House Foreign Affairs Committee: Verification Needed in Nuke Deal

April 23, 2015

On April 22, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing focused on verification measures in a potential nuclear deal with Iran. Chairman Ed Royce argued that “the issue of inspections and verification will be central to how Congress judges any final agreement.” In his testimony, David Albright, President of the Institute for Science and International security, noted that Iran has generally complied with the terms of the interim nuclear agreement. But “its record remains problematic” on issues like clarifying the past military dimensions of its nuclear program.

The following are excerpts from Chairman Royce’s opening statement and testimony from expert witnesses.

Rep. Edward R. Royce, Chairman
“In announcing its outlines, President Obama declared that this agreement is ‘based on unprecedented verification.’ However, all of the essential elements of this inspection regime still need to be negotiated.
The ink wasn’t even dry on this month’s announcement…when he asserted that Tehran wouldn’t allow international inspectors access to its military facilities. And this weekend, the Deputy Head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps reiterated, “They will not even be permitted to inspect the most normal military site in their dreams.”
“The Administration has shrugged off such comments as Iranian domestic spin. But the issue of inspections and verification will be central to how Congress judges any final agreement. Will inspectors have quick, unimpeded, go-anywhere, anytime access? Who can they interview; what documents can they review; can they take environmental samples? Does the IAEA have the qualified manpower and resources to take this on? Can the framework’s ‘limited’ centrifuge research and development restriction really be verified?
Iran’s long history of clandestine activity and intransigence prevents the U.S. from holding any trust whatsoever in Iran. Indeed, deception has been a cornerstone of Iran’s nuclear program since its inception. So when it comes to negotiating an inspections regime over the next two months, the U.S. must gain ground, not retreat.”
“As one witness will testify, international inspectors can be no tougher than the countries that back them. The history of arms-control inspections is that they are easy for political leaders to tout as a solution, but are difficult to fully implement. What looks good on the white board often fails in the real world.
Even if verified, as one witness will note, this agreement still puts Iran on the path to being an accepted nuclear weapons threshold state. And beginning in ten years, the Administration’s lauded one-year break-out period begins to fall away and Iran will be able to enrich on an industrial scale. At the same time, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is advancing its ballistic missile capability – under orders from the Supreme Leader to ‘mass produce.’ “
Mr. David Albright
Founder and President, Institute for Science and International Security
“Adequate verification is critical to a long-term deal in terms of verifying activities at declared nuclear sites and more importantly ensuring the absence of undeclared nuclear material and facilities. Although the interim deal under the Joint Plan of Action (JPA) strengthened the monitoring of declared sites, it did little to increase the IAEA’s ability to detect and find covert sites and activities. Inspectors have regularly reported in quarterly safeguards reports on Iran that the IAEA is not in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is used for peaceful activities.
Whether this situation changes will largely depend on the ability of the United States and its partners to create a comprehensive plan that establishes legally binding conditions on Iran that go beyond those in the comprehensive safeguards agreement and the Additional Protocol. A critical question will be whether the agreement establishes a verification regime adequate to promptly catch Iranian cheating. The U.S. Fact Sheet and subsequent briefings I received on the parameters of a comprehensive plan show that a considerable amount of work remains in the area of verification.
Recent Iranian statements disagreeing with verification provisions in the U.S. Fact Sheet raise the question of whether the U.S. negotiators have tried to oversell what has been agreed to. Iran’s public disagreements with the text could reflect also spin for domestic consumption, but more concerning, they could be attempts to create a predicate to renegotiate certain key parameters agreed to in Lausanne. U.S. officials have stated that everything in the U.S. Fact Sheet was agreed “in the room,” meaning that Iran agreed to all these parameters during the negotiations in Lausanne. If one assumes that the U.S. version is accurate, the U.S. Fact Sheet combined with briefings from officials shows that key verification arrangements remain unresolved, particularly those related to PMD issues and those that supplement the Additional Protocol. In fact, there are enough verification provisions unsettled that we at my organization cannot make a judgment about their adequacy without further progress in the negotiations.”
“Iran has in general been in compliance with the conditions of the JPA. However, it enriched in the IR-5 centrifuge, an act inconsistent with its JPA undertakings. When confronted by the United States, Iran quickly backed down and even took additional steps to increase confidence that enrichment in this centrifuge would not happen again. However, Iran has not shown a willingness to back down on more fundamental issues, such as resolving the IAEA’s PMD concerns, halting its illicit nuclear procurements, and fully cooperating with the IAEA. On less important issues, Iran is more cooperative but on the difficult ones, its record remains problematic.”
Mr. Charles Duelfer
Chairman, Omnis, Inc. and Former Chairman, UN Special Commission on Iraq [UNSCOM]
“I simply want to draw attention to the intricacies and the vulnerabilities of inspection systems. Too often in my experience, they served as a balancing entry for things the Security Council itself could not agree. In the event, the inspectors were subject to enormous political pressures. Indeed, the leadership positions of the inspector organization became politically sensitive. I can imagine the political machinations that will occur when current IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano’s term expires in 2017.
Overall, I cannot imagine the circumstances in Iran playing out favorably for the inspection system. And I repeat, Tehran will have watched and learned from the Iraq experience.
From what has been revealed publicly, it does not seem that inspectors will have any more authority or access than the inspectors in Iraq. Indeed, they will have far less it seems.
Moreover, the power behind the inspectors is greatly reduced since sanctions remain OFF unless the inspectors report something negative. And, what will constitute a sufficiently negative report? Delayed access? Ambiguous data? Once commerce is flowing, it is generally understood, it will be very difficult to stop. Saddam knew this and worked this successfully through illicit trade. In the Iran case it will not even be illicit.
Further, unity in the Security Council is highly questionable. Moreover, I cannot imagine the Security Council delegating its decision authority to re-impose sanctions to the head of the IAEA. That would certainly make the position much more political. Any “snap-back” provision, while desirable in principle, may not be achievable in practice.”
“In the case of Iraq, it turned out that after 8 years of inspections Saddam had largely rid himself of militarily significant WMD capability. He did this to get out of sanctions. Often overlooked was that Saddam also acknowledged that he intended to reconstitute these programs when circumstances permitted, i.e. after he was free from sanctions. Saddam played a long game. That’s not something we are good at. We have a regular cycle of changing our leadership. Continuity between our leaders is inconsistent—indeed it is often challenged. Not so for regimes like Saddam’s in Iraq and the Supreme Leader in Iran.”
The Honorable Stephen G. Rademaker
National Security Advisor, Bipartisan Policy Center; and Former Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control & Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, U.S. Department of State
“This deal will represent acceptance by the international community of Iran as a nuclear weapons threshold state.
By “nuclear weapons threshold state,” I do not mean that we’re accepting that Iran will have nuclear weapons, but we are accepting that, after ten years or so, Iran will have the ability to produce nuclear weapons in very short order, within a matter of weeks, or perhaps even days. This is important because countries that are able to produce nuclear weapons virtually overnight have to be treated by the rest of the world as if they already have nuclear weapons, because at any given moment, no one knows for sure that they don’t. Such countries may not have nuclear weapons today, but they are so close to having them that they nevertheless are able to engage in nuclear intimidation of others. Consequently, those who feel intimidated will be sorely tempted to develop nuclear options of their own, potentially giving rise to the very cascade of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East that experts have long predicted would occur if Iran’s nuclear ambitions were not restrained.
And by “accepting,” I mean that the United States is abandoning the policy pursued for more than twenty years by the Clinton, Bush, and, until now, Obama Administrations, to make sure Iran neither had nuclear weapons nor was on the threshold of producing them. We are committing to drop our nuclear-related sanctions, accept the legitimacy of the nuclear program that is affording Iran this capability, and even to support future international transfers of equipment and technology to that program.”
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