Report: Key Criteria for Nuclear Deal

March 30, 2015

A new report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies outlines key criteria for judging a nuclear agreement with Iran. “Arms control is a process, not an event,” warns author Anthony Cordesman. “Actually implementing an agreement will involve a list of questions and issues, clarifications, and efforts to push the agreement to one side’s advantage that will go on for years.” And given that the adversarial nature of Iran’s relationship with the West is unlikely to change overnight, Cordesman argues that the agreement should be fully verifiable and enforceable and include “clear procedures for change and clarification.” Iran and the world’s six major powers aim to have a comprehensive agreement finished by June 30. The following are excerpts from the report.  

Key Criteria and Tests
1. Compromises and trade-offs are the price of negotiations but they must still must be judged by their relative success. There rarely is any chance of negotiating an agreement where one side decisively wins. Agreements are the product of trade-offs and compromises and the key is not winning a zero sum game, but emerging with more advantages from the best agreement one can actually negotiate than not having an agreement at all.
Accordingly, one key criterion is to judge the value of a negotiated compromise relative to the alternatives, not some one-sided view of the perfect agreement.
2. A static agreement is unworkable, but there must be clear procedures for change and clarification. Second, no real world agreement can ever live in a world where the negotiators can look 10 to 15 years in the future – or usually even 10 to 15 months – and predict all the important changes that will take place in politics, other security issues, technology, and tactics. Arms control either evolves or fails. The arms control process adapts and is revised, or becomes too rigid and ceases to be effective.
This makes it critical to have a well-defined set of reviews, to spell out the conditions for making revisions or changes, and have some agreed forum to decide on how to clarify and revisions the agreement – as well as a clear process for notification and warning if one side chooses to end the agreement
3. Adversarial agreements need to be fully verified. If they are not, they are an invitation to cheat and deceive. In this case, the P5+1 side can scarcely conceal any failure to lift sanctions or honor the civil side of the agreement. Iran has long demonstrated, however, that it can and does conceal and lie.
 As a result, it is not enough to simply give the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) challenge and rapid inspection rights under the revised protocols the negotiators are debating. They have to have full mobility throughout the country and right to inspect any site they want – not some restricted list that makes cheating possible. Equally important, the members of the P+1 as well as outside powers have to commit to providing the IAEA with intelligence data and warning since it and the UN lack intelligence collection capability, and request IAEA action and inspection. Iran, in turn, should have the explicit right to challenge any failure to comply on the part of the P5+1 states.
4. Adversarial agreements need to be enforceable. Iran has a simple enforcement option if the P5+1 does not meet the requirements of any agreement: It can resume its nuclear weapons program. The P5+1, UN, and IAEA do not have that option. Credible enforcement requires an agreement that Iran’s failure to comply with lead to an immediate resumption of sanctions if it is found to be in violation, and the military option should be on the table.
Enrichment Issues
Enrichment issues are important, and any negotiable agreement is likely to be based on some set of compromises. Accordingly, this means an explicit analysis of the trade-offs between agreement and non-agreement relating to Iran’s various nuclear enrichment efforts and its ability to acquire fissile material. These issues include potential limits, controls, and inspection arrangements dealing with
· The number of centrifuges,
· The development of more advanced centrifuges,
· The level of Uranium enrichment and the size of Iran’s stockpiles,
· The potential use of the new reactor at Arak to produce Plutonium,
· How soon Iran could use any of these to get enough material to produce a nuclear device,
· The extent to which any agreement dealing with all of these issues is enforceable,
· How long an agreement will be in force, and
· The incentives to Iran for reaching an agreement, especially the extent to which UN, US, and EU sanctions will be lifted, and the timing of such action.
One critical technical issue will be how soon Iran could acquire enough fissile material to make a crude nuclear device once the agreement is in force. The importance of the one fissile event, one time, criteria, however, should not be exaggerated.
Click here for the full text.
Anthony Cordesman is the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Click here to read his chapter on Iran’s conventional military.