United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Part III: Opposition to a Deal - Congress

            Any deal on Iran’s controversial nuclear program may need Congressional approval. But the Obama administration could  face a tough sell for any deal on the Hill from both Republicans and Democrats. Nearly 60 percent of sanctions imposed on Tehran have been written into law since the 1980s.
            At least a dozen members from both the Senate and House reportedly spoke with new Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Jawad Zarif during the U.N. opening in New York. Some in Congress have been outspoken in support of a deal. Zarif "doesn't play games," said Senate Select Committee on Intelligence chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who met him in 2006 and was among a number of members of Congress who talked to him at the United Nations in September. "I think a deal is doable."
            Other members, however, have called for new sanctions and have indicated strong skepticism about new talks between Iran and the world’s six major powers.
            More than a dozen members warned against an interim agreement reportedly discussed by world’s six major powers and Iran in Geneva between November 7 and 10. "No one who is serious about preventing a nuclear-armed Iran should be comforted by what transpired this weekend in Geneva. After ten years of talks that have been multilateral, bilateral, secret and open, we should expect more than just inconsequential interim measures from Iran," Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said on November 10. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told CNN he was astounded that "the White House would say that a deal that would allow enrichment of uranium and building a plutonium reactor is not a march to war."
            Several members were concerned that an interim deal could harm Israel's interests. "President Obama should not abandon our friend and ally Israel, and he should notcut a deal that endangers the national security of the United States," Senator Ted Cruz said on November 8. 
            Secretary of State John Kerry briefed the Senate Committee in a closed session on November 13.  "What we’re really asking the Congress to do is give us the time to be able to negotiate and present a good deal that will be able to protect Israel, protect our interests, protect the region, and guarantee... Iran will not be able to get a nuclear weapon," Kerry told MSNBC a day later. 
           The following are excerpted remarks by members of Congress on Iran’s new diplomacy and the nuclear talks held in Geneva in October and November.

 

Republicans
 
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (VA)
            “I find it astounding that the White House would say that a deal that would allow enrichment of uranium and building a plutonium reactor is not a march to war. That’s the march to war. The deal that was in the works would frankly allow Iran to continue its pursuit of nuclear weapons capability. What we’re trying to do in the Congress, which we’ve already done in the House, is to pass additional sanctions. It’s up to the Senate now because the House has passed the sanctions. What’s very odd right now in the Middle East is you have the Arabs and the Israelis join together in their sense that American foreign policy as is played out in that potential interim agreement is something that is not helpful to the stability of the region, and in fact those allies of ours are telling us that to allow Iran the ability to continue to enrich or to build a plutonium factory is a sure way to spawn nuclear proliferation – and God forbid, face a nuclear Iran.”
            Nov. 13, 2013 in an interview with CNN
 
Senator Marco Rubio (FL)
            “No one who is serious about preventing a nuclear-armed Iran should be comforted by what transpired this weekend in Geneva. After ten years of talks that have been multilateral, bilateral, secret and open, we should expect more than just inconsequential interim measures from Iran. 
            “The urgency of the situation and the significant progress Iran has made in its nuclear efforts over the last decade demand much more than what the Obama administration appears willing to accept. Iran continues to refuse to meet the requirements of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions and abandon its nuclear weapons program. None of the steps Iran reportedly has proposed will do much to significantly postpone the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran even as the U.S. and our partners would give up key economic leverage with Tehran. 
            “I am also concerned that in our haste to endorse a flawed arrangement with Iran, this administration appears willing to ignore the concerns of some of our closest allies.  We should be learning from our experiences with other nuclear rogues, such as North Korea, and not repeat the same mistakes, which I fear is the case here.”
            Nov. 10, 2013 in a statement 
 
Senator Bob Corker (TN)
            “The [U.N.] security council resolutions call for a complete stoppage [of Iran’s enrichment activities]…so you can imagine that Congress -- that put these sanctions in place with the administration kicking and screaming all the way, pushing back against these sanctions -- [is] very concerned that we’re going to deal away the leverage that we have where we finally have Iran willing to sit down and talk about these issues.
            “A partial agreement leads us down the same path we went down with North Korea, where just to get people to act right…you continue to reduce sanctions. So, again, a lot of concerns about the approach. A lot of us want to see it resolved diplomatically. We know the sanctions got us here, and we’re worried we’re dealing away our leverage.”
            Nov. 10, 2013 on NBC’s “Meet the Press”
 
Senator Mark Kirk (IL)
            “Today is the day in which I witnessed the future of nuclear war in the Middle East. This administration, like Neville Chamberlain, is yielding large and bloody conflict in the Middle East involving Iranian nuclear weapons. How do you define an Iranian moderate? An Iranian who is out of bullets and out of money.”
            Nov. 13, 2013 to reporters after Secretary of State John Kerry’s briefing
 
            “A deal that undermines sanctions and doesn't stop a future with Iranian nuclear weapons is the deal of the century for Iran.
           “According to multiple news reports, the P5+1 offered the following sanctions relief to Iran during the latest round of negotiations: repatriation of $3 billion in Iranian assets trapped in accounts overseas, in addition to the suspension of current sanctions with respect to precious metals (like gold), Iran’s petrochemical and car industries, and aviation parts.”
            Nov. 10, 2013 blog entry
 
Representative Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (CA). Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee
            “In true ‘lead from behind’ fashion, the Obama Administration appears to be entertaining a deal that snatches defeat from the jaws of victory – not unlike the precipitous withdrawal from Iraq or the contemplated ‘zero option’ in Afghanistan. Relieving sanctions without a guarantee that Iran will end its nuclear program is foolish. For some reason, this Administration has yet to meet a red line it won’t brush aside to accommodate our enemies. They must stop chasing the thrill of a deal at the expense of U.S. national security, and the security of our allies.”
            Nov. 9, 2013 in a press release
 
Senator John McCain (AZ)
            Secretary Kerry is "a good friend of mine". But “this guy has been a human wrecking ball" on Iran. "Why should Iran have the right to enrich [uranium] when they have a clear record of seeking to and taking action to acquire nuclear weapons? Canada doesn't exercise a right to enrich uranium. Mexico doesn't."
            Nov. 14, 2013 in remarks at the Washington Ideas Forum
 
Representative Ilena Ros-Lehtinen (FL)
             “If true that the Administration is actually proposing sanctions relief for Iran in exchange for a six-month halt in its nuclear program, it would be a significant error in judgment that very likely could have the opposite intended outcome. Iran has shown time and time again that it will use whatever means necessary at its disposal to buy time to complete its nuclear program. There can be no concessions whatsoever – no easing of sanctions, no deals – until Iran takes the first verifiable and concrete steps to dismantle its nuclear program.”
            Nov. 7, 2013 in a press release
 
Senator Ted Cruz (TX)
            “If the reports are correct, this is a terrible deal, and it is dangerous for America. The prospect of Iran acquiring nuclear weapon capacity is the gravest national security threat we face, yet it appears that this 'deal' does not require Iran to dismantle even a single centrifuge or turn over even a single pound of enriched uranium. To lift economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for an amorphous promise to pause their immediate efforts to acquire nuclear weapons makes no sense whatsoever. It is almost surely unverifiable, and lifting the sanctions will only encourage Iran to surreptitiously continue to develop nuclear weapons--weapons that, if acquired, pose an existential threat to America and our allies.
            "The United States should negotiate from a position of strength, not weakness. We should have insisted on good-faith measures before meeting with the Iranians directly, such as the release of Pastor Saeed Abedini and the acknowledgment of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.
            "Prime Minister Netanyahu has taken the extraordinary step of condemning what is happening in Geneva as a 'very, very bad deal.' President Obama should not abandon our friend and ally Israel, and he should notcut a deal that endangers the national security of the United States."
            Nov. 8, 2013 in a statement
       
Representative Ed Royce (CA)
            “International sanctions have forced Iran to the negotiating table; we should build upon this success with additional measures to compel Iran to make meaningful and lasting concessions.”
            Oct. 14, 2013 in a letter to President Obama
 
Representative Trent Franks (AZ)
            “As the Obama Administration now engages in negotiations with Iran, there is a legitimate risk that this Administration, in its imprudent eagerness to adopt the narrative of a more peaceful and 'moderate' Iranian regime, could strike an agreement with Iran that does not actually prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapons capability.”
            Oct. 15, 2013 in a press release
 
Senators Kelly Ayotte (NH), Lindsey Graham (SC) and Mark Kirk (IL)
            “Now is a time to strengthen--not weaken--U.S. and international sanctions. The U.S. should not suspend new sanctions, nor consider releasing limited frozen assets, before Tehran suspends its nuclear enrichment activities.”
            Oct. 18, 2013 in a joint statement
 
Democrats
 
Senator Chris Murphy (CT)
            “Now, the United States and the P5+1 are close to obtaining a verifiable commitment from Iran to halt activities that could eventually lead to the development of a nuclear weapon. This agreement, should it be finalized, will send a powerful message about the world community's commitment to nonproliferation and substantially advance the security of Israel and other nations in the region. At this critical juncture in these negotiations when Iran may be on the verge of making serious concessions regarding its nuclear program, I worry it would be counterproductive for Congress to authorize a new round of sanctions, diminishing American leverage and weakening the hands of Secretary Kerry and his counterparts in the P5+1. 
            “The P5+1 and Iran return to the negotiating table on November 20th, with a deal for a framework agreement reportedly very close. Congress should be clear that a failure of Iran to come to an agreement with the P5+1 will prompt the imposition of another round of sanctions; but for the time being, Congress should let our negotiators do their job.”
            Nov. 13, 2013 in a statement
 
Senator Robert Menendez (NJ), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee
            Iran is on the ropes because of its intransigent policies and our collective will, and it would be imprudent to want an agreement more than the Iranians do.
            Tougher sanctions will serve as an incentive for Iran to verifiably dismantle its nuclear weapons program. When Iran complies, sanctions can be unwound and economic relief will follow.
            This approach is in concert with our diplomatic efforts and consistent with previous actions taken by the international community. It's a necessary insurance policy, too. Should Iran fail to negotiate in good faith or abide by any agreement, the penalties will be severe.
            Nov. 13, 2013 in an op-ed for USA Today
 
Representative Eliot Engel (NY), senior Democratic member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee
            “I am closely following reports from Geneva that negotiators may soon finalize the parameters of an interim agreement regarding Iran’s nuclear program.  While I support the President’s efforts to engage with Iran, I am deeply troubled by reports that such an agreement may not require Tehran to halt its enrichment efforts.  If Iran intends to show good faith during these talks, it must at a minimum abide by United Nations Security Council resolutions calling for a halt to enrichment-- and it is my hope that we achieve much more.  In addition, I forcefully reject any notion that Iran has a ‘right’to enrichment, a view which the Administration has publicly articulated on numerous occasions.”
            Nov. 8, 2013 in a statement
 
Senator Bob Casey (PA)
            “I'd say no [if Obama asked to lift sanctions]. They've got a long way to go to demonstrate the kind of credibility that would lead us to believe we can move in a conciliatory direction. And sanctions are what has strengthened the administration's hand."
            Mid-October 2013 in comments to Foreign Policy
 
Representative Yvette Clarke (NY)
            “The removal of sanctions before Iran has demonstrated its good faith would undermine the security of the United States and its allies, such as Israel. We must maintain a policy of caution. As a member of the Committee on Homeland Security, I will continue to work with President Obama and my colleagues in the House of Representatives to eliminate any potential threats to our security.”
            Sept. 26, 2013 in a statement
 
            But some Democrats expressed support for encouraging a diplomatic outcome.
 
Representative David Price (NC)
            “Certainly there are some senators pushing for a new set of sanctions to be enacted. My own judgment is that the timing on that is very poor -- that it would be much preferable to hold that legislation in abeyance… The time may come when a new round of sanctions needs to be enacted, but my own judgment is that it would be better not to do that now, to give the diplomacy a freer reign.”
            Oct. 18, 2013 in an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
 
Bipartisan Letters
            Senators Charles E. Schumer, Lindsey Graham, Robert Menendez, John McCain, Bob Casey and Susan Collins wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry, expressing their support for negotiations but cautioning the Administration against accepting a deal with Iran that would roll back economic sanctions without also rolling back progress towards nuclear weapons capability.
 
Dear Secretary Kerry:
 
We appreciate your continued efforts, in concert with our friends and allies, to negotiate with the Iranian regime. We also commend the efforts of your negotiating team to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability.  Our negotiators have benefited from the effects of tough economic sanctions in bringing Iran to the table.  Without the Administration, Congress, and our allies working together, we would not have arrived at this crucial point.
 
Indeed, we support the concept of an interim agreement with Iran that would roll back its nuclear program as a first step to seeking a final settlement that prevents Iran from ever developing a nuclear weapons capability. At the same time, we are concerned that the interim agreement would require us to make significant concessions before we see Iran demonstrably commit to moving away from developing a nuclear weapons capability.
 
It is our understanding that the interim agreement now under consideration would not require Iran to even meet the terms of prior United Nations Security Council resolutions which require Iran to suspend its reprocessing, heavy water-related and enrichment-related activities and halt ongoing construction of any uranium-enrichment, reprocessing, or heavy water-related facilities. For example, we understand that the P5+1 is prepared to permit Iran to continue enriching uranium at 3.5 percent albeit for civilian use, to cap but not reduce its number of centrifuges, and to continue work around or near the Arak heavy water nuclear reactor. While the interim agreement may suggest that Iran could be willing temporarily to slow its pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability, it could also allow Iran to continue making some progress toward that end under the cover of negotiations. This does not give us confidence that Iran is prepared to abandon unambiguously its nuclear weapons pursuit altogether, as it must.
 
Furthermore, it is our understanding that in return for certain Iranian actions, the P5+1 would allow Iran to gain access to considerable amounts of capital that have been frozen by our international sanctions. Some have estimated the value of this capital for Iran as much as $10 billion. We regard this as a major concession on our part that would not be justified by the concessions the Iranian regime would be required to make in return. If we are reducing sanctions, Iran should be reducing its nuclear capabilities.
 
As you know, it is not just the sanctions themselves but the threat that they would continue to tighten that has brought the Iranians to the negotiating table. Easing sanctions now without real, tangible actions by Iran to roll back its nuclear program would not only diminish this threat of future pressure, it could make it more difficult to maintain the current sanctions regime at a time when many international actors are already eager to lessen their implementation of sanctions. We feel strongly that any easing of sanctions along the lines that the P5+1 is reportedly considering should require Iran to roll back its nuclear program more significantly than now envisioned.  
 
It is our belief that any interim agreement with the Iranians should bring us closer to our ultimate goal which is Iran without a nuclear weapons capability.  We must ensure that the steps we take in the coming weeks and months move us towards a resolution that ultimately brings Iran in compliance with all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions, seeks to prevent Tehran from possessing any enrichment or reprocessing capability, and resolves any and all fears that Iran will develop a nuclear weapons capability.
 
The upcoming round of negotiations could hardly be more important and we must be ever mindful of with whom we are negotiating. Iran has been the largest state sponsor of terrorism for over thirty years; its leaders routinely call for the destruction of Israel; and it arms and finances terrorist groups around the globe. We urge you and your negotiating team to fight for an interim agreement that demands as much or more of Iran as it does of the United States and our allies. We hope in the next few weeks we and our partners will redouble our efforts to gain greater proportionality and to finalize an agreement that demonstrates that Iran is moving away from the nuclear weapons path.
 
            A bipartisan group of 10 senators and another group of 78 freshman representatives expressed their concern about Iran negotiations in letters to President Obama. Both urged the administration to increase pressure on Tehran.
 
October 11, 2013
 
Dear Mr. President:
 
As representatives of the P5+1 and the Iranian government prepare to enter another round of negotiations to verifiably end Iran’s nuclear weapon program, we reiterate the four strategic elements articulated by 76 Senators to you on August 2, 2013  necessary to achieve resolution of the nuclear issue: (1) an explicit and continuing message that we will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapons capability, (2) a sincere demonstration of openness to negotiations by Iran, (3) the maintenance and toughening of sanctions, and (4) a convincing threat of the use of force.
 
We support your efforts to explore a diplomatic opening, but we believe that the true test of Iranian sincerity is a willingness to match rhetoric with actions.  The critical test will be Iran’s proposal to the P5+1 this week in Geneva.  Iran’s first confidence-building action should be full cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, fulfillment of its responsibilities under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and implementation of all Resolutions passed by the United Nations Security Council regarding Iran’s nuclear weapons program, to include immediate suspension of all enrichment activity.  If the Iranian government takes these steps in a verifiable and transparent manner, we are willing to match Iran’s good-faith actions by suspending the implementation of the next round of sanctions currently under consideration by the Congress.  In short, the U.S. should consider, with the other members of the P5+1, a “suspension for suspension” initial agreement - in which Iran suspends enrichment and the U.S. suspends the implementation of new sanctions.
 
For the P5+1 states, such an agreement would ease concerns that Iran is using the  talks as a subterfuge while its centrifuges spin and for Iran it would suspend critical additional sanctions on its key economic sectors.
 
The intent of sanctions is to force Iran to halt and dismantle its nuclear weapons program.  Once this goal has been accomplished in a real, transparent, and verifiable way we will be prepared to remove existing sanctions in a measured, sequenced manner.  However, at this time, we reaffirm that a credible military threat remains on the table and we underscore the imperative that the current sanctions be maintained aggressively, and call on you to increase pressure through sanctions already in place. 
 
A nuclear weapons capable Iran threatens regional stability and international security and directly threatens U.S. national security interests.  As we previously cautioned, Iran has historically used negotiations to affect progress on its nuclear weapons program.  We must continue to realistically evaluate Iranian intentions, and we reiterate that the centrifuges cannot be allowed to continue spinning. 
 
We reject Iranian statements that Iran should be able to continue enrichment in its own territory.  Indeed, this is not a prerequisite for a peaceful nuclear energy program.  Countries from Canada, to Mexico and South Africa benefit from peaceful nuclear energy programs, without indigenous enrichment programs.  Iran does have a right to a peaceful nuclear energy program; it does not have a right to enrichment.
 
We remind you that the U.S. Department of State has characterized Iran as “the most active state sponsor of terrorism” and to be sure, verifiable dismantlement of the Iranian nuclear weapons program will not resolve the Iranian government’s deplorable abuse of basic human rights, denial of basic civil freedoms, or its ongoing activities that seek to destabilize the region. 
 
We remain hopeful that talks next week in Geneva lead to concrete Iranian actions to prove to the world that Iran does not seek a nuclear weapons capability.  However, if Iranian actions fail to match the rhetorical reassurances of the last two weeks, we are prepared to move forward with new sanctions to increase pressure on the government in Tehran.
 
Sincerely,
 
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY)
Sen .Roy Blunt (R-MO)
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)
Sen. Robert Casey Jr. (D-PA)
Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-DE)
 
October 4, 2013
 
Dear Mr. President:
 
We, members of the House of Representatives freshman class, Republican and Democrat, many of whom have recently returned from a visit to the Middle East, are deeply concerned about the prospects of a nuclear-armed Iran. We hope your recent historic direct conversation with President Rouhani will help resolve this issue. We write to share with you our view that time is running out and America must continue to broaden and strengthen our enforcement of sanctions against Iran until Tehran takes meaningful steps to stop and reverse its illicit nuclear activities.
 
We share your conviction that Iran must not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon, and we are appreciative of the extensive sanctions your administration has implemented. At the same time, we believe there is a need to do more to pressure Iran to end its nuclear program. That is the reason the House overwhelmingly passed the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act of 2013 this summer.
 
Like you, we wish to see Iranian President Hassan Rouhani limit Iran's nuclear program and engage in serious negotiations. We acknowledge encouraging words coming from the new president. Sadly however, since his election, there is no substantive evidence to suggest that Iran is slowing, or even considering slowing, its nuclear pursuit. Instead, the 28 August International Atomic Energy Agency report suggests that Iran is, in fact, accelerating its nuclear efforts. Tehran continues its large-scale installation of advanced, higher-speed centrifuges that will enable significantly more rapid production of weapons-grade uranium. Iran is also pursuing the plutonium path and has begun production of heavy water to feed its Arak reactor.
 
We welcome the possibility of improved ties with Iran. But we believe that we must increase the intensity and accelerate the pace of our pressure on Iran as long as it is accelerating its efforts towards a nuclear weapons capability Until Iran fundamentally changes course, the United States must continue to toughen sanctions. We, therefore, urge you to utilize the full set of sanctions available under current law. We believe we must focus on the energy and financial sectors, but also step up pressure in other sectors, such as construction and foreign exchange, where Iran seeks to offset the effects of current sanctions.
 
Finally, as we try to open the path to negotiations, we believe it is imperative that you make clear to Tehran that the United States will not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons; that we will step up sanctions until it reverses its nuclear program, and that we stand ready to use force if necessary.
 
Mr. President, we want to work with you to bring Iran to the table, including implementing increasingly tougher sanctions to ensure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapons capability. The world is watching and history will judge us by our success protecting the region and the world from a nuclear-armed Iran.
 
Sincerely,
 
Representative Bradley Schneider (D-IL)
Representative Luke Messer (R-IN)
 
Click here for a complete list of the 78 signatories.
 
 

 

Iranians' Support for Syria Wanes

            Less than half of Iranians support economic, military or political support for the Syrian regime, according to a new Gallup World poll. The Iranian government, however, has been a staunch defender of Bashar al Assad’s government since the conflict erupted in early 2011. Tehran has reportedly provided military support, lent billions of dollars and sold discounted oil to Damascus. Yet many Iranians are not even following the events in Syria. The following are excerpts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most Iranians Not Following the Conflict
            Although the survival of Assad's regime has long been closely pegged to Iran's security strategy in the region, the majority of Iranians are not closely following the news out of Syria. About four in 10 Iranians (39%) say they are following the Syrian conflict "very closely" or "somewhat closely," while 18% say they are not watching closely at all and 41% do not have an opinion.
 
            Iranians who say they are paying closer attention to the war are significantly more likely to favor Iran's involvement in the conflict, including sending economic aid (60%), military support (49%), and lending political support (65%). Among the minority of Iranians who say they are not following the conflict closely at all, 37% favor sending military support to Syria.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Click here for the full report.
 

Geneva Talks: Progress, But No Nuclear Deal

            Iran and the world’s six major powers made significant headway but ultimately failed to finalize an agreement at grueling talks between November 7 and 10. 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 will resume talks in Geneva on November 20.

      “We have just come from a long meeting this evening with the E3+3 ministers, after three days of intense and constructive discussions. A lot of concrete progress has been achieved but some differences remain,” said E.U. High Representative Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in a joint statement. The following are key remarks from press conferences, interviews and social media after the talks.

 
Secretary of State John Kerry
            “We were very, very close, actually, extremely close [to reaching an agreement]. I think we were separated by four or five different formulations of a particular concept…
            “The Iranians had objections to certain parts of the language themselves which we had to work out and we had to negotiate. So there was still open negotiating beyond whatever the British or the French or the Germans or anybody else brought to the table. Obviously, the French have been more vocal about one thing or another, but the fact is that we had a unity on Saturday in a proposal put in front of the Iranians. But because of some the changes they felt they had to go back and change it.
            “So we achieved unity. And we achieved, I think, a reasonable proposal that protected the interests that we’re seeking to protect, while recognizing this was a first step, not an agreement. The hardest part of this comes after the first step. But I was pleased with the amount of work done and we will just continue to work. That’s the nature of diplomacy.”
            Nov. 11, 2013 in an interview with the BBC
 
            “The negotiations were conducted with mutual respect. They were very serious. But they were conducted in a very civil and appropriate way for a subject matter as serious as this one…We came to Geneva to narrow the differences. And I can tell you without any exaggeration we not only narrowed differences and clarified those that remain, but we made significant progress in working through the approaches to this question of how one brings in a program that guarantees this peaceful nature. There’s no question in my mind that we are closer now, as we leave Geneva, than we were when we came, and that with good work and good faith over the course of the next weeks, we can in fact secure our goal.”
            Nov. 10, 2013 in a press conference in Geneva
 
            P5+1 ministers were “unified on Saturday when we presented a proposal to the Iranians, and the French signed off on it, we signed off on it, and everybody agreed it was a fair proposal. There was unity, but Iran couldn't take it at that particular moment, they weren't able to accept that particular thing.”
            Nov. 11, 2013 at press conference in the U.A.E.
 
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
            "I'm not disappointed at all. What I was looking for was the political determination, willingness and good faith in order to end this…
            "I think it was natural that when we started dealing with the details, there would be differences….Hopefully we will be able to reach an agreement when we meet again.
            "We are all on the same wavelength and that's important... actually I think we had a very good, productive three days and it's something we can build on to move forward…
            "We had a very good three days, a very productive three days. And it's something that we can build on."
            Nov. 10, 2013 in a press conference in Geneva
 
            On November 11, Zarif tweeted his reaction to Kerry’s claim that Iran’s negotiators were unable to sign the agreement.
 
            On November 12, Zarif gave his first television interview on the talks. The following is a link, with English subtitles, to his appearance.
 

 
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Twitter

 
President Hassan Rouhani on Twitter
 
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
            “The meeting demonstrated that over that past year polemics and exchange of initial positions without any attempt to bring them closer are paling into insignificance in talks on this subject…Iran’s new leadership, and we hail it, has demonstrated its commitment to make steps in this direction and the talks with Iranian representatives were utterly concrete concerning practical aspects of the Iranian nuclear program.
             Nov. 10, 2013 in a statement
 
 

Iran Launches Flashy Nuclear Website

             Tehran has a launched sophisticated new website, NuclearEnergy.ir, to convince the world – in English – that its nuclear energy program is both peaceful and necessary for modern development, despite Iran’s vast oil and gas resources. The Islamic Republic’s ambitious public diplomacy campaign confronts the most controversial issues head on in an attempt, it claims, to be transparent.

            The site covers eight broad aspects of Iran’s nuclear program, from public opinion to the country’s motives for attaining atomic energy. One section counters allegations that Tehran’s nuclear program has military ambitions to build the world’s deadliest weapon. The website argues that many accusations were politically motivated or unwarranted.
            Another section outlines the terms discussed during each round of nuclear talks held since 2003. In several instances, the website claims that Iran upheld commitments while Western powers did not.
            The site also includes “Frequently Asked Questions” answers to more than 70 simple propositions, such as “What is the aim of Iran’s development of nuclear technology?” and “How do ordinary Iranians feel about their country’s nuclear energy program?”
            The website, launched just before the November nuclear talks in Geneva, appears to be connected to the government. The site’s Twitter account has frequently tweeted remarks by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on the nuclear issue. President Hassan Rouhani’s office has also retweeted many of its postings. The following is a rundown of the site’s offerings.

 

Motives
            The extensive section cites a quickly growing population, an increasing demand for electricity and Iran’s need to replace oil and gas with other energy sources:
 
            “Iran’s current population is estimated at nearly 80 million, with most below the age of 30. In comparison, the country had a population of 33 million in the mid-1970s, when it contracted the construction of its first nuclear power plant to West Germany. Projections show Iran’s population will likely reach 100 million by 2025. Naturally, along with the increase in population comes a rise in demand for electricity.”
            “Iran’s electricity needs are currently met by the use of traditional energy sources such as oil, natural gas and coal. However, Iran can barely keep up with its electricity consumption using these finite resources. If natural gas and oil are not replaced by another energy source, and crude production is not significantly increased, Iran may become a net importer of oil over the next decade. Therefore, the Iranian government has emphasized the development of alternative energy sources.
            “One alternative is nuclear power – an energy source which can produce more electricity than any other renewable option such as solar or wind power. Today, nuclear power accounts for only one percent of Iran’s total electricity generation. Iran, however, hopes to change this and plans to produce 20,000 megawatts of nuclear-generated electricity by 2020. If successful, this could save it 190 million barrels of crude oil every year, tantamount to an annual saving of nearly $14 billion.”
 
Energy Security
            “Iran’s efforts to gain access to nuclear technology date back to 1957, when it signed an agreement with the United States on cooperation in research on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. A decade later, in 1967, the United States supplied Iran with its first nuclear reactor, the Tehran Research Reactor, which is still in use. Washington also provided Iran with weapons-grade uranium to use as fuel for the 5-megawatt research reactor.”
            “In 1976, US President Gerald Ford went as far as offering Iran the opportunity to buy and operate an American-built multinational reprocessing facility to extract plutonium from nuclear fuel. The deal was for a complete nuclear fuel cycle.”
            “But in the aftermath of Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979, the United States and its European allies ended their efforts to help Tehran develop its nuclear energy program… The United States, meanwhile, stopped supplying fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, effectively forcing the closure of the American-supplied facility for a number of years. These developments convinced Iran that foreign supplies of nuclear fuel were unreliable at best and that it had no choice but to produce its own enriched uranium.”
 
Timelines
            The site also offers a detailed timeline on Iran’s energy program dating back to the 1950s under the monarch. It also chronicles the key U.S. role in providing the first research reactor. Click here to view it.
 
 
 
      The site offers another detailed timeline with the terms under discussion for all negotiations dating to 2003. Click here for the chronology.
 
 
 
 
 
      The website provides an outline of public opinion polls in Iran about the nuclear energy program since 2006.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Facilities
            One section outlines the activities at each of Iran’s major nuclear facilities. Click here for the rundown.
 
            “Iran produces UF6 enriched up to 19.75 percent at the Shahid Masoud Alimohammadi Fuel Enrichment Plant. The site, which is also known Fordow, is a centrifuge enrichment plant built deep underground near the city of Qom. The area is located some 100 km from the Iranian capital, Tehran. In 2009, Iran informedthe IAEA about its plans to build the facility.”
 
            “Fordow was completed in 2011 and is designed to hold as many as 2,976 centrifuges, divided between Unit 1 and Unit 2. According to the IAEA, Iran had installed 2,784 centrifuges at Fordow as of August 2013, though only around a quarter of these centrifuges were in operation at the time.
            “As of August 2013, Iran had produced about 195 kg of UF6 enriched up to 19.75 percent at Fordow since the inauguration of the plant. The site is named after the Iranian scientist Masoud Alimohammadi, who was assassinated in Tehran in 2010. Iranian authorities blame his assassination on the United States and Israel.”
 
Iran’s Rights and Obligations
     
      One section of the site covers Iran’s rights and obligations under international law and U.N. agreements. It also details Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s 2003 fatwa (religious edict) against nuclear weapons. Click here for the rundown.
 
 
 
            “Ayatollah Khomeini’s successor as Iran’s Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has also pronounced a fatwa forbidding the production, stockpiling and use of weapons of mass destruction, and specifically nuclear arms. He first issued the fatwa in October 2003 but has reiterated it several times ever since in an effort to underline the high significance of the issue.
            “On November 5th 2004, in a Friday prayers sermon, Ayatollah Khamenei is quoted as having said: “No sir, we are not seeking to have nuclear weapons,” and added that to “manufacture, possess or use them, that all poses a problem. I have expressed my religious convictions about this, and everyone knows it.”
      “In another speech delivered in June 2009, Ayatollah Khamenei repeated once again, “[t]he Iranian people and their officials have declared time and again that the nuclear weapon is religiously forbidden (Haram) in Islam and they do not have such a weapon. But the Western countries and America in particular through false propaganda claim that Iran seeks to build nuclear bombs which is totally false and a breach of the legitimate rights of the Iranian nation.”
 
 

 

Geneva Talks: Experts on Deal Terms

            The following briefs by nuclear proliferation experts analyze the potential terms of a deal to solve the Iranian nuclear dispute.

SIPRI: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute

Time for a more comprehensive approach to the Iran nuclear negotiations
 

Shannon Kile

Will the first step be the last step?
             Expectations of an imminent diplomatic breakthrough had been raised when foreign ministers from five of the countries joined in eleventh-hour negotiations on a deal that would have required Iran to suspend parts of its nuclear programme in exchange for partial relief from international economic sanctions.

             The failure of the parties to reach an agreement comes as something of an anti-climax in light of the expectations that had built up during the meeting. What should be kept in mind, however, is that the latest talks were about short-term suspension and sanctions-relief measures, envisioned to last for six months, and not a long-term final deal about the future of Iran’s nuclear programme.

             Herein lies a key shortcoming of the Geneva talks: namely, they have been focused on first steps in the absence of a common understanding among the parties about where the subsequent steps should ultimately lead. This raises the risk, or even the likelihood, that a modest interim agreement may turn out to be the only agreement reached if the negotiations later collapse over more permanent arrangements.

Reaching an agreement between the parties will be politically difficult
             The prospect of the talks building up to a breakdown suggests that the Geneva negotiators need to give priority to putting in place a more comprehensive framework agreement—one that lays out an explicit diplomatic end-game accepted by all parties. As many observers have noted, this is an exercise that is fraught with political difficulties. Any plausible long-term deal will require Iran to recognize that it will not be able to push ahead with an unconstrained nuclear programme. While the specific limitations would be determined through intensive negotiation, the United States and its allies would almost certainly insist that Iran dismantle a significant number of its current 19 000 uranium enrichment centrifuges, including the new advanced model being installed at Natanz, and to mothball the heavy-water nuclear reactor under construction at Arak.

             At the same time, the USA and its allies will have to accept that under any plausible deal Iran will not agree to give up all of its nuclear fuel cycle activities and, in particular, that it will insist on retaining a uranium enrichment programme in some form. This would not imply a recognition by these states of Iran’s claimed legal ‘right’ to enrich uranium. Rather, it would be an acknowledgement of political reality inside Iran, where the nuclear programme enjoys support across the ideological spectrum as a symbol of national pride and Islamic modernity in spite of debilitating international sanctions. As the just-concluded talks in Geneva have illustrated, this will be a difficult pill for the Americans and Europeans to swallow.

The need for a bolder diplomatic vision
             The deep mistrust and suspicion between Iran, on the one hand, and the USA and the European Union partners, on the other, makes the task of agreeing on a comprehensive approach for settling the nuclear issue especially challenging. Against this backdrop, perhaps the main positive outcomes of the Geneva meeting were the upbeat assessments offered by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and US Secretary of State John Kerry, who both noted that the talks had contributed to increasing mutual confidence and trust between the parties even if they did not resolve their long-standing differences. This gives a useful boost to the expert-level discussions now underway about possible transparency and confidence-building measures envisioned as the next step towards reaching a final deal. It also helps to set the stage for the upcoming round in the separate but parallel discussions between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about Iranian nuclear activities with possible military dimensions.

             It remains to be seen whether the generally conciliatory tone and atmosphere at the talks in Geneva will translate into an agreement committing the parties to concrete action. While a deal on even a modest set of interim measures would be a welcome first step, the parties must take care that this does not inadvertently become a last step because of misaligned incentives and incompatible goals for the nuclear end-game. What is needed now is a bolder diplomatic vision that will lead the way out of the current stalemate by charting an agreed comprehensive strategy for a long-term settlement of the nuclear issue.

            Click here to read the piece on SIPRI's website.

The Arms Control Association

Closing in on a Deal with Iran: Assessing the Nov. 7-9 Talks

Daryl G. Kimball and Kelsey Davenport

            After three days of intense, multidimensional talks in Geneva Nov. 7-9, the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, plus Germany) and Iran are closing in on a breakthrough, “first phase” deal that would verifiably halt the progress of Iran’s nuclear program.
            Although the most recent round of talks did not end with an agreement, the talks succeeded in closing many–if not most–of the remaining gaps between the two sides.
They are closer now to resolving the  decade-long standoff over Iran’s nuclear program than they have been since the 2005-2006 period when current Iranian President Hassan Rouhani led Iran’s negotiating team.
            According to Secretary of State John Kerry, who made an unscheduled appearance to participate in the meetings on Friday, the negotiators made “significant progress.”  Speaking on Saturday after talks ended, Kerry said that there was “no question in my mind that we are closer now, as we leave Geneva, than we were when we came.”
 
A First-Phase Agreement
            A meaningful “first phase” agreement would pause Iran’s nuclear progress and address the most urgent activities of proliferation concern, primarily the production and stockpiling of uranium enriched to 20 percent and the deployment of additional and/or more efficient centrifuges, plus additional transparency measures, in exchange for 20% enriched uranium fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor and/or medical isotopes, plus  limited and reversible relief from some the tough sanctions now in place against Iran.
 
P5+1 Issues?
            Reported differences that might exist between France and the other Western powers over how to handle the issue of the Arak heavy water reactor in a “phase one” and in the “final phase” of the negotiations can and should be resolved in the next few days.
            In an amateurish diplomatic blunder, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius made comments to the press in the middle of the negotiations. His remarks implied that the proposal put forward by the the P5+1 team, which included his own diplomatic representative, would not have done enough to address Arak. In reality, Arak has been a proliferation concern for many years and one of the core concerns of the P5+1 negotiating proposals, including their April 2013 proposal.
            However, not all issues can or must be settled at once. Arak represents a long term proliferation risk but is not a near term risk. The “first phase” of the deal does not have include a final resolution on the partially completed reactor.
            Iran has reported that the Arak reactor will not become operational until mid-2014. Construction work has lagged behind schedule for years and its start up may not be possible until even later. Furthermore,  the reactor would have to be fully operational for at least year to produce spent fuel laden with plutonium and Iran does not have a spent fuel reprocessing facility to separate the plutonium.
            With the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspecting the Arak reactor on a regular basis, the international community would also be made aware of Iran’s activities well in advance if it were seeking to separate plutonium for nuclear weapons.
 
Rights and Responsibilities
            Comments from a senior U.S. official suggest that differences between Iran and the P5+1 over language regarding Iran’s nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Article IV right to pursue peaceful uses of nuclear energy were an eleventh hour stumbling block in Geneva.
To secure a deal, the P5+1 must eventually recognize Iran’s right under the Article IV of the NPT to pursue peaceful nuclear activities under certain conditions. As Obama said in his Sept. 24 address to the United Nations, such recognition requires that Iran adequately and satisfactorily respond to the international community’s concern about the nature of its program.
To address those concerns, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani must follow through on his pledge for “greater transparency” by allowing broader IAEA access and more information about its current and past nuclear activities through steps such as implementation the additional protocol and fuller cooperation with the IAEA to resolve questions about suspected weapons-related experiments that may have been conducted over a decade ago. Iran took a step in this direction by signing an agreement Nov. 11 allowing the IAEA broader monitoring access to key nuclear sites.
 
Toward the Next Round of Talks
            With talks resuming on November 20 in Geneva, it is vital to maintain the momentum to work toward an agreement that addresses the most urgent proliferation concerns.
As Secretary of State Kerry said in an interview Nov. 10, freezing Iran’s nuclear progress  would “put more time back on the clock” and would open the way for a more comprehensive, more permanent agreement that rolls back Iran’s overall enrichment capacity–ideally to no more than 3,000-4,000 centrifuges–and provides more extensive IAEA inspection authority to guard against a secret weapons program.
            Policymakers in Washington and leaders in Israel who genuinely want to guard against a nuclear-armed Iran should be careful not to insist on ideal but unrealistic demands, such as zero enrichment or the complete dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear program.
Such a deal may have been possible in 2005 when Iran had fewer than 300 uranium enrichment centrifuges at one site; but it is not realistic now that Iran has 19,000 installed and 10,000 operating centrifuges at two sites.
            Pushing for everything and getting nothing is foolhardy and dangerous.
            In the absence of a meaningful, realistic deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program, Iran will continue to increase its capacity to enrich uranium and expand its other sensitive nuclear fuel-cycle project. That, in turn, will increase the risk of Israeli military strikes against Iran’s nuclear sites. Such an attack would only delay, not stop, Iran’s nuclear pursuits, lead to a wider Middle East war, and likely push Iran’s leaders to openly seek the bomb.
            In the absence of a negotiated “first phase” agreement to pause Iran’s nuclear program, further sanctions against Iran would surely be legislated, but they would not halt or eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons potential.
            Now is the time to finally secure a meaningful agreement on the basis of realistic and achievable goals.
            Click here for the Arms Control Association's blog.
 
 

CNAS: Center for a New American Security

Excerpts from "Inflection Point: Requirements for an Enduring Diplomatic Solution to the Iranian Nuclear Challenge"

Colin Kahl

The Goals of an Enduring Diplomatic Solution
            According to U.S. intelligence officials, Iran has already mastered the basic knowledge and technology required to eventually develop nuclear weapons, should the regime decide to do so. Nothing, including the complete dismantling of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, will put this technological genie back in the bottle. Instead, negotiations should focus on a more concrete and achievable objective: placing meaningful and verifiable constraints on Iran’s ability to translate its accumulated knowledge and civilian nuclear capabilities into nuclear weapons.
            Specifically, diplomacy should aim to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear “breakout capability,” defined as the point at which Iran could produce fissile material for one or more nuclear weapons so quickly or so secretly that the international community could not detect it and respond in time.
            A final diplomatic agreement sufficient to prevent breakout should seek to:
 
Lengthen breakout timelines. The final agreement should include sufficient technical constraints to ensure the timeframe between the initiation of breakout and the production of fissile material for one or more weapons is sufficient to allow interdiction.
Shorten detection timelines. Verification mechanisms must be in place to ensure that breakout activities would be detected by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors and through other means at the earliest possible stage.
Provide assurances against a covert nuclear infrastructure. Transparency and verification mechanisms should be sufficient to detect construction of covert fuel-cycle facilities and weaponization activities. In the aftermath of any agreement, the United
States (and the international community) must also maintain the will and capability to take effective action, including the use of military force if necessary, to prevent the acquisition of enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon if breakout is detected.
 
            An agreement that met these conditions would prevent and deter Iran from racing to a nuclear bomb and, should the regime nevertheless decide to do so, provide ample time for the United States and the international community to interdict the process before it was completed.
 
The Dangers of Pushing for a Maximalist Deal
            Attempting to keep Iran as far away from nuclear weapons as possible by demanding that the country completely abandon fuel-cycle activities, particularly the demand for zero enrichment, seems prudent and reasonable. All else being equal, the total absence of enrichment activities puts Iran further away from nuclear weapons than allowing some limited enrichment, and it would be easier to verify. Moreover, most countries with civilian nuclear power plants forgo domestic enrichment. (Although it is also the case that Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Japan and the Netherlands have domestic enrichment capabilities while remaining compliant with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.) But in reality, the quest for an optimal deal that requires a permanent end to Iranian enrichment at any level would likely doom diplomacy, making the far worse outcomes of unconstrained nuclearization or a military showdown over Tehran’s nuclear program much more likely.
            Regardless of pressure from the United States, U.S. allies, and the wider international community, the Iranian regime is unlikely to agree to permanently end all enrichment. Khamenei, the ultimate decider on the nuclear file, has invested far too much of the regime’s domestic legitimacy in defending Iran’s “rights” (defined as domestic enrichment) to completely capitulate now, even in the face of withering economic sanctions. The Islamic Republic has spent more than $100 billion over decades and enormous amounts of political capital to master the knowledge and centrifuge technology associated with uranium enrichment. The nuclear program and “resistance to arrogant powers” are firmly imbedded in the regime’s ideological raison d’etre…
            Nor are President Rouhani and his negotiating team likely to agree to halt enrichment and advocate for such a policy within the regime, since doing so would be political suicide. In 2003, during Rouhani’s previous role as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, he convinced Khamenei to accept a temporary suspension of enrichment. But further talks with the international community stalled in early 2005 over a failure to agree on Iran’s asserted right to enrichment, and Tehran ended its suspension shortly thereafter. Rouhani believes – as do the supreme leader and Rouhani’s critics in the Revolutionary Guard – that the West pocketed Iranian concessions and Tehran got nothing in return. The failure of Iran’s earlier approach under Rouhani facilitated the rise of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his hardline policies, including the development of a much more robust uranium enrichment capability. Rouhani is unlikely to make that mistake again. And even if Rouhani and his lead negotiator, foreign minister Javad Zarif, were somehow convinced to do so, the Iranian president would be savaged by his right flank…
            Rouhani’s new moderate tone with the international community has also recast the Islamic Republic as the reasonable party, further mitigating the risks of a popular backlash, especially if further negotiations deadlock over “unreasonable” maximalist demands. According to a recent Gallup poll, only 13 percent of the Iranian public holds the regime responsible for the hardships produced by economic sanctions (46 percent blame the United States). The same poll found that 68 percent of Iranians support continuing the country’s nuclear program despite economic sanctions, a finding consistent with other surveys showing widespread support for maintaining Iran’s enrichment program even if it results in additional economic pressure. Consequently, if talks are seen to collapse because of Washington’s insistence on demands for zero enrichment, the Iranian public is likely to direct their ire at United Sates, not the regime, for the diplomatic failure.
            Given profound reasons for the regime to reject a maximalist deal, pursuing one would require the United States to go to the brink of the abyss with Iran, escalating economic and military threats to the point that the regime’s survival was acutely and imminently at stake. Yet pursuing such a high-risk strategy is unlikely to succeed, and the consequences of failure would be profound.
            First, it is unclear if any escalation of sanctions could bring the regime to its knees in time to prevent Iran from achieving a breakout capability. Although some analysts believe Tehran is on the ropes and that additional sanctions can force Iran to completely dismantle its nuclear program, they rarely explain how more sanctions would produce a sufficient threat to the regime fast enough to prevent Iran from crossing critical nuclear thresholds. Iran’s apparent willingness to negotiate under pressure is not, in and of itself, evidence that more pressure will produce total surrender on the nuclear issue…
            Second, and somewhat paradoxically, escalating sanctions at this moment could actually end up weakening international pressure on Iran. For better or worse, Rouhani has already succeeded in shifting international perceptions of Iran. If the United States, rather than Iran, comes across as the intransigent party, it will become much more difficult to maintain the international coalition currently isolating Tehran. In particular, if negotiations on a comprehensive framework collapse because of Washington’s unwillingness to make a deal on limited enrichment – a deal Russia and China and numerous other European and Asian nations support – it will likely become much harder to enforce sanctions…
            Third, issuing more explicit military threats (through a possible authorization of the use of military force, for example) is also unlikely to achieve a maximalist diplomatic outcome. There is little doubt that maintaining a credible military option affects the Iranian regime’s calculations, raising the potential costs associated with nuclearization. And, if diplomacy fails, the United States should reserve the option of using force as a last resort to preclude Iran from developing nuclear weapons...
 
            Finally, attempting to generate an existential crisis for the Islamic Republic could backfire by increasing the regime’s incentives to acquire nuclear weapons. This is especially true in the current diplomatic context. If the United States escalates economic or military pressure at the very moment that Iran has begun to finally negotiate in earnest, Khamenei will likely conclude that the real and irrevocable goal of U.S. policy is regime change rather than a nuclear accord…
 
Good Enough: Pushing for a Sufficient Deal
            A complete dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program – including a permanent end to uranium enrichment – is therefore not in the cards. Instead of pushing for an ideal-but-unachievable agreement, the United States and other world powers should push for a sufficient and achievable one: an accord that significantly limits fuel-cycle activities under stringent conditions and verification procedures designed to preclude Iran’s ability to rapidly produce nuclear weapons.
            A “sufficient” deal would have several major components:
 
• Significant constraints on uranium enrichment, including: a cap on enrichment at the 5 percent level sufficient for civilian nuclear power reactors but far from bomb-grade; neutralizing or otherwise limiting the size of Iran’s domestic stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU) to below one-bomb’s worth of material; limits on the number, quality and/or output of centrifuges; and setting limits on the size and number of enrichment facilities.
• Significant constraints on the plutonium track, including: dismantling Arak, converting Arak to a proliferation-resistant light water reactor or otherwise neutralizing the facility; and prohibiting the future construction of reprocessing facilities.
• An intrusive inspections regime, including: implementation of the IAEA Additional Protocol, allowing inspections of undeclared facilities; requirements for early notification of new nuclear sites; more frequent inspections and 24/7 remote surveillance of key facilities; monitoring centrifuge research, development and production facilities, and uranium mines; and enhanced monitoring of trade in sensitive goods and technologies.
• Transparency into past military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear program, including: cooperating with the IAEA investigation into past weapons-related research and development to confirm that these activities have been terminated; and providing IAEA access to key research facilities and scientists.
 
            Taken together, these measures would substantially lengthen breakout timelines, shorten detection timelines and provide assurances against an Iranian covert infrastructure. For these reasons, leading arms control experts believe that such a comprehensive agreement would be sufficient to prevent Iranian nuclear breakout. Furthermore, nothing about this proposal would take any options “off the table” in the event that Iran violated the agreement, reconstituted elements of its program and attempted to build nuclear weapons.
 
The Path to a Final Deal
            Achieving a comprehensive accord sufficient to prevent Iranian nuclear breakout will be difficult. But given the progress made thus far in Geneva, there is a plausible path forward. Ongoing negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 envision a two-step process toward a comprehensive agreement. During first phase, which is the subject of current negotiations, media reports suggest that Iran would be required to:
 
• Stop producing enriched uranium at the near-bomb-grade 20 percent level.
• Neutralize most of its existing 20 percent stockpile through some combination of oxidation, downblending and/or conversion to fuel assemblies.
• Agree not to activate advanced IR-2m centrifuges.
• Freeze or reduce the number of operational IR-1 centrifuges enriching to the 3.5 percent level.
• Halt construction of the Arak heavy water reactor or, at the very least, refrain from loading fuel into the reactor.
• Agree to more intrusive inspections.
 
            In exchange for these initial Iranian steps to address the most urgent elements of their nuclear program, the Obama administration appears prepared to offer limited, targeted and reversible sanctions relief. According to media reports, this may include: a temporary suspension of sanctions on trade with Iran in petrochemicals, gold and other precious metals; waiving proliferation designations of Iran’s auto industry; providing access to civilian aircraft parts; and/or a mechanism for releasing some Iranian funds tied up in overseas escrow accounts. Sanctions would only be suspended for the period of the agreement (approximately six months) and could be “turned back on” if Iran fails to honor the deal...
           Click here for the full text.

 

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