The P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, August 20

Iran Meets First Deadline as Debate in Washington Heats Up

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed on Aug. 15 that Iran turned over information on schedule for the agency’s investigation into the past possible military dimensions (PMDs) of Iran’s nuclear program.

According to the timeline agreed to by Iran and the IAEA, Iran had to submit the information by Aug. 15. The IAEA has until Sept. 15 to ask any clarifying questions. Iran has one month to respond. The agency aims to complete its report by Dec. 15. Iran will not receive any sanctions relief until the IAEA determines it has the information it needs to complete the PMD investigation.

The agency’s board of governors will meet on Aug. 25 in Vienna to discuss funding for implementation of monitoring and verification required by the nuclear deal that Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) reached on July 14. Currently, monitoring of the interim deal costs about one million euros a month. Estimates for implementing the final deal run between 2-2.5 million euros a month.

Debate over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) continues in the United States, as members of Congress hear from supporters and opponents during the August recess.

In the last two days, Senators Jack Reed (D-R.I), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Maize Hirono (D-Hawaii), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), and Claire McKaskill (D-Mo.) announced their support for the agreement. Senators Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said they will vote to oppose the deal.

In an Aug. 19 op-ed in The Dallas Morning News, President Barack Obama continued to urge members of Congress to support the deal. Obama wrote “the idea that we can get a better deal by talking tough or squeezing Iran into submission with more sanctions is simply not realistic. The international unity we spent years building — the unity that brought Iran to the negotiating table — would be destroyed if this deal is rejected.”

Congress returns to Washington on Sept. 8 and has until Sept. 17 to vote on a resolution of disapproval or approval

KELSEY DAVENPORT, director for nonproliferation policy

Quick Reference Links

The Nuclear Deal At a Glance Comprehensive Guide to the Nuclear Deal
Experts Available for Interview Editorials Supporting a Deal
Archived Iran Nuclear Alerts Additional Resources

Access to Parchin

An August 19 Associated Press story revealed some of the details from the confidential document outlining the IAEA’s access to the Parchin facility.
The story has led several other news outlets to claim that Iran will be allowed to inspect itself, which is incorrect.
Today in a written statement, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano issued a sharp rebuttal to the account. He said:

I am disturbed by statements suggesting that the IAEA has given responsibility for nuclear inspections to Iran. Such statements misrepresent the way in which we will undertake this important verification work.
The separate arrangements under the Road-map agreed between the IAEA and Iran in July are confidential and I have a legal obligation not to make them public – the same obligation I have for hundreds of such arrangements made with other IAEA Member States.
However, I can state that the arrangements are technically sound and consistent with our long-established practices. They do not compromise our safeguards standards in any way.
The Road-map between Iran and the IAEA is a very robust agreement, with strict timelines, which will help us to clarify past and present outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear programme.

The IAEA has sought access to Parchin, a military installation, because Iran is believed to have conducted high explosives testing relevant to nuclear weapons development at the site more than a decade ago.  The AP reported that Iran will collect the environmental samples at the site under IAEA monitoring.
As former IAEA official Tariq Rauf writes today in a blog post at Arms Control Now, if Iran takes its own environmental samples at Parchin under IAEA monitoring it will not technically compromise the evidence.
Rauf, former Head of Verification and Security Policy Coordination at the IAEA writes that “it would be unusual but by no means technically compromising to have Iranian technicians collect swipe samples at sites and locations at Parchin in the physical presence and direct line of sight of IAEA inspectors, including filming, and using swipe kits and collection bags provided by the IAEA.”
Rauf noted that this procedure is “mainly to guard against the risk of inadvertent contamination from nuclear material traces on the protective clothing of the inspectors which might have been worn at some other location in another country at a previous inspection.”
Testing will be done at the IAEA lab at Seibersdorf and additional samples will be sent to several labs in the IAEA’s networks, Rauf said. Several of the 18 of the labs are in the United States. Rauf said that the labs use “very sophisticated analyses nuclear material using electron microscopes and mass spectrometers can be detected at the atomic level. There is no way an inspected State confidently can “sanitize” a location where nuclear material has been used.” 

Over 70 Nonproliferation Experts Endorse the Iran Deal

More than 70 nonproliferation specialists released a statement this week outlining why the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) “is a strong, long-term, and verifiable agreement that will be a net-plus for international nuclear nonproliferation efforts.”

In the statement, which is endorsed by former U.S. nuclear negotiators, former senior U.S. nonproliferation officials, a former director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a former member of the UN Panel of Experts on Iran, and leading nuclear specialists from the United States and around the globe, the experts conclude that “…the JCPOA meets key nonproliferation and security objectives and see no realistic prospect for a better nuclear agreement."

The experts assess that the combination of limits and transparency measures in the JCPOA “will make it very likely that any future effort by Iran to pursue nuclear weapons, even a clandestine program, would be detected promptly, providing the opportunity to intervene decisively to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”

The signatories urge the P5+1, the European Union, and Iran to take the steps necessary to ensure timely implementation and compliance with the deal.

There is No Viable Path to a Better Deal

In announcing his opposition to the JCPOA earlier this week, Senator Robert Menendez outlined his plan for reaching a “better deal.” He proposed leaving the interim agreement in place and returning to talks to renegotiate elements of the deal.

That may sound good in theory, but practically, it is not a viable alternative. Or as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in response to the idea that the United States could force a return to talks, “Are you kidding me?”

It is unlikely that the international community will chose to support reentering negotiations after U.S. allies and the United Nations Security Council endorsed the deal. And without global support for sanctions, there will be far less pressure on Iran to return to talks.

There also is no guarantee that Iran will play ball again if the United States walks away from this agreement. It is far more likely that Iran will take steps to escalate its nuclear program, moving closer to a quick dash to nuclear weapons.

Ali Akhbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said on Aug. 16 that if Congress rejects the deal, the United States will not be able to maintain its political credibility. He said that Iran will win even if Congress disapproves the deal because Iran has not violated any commitments.

In an ideal world the deal could be made stronger—Iran would give up its uranium enrichment program and abandon its plutonium reactor—but rejecting a deal on the table that gets the job done is dangerous.

ICYMI: Comprehensive Guide to the Iran Nuclear Deal

In case you missed its release, check out the Arms Control Association’s briefing book for more detail on the JCPOA and its impact on Iran’s nuclear program.

The new edition of the “Solving the Iranian Nuclear Puzzle” briefing book aims to help improve public and policy maker understanding of this complex agreement with far-reaching consequences for the nuclear nonproliferation regime and for international peace and security.

This volume, which is available online, includes

  • a summary of the history and status of Iran’s nuclear program,
  • a review of the impact and record of the 2013 interim agreement,
  • a detailed summary and explanation of the JCPOA,
  • answers to more than two-dozen frequently asked questions, and
  • a summary of the Iran-IAEA work plan on verification and compliance issues.

Our conclusion is that the JCPOA, combined with the associated UN Security Council resolution and an IAEA-Iran “roadmap,” is a strong and effective formula that can verifiably block Iran's potential uranium and plutonium pathways to nuclear weapons and guard against a clandestine weapons program for more than a generation.

A Nuclear Inspection

To verify that nuclear materials are used solely for peaceful purposes, the IAEA has developed a system of "Safeguards Agreements". 179 States have entered into these agreements with the IAEA, submitting nuclear materials, facilities and activities to the regular scrutiny of the IAEA's inspectors. In November 2012, the IAEA conducted an inspection at the Dukovany Nuclear Power Plant, in the Czech Republic.

Briefing Room

“Robert Menendez Offers Unrealistic Plan for Iran,” by Carol Giacomo, The New York Times, August 19, 2015

“Myths and Realities of the Iran Deal,” by Daryl G. Kimball, The Baltimore Sun, August 16, 2015

“Debating the Iran Nuclear Deal,” by Robert Einhorn, Brookings, August 12, 2015

Looking Ahead ...

Aug. 25: International Atomic Energy Agency, board of governors meeting to discuss the financial needs of implementing the JCPOA. Vienna.

Aug. 25: Ariane Tabatabai, Georgetown University; Kelsey Davenport, Arms Control Association; Reza Akbari, Institute for War and Peace Reporting; and Sam Cutler, Ferrari & Associates, "Iran: What Next After the Nuclear Deal?" Sponsored by PS21.

Location: At OpenGov Hub, 1110 Vermont Ave. NW, Suite 500, Washington, D.C.. 6:30-8:30 p.m. RSVP online

Sept. 8: Hold the date—Arms Control Association briefing on the Iran nuclear deal

Location: 1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.

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.