United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Geneva Deal IV: Congressional Reaction

              U.S. lawmakers issued wide-ranging reactions to the news of the interim agreement on Iran’s controversial nuclear program. Many senators and representatives were skeptical about Tehran’s intentions. “Apparently, America has not learned its lesson from 1994 when North Korea fooled the world [and continued its nuclear weapons program],” said Representative Buck McKeon. Representative Tom Cotton claimed the United States "suffered an unmitigated, humiliating defeat" while Iran won a "total victory."
     
Several members urged their colleagues to support new sanctions if Iran does not honor its commitments. Senator Richard Blumenthal pledged to work “on a bipartisan bill that tightens trade and currency restrictions along with other sanctions if this interim agreement produces no progress.”
      Other members of Congress, however, welcomed the deal as the first step towards a comprehensive agreement. “I support the interim deal with Iran. It is a realistic, practical way to freeze Iran's nuclear program for six months while we seek a long-range diplomatic end to Iran's nuclear weapon ambition,” said Senator Carl Levin. Senator Dianne Feinstein argued that the deal would clarify Iran’s intentions.  “If Iran violates this agreement, it ends and we will know diplomacy is no longer an option. But if the terms are upheld, we will know that Iran is serious about reaching a final agreement,” she said. The following are excerpted remarks by lawmakers on the nuclear deal.   

 

Senate
Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)
            "Skeptical of Iran deal bc once some sanctions lifted 2 hard 2 go back-need 2 see details on plut react, enrichment-will they stop terrorism?"
            Nov. 23, 2013 in a statement on Twitter
 
Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
            "Although I commend and appreciate the administration's hard work and perseverance to achieve this interim temporary agreement, the real test is whether a final permanent agreement rolling back Iran's nuclear capability can be achieved during this brief, six-month negotiated pause. Past Iranian conduct gives little cause for hope. Without strong sanctions, tough enforcement and vigilant monitoring and inspection, my fear is that even this interim agreement may encourage or embolden countries or companies that seek to exploit loopholes or weaknesses in the existing sanctions, and that is why renewed resolve is critically important to enhance enforcement. Sanctions brought the Iranians to the table. Strengthening sanctions and enforcement of them is vital to create incentives and increase pressure if this interim step is unsuccessful. I believe there is a continued need for the Senate to pass even tougher sanctions. I will work with colleagues on a bipartisan bill that tightens trade and currency restrictions along with other sanctions if this interim agreement produces no progress."
            Nov. 24, 2013 in a statement
 
Barbara Boxer (D-CA), senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee
            “The comprehensive sanctions put in place by Congress and the Obama Administration helped lay the groundwork for this interim agreement, which essentially freezes Iran’s nuclear weapons program in place in exchange for limited sanctions relief—relief that could and should immediately be withdrawn if Iran fails to live up to its end of the bargain.
             “I am deeply disappointed by the negative reactions we have been hearing from some of my colleagues to the preliminary agreement. No one should underestimate the enormity of this breakthrough, which provides for daily inspections at Iranian nuclear facilities.
             “The Administration has left every option on the table should this agreement falter, but we should work as hard as possible across party lines to support a diplomatic solution.”
           Nov. 25, 2013 in a statement
 
Ben Cardin (D-MD)
            "Progress must be made during the next six months to have a more permanent elimination of Iran's capacity to produce a nuclear weapon. If not, the sanctions are re-imposed. And I think Congress will be watching this very closely…. We will not stand by and just let this be the final deal."
            Nov. 24, 2013 as reported by NBC News
 
Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
            "Instead of easing them, now is the time to tighten those sanctions and let's get a long term deal to prevent them from developing a weapon. I think you're going to see a strong movement in the United States Senate to move ahead to tighten sanctions. Now, they'll have to be a time frame in there. They've done this deal and this can be done without the approval of Congress so for the next six months, it looks like this deal is going to be in place. It may be that we have to pass a resolution that put sanctions on effective 3 months, 4 months, 6 months, whatever it might be. But now is just not the time to ease sanctions when they're working.”
             Nov. 24, 2013 to ABC
 
Bob Corker (R- TN)
            "It looks like we've tacitly agreed that they will be enriching [uranium] for commercial purposes down the road. So I think you're going to see on Capitol Hill … a bipartisan effort to try to make sure that this is not the final agreement... This administration is big on announcements, very short on substance. We see that time and time again.
            "I think there are going to be some people that want to impose additional sanctions, that's another effort that we may well take part in."
            Nov. 24, 2013 according to NBC News and The Guardian
 
Dick Durbin (D-IL)
            "Let’s go forward with the negotiation with our eyes wide open, but with inspectors on the ground we’ll be able to tell whether they’re in fact doing what they say they’re going to do."
            Nov. 29, 2013 to WBGZ radio
 
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
            "I support the agreement reached today between the P5+1 countries and Iran, which I believe is a significant step toward solving one of the most difficult security challenges facing the world today.
            "The six-month agreement puts in place strict controls on Iran’s nuclear program. Iran must halt uranium enrichment above 5%, neutralize its stockpile of near-20% uranium (by either reducing to 3.5% or converting to uranium oxide), halt the installation of any additional centrifuges of any type, freeze the size of its 3.5% stockpile at current levels (converting any newly enriched 3.5% to uranium oxide), halt production and testing of fuel for the Arak heavy-water reactor, halt installation of any components for the reactor, not transfer fuel or heavy water to the site, share the reactor's technical design with P5+1 countries and dramatically increase international inspections of all nuclear sites.
            "In return, the sanctions relief for Iran is limited, estimated not to exceed $7 billion, which leaves more than $100 billion frozen.
            "If Iran violates this agreement, it ends and we will know diplomacy is no longer an option. But if the terms are upheld, we will know that Iran is serious about reaching a final agreement.
            "By any standard, this agreement is a giant step forward and should not be undermined by additional sanctions at this time."
            Nov. 24, 2013 in a statement
 
Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
            "Unless the agreement requires dismantling of the Iranian centrifuges, we really haven't gained anything."
            Nov. 23, 2013 in a statement on Twitter
 
Martin Heinrich (D-NM)
            "The agreement reached today is a positive first step to limit Iran's nuclear program. The United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, China, and the European Union have all worked to negotiate strict oversight, enforcement mechanisms, and daily inspections that are critical to overseeing this agreement. While I welcome this important first step, I realize that challenges lie ahead. In the coming months Iran must show that it is sincere and that it will abide by the commitments it made to the international community. Should it violate the terms of the agreement, I stand ready to support additional sanctions in Congress. I have long supported tough sanctions in hopes of bringing Iran to the table to reach a diplomatic solution, and I am pleased to know they have helped create the conditions for today's agreement and perhaps a more comprehensive deal."
            Nov. 24, 2013 in a statement
 
Tim Kaine (D-VA)
            "This deal could bring us closer to a world less threatened by weapons of mass destruction. We should now press forward to do even more in pursuit of peace."
            Nov. 24, 2013 in a statement
 
Mark Kirk (R-IL)
            "Senate must enact bipartisan legislation to impose new sanctions if #Iran undermines deal or dismantlement of nuke pgm not underway in 6 mo."
            Nov. 23, 2013 in a statement on Twitter
 
Carl Levin (D-MI)
            "There is no harm in testing Iran's willingness because a freeze and a partial roll-back of Iran's nuclear energy activities is a bigger plus for us and the world than the release of $7 billion to Iran from its own assets, particularly since twice that amount of Iran's oil revenue will be added to Iran's frozen asset pile.
            "I support the interim deal with Iran. It is a realistic, practical way to freeze Iran's nuclear program for six months while we seek a long-range diplomatic end to Iran's nuclear weapon ambition. And it is another example of the value of tough sanctions backed by a broad international coalition...If there is no final deal at the end of six months, the interim deal will expire because it is not by its terms a final deal. And if Iran does not consent to a comprehensive agreement that ensures it cannot acquire a nuclear weapon, there is a broad consensus in Congress to impose even tougher sanctions."
            Nov. 24, 2013 in a statement
 

John McCain (R-AZ)

            "While I am seeking more information on this interim agreement, it does appear that, if implemented, this agreement could modestly slow Iran's nuclear ambitions during the next six months. I am, however, concerned by particular elements of this agreement and some other elements that are left out. For example, this agreement does not require Iran to resolve some of the outstanding concerns of the IAEA, which has rigorously documented Iran's pattern of lies and deceptions regarding its nuclear program. Iran also would not have to stop building completely its Arak nuclear facility and may never have to destroy it altogether... Problems and omissions such as these are compounded by an easing of sanctions that could make it harder to sustain the international will and cooperation to continue enforcing existing sanctions. The bigger problem, however, is that the ‘comprehensive’ agreement envisioned in this accord would have an expiration date, beyond which Iran would be allowed to retain a large-scale domestic enrichment program. In other words, what is envisioned does not appear to be a final settlement that could eliminate fully Iran's capability to develop nuclear weapons. That is problematic, because when this ‘comprehensive’ agreement expires, it is highly unlikely that the Iranian regime will have given up its support of terrorism and the many other malign activities that currently threaten our friends and allies in the Middle East and our own national security interests. I am concerned this agreement could be a dangerous step that degrades our pressure on the Iranian regime without demonstrable actions on Iran's part to end its pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability – a situation that would be reminiscent of our experience over two decades with North Korea. For this reason, I will continue working with my colleagues in Congress to keep the pressure on the Iranian regime, including by action on additional sanctions."
            Nov. 24, 2013 in a statement

Joe Manchin (D-WV)
            "I have always said that being a superpower means more than super military might; it means super diplomacy and super restraint...When a possibility for peace presents itself, no matter how distant or unlikely, we have an obligation to pursue it."

             Nov. 28, 2013 to the Charleston Gazette

Chris Murphy (D-CT)
            "The deal struck this morning between the United States, our allies, and Iran is a wise and necessary first step toward resolving the decades-long standoff over Iran's nuclear program."
            Nov. 24, 2013 in a statement
 
Bill Nelson (D-FL)
            "It is a choice between a pause or imminent war. I choose a verifiable pause."

             Nov. 24, 2013 according to The Wall Street Journal
 

Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)
            "The agreement reached on Iran’s nuclear program is an important first step toward preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, which is critical to the security of the U.S. and its allies. This agreement was possible because the powerful sanctions that we put in place, designed to force Iran to the negotiating table, have done precisely that. I urge all of my colleagues to come together in support of the agreement.
            "Holding Iran to this agreement stops progress on its nuclear program. It neutralizes Iran’s most dangerous stockpile of nuclear material – 20 percent enriched uranium – and it establishes significant monitoring mechanisms that enable inspectors to verify that Iran is in compliance with its commitments.
            "This deal maintains the powerful sanctions regime that has been built over the past years, and leaves the heaviest sanctions fully in place. If Iran does not execute on the commitments it made under the agreement, the relief stops, and the sanctions will be intensified.
           "As we move forward, there should not be any illusions about the difficulty of dealing with Iran. This agreement does not magically change the past nor does it ignore Iran’s current state sponsorship of terrorism. There will be real challenges in the months ahead in negotiating a long-term comprehensive agreement.
            "Nevertheless, I have always supported doing everything possible to achieve a peaceful path forward with Iran, and I believe this agreement is a significant step in the right direction. Introducing additional sanctions at this point could jeopardize the important progress that this agreement makes.
            "The bottom line is that this deal is the best path forward to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon without the use of military force, and I fully support it."
            Nov. 26, 2013 in a statemen

Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
            "This agreement has the potential to change the trajectory of events in the Middle East. It is only an opening step, as two sides begin to emerge from decades of enmity. Ultimately the Iranian nuclear weapons program must be fully shut down, and blind trust on our part would not be wise. With proper follow-up, however, this could mark an historic turning point toward a more peaceful world. I commend Secretary Kerry and the President."
            Nov. 24, 2013 in a statement
 
House of Representatives
 
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH)
            “The interim deal has been and will continue to be met with healthy skepticism and hard questions, not just of the Iranians, but of ourselves and our allies involved in the negotiations. Iran has a history of obfuscation that demands verification of its activities and places the burden on the regime to prove it is upholding its obligations in good faith while a final deal is pursued.
            “The Administration and its negotiating partners claim that a final deal can be completed that affirms Iran does not have a right to enrich and permanently and irreversibly dismantles the infrastructure of its uranium and plutonium nuclear programs. That is a goal the House shares. The lingering question, however, is whether the negotiating partners will work equally hard to preserve the strong international sanctions regime until that goal is achieved. Otherwise, we will look back on the interim deal as a remarkably clever Iranian move to dismantle the international sanctions regime while maintaining its infrastructure and material to pursue a break-out nuclear capability.”
            Nov. 24, 2013 in a statement
 
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA)
            “While I await specific details of the interim agreement, I remain concerned that this deal does not adequately halt Iran's enrichment capabilities. Numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions have called for the full suspension of Iran's nuclear activities, so it is troubling that this agreement still permits the Iranians to continue enriching. It is critical that distrust but verify be the guiding principle with which we approach this agreement.
            “Iran's long history of noncompliance with the U.N. Security Council is well known, as is its use of secret facilities to pursue its nuclear program. Iran remains the world's most active state sponsor of terrorism and the most destabilizing force in the Middle East.
            “As this deal goes into effect, the United States must remain vigilant and respond immediately and severely to any cheating or wrongdoing by Iran. And we must rebuild our alliances in the region and stand firmly with our closest partners against Iranian aggression.”
            Nov. 24, 2013 in a statement
 
David Cicilline (D-RI)
           "This tentative agreement with Iran, reached in Geneva, is a positive step towards halting Iran's nuclear program. This interim agreement allows the international community to continue to work to ensure that no further progress is made toward Iran's nuclear capability and that Iran reverses some past actions that have enhanced this capability. After years of tension between our two countries, this appears to be a step in the right direction and I am hopeful and even cautiously optimistic that Iran will fully comply with the requirements of this interim agreement."

            Nov. 24, 2013 in a statement
 

Tom Cotton (R-AR)
            "With this agreement, the United States has suffered an unmitigated, humiliating defeat and Iran has won a total victory.  The United States will ease sanctions and give the mullahs billions of dollars in return for their empty promises.  Iran will keep enriching uranium, keep its stockpiles of highly enriched uranium, keep its plutonium-producing reactor, and keep its missile program..."
            Nov. 24, 2013 in a statement
 
Ted Deutch (D-FL)
            “This partial deal is only the beginning, but we must be clear that the end result of this process is Iran verifiably and completely ending its nuclear weapons program and dangerous enrichment activities. Before any final deal can be reached, Iran must come clean about its entire nuclear program once and for all. This means addressing all outstanding claims by the IAEA of possible military aspects, dismantling the Arak reactor, halting centrifuge manufacturing, and granting inspectors full access to Parchin and all other sites. Iran must understand that all options remain until its nuclear program is no longer a threat to U.S. and international security.”
            Nov. 23, 2013 in a statement
 
Eliot Engel (D-NY), House Foreign Affairs Committee member
            "It’s difficult for the Senate to do sanctions now. It’s disappointing to me that
Iran is still going to be allowed to enrich [uranium)] while they’re talking. I would have thought that that should be a prerequisite to any kind of talks. [But] The agreement is here and we have to make it work."
            Nov. 24, 2013 to CNN
 
Scott Garrett (R-NJ)
            "President Obama's 'deal' with Iran is no deal for the United States or our ally, Israel.  Rather, it continues this administration's pattern of negotiation, where the United States gives but receives nothing in return.
            "I am deeply dismayed that we are so quick to free up billions of dollars in assets and revenue streams that Iran can use to further finance international terror or restart its nuclear program.  If, months from now, Iran wants to renege on this 'deal' and resume its pursuit of nuclear weapons, it won't be any further from developing a bomb than it is today.
            "Once again, President Obama's foreign policy 'win' weakens America, her allies, and our position in the world."
            Nov. 25, 2013 in a statement
 
Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)
            "Congratulations to President Obama, Secretary Kerry and everyone involved in the successful Iranian nuclear negotiations. Diplomacy, not invasion - that's what real leadership is about."
            Nov. 23, 2013 on Facebook
 
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD)
            "Our policy is that Iran should not have a nuclear arms capability. That continues to be our policy and the military option, as Secretary Kerry just said, is still on the table and it needs to be on the table. We need to make sure that Iran does not move forward. I think this is a marginal improvement. It does freeze some of their activity in place and it continues the major sanctions in place. It's going to be costly on a continuing basis to them. I think that the Senate has a sanction bill that increases sanctions which we passed in the House in July. I think moving forward with that, but not implementing it for six months assuming that the Iranians do in fact what they say they're going to do, [is the right thing to do]. I think the Secretary of State is absolutely correct, verification is the key here. We don't trust Iran, we need to verify that in fact they're going to do what they say they’re going to do and will move towards final agreement which will ultimately dismantle and eliminate their ability to have nuclear weapon."
            Nov. 24, 2013 to CBS
 
Dan Kildee (D-MI)
           "Today’s agreement with Iran regarding its nuclear program, albeit short-term, is potential progress. This development represents an opportunity for Iran as it seeks to rejoin the global community. However, questions still rightfully remain about Iran after decades of distrust that cannot be repaired overnight. Releasing Amir Hekmati, my constituent who continues to be imprisoned in Iran, would be a tangible demonstration that it is serious about ongoing diplomacy."
            Nov. 23, 2013 in a statement

Barbara Lee (D-CA)
            "On tonight's announcement from President Obama on the deal with Iran regarding their nuclear program, we must note the significance, but also recognize that there are challenges ahead. This is indeed a triumph for diplomacy, and I'm pleased that President Obama reasserted Congress' role in these negotiations. It is my hope that this deal is a step towards a more peaceful and secure world."
            Nov. 23, 2013 in a press release
 
Buck McKeon (R-CA)
            "Iran hasn't given the world reason to be anything but deeply skeptical of any agreement that leaves their capacity to build nuclear weapons intact. The President sees wisdom in placing trust, however limited, in a regime that has repeatedly violated international norms and put America's security at risk. Apparently, America has not learned its lesson from 1994 when North Korea fooled the world. I am skeptical that this agreement will end differently."
            Nov. 24, 2013 according to FOX
 
Gregory Meeks (D-NY)
            "The agreement addresses the most pressing areas of immediate concern and will verifiably freeze Iran's nuclear program, diminish its capabilities, increase transparency, and allow daily access and increased monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  It is reasonable that in exchange for this modest breakthrough to limit and curb Iran's program there will be modest and reversible sanctions relief.
            "This historic understanding is a diplomatic breakthrough that enhances the value of multilateral cooperation, and directly advances the security interests of the United States and our allies."
             Nov. 24, 2013 in a statement
 

Robert Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

            "I expect that the forthcoming sanctions legislation to be considered by the Senate will provide for a six month window to reach a final agreement before imposing new sanctions on Iran, but will at the same time be immediately available should the talks falter or Iran fail to implement or breach the interim agreement."
            Nov. 24, 2013 in a statement
 
Luke Messer (R-IN)
            "We all want a world free from a nuclear Iran. Unfortunately, the deal announced yesterday may make that less likely. The deal provides billions of dollars of sanctions relief to the Iranian regime while requiring only cosmetic changes in their nuclear program. A smarter course would be to strengthen sanctions until Iran agrees to give up its nuclear ambitions."
            Nov. 23, 2013 in a statement
 
Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
            "Last night's agreement is an essential step toward meeting our ultimate objective: to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. President Obama, Secretary Kerry, their team, and our allies are to be commended for their successful efforts to hash out a deal that advances national, regional, and global security....This announcement marks a necessary bridge to further negotiations on a lasting, long-term, and comprehensive agreement. Through diplomacy, engagement, and unity among our allies, we must continue acting to end Iran's nuclear weapons program once and for all."
            Nov. 24, 2013 in a statement
 
Mike Pompeo (R-KS)
            "The negotiated deal with Iran, which allows Iran to keep developing nuclear materials, is a major step backwards for America’s national security and the safety of the American people. Iran now has more time to enrich its uranium stockpiles, as well as researching weaponization and fabrication, which are not covered under this deal. Iran has also gained legitimacy, despite bankrolling international terrorism and proliferating nuclear weapons. And Iran has also gained at least $7 billion thanks to the easing of sanctions that were intended as punishment for violating the regime’s nuclear pledges in the first place. Promising the Iranians that they can keep their nuclear weapons is not a foreign policy. It’s surrender."
            Nov. 24, 2013 in a statement
 
Mike Rogers (R-MI)
            "We may -- we may have just encouraged more violence in the future than we have stopped. That's why I hope we reconsider where we're at, certainly in six months. You have now given them a permission slip to continue enrichment. That's what the whole world was trying to stop them from doing."
            Nov. 24, 2013 on CNN
 
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
            "I’m disappointed that the agreement reached with Iran leaves unfulfilled our ultimate objective: a complete dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program and related activities. In offering to ease sanctions in return for a six-month halt in the nuclear program, the agreement accepted by the Administration simply does not go far enough to ensure our national security interests and those of our allies, like the democratic Jewish State of Israel. I’m particularly troubled by this agreement’s failure to force Tehran to completely stop uranium enrichment and dismantle its existing centrifuges, whose operation can be resumed quickly, allowing Iran to potentially reach nuclear capacity in a brief amount of time...This deal falls short of our primary national security objectives, and it puts into unnecessary danger the security of our friends and allies."
            Nov. 24, 2013 in a statement
 
Ed Royce (R-CA)
            "I have serious concerns that this agreement does not meet the standards necessary to protect the United States and our allies. Instead of rolling back Iran’s program, Tehran would be able to keep the key elements of its nuclear weapons-making capability. Yet we are the ones doing the dismantling – relieving Iran of the sanctions pressure built up over years. This sanctions relief is more lifeline than ‘modest.’ Secretary Kerry should soon come before the Foreign Affairs Committee to address the many concerns with this agreement."
            Nov. 23, 2013 in a statement
 
Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
            "Yesterday’s deal is an important step toward preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons capability, and a major win for U.S. national security. The agreement freezes Iran’s nuclear program for six months, and rolls back certain parts of the program. As the President said last night, the agreement cuts off the Iranians’ most likely paths to a bomb. It ensures that inspectors will have robust and daily access to Iran’s nuclear facilities, so we will know faster than ever if Tehran attempts to cheat on the deal. It was achieved through strong U.S. leadership and coordination with our international partners, bolstering our international standing and credibility. And, perhaps most importantly, it grants Iran only modest relief, leaving the strong sanctions passed by Congress in place, ensuring that we maintain our leverage. Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons capability...”
            Nov. 24, 2013 in a statement

Adam Schiff (D-CA)
            "I have little trust in the Iranian regime, and we will need to scrutinize Iranian behavior to ensure they do not cheat. If they do, or if at the end of six months they fail to agree on a final resolution, we must freeze all Iranian assets and ramp up even more punitive sanctions. Iran must not mistake our resolve that it never be permitted to obtain the bomb, threaten the U.S. and Israel, and touch off a regional nuclear arms race. At the same time, if Iran’s new President can make good on his stated intention, the next six months could mark a turning point in our relations with Iran of historic significance."
            Nov. 24, 2013 according to Politico
 
Charles Schumer (D-NY)
            "As for additional sanctions, this disproportionality of this agreement makes it more likely that Democrats and Republicans will join together and pass additional sanctions when we return in December. I intend to discuss that possibility with my colleagues."
            Nov. 24, 2013 in a statement
 
Adam Smith (D-WA)
            "The deal is a "positive step in the right direction. The deal also puts in place an improved inspection, monitoring, and verification regime. This preliminary step should serve as a bridge to a long-term deal. This interim agreement gives us the chance to make significant progress towards the goal we and our allies seek: preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."
            Nov. 24, 2013 as reported by Politico.
 
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)
            "This is a very important first step toward the goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon."
            Nov. 24, 2013 according to McClatchy
 
Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL)
            "I welcome the opportunity for diplomacy, it is always preferable to sending our sons and daughters into harm's way. Let it never be forgotten that military action has its costs, certainly on the American taxpayer, but most importantly on the lives and families of the brave men and women we send into the battlefield. For that reason I am hopeful for peace, however President Rouhani's past actions and statements require a skeptical eye. Iran remains the world's leading state sponsor of terror. In this deal, the devil is truly in the details. The verify part needs to come before the trust."
            Nov. 25, 2013 in a press release
 
 

Geneva Deal V: Israel and the Gulf Reaction

            On November 24, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted the interim agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program, calling it a “historic mistake.” He argued that sanctions “have been given up in exchange for cosmetic Iranian concessions.” President Shimon Peres directed his softer reaction to the Iranian people. “You [Iranians] are not our enemies and we [Israelis] are not yours,” he said. But Peres also warned that “if the diplomatic path fails, the nuclear option will be prevented by other means.”
            The Gulf states, which were also skeptical about talks between Iran and the world’s six major powers, issued reserved reactions to the deal. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates cautiously hoped the agreement would eventually lead to the broader removal of weapons of mass destruction from the region.

            But one Saudi official candidly expressed his fears about the deal. Abdullah al Askar, chairman of the Shura Council’s foreign affairs committee, said that he worried “about giving Iran more space or a freer hand in the region.” Tehran “has proven that it has an ugly agenda in the region,” he said. The following are excerpted remarks from Israel and the Gulf sheikhdoms.

 
Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
 
            “What was achieved last night in Geneva is not an historic agreement; it is an historic mistake. Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world. For the first time, the world’s leading powers have agreed to uranium enrichment in Iran while ignoring the U.N. Security Council decisions that they themselves led. Sanctions that required many years to put in place contain the best chance for a peaceful solution. These sanctions have been given up in exchange for cosmetic Iranian concessions that can be cancelled in weeks. This agreement and what it means endanger many countries including, of course, Israel. Israel is not bound by this agreement. The Iranian regime is committed to the destruction of Israel and Israel has the right and the obligation to defend itself, by itself, against any threat. As Prime Minister of Israel, I would like to make it clear: Israel will not allow Iran to develop a military nuclear capability.”
            Nov. 24, 2013 in remarks at a cabinet meeting
 
            On November 25, Netanyahu tweeted that the deal was better than what was “originally planned” but “still a bad deal.”
 
President Shimon Peres
            “Last night a deal was signed between the P5+1 and Iran. This is an interim deal. The success or failure of the deal will be judged by results, not by words. I would like to say to the Iranian people: You are not our enemies and we are not yours. There is a possibility to solve this issue diplomatically. It is in your hands. Reject terrorism. Stop the nuclear program. Stop the development of long-range missiles. Israel like others in the international community prefers a diplomatic solution. But I want to remind everyone of what President Obama said, and what I have personally heard from other leaders. The international community will not tolerate a nuclear Iran. And if the diplomatic path fails, the nuclear option will be prevented by other means. The alternative is far worse.”
            Nov. 24, 2013 in a statement
 
Yitzhak Herzog, Labor party chairman and parliament's opposition leader
            “The agreement that was signed tonight between the powers and Iran is a fait accompli, and Israel must adjust itself to the new situation. A question mark remains regarding the end of the process and on this matter the Israeli concern is justified. Accordingly, Netanyahu must do everything in his power to fix the damage caused by the public clash with the United States and to return to an intimate relationship with President Obama and other world leaders.”
            Nov. 25, 2013 in an interview with Channel 10 television
Saudi Arabia
            “If there is goodwill, then this agreement could be an initial step toward reaching a comprehensive solution for Iran's nuclear program if that leads to the removal of weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, from the Middle East and Arab Gulf.”
Nov. 25, 2013 in a cabinet statement
 
Abdullah al Askar, chairman of the Shura Council’s foreign affairs committee
            “I am afraid Iran will give up something on [its nuclear program] to get something else from the big powers in terms of regional politics. And I’m worrying about giving Iran more space or a freer hand in the region. The government of Iran, month after month, has proven that it has an ugly agenda in the region, and in this regard no one in the region will sleep and assume things are going smoothly.”
            Nov. 24, 2013 according to Reuters
 
Qatar
            The agreement is “an important step towards safeguarding peace and stability in the region… The State of Qatar calls for making the Middle East a nuclear weapon-free zone.”
            Nov. 24, 2013 in a foreign ministry statement
 
The United Arab Emirates
            “The cabinet hopes this would represent a step towards a permanent agreement that preserves the stability of the region and shield it from tension and the danger of nuclear proliferation.”
            Nov. 24, 2013 in a cabinet statement published by state media
 
 

Kuwait

Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Khaled al Jarallah

            I hope the deal “would pave the way for a permanent accord that would defuse tension, and preserves the stability and security of the region.”
            Nov. 24, 2013 in a statement
 
Bahrain
Foreign Minister  Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al Khalifa
            “The agreement removes fears from us, whether from Iran or any other state.”
            Nov. 25, 2013 according to The National
 
 

Geneva Deal VI: Experts on Terms

            The following briefs analyze the terms of the interim deal on Iran’s controversial nuclear program.
 
International Crisis Group
The Iran Nuclear Accord: First Step in a Long Journey
 
            The International Crisis Group strongly welcomes the 24 November agreement between Iran and the P5+1 (five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany). The accord – the principal thrust of which Crisis Group for some time has been calling for – is a testament to the effectiveness of diplomacy when conducted in a positive atmosphere.
            Although only a first step, the agreement has important implications. In particular, it freezes essential aspects of Iran’s nuclear activities – its stockpile of low enriched uranium; number of operational centrifuges; and work at the Arak heavy-water facility; rolls back Tehran's enrichment at higher concentration levels; and puts in place intrusive inspection mechanisms.
            The net result is to virtually eliminate the possibility of an undetected dash towards militarisation. For its part, Iran has gained tangible economic and humanitarian sanctions relief, a commitment that it will not be subjected to additional punitive measures at this time and implicit acceptance of a constrained and transparent uranium enrichment program on its soil…
 
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The Middle East Institute
The Iran Nuclear Deal: Risks and Opportunities for the Region
Paul Salem
            The nuclear deal with Iran, though still temporary and tentative, is ushering in a historic shift in the patterns of power, conflict, and diplomacy in the region. Like all historic shifts, it is laden with uncertainty and risk of new conflicts, but also carries with it potential opportunities for further diplomacy and finding common ground. Given the precedent of conflict and mistrust in the region, it is no surprise that the deal has raised concerns among many of America’s allies…
            The careening of U.S. policy from threats of war to sudden deals has left the region reeling. What has been achieved is potentially promising and very important. But the United States needs to move urgently, not only to reassure its allies about the nuclear issue, but also to discuss with them ways to build on the remaining sanctions and negotiations to move Iran toward positions that can provide a basis for regional stability and prosperity that would be in everyone’s interest.
 
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Center for Strategic & International Studies
The Best Deal with Iran That We Can Get
Anthony Cordesman
            One needs to be very careful about the deal the P5+1 has reached with Iran. It is still not clear that the Supreme Leader will accept it or that Iran will put it into practice. It is a preliminary agreement that must be followed up by lasting Iranian compliance, acceptance by the U.S. and other nations, and must be maintained indefinitely into the future.
            Making the agreement work requires a delicate balancing act by the U.S. and other members of the P5+1. The P5+1 must make it clear to Iran that any failure to honor the agreement will lead to even more stringent sanctions and that the risk of preventive strikes, extended deterrence, missile developments and a massive military build up in the Gulf remains real, all the while showing Iran that a real opening to the U.S. and the world offers it security and significant new opportunities for economic development...
 
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Geneva Deal VII: Nuclear Diplomacy in Iranian Tweets

            The chain of events that ultimately produced Iran’s nuclear deal with the world’s six major powers played out in a string of tweets between June 17 and November 24. The tweets began shortly after President Hassan Rouhani’s election and culminated with Foreign Minister Moh Zarif’s newsbreaking tweet, “We have reached an agreement.”

           In June, Hassan Rouhani defeated hardliners in the presidential election and pledged to improve Iran’s relations with the outside world —including the United States.
           Rouhani also suggested that Tehran could be more transparent on its nuclear energy program.
            Some hardliners criticized Zarif’s approach as too conciliatory. Others urged the Rouhani administration to publicize details of the talks. But Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned against questioning the negotiating team.
            Khamenei, however, was not optimistic about the next round of talks scheduled to begin on November 7.
            Foreign ministers from the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia rushed to Geneva as a breakthrough appeared imminent. But last-minute differences, reportedly spurred by French demands for tougher terms, blocked a deal that might have temporarily frozen Iran’s nuclear program in return for modest sanctions relief. Negotiators planned to meet again in Geneva on November 20.
           Secretary of State John Kerry implied in his comments to the press that Iran had objections to the proposal. Zarif responded in a tweet.
           Zarif posted a video charting the path forward for compromise on the nuclear dispute one day before the next round of talks.
           Khamenei welcomed the deal as a victory and example of Iranian resistance to excessive demands of Western powers.

The Iran Deal: A Humanizing Breakthrough

Robin Wright

            In 1981, I stood at the foot of the plane that flew the 52 Americans held hostage 444 days in Iran to freedom in Algiers. They were all pasty-faced and captive-weary as they disembarked into the cold January night. It was after midnight. Tehran had delayed their departure until after Jimmy Carter was out of office, one final slap at the president who had propped up the last shah until the end and later welcomed him into the United States.
           Weeks of tough negotiations in Algiers to free the hostages had been complicated because Iranians and Americans did not meet face-to-face. They mediated (in three languages) through the Algerians.

      So the recent talks in Geneva between Iran and the world’s six major powers produced far more than a long-elusive deal to restrict Iran’s nuclear program. The new diplomacy also produced real human contact. U.S. and Iranian diplomats have spent more time together over the past three months than in the entire three decades since the American Embassy takeover. They are learning how to talk to each other all over again—often in the same language. Geneva laid the cornerstone to defuse 34 years of both overt and covert confrontation over a host of other issues too. The interaction may even help end the Iran jinx that has tainted or tormented all six American presidents since the 1979 revolution.
            The hostage crisis cost Jimmy Carter a second term. The Reagan administration was shamed by clumsy secret diplomacy during the Iran-Contra scandal, which was initiated to free a new set of American hostages in Beirut but which ended up with the indictment or dismissal of top White House officials. The first Bush administration’s stab at Arab-Israeli diplomacy, centered on the 1991 Madrid peace conference, was matched by deepening ties between Iran and Palestinian rejectionists.
            The Clinton administration considered military retaliation against Iran after the 1996 attack on a U.S. Air Force facility in Khobar, Saudi Arabia killed 19 Americans and injured another 350. A Shiite group with Iran ties was suspected. The second Bush administration’s “axis of evil” language sabotaged collaboration in Afghanistan after the Taliban’s ouster in 2001, while the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions inadvertently strengthened Tehran’s hand by toppling its two biggest regional rivals.
            In contrast, Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif were photographed laughing together across the negotiating table in Geneva. In the wee hours of November 24, they shook hands—more than just politely—after signing an agreement opening the way for six months of even more intensive contact. No one noted that Kerry wore a (bright red) tie, but Zarif didn’t, in deference to the revolutionary dress code banning ties as symbols of Western influence—the kind of colorful anecdote once trotted out to underscore deep differences.
            Debate will rage from Capitol Hill to the Persian Gulf over specifics of the interim deal. Many both at home and abroad are dissatisfied. Some may try to scuttle it. The volume will almost certainly go up as diplomacy intensifies.
            But the reality is that Iran’s nuclear program is now too advanced to either bomb or sanction totally out of business. A deal should have happened a decade ago when Iran had less than 200 centrifuges to enrich uranium, the fuel for both peaceful nuclear energy and the world’s deadliest weapon. Now it has near 19,000. Both sides were too stubborn back then.
The conventional wisdom claims Iran came to the negotiating table under pressure from unparalleled economic sanctions. True. But the unacknowledged truth is that the outside world also went into diplomacy under pressure from Iran’s growing capabilities. Otherwise, the world’s six major powers could have just kept squeezing the Islamic Republic. Tehran also now has nuclear knowledge that can’t be bombed out of existence.
            So, ultimately, even a military strike would require diplomacy to prevent Tehran from rebuilding. The core issue is as much Iran’s long-term calculations as its capabilities.
Diplomacy is not only about preventing war. It’s also about healing. President Nixon’s diplomacy ended 30 years of deadly tensions with China, which included Beijing’s arming, aiding and sending troops to North Vietnam. President Clinton resumed relations with a reunited Vietnam 20 years after the United States lost more than 58,000 lives in a war to keep the Communists from consuming the south.
            The sprawling American Embassy compound in Tehran is not likely to reopen anytime soon. But in pushing for a nuclear deal, Geneva started the long and painful healing that could eventually alter Tehran’s calculations—not only about its nuclear program.
 
 

Robin Wright has traveled to Iran dozens of times since 1973. She has covered several elections, including the 2009 presidential vote. She is the author of several books on Iran, including "The Last Great Revolution: Turmoil and transformation in Iran" and "The Iran Primer: Power, Politics and US Policy." She is a joint scholar at USIP and the Woodrow Wilson Center.

 

Photo credit: U.S. State Department

 

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