United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Khamenei Comments: Deal Won’t Open Iran to U.S. Influence

On August 17, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that Iran will continue to oppose U.S. policies in the region and resist U.S. influence. “They [Americans] thought this [nuclear] deal - and it is not clear if it will be passed in Iran or in America - will open up Iran to their influence,” he told members of the Ahl ul Bayt World Assembly, a non-governmental organization that promotes unity among Muslims, and the Islamic Radios and Televisions Union (IRTVU). “We won't allow American political, economic or cultural influence in Iran,” Khamenei vowed. The following are excerpts from his speech posted on his official Twitter account and website.

The United States and the West
“The United States is seeking [long-term] infiltration in the region for tens of years in order to regain its lost credit.”
“The hegemonic system’s plan for the region is based on the two pillars of division and infiltration, which should be fought against vigilantly and incessantly through correct aggressive and defensive plans.”
“Struggling on the path of God is not limited to military war, but it also includes cultural, economic and political struggle.”
“Although the arrogant powers’ plots in the Islamic region have a long record, pressures and conspiracies intensified in the wake of the [1979] Islamic Revolution in Iran so that this experience would not be repeated in other countries.”
“Since 35 years ago, the Islamic Republic’s Establishment has always been targeted by threats, sanctions, security pressures and a variety of political conspiracies and the Iranian nation is accustomed to these pressures.”
“Of course, the enemies’ conspiracies in West Asia region have been intensified due to the enemy’s panic in the aftermath of the Islamic Awakening movement which started in North Africa a few years ago.”
“They believe that they have managed to quell the Islamic Awakening movement, but this movement is not suppressible and is racing ahead and it will show its reality sooner or later.”
“The US is fully devoid of human ethics and embarks on wickedness and crime with no bridle and under the guise of attractive words and smiles.”
“Creating killer, insolent and tyrant Takfiri groups, which Americans have admitted to their role in creating them, is the most important tool for stoking seemingly religious divisions among nations, which unfortunately, some naïve Muslims have been fooled by this conspiracy and plot due to their lack of insight and they have been embroiled in the enemy’s plot.”
Syria, Yemen and the Region
“When the despotic regimes were toppled in Tunisia and Egypt by Islamic slogans, the Americans and Zionists decided to use this formula to devastate resistant countries and that is why they turned to Syria.”
“After the beginning of the issue of Syria, a group of Muslims who lacked insight were dragged into the aforesaid plot and by completing the enemy’s puzzle, drove Syria into its present conditions.”
“What is happening today in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and other regions, and efforts are underway to describe it as sectarian war, does by no means constitute a sectarian war, but is a political war. Today, the most important task is to make efforts to do away with these differences.”
“We have said clearly and openly that the Islamic Republic of Iran extends its hand of friendship toward all Muslim governments in the region and has no problem with Muslim governments.”
“The Islamic Republic of Iran maintains friendly relations with most of its neighbors. Of course, some countries are at loggerheads with us and show obstinacy and wickedness. However, Iran has set its base on good relations with neighbors and Islamic governments and particularly regional nations.”
“In our support of the oppressed, we do not look at [their] religious denomination and we have offered the same support that we provided to our Shia brethren in Lebanon to our Sunni brethren in Gaza, and we consider the issue of Palestine as the top issue of the Muslim world.”
“Intensification of differences is banned in the Muslim world and we oppose any behavior and move, even by some Shia groups, which could cause division, and we condemn insults to the Sunnis’ sanctities.”
“Some people were surprised at those remarks, but today, Americans are openly talking about the disintegration of Iraq.”
“Disintegration of Iraq, and if they could, Syria, is the clear goal of Americans, but territorial integrity of the regional countries and Iraq and Syria is very important to us.”
“We do not recognize a Shiism whose base and center of propaganda is in London and is paving the way for the [global] arrogance basically as Shiism.”
Western Media
“The oppressors’ media empire’, while claiming neutrality, is serving the goals of global bullies through distortion and lie and all kinds of complicated methods.”

Report: Parsing the Iran Deal

The final nuclear deal “provides well-defined limits on Iran’s nuclear program,” according to George Perkovich, Mark Hibbs, James Action, and Toby Dalton in a new report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. But it also carries several risks, including the possibility that Iran will ramp up its nuclear activities once the restrictions end. The following is an excerpt of the report, which assesses the pros and cons of the deal.

On July 14, 2015, Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) concluded a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) concerning the future of Iran’s nuclear program. The deal, which is the outcome of more than two years of negotiations, includes limits on Iran’s nuclear program as well as provisions for verification, implementation, procurement, sanctions relief, and peaceful nuclear cooperation. It singles out specific nuclear sites in Iran for particular scrutiny and restrictions, including the enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow and the heavy-water reactor, with its supporting facilities, at Arak. Unsurprisingly, the deal is complex—the text and its five annexes stretch to over 100 pages.
Our aim here is to analyze the deal as impartially and objectively as possible solely from a nonproliferation perspective. It is not to offer a final conclusion about whether the deal is a good or bad one, but instead to help readers make up their own minds.
As in many complex negotiations, parties to the JCPOA traded compromises between seemingly unrelated areas. Accordingly, we look at the benefits and risks of the agreement as a whole, as well as the pros and cons of individual provisions. Throughout we identify key questions and issues that will need to be addressed in the months and years ahead if the deal is to be implemented successfully.

Overall Assessment
Potential Benefits
The agreement provides well-defined limits on Iran’s nuclear program lasting between ten and fifteen years. If implemented, these restrictions would measurably enhance confidence during the term of the agreement that Tehran will not seek nuclear weapons. This will help avoid much-worse alternatives, including Iran’s resumption of threatening nuclear activities and war.
The JCPOA provides the basis for transparency of procurement and for verification of nuclear activities to enable the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to determine that Iran’s nuclear program is wholly understood and is dedicated exclusively to peaceful uses.
The agreement demonstrates the viability of the rules-based nonproliferation regime created by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and including especially the IAEA safeguards system, notwithstanding the lacunae and imperfections of this regime. Indeed, the JCPOA buttresses the NPT. Whereas states may withdraw from the NPT and, in principle, then seek nuclear weapons, in the JCPOA Iran has committed not to ever seek nuclear weapons under any circumstances. And whereas the NPT does not include specific restrictions on activities that could contribute to the design and development of a nuclear explosive device, the JCPOA does.
The preface of the JCPOA establishes expectations that Iran’s peaceful nuclear program should evolve at a “reasonable pace,” “consistent with international non-proliferation norms. . . . [and] practical needs”—benchmarks that the Iranian program previously did not meet. It establishes a channel for open diplomatic engagement between the United States and Iran after thirty-seven years.
Potential Risks
Other states could be encouraged to follow the Iranian example of acquiring uranium enrichment and other dual-use capabilities that would significantly shorten the time required to produce a nuclear weapon.
One or more parties to the agreement may not implement provisions as required or perform to the satisfaction of other parties. Failures to perform may result in disputes that the parties will not resolve peacefully.
After the restrictions on its nuclear program end, Iran, like any party to the NPT, but endowed with capabilities advanced during the period the JCPOA was in force, may exercise its right to resume nuclear behavior that the international community finds provocative. This could potentially give it the capability to break its commitments and manufacture a small number of nuclear weapons in a relatively short period of time.

Click here for the full report
Tags: Reports

Iranian Lawmakers Petition to Review Deal

On August 16, a member of Iran’s parliamentary Presiding Board read a petition signed by 201 out of 290 lawmakers calling on the government to present a bill on the nuclear deal. The lawmakers argued that the agreement between Iran and the world’s six major powers needs the approval of parliament and the Guardian Council. The following is a translation of the petition, signed by some 69 percent of the assembly, as published by Entekhab News and translated by Iran Front Page.

In line with our legal obligations, we, the deputies of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, who have signed this petition announce that:
1. We thank the nuclear negotiating team for its tireless efforts in the course of the talks.
2. Under Articles 77 and 125 of the Constitution, the review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action falls under the purview of the Islamic Consultative Assembly and requires cooperation from all relevant institutions.
3. The executive branch should immediately present the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in the form of a bill.
4. Any voluntary measures and implementation of the deal – be it temporary, permanent or conditional – would be illegal before the approval of the Islamic Consultative Assembly and subsequent confirmation of the Guardian Council.

Report: Battleground Issues on Iran Deal

Despite imperfections, the Iran nuclear deal “will prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear-armed state for the foreseeable future,” according to Robert Einhorn, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former member of President Obama’s Iran negotiating team. “The questions and concerns raised by the battleground issues can be addressed by U.S. policies that supplement the deal and bolster its overall effectiveness,” he notes in a new Brookings brief that addresses six key questions in the debate over the deal. The following are excerpts with a link to the full text.
1. What happens to Iran’s nuclear program after the deal’s first decade?
An issue likely to receive much attention, deservedly so, is what happens in the “out years”—the later years of the deal, when some key restrictions on Iran’s enrichment capacity begin to expire. JCPOA limits will ensure that, at least for 10 years, Iran would need at least one year to produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build a bomb, if it decides to breach the agreement. But as Iran becomes free to increase the number of operating centrifuges and introduce more advanced types (after 10 years) and to increase its enrichment level and stocks of enriched uranium (after 15 years), breakout time will decrease and eventually shrink to a matter of weeks—leaving Iran with a “threshold” nuclear weapons capability. …
Even if Iranian leaders, after 15 years or more, believed their national interests were best served by having nuclear weapons, they would run major risks in going forward, with no guarantee of success. Even in the ‘out years,’ the JCPOA’s rigorous monitoring arrangements will remain in force. The world will have gained intimate knowledge of Iran’s nuclear program, which would give the United States prompt warning of any Iranian effort to make a dash for the bomb. Even if breakout time had declined to a few weeks, the United States would likely have sufficient time to intervene militarily to stop them.
2. How does the deal address concerns about the possible military dimensions of Iran’s past nuclear work?
Another battleground issue involves persistent IAEA efforts, long frustrated by Iranian stonewalling, to gain a better understanding of past Iranian research, experimentation, and procurement believed to be related to the development of nuclear weapons. On July 14, 2015, Iran and the IAEA agreed on a “roadmap” aimed at resolving all outstanding issues related to the “possible military dimensions” (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program. …
Iran’s completion of all agreed roadmap steps by October 15 is a prerequisite—along with Iran’s implementation of several other nuclear-related commitments—for the suspension of U.S., EU, and U.N. sanctions. The confidential nature of Iran’s roadmap steps reflects the IAEA’s standard practice of confidentiality on safeguards matters, but this has understandably caused a stir on Capitol Hill, especially because sanctions relief depends on fulfillment of those steps.
3. Is IAEA access to sensitive sites timely enough?
Another battleground issue that has gained prominence in recent weeks is whether the JCPOA’s provisions on IAEA access to suspect sites—beyond those declared sites that will be subject to continuous verification—can effectively deter and detect covert violations of the agreement. The text of the agreement has largely put to rest concerns that the IAEA might be denied access to such suspect sites—concerns heightened by statements from Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that access to military sites would cross one of his redlines. The JCPOA’s provisions for resolving access disputes—under which a Joint Commission can, by majority vote, require Iran to grant access or face the Security Council’s restoration of sanctions—provide assurance that Tehran cannot get away with blocking access to any location in the country. …
In the absence of no-notice, surprise inspections—which have only been achieved in a case like Iraq, where the Security Council was in a position to dictate terms to a defeated country—no inspection system can reliably ensure on-site confirmation of small-scale, non-nuclear activities. Even a system requiring access to be granted in a week or even several days, which some of the critics advocate, could not provide such assurance. The inspection system established under the JCPOA is not perfect, but it is timely enough to prevent the removal or concealment of incriminating evidence of the kind of illicit activities that would be of greatest concern and would most significantly lessen Iran’s breakout time.
4. What is the significance of restrictions on conventional arms transfers and ballistic missile activities?
An issue that was only resolved in the final days of negotiations and has become controversial since then is the question of restrictions on Iran’s export and import of conventional arms and on its ballistic missile program. These restrictions were part of the Security Council sanctions in place prior to the conclusion of the JCPOA. Iran, supported by Russia and China, pressed for eliminating them at the same time other Security Council sanctions are removed, but the United States insisted on preserving them in a new council resolution. A compromise was reached on their duration, with the conventional arms embargo lasting five more years and the ballistic missile restrictions lasting eight more years. …
Even after the renewed Security Council restrictions expire, the United States will have other legal authorities and policy tools to address Iranian arms transfers to its proxies and imports of sensitive technologies. Existing U.N. embargoes on transfers to Hezbollah, the Yemeni Houthis, and Shiite militants in Iraq require U.N. members to prevent prohibited transfers from or through their territory. Other available policy tools include the Proliferation Security Initiative which facilitates international cooperation in interdicting illicit transfers, U.S. sanctions laws which target certain Iranian conventional arms and missile activities, and the Missile Technology Control Regime which coordinates the missile export policies of the major missile supplying governments, including Russia.
5. What are the implications of sanctions relief, including release of $100-plus billion in restricted assets?
The nuclear deal’s provisions on sanctions relief have generated many important questions—including whether relief would be conditioned on Iran’s performance, whether major and early relief would forfeit too much leverage needed to incentivize continued Iranian compliance, whether sanctions can be restored in the event of non-compliance, and whether Iran will be penalized for behavior outside the nuclear realm.
Obama administration officials have addressed many of these questions—not to the full satisfaction of the deal’s critics but enough to allay some of the most serious concerns. They have pointed out that, under the nuclear deal:
  • Sanctions relief will follow, not precede, Iran’s implementation of key nuclear commitments.
  • Existing sanctions for non-nuclear-related Iranian behavior (e.g., support for terrorism, human rights abuses) will remain in force, and additional sanctions can be imposed, including on entities no longer sanctioned for nuclear reasons.
  • A substantial number of entities on the U.S. sanctions list will remain on the list for eight years or indefinitely (including the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps—IRGC—and its regional arm, the Quds Force, and various military and missile entities).
  • Foreign banks and other entities dealing with those that remain on the sanctions list will be subject to being cut off from the U.S. financial system.
  • U.S. sanctions can be restored in a matter of days if Iran violates its commitments, and Security Council sanctions can be snapped back automatically within 30 days if a single JCPOA party charges Iran with significant non-performance of its commitments.
  • Entities that legally enter into contracts before the snap-back of Security Council sanctions will be subject to sanctions if they do not stop or wind down the implementation of any such contracts covered by the restored sanctions. Contrary to an impression created by convoluted language in the JCPOA text, those contracts will not be grandfathered.

  • 6. What are the consequences of rejecting the deal?
    [I]n the worst case, congressional rejection could thrust the United States into a damaging standoff, threatening and possibly imposing sanctions against the world’s leading economies in the uncertain hope of forestalling a rapid hemorrhaging of oil sanctions. In the best case, the United States could win grudging support for token additional reductions. But the likelihood of persuading Iran’s principal customers to accept dramatic new cuts in purchases—on a scale that could pressure Iran to make major concessions it has been unwilling to make under the devastating sanctions it has faced for years—is extremely small, especially when all those customers view the negotiated deal as reasonable and would resent Washington’s decision to walk away from it.
    Meanwhile, the United States would be trying to maintain existing sanctions in areas other than crude oil. It would be assisted in this effort by the cautious approach many entities could be expected to take when considering whether to buck the current sanctions regime. Major international banks might be especially guarded, fearing a cutoff from the U.S. financial system if they ran afoul of U.S. sanctions.
    Click here for the full text.  
Tags: Reports

Obama on War and Peace

Robin Wright (for The New Yorker)

President Obama was in a reflective mood when he met with a group of journalists at the White House on Wednesday afternoon, a few hours after he delivered a combative speech defending the Iran deal. He is, in private meetings, a congenial stoic, even as he chews Nicorette gum to stay ahead of an old vice.


Click here to read the full article in The New Yorker.

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