], we will do the same.”
—Aug. 9, 2015 to al Alam TV via Tasnim News Agency
Ibrahim Karkhaneh (Hamedan) 
“The limitations [imposed on Iran] go beyond the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty].”
—Aug. 1, 2015 according to Fars New Agency
Ismail Kowsari (Tehran), National Security and Foreign Policy Committee member
“The JCPOA [the final nuclear deal or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] is an international treaty. Therefore, Parliament must ratify it.”
—Aug. 2, 2015 in remarks via the Islamic Consultative Assembly News Agency  
Hossein Naghavi Hosseini (Varamin), National Security and Foreign Policy Committee member
“Ever since news about a confidential agreement between Iran and the IAEA was made public, US lawmakers have been seeking to learn about its content.”
“What is surprising is that Amano, who is the director general of an independent international agency, and not a US government secretary, is summoned to the US Senate and he accepts to show up.”
—Aug. 2, 2015 according to Fars News Agency via Iran Front Page
Hossein Nejabat (Tehran) 
“We will not allow any intrusion to our defense and military installations.” 
“There are points of contention in the agreement.”
—July 26, 2015 via Tasnim News
Alireza Zakani (Tehran), Chairman of the JCPOA Committee
“The Administration’s only option is to send the JCPOA as a bill.”
—Aug. 19, 2015 in an interview with Tasnim News Agency
Mohammad Hassan Aboutorabi-Fard (Tehran), First Vice-Speaker
Vahid Ahmadi (Kangavar) 
Mansour Arani (Aran and Bigdel) 
Mehrdad Bazrpash (Tehran) 
Mansour Haghighatpour (Ardebil) 
Seyyed Mahmoud Nabavian (Tehran) 
Masoud Pezeshkian (Tabriz) 
Gholamreza Tajgardoun (Gachsaran) 
Mohammad Mehdi Zahedi (Kerman) 
Other lawmakers
Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani
“We should understand that the current situation is a new era; the negotiations should not be scaled down to merely facile verbal give and take and without difficulty; this has been one of the most difficult negotiations in the history of Revolution; talks had been in constant frequenting between negotiation venue and Tehran to be discussed by authorities and get rechanneled into another module, and it was a two-way street.”
“What appears on paper reflects only one side of the difficulties inherent in the negotiations. The deal is the end of a period; however, it is the onset of an eventful era; it should not be assumed that the path after the deal will be without its own difficulties; current propaganda raised about Parchin is quite superficial, aiming at wielding impact on international decision-making, and a solution to domestic concerns inside the United States.”
“We should be aware that the post-deal era is a new untrodden path with new challenges; we should understand well the JCPOA document, and act out of honesty and good faith in explaining its provisions.”
“This is definitely a trade-off, and no one would claim a maximal gain for Iran in the JCPOA; however, the major issues of concern for Iran had been well-balanced vis-à-vis the Western demands, which is first to retain the enrichment right and second removal of sanctions, which will not be without its own consequences.”
—Aug. 8, 2015 in an address to Parliament’s Joint Budget Commission as reported by Khorosan
The nuclear deal is a “national achievement” that should lead to growth in production and prosperity in the cultural, defense and science fields.
—July 23, 2015 according to IRIB News


Photo credit: JCPOA committee members via Islamic Parliament of Iran website, Ali Larijani via ICANA and Islamic Parliament of Iran website,

Connect With Us

Our Partners

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Logo