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former IAEA Director-General

Nuclear Nonproliferation

P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Talks Alert, January 27

Negotiators from the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the U.K., and the United States, plus Germany) and Iran are stepping up the pace of their talks on a long-term formula to verifiably limit Iran's nuclear capacity in exchange for phased sanctions relief.

Less than a week after the P5+1 and Iranian negotiating teams concluded several days of meetings in Geneva on Jan. 18, Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman and European Union Political Director Helga Schmid met again with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi on January 23 and 24 in Zurich, Switzerland.

Iran Nuclear Negotiations: Separating Myth from Reality

Description: 

This issue brief seeks to dispel some of the most commonly held and articulated misconceptions about Iran's nuclear activities and the negotiations.

Body: 

Volume 7, Issue 2, January 23, 2015 

As the United States and its P5+1 negotiating partners (China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom) move closer to a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran, myths and misperceptions about Iran's nuclear program, its intentions, and U.S. policy goals in the negotiations cloud discussion of this important international security priority.  

An effective, verifiable comprehensive nuclear agreement is in the best interest of the U.S. national security and the stability of the Middle East. Such an important issue deserves discussion and debate based on facts, not myths.  

This issue brief seeks to dispel some of the most commonly held and articulated misconceptions about Iran's nuclear activities and the negotiations.

Iran's Nuclear Program

MYTH: Iran is pursuing a covert nuclear weapons program.

REALITY: According to evidence collected by and shared with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran had an organized nuclear weapons program, but abandoned it in 2003. These activities are referred to as the "possible military dimensions" of Iran's nuclear program and are actively being investigated by the IAEA. This corresponds with the assessment from the 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear program, which also stated with moderate confidence that Iran had not restarted its nuclear program. In the 2014 Worldwide Threat Assessment, the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper also said that Iran also would not be able to divert safeguarded nuclear material and enrich enough to weapons grade for a bomb without discovery. 

According to a 2011 IAEA report, activities that could be relevant to nuclear weapons development may have continued after 2003, but not as part of an organized program.

MYTH: Iran is developing long-range ballistic missiles that could be armed with nuclear warheads.  

REALITY: The U.S. intelligence community assess that Iran may be technically capable of developing an ICBM with sufficient foreign assistance, not that they are doing so. To date, Iran has never tested any long-range rockets. Iran's longest-range missiles (2,000 kilometers) are medium-range ballistic missiles, not intercontinental-range missiles, as some have suggested. Iran would need an ICBM with a range of over 9,000 kilometers to reach the United States. Experts assess that even if Iran makes a concerted effort, deploying such a missile within the decade is unlikely. Additionally, if a comprehensive nuclear deal blocks Iran's potential pathways to a bomb, its ballistic missiles become less of a threat, because they cannot be armed with a nuclear weapon. 

MYTH: UN Security Council resolutions require Iran to permanently halt enrichment, dismantle its enrichment facilities, and dismantle the heavy water reactor at Arak.

REALITY: Since July 2006, the Security Council has passed six resolutions calling on Iran to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities and work on the heavy-water reactor at Arak. None of the six resolutions passed by the UN Security Council called for Iran to dismantle its enrichment facilities or permanently halt enrichment.  The call for suspension was intended to push Iran to comply with the IAEA investigation into concerns about past activities possibly related to nuclear weapons development, and to promote a diplomatic resolution to the concerns over Iran's nuclear program.

During debate on the most recent resolution in June 2010, British Ambassador to the United Nations Mark Lyall Grant, speaking on behalf of the P5+1, said the resolution was intended to keep "the door open for continued engagement" with Iran over its nuclear program. He said that the purpose of such diplomatic efforts must be to achieve a comprehensive, long-term settlement, that respects Iran's legitimate right to the peaceful use of atomic energy. The Security Council resolutions were never intended to eliminate an Iranian civil nuclear program in the future that complies with the conditions of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

MYTH: Iran is just using the negotiations to buy more time to advance its nuclear program and nuclear weapons-related capabilities.  

REALITY: This argument may have been valid before the November 2013 interim agreement, but not now. The interim agreement has pushed Iran further away from a nuclear weapons capability by halting Iran's progress on nuclear projects of greatest proliferation concern-thus buying time to negotiate a comprehensive, long-term agreement to block Iran's potential pathways to the bomb.

Furthermore, according to April 2013 testimony from James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, Iran could not divert nuclear material and enrich enough weapons grade material for a bomb without being detected. The additional monitoring and verification measures put in place under the November 2013 interim agreement, including daily access to Iran's uranium-enrichment sites and caps on stockpiles of enriched-uranium gas, bars uranium enrichment beyond 5% uranium-235 (weapons-grade is 90%) and the introduction of additional uranium centrifuge machines, all of which provide additional assurances that Iran is not pursuing a covert nuclear weapons program.

MYTH: Iran needs a large-scale uranium-enrichment program to provide for its nuclear energy needs.

REALITY: Iran's current, practical needs for enriched uranium are very limited and will remain so over the next several years. There is no practical reason for Iran not to be able to reduce its uranium-enrichment capacity in the near-term in order to build confidence it is not seeking an option to build nuclear weapons.

Iran is currently operating about 10,200 first-generation IR-1 operating centrifuges, which exceeds its current needs. Iran also has approximately 9,000 more centrifuges that are installed but are not yet operating, including some 1,000 more advanced IR2-M machines.

However, Iran says it cannot afford to reduce that number because it wants to increase its enrichment capacity significantly by the 2020s. Iran points to its hopes for building new nuclear power reactors and says it wants to be able to eventually produce fuel for its one operating light-water reactor at Bushehr, which would require the equivalent of over 100,000 IR-1 machines.

Currently, Bushehr uses fuel provided by Russia under a 10-year deal that could be extended past its 2021 end date. In fact, Russia is obliged to supply fuel unless Iran chooses not to renew the contract--which would be a foolish move given the fact that Iran does not currently have the technical capacity to fabricate fuel for the reactor. A new deal with Russia for two additional reactors at the Bushehr site will be fueled by Russia for their duration, thus not requiring domestically produced Iranian fuel.

Impact of the Joint Plan of Action

MYTH: The interim agreement, or Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), has not stopped advances in Iran's nuclear program.

REALITY: Implementation of the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action has halted the expansion of Iran's nuclear program and rolled back the most proliferation sensitive elements.  

In total, under the Joint Plan of Action, Iran has stopped enriching uranium to 20 percent, a key proliferation concern to the P5+1 because 20 percent enriched material is more easily enriched to weapons-grade material (greater than 90 percent U-235).  

Over the past twelve months, Iran also took steps to neutralize its stockpile of 20 percent enriched-uranium gas. Iran also halted major construction activities on its Arak heavy-water reactor project, froze the number of its operating and installed centrifuges, and agreed to more intrusive inspections, including daily access to its enrichment facilities. Iran also agreed only to produce centrifuges necessary to replace damaged machines.

MYTH: Iran has violated the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action by operating an advanced centrifuge, the IR-5.

REALITY: The IAEA's quarterly report of Nov. 7, 2014, noted that Iran began feeding natural uranium hexafluoride "intermittently" into a single IR-5 centrifuge at its pilot facility for the first time. While unhelpful, this does not appear to be a violation of the Joint Plan of Action, which prohibits the use of advanced centrifuges to accumulate enriched uranium. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Nov. 24, 2014 that both Iran and the P5+1 have upheld their commitments under the interim deal. However, to dispel any ambiguities, in the extension agreed to on Nov. 24 , 2014, Iran agreed not to feed the IR-5 at this time.  

MYTH: Allowing Iran an enrichment program recognizes a "right to enrich" under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which the United States has long opposed.  

REALITY: While the NPT clearly affords non-nuclear weapons states access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes in return for pledging not to pursue nuclear weapons and having IAEA safeguards in place, it does not specifically afford or deny enrichment and reprocessing rights to member states. Iran interprets the treaty to include a "right to enrich" and has insisted that its right to enrichment be "respected" under a nuclear agreement.

The U.S. policy does not recognizes a "right to enrich" under the NPT. In the interim agreement, the United States and its P5+1 partners acknowledged that Iran has an enrichment program and will retain a limited enrichment program in a comprehensive deal commensurate with its "practical needs."  

Acknowledging that a program exists is not the same as acknowledging that a treaty affords a "right." The United States has done the former, not the latter. And, after reaching the agreement last November, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated that U.S. policy remains unchanged by the agreement. In an interview with ABC he adamantly said, "there is no inherent right to enrich."

Sanctions 

MYTH: New sanctions that go into affect after the negotiation deadline are not a violation of the interim deal.

REALITY: Even if new sanctions do not go into effect until after the June 30, 2015 deadline for negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran, they would still violate the November 2013 interim deal. In that agreement, the United States committed not to initiate any new nuclear-related sanctions on Iran during the talks.  

In a January 16, 2015 press conference, President Barack Obama asked Congress to hold off on new sanctions, saying that they would "jeopardize the possibility" of a nuclear deal. Iran made clear last year that it would interpret such a move as a violation of the Joint Plan of Action.  

Additionally, new sanctions risk fracturing the international coalition supporting sanctions, which is instrumental to maintaining pressure on Iran. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power noted on January 12, 2015, that "if we pull the trigger on new nuclear-related sanctions now, we will go from isolating Iran to potentially isolating ourselves.

MYTH: Additional sanctions will pressure Iran into dismantling its nuclear program.

REALITY: The international sanctions regime helped push Iran toward the negotiating table. Increasing sanctions at this time, however, violates the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action and risks pushing Iran toward escalatory measures and away from the negotiating table. Moving forward on any sanctions bill will give the hardliners in Iran considerable ammunition to assert that the United States is not following through on its commitments in the Joint Plan of Action and will not negotiate a comprehensive agreement in good faith. This could narrow the space that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has to negotiate a final deal even further.

New sanctions could also cause Iran to pull out of the negotiations. Iran made clear last year that it would interpret such a move as a violation of the Joint Plan of Action. Iran's Foreign Minister and lead negotiator Mohammad Javad Zarif said  that a "deal is dead" if the United States imposes more sanctions, even if they do not go into effect during the negotiations.

While complete dismantlement of Iran's nuclear program may have been the most ideal end-state, and possible a decade ago when Iran only had several hundred centrifuges, it is unrealistic and unnecessary. A final deal with stringent limits and intrusive monitoring and verification will guard against a nuclear-armed Iran and ensure that there is no covert program. Insisting on complete dismantlement of Iran's uranium-enrichment program also goes against the broad parameters for a comprehensive deal outlined in the Nov. 2013 interim agreement, which recognized that under a long-term agreement, Iran would have a limited enrichment program based on its "practical needs."

Negotiations on Comprehensive Nuclear Deal with Iran

MYTH: A comprehensive deal will not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons using a covert program.

REALITY: A comprehensive agreement will block Iran's uranium and plutonium pathways to the bomb. Among other features, the agreement will set verifiable limits on Iran's uranium-enrichment capacity and its stockpiles of enriched uranium. It would also dramatically cut the output of weapons-usable plutonium at the Arak heavy-water reactor. U.S. negotiators have stated that an acceptable final deal will push the time it would take Iran to produce enough highly enriched uranium for one bomb to 12 months.

A comprehensive deal also would put in place additional measures to ensure that any covert program is deterred or quickly detected. The additional monitoring and verification under the interim agreement has already dramatically expanded international oversight of Iran's nuclear program through increased IAEA access to sites. A comprehensive deal will provide additional monitoring and verification.

In addition, Iran has agreed to implement and ratify the additional protocol as part of a comprehensive deal. Specifically, it gives the IAEA expanded right of access to information and sites. With the additional protocol, the agency will have regular access to Iran's entire fuel cycle, including facilities such as Iran's uranium mines, centrifuge production facilities, and heavy-water production plant. This will make it far more difficult for Iran to siphon off materials for a covert program.

The additional protocol also helps the IAEA check for any clandestine nuclear activities in Iran by providing the agency with greater authority to carry out inspections in any facility with nuclear material. It also enables the agency to visit the nuclear facilities on short notice, making it more difficult to cover-up any activities intended to divert materials or that are inconsistent with a facilities' stated purposes.

MYTH: Iran needs to provide the IAEA with information about its past activities possibly related to nuclear weapons development before a comprehensive agreement is negotiated.

REALITY: On November 11, 2013, Iran and the IAEA concluded a framework agreement for moving forward to resolve the outstanding concerns. Under the terms of the framework, Iran and the IAEA agreed to resolve all outstanding issues, including past military dimensions, in a step-by-step manner. Iran has provided the IAEA with information on 16 areas to date, but is behind on turning over information on two past military dimension issues. Tying a comprehensive nuclear agreement to a resolution of the IAEA's investigation into the past activities is unnecessary and risks derailing a deal.

Resolving the questions about the past military dimension issue is important but is not a prerequisite for a comprehensive nuclear agreement. Nor is it realistic or necessary to expect a full "confession" from Iran that it pursued nuclear weapons in the past. Expecting Iran to "confess" that it pursued a nuclear weapons program is unrealistic and unnecessary. After having spent years denying that it pursued nuclear weapons and having delivered a fatwa against nuclear weapons, Tehran's senior leaders cannot afford to admit that it hid a nuclear weapons program.

Both sides understand that the IAEA investigation of past Iranian activities with possible military dimensions will continue after a comprehensive nuclear agreement is reached. At the same time, all sanctions tied to this particular issue should not be removed unless the questions are adequately resolved. This makes it more likely that if there is a comprehensive nuclear agreement, Iran will have a stronger incentive to provide the IAEA with the information necessary to determine that no such efforts are taking place now or will in the future.

MYTH: A nuclear deal with Iran, like a treaty or a "123" Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, requires Congressional approval.  

REALITY: Unlike a treaty, which requires the support of two-thirds of the Senate, a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran does not require a vote of approval from Congress. Unlike a civil nuclear cooperation agreement between the United States and another country, a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran will be a political agreement between the five-permanent members of the UN Security Council and Iran designed to induce Iran to meet goals and obligations established by the Security Council and through Iran's safeguards agreement with the IAEA.

Over time, Congress will, however, have a vital role in implementing a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran, including legislative action to remove and/or not renew legislatively-mandated, nuclear-related sanctions on Iran if and when Iran fulfils key non-proliferation obligations called for in a comprehensive agreement.

MYTH: A nuclear deal that allows Iran uranium enrichment and civilian nuclear power program will cause a proliferation cascade in the Middle East, with countries like Saudi Arabia deciding to move toward nuclear weapons.

REALITY: A verifiable, comprehensive nuclear deal will impose strict limits and monitoring on Iran's nuclear program, thus reducing the risk that Iran may someday pursue nuclear weapons. This will provide assurance to the international community that Tehran is not seeking nuclear weapons and that any deviations from the deal will be quickly noticed. This should reduce, not increase, the temptation by some states in the Middle East-particularly Saudi Arabia-to pursue the technical capabilities necessary to acquire nuclear weapons.

The alternative--no comprehensive P5+1 and Iran nuclear deal--would lead to an unconstrained Iranian nuclear program with less monitoring. This poses more of a threat to countries in the region and could increase the possibility of a "proliferation cascade" in the region.

MYTH: A good comprehensive deal with Iran must dismantle Iran's nuclear weapons capability.

REALITY: Iran has had a nuclear weapons capability, but has chosen not to develop nuclear weapons. The 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) assessed that Iran has developed a range of technologies, including uranium enrichment, nuclear warhead mechanics, and delivery systems, that would give it the option to launch a nuclear weapons development effort in a relatively short time frame "if it so chooses." Eliminating that capability is, for all practical purposes, not possible. Even if Iran completely "dismantled" its nuclear infrastructure, it could rebuild it. Tougher sanctions or a military strike also will not eliminate the knowledge and basic industrial capacity that Iran has developed and could rebuild.  

Ergo, the goal of a verifiable, comprehensive agreement must be to prevent Iran from exercising that capability by limiting and constraining its nuclear capacity (especially fissile material production) and by increasing transparency over its program. Phased sanctions relief also offers incentives for continued compliance to comply with the deal and not decide to build a nuclear weapon in the future.

Conclusion

U.S. negotiators have an historic opportunity to reach a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran that limits its nuclear program, blocks its pathways to a bomb, and guards against covert activities. The gravity of the situation demands a discussion on a comprehensive nuclear deal that is based on the realities of Iran's nuclear program, not myths and misconceptions about Tehran's past and current activities.--KELSEY DAVENPORT, DIRECTOR OF NONPROLIFERATION POLICY

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today.

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Posted: December 31, 1969

Congress Should Support Negotiations, Not New Iran Sanctions

Description: 

The United States has an historic opportunity to limit Iran's nuclear program, block its pathways to the bomb, and guard against a covert nuclear weapons program.

Body: 

Volume 7, Issue 1, January 15, 2015 

The United States has an historic opportunity to limit Iran’s nuclear program, block its pathways to the bomb, and guard against a covert nuclear weapons program.

Congressional action on sanctions at this time, however, threatens the significant progress made over the past year by the United States, its allies, and Iran toward a comprehensive nuclear deal.

Moving forward on new sanctions legislation against Iran threatens to derail negotiations, push Iran away from the negotiating table, and erode international support for the sanctions regime currently in place.

Contrary to the claims of sanctions proponents, any new nuclear-related sanctions legislation on Iran at this time would violate the terms of the first-phase deal that the United States and its P5+1 negotiating partners (China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom) committed to in the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action.

In addition, a bill might place new and unrealistic requirements on the comprehensive agreement that the parties are currently negotiating. Efforts by the U.S. Congress to move the goalposts for the final phase negotiations beyond the parameters already established by the P5+1 would undermine prospects for a final phase agreement.

A comprehensive nuclear agreement between the P5+1 and Iran is the only effective way to limit Iran's nuclear program and ensure that it is entirely peaceful. Rather than sabotaging the progress made to date and undermining the prospects for a more far-reaching final phase deal, the Congress should allow the P5+1 negotiators the time and support necessary to negotiate an effective diplomatic solution.

Sanctions Violate the Interim Deal

Several members of Congress are drafting new sanctions legislation. If approved, these sanctions would directly violate the United States commitment to "refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions" under the November 24, 2013 interim agreement

The most imminent sanctions bill will be considered before the Senate Banking Committee on Jan. 20 and marked-up later in the week. Its primary authors, Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), introduced a sanctions bill in December 2013, S. 1881, which, if passed, would have derailed the talks and the progress generated under the interim deal--which has halted the most worrisome aspects of Iran’s nuclear program and rolled back key elements.

Proponents of additional sanctions at this time claim that these measures will not go into effect until negotiations breakdown and that the possibility of additional sanctions pressure will keep Iran at the negotiating table.

However, passing new sanctions while talks are ongoing risks shattering the carefully built international coalition pressuring Iran to remain at the negotiating table.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said on Jan. 12 that the administration opposes new sanctions at this time, noting that "if we pull the trigger on new nuclear-related sanctions now, we will go from isolating Iran to potentially isolating ourselves."

If Washington passes sanctions now, the United States would be blamed for any breakdown of the talks, and other countries may resume trade with Iran. That would dramatically reduce U.S. leverage and the prospects for a diplomatic solution.

Even if sanctions were designed not go into effect immediately, and are “triggered” by an event such as the breakdown of talks, they would directly contradict the terms of the Joint Plan of Action. Triggered sanctions that depend on a “breakdown” also would require a subjective determination of what constitutes a breakdown in the talks.

Elizabeth Rosenberg, a former senior advisor the U.S. Department of Treasury, said at an Arms Control Association-Carnegie event on Dec. 3 that triggered sanctions send the wrong message to Iran. Rosenberg, now at the Center for a New American Security, said that sanctions at this time “... will be seen as an act of bad faith in Iran on the part of the U.S. and a sign that the U.S. negotiating team will not be able to deliver what it promises and that it won’t be able to successfully coordinate with Congress.”  

Rosenberg also said that “Iranians may not believe that Congress won’t change the goal posts again” when it comes time to lift sanctions when Iran takes particular actions in the event of a comprehensive agreement.

More Pressure Will Not Help

Some members of Congress, however, mistakenly believe that additional economic pressure at this time will push Iran to make further concessions at the negotiating table.

Kirk said on Jan. 4, “now is the time to put pressure on Iran especially with oil prices so low. We are uniquely advantaged at this time to shut down this nuclear program.”

This reasoning is illogical and incorrect for several reasons.

From a negotiating perspective, moving forward on any sanctions bill will give the hardliners in Iran considerable ammunition to assert that the United States is not following through on its commitments in the Joint Plan of Action and will not negotiate a comprehensive agreement in good faith. This could narrow the space that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has to negotiate a final deal even further.

New sanctions could also cause Iran to pull out of the negotiations. Iran made clear last year that it would interpret such a move as a violation of the Joint Plan of Action. Iran's Foreign Minister and lead negotiator Mohammad Javad Zarif said that a "deal is dead" if the United States imposes more sanctions, even if they do not go into effect during the negotiations.

However, for some members of Congress, the purpose of passing new sanctions is to end negotiations. Sen.Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said on Jan. 13 “the end of these negotiations isn't an unintended consequence of congressional action. It is very much an intended consequence, a feature, not a bug, so to speak."

Rejecting a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran before it is reached is irresponsible and dangerous. If the United States violates the interim agreement and talks fail, Iran is likely to also move down the path of escalation.

In December 2013, after Menendez and Kirk released the text of their sanctions bill, S. 1881, Iran drafted a law that would require Tehran to increase its uranium enrichment to 60 percent. One Iranian lawmaker said it was in response to “America’s hostile act.” While short of the 90 percent required for weapons-grade uranium, 60 percent puts Iran considerably closer than the five percent cap Tehran agreed to under the interim agreement.

The only way to block Iran’s pathways to the bomb, limit its nuclear activities, and put in place sufficiently intrusive monitoring to promptly detect a dash to the bomb is through a comprehensive nuclear deal. A return to the pre-interim agreement status quo of Iran’s steadily increasing nuclear capabilities with less international monitoring threatens U.S. and international security.  

Onerous and Unrealistic Conditions

Sanctions legislation in the past has also sought to put onerous and unnecessary constraints on the terms of a final deal. S. 1881, for instance, contained provisions that prevented sanctions relief unless Iran agreed to zero-enrichment and complete dismantlement of its "illicit nuclear infrastructure," which presumably would include Iran's uranium-enrichment facilities and the heavy-water reactor project at Arak.

Not only are these demands unrealistic and unnecessary to guard against a nuclear weapons program, they also contradict the broad parameters laid out in the November 2013 interim agreement. The interim deal states that Iran will have a limited uranium-enrichment program based on its “practical needs.”

Demanding complete dismantlement or zero enrichment may have been conceivable a decade ago when Iran only had a few hundred centrifuges. But today, demands that Iran permanently halt uranium enrichment are unrealistic and unattainable. A deal that bars Iran from enriching uranium for peaceful purposes would be unsustainable politically inside Iran. Additionally, such an outcome is not necessary.

The agreement that the negotiators from the United States, France, the U.K. Germany, France, China and Russia are now pursuing would dramatically increase the time it would take to produce enough enriched uranium for a bomb and put in place new international monitoring mechanisms to ensure compliance and to promptly detect a clandestine nuclear weapons effort.

Bottom Line

Contrary to the claims of proponents, legislation that imposes new sanctions on Iran would undermine, not enhance, the diplomatic effort to secure a comprehensive nuclear deal to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.

New, additional sanctions on Iran are clearly unnecessary at this time. The existing sanctions regime provides more than sufficient leverage on Iran to keep it at the negotiating table.

To date, both the P5+1 and Iran have abided by their commitments under the interim agreement known as the Joint Plan of Action. The enactment of additional sanctions would violate the commitment made by the United States in the interim agreement and could push Iran take escalatory steps of its own or pull out of the negotiations.  

If the International Atomic Energy Agency determines in the future that Iran is not fulfilling its commitments under the interim agreement, the Congress would still have the option to act quickly, and if necessary enact new sanctions. But as long as Iran and the P5+1 are holding up their ends of the agreement and a comprehensive deal is possible, Congress should support, not sabotage, the talks. --KELSEY DAVENPORT, DIRECTOR FOR NONPROLIFERATION POLICY

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Posted: December 31, 1969

Iran, P5+1 Continue Talks in Geneva

At a December conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons use, many delegates emphasized that “humanitarian considerations should…be at the core of all nuclear disarmament deliberations.”

January/February 2015

By Kelsey Davenport

Iran and six world powers met in Geneva in December to continue talks on a comprehensive nuclear agreement, marking the first round of meetings after the parties decided to extend the negotiations.

When Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) agreed on Nov. 24 to extend the talks, they set a goal of reaching a political agreement within four months. (See ACT, December 2014.) The parties aim to complete the technical annexes by June 30.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters on Dec. 17 that the talks earlier that day had taken place in a “good atmosphere” and that “good steps” were taken. Zarif, who leads Iran’s negotiating team, said that “the world needs this agreement” in light of global challenges, and that reaching a deal is in the best interest of both parties.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters in Moscow on Dec. 18 that the parties are “very close” to reaching a deal.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi speaks to reporters in Geneva on December 17, 2014, before his delegation met with representatives of six world powers in the most recent round of negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)Before the talks between Iran and the P5+1, the United States and Iran met bilaterally Dec. 15-16 in Geneva.

Abbas Araqchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister and a member of the negotiating team, said that sanctions were a focus of the meetings with the United States but that “all topics” were discussed.

The talks are scheduled to resume Jan. 18 in Geneva.

Iran maintains that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful, but the international community is concerned that Tehran could use its program to develop nuclear weapons.

New Sanctions

In a Dec. 4 interview with PBS, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said that Congress should act cautiously on new legislation directed against Iran.

Corker, the incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Congress does not want to feel “responsible for this deal falling apart” but that the new Congress will be looking for “an appropriate way” to have a say in the negotiations in 2015.

In the last Congress, lawmakers introduced several bills dealing with sanctions on Iran. One of the bills, drafted by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), would impose additional sanctions on Iran if Tehran failed to comply with the terms of the interim agreement or if a comprehensive deal is not reached. It is not clear which of the bills will be reintroduced during the new Congress.

Corker said its “hard to understand” how the Menendez-Kirk legislation would be a problem for the negotiations.
Under the terms of the interim agreement that Iran and the P5+1 reached in November 2013, the United States agreed not to impose any additional nuclear-related sanctions on Iran. In return for limited sanctions relief and the pledge of no additional sanctions, Iran halted expansion of its nuclear program and stopped certain nuclear activities. When Iran and the P5+1 did not reach a comprehensive deal within the one-year time frame of the interim agreement, the parties agreed to extend the commitments through June 30 of this year.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in Vienna on Nov. 24 that he hoped Congress would “see the wisdom of leaving us the equilibrium for a few months to be able to proceed without sending messages that might be misinterpreted and cause miscalculation.”

Terms of the Extension

In a Nov. 26 e-mail to Arms Control Today, an official close to the negotiations said that, under the terms of the extension, Iran and the P5+1 agreed to obligations beyond those in the interim agreement.

The P5+1 and Iran have not made any public reference to the specific elements of the new obligations.
According to the official’s e-mail, Iran will be able to gain access to $700 million of its funds frozen in accounts overseas each month through June 30.

Iran committed to continue feeding 35 kilograms of its stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium oxide powder into a process for making fuel plates, the official said. The fuel plates are to be used for the Tehran Research Reactor, which produces medical isotopes, he said.

Iran’s stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium gas was a key concern for the P5+1 because uranium enriched to that level is more easily enriched further to weapons grade. Under the interim agreement, Tehran has taken steps to neutralize its stockpile by diluting half of the stockpile to a level of less than 5 percent-enriched uranium and converting the other half into an oxide powder form for fuel plate fabrication.

Iran committed not to convert the uranium oxide powder back into gas as part of the interim deal.

Under the terms of the extension, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors are able to visit Iran’s centrifuge production workshops on a more regular basis and with little notice.

In addition, Iran pledged to refrain from pursuing enrichment using other technologies, such as lasers. Iran is known to have experimented with laser enrichment in the past. As part of a separate agreement with the IAEA, Iran provided inspectors with access to its laser center and information about its laser enrichment program last year.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a statement on the status of the talks on Iran’s nuclear program in Vienna on November 24, 2014. (Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)According to the official close to the talks, Iran and the P5+1 spelled out the limits to Iran’s research and development activities to clarify ambiguities about permitted activities under the interim agreement after a controversy in November.

In a Nov. 7 report, the IAEA noted that Iran was feeding natural uranium gas into one of its advanced centrifuge models, the IR-5, for the first time. The IR-5 was installed, but was not being tested with uranium gas at the time that the interim deal was reached. According to the agreement, Iran could continue its current research and development practices during the negotiations on a comprehensive accord.

Iran and some members of the P5+1 disagreed about whether testing the IR-5 with uranium was an existing practice or a new practice. Tehran said the action was permitted under the interim agreement.

The State Department did not say last November whether the United States viewed the testing as a violation, but said that Washington had raised the concern with Tehran and that Iran had agreed to stop testing the centrifuge.

The additional research and development restrictions under the extension specifically prohibit testing of the IR-5 centrifuge with uranium hexafluoride gas.

Iran said it would not test the IR-6 centrifuges in a cascade formation or the IR-2M. Iran also agreed not to continue installation of an IR-8 centrifuge that is partially installed at the Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant. The IAEA noted in its quarterly reports that Iran began installing the IR-8 centrifuge in December 2013.

Iran is working on advanced centrifuges to replace its current operating centrifuge, the IR-1. The advanced machines would likely enrich uranium more efficiently than the IR-1 machines.

Posted: December 31, 1969

Nuclear Impact Meeting Is Largest Yet

At a December conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons use, many delegates emphasized that “humanitarian considerations should…be at the core of all nuclear disarmament deliberations.”

January/February 2015

By Kingston Reif

A December conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons use attracted more participants and included a broader focus than the previous two meetings on the issue, with many delegates emphasizing “that humanitarian considerations should no longer be ignored but be at the core of all nuclear disarmament deliberations,” according to the chair’s summary of the meeting.

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz speaks on December 8, 2014, in Vienna at the third international conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons use. (Samuel Kubani/AFP/Getty Images)The Dec. 8-9 meeting at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna drew delegations representing 158 states, the United Nations, and academia.­­­

For the first time in the series of conferences on nuclear weapons use, the list of participants included countries recognized as nuclear-weapon states by the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)—the United Kingdom and the United States. In addition, an unofficial representative from China attended the meeting. Two other nuclear-armed states, India and Pakistan, took part in the previous two meetings and also were present in Vienna.

Previous conferences had focused primarily on the consequences of nuclear weapons explosions, but the Vienna meeting expanded the agenda to include the risk of nuclear weapons use, the application of international law to the consequences of nuclear weapons explosions, and the shortfalls in international capacity to address a humanitarian emergency caused by the use of nuclear weapons.

The meeting included presentations from experts on the factors that could lead to the deliberate or inadvertent use of nuclear weapons and the relevance of international environmental and health law to nuclear weapons use.

“The scope, scale and interrelationship of the humanitarian consequences caused by nuclear weapon detonation are catastrophic and more complex than commonly understood,” concluded Alexander Kmentt, conference chair and director of disarmament, arms control, and nonproliferation in the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs, in his summary delivered at the end of the conference.

The Vienna conference was the third meeting in the past two years focused on the medical and societal impact of nuclear weapons use. The first meeting took place in March 2013 in Oslo and brought together representatives from 127 governments. Delegations from 146 governments attended the second conference, held in Nayarit, Mexico, in February 2014. (See ACT, November 2014.)

The Catholic Church used the occasion of the December conference to revise its long-standing position on nuclear deterrence, stating that “reliance on a strategy of nuclear deterrence has created a less secure world” (see box).

The Vienna conference and the two that preceded it reflect the growing impatience of many non-nuclear-weapon states with what they characterize as the slow pace of progress toward nuclear disarmament.

But unlike the conference summary statement delivered by host Mexico at Nayarit, the Austrian chair’s statement did not call for the initiation of a diplomatic process to ban nuclear weapons. Instead, Kmentt noted that state delegations “expressed various views regarding the ways and means of advancing the nuclear disarmament agenda.”

In a separate statement, Austria called on all NPT members “to identify and pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons” and promised “to cooperate with all stakeholders to achieve this goal.” Unlike the treaties prohibiting even the possession of chemical and biological weapons, there is no such legal ban on nuclear weapons.

The U.S. statement, delivered by Adam Scheinman, President Barack Obama’s special representative for nuclear nonproliferation, alluded to “the growing political will to pursue a practical disarmament agenda,” but advised that there must be “a practical way to do it.”

In remarks delivered at the Brookings Institution on Dec. 18, Rose Gottemoeller, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said that “[w]hile we acknowledge the views of those who call for the negotiation of a nuclear weapons ban treaty, the United States cannot and will not support efforts of this sort.”

Many non-nuclear-weapon states that are close allies of the United States expressed similar sentiments at the Vienna conference. “Prospects for disarmament are enhanced by engaging, not alienating, those states that will need to take the action to disarm,” Australia said in its statement.

In a Dec. 22 e-mail, Kmentt told Arms Control Today that the Vienna meeting “established the humanitarian focus” as the “mainstream” view and the context in which “the vast majority of states wish to discuss the nuclear weapons issue.” If nuclear weapons are used, “no capacity exists to deal adequately with the consequences,” he said. “These arguments and findings make the insistence on nuclear weapons as a necessary security tool for possessor States untenable.”

Kmentt added that this majority of states will expect the upcoming NPT review conference, to be held in New York later this year, “to give clear answers to address” the findings and conclusions of the Vienna conference “and point a credible way towards the implementation” of Article VI of the NPT. That article commits the nuclear-weapon states to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race” and “to nuclear disarmament.”

In a Dec. 23 interview, Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova, director of the International Organizations and Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said that the conversation on the humanitarian aspect promises to be “a central theme” of the review conference. She said she expected that many countries would make a strong push to ensure that the findings and conclusions of the Vienna meeting are reflected in the review conference’s final document, if there is one.

It is unclear whether there will be a fourth conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and, if so, what the final result of the process will be. In his Dec. 22 e-mail, Kmentt said that no country had offered to host another meeting.

The focus for NPT states is “to achieve progress within the NPT framework” and “see what happens at the Review Conference,” he said. That is certainly Austria’s objective for the conference, he said.

Vatican Revises Stance on Deterrence

The Catholic Church revised its long-standing position on nuclear deterrence in December, declaring that the possession and use of nuclear weapons are not acceptable.

At a Dec. 8-9 conference in Vienna on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons use, Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, the Vatican’s UN ambassador in Geneva, delivered the Vatican’s statement. He said the “reliance on a strategy of nuclear deterrence has created a less secure world,” and called for all countries to review deterrence as a “stable basis for peace.”

The Catholic Church has consistently advocated for the abolition of nuclear weapons, but its original position on deterrence, laid out in the 1963 papal encyclical Pacem in Terris, stated that a minimal nuclear capability to deter a nuclear attack is acceptable as an interim ethic until disarmament is achieved.

Although that position might have been acceptable during the Cold War, the current pace of disarmament is too slow and the status quo is “unsustainable and undesirable,” Tomasi said. The argument that nuclear weapons prevent war is “misleading,” he said.

Nuclear deterrence “works less as a stabilizing force” in a multipolar world and serves as an incentive for countries to break out of the nuclear nonproliferation regime and develop nuclear weapons, he said. In addition, the threat of accidental use or theft of the weapons has become too high, Tomasi said.

In a Dec. 8 document, “Nuclear Disarmament: Time for Abolition,” prepared for the Vienna conference, the Vatican laid out in greater detail its reasoning for moving away from limited deterrence. In addition to calling on all states possessing nuclear weapons to increase the pace of disarmament, the document called for an examination of the rationale for nuclear deterrence.

In a Dec. 7 letter to the conference president, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, Pope Francis said that “nuclear detterence and the threat of mutually assured destruction” cannot be the basis of “fraternity” and “peaceful coexistence amongst peoples and states.”

The Vatican document cited several factors that influenced the Vatican’s revised position on deterrence, including the “illusion of security” from nuclear weapons, the high costs of arsenal maintenance, and the lack of transparency and oversight of the disarmament process. The Vatican proposed that states examine these factors in further detail to question the “moral legitimacy of the architecture of the ‘peace of a sort’ supposedly provided by deterrence.”—KELSEY DAVENPORT

    Posted: December 31, 1969

    Time to Close the Iran Deal

    The failure of Iran and the six-country group known as the P5+1 to bridge their differences on a comprehensive nuclear agreement by their November 2014 target date is disappointing.

    January/February 2015

    By Daryl G. Kimball

    The failure of Iran and the six-country group known as the P5+1 to bridge their differences on a comprehensive nuclear agreement by their November 2014 target date is disappointing. Nevertheless, a historic agreement to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran is attainable within the next several weeks and certainly before their new July deadline.

    The agreement would block Iran’s major potential pathways to nuclear weapons development—the uranium-enrichment route and the plutonium-separation route—guard against a clandestine weapons program, and remove a major threat to international security. To get to “yes,” the two sides must act with renewed determination, and Iran in particular must demonstrate greater flexibility on key issues.

    There is no time to waste. Some members of the new, Republican-led Congress are threatening to advance new Iran sanctions legislation and set unrealistic requirements for a nuclear deal. With a deal so close at hand, new sanctions are unnecessary and would be counterproductive. Moreover, they would violate the terms of the successful November 2013 interim nuclear agreement and prompt Iran to take escalatory steps.

    Over the past year, Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) have made significant progress toward long-term solutions on major issues of proliferation concern. For instance, the two sides agree in principle that the design of and fuel for Iran’s Arak heavy-water reactor can and should be modified to drastically cut its output of weapons-grade plutonium.

    They agree that Iran should implement and ratify measures that would allow short-notice inspections of undeclared sites and provide early notification of new nuclear projects to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This would allow for prompt detection and disruption of a clandestine nuclear weapons effort.

    Both sides understand that the ongoing IAEA investigation of past Iranian activities with “possible military dimensions” will continue after a comprehensive nuclear agreement is reached. At the same time, it is clear that all sanctions tied to this particular issue will not be removed unless the questions are adequately resolved. This makes it more likely that if there is a comprehensive nuclear agreement, Iran will have a stronger incentive to provide the IAEA with the information necessary to determine that no such efforts are taking place now or will in the future.

    Some members of Congress erroneously suggest that the only way to block Iran’s path to nuclear weapons is somehow to persuade Iran’s leaders to dismantle the country’s major enrichment facilities and other elements of its “illicit nuclear program,” as Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), two leading advocates of new sanctions, recently put it. But it is unrealistic to expect that Iran’s leadership would accept such harsh terms, even under tougher sanctions pressure.

    Instead, negotiators from Iran and the P5+1 are discussing a combination of realistic, practical measures that would establish verifiable, long-term, sustainable limits on Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity. These must be sufficient and irreversible enough so as to block Iran from quickly amassing fissile material for weapons use while providing Tehran with a politically and technically acceptable enrichment capability consistent with its practical needs.

    Iran’s 10,200 first-generation, operating centrifuges provide a capability that far exceeds its foreseeable civilian nuclear fuel needs. At the same time, they can produce enough weapons-grade uranium gas for one nuclear bomb (25 kilograms) in about two to three months. The P5+1 is, for good reason, pressing Iran to significantly reduce its enrichment capacity in order to increase the time Iran would need to produce a significant quantity of weapons-grade material to a year or more.

    Effective limits on Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity will involve several complementary measures, including reducing the capacity of currently operating centrifuges; verifiably disabling centrifuge machines that are installed but not yet operating; limiting, but not stopping, research on more-advanced centrifuges; and reducing the size of Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium and converting it to oxide form.

    The two sides are closer to agreement on the right formula, but differences remain. In late November, Iranian negotiators proposed lowering the number of its operating centrifuges, but they will need to reduce the number further to assure the P5+1 that Iran cannot make a dash for nuclear weapons.

    The P5+1 has promised Iran that it will phase out nuclear-related sanctions as Iran meets its nonproliferation obligations. But if the P5+1 wants to convince Iran to accept tighter restrictions on enrichment, the six-country group should agree to the faster removal of certain sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council and the European Union that are not tied to the weaponization issue.

    An effective, verifiable nuclear deal is within reach if the two sides—and the U.S. Congress—make smart choices in the days and weeks ahead.

    Posted: December 31, 1969

    Understanding the Extension of the Iran Nuclear Talks and the Joint Plan of Action

    Description: 

    Under the terms of the extension, Iran and the P5+1 committed to reaching a political agreement on the terms of a comprehensive nuclear deal within four months of November 24, 2014.

    Body: 

    Volume 6, Issue 12, December 23, 2014

    The decision last month by the United States, its P5+1 negotiating partners, and Iran to extend their negotiations by additional four months means that a long-term resolution to the impasse over Iran’s nuclear program has been delayed once again. At the same time, it also means that significant restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program remain in place while the nuclear talks continue.

    Not only did the two sides agree to extend the restrictions on Iran’s program that were put in place under the November 2013 interim agreement, formally known as the Joint Plan of Action, but additional restrictions were put in place under the terms of the extension to ensure that progress on the most proliferation-sensitive elements of Iran’s nuclear program is halted.

    To date, both Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russian, the United Kingdom, and the United States) have adhered to the obligations of the interim agreement. In the press conference announcing the extension of the talks and the Joint Plan of Action on November 24, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called attention to the compliance record, noting that there have been no violations of the agreement.

    Terms of the Extension

    Under the terms of the extension, Iran and the P5+1 committed to reaching a political agreement on the terms of a comprehensive nuclear deal within four months of November 24, 2014 and then taking an additional three months to complete any technical annexes by June 30, 2015.

    However, several of the parties expressed an intention to complete the negotiations on a political agreement in a shorter time frame. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters on November 24 that a deal could be reached in a matter a days. British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond said that two to three months was a realistic goal. Regardless of the timing, the restrictions of the interim agreement will remain in place through June 2015.

    In total, under the terms of the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action, Iran has stopped enriching uranium to 20 percent, a key proliferation concern to the P5+1 because 20 percent enriched material is more easily enriched to weapons-grade material (greater than 90 percent U-235). Leading up to the interim deal, Iran had nearly amassed enough 20 percent enriched uranium gas, which when further enriched to weapons grade, is enough for one bomb (about 250 kilograms).

    Over the past twelve months, Iran also took steps to neutralize its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium gas. Half of its stockpile was blended down to less than five percent enriched uranium gas, and the other half was converted to more proliferation-resistant uranium powder, which is used to make fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor.

    Iran also halted major construction activities at the Arak reactor, froze the number of its operating and installed centrifuges, and agreed to more intrusive inspections, including daily access to its enrichment facilities.  Iran also agreed only to produce centrifuges necessary to replace damaged machines.

    The extension announced November 24 imposes additional obligations on Iran. Under the new restrictions, Iran will continue to convert its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium powder into fuel plates. At the time of the Nov. 24 extension, Iran had approximately 75 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium powder in its stockpile. Tehran agreed to convert 35 kilograms of this powder into fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor over the next seven months.[1]

    While this material can be converted back into gas form for further enrichment, the conversion steps would take additional time and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would very likely detect any such efforts quickly. Iran also committed not to set up a line to reconvert uranium oxide powder back into gas. The IAEA notes in its reports on Iran’s nuclear program that no such conversion line exists.

    Iran and the P5+1 also agreed to more specific restrictions on Iran’s research and development program to resolve ambiguities and prevent Iran from moving its advanced centrifuges to new levels of testing.

    Under the interim agreement, Iran can continue its safeguarded research and development activities.  This includes testing of advanced centrifuges at the Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant, so long as testing is not used for the accumulation of enriched uranium.

    The additional restrictions on research and development as a result of the Nov. 24 extension, are designed to resolve ambiguities[2] regarding permitted and prohibited research activities. According to the documents outlining the extension, these provisions are designed to “limit research and development on advanced centrifuges that move the machines to the next level of development.”

    Under these provisions, Iran agreed not to test the IR-5 with uranium hexafluoride gas. Iran also agreed not to pursue testing of the IR-6 on a cascade level with uranium gas, or semi-industrial scale testing of the IR-2M. Iran also agreed not to complete installation of the IR-8 centrifuge, which is currently partially installed at the Natanz pilot plant.

    The IAEA will also have greater access to Iran’s centrifuge production sites under the extension. According to the terms, the agency’s inspections visits will double and be conducted with very little notice.

    Taken together, the limits on research and development and regular access to monitor centrifuge production facilities will prevent Iran from refining and mass-producing more efficient machines that could allow it to move more quickly to enrich material for weapons purposes.

    Iran also agreed to forgo uranium enrichment using other methods, including laser enrichment. While it is unlikely that Iran could move quickly to enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels using these alternative methods, the commitment to refrain from testing any of these methods is positive and should mitigate concerns about covert enrichment activities involving such technologies.

    Iran is known to have experimented with laser enrichment in the past, and as part of its agreement to cooperate with the IAEA’s investigation into inconsistencies with its nuclear declaration and alleged activities with past military dimensions, Iran provided the agency with information about its laser enrichment activities. Iran also granted the IAEA access to the Lashkar Ab’ad Laser Centre on March 12 as part of its investigation.

    On the P5+1 side, the limited sanctions relief from the United States and the European Union in the petrochemical and precious metals trade remains in place. As does the commitment not to pass any new nuclear-related sanctions at the U.S., EU, or UN levels. The humanitarian channel also remains in place.

    In addition, Iran will receive access to $700 million of its frozen assets per month.

    Conclusion

    With the Joint Plan of Action in effect, Iran’s nuclear program remains limited and highly-monitored. The additional measures in the extension move Iran further away from a dash to the bomb. And contrary to the assertion of some skeptics, Iran cannot use the extension to advance its nuclear capabilities.

    President Barack Obama said on December 21 in an interview on CNN's "State of the Union" that since the United States began negotiations with Iran in mid-2013, it’s "probably the first year and a half in which Iran has not advanced its nuclear program in the last decade."  

    Both sides must use the additional time afforded by the extension of the talks wisely. It is essential that the two sides work expeditiously but carefully to bridge remaining gaps necessary to conclude an effective, verifiable, long-term agreement that blocks all of Iran’s potential pathways to nuclear weapons: the plutonium route, the enriched uranium route, as well as the clandestine route. –KELSEY DAVENPORT and DARYL G. KIMBALL


    ENDNOTES

    [1] As pointed out by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) in a Dec. 9, 2014 paper, some of the material fed into the conversion process remains within the process or in scrap or waste form. Some of this material can be recovered and converted back into gas for further enrichment. We agree that the waste and scrap are an issue of nonproliferation concern that should be dealt with appropriately in the comprehensive agreement now under negotiation. However, in judging Iran’s compliance with its obligations under the terms of the Joint Plan of Action, it is our judgment, and that of the IAEA, that Iran is in compliance with the commitments as set forth in the interim agreement.

    [2] The IAEA’s quarterly report of Nov. 7, 2014, noted that Iran began feeding natural uranium hexafluoride “intermittently” into a single IR-5 centrifuge at its pilot facility. While unhelpful, this does not appear to be a “violation” of the Joint Plan of Action, as the ISIS has alleged. ISIS published an analysis on the IAEA report that said that “Iran may have violated” the Joint Plan of Action by starting to feed natural uranium gas into the IR-5 centrifuge. ISIS went on to claim that: "Under the interim deal, this centrifuge should not have been fed with (gas) as reported in this safeguards report." See: “U.S. experts disagree on whether Iran violated nuclear deal with powers,” by Fredrik Dahl, Reuters, Nov. 8, 2014. 

                However, the text of the Joint Plan of Action is more ambiguous than ISIS suggests. It says: "Iran will continue its safeguarded R&D practices, including its current enrichment R&D practices, which are not designed for accumulation of the enriched uranium." The Nov. 7 IAEA report noted, in paragraphs 25 and 26, that no low-enriched uranium was withdrawn as the product and tails were recombined at the end of the process.

                Furthermore, while the Joint Plan of Action prohibits the introduction of uranium gas into additional centrifuges at Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP), it does not rule out research and development of this kind at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP).

                However, due to the ambiguous nature of the terms of the Joint Plan of Action and the concern that Iran might try to exploit those ambiguities, the P5+1 succeeded in persuading Iran to agree to further limits on feeding or testing its more advanced types of centrifuges as part of the extended Joint Plan of Action.

    Country Resources:

    Posted: December 31, 1969

    U.S. NGOs Urge Prompt Action to Make Nuclear Disarmament a Global Enterprise

    Description: 

    In a statement to the conference, the leaders of five major U.S.-based organizations urged prompt action to make disarmament a global enterprise.

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    Statement to 3rd Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in Vienna

    For Immediate Release: Dec. 9, 2014

    Media Contacts: Kingston Reif, Arms Control Association (202-463-8270 x107); Hans Kristensen, Federation of American Scientists (413-695-1089); Sean Meyer, Union of Concerned Scientists (202-331-5429); Catherine Thomasson, Physicians for Social Responsibility (503-819-1170);

    (Vienna/Washington) Today at an extraordinary international conference in Vienna on The Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons, some 800 diplomats and civil society representatives from more than 150 states discussed the implications of the catastrophic effects of nuclear weapons testing, production, and use.

    In a statement to the conference, the leaders of five major U.S.-based organizations—the Arms Control Association, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Nuclear Information Project of the Federation of American Scientists, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the Union of Concerned Scientistsincluding two presenters at the conference, urged prompt action to make disarmament a global enterprise.

    Noting that follow-through on the consensus action plan developed at the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference has been “very disappointing,” the leaders said “creative, practical ideas are needed to overcome the obstacles and excuses.”

    They urged government leaders and civil society to come together around four major objectives, among others:

    1. Examine dangerous doctrines. In 2010, all of the NPT nuclear-weapon states committed to “diminish the role and significance of nuclear weapons” and “[d]iscuss policies that could prevent the use of nuclear weapons.”

    “Unfortunately,” the NGO statement said, “none of them has undertaken demonstrable, concrete steps to do so.”

    Reif and the others said: “At the 2015 NPT Review Conference and elsewhere, the leaders of the world’s nuclear-armed states should be called upon to explain the effects of their nuclear war plans, if these plans were to be carried out, and how they believe the use of hundreds of such weapons would be consistent with humanitarian law and the laws of war as some nuclear-armed states claim.”

    “Given the catastrophic consequences of the large-scale use of nuclear weapons against many dozens, if not hundreds of targets, as envisioned in the U.S., Russian, French, Chinese, British, Indian and Pakistani nuclear war plans, it is hard to see how the use of significant numbers of nuclear weapons could be consistent with international humanitarian law or any common sense interpretation of the Law of Armed Conflict,” they wrote.

    2. Accelerate U.S.-Russian nuclear cuts and freeze other nuclear-armed nation stockpiles.Further nuclear reductions need not wait for a new U.S.-Russian arms control treaty. As long as both sides continue to reduce force levels below the treaty limits, U.S. and Russian leaders could undertake parallel, verifiable reductions well below New START ceilings,” the five organizations argued. 

    “Other countries must get off the disarmament sidelines, particularly China, France, India and Pakistan, which continue to improve their nuclear capabilities. [Their] arsenals,” the statement noted, “are just as dangerous and destabilizing.”

    “A unified push for further U.S.-Russian arms cuts combined with a global nuclear weapons freeze by the other nuclear-armed states could create the conditions for multilateral action on disarmament,” they said.

    3. Convene Nuclear Disarmament Summits: “In order to provide a forum to follow up on the important discussions held in Oslo, Nayarit, and Vienna,” the NGO leaders said “[n]ow is the time for a group of concerned states to invite the leaders of a representative group of 20 to 30 nuclear and nonnuclear weapon states to a one- or two-day summit on the pursuit of a joint enterprise to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.”

    “The high-level meeting—ideally held near the August 6 and 9, 2015 anniversaries of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—could be an historic, new, and productive starting point for discussions (not simply speeches) on proposals for advancing nuclear disarmament,” they said.

    4. Follow through on the CTBT. “The vast majority of the world’s nations recognize that nuclear explosive testing is no longer acceptable, but due to the inaction of a few, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has not formally entered into force. In the interest of global security and out of respect for the victims and survivors of nuclear testing, it is past time to act,” they said.

    In their call for action, the leaders of the five organizations cited President Barack Obama’s statement from June 2013 in Berlin: ‘[S]o long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe. Complacency is not in the character of great nations.’”

    “In the coming months and years, creative, bold approaches will be needed to overcome old and new obstacles to the long-running effort to eliminate the potential for nuclear catastrophe,” they said.

    The organizations' letter to the White House is available online.

    ###

    The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

    Posted: December 31, 1969

    States Clash on Disarmament at UN

    At the UN disarmament committee, nuclear-weapon states generally voted against resolutions aimed at speeding up progress toward the elimination of nuclear arms.

    December 2014

    By Kingston Reif

    As states without nuclear weapons are growing increasingly impatient with what they say is the slow pace of nuclear disarmament efforts in the lead-up to the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review

    Conference, the United States and most other nuclear-weapom states have continued to vote against resolutions aimed at accelerating progress toward the elimination of nuclear weapons at the UN disarmament committee in New York.

    The UN General Assembly First Committee meets to adopt an agenda and work program on October 2. (UN Photo)Four of the five countries recognized as nuclear-weapon states by the NPT (France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) voted against a resolution calling for the “urgent commencement” of negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva to pursue the “early conclusion” of a comprehensive convention on nuclear weapons to prohibit their “possession, development, production, acquisition, testing, stockpiling, transfer and use or threat of use, and to provide for their destruction.” (See ACT, December 2013.) In the UN General Assembly First Committee, which deals with nuclear disarmament, 135 countries supported the resolution.

    The resolution was one of several offered this year that the committee has considered in previous years.
    China was the only recognized nuclear-weapon state to support the resolution. India and Pakistan also voted in favor of the resolution; Israel and North Korea opposed it.

    India, Israel, and Pakistan have nuclear weapons, but are not members of the NPT. North Korea joined the NPT, but announced its withdrawal from the treaty in 2003, an action that NPT members have not officially recognized.
    In a joint statement, France, the UK, and the United States said that the call for a convention to abolish nuclear weapons “is not mentioned as such in the 2010 [NPT] Action Plan” and that “a practical step-by-step process is the only way to make real progress in our disarmament efforts.” At the May 2010 NPT Review Conference, the states-parties adopted a 64-point action plan across the three “pillars” of the NPT: nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

    The other states that voted against the resolution or abstained are members of NATO or are “nuclear umbrella” states that have nuclear security agreements with Washington, such as Japan.

    According to a September 2014 analysis published on the website of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists by Hans Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, there are approximately 16,300 nuclear weapons located at some 98 sites in 14 countries. Russia and the United States together possess 93 percent of the total global inventory.

    Except for China and Pakistan, which abstained, every state with nuclear weapons also voted against a resolution titled “Towards a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World: Accelerating the Implementation of Nuclear Disarmament Commitments.” The supporters of the resolution, led by Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, and South Africa, said they were “[d]eeply disappointed” with “the continued absence of progress towards multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament” and “urge[d] the Conference on Disarmament to commence, without delay, substantive work that advances the agenda of nuclear disarmament.”

    The First Committee approved the resolution by a vote of 166-7 with five abstentions.

    In addition, the United States joined France, Russia, and the UK as the only opponents of a resolution on “taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations.” The resolution laments “the absence of concrete outcomes of multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations within the United Nations framework for more than a decade.”

    France, the UK, and the United States opposed the resolution on the grounds that it reflects “a substantial and unwarranted focus” on nuclear disarmament processes beyond those of the NPT and CD and places disproportionate focus on nuclear disarmament at the expense of the other two pillars of the NPT—nonproliferation and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

    In an Oct. 7 statement to the First Committee, Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, emphasized the importance of “patience and persistence” on the path toward nuclear disarmament. Gottemoeller suggested thinking about disarmament “in terms of how creeks and streams connect to form rivers. Over time, those mighty rivers are irreversible; they cut through massive and seemingly impenetrable stone on the way to their final destination.”

    In an Oct. 9 interview with Arms Control Today, Gottemoeller disputed the concerns of the non-nuclear-weapon states about the slow pace of disarmament. She said that the nuclear-weapon states have done “a spectacular job in reducing and eliminating our nuclear arsenals” since the height of the Cold War and that there have “been inadequate communications between the nuclear-weapon states and the non-nuclear-weapon states” on the difficulty of reducing and eliminating nuclear weapons.

    In an Oct. 8 statement to the First Committee, Mikhail Ulyanov, a Russian arms control official, said that the UN Disarmament Commission and the CD “have suffered stagnation for many years.” But he warned that shifting disarmament negotiations to “new fora” would “threaten to bring serious damage to the existing institutions.”

    The sponsors of the First Committee resolutions calling for accelerating the pace of disarmament continue to stress that their efforts are consistent with the NPT. They note that Article VI of the treaty requires “effective measures relating to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament” and that the 2010 NPT Review Conference agreed to “the objective of achieving a world without nuclear weapons.”

    Posted: December 31, 1969

    Russia Skips Summit Planning Meeting

    Russia did not attend a planning session held in Washington in late October for the 2016 nuclear security summit, casting doubt on its participation in the summit.

    December 2014

    By Kingston Reif and Daniel Horner

    Russia did not attend a planning session held in Washington in late October for the 2016 nuclear security summit, casting doubt on its participation in the summit.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends the opening plenary session of the nuclear security summit in The Hague on March 24. Russia said last month that it does not intend to participate in the preparations for the next summit, which is to be held in the United States in 2016. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)In a Nov. 5 statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow “does not see any possibility to take part in the preparations” for the upcoming summit, which would be the fourth installment of the biennial meetings.

    The summits are the most visible feature of an accelerated international effort to prevent nuclear terrorism. U.S. President Barack Obama launched the effort as part of his speech in Prague in April 2009. Summits have been held in Washington in 2010, Seoul in 2012, and The Hague last March.

    The 2016 summit in the United States is scheduled be the last. In its statement, Russia questioned the need for that meeting.

    “[M]ost of the political commitments undertaken by the participants of the preceding summits have been implemented,” said the statement. “These summits have thus nearly exhausted their agenda.”

    The statement expressed “grave concern” with the proposed framework for planning the summit. According to Russia, the planning process privileges the hosts of the previous summits in the drafting of the preparatory summit documents.

    Russia criticized the creation of “working groups formed arbitrarily and with limited membership” to “devise guidelines for such international bodies and initiatives” as the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, and Interpol. The five working groups are intended to examine how to embed the work of the summits into existing international institutions that have a nuclear security mandate. (See ACT, December 2012.)

    Officials from several countries confirmed that some states have raised some objections to the process. But a main purpose of the planning meetings is to air and resolve such objections, Laura Holgate, senior director for weapons of mass destruction terrorism and threat reduction at the U.S. National Security Council, said in a Nov. 17 interview.

    In a Nov. 26 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a European official said that “[n]ew proposals concerning the organization of the workshops have been made.” The official wrote that “[i]t is logical that each host is willing to influence the way the summit goes,” but emphasized that “nothing is set in stone at this stage,” as the proposals are under negotiation.

    “What matters is to preserve the consensus rule,” the official said.

    Summits’ Progress
    At the summits, participating countries have announced steps they would take individually and collectively to increase the security of fissile materials. These steps have included the removal of nuclear materials, enhancement of capabilities to counter nuclear smuggling, creation of centers to improve nuclear security and training, and ratification of international agreements and conventions that govern nuclear security.

    Russia, which possesses the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear material, has been an important participant in the summit process. In particular, Russia has assisted in the accelerated return of Russian-origin highly enriched uranium (HEU) from the countries of the former Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. Russia and the United States worked together in late September to assist with the removal of HEU from Poland and Kazakhstan. (See ACT, November 2014.)

    Russia’s decision to boycott the preparations for the 2016 summit comes on the heels of a downturn in relations with the United States over Russian military intervention in Ukraine.

    But Kenneth Luongo, a former senior adviser to the secretary of energy for nonproliferation policy who is now president of the Partnership for Global Security, said Russia’s absence from the October planning session goes beyond the current crisis in relations over Ukraine. It is another step in a decision that Russia has made to “wind down cooperation” with the United States on nuclear security, Luongo said in a Nov. 21 interview.

    Luongo, who is a member of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors, said the backsliding began with Russia’s insistence in 2013 on a pared-down replacement for the old Cooperative Threat Reduction program. (See ACT, July/August 2013.) That was followed by limited action from Russia at this year’s nuclear security summit, Luongo said. Russia notably failed to endorse a key initiative from the summit, formulated by the Netherlands, South Korea, and the United States and joined by 32 other countries.

    On another nuclear security issue, Luongo noted that Russia had announced recently that it would not sign any new contracts for work with the United States on bolstering the security of nuclear materials and facilities inside Russia. Those contracts expire at the end of this year. (See ACT, November 2014.)

    Luongo characterized Russia’s behavior as “irresponsible” and warned that U.S. options for convincing Russia to change course are limited. “You can’t throw a life preserver to someone floating away from you,” he said.
    Russia said that it informed the United States of its decision not to participate in the 2016 summit preparations in mid-October. Of the 53 countries that attended the 2014 summit, Russia was the only one that did not participate in the planning session.

    Closing the Door?
    In spite of its negative tone and its expression of “doubts regarding the added value the 2016 forum,” the Russian Foreign Ministry statement did not explicitly rule out Moscow’s attendance at the 2016 summit. But one high-ranking Russian official went beyond the statement. “We are not planning to attend the summit,” said Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, during a Nov. 5 discussion with reporters at his home in Washington.

    White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at a Nov. 4 press briefing that “the United States regrets Russia’s decision not to participate” in the October meeting. Earnest added, however, that “the door remains open to Russia joining future meetings like this.”

    Posted: December 31, 1969

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