The P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, September 2

Momentum Is Building

Political momentum is building for the Iran nuclear deal, as 34 senators have now publicly announced their support of the July 14 agreement that the United States and its P5+1 partners (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom) negotiated with Iran.

Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Robert Casey (D-Penn.) announced their support for the agreement yesterday, and Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) announced her support today, bringing the count to the 34 votes necessary to prevent Congress from overriding the president’s veto on a resolution of disapproval. Congress returns to Washington on Sept. 8 and has until Sept. 17 to vote on a resolution to approve or disapprove of the deal.

In a detailed, 17-page essay outlining his position, Casey concluded that the “agreement will substantially constrain the Iranian nuclear program for its duration, and compared with all realistic alternatives, it is the best option available to us at this time.” He said that “effective implementation” of the nuclear deal, “bolstered by other U.S. policies, including a strong deterrence policy of the U.S. and our partners, will be in our national security interest.”

The Obama administration is not letting up in its effort to secure congressional support for the agreement. Secretary of State John Kerry delivered an address on the Iran deal in Philadelphia today and other officials are scheduled to speak on the issue in the coming days.

KELSEY DAVENPORT, director for nonproliferation policy, and the Arms Control Association staff

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

JCPOA Guards Against a Covert Program

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) reached by Iran and six world powers places a wide array of restrictions, restraints, and monitoring provisions on Iran’s nuclear program that will guard against a covert weapons program, according to former U.S. nuclear negotiator Richard Nephew.

In a new article in the September issue of Arms Control Today, Nephew describes the “various provisions of the deal that serve as a check against the possibility of covert sites by forming concentric circles of protection.”

Nephew, a former member of the U.S. negotiating team and director for Iran at the National Security Council, notes that the “subtle effectiveness of the agreement may be most pronounced in the provisions dealing with potential covert activities.”

The article also discusses what Nephew refers to as “the few scenarios in which a potential failure of the system could take place,” but, he writes, “the likelihood of these scenarios is sufficiently small as to be implausible and therefore does not constitute a sound reason to reject the deal.”

Nephew concludes that a covert Iranian nuclear weapons program would present the United States and its partners with a “tremendous security challenge.” But the agreement is a “material improvement over the status quo across the board, offering at worst an improved opportunity to detect such activities. In doing so, the agreement will deter Iranian cheating and make succeeding at it a virtually impossible task.”

The article, “How the Iran Deal Prevents a Covert Nuclear Weapons Program,” is available online.

IAEA Report Finds Iran in Compliance with Interim Deal

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear program was leaked on Aug. 28, two weeks ahead of the agency’s Board of Governors quarterly meeting. The report notes that Iran is complying with the restrictions on its nuclear program established by the November 2013 interim deal.

Among the obligations, Iran’s enrichment remains capped at 3.67 percent, and it has not installed or operated any additional centrifuges. Iran also has not installed any components on the Arak Reactor.

The report notes that Iran supplied the IAEA with information and documents regarding the agency’s investigation into the possible military dimensions (PMDs) of Iran’s nuclear program by the Aug. 15 deadline.

According to satellite imagery, Iran constructed a building at location within Parchin that has been a target in the agency’s investigation. While such construction is not prohibited, Iran’s activities at the site do make the IAEA’s investigation more difficult.

75 Former Members of Congress Support the Deal

75 former members of Congress endorsed an Aug. 31 letter supporting the nuclear deal with Iran. Four Republicans joined the 71 Democrats in support of the letter.

The letter describes the comprehensive agreement as a “verifiable and enforceable agreement that closes Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon while providing unprecedented international inspections of all aspects of Iran’s nuclear program.”

The former members write that there are “no viable alternatives” to the good deal reached by the P5+1 and Iran. The letter also urges members of Congress “to take the next steps by supporting this agreement and then exercising your oversight role through the robust monitoring and evaluation of its implementation.”

The letter warns that the risks of rejection include “unraveling of international sanctions, the suspension of international inspections and an Iranian government that is unconstrained in developing its nuclear program. They also include the increased likelihood of a military confrontation.”

Moniz Takes To Medium to Explain the Science

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz explained the science behind the Iran deal in an Aug. 31 post on Medium, "Science-Based Nuclear Security and the Iran Deal".

Moniz says that the full strength of the U.S. National Laboratories were brought to bear to support the negotiations on the Iran deal. He notes that this expertise has underlined nonproliferation efforts for decades.

According to Moniz:

With the agreement, there will be an extensive and extended rollback for 15 years of Iranian nuclear activities with a permanent improvement in verification capability by the international community. This is the fundamental architecture of the agreement. This would also include unique verification options for 25 years that could become the basis for the strengthened global nonproliferation verification regime…

Moniz also chastised those characterizing the IAEA’s access agreement for Parchin as a “secret side deal,” calling that a “severe distortion.”

Moniz said, “the IAEA has a strong self-interest in assuring the integrity of the inspection process and producing a complete PMD report in December for the Board of Governors, which includes the United States.”

Moniz said that Department of Energy national laboratory experts performed a “red team” test of the protocol for accessing Parchin and was satisfied with the integrity of the proposal.

Moniz writes that with the agreement in place “significant verification measures are put in place, including daily access to Iran’s major nuclear facilities for international inspectors. Most important, the Additional Protocol that allows inspector access to suspicious sites anywhere will be permanently followed by Iran and supplemented with special measures for as long as 25 years.”

Briefing Room

"Assessing the Iran Deal," Opinion Survey report by Center for International Security Studies/Program on Public Consultation, Steven Kull and Nancy Galllagher, September 1, 2015.

Iran Deal is a Win-Win,” by Madeline Albright, CNN, Aug. 31, 2015.

There are no perfect nuclear deals,” by Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar, Politico, Aug. 30, 2015.

Booker has a chance to stand alone from Menendez and support the Iran deal,” by Kelsey Davenport, New Jersey Star Ledger, Aug. 31, 2015.

Danger: If Congress Blows Up the Iran Deal,” by Joel Rubin, The Hill, Aug. 31, 2015.

Why Congress Should Support the Iran Deal,” by Daryl G. Kimball, Arms Control Today, Sept. 1, 2015.

Looking Ahead ...

Sept. 4 (11:00 am-12:30 pm): Center for Global Interests briefing, Iran Nuclear Deal: Stability or Threat? With James Fallows, the Atlantic; Ambassador Richard Burt, CGI Board Member; Ariel Cohen, the Atlantic Council; Larry Cohler-Esses, The Forward; Kelsey Davenport, Arms Control Association; Ambassador Thomas Pickering, the Iran Project; Michael Singh, Washington Institute for Near East Policy; and Arian Tabatabai, Georgetown University.

Location: National Press Club, Murrow Room, 529 14th Street NW, Washington, DC.

Sept. 8 (9:00 am – 12:00 pm): Arms Control Association briefing on the Iran nuclear deal with Colin Kahl (at 9:00 am) and (at 11:00 am) Ellie Geranmayeh, George Perkovich and Kelsey Davenport.

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

Sept. 8 (1:00 pm – 3:00 pm): Samuel Berger, former National Security Advisor; Thomas Pickering, former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs; Joseph Cirincione, Ploughshares Fund; and Ali Vaez, International Crisis Group, "The Iran Nuclear Agreement: Now or Never?" Sponsored by the International Crisis Group and the Ploughshares Fund.

Location: 236 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington. To RSVP, contact Ben Kaufman ([email protected]) or Geoff Wilson ([email protected])

Sept. 8 (7:00 pm – 9:00 pm): Lara Friedman, Americans for Peace Now, and David Wade, former Chief of Staff for Secretary of State John Kerry, "Inside the Iran Deal: Policy and Politics."

Location: The Science Club, Second Floor, 1136 19th St. NW, Washington

Sept. 9 (12:15 pm – 1:45 pm): Jean-Marie Guéhenno, International Crisis Group; Wolfgang Ischinger, Munich Security Conference; Suzanne Maloney, Brookings Institution; and Cornelius Adebahr, Carnegie Endowment, “How Europe Will Respond to the Iran Nuclear Agreement.”

Location: Carnegie Endowment, 1779 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington. RSVP online.

Sept. 9 (3:00 pm – 4:30): "Iranian and American Public Opinion on the Nuclear Deal," Ebrahim Mohseni, Univeristy of Tehran; Steven Kull, University of Maryland; Nancy Gallagher, Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland; Shibley Telhami, University of Maryland. Hosted by the University of Maryland School of Public Policy's Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM) and its Program for Public Consultation.

Location: Carnegie Endowment, 1779 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington. RSVP online.

Sept. 9 (6:30 pm – 8:00 pm): “Should Congress Approve the Iran Nuclear Agreement?” A World Affairs Council of Washington D.C. debate featuring Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association and Michael Dornan with the Hudson Institute for Middle East Security Issues.

Location: UCDC, 1608 Rhode Island Ave. NW Washington, D.C. RSVP online.

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.