The Administration Makes Its Case
Obama administration officials are out in force on the Capitol Hill and on the airwaves to explain the benefits of the comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran.
Secretary of State John Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz, and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew testified at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing this morning. For the three secretaries, this is the second trip to Congress in less than 24 hours—the group briefed members of the House and Senate in closed sessions, yesterday.
Moniz also pressed his case that the inspections regime outlined in the deal is more than adequate to detect and deter cheating. In a July 22 interview with Politico, Moniz took on the criticism the 24 day period could elapse before inspectors are granted access to suspected sites. Moniz disclosed that the Department of Energy conducted experiments with uranium and their attempts to clean it up within that time period to avoid detection were unsuccessful.
—KELSEY DAVENPORT, director for nonproliferation policy, with DARYL G. KIMBALL, executive director
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Why AIPAC Is Wrong On the Iran Deal
Last week, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) launched a major lobbying effort urging Congress to reject the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and Iran nuclear deal in the hope for “a better deal.”
The rationale for their opposition merits a close look and some hard questions.
In a critique published in The National Interest, the Arms Control Association’s executive director explains why AIPAC’s assessment of the agreement is selective and flawed, why its proposed alternative—rejection, getting the support of allies to maintain economic pressure on Iran, and asking Iran to negotiate “a better deal”—is a dangerous fantasy, and why the agreement is in the security interest of the United States and our Middle East allies.
See “5 Reasons AIPAC Is Dead Wrong About the Iran Deal,” by Daryl G. Kimball, July 22.
Let the IAEA Do Its Job
After a trip to Vienna to visit the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kans.) and Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) demanded that the IAEA release the details of its July 13 agreement with Iran on investigation of Iran’s past activities related to nuclear weapons development. In a July 21 press release Pompeo and Cotton said these “secret” side deals impede Congress’s ability to review the agreement.
Pompeo and Cotton’s demands are unrealistic and would hamper the integrity of the IAEA. As an independent organization, the IAEA's process should not be subject to approval of the P5+1 or the U.S. Congress. Nor should the IAEA be forced to disclose sensitive information that could also compromise Iran’s legitimate security concerns. While it is critical that Iran cooperate with the IAEA and provide the agency with the access and information it requires, the content of the agency's investigations and inspections are not typically public because sensitive information is at stake.
Additionally, the IAEA laid out its concerns about past nuclear weapons work, and it should be up to the agency to determine what access is necessary to resolve its questions, not the P5+1.
The IAEA does answer to its Board of Governors, where the United States is represented, and will be required to report on progress to the UN Security Council, where again, the United States will be fully appraised of the process.
Additionally, while Iran must comply with the IAEA’s investigation before receiving sanctions relief under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the deal is not contingent on the IAEA’s assessment.
If Congress wants to ensure that the IAEA is able to carry out its mandate, it should make sure that agency has adequate financial and technical resources to complete the investigation and implement the deal.
IAEA Verification of the Iran Deal: Answers to 10 FAQs
Thomas Shea, an independent consultant to who worked for 24 years at the IAEA's Department of Safeguards, answers common verification questions about the JCPOA in this short blog post.
His bottom line: with the JCPOA’s layered, highly-intrusive IAEA verification and monitoring system in place across all sectors of Iran’s nuclear supply chain, the likelihood of detection of noncompliant activities, including possible covert activities, will be very high and will provide the international community timely warning of an attempt by Iran to break out.
On the other hand, failure to implement the agreement will reduce the current level of monitoring and verification to pre-2013 levels. That would increase the likelihood of clandestine nuclear weapons-related activity and undermine international peace and security.
Was It Obama's Goal to 'dismantle Iran's nuclear program'? No, Says Politifact
In their July 22 analysis, Politifact examines Sen. Tom Cotton’s charge that President Barack Obama "said at the beginning of the negotiations that the basic approach was to dismantle Iran's nuclear program in exchange for dismantling the sanctions.” They rate Cotton’s statement to be False.
And by mid-2006, it was not the plan of the George W. Bush administration to dismantle Iran’s nuclear program either.
As described in this June 8, 2006 article in The New York Times, the Bush administration shifted policy and offered a package of incentives to Iran that could theoretically allow it to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes in the future.
The Times reported that:
State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said that suspension of Iran's uranium enrichment activities, which the United States contends are a cover for developing nuclear arms, is a firm condition of the offer from the major powers. ‘That condition would have to hold throughout the duration of any potential negotiations,’ he said, referring to talks aimed at bringing Iran into compliance with international nuclear controls.
The 2006 proposal states that the enrichment moratorium could be lifted if Iran demonstrates “credible and coherent economic rationale in support of the existing civilian power generation program.” Additionally, Iran would have been required to declare all nuclear facilities, demonstrate that it had no secret nuclear programs, and answer outstanding questions about the military aspects of its nuclear program.
It is a formula with characteristics similar to the agreement reached in 2015 by the P5+1 and Iran.
CIA: Iran Unlikely to Spend Most of Its Post-Sanctions Funds on Militants
According to a July 16 report in the Los Angeles Times:
A secret U.S. intelligence assessment predicts that Iran’s government will pump most of an expected $100-billion windfall from the lifting of international sanctions into the country's flagging economy and won't significantly boost funding for militant groups it supports in the Middle East.
The finding runs counter to criticism leveled against the P5+1 agreement with Iran. The Los Angeles Times went on to say:
Intelligence analysts concluded that even if Tehran increased support for Hezbollah commanders in Lebanon, Houthi rebels in Yemen or President Bashar Assad’s embattled government in Syria, the extra cash is unlikely to tip the balance of power in the world’s most volatile region, according to two U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the intelligence document,
"An Effective, Verifiable, Nuclear Deal with Iran," the Arms Control Association boils down the key points from the 159-page Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in a July 15 two-pager.
The European Council on Foreign Relations has published a quick, easy-to-read summary of the main components of the JCPOA.
"Deal or No Deal? Congress really must choose,” on the Brookings Institution blog. Former U.S. negotiator Richard Nephew explains why the theory that the JCPOA could be rejected but that Iran would not expand its nuclear program in order to avoid the expansion of U.S. sanctions, is not possible.
Looking Ahead ...
July 28: House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade hearing on “The Iran-North Korea Strategic Alliance” and the JCPOA.
Aug. 15: Target date for Iran to provide information to the IAEA on its investigation into Iran’s previous military dimensions (PMDs) of its nuclear program.
Sept. 15: Target date for the IAEA to ask Iran follow-up questions on the PMD information.
Sept. 17: End of the 60-day congressional review period.
Sept. 29: End of the 12-day veto period.
Oct. 9: End of the 10-day veto override period.
Oct. 15: Iran provides the IAEA with any follow up information on PMD investigation.
Oct. 19: Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is adopted and both sides begin taking steps laid out in the text of the deal.
Dec. 15: Target date for the IAEA issuing its assessment on PMDs.