United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Energy Secretary Moniz Briefs on Talks

The following are excerpt remarks from a press briefing at the White House with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Press Secretary Josh Earnest on April 6.

SECRETARY MONIZ: So, first of all, we say that there are four pathways to a bomb in Iran.  One is a plutonium pathway through a research reactor, a heavy water reactor.  I’ll come back to these.  Second, there are two pathways to a uranium bomb; that involves the facilities at Natanz and at Fordow.  And the fourth pathway is covert activities.  So let me just walk through those four and what we have nailed down in the understanding for the final agreement.
Let me start with plutonium.  In the plutonium pathway, the Iranians will retain a research reactor using heavy water.  The following characteristics, however, are critical.  Number one, it will be redesigned to have substantially less plutonium production; it will not be weapons-grade plutonium.  However, we have an agreement that all of the spent fuel -- that is the fuel that contains the plutonium -- will be sent out of the country for the entire lifetime of the reactor.  In other words, it will produce less plutonium and it won’t stay in the country anyway.
Secondly, with regard to the plutonium produced by any other reactor, like Bushehr, there will be no re-processing to extract plutonium; no re-processing R&D; no other heavy water reactor for at least 15 years; and any excess heavy water will be sold on the international market.  This is lockdown of the plutonium pathway.
Let me turn to the uranium pathways, which involve enrichment.  There’s been a lot said about they will continue to enrich with 5,000 centrifuges; this is correct.  But let me put that in context.  We’re starting with 19,000 -- number one.  Number two, they will be, in this first 10-year period, allowed to use only their first-generation centrifuge for that.  Third, in terms of our key objective of having a so-called breakout period of at least one year, what you really need is three numbers together.  You need the number of centrifuges.  You need the stockpile of enriched uranium; that’s going to be reduced from 10,000 kilograms to 300 kilograms.  And it will be enriched only less than 3.7 percent.  Those three numbers come together and say breakout period of at least a year.
R&D -- there will be no R&D in the first 10 years at the scale you need to deploy a machine for any advanced centrifuge model.  And that is despite the fact that today they are operating for two models -- such a full-scale cascade, is what it’s called.  That’s going to be torn down and put into storage under IAEA monitoring and seal. 
Then there is the facility at Fordow; that’s the one that’s put into a mountain.  Nearly two-thirds of that will be immediately disassembled, stripped down -- centrifuges and infrastructure.  About just over 10 percent there will be some spinning.  However, no enrichment, no enrichment R&D; no fissile material, no uranium, is even allowed in the facility, with continuous monitoring from the IAEA; and a transition of that facility over time to basically a physics research laboratory and medical isotope laboratory.
Fourth pathway -- covert.  Actually, the other pathways, as well, depend upon an unprecedented access and transparency for the IAEA.  It starts with the additional protocol.  For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s an add-on to the standard safeguards agreements, which will provide access to undeclared facilities as well as declared facilities.  There will be insight, eyes and ears -- eyes mainly, maybe some ears -- on the full supply chain -- this is unprecedented -- going back to the Iranian mines all the way through to the final facilities.  And, by the way, that insight on the early parts of the supply chain is a 25-year commitment, not a 10 or a 15-year commitment. 
So we think that, again, the access and transparencies is unprecedented, and the additional protocol is an example of a forever agreement in what we have negotiated. 
And so, finally, just to say that -- I've already said it in effect, but I want to say this is not an agreement for 10 years, or 15 years, or 20 years; it is a long-term agreement with a whole set of phases.  And if Iran earns over this time period trust and confidence in their peaceful objectives, well, then, over time, the constraints will, in phases, ease up, but never get lower than the additional protocol and all of the access that it provides. 
So that's the way we think about it.  It's not a fixed-year agreement; it’s a forever agreement, in a certain sense, with different stages.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. and Iran on a very different page even in terms of this interim agreement?
SECRETARY MONIZ:  No, we're not.  We all recognize that -- we emphasize very strongly, we have to talk about the same agreement.  We understand emphases may be different.  And so let me give you an example.  They emphasize, well, we have 5,000 centrifuges spinning; this is true and we acknowledge that.  But we also say they’re first generation; they must be taken together with this extraordinary limitation on their stockpile.  They fail to mention that, or the 3-plus percent enrichment.  And it's those numbers together that say we have a one-year breakout time.
So it's not so much inconsistent as it, as I would say, is emphasizing only certain parts of the agreement.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you said that Fordow will be stripped down, but the President seemed to promise the American people something much different in December of 2013, when he said, “We know that they don't need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordow in order to have a peaceful nuclear program.”  He wasn’t talking about stripping it down.  He was saying either wiping it out or shutting it down altogether.  What changed?
SECRETARY MONIZ:  Well, to me, the key is and our objective was to make sure it was not a breakout pathway.  It is not.  There is even no fissile material allowed into that facility.  It is not an enrichment facility.  So it is closed down as an enrichment facility.
As I said, it will be transitioning over time to a research facility involving international collaboration.  And, in fact, those international collaborators will, in fact, add additional transparency.  So I'll give you an example of two projects being discussed both with an international partner.
One is on the stable isotopes, as I mentioned -- molybdenum for medical treatments; another is to bring in an electronic accelerator for various experimental purposes -- materials, medical research, et cetera.  So over time, as those collaborations build up, that's what the facility will become.
QUESTION: Thank you, Secretary.  What if Iran cheats?  The President, in an interview over the weekend, mentioned that there would be some type of mechanism where if you suspect that there’s something going on that's fishy, that you can request an inspection.  And if Iran does not agree to that, that the international community has this mechanism to ensure that.  What is that mechanism?  And how much of the one-year breakout time could that eat up?
SECRETARY MONIZ:  First of all, the answer to the last part is a very short time compared to the year.  And at the end of that time, in contrast to some current arrangements around the world where, frankly, things can get -- shall we say, cans can get kicked down a very long road, this has a definite ending, way inside the year.  And if access is denied at that point, that is a breach of the agreement, and with all the consequences that come with that, including snap-back of sanctions, resort to diplomatic or other tools.  No options for the United States or others is taken off the table.
QUESTION: So is this like a one-strike deal?  One time we catch Iran doing something they said they wouldn't do in the agreement, the whole thing is off and we ramp up sanctions?
SECRETARY MONIZ:  I think clearly one will see how that plays out in terms of -- obviously, judgment has to be used in terms of severity.  Without getting into details, I'll just say that, for example, in the current agreement, everyone is saying that Iran has been studious in honoring the current agreement.  Actually, I don't know if I can say this, but -- I won't get into specifics -- there was one time in which something was done that was not in the agreement.  It was rapidly resolved as a mistake of somebody who didn’t know what they were doing wasn’t there, shut down immediately.
So, so far in the interim agreement, they’ve been very good.  We will see if that persists now for the next 10, 15, 20 years.
MR. EARNEST:  Major.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, talking about the covert path, what kind of things need to still be negotiated to increase Western and American confidence that covert actions, either at facilities you’ve identified or places not yet identified, can be locked down?  That is to say you can have a level of confidence that on the covert side things will not create a pathway to a nuclear weapon.  And secondly, when you were answering Josh’s question on sanctions, do we have an agreement with the United Nations countries, meaning our partners, P5+1, to snap back the sanctions, or just us snapping back the sanctions if there is a disagreement or a violation?
SECRETARY MONIZ:  No, first of all, I should say even more broadly, I think one of the remarkable outcomes of these last weeks -- I've been involved for, roughly, six weeks.  One of the remarkable outcomes is, in fact, the level of coherence among the P5+1.  That was actually quite rewarding, I would say.
In terms of the snap-back of the sanctions, there are certainly issues remaining to be negotiated in terms of specific timing and milestones.  However, the key elements are all decided.  And so, for example, in terms of snap-back of sanctions, let’s just say, for example, no one country could block the snap-back of sanctions. 
QUESTION: No one has veto power within the conversation?
SECRETARY MONIZ:  Correct. I'm not going to go to the majority, et cetera, but that will be evolving and coming out in time as to what the precise arrangements are.  But these are very, very good in terms of our ability; out ability, for example, to snap back, if called upon to do so, will be there.
QUESTION: And the access on the covert side that you have yet to negotiate the kind of things you need to achieve between now and July 1st to --
SECRETARY MONIZ:  Those are largely in place in terms of the access, as I mentioned, including unprecedented access in terms of the entire supply chain.  I mentioned uranium mines.  There’s also continuous surveillance of centrifuge manufacturing plants.  So it is really quite a strong arrangement.
QUESTIONS: Two quick questions.  You said that -- which I don't really understand -- they’re going to continue to produce plutonium, small amounts of it, and they’ll send it out of the country.  Why produce it at all if you're going to send it out of the country?
SECRETARY MONIZ:  Because, I should add, that any nuclear reactor by its nature produces plutonium.  Our power reactors in the United States produce plutonium as they operate.  That's unavoidable, okay?  The question is whether one optimizes for producing plutonium, especially a weapons-grade.  And I'm saying this redesigned reactor will not do that, and it will produce very small amounts.  You cannot avoid it at some level, but it will produce small amounts and it will go out of the country anyway.
QUESTION: After your difficult negotiations, are you convinced that the Iranians are, in fact, content to only produce peaceful nuclear power, that this is their goal as they say it is?  Do you, as one of the chief negotiators, trust their motives?
SECRETARY MONIZ:  This is not built upon trust.  This is built upon hardnosed requirements in terms of limitations on what they do at various timescales and on the access and transparency.
QUESTION: But are they trying to at any time put in measures that would allow them to continue to produce weapons-grade uranium?  Do you see an effort on their part to somehow save a pathway?
SECRETARY MONIZ: First of all, I should reemphasize, they have not produced weapons-grade uranium.  They did produce earlier up to 20 percent, which is still considered low -- it's the limit of low-enriched uranium.  But I would say the answer to that is, no.  Clearly, the negotiation was tough in terms of specific parameters, but we just held to it -- sorry -- like the one-year breakout period is an absolute, unshakeable requirement.  We can shift around a little bit, stockpile number of uranium and number of centrifuges.  But that was the nature of it.
QUESTION: So at the end of this, they’ll be held to this and there’s not going to be any wiggle room, there’s not going to be any subject to interpretation?  It seems right now a lot is seemingly up to interpretation whether you're in Washington or in Tehran.
SECRETARY MONIZ:  Well, no, I disagree with that in the sense -- in fact, going back to the very first question -- that there’s no doubt that right now there’s a different narrative, but not in conflict with what’s written down, just selective.  However, if you look at our parameter sheet -- I don't know if you have seen that, it's four pages of bullets.  And what is the reaction that we are receiving, and I think quite appropriately, is a certain level of amazement at the specificity.  We got numbers, and those have got to go into the agreement.  Very specific and comprehensive. 
QUESTION: The White House has made clear that you're open to having Congress have some way to express their views about this.  But the specific proposals put forward by a lot of members of Congress about voting on a deal, that kind of thing, the President has rejected.  So I'm wondering if you could give us an example of a way that Congress could have a role beyond just listening to briefings from you all…
MR. EARNEST:  The White House does take very seriously, and across the administration we take very seriously the responsibility that we have to engage with Congress throughout this process.  And that's what we have done.  That started years ago when Congress passed tough sanctions against Iran that were instrumental to building an international coalition that put enormous pressure on the Iranian economy.  That is what we believe led to Iran sitting down at the negotiating table and to actually engaging in conversations that were constructive.
Throughout that process, we’ve kept Congress in the loop on those negotiations.  And just in the last three or four days since an agreement was announced, there have been a substantial number of telephone conversations, starting from the President on down  -- other senior members of the President’s national security team, the Secretary of State, I believe Secretary Moniz even made some telephone calls, the Vice President, the White House Chief of Staff, others who have made calls to members of Congress to make sure that they actually understand the details of what’s been agreed to.  That's the first thing. 
The second thing is that we continue to believe that while Congress, certainly understandably, should understand what we're working on here, that it's the responsibility of the President of the United States -- any President of the United States -- to conduct the foreign policy of the United States of America.  This is something that our Founding Fathers envisioned.  This has been true of Democratic and Republican Presidents back through history.  And this kind of effort to reach a diplomatic agreement about preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is consistent with that history.
Now, the third thing is that Congress will at some point have to vote to remove the sanctions that they put in place.  That is not something that the President of the United States can do unilaterally.  But what Congress envisioned in their legislation -- they wrote into the bill, into the sanctions bill, waiver authority for the President of the United States to relax some aspects of the sanctions in pursuit of a diplomatic agreement.
So, in effect, Josh, what we're planning to do is to implement this agreement consistent with exactly the way Congress described.  Now, there are some in Congress who, you point out, are now suggesting that they have changed their mind and they would rather weigh in on this agreement in a different way.  But because of the longstanding precedent of the President of the United States being the chief negotiator for the United States, and the fact that we know a lot of Republicans in Congress are only using a vote like that -- or proposing a vote like this, because they oppose the deal in the first place.
QUESTION: But, Josh, it’s not just Republicans.  I mean, it’s quite a few prominent Democrats on foreign policy.
MR. EARNEST:  But to be clear, what I was saying about Republicans -- it’s Republicans who have been most forceful in denouncing this agreement, and those are the people that I’m referring to when I say that they’re trying to use this vote as cover to just try to undermine the agreement.  You’re right that there are other Democrats who have spoken up, saying that Congress should have the opportunity to weigh in on the deal.  And what we have said is, look, it is clearly within the purview of the President of the United States to conduct foreign policy, and we do believe that Congress should play their rightful role in terms of ultimately deciding whether or not the sanctions that Congress passed into law should be removed.
QUESTION: And if they [lawmakers] decide they don’t want to remove the sanctions, it actually doesn’t matter because the President already has authority under the existing sanctions to waive them by himself.  I mean, is that an accurate synopsis of the role that you see for Congress?
MR. EARNEST:  Well, I would just tailor the last part of what you said, because this is important as well -- that we would envision a scenario where after Iran has already demonstrated sustained compliance over a long period of time, then we would contemplate a situation where we would dismantle the sanctions architecture that did apply so much pressure to the Iranian economy.  And that is something that only Congress could do. 
I don’t want to speak for the Iranian regime, but presumably that’s something that they would like to see.  They wouldn’t just want to see a waiver; they’d actually like to see that sanctions architecture dismantled -- and I think for understandable reasons -- frankly, because they know that as long as that sanctions architecture is in place, the President with a stroke of a pen, at a moment’s notice, could snap those sanctions back into place.  And that is part of what Congress originally envisioned when they passed sanctions legislation.  It’s also part of what this administration envisions for holding Iran to account.  Because we have said that if we detect, based on the intrusive inspections plan that we have for Iran’s nuclear program -- if we detect that they are deviating from the plan, then we can at a moment’s notice snap those sanctions back into place.
QUESTION: [I]n Tehran, they’re describing the way those sanctions will be lifted as an immediate timeline, whereas what we’re hearing here is that there’s going to have to be some results before sanctions are lifted.  Can you explain the discrepancy between those timelines?  And is the President concerned about that difference and whether or not there will be an agreement before the end of June?
MR. EARNEST:  Well, Julia, this issue that you have highlighted is one of those that still needs to be negotiated.  There are still details about the phase-out, if you will, of the sanctions that have not yet been agreed to.  And it is the strong view of the administration that it would not be wise, and it would not be in the interest of the international community, to simply take away sanctions -- take away all of the sanctions on day one.
It is our view that, based on Iran’s history, that it would be most conducive to the success of the agreement for Iran to continue to have an incentive for complying with the agreement.  And that is why we believe that this sort of phased approach is the best one, and it certainly is one that we will insist upon.  There are many of those who are sitting around the negotiating table -- on our side of the negotiating table -- who share that view.  And that’s what we will insist upon.
The reasons that you’re hearing a slightly different message out of Iran is that this is -- the details of this arrangement have not yet been agreed to.
The Iranians are insisting that every sanction should be removed on day one.  The President has forcefully advocated in a way that’s consistent with the thinking of the international community that what we should see is a phased reduction in sanctions to ensure that Iran continues to comply with the agreement and continues to have an incentive to comply with the agreement.
QUESTION: So there is no bill that could be offered, some sort of accommodation that suggests Congress is getting its proper oversight role and the administration gets to conduct its foreign policy, that you could see the administration signing off on this before June 30th?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I wouldn’t be in a position of sort of ruling out hypotheticals like that.  But certainly the legislation that’s being most actively discussed on Capitol Hill right now is the legislation that Senator Corker has put forward.
And, again, I’ll mention that Senator Corker is somebody who has considered this issue in a very principled way.  But in this fashion we have a pretty strong disagreement with him -- because in the mind of the President, it could potentially interfere with the ongoing negotiations that are slated to continue through June. 
It also could interfere with the ability of the United States to implement the agreement successfully.  And it does interfere with a scope of responsibilities that it’s clearly within the purview of the President of the United States.  So we’ve made clear about what our differences are with the piece of legislation that’s been most actively discussed on Capitol Hill.
Click here for a full transcript.
Photo credit: Moniz by Energy.gov via Flickr Commons (public domain as U.S. Government work)

Erdogan in Iran to Strengthen Ties

On April 7, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani, and other Iranian officials in Tehran. The leaders signed eight agreements focused on improving economic cooperation, and downplayed disagreements between Iran and Turkey over the conflicts in Yemen and Syria. “I don’t look at the sect,” Erdogan said. “It does not concern me whether Shia or Sunni, what concerns me is Muslims.”

The following are tweets and pictures capturing Erdogan’s visit.








Photos via president.ir

Click here for more information on Iran-Turkey relations

Tags: Turkey

Iran Nuclear Plan: Iranian Media Reacts

The following is a sampling of Iranian media coverage of the nuclear framework that was announced by the world's six major powers and Iran on April 2.


The headline reads "Passing Through the June Crisis: A Comprehensive Agreement," in an apparent reference to the June 30 deadline for a final deal.  



Aftab-e Yazd

A headline reads: "Political deal between Iran and P5+1 was the souvenir Zarif brought back home."

April 4, via Iran Front Page


A headline reads: Continued concerns about American deception in the final agreement."


April 4, via Iran Front Page


A headline reads: "Iran and P5+1 agree to work out a comprehensive nuclear deal."

April 4, via Iran Front Page


A headline reads: "The economy minister said that termination of sanctions won't settle the country's economic problems overnight."


—April 6, via Iran Front Page

Arman-e Emrooz

A headline reads: "Prudence worked in the Lausanne talks. Iranians welcome Zarif back home; people take to the streets to celebrate the nuclear deal; Friday prayer leaders welcome the nuclear agreement; 'All sanctions will be lifted,' said Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif."


April 4, via Iran Front Page


A headline reads: "Elated and hopeful, Iranians celebrated the triumphant return home of the negotiating team."

April 4, via Iran Front Page


A headline reads: "Diplomacy smiled. After 18 months of talks, Iran and P5+1 arrived at an understanding on mechanisms."


April 4, via Iran Front Page


A headline reads: "The nation has praised national diplomacy."

April 4, via Iran Front Page


A headline reads: "Eighteen months of talks between Iran and P5+1 eventually bore fruit; the world is happy about a nuclear understanding."


April 4, via Iran Front Page


A headline reads: "The deal was pushed back to summer; victory in the battle of interpretation will determine the fate of the comprehensive deal."


April 4, via Iran Front Page


A headline reads: "No trust in Satan. American subversion after the statement was read out."

April 4, via Iran Front Page


A headline reads: "Iran's Zarif skillfully negotiates the Lausanne pass."

April 4, via Iran Front Page

Siasat-e Rooz

A headline reads: "Different interpretations of the solutions worked out by Iran and P5+1."

April 4, via Iran Front Page

Tags: Media, Nuclear

Nuclear Experts on Details of Blueprint

The following are excerpted reactions from nuclear experts to the parameters for a comprehensive nuclear deal announced on April 2 by Iran and the world’s six major powers.

Anthony H. Cordesman
Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies
[T]he proposed parameters and framework in the Proposed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has the potential to meet every test in creating a valid agreement over time of the kind laid out earlier in the Burke Chair analysis circulated on March 30. It can block both an Iranian nuclear threat and a nuclear arms race in the region, and it is a powerful beginning to creating a full agreement, and creating the prospect for broader stability in other areas.
—April 2, 2015 in a statement
Olli Heinonen
Senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and former chief inspector for the International Atomic Energy Agency
“It appears to be a fairly comprehensive deal with most important parameters.” But he cautioned that “Iran maintains enrichment capacity which will be beyond its near-term needs.”
—April 2, 2015 to The New York Times
Daryl Kimball
Arms Control Association Executive Director
The parameters agreed upon by the United States, the other permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany with the Islamic Republic of Iran “promises to lead to one of the most consequential and far reaching nuclear nonproliferation achievements in recent decades.”
—April 2, 2015 in a statement
Gary Samore
Executive Director for Research at Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
and former senior director for nonproliferation and export controls under the Clinton administration
“I think that [the negotiators] were able to specify enough detail in this agreement to justify the effort to continue another three months and try to complete a comprehensive agreement.”
—April 2, 2015 to The Daily Beast
Greg Thielmann
Senior fellow of the Arms Control Association and former intelligence analyst at the Department of State
Once fully negotiated and launched, this deal will block off the options Iran currently has for moving quickly to build nuclear weapons. And the benefits of the deal will extend beyond the particulars of preventing an Iranian bomb. It will also strengthen the worldwide authority of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in implementing safeguards on the peaceful development of nuclear energy and give impetus toward the goal of universality in enhanced verification measures such as the IAEA's "Additional Protocol."
—April 5, 2015 in an op-ed for The Philadelphia Inquirer
Matthew Bunn
Professor at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and former adviser on nonproliferation in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
The Lausanne approach would effectively take the option of racing to the bomb at the known, inspected facilities off the table for Iran, with a combination of limits and inspections that offer high confidence that any such effort would be noticed in plenty of time for the world to act – whether or not it precisely meets the Obama administration’s goal of ensuring that it would take Iran a full year to make the material for a bomb at these facilities.
Several provisions also increase the chance that any secret sites would be found in time. Cutting Iran’s stock of enriched uranium to just a few hundred kilograms would mean a secret site would need to be much bigger or take much longer to make material for a bomb, making it easier to detect and stop. Inspectors would have access to Iran’s stocks of extra centrifuges and key centrifuge parts, and the places where such parts are made – and all of Iran’s imports of such parts would be declared and monitored, so that any illicit procurement would be a violation of the pact.
—April 5, 2015 in The National Interest
Joe Cirincione
President of Ploughshares Fund
The agreement does three things. It blocks all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear bomb. It imposes tough inspections to catch Iran should it try to break out, sneak out or creep out of the deal. And it keeps our coalition united to enforce the deal.
Under this deal, Iran has agreed to rip out two-thirds of its centrifuges and cut its stockpile of uranium gas by 97 percent. It will not be able to make any uranium or plutonium for a bomb. Many of the restrictions in the agreement continue for 25 years and some — like the inspections and the ban on building nuclear weapons — last forever.
—April 3, 2015 in The New York Daily News
George Perkovich
Director of the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
“What was announced today, at least in the U.S. fact sheet, is a very positive development and represents significant progress. Something particularly positive was on the inspections side, where it talks about monitoring the whole supply chain of the Iranian nuclear program. That’s a very big deal. Related to that is that Iran will basically declare and dedicate a procurement channel so everything that needs to be imported for their nuclear program would go through this channel. This greatly eases the monitoring requirement—it comes through a reported channel and then it’s much easier to track it to facilities and monitor at these facilities. It also means that if the IAEA gets intelligence that there is procurement outside of that channel, by definition, that would be a violation of the agreement and have consequences.”
—April 2, 2015 in statement
Mark Hibbs
Senior associate in the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
On April 2, more substance was made known by negotiators than most observers had anticipated. Most of the details, however, were voiced by Western negotiators and leaders, or expressed in a US “fact sheet” that may or may not precisely represent Iranian understandings. If Iran is on board with all of the US State Department’s bullet points, then a final agreement based on these may indeed go far to limit the threat posed by Iran’s latent nuclear-capable status for a decade or more: Most of Iran’s enriched uranium would be withdrawn from Iran; Iran’s route to significant amounts of weapon-grade plutonium would be effectively blocked; the powers would have their thumbs over Iran’s procurement activities; and the IAEA would have explicit authority to reach deep into Iran’s nuclear program.
Shortly after Iran and the powers concluded the Joint Plan of Action in November 2013, Iran challenged the US “fact sheet” on that preliminary accord as having misrepresented Iran’s understandings, so caution should prevail about whether Iran’s April 2 positions match those of Western powers.

—April 2, 2015 for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Frank von Hippel
Professor in Princeton University’s Science and International Security Program
“There are still details to be filled in, but I like it a lot.”
“On transparency, it looks like they really are doing a lot.”
—April 3, 2015 to McClatchy
The P5+1 Nuclear Agreement With Iran: A Net-Plus for Nonproliferation
April 6, 2015
The framework agreement announced by the P5+1 and Iran is--from a nuclear nonproliferation and security standpoint--a vitally important step forward. When implemented, it will put in place an effective, verifiable, enforceable, long-term plan to guard against the possibility of a new nuclear-armed state in the Middle East.
The agreement comprehensively addresses the key routes by which Iran could acquire material for nuclear weapons. Among other steps, the framework agreement will:
  • significantly reduce Iran's capacity to enrich uranium to the point that it would take at least 12 months to amass enough uranium enriched to weapons grade for one bomb;
  • require Iran to modify its Arak heavy water reactor to meaningfully reduce its proliferation potential and bar Iran from developing any capability for separating plutonium from spent fuel for weapons;
  • put in place enhanced international inspections and monitoring that would help to deter Iran from attempting to violate the agreement, but if Iran did, increase the international community's ability to detect promptly and, if necessary, disrupt future efforts by Iran to build nuclear weapons, including at potential undeclared sites; and
  • require Iran to cooperate with the IAEA to conclude the investigation of Iran's past efforts to develop a nuclear warhead and provide transparency sufficient to help ensure that any such effort remains in abeyance.
The agreement will strengthen U.S. security and that of our partners in the region.
Rigorous monitoring measures will remain in place not just throughout the long duration of the agreement but even after the core limits of the agreement expire, helping ensure that any movement toward nuclear weapons will be detected and providing the opportunity to intervene decisively to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Moreover, the agreement reduces the likelihood of destabilizing nuclear weapons competition in the Middle East, and strengthens global efforts to prevent proliferation, including the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
We urge the P5+1 and Iranian negotiators to promptly finalize the remaining technical details and we urge policy makers in key capitals to support the deal and the steps necessary to ensure timely implementation and rigorous compliance with the agreement.
Endorsed by:
James Acton, Co-director, Nuclear Policy Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace*
Amb. Brooke D. Anderson, former Chief of Staff and Counselor for the White House National Security Council, and former Alternative Representative to the United Nations for Special Political Affairs
Dr. Bruce Blair, Research Scholar, Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University*
Dr. Barry Blechman, co-founder, Stimson Center*
Prof. Matthew Bunn, Co-Principal Investigator, Project on Managing the Atom,Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
Joseph Cirincione, President, Ploughshares Fund
Toby Dalton, Co-Director, Nuclear Policy Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace*
Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, Arms Control Association
Dr. Sidney Drell, Stanford University*
Robert J. Einhorn, former U.S. Department of State Special Advisor for Nonproliferation and Arms Control and former negotiator on the Iran nuclear talks
Prof. Steve Fetter, former Assistant Director at-large, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
Robert L. Gallucci, Georgetown University
Ellie Geranmayeh, Policy Fellow, European Council on Foreign Relations*
Ilan Goldenberg, former Iran Team Chief, Office of the Secretary of Defense
R. Scott Kemp, assistant professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT, former science advisor to the State Department's Special Advisor for Nonproliferation and Arms Control
Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association
Michael Krepon, co-founder, The Stimson Center*
Dr. Edward P. Levine, retired senior professional staff member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Richard Nephew, former Principal Deputy Coordinator for Sanctions Policy at the Department of State, and Director for Iran on the National Security Staff
Dr. Jeffrey Lewis, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey*
Amb. Thomas R. Pickering, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, the Russian Federation, India, Israel, and Jordan
George Perkovich, Vice President for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace*
Paul R. Pillar, Former National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia
William Potter, Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar Professor of Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey*
Prof. Scott D. Sagan, Senior Fellow, Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University
Sharon Squassoni, Senior Fellow and Director, Proliferation Prevention Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies*
Tariq Rauf, Director Disarmament, Arms Control & Non-Proliferation Programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)* and former Head of Verification & Security Policy Coordination reporting to the IAEA Director General
Dr. James Walsh, Research Associate at the Security Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Dr. Ali Vaez, Senior Analyst on Iran, International Crisis Group
Prof. Frank von Hippel, former Assistant Director for National Security, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
*Institution listed for identification purposes only.  
The Iran Project Statement on the Announcement of a Framework for a Comprehensive Nuclear Agreement with Iran
We welcome the announcement that the U.S. government and other major world powers have reached a framework accord to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. 
This achievement is the result of the sustained effort of the Foreign Ministers of seven governments spanning nearly 18 months, to put in place a set of constraints and inspections that would limit Iran’s nuclear program to peaceful purposes. 
  • While technical details are still to be fully resolved, important U.S. objectives have been achieved:
  • uranium enrichment only at the Natanz plant and no enrichment at theunderground facility at Fordow;
  • prohibition of the Arak heavy water research reactor from producing weaponsgrade plutonium or reprocessing to recover plutonium from spent fuel;
  • a reduction and then a limit on Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium to 300 KG for 15 years; broad and sweeping inspections and other constraints;
  • a two-thirds reduction in installed centrifuges for ten years; a range oflimitations and inspections that will be in force over a 10-25 year period andsome permanent inspections of the program. 
We recognize that full evaluation must await a final comprehensive agreement.Important, difficult, and ambiguous issues still remain. Their resolution will be key tothe solidity of the final agreement and its support in this country. They include:
  • what means will be used to limit the stockpile of Iran’s enriched uranium to300 Kg of LEU for 15 years;
  • how the existing UNSC resolutions sanctioning Iran will be replaced by aresolution or resolutions that creates an approved procurement channel andplaces restrictions on conventional arms and ballistic missiles;
  • what will be the set of measures that will address the IAEA’s concernsregarding the possible military dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s program;
  • what scale of uranium enrichment will be possible for Iran after ten years;
  • what will be the relationship between the lifting of sanctions and Iran’s performance;
  • what is the system for evaluating the severity of violations of the agreement andhow would they trigger the snap-back of sanctions.
The framework will be examined and interpreted differently in the United States and Iran over the next three months. These negotiations have been among the most complex diplomatic efforts in recent history. Nevertheless, we believe the framework represents important progress toward our goal of blocking an Iranian nuclear weapon.
In view of this hopeful progress, we call on the U.S. Congress to take no action that would impede further progress or undermine the American negotiators’ efforts to complete the final comprehensive agreement on time. The Congress should examine the announced framework, asking itself whether the potential for a comprehensive, verifiable accord is preferable to the current standoff with Iran or other alternatives as a means to ensure that Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon. 
We, the undersigned, have devoted our careers to the peace and security of the United States in both Republican and Democratic administrations. Presidents and Congresses over the past 20 years have joined in a bipartisan policy of sanctioning and isolating Iran to bring it to the negotiating table and prevent nuclear proliferation. There has been bipartisan understanding that the U.S. would lead any negotiations to test Iran’s seriousness. Both political parties can deservedly take credit for bringing us to this moment. 
We urge a renewed bipartisan effort based on the following principles:
First, before members of Congress or its committees decide to act on this matter, we urge them to hold hearings so that the framework can be fully discussed and debated. Congress should be closely involved in the oversight, monitoring and enforcement of the implementation of a final agreement. The Executive Branch should consult regularly with Congress so that it can play its important role in implementation. After a final agreement is reached, Congress will play a central role, as removal of most sanctions will require Congressional action.
Second, a decision to exert more pressure and sanctions now would most likely cause the negotiations to be broken off and rule out a final agreement.
Third, members of Congress and America’s leaders have an obligation to their nation to review the consequences of undermining the ongoing negotiations or blocking the chances of reaching a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The repercussions could be grave, including creating the perception that the U.S. is responsible for the collapse of the agreement; unraveling international cooperation on sanctions; and triggering the unfreezing of Iran's nuclear program and the rapid ramping up of Iranian nuclear capacity. Such a situation could enhance the possibility of war.
Finally, we hope that the Administration will place the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in a strategic context by assuring America’s partners, especially Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States, that the U.S. remains strongly committed to their security and that it will continue to take a firm stance against threatening Iranian actions in the region. 
We will continue to work with others – skeptics and supporters alike – to support a balanced, objective, and bipartisan approach to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon — one that enhances U.S. national security and that of our friends and allies of the region.

Signed by:

Madeleine Albright, fmr Sec State
Graham Allison
Michael Armacost, Amb
Samuel R. Berger, fmr NSA
Zbigniew Brzezinski, fmr NSA
Nicholas Burns, Amb 
James Cartwright, Gen
Stephen Cheney, BrigGen 
Joseph Cirincione
Chester A. Crocker
Ryan C. Crocker, Amb
Suzanne DiMaggio 
James Dobbins, Amb
Robert Einhorn 
William J. Fallon, Adm
Michèle Flournoy
Leslie H. Gelb 
William Harrop, Amb
Stephen B. Heintz
Carla A. Hills 
James Hoge
Nancy L. Kassebaum, Sen
Frank Kearney, LTG
Daniel C. Kurtzer, Amb
Carl Levin, Sen 
Winston Lord, Amb 
William Luers, Amb
Richard Lugar, Sen 
Jessica T. Mathews 
William G. Miller, Amb
Richard Murphy, Amb 
Vali Nasr 
Joseph Nye
Eric Olson, Admiral
George Perkovich 
Thomas R. Pickering, Amb
Paul R. Pillar
Nicholas Platt, Amb 
Joe R. Reeder 
William A. Reinsch 
J. Stapelton Roy, Amb
Barnett Rubin
Gary Samore
Brent Scowcroft, fmr NSA
Joe Sestak, RADM
Gary Sick 
Jim Slattery, Congressman 
Anne-Marie Slaughter 
James Stavridis, Adm 
James Walsh
Lawrence B. Wilkerson, Col 
Timothy E. Wirth, Sen
Frank G. Wisner, Amb 
Anthony C. Zinni, Gen

Obama Backs Nuke Plan in Weekly Address

On April 4, President Barack Obama expressed support for the nuclear framework that was announced by the world’s six major powers and Iran on April 2. “Today we have an historic opportunity to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in Iran, and to do so peacefully, with the international community firmly behind us,” he said in his weekly address. The following is a video and transcript of the address.

This week, together with our allies and partners, we reached an historic understanding with Iran, which, if fully implemented, will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon and make our country, our allies, and our world safer.
This framework is the result of tough, principled diplomacy.  It’s a good deal—a deal that meets our core objectives, including strict limitations on Iran’s program and cutting off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.
This deal denies Iran the plutonium necessary to build a bomb.  It shuts down Iran’s path to a bomb using enriched uranium.  Iran has agreed that it will not stockpile the materials needed to build a weapon.  Moreover, international inspectors will have unprecedented access to Iran’s nuclear program because Iran will face more inspections than any other country in the world.  If Iran cheats, the world will know it.  If we see something suspicious, we will inspect it.  So this deal is not based on trust, it’s based on unprecedented verification. 
And this is a long-term deal, with strict limits on Iran’s program for more than a decade and unprecedented transparency measures that will last for 20 years or more.  And as a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran will never be permitted to develop a nuclear weapon.
In return for Iran’s actions, the international community, including the United States, has agreed to provide Iran with phased relief from certain sanctions. If Iran violates the deal, sanctions can be snapped back into place.  Meanwhile, other American sanctions on Iran for its support of terrorism, its human rights abuses, its ballistic missile program, all will continue to be enforced.        
As I said this week, many key details will need to be finalized over the next three months, and nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed.  And if there is backsliding, there will be no deal.
Here in the United States, I expect a robust debate.  We’ll keep Congress and the American people fully briefed on the substance of the deal.  As we engage in this debate, let’s remember—we really only have three options for dealing with Iran’s nuclear program: bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities—which will only set its program back a few years—while starting another war in the Middle East; abandoning negotiations and hoping for the best with sanctions—even though that’s always led to Iran making more progress in its nuclear program; or a robust and verifiable deal like this one that peacefully prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
As President and Commander in Chief, I firmly believe that the diplomatic option—a comprehensive, long-term deal like this—is by far the best option.  For the United States.  For our allies.  And for the world.
Our work—this deal—is not yet done.  Diplomacy is painstaking work.  Success is not guaranteed.  But today we have an historic opportunity to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in Iran, and to do so peacefully, with the international community firmly behind us.  And this will be our work in the days and months ahead in keeping with the best traditions of American leadership.

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