United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Iran Fact File: Arak Heavy Water Reactor

            The following fact sheet was published by Iran Fact File, a project of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

 
      The IR-40 is an as yet incomplete Iranian heavy water moderated research reactor with a declared power rating of 40 MW. The reactor was under construction until January 20, 2014 but work has been stopped under the terms of the Joint Plan of Action agreed to by Iran, the United States and other world powers (see IranFactFile fact sheet on Joint Plan of Action). Research reactors can be used for a number of legitimate civilian goals, including the production of medical isotopes. However, such facilities can also be used to produce plutonium for use in nuclear weapons. While the full design details of the IR-40 are not publicly available, what is known suggests that the IR-40 reactor may be able to produce about 10 kg of plutonium per year if and when it is completed and enters into operation. However, Iran is not known to possess the facilities needed to separate plutonium from spent nuclear fuel, a step that would be needed if this material were to be used in nuclear weapons.
 
      All nuclear reactors produce plutonium, but heavy water moderated reactors are particularly well suited for this purpose. The quality of plutonium produced is a function of the type of nuclear reactor and the length of time the fuel is inside the reactor. Heavy water reactors have been the reactor of choice for many countries such as Israel, India, and Pakistan for their nuclear weapon programs. Iran’s interest in such a design has added to broad concerns about its nuclear intentions.
 
Stated Purpose of the IR-40
 
            According to Iran and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports, the IR-40 reactor will be used to “research and development and the production of radioisotopes for medical and industrial use.[1]” In a presentation to the IAEA in 2003, Iran explained that it had not been able to purchase a reactor from foreign sources to replace the aging Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) and in the mid-1980’s concluded that “the only alternative was a heavy water reactor which could use domestically produced UO2 and zirconium.” The TRR was originally provided to Iran by the United States under the Atoms for Peace program in the 1960s. Iran stated that it had decided to replace TRR because, “after 35 years of operation, it was reaching the safety limits for which it had been designed and because of its location within what had become the suburbs of the city of Tehran.” Iran decided a new reactor should be constructed away from Tehran in the “Khondab area near Arak”. Iran further declared that in order to meet its isotope requirements, such a reactor must have a “neutron flux of 1013 to 1014 n/cm 2s, based on a power of the order of 30-40 MW when using natural UO2 fuel.[2]”
 
            Iran has legitimate civil need for medical isotopes including molybdenum-99 (Moly-99). Moly-99 is critical for cancer therapy and certain medical procedures. Iran currently imports the Molybdenum-99 (about 600 Ci at production or 70 Ci at destination[3]) that it needs from Russia but a large fraction of the isotope decays during travel. Because of its short half-life, Moly-99 cannot be stockpiled and must be constantly produced.
 
Heavy Water Research Reactors
 
            In some respects, design, production and operation of a heavy water reactor is easier than other reactor alternatives. Heavy water reactors do not need enriched uranium fuel and it is technically easier and less expensive to produce heavy water than to enrich uranium. In addition, heavy water reactors do not need to be shut down for refueling, meaning they can be operated for longer periods of increased reliability. These two factors, however, also make heavy water reactors major proliferation concerns.   It is not clear why, after having demonstrated an ability to enrich uranium that Iran has continued to pursue the heavy water reactor route, since Tehran could produce a light water reactor for research and medical isotope production purposes. The director of the Iranian Atomic Energy Institute Ali Akbar Salahi has recently indicated that Iran was open to redesigning the reactor[4]. A redesign could reduce, but not eliminate the proliferation concerns surrounding this aspect of Iran’s nuclear program.
 
What is Known about the IR-40?
 
            Iran has declared that the power of this reactor will be 40 MW, a number consistent with estimates of the cooling capacity of the mechanical draft cooling towers from satellite images which ranges from 40-50 MW.[5] The fuel assemblies for the IR-40 appear similar to that of the Russian RBMK and consists of 18 vertical tubes (fuel rods) isolated from each other containing natural uranium oxide (UO2) fuel pellets and a central carrier rod. We estimate that 1 fuel rod contains ~3.1 kg natural uranium so that a single fuel assembly contains 56.5 kg uranium. There is evidence that the Russian company, the producer of RBMK fuel assemblies, and another company in Obninsk assisted Iran in “modifying the design of a RBMK fuel rod bundle for use in the Arak heavy water reactor” in the 1990s[6].This would explain the similarity in the design to the RBMK fuel assemblies that are for graphite-moderated nuclear reactors not heavy water reactors. The RBMK reactor fuel assemblies are pressurized and contain UO2 pellets in a Zirconium metal tube.
 
            Figure 1 shows a picture of an IR-40 fuel assembly reportedly released by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran in 2011. The fuel assembly is similar to the RBMK fuel assembly displayed in Figure 2. There will be 150 fuel elements inside the reactor core with an expected active length of 340 cm[7]. According to Iranian declared specifications the IR-40 reactor will require about 10,000 kg UO2/year. Iran is able to produce this material at the Fuel Manufacturing Plant (FMP) at Esfahan.
 
            Nuclear reactor fuel must be able to withstand high temperatures and pressures without deteriorating and must be able to resist a strong radiation field. Therefore the fuel needs to be adequately tested to ensure that the fuel will perform as expected. Although, the IR-40 fuel appears to be a variant of the Russian RBMK fuel type it still needs to be rigorously tested before the fuel is used inside the reactor. Furthermore, to our knowledge the RBMK fuel type has not been utilized in a heavy water reactor before. This lack of testing could be a significant constraint on Iran’s ability to operate the reactor, if and when it is completed.
 
Current Status of the IR-40
 
            The IR-40 has ceased construction and has not yet been commissioned. Before work was stopped under the Joint Plan of Action, the IR-40 was to “be commissioned using nuclear material” in the first quarter of 2014. However, the agreement requires the IR-40 not to “commission the reactor or transfer fuel or heavy water to the reactor site and will not test additional fuel or produce more fuel for the reactor or install remaining components.” In the February 2014 report the IAEA confirmed that since January 2014, “Iran had ceased the production of nuclear fuel assemblies for the IR-40 Reactor at FMP”. The IAEA has recently carried out a Design Inspection Verification (DIV), an initial and periodic inspection of a facility to verify the correctness and completeness of the design as compared to the declared design of the facility at the site. The DIV was authorized under the Framework for Cooperation signed November 11, 2013 by the Director General IAEA, Yukiya Amano, and the Vice-President of Iran.
 
Supporting Facilities
 
            The construction and operation of the IR-40 reactor requires Iran to operate several key support facilities. These include a Heavy Water Production Plant (HWPP) and a Zirconium Production Plant (ZPP), both of which are located near the IR-40 site in Arak. The Fuel Manufacturing Plant (FMP) and the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) at Esfahan also play critical roles in supporting the IR-40 project. A notional diagram is shown in Figure 2 illustrating how some of the components for the IR-40 are provided by different facilities. Each one of these nodes should be seen as a potential bottleneck in the completion of the IR-40.
 
Figure 1: Apparent picture of the IR-40 fuel assembly taken from Figure 8-3 Thomas Mo Willig’s thesis[8].
 
 
Figure 2: Diagram of RBMK fuel assembly taken from the Ignalina RBMK-1500 nuclear power plant source book[9]. The numbers correspond to the following parts: 1: Suspension bracket, 2: top –plu, 3: adapter, 4: connecting rod, 5: fuel element, 6: carrier rod, 7: end-sleeve, 8: end cap, 9: retaining nut[10].
 
Table 1: Significant components of the IR-40 that have and have not yet been installed.
Installed
Not Yet Installed
- Overhead crane is installed
- Control room not installed
- Moderator and primary coolant heat exchangers installed
- Refueling machine not installed
- Circuit piping installed
- Reactor cooling pumps not installed
- Purification systems installed
 
- Moderator storage tanks installed
 
- Pressurizer for reactor cooling system installed
 
- Reactor Vessel connected to cooling and moderator piping
 
 
Figure 3: Sketch showing the supply of relevant nuclear components for fueling the IR-40. See text for further details.
 
Table 2: Various known specifications of the IR-40 and source of information.
Aspect of IR-40
Source
Power = 40 MW
Iran declaration reported in IAEA (GOV/2003/75, GOV/2004/83, GOV/2013/27, GOV/2013/40). Also, consistent with the existing Mechanical Draft Cooling Towers from satellite images.
10 kg/year plutonium production = equivalent of what is needed for 1-2 bombs. Will remain weapon grade plutonium for at least ¾ of a year fuel exposure.
CNS study based on power. Independent assessment ISIS:http://www.isisnucleariran.org/sites/detail/arak/. For a thorough study using SCALE computer code see T. Willig’s thesis.
Fuel assembly has 18 places for fuel rods
Picture from T. Willig’s thesis attributed to a report from the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI)and RBMK source manual. The picture in Figure 1 has not been verified that it corresponds to an IR-40 fuel assembly.
Mass of uranium in fuel assembly is 56.5 kg and therefore fuel rod is expected to contain 3.2 kg of uranium.
GOV/2014/10
Fuel is UO2 with Zirconium cladding
Iran declaration reported in IAEA (GOV/2003/75)
Purpose for research and medical isotope production
IAEA (GOV/2003/75)
Russian assistance to Iran on fuel
ISIS report[1] “Based on interviews with knowledgeable officials, NIKIET and a Russian company in Obninsk provided key technology for the Arak reactor. This assistance included modifying the design of a RBMK fuel rod bundle for use in the Arak heavy water reactor. As a result of U.S. pressure, this assistance for Arak stopped in the late 1990s.”
Active length of fuel assembly is 340 cm and 150 fuel assemblies.
Report from Iranian scientists in Annals of Nuclear Energy[2]. See also: GOV/2013/27 and GOV/2013/40.
Iran Molybdenum-99 requirement is 70 6-day Ci.
Oct 5 2011, atominfo.ru http://www.atominfo.ru/news6/f0616.htm
Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) produces 14 t UO2 / year
As reported in GOV/2012/55

 

[1] David Albright and Christina Walrond, Update on the Arak Reactor, Institute for Science and International Security, July 15, 2013. See: isis-online.org/uploads/isis…/Arak_Update_25_August2009.pdf
[2] M. Moguiy, A. H. Fadaei, A. S. Shirani, Analysis of different variance reduction techniques in research reactor beam tube calculations, Annals of Nuclear Energy, 41, 2012, p106
[1] Director General, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran”, GOV/2003/75, para 42, pg 8.
[2] Neutron flux, measured in the number of neutrons emitted per cm2 area in one second, is a measure of the intensity of the neutron source and can be seen as a measure of the usability of the reactor. If the flux is high, more isotopes can be produced, better probes of materials can be done, and a range of other applications are improved. The only thing that does not necessarily scale with intensity is the usefulness of the reactor for teaching and training.
[3] Molybdenum-99 production is actually quoted in units of 6-day Ci which is the molybdenum-99 produced after 8 days of decay after the end of irradiation in a reactor. It is called 6-day Ci because it generally takes 2 days of processing of the target so that the total number of days after end of irradiation is 8 days.
[4] http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/02/06/uk-iran-nuclear-arak-idUKBREA151BD20140206
[5] IAEA Board of Governors Reports GOV/2003/75, GOV/2004/83, GOV/2013/27
[6] David Albright, Paul Brannan, and Robert Kelley, “Mysteries Deepen Over Status of Arak Reactor Project,” Institute for Science and International Studies, August 11, 2009, http://www.isisnucleariran.org/assets/pdf/ArakFuelElement.pdf; David Albright, Paul Brannan, and Robert Kelley, “Update on the Arak Reactor in Iran,” Institute for Science and International Studies, August 25, 2009, http://www.isisnucleariran.org/assets/pdf/Arak_Update_25_August2009.pdf.
[7] M. Moguiy, A. H. Fadaei, A. S. Shirani, Analysis of different variance reduction techniques in research reactor beam tube calculations, Annals of Nuclear Energy, 41, 2012, p106.
[8] T. Willig, Feasibility and benefits of converting the Iranian heavy water reactor IR-40 to a more proliferation-resistant reactor, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Department of Mathematical Science and Technology, Masters Thesis, Dec 2011. Original source: Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, “Nuclear Industry in IRAN An overview on Iran’s activities and achievements in nuclear technology,” 2011. The authenticity of this picture has not been determined.
[9] K. Almenas et al., Ignalina RBMK-1500 – A Source Book, Ignalina Safety Analysis Group, Lithuanian Energy Institute, 1993.
[10] K. Almenas (1993)
 

 

FM Zarif to Russia : State of Relations

Mark N. Katz

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will visit Russia on April 22 for a ministerial meeting of Caspian Sea countries. What is the status of relations between Tehran and Moscow?
 
      Moscow and Tehran have long appeared to have good relations but they are, in fact, often contentious. Iran values Russia’s role in tempering Western demands about its nuclear program and on other issues. At the same time, the Islamic Republic does not want to be drawn into defending Russia in the tense dispute over Ukraine, which pits Russia against the United States and Europe.
 
     Ironically, Moscow’s relations with Washington and the West today are worse than Tehran’s. Russia is actually concerned about losing influence in Iran, both because of President Hassan Rouhani’s more moderate tone on foreign policy and international tensions since the Crimea crisis erupted in February 2014.
 
On what issues do they collaborate? On what issues are they divided?
 
      Moscow and Tehran are often divided over the very issues on which they collaborate. 
 
      One of the biggest problems, for example, has been Iran’s first nuclear reactor at Bushehr. Russia was instrumental in completing the Bushehr reactor, but the long-delayed opening as well as numerous contract disputes became sources of tension. 
 
      Moscow has been helpful to Iran in delaying or limiting sanctions introduced by the West at the U.N. Security Council since 2006. But Tehran has also been annoyed that Russia voted to approve four resolutions that it could have vetoed. 
 
            Moscow has been an important arms supplier for Iran, but Tehran has been unhappy about the limits to cooperation. Tehran was furious in 2010 when Moscow canceled the S-300 air defense missile systems sold to Iran—even though Tehran had already paid for them. 
 
      Moscow and Tehran have been especially divided over how to draw the maritime boundaries in the Caspian Sea, an issue that will be discussed during the April 22 ministerial meeting. Given the failure of past meetings to make progress, prospects for this round are no better.
 
      One issue on which Moscow and Tehran have agreed is Syria. Both have supported the Assad regime’s campaign against the uprising launched in 2011. 
 
 
 
 
What is Russia’s stance on Iran’s nuclear program? What role has it played in the latest rounds of diplomacy?
 
            Moscow does not want Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, but it traditionally has not been as concerned as Washington. Moscow is far more concerned about maintaining and building Russia’s economic relationship with Tehran, especially in the area of petroleum, atomic energy and weaponry.
 
            Moscow fears a nuclear accord will improve Iranian-American relations, and that Tehran may then have less need for Russia for trade or as an ally. 
 
What is Iran’s stance on the unrest in Ukraine? And on Russia’s actions?
            The Iranian reaction to events in Crimea and Ukraine has been mixed. Some Iranian leaders have complained that the West is bullying Russia, while others warned about the general dangers of separatism, an issue about which Iran also feels vulnerable. Iran did not show up for a vote at the United Nations on Resolution 68/39 declaring that the Crimea referendum in March about joining Russia was invalid. Iran was one of 24 states that was absent for the vote. Events in Ukraine are not central to Iranian foreign policy. Tehran certainly does not want the Ukrainian crisis to jeopardize nuclear negotiations with the world’s six major powers.
 
Has the Iran-Russia relationship changed since President Hassan Rouhani took office in August 2013? If so, how?
 
            Before Rouhani’s election, Moscow hoped to play the role of mediator between Iran and the West, thus making Russia important for both sides. But the improved atmosphere between Iran and the West since Rouhani took office has lessened the need for Russian mediation. Even Iran and the United States can—and have had—direct talks with each other.
 
Mark N. Katz, professor of government and politics at George Mason University.
 

Click here for his chapter on Iran-Russia relations.

Photo credits: President.ir

 

Obama Rules on UN Appointees

      On April 18, President Barack Obama signed Senate Resolution 2195 into law, banning appointees to the United Nations that have “engaged in espionage or terrorist activity directed against the United States or its allies.” Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) sponsored the bill in response to reports that Iran’s potential nominee for U.N. ambassador, Hamid Aboutalebi, was a member of the Muslim Students Following the Imam’s Line — the group that seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979 and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. The bill actually did not mention Aboutalebi by name. The White House previously told Tehran that Aboutalebi’s nomination was “not viable” but did not specify if it would bar him from entering the United States. The following is the full text Obama’s statement and information on the bill.

 
            Today I have signed into law S. 2195, an Act concerning visa limitations for certain representatives to the United Nations.  S. 2195 amends section 407 of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1990 and 1991, to provide that no individual may be admitted to the United States as a representative to the United Nations, if that individual has been found to have been engaged in espionage or terrorist activity directed against the United States or its allies, and if that individual may pose a threat to United States national security interests.  As President Bush observed in signing the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1990 and 1991, this provision "could constrain the exercise of my exclusive constitutional authority to receive within the United States certain foreign ambassadors to the United Nations." (Public Papers of the President, George Bush, Vol. I, 1990, page 240).  Acts of espionage and terrorism against the United States and our allies are unquestionably problems of the utmost gravity, and I share the Congress's concern that individuals who have engaged in such activity may use the cover of diplomacy to gain access to our Nation.  Nevertheless, as President Bush also observed, "curtailing by statute my constitutional discretion to receive or reject ambassadors is neither a permissible nor a practical solution."  I shall therefore continue to treat section 407, as originally enacted and as amended by S. 2195, as advisory in circumstances in which it would interfere with the exercise of this discretion.
 

 

             On April 7, the Senate unanimously passed a bill by Ted Cruz (R-TX) barring known terrorists from obtaining visas to enter the United States as representatives to the United Nations. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s nomination of Hamid Aboutalebi as U.N. ambassador spurred the legislation. Aboutalebi was allegedly a member of the Muslim Students Following the Imam’s Line, the group that seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979 and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.
            Cruz introduced the bill on April 1 and argued that it would be “unconscionable” for the United States “to host a foreign national who showed a brutal disregard for the status of our diplomats when they were stationed in his country” in the “name of international diplomatic protocol.”
           
State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf called the nomination “extremely troubling” in remarks to the press on April 2. “We're taking a close look at the case now, and we've raised our serious concerns about this possible nomination with the government of Iran. But we do take our obligations as host nation for the United Nations very seriously,” she said. Representative Doug Lamborn (R-CO) has introduced companion legislation, H.R. 4357 for consideration. The House would need to approve the measure before sending it to President Obama to sign it into law. On April 8, White House Spokesperson Jay Carney said the administration shares the Senate's concerns and that the U.S. government had informed Tehran that the "potential selection is not viable." The following is a statement by Cruz and the full text of S. 2195.  

 
S. 2195
AN ACT
 
To deny admission to the United States to any representative to the United Nations who has been found to have been engaged in espionage activities or a terrorist activity against the United States and poses a threat to United States national security interests.
 
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
 
SECTION 1. VISA LIMITATION FOR CERTAIN REPRESENTATIVES TO THE UNITED NATIONS.
 
Section 407(a) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1990 and 1991 (8 U.S.C. 1102 note) is amended--
 
(1) by striking ``such individual has been found to have been engaged in espionage activities'' and inserting the following: ``such individual--
 
``(1) has been found to have been engaged in espionage activities or a terrorist activity (as defined in section 212(a)(3)(B)(iii) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(3)(B)(iii)))''; and
 
(2) by striking ``allies and may pose'' and inserting the following: ``allies; and ``(2) may pose''.
 
Passed the Senate April 7, 2014.

 

 

U.N. Report: Iran Cut Nuclear Stockpile 75%

            Iran is ahead of schedule in implementing the interim nuclear deal, according to the U.N. nuclear watchdog. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Tehran has cut its most sensitive uranium stockpile by 75 percent and is set to dilute or convert the rest soon. Under the Joint Plan of Action, the Islamic Republic committed to stop enriching uranium beyond five percent and to neutralize its entire 20 percent stockpile. The period for implementation will end on July 20, 2014. The following is the full text of the IAEA report.

 
Status of Iran’s Nuclear Programme in relation to the Joint Plan of Action
Report by the Director General
 
1. As foreshadowed in GOV/2014/2, this report provides information on the status of the IslamicRepublic of Iran’s (Iran’s) nuclear programme in relation to the “voluntary measures” that Iran has agreed to undertake as part of the Joint Plan of Action (JPA) agreed between the E3+3 and Iran on 24 November 2013.1 According to the JPA, the first step would be time-bound (six months) and renewable by mutual consent. The JPA took effect on 20 January 2014.
 
2. The Agency confirms that since 20 January 2014, Iran has:
 
i. not enriched uranium above 5% U-235 at any of its declared facilities;
 
ii. not operated cascades in an interconnected configuration at any of its declared facilities;
 
iii. completed the dilution – down to an enrichment level of no more than 5% U-235 – of
half of the nuclear material that had been in the form of UF6 enriched up to 20%
U-235 on 20 January 2014;
 
iv. fed 50.1 kg4 of UF6 enriched up to 20% U-235 into the conversion process at the Fuel
Plate Fabrication Plant (FPFP) for conversion into uranium oxide;
 
v. had no process line to reconvert uranium oxides back into UF6 at FPFP;
 
vi. not made “any further advances” to its activities at the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP),
the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP) or the Arak reactor (IR-40 Reactor), including the manufacture and testing of fuel for the IR-40 Reactor;
 
vii. provided an updated Design Information Questionnaire (DIQ) for the IR-40 Reactor and agreed to hold a meeting with the Agency on 5 May 2014 to start discussions
aimed at agreeing on the conclusion of a Safeguards Approach for the reactor;
 
viii. continued the construction of the Enriched UO2 Powder Plant (EUPP) for the conversion of UF6 enriched up to 5% U-235 into oxide and consequently has yet to begin converting to oxide the UF6 “newly enriched” up to 5% U-235;
 
ix. continued its safeguarded enrichment R&D practices at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP), without accumulating enriched uranium;
 
x. not carried out reprocessing related activities at the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR)
and the Molybdenum, Iodine and Xenon Radioisotope Production (MIX) Facility or at
any of the other facilities to which the Agency has access;
 
xi. provided information and managed access to the uranium mine and mill at Gchine;
 
xii. continued to provide daily access to the enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow;
and
 
xiii. provided regular managed access to centrifuge assembly workshops, centrifuge rotor
production workshops and storage facilities, and provided information thereon.
 
 

Rand Report: The Days After a Nuclear Deal

            On April 3, the Rand Corporation convened a day-long conference on Iran in the days after a nuclear deal. Participants concluded that that an agreement could herald a new era for Iran and its relationship with the outside world. But experts warned that Tehran would still likely be cautious of relations with Washington and that Israel and Saudi Arabia would still be concerned about Iranian intentions in the region.

          Both Tel Aviv and Riyadh “are likely to adapt to the new reality of a deal rather than actively attempt to derail it,” according to the report. The following are excerpts from the perspective, which assumes that Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United States and Iran will reach an agreement based on the Joint Plan of Action.

           In planning for the regional response to a final nuclear agreement, Israel and Saudi Arabia come to the forefront, as they are the two actors with the most capacity to affect the success and durability of the deal following its signing. Both also view Iran as a regional rival to a greater extent than other neighbors.
 
Israel
 
Israel Is More Likely to Adapt to a Final Deal Than Immediately Reject It
 
            Based on the dominant views toward Iran among Israel’s security establishment (where Iran is linked to most hostile actions against Israel), as well as the likely contours of a nuclear deal, Israel is not likely to embrace a final agreement. The Israeli responses to and actions after a final deal will thus largely fall into two general categories: rejection or adaptation. Although distinct in that Israeli rejection of a deal would lead to immediate confrontational actions while Israeli adaptation would allow for the implementation of the final deal to play out, these responses are not necessarily mutually exclusive -- rejection of a deal would lead to immediate confrontational actions while Israeli adaptation would allow for the implementation of the final deal to play out, these responses are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
 
Rejection
 
            Israeli leaders could openly denounce a final deal along the lines that we outlined above because, in their view, such an agreement will not set the Iranian program back far enough to prevent its ultimate attainment of nuclear weapons, and also because Israel is
still concerned about an array of other Iranian actions in the region that are threatening to Israel. A number of Israeli steps aimed at derailing a deal could accompany public and acrimonious official rejection of a final nuclear agreement.
 
            Perhaps the Israeli course of action that should most likely be expected in the aftermath of a final deal it rejected would be encouraging the U.S. Congress to delay or prevent a lifting of sanctions against Iran in an attempt to slow or undermine the implementation of a final agreement.
 
Adaptation
 
            Rather than publicly rejecting a final deal and pursuing actions that could lead to the deal’s collapse and open rift with the United States, Israel might instead adapt to, even if it does not welcome, a final nuclear agreement.
 
            Particularly if Israel is able to influence the final deal in ways such that the details of the agreement would meet what some Israeli security analysts assess to be Israel’s minimum requirements (e.g., on levels of enrichment, the fate of the Arak reactor, and Iran’s
missile research), Israel’s official position could quietly shift away from the current maximalist positions expressed by Netanyahu. In this case, Israel could refrain from attempts to derail the deal and adapt Israeli security policies to the new reality through measures
such as continued missile-defense development, and possibly new debates about Israel’s current nuclear opacity posture, as Israel considers ways to further bolster its regional deterrence. Israel may also attempt to strengthen its de facto cooperation with Saudi
Arabia and other regional states wary of Iranian regional influence, although anti-Israel public opinion across the Arab world would limit the extent of such cooperation absent a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
 
Saudi Arabia
 
Saudi Arabia Might Adapt to a Deal but Increase Competition Against Iran Elsewhere in the Region
 
            Like Israel, Saudi Arabia may grudgingly accept a final nuclear deal along the lines of that described at the outset of this report, even if it has reservations about the fact that Iran will retain some residual nuclear program. Indeed, given that Riyadh does not have the
same military capabilities as Tel Aviv – namely, to launch a strike on Iranian nuclear infrastructure – it may be that Saudi acquiescence is more likely than the Israelis. Despite Saudi skepticism that genuine change is afoot in Tehran, the Kingdom does not have a recent history of seeking better relations with Iran when opportunities present themselves. For example, there was some warning of relations between the two Gulf rivals during the Rafsanjani and Khatami presidencies, and the combination of Rouhani and a final nuclear agreement could be the impetus for another thaw. Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif’s visit to the GCC states in December 2013 raised the possibility of some warming in Iranian-GCC relations, although it is important to note that Zarif was not welcomed in either Riyadh or Manama.
 
Should Riyadh conclude that the final agreement is not in its best interests, it possesses several counters that could complicate implementation and diminish the chances that an agreement could translate into a broader Western-Iranian détente.
 
The most concerning, but also the least likely, is that Saudi Arabia will lay the groundwork for the acquisition of its own nuclear weapon to balance against an Iran it sees as a threshold
nuclear power given the advanced stage of the Iranian program.
 
The second Saudi counter, and one that is more likely, is that Saudi Arabia will further roil the regional waters in an effort to complicate the emergence of a broader détente between the United States and Iran, which many Saudis fear would come at the price of the United States recognizing an Iranian sphere of influence. The Kingdom is already engaged in strategic competition with Iran in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and within the Arabian Peninsula when
it comes to countering Iranian influence among the GCC states’ Shi‘a populations.
 
Click here for the full report.
 
 

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