The P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Talks Alert, June 16

Vienna and Back Again

Political directors for Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) met in Vienna on Friday to continue negotiations on the comprehensive nuclear deal. Iranian deputy foreign ministers and negotiators Abbas Araqchi and Madjid Takht Ravanchi flew back to Tehran after the meeting. They will likely return to Vienna on Wednesday.

The following day, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a national address that if the P5+1 is “committed to the current frameworks, respects Iran’s rights and national interest and stops asking for more” than an agreement is possible by the June 30 deadline.

With just two weeks remaining before the deadline, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on June 15 that the parties could reach an agreement by June 30 and that he wanted to “quash any talk of a deadline extension.” Prior to the June 12 meeting, Russian diplomats were quoted in a Russian news outlet as saying that the talks were “virtually stalled” and an extension past June 30 was very likely

State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said at a June 15 press briefing that talks at the technical level continue and U.S. Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman would likely be back in Vienna later this week for further negotiations.

--KELSEY DAVENPORT, director for nonproliferation policy

Quick Reference Links

The Nuclear Deal at a Glance Issue Brief: Under a Microscope
Archived Iran Nuclear Alerts Additional Resources

Relax, the Deal is Not Eroding

In a June 15 letter to President Barack Obama, Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) questioned whether the nuclear deal with Iran is “eroding” and called for the administration to adhere to an “anytime, anywhere” standard for the inspections regime.

The P5+1 and Iran have already agreed on the outlines of a comprehensive nuclear deal that meets U.S policy objectives—namely to block all of Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons and put in place stringent monitoring to detect and deter any deviations from a final deal. The goalposts have not changed since the April 2 agreement. Tough bargaining by both sides over the final details are to be expected, and are not a reason to abandon the deal at hand.

Furthermore, “anytime, anywhere” is an unrealistic and unnecessary expectation for inspections of Iran’s nuclear program. No country would agree to that standard of transparency, particularly in regard to potential inspections of military sites.

Under the parameters of the April 2 framework and the terms of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) additional protocol, international inspectors would have access to Iran’s nuclear facilities anytime, and managed access to Iran’s military facilities when there are concerns about illicit activities. When combined with the stringent accounting and monitoring of Iran’s nuclear supply chain that the two sides have also agreed to put in place, the international community will have the highest degree of confidence that any attempt to covertly pursue nuclear weapons will be quickly detected.

Now is not the time to be jumping at shadows. Policymakers in Washington need to give negotiators the time and space to finish the deal, and then evaluate it on its merits.

Mark Fitzpatrick, director of the Non-proliferation and Disarmament Programme at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, weighed in on the question of “anywhere, anytime” access for inspectors in a June 16 piece in Survival. Fitzpatrick concluded that “access where needed, when needed,” will give the IAEA the access it needs to carry out its mandate. To read the full piece, click here

For more information on the monitoring and verification measures expected in a Comprehensive Joint Plan of Action, see “The Verification Challenge: Iran and the IAEA” by Thomas E. Shea, Arms Control Today.

Corker also chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which has held several closed hearings on the nuclear deal with Iran over the past several weeks. The most recent closed hearing on the practical implications of lifting sanctions on Iran was held yesterday, June 15 with Mark Dubowitz from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Peter Harrell from the Center for a New American Security, as witnesses.

The Nuclear Deal at a Glance: New Policy Brief

In a new 2-page Iran Nuclear Policy Brief, “An Effective, Verifiable Nuclear Deal with Iran,” the Arms Control Association research staff lays out the benefits of a comprehensive nuclear deal based on the April 2 Lausanne parameters. The deal will verifiably block all of Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons—the uranium enrichment route and the plutonium route. It will also guard against a clandestine nuclear weapons program.

To read the complete brief and view the associated charts, click here.

For more information, see Iran Nuclear Policy Brief, “An Effective, Verifiable Nuclear Deal with Iran.”

U.S. Strategy Post-Nuclear Deal

The Center for a New American Security released a new report by former Defense Department analyst Ilan Goldenberg that examines U.S. strategy after a nuclear deal with Iran. Goldenberg notes that if a nuclear agreement with Iran is reached, it could lay the groundwork for more stability in the Middle East and stronger nonproliferation norms in the next 10-15 years.

However, poor execution of the agreement and ineffective policy following the deal could contribute to greater hostility in the region as the particular limits on Iran’s nuclear program expire and a weakened nonproliferation regime remains.

To maximize the benefits of the deal, Goldenberg’s report makes six policy recommendations for the United States to achieve its policy goals and ensure that Iran follows through on its commitments:

  1. Take steps outside of the P5+1 negotiations to set conditions for long-term enforcement and implementation.
  2. Cooperate with Iran on issues of common interest in order to stabilize the Middle East and enable a more moderate Iran.
  3. More forcefully counter Iranian actions running counter to U.S. interests, notably support for Iranian surrogates and proxies in the Middle East.
  4. Maintain and deepen U.S. commitments to regional partners to dissuade those partners from taking destabilizing steps.
  5. Leverage the agreement to strengthen non-proliferation norms around the globe.
  6. Use the agreement to refocus on Asia and Europe and increase U.S. leverage with Russia and China.

Looking Ahead...

June 17: House Foreign Affairs Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee Hearing, The Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act: State Department’s Non-Compliance, 2172 Rayburn, 2:00-5:00PM.

June 19: “Deadline for the Deal: Opportunities and Pitfalls for US-Iran Relations,” Philip Gordon, Council on Foreign Relations; Olli Heinonen, Harvard University; Ray Takeyh, Council on Foreign Relations. Council on Foreign Relations, 1:00pm. For more information, click here.

June 19: Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) is hosting a congressional briefing releasing the results of its 2015 National Public Opinion Survey of Iranian Americans as well as a parallel poll assessing the opinions of the larger American public. Panelists include Suzanne Maloney, Brookings Institution; Alireza Nader, Rand Corporation; Alex Vatanka, Middle East Institute. 12:00-2:00PM HC-8.

June 25: Rouhani at Two Years: An Assessment on the Cusp of a Nuclear Deal, with Robin Wright, United States Institute for Peace-Wilson Center; Suzanne Maloney, Brookings; and Karim Sadjadpour, Carnegie Endowment. Woodrow Wilson Center, 12:00-1:00PM. For more information, click here.

June 30: Target date for a comprehensive deal.