The P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, September 17

Congressional Review Period Ends

The U.S. Congress failed to pass a resolution of disapproval that would block the Obama administration’s ability to implement its commitments under the July 14 nuclear deal with Iran.

The sixty-day period for congressional review expired today, Sept, 17, and without the passage of resolution of disapproval, the Obama administration will be able to waive sanctions as required under the deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA.)

A vote earlier today to end debate and move to vote on a resolution of disapproval failed to pass the 60 vote threshold, 56-42. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tried to move to vote on an amendment to prohibit the president’s authority to waive sanctions. It also failed to pass the 60 vote threshold, 53-45.The Senate attempted to end debate and move to vote on the resolution of disapproval Tuesday night. That vote failed 56-42, with two Senators absent. A similar measure failed last Thursday 58-42.

The House passed legislation last Friday by a vote of 247-186 to block the president’s ability to waive sanctions, which would prevent the Obama administration from implementing the deal. However, it has not yet been introduced in the Senate. Even if passed by the Senate, President Barack Obama would veto the legislation and Congress is extremely unlikely to have the two-thirds majority necessary to override the veto.

Iran is the only other country involved in the talks to have an internal review process for the agreement. In addition to a review committee, Iran’s supreme leader has requested that its parliament, the Majles, vote on the agreement. Iranian lead negotiator and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif took questions from the Majles about the deal on Sept. 13.

Washington’s negotiating partners, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom, do not have an internal review process.

KELSEY DAVENPORT, director for nonproliferation policy

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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

What’s Next for Implementation?

With the congressional review period over, the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and Iran move one step closer to adoption of the deal. Iran has yet to complete its internal review process of the agreement and provide the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with the remaining clarifications and access required for the agency to complete its investigation into the past possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.

According to the text of the JCPOA, completion of the IAEA’s investigation is necessary to proceed to adoption of the deal. Iran’s deadline for completing the IAEA investigation is Oct. 15.

If Iran meets that deadline, adoption day should follow on Oct. 18, which, per the JCPOA, is 90 days after the UN Security Council adopted resolution 2231, endorsing the deal. Once the deal is adopted, both sides will begin to take steps to implement their commitments under the deal.

On the Iranian side, that includes steps to limit its uranium-enrichment program, institute greater transparency measures, and destroy the core of the Arak reactor. On the P5+1 side, specifically for the United States and the European Union, it includes moving forward on preparations to waive or lift sanctions.

Once the IAEA certifies that Iran has met its key steps under the deal, implementation day will occur and the sanctions will be waived or lifted. Estimates on how long it will take Iran to complete these key steps vary from 2-6 months.

An Iranian ICBM Is Not on the Horizon

Arms Control Association Senior Fellow Greg Thielmann writes in a Sept. 14 op-ed for Defense News the nuclear deal “defanged” the most worrisome ballistic missile threat from Iran by blocking Tehran’s ability to put nuclear warheads on its missiles.

Thielmann writes that the Iranian intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), long predicted by the intelligence community as possible by 2015 is “no where in sight,” and dismisses claims by politicians that Iran is close to deploying an ICBM capable of hitting the United States as out of touch with geography and rocket science. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in congressional testimony on July 29, “I wouldn’t rule out that in 10 years, Iran could progress to an ICBM.”

While Iran possesses short- and medium-range ballistic missiles that could be used in a regional conflict, Thiellmann concludes that “faithfully implementing the Iran nuclear deal and following closely the facts on the ground will ensure that the specter of Iranian nuclear missiles continues to fade below the horizon.”

Zerbo Urges Iranian Ratification of CTBT

Head of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), Lassina Zerbo, said in a Sept. 11 interview with AP that Iran should ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Zerbo said Iranian ratification would provide greater assurance and act as a sign of good faith that Tehran is committed to a peaceful nuclear program. Zerbo said if Iran does not ratify, it will “leave room for the doubt that people have put in this deal and the good intentions of Iran.”

The CTBT, which was opened for signature in 1996, prohibits all nuclear explosive testing. The CTBTO is charged with overseeing the treaty’s global monitoring and verification system comprised of over 300 stations to detect nuclear explosions using hydo-accoustics, infrasound, seismic waves, and radionuclide detectors.

While 164 countries have ratified the CTBT, it requires the ratification of 44 particular countries to enter into force. Eight of the 44–including Iran, which signed the treaty in 1996—have yet to ratify the treaty.

The United States is also one of the eight countries required to ratify the treaty before it can enter into force. The other countries are China, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Israel, and North Korea.

Iran Restates its Commitment to IAEA Regulations

In a Sept. 16 speech at the annual IAEA General Conference, Ali Ahkbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, reaffirmed Tehran’s commitment to operating a peaceful nuclear program within IAEA guidelines and implementing its additional protocol in full as part of its commitments in the JCPOA.

Salehi also suggested working with regional countries on nuclear and radiation safety and emergency preparedness to “enhance necessary confidence and transparency” in the region.

Briefing Room

"The Iran Agreement and What Comes Next," by Axel Helleman et all., Center for a New American Security, Sept. 14. .

U.S. to Name Coordinator for Implementing Iran Nuclear Deal,” by Laura Rozen, Al Monitor, Sept. 16.

Looking Ahead ...

Sept. 18: Gary Samore, former White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction, "The Next Steps Regarding the Implementation of the Iran Deal."

Location: Teleconference sponsored by the Isareli Policy Forum. RSVP online. 11:30 a.m. EDT

Sept. 21: Suzanne DiMaggio, New America; Nasser Hadian, Tehran University; Heather Hurlburt, New America; and Douglas Ollivant, Former Director of the National Security Council for Iraq, "A Post-Iran Deal Security Agenda".

Location: New America. 1899 L St. NW, Suite 400, Washington. RSVP online. 9:00-10:30 a.m.

Sept. 28: U.S. President Barack Obama to address the UN General Assembly (am) and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to address the UN General Assembly (pm)

Location: UN, New York

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.