Countdown: 18 Days
Iran's deputy foreign ministers and nuclear negotiators Abbas Araqchi and Madjid Takht Ravanchi flew back to Vienna this week to meet with EU political director Helga Schmid. The Iranian team met with Schmid on June 10. Political directors from the P5+1 countries joined the talks today.
A U.S. official told reporters on June 10 that the next few weeks of talks would be tough, but both sides remain focused on getting an agreement by June 30. The official also said that despite his broken leg, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry would join the negotiations when necessary.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on June 11 that one of the remaining obstacles relates to verification of the deal. He said that the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) do not yet have the "guarantees" they are looking for on verification. Araqchi has made similar comments in the past, noting that some of the "methods for implementing the additional protocol" are under discussion.
Iran agreed to ratify the additional protocol to its safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as part of a comprehensive deal. U.S. Ambassador Laura Kennedy, in her June 11 remarks to the IAEA Board of Governors, noted the importance of Iran's implementation of its additional protocol. She said it helps enable the agency to provide assurances that there are no undeclared materials or facilities in Iran.
Kennedy also said Iran has fulfilled its nuclear-related commitments under the November 2013 interim Joint Plan of Action.--KELSEY DAVENPORT, director for nonproliferation policy
What's the Fuss About the Additional Protocol?
An additional protocol is a legal document granting the IAEA inspection authority beyond what is permitted by a safeguards agreement. Additional protocols are voluntary agreements negotiated on a state-by-state basis with the IAEA. A principal aim is to enable the IAEA inspectorate to provide assurances that there are no undeclared activities and all declared nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes.
Under an additional protocol, the IAEA is granted expanded rights of access to information and sites. States must provide information about, and allow IAEA inspector access to, all parts of a State's nuclear fuel cycle--including uranium mines, fuel fabrication and enrichment plants, and nuclear waste sites--as well as to any other location with nuclear material or where suspected nuclear activities may have taken place. This includes managed access to military sites if the IAEA has concerns that nuclear activities may have taken place on those premises.
Additional protocols typically include provisions granting multiple entry visas to inspectors, access to research and development activities, information on the manufacture and export of sensitive nuclear related technologies and allow for environmental samples.
In the case of Iran, this would give the agency regular access to sites that are not part of the IAEA's safeguards agreement with Iran. This would include access to Iran's uranium mines, centrifuge production workshops, the heavy-water production plant at Arak, and managed access to sites like Parchin, where the IAEA has evidence that activities related to nuclear weapons development may have taken place.
When in place, an additional protocol also substantially expands the IAEA's ability to check for clandestine, undeclared nuclear facilities by providing the agency with authority to visit any facility, declared or not, to investigate questions about, or inconsistencies, in a state's nuclear declarations.
Busting Ballistic Missile Myths
At a June 10 committee hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtine (R-Fla.) said, "perhaps the biggest failure" of nuclear talks with Iran is that the agreement does not include limits on Iran's ballistic missiles.
Arms Control Association Senior Fellow Greg Thielmann addressed the question of Iran's ballistic missiles in a comprehensive nuclear agreement in a May 2014 Threat Assessment Brief.
Thielmann concludes that the best way to address the threat posed by Iran's ballistic missiles is to "ensure that Iran's nuclear program is sufficiently limited and transparent that missile limits become unnecessary."
He also points out that Iran would view ballistic missile limits--which no other country in the region is subject too--as "very restrictive, a humiliating denial of sovereign rights" for which there is no legal basis.
Limits on missiles could be pursued more effectively through multilateral consultations in the regional context, he said.
Thielmann has also rebutted claims by Ros-Lehtinen and others that an Iranian intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) is imminent. ICBMs are typically classified as ballistic missiles with a range greater than 5,500 km.
In a Feb. 2 blog post on Arms Control Now, Thielmann said that "the Islamic Republic of Iran has long denied an interest in even developing an ICBM and has not flight-tested military missile systems with operational ranges beyond some 2,000 kilometers."
On June 10, J-Street released the results of a poll showing that 59 percent of American Jews support a nuclear deal with Iran. That number jumps to 78 percent when those being polled are provided information about the deal being negotiated, such as details on the intrusive inspections that would be imposed on Iran and the strict limits on uranium enrichment.
A CNN poll conducted in April showed that 53 percent of adult Americans favor the agreement.
June 8-12: International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors meeting in Vienna.
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.