United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

US Report: Human Trafficking in Iran

Iran's government "does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so,” according to the State Department’s 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report.  The report ranks Iran as a “Tier 3” country, its lowest ranking, meaning that the government is not taking adequate measures to combat trafficking problems. The following is an excerpt from the report.

Iran is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Accurate information on human trafficking, however, is difficult to obtain. Organized groups reportedly subject Iranian women, boys, and girls to sex trafficking in Iran, as well as in the United Arab Emirates and Europe. In 2013, traffickers forced Iranian women and girls into prostitution in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region. From 2009-2015, there was a reported increase in the transport of girls from and through Iran en route to the Gulf where organized groups sexually exploited or forced them into marriages. In Tehran, Tabriz, and Astara, the number of teenage girls in prostitution continues to increase. Organized criminal groups force Iranian and immigrant children to work as beggars and in street vendor rings in cities, including Tehran. Physical and sexual abuse and drug addiction are the primary means of coercion. Some children are also forced to work in domestic workshops. Traffickers subject Afghan migrants, including boys, to forced labor in construction and agricultural sectors in Iran. Afghan boys are at high risk of experiencing sexual abuse by their employers and harassment or blackmailing by the Iranian security service and other government officials. Trafficking networks smuggle Afghan nationals living in Iran to Europe and subsequently force them to work in restaurants to pay off debts incurred by smuggling fees. Pakistani men and women migrate voluntarily to Iran for low-skilled employment, such as domestic work and construction. Organized groups subject some to forced labor, under which they experience debt bondage, restriction of movement, nonpayment of wages, and physical or sexual abuse. In previous years, there were reports government officials were involved in the sex trafficking of women and girls. Reports also indicated some officials operating shelters for runaway girls forced them into prostitution rings.
The Government of Iran does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. As in previous reporting periods, the government did not share information on its anti-trafficking efforts. Publicly available information from NGOs, the media, international organizations, and other governments indicates the Iranian government is not taking sufficient steps to address its extensive trafficking challenges, particularly with regard to the protection of trafficking victims. The government, however, reportedly took some efforts to cooperate with governments in the region to combat trafficking, among other crimes.
Recommendations for Iran
Investigate, prosecute, and convict offenders of sex trafficking and forced labor; increase transparency of anti-trafficking policies and activities and develop partnerships with international organizations to combat trafficking; ensure sex and labor trafficking victims are not punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; institute victim identification procedures to proactively identify trafficking victims, particularly among vulnerable populations such as persons in prostitution, children in begging rings, and undocumented migrants; offer specialized protection services to trafficking victims, including shelter and medical, psychological, and legal assistance; and become a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
The government made few discernible anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Iranian law does not prohibit all forms of trafficking. A 2004 law prohibits trafficking in persons by means of threat or use of force, coercion, abuse of power, or abuse of a victim’s position of vulnerability for purposes of prostitution, slavery, or forced marriage. The prescribed penalty under this law is up to 10 years’ imprisonment for the trafficking of adults and capital punishment for offenses against children. Both penalties are sufficiently stringent. The penalty for the trafficking of adults, however, is not commensurate with penalties prescribed under Iranian law for rape. In September 2014, a senior government official publicly claimed the anti-trafficking law was under review for amendment, including specific provisions to improve the effectiveness of the law. At the end of the reporting period, however, the amended law was still pending review by the judiciary and had not been enacted by the legislature. The constitution and labor code prohibit forced labor and debt bondage, but the prescribed penalty of a fine and up to one year’s imprisonment is not sufficiently stringent to deter these serious crimes. It was reportedly extremely difficult for female trafficking victims to obtain justice, as Iranian courts accord legal testimony by women only half the weight accorded to the testimony by men. Moreover, female victims of sexual abuse, including sex trafficking victims, are liable to be prosecuted for adultery, which is defined as sexual relations outside of marriage and is punishable by death. The government did not report official statistics on investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of trafficking offenders. The government also did not report investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking offenses, despite reports that such complicity was widespread. The government did not appear to report providing anti-trafficking training to officials during the reporting period. Throughout the reporting period, the government made some efforts to cooperate with various regional governments and one international organization on efforts to combat human trafficking, among other crimes.
The government made no discernible efforts to protect trafficking victims. The government did not report identifying or providing protection services to any trafficking victims, including repatriated Iranian victims. The government reportedly continued to punish sex trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking, such as adultery and prostitution. The government held foreign trafficking victims in detention centers and jails until the court ordered their deportation. The government did not appear to operate social or legal protection services for trafficking victims, nor did it provide support to some NGOs providing limited services to victims. The government did not appear to encourage trafficking victims to assist in the investigation or prosecution of traffickers. It did not appear to provide foreign victims of trafficking a legal alternative to removal to countries in which they may face hardship or retribution.
The government appeared to make inadequate efforts to prevent human trafficking. The government did not improve its transparency on its anti-trafficking policies or activities, nor did it make discernable efforts to forge partnerships with NGOs to combat human trafficking. The government made no discernable efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, forced labor, or for child sex tourism by Iranian citizens traveling abroad. The government did not implement anti-trafficking awareness campaigns. However, it issued several public pledges to cooperate with other countries on anti-trafficking efforts, while a senior government official raised trafficking issues with Pope Francis in Rome in February 2015. The parliament reportedly continued to review for ratification the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and its three associated protocols in the wake of the cabinet’s December 2013 endorsement of the convention. There was no indication the government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel. Iran is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
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Obama Tries to Sell Nuclear Deal

In July and August, President Barack Obama defended the Iran nuclear deal in his public remarks. “There’s a reason why 99 percent of the world thinks that this is a good deal,” he said on July 27. “It’s because it’s a good deal.” Congress has until September 18 to either allow the agreement to proceed or adopt a resolution of disapproval. President Obama has said he will veto the resolution if it is passed.

The following are excerpted remarks from Obama on the final nuclear deal.
“As we defend our nation, real leadership also means something else -- having the courage to lead in a new direction, the wisdom to move beyond policies that haven’t worked in the past, having the confidence to engage in smart, principled diplomacy that can lead to a better future.
“That’s what we’re doing in Cuba, where the new chapter between our peoples will mean more opportunities for the Cuban people.  Today, with our American embassy open in Havana for the first time in 50 years, we reaffirm that we will speak out for freedom and universal values around the world.
“But we’re not scared to engage.  We also see the strength of American diplomacy in our comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran -- because we must prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  And we’re now engaged in an important debate -- which is a good thing.  We are a democracy.  Unfortunately, you may have noticed there’s already a lot of shaky information out there.  So even as I make the case of why this is a critical deal to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, we’re going to make sure the people know the facts.  And here are some basic facts.
“With this deal, we cut off every single one of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear program.  Iran is prohibited from pursuing a nuclear weapon, permanently.  Without a deal, those paths remain open and Iran could move closer to a nuclear bomb.  With this deal, we gain unprecedented access to Iran’s nuclear facilities, and monitor them 24/7.  Without a deal, we don’t get that.  With this deal, if Iran cheats, sanctions snap back on.  Without a deal, the sanctions unravel.  With this deal, we have a chance to resolve the challenge of Iran trying to get a nuclear weapon, peacefully.  Without it, we risk yet another conflict in the Middle East.
“Now, if Iran tries to get a bomb despite this agreement --10 years from now, or 20 years from now -- the American President will be in a stronger position to take whatever additional steps are necessary, including any option of military action, to prevent that from happening.  And those are the facts.  That’s the choice.  And for the sake of our national security and the sake of future generations, we need to make the right choice on this critical issue. 
“And I also want to make a broader point.  In the debate over this deal, we’re hearing the echoes of some of the same policies and mindset that failed us in the past.  Some of the same politicians and pundits that are so quick to reject the possibility of a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear program are the same folks who were so quick to go to war in Iraq, and said it would take a few months.  And we know the consequences of that choice and what it cost us in blood and treasure.
“So I believe there’s a smarter, more responsible way to protect our national security -- and that is what we are doing.  Instead of dismissing the rest of the world and going it alone, we’ve done the hard and patient work of uniting the international community to meet a common threat.  Instead of chest-beating that rejects even the idea of talking to our adversaries -- which sometimes sounds good in sound bites, but accomplishes nothing -- we’re seeing that strong and principled diplomacy can give hope of actually resolving a problem peacefully. 
“Instead of rushing into another conflict, I believe that sending our sons and daughters into harm’s way must always be a last resort, and that before we put their lives on the line, we should exhaust every alternative. That’s what we owe our troops.  That is strength and that is American leadership.
“Of course, even with this deal, we’ll continue to have serious differences with the Iranian government, its support of terrorism, proxies that destabilize the Middle East.  So we can’t let them off the hook.  Our sanctions for Iran’s support for terrorism and its ballistic missile program and its human rights violations -- those sanctions will remain in place.  And we will stand with allies and partners, including Israel, to oppose Iran’s dangerous behavior.
“And we are not going to relent until we bring home our Americans who are unjustly detained in Iran.  Journalist Jason Rezaian should be released.  Pastor Saeed Abedini should be released.  Amir Hekmati, a former sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, should be released. Iran needs to help us find Robert Levinson.  These Americans need to be back home with their families.”
—July 21, 2015, in remarks to veterans in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
“What we’re doing is presenting facts about an international agreement that 99 percent of the world thinks solves a vital problem in a way that will prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and does so diplomatically.
“And essentially what we've been seeing is Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz -- who is an expert on nuclear issues -- just providing the facts, laying out exactly what the deal is, explaining how it cuts off all the pathways for Iran to get a nuclear weapon; explaining how it puts in place unprecedented verification and inspection mechanisms; explaining how we have snapback provisions so that if they cheat, we immediately re-impose sanctions; explaining also how we will continue to address other aspects of Iranian behavior that are of deep concern to us and our allies -- like providing arms to terrorist organizations.
“So the good news, I guess, is that I have not yet heard a factual argument on the other side that holds up to scrutiny. There’s a reason why 99 percent of the world thinks that this is a good deal -- it's because it's a good deal. There’s a reason why the overwhelming majority of nuclear scientists and nonproliferation experts think it's a good deal -- it's because it's a good deal. It accomplishes our goal, which is making sure Iran does not have a nuclear weapon. In fact, it accomplishes that goal better than any alternative that has been suggested.
—July 27, 2015, in a press conference with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn
THE PRESIDENT:  … When I ran for office, I made a series of commitments, series of promises to the American people.  One of those commitments was that Iran would not get a nuclear weapon.  Another commitment was that I would do everything in my power as President of the United States to preserve the unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel, and to ensure Israel’s security.
A third commitment was that, given the lessons of the previous decade, I would never hesitate to use military force where necessary to protect America, its friends and allies around the world, but that I would always first try a diplomatic approach -- not only because war inevitably creates unintended consequences and great pain and hardship, but also because sometimes diplomacy is more effective in achieving our goals.
And the deal that the P5+1 has struck accomplishes each of those promises and commitments that I made when I ran for office. I know that many people who are listening know the basic outlines of the deal, but I just want to reiterate the core of it.
This deal blocks every way -- every pathway that Iran might take in order to obtain a nuclear weapon.  It makes sure that the centrifuges that are currently in Natanz are removed, except for a handful, and it makes sure that they cannot immediately use more advanced centrifuges to build up their capacity to create enriched uranium that might be diverted into a weapons program.
The underground facility of Fordow is converted into a research facility and no longer will have in it centrifuges that could be used to create nuclear weapons or nuclear materials, and might be difficult to reach.  The heavy-water facility at Arak that, if struck by a missile, could create a plume and thereby is more difficult to deal with -- that is going to be reconfigured.
So you have the existing facilities being transformed.  You have a commitment in which stockpiles of highly enriched uranium are being shipped out.  We create then a verification and inspection mechanism across the entire nuclear production chain within Iran that is unprecedented -- more rigorous than anything that has ever been negotiated in the history of nuclear nonproliferation.
And we also preserve the capacity to snap back all the various sanctions provisions that we put in place very systematically -- my administration working in concert with our partners over the last five years, sanctions that ultimately brought Iran to the table -- we have the capacity to snap those back in the event that Iran cheats or does not abide by the terms of the deal.
So what we have done is, for the first 10 years, essentially restricted Iran’s capacity not just to weaponize nuclear power but we severely constrain any nuclear program -- peaceful or militarized.  After 10 years, they're able to obtain some additional advanced centrifuges, but they continue to have to be carefully monitored in terms of the stockpiles that they produce.
And even critics of this deal acknowledge that for the first 15 years or so, we have extended the breakout time so that not only are we on them constantly, observing what they're doing, but if they decided that they wanted to break the deal, we would have ample time to respond in ways that prevented them from getting a nuclear weapon.  The breakout time would be significantly longer than it is right now.
So because of the stringency of the deal, the vast majority of experts on nuclear proliferation have endorsed this deal.  The world is more or less united, with some significant exceptions -- obviously the state of Israel and perhaps others less publicly -- around the deal.  You have seen people who are unlikely bedfellows -- Brent Scrowcroft and Elizabeth Warren -- endorse the deal.  And we have said to members of Congress, we are prepared to answer every single question and provide exhaustive hearings on every element of this. 
The criticisms of the deal have really come down to a few buckets, and maybe I’ll just address those very quickly upfront. Number one, people have said that, well, Iran will cheat.  They're not trustworthy.  And I keep on emphasizing we don't trust Iran.  Iran is antagonistic to the United States.  It is anti-Semitic.  It has denied the Holocaust.  It has called for the destruction of Israel.  It is an unsavory regime.  But this deal doesn't rely on trust; it relies on verification and our capacity to catch them when they cheat and to respond vigorously if they do.  And it’s precisely because we are not counting on the nature of the regime to change that it’s so important for us to make sure that they don't have a nuclear weapon.  And this is the best way to do it.
A second argument I’ve heard is, well, they are going to, in 15 years, have the ability to break out and they’ll be more powerful.  But, in fact, we're not giving away anything in this deal in terms of our capacity to respond if they choose to cheat. We are not giving up our ability to respond militarily.  We're not giving up our ability to impose sanctions.  Any of the tools that critics of the deal are suggesting we could be applying now we’ll be able to apply in 15 years.  But we’ll have the advantage of a deal that the entire world has ratified; that Iran has committed to, saying that it’s not going to have a nuclear weapon.  We will have purchased 15 years of familiarity with their program so that we know exactly what’s going on.  And so anybody sitting in my chair 15 years from now will be in a much stronger position to respond if they at that point decide to break out than a President would next year or the year after.
Number three, people have suggested that this will give a windfall to Iran and they will be able to conduct more terrorist activity and destabilizing activity in the region.  I want to make sure people have some perspective here.  Iran’s defense budget is $15 billion a year.  By comparison, ours is around $600 billion.  Because of the unprecedented partnership we have with Israel, Israel has a much stronger military.  Our Gulf partners spend eight times as much money as Iran does on their military. 
So Iran is a regional power; it’s not a superpower.  The money that they’re obtaining is money that has been frozen under sanctions.  They will get about $56 billion back, but they’re going to have to spend that to prop up an economy that’s been crushed by our sanctions.  Their economy will improve modestly, but there’s no analysis that’s been done by our experts that suggest that they are going to have a qualitatively different capacity to engage in some of the nefarious activities that they’ve done before.
That’s not to say that those aren’t very serious issues.  We have to stop Iran from getting missiles to Hezbollah that threaten Israel.  We have to stop their destabilizing activities using proxies in other parts of the region.  But to do that requires us to better coordinate with our partners, improve our intelligence, improve -- continue to build on things like Iron Dome that protect populations from missiles coming in over the border.  And those are all things that we have to do anyway.  We’re in a much better position to do it if we also know in the meantime that Iran doesn’t have a nuclear weapon.  That’s the one game-changer, and that’s why it has to be our number-one priority.
So let me just close this initial set of comments by saying something about the U.S.-Israel relationship that you raised, Steve.  The bond between the United States and Israel is not political.  It’s not based on alliances of convenience.  It is something that grows out of family ties and bonds that stretch back generations, and shared values and shared commitments and shared beliefs in democracy.  And like all families, sometimes there are going to be disagreements, and sometimes people get angrier about disagreements in families than they do with folks who aren’t family.  I understand that.  But we’ve repeatedly throughout the history of the United States and Israel had times where the U.S. administration and the Israeli government had disagreements, and that does not affect the core commitments that we have to each other. 
And throughout my administration, even my fiercest critics in Israel would acknowledge that we’ve maintain unprecedented military cooperation, unprecedented intelligence coordination.  We have not only maintained but enhanced the degree of military assistance that we provide, including helping to fund things like the Iron Dome program that has protected and saved lives inside of Israel.
And what I have said repeatedly is that as soon as this particular debate is over, my hope is, is that the Israeli government will immediately want to rejoin conversations that we had started long before about how we can continue to improve and enhance Israel’s security in a very troubled neighborhood. 
But what I would emphasize is that the commitment to Israel is sacrosanct and it is nonpartisan.  It always has been and it always will be.  And I would suggest that, in terms of the tone of this debate, everybody keep in mind that we’re all pro-Israel. We’re all pro-U.S.-Israel.  And we have to make sure that we don’t impugn people’s motives even as we have what is a very serious debate about how best to protect the United States, Israel, and the world community from a potentially destabilizing Iranian nuclear weapon.
MR. SIEGAL:  I haven’t been invited, but okay.  It says:  Aren’t you concerned that after 15 years, Iran will have access to the highly enriched uranium that they need to build a nuclear weapon -- one of the things you talked about.  Do you worry at that time that Iran might build as large a nuclear infrastructure as they want?  What about others in the region?  And do you expect that others will also insist on building comparable nuclear infrastructures?  And then lastly, and importantly, how does this deal reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation in the region?
THE PRESIDENT:  Good.  One thing that might be helpful is to understand sort of what a lot of this argument has been about.  I think that in the best of all worlds, Iran would have no nuclear infrastructure whatsoever.  There wouldn’t be a single nut, bolt, building, nuclear scientist, uranium mine anywhere inside of Iran.  And that, I suppose, would be the single guarantee that Iran never has a nuclear weapon -- unless it purchased one, of course, from North Korea, which it could also do.
Unfortunately, that’s not a reality that’s attainable.  And those who say they want a better deal, that this isn’t a good deal and they want a better deal typically mean that not only do they want Iran not to have nuclear weapons, but they don’t want them to have any nuclear program at all, even a peaceful one.
The problem is, is that even Iranians who oppose this regime believe that Iran should have the right to peaceful nuclear programs.  The world community -- not just the Russians or the Chinese but the Europeans, the Indians, the Japanese, others -- they all believe that under the nonproliferation treaty, you are allowed to have peaceful nuclear power.  You just can’t have a weapon.
So this deal is designed to essentially put Iran in the penalty box for the first 15 years, where even its peaceful nuclear program is severely constrained.  After 15 years, assuming they’ve abided by that deal, they can then start opening up their peaceful nuclear program.  But their prohibition on weaponizing nuclear power -- that continues in perpetuity, and will continue to be monitored by the toughest inspection regime that exists under the current international rules, called the additional protocol.  And we’ll still be monitoring it very carefully and we will have had 15 years of knowledge about what their program is.
Now, is it possible that at the end of 15 years, they now start introducing some more advanced centrifuges and at some point, they feel comfortable enough, cocky enough, where they say to themselves, now is the time for us to breakout, we’re going to kick out all the IAEA inspectors, we’re going to announce that we’re going to pursue a nuclear weapon -- is that possible?  Absolutely.  Just as it’s possible that they could have done that next week if we hadn’t had this deal.  The question then becomes, have we given up any ability to response forcefully?  And as I indicated in my opening remarks, we will have not given anything up.
When I came into office, I talked to the Pentagon to say it’s not enough for us just to beat our chest and rattle our sabers.  Do we have specific plans in terms of how we would respond if necessary to Iran dashing for the goal line of getting a nuclear weapon?  And we prepared and made sure that we could respond.  And we have shared a lot of information with our Israeli partners and our other partners in the region about our confidence in our capacity to respond.  A President of the United States 15 years from now is not going to be in a worse position to respond; he’ll be in a stronger position, or she will be in a stronger position, to respond.  And so that’s something that I feel great confidence about.
The alternative -- I’ve never understood the logic that says because there may be issues that we have to deal with 15 years from now, we should reject a deal that ensures us for 15 years not having a nuclear weaponized Iran.  And we now are in a situation in which they could breakout next year, without inspectors on the ground to monitor effectively, without the international constraints that this deal provides, and forcing us or the Israelis to make that same decision, isolated, without international legitimacy, and in a situation where even the best estimates suggest that, at best, a military approach at this juncture would probably forestall a determined Iran for a year or two from getting a nuclear weapon.
—Aug. 28, 2015 in a webcast discussion with The Jewish Federations of North America

The Final Deal: Promises and Pitfalls

The debate surrounding the historic nuclear deal between Iran and the world’s six major powers played out among two nuclear experts, a sanctions specialist and an Iran scholar during an event co-hosted by USIP at the Woodrow Wilson Center on July 23. The discussion outlined key issues that will top agendas in Washington and Tehran as lawmakers in both countries consider the agreement in the coming months.

Congress has until September 18 to review the final deal. If it adopts a resolution of disapproval, it would take a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate to override a likely veto by President Obama.
The following are the main points of the discussion, which was moderated by Doyle McManus, a Washington columnist for The Los Angeles Times. The discussion marked the fifth Iran Forum event, a series hosted by an unprecedented coalition of eight Washington think tanks that also includes the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the RAND Corporation, the Arms Control Association, the Center for a New American Security, the Stimson Center, Partnership for a Secure America and the Ploughshares Fund.
Olli Heinonen 
Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University
Former Deputy Director General and Head of Department of Safeguards, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
  • After 10 years, Iran will be able to increase the number of centrifuges without limit. Its uranium stockpile will still be restricted, but the limits will be less important because by then Iran will be using more-advanced centrifuges.
  • After 15 years, limits on the stockpile of enriched uranium will expire. Iran’s breakout time for a bomb could decrease to as little as a few weeks.
  • So-called “snap back” sanctions, penalties that could be restored in the case of violations by Iran, could take months or even years to fully implement. There may need to be a faster mechanism to address Iranian violations.
  • Iran has agreed to ratify the IAEA’s Additional Protocol after the UN agency determines Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful. The IAEA would normally require ratification before making that determination.
  • The IAEA system for monitoring declared facilities – like Natanz and Fordow – is robust. If Iran carries out violations at these sites, they would be detected fairly quickly.
  • The IAEA is still missing information about Iran’s nuclear activities since 2005, which will make it hard to begin verification with a clean slate.
  • The 24-day timeframe for inspectors to access suspicious sites could be problematic. There are scenarios in which evidence of nuclear activity can be removed or erased in much less time.
  • The alternative to a deal is not necessarily war. Iran is unlikely to dash towards a bomb given its current nuclear infrastructure, but would instead escalate its activities strategically.
Elizabeth Rosenberg
Senior Fellow and Director of the Energy, Economics and Security Program, Center for a New American Security
Former Senior Sanctions Advisor at the U.S. Treasury Department
  • Most – but not all – sanctions targeting Iran’s energy industry, financial services, shipping and other sectors will be lifted on implementation day, the day Iran is deemed to have met its nuclear commitments. That could occur six- to nine months from now..
  • U.S. and E.U. sanctions relating to Iran’s support of terrorism will remain in place.
  • Sanctions that restrict Iran’s participation in the SWIFT international financial payment system are particularly significant, perhaps even more than U.S. sanctions. If they are lifted, Iran will be able to resume international transactions.
  • Lifting U.S. sanctions will impact foreign companies, but many American companies will still face restrictions. There are some exceptions, including trade in commercial aircraft, pistachios and rugs.
  • In reality, sanctions relief won’t have a significant impact in the first few months or even years. Companies may be concerned about the risk of a deal collapsing or getting wrapped up in sanctions violations, which can cost them billions of dollars and reputational damage. And issues like corruption make Iran a difficult place to do business.
  • Still, Iran is an attractive market for emerging investment. It has a large, well-educated population.
  • If the United States and the European Union are involved with Iran’s reintegration into the international financial system, they will have more leverage later on to re-impose sanctions if necessary. So it is also important to increase trade with Iran enough that it will feel the impact if sanctions are reimposed.
  • Multilateral sanctions are far more effective than unilateral penalties. The United States cannot produce the same effect alone. And if it tries and fails, it makes sanctions look weak as an option.

Robin Wright
Joint Fellow, U.S. Institute of Peace and Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Author and Journalist, recently returned from Iran for The New Yorker
  • From the beginning, Iran wanted more than sanctions relief in the negotiations. It wanted recognition of the Islamic Republic, and a shift away from talk of regime change.
  • Iran also chose to engage because it opened up economic avenues. Iran needs $1 trillion of investment to revive its economy.
  • The Islamic Republic also feels vulnerable, with ISIS as close as 25 miles from its borders. Iranians fear rising sectarianism in the region, as Iran is in the minority as a Shiite state surrounded by Sunnis.
  • There is potential for profound change within Iran. More than half the electorate is under 35 – born after the revolution – and they have enormous influence. The government understands that this is a moment to engage. And the supreme leader cannot ignore the changes happening in society.
  • Hardliners are less concerned about the deal itself than they are about how it will affect domestic politics. They might oppose the deal because their own political future is at stake. They may fear that opening up to the world will undermine the revolution.
  • A key issue is what Iran will do with the billions of dollars it will receive with sanctions relief. The question will be whether the Revolutionary Guards will get a payoff in terms of funds for their activities in the region, or for their spinoff construction companies in Iran.
  • If Congress rejects the deal, hardliners in Iran’s parliament might reject it as well. But they also might approve it, as a way to undermine the United States. Khamenei would argue that he was right to assume the United States could not be trusted as a negotiating partner. It might make future engagement impossible.
Joe Cirincione
President, Ploughshares Fund
Former Professional Staff Member, House Armed Services Committee
  • The deal is a major diplomatic triumph. It is the most important nonproliferation agreement of the last 20 years. 
  • It stops Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and prevents a new war in the Middle East. It also makes the region more secure.
  • The United States achieved all its major goals in this deal: stopping all pathways to a bomb, putting a verification system in place, and deterring Iran from cheating by maintaining the international coalition that imposed sanctions.
  • The deal strips down Iran’s nuclear program and wraps it in an extensive verification system. It would be almost impossible for Iran to evade inspections.
  • There are some concerns and issues, but overall it is much better than any deal previously negotiated.
  • In 10 years, Iran will be allowed to install more centrifuges, but they will still have a small stockpile. And even when they are allowed to increase it, after 15 years, Iran will still be limited in its procurement channels and bound by international inspections.
  • Even when other restrictions expire, the international community will have so much more information on Iran’s nuclear sites and activities that a potential military option would be more effective than it is now.
  • The deal is not perfect. But it buys time, which is the main goal when it comes to national security concerns.

To assess the period of pivotal diplomacy leading up to the deal, the coalition of eight Washington policy organizations has previously hosted four other discussions.

The full video of the event is below.

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream


Tags: Nuclear

Kerry Explains the Deal at CFR

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

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

Kerry, Moniz Testify on Iran Deal

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

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

House Foreign Affairs Committee

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

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

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


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