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– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General

Kelsey Davenport

The P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, March 22, 2018

P5+1 and Iran Meet Amid Uncertainty Over the Nuclear Deal’s Future Members of the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) and Iran met last week in Vienna for a quarterly meeting of the Joint Commission, the body set up by the nuclear deal to assess its implementation. This was the first full meeting of the Joint Commission since U.S. President Donald Trump threatened in January to pull out of the deal in May unless Congress and the E3 (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom) worked with his administration to address what he terms as “flaws” in the...

US urged to begin talks with North Korea without preconditions

News Source: 
The Korea Times
News Date: 
March 9, 2018 -05:00

Posted: March 13, 2018

North Korea Signals Potential Talks

Next steps will focus attention on the uncertain diplomatic skills of the Trump administration.

March 2018
By Kelsey Davenport and Terry Atlas

North Korea’s participation in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games eased tensions on the Korean peninsula and opened space for potential dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington. But that opportunity may not last as the United States plans to resume military exercises with South Korea and North Korea threatens to resume it nuclear and ballistic missile testing activities.

In the immediate aftermath of the Olympics, held in South Korea, North Korea signaled its willingness to engage in direct talks with the United States, though on what terms remains to be determined. South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who conveyed word of North Korea’s overture Feb. 25, called on the United States to lower its threshold for talks and for Pyongyang to “show its willingness
to denuclearize.”

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, sits next to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics on February 9 in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Though nearby, Pence did not acknowledge or speak with Kim Yong Nam (top left), president of the Presidium of North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly, and Kim Yo Jong (top right), sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Secret plans for a February 10 meeting collapsed at the last minute, according to U.S. officials. (Photo: Patrick Semansky - Pool /Getty Images)Moon has sought to build on the fledgling North-South dialogue to bring about U.S.-North Korean talks to reduce the risk of war over Pyongyang’s advancing nuclear weapons program. His efforts, however, may not be fully supported by the Trump administration. “We want to talk only under the right conditions,” President Donald Trump said Feb. 26.

The developments will focus attention on the uncertain diplomatic skills of the new U.S. administration. It hasn’t filled the key U.S. ambassador post in Seoul and just lost a key State Department official, Joseph Yun, who retired March 2 as special representative for North Korea policy. The public diplomatic exchanges over potential talks followed the collapse of secret plans for U.S. Vice President Mike Pence to meet with senior North Korean officials Feb. 10 during the Olympics’ opening days. U.S. officials said the North Koreans backed out, although North Korean officials said publicly on Feb. 7 that there was “no intention” of meeting with U.S. officials during the games.

That breakdown came as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, through sister Kim Yo Jong, invited Moon to come to Pyongyang for talks. The North Korean delegation was in South Korea for the Feb. 9 Olympics opening ceremony.

The Trump administration has taken a wary view toward the favorable attention focused on North and South Korea’s joint participation in the Olympics, saying Pyongyang continues to press ahead with a nuclear weapons program that will soon put all of the U.S. mainland at risk. U.S. officials say time is running out before the United States may take military action.

Kim’s moves threaten to open a rift between South Korea and the United States, particularly if the U.S. administration is seen as hindering outreach efforts by Moon, who seeks to continue the inter-Korean dialogue that began in January. En route to South Korea, Pence told reporters he would urge Moon to return to a policy of maximum pressure and “diplomatic isolation” toward the Pyongyang regime once the games ended.

U.S. officials on Feb. 21 confirmed a report in The Washington Post that Kim Yo Jong and Kim Yong Nam, North Korea’s nominal head of state, pulled out of the scheduled meeting at the last minute. Trump had approved plans for the meeting, at which Pence was to reiterate Washington’s demands and threats of further punitive actions, the article said. Pence said in an Feb. 11 interview, just after the then-secret meeting plan failed, that the United States is willing to engage diplomatically if North Korea wants to talk.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in a Feb. 18 interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes,” said he “does not know precisely” how much time is left, although “diplomatic efforts will continue until that first bomb drops.” Mixed messages and failure to provide clarity about the diplomatic approach have complicated his efforts. Trump previously tweeted doubts about the likelihood of a diplomatic resolution.

U.S. threats to use military force and plans for joint military exercises may overshadow the most recent overtures and could reignite tensions. A Feb. 19 editorial by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said North Korea is open to “both dialogue and war” with the United States. The commentary called a U.S. threat to “pull the trigger” for military action a “hideous attempt to block the improvement of inter-Korean relations and again coil up the military tension on the Korean peninsula.”

Last August, U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said a so-called limited preventive strike was on the table as an option. While other officials have since downplayed or denied a “bloody nose” scenario is being considered, Victor Cha, whose anticipated nomination to become U.S. ambassador to South Korea was abruptly dropped by the White House, said he had warned administration officials against any such plan.

“The answer is not, as some Trump administration officials have suggested, a preventive military strike,” Cha wrote on Jan. 30 in The Washington Post. He warned that such action could lead to an escalation that, in addition to Koreans, “would likely kill tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Americans” in South Korea and Japan.

Cha, who served as the National Security Council’s director for Asian affairs in the George W. Bush administration, wrote that a preventive strike would “only delay North Korea’s missile-building and nuclear programs” and “would not stem the threat of proliferation but rather exacerbate it.”

The United States is planning to resume U.S.-South Korean military exercises, delayed for the Olympics and the subsequent Winter Paralympic Games on March 9-18. U.S. officials said on Feb. 20 that there would be no changes to the original size and scope of the drills.

Pyongyang has long viewed the joint exercises, particularly the so-called decapitation drills, which simulate strikes on North Korea’s leadership, as provocative. China and Russia called for the United States and South Korea to suspend the joint military exercises in exchange for a nuclear and missile testing moratorium from North Korea, an offer which Pyongyang made to the Obama administration in 2015. (See ACT, January/February 2015.) McMaster has rejected this “freeze for freeze” proposal.

Although North Korea has refrained from missile testing since December, Pyongyang did hold a parade Feb. 9 that displayed its intercontinental ballistic missiles and a new short-range ballistic missile.


False Missile Alert Panics Hawaii

A false missile attack alert in Hawaii was caused by human error when a Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA) employee thought an exercise was a real attack, officials said.

The agency employee mistakenly sent out an emergency alert Jan. 13 warning of an incoming ballistic missile and directing residents to take shelter. Despite quickly discovering the mistake, it took the agency 38 minutes to notify the public, which is longer than the flight time for a North Korean missile to reach the Hawaiian Islands.

ALISON TEAL/AFP/Getty ImagesGov. David Y. Ige (D) called the mistake “totally unacceptable” and apologized for the “pain and confusion” caused by the false alert. The unidentified employee reportedly was fired.

Heightened tensions between the United States and North Korea compounded the fear invoked by the false alert. In response to North Korean threats and tests of ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States, Hawaii began testing attack-warning sirens in December for the first time in 30 years and updating emergency management plans in the event of a nuclear attack. HI-EMA Administrator Vern T. Miyagi said in December that Hawaii “couldn’t ignore these constant threats and missile tests from North Korea.”

In a Jan. 15 Politico column, William Perry, defense secretary in the Clinton administration, argued that the false alarm is a “new manifestation of an old problem,” namely that human error or technological failure could lead to a “horrific nuclear catastrophe.” Perry wrote that the incident demonstrates the critical need to re-engage with Russia to reduce nuclear dangers, including giving up the launch-on-warning policy.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

Posted: March 1, 2018

U.S. Targets Support for North Korea

Sanctions implementation remains a problem, according to a UN panel of experts.

March 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

The United States continues to ratchet up pressure on North Korea to end its nuclear weapons and missile development, with Washington imposing additional sanctions and calling for better implementation of UN sanctions.

A U.S. Treasury Department news release Jan. 24 stated that nine entities, 16 individuals, and six ships were added to the sanctions list as part of U.S. efforts to “systematically target individuals and entities financing the [Kim Jong Un] regime and its weapons programs.” The effort is to target “illicit actors in China, Russia, and elsewhere” for working on behalf of North Korean financial networks and for entities that “continue to provide a lifeline to North Korea” in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

This photo, released on February 9 by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency, shows Hwasong-15 intercontinental-range ballistic missiles during a military parade in Pyongyang. Analysts believe the missile is capable of reaching much or all of the continental United States, depending on the weight of its payload. (Photo: KCNA VIA KNS/AFP/Getty Images)Earlier in the month, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on all states to improve sanctions implementation during a meeting of 20 countries in Vancouver. The countries represented were the 18 that supported South Korea during the Korean War by sending troops under UN command, plus South Korea and Japan.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters Jan. 16 that the states agreed to take “significant steps to keep North Korea from evading sanctions and to sever financial lifelines for the country’s weapons of mass destruction.”

Sanctions implementation remains a problem, according to a leaked report from a UN panel of experts that assesses implementation of Security Council measures on North Korea.

The experts report, obtained by the Associated Press in early February, said that North Korea is using “deceptive practices” to circumvent financial sanctions and noted that there are “critical deficiencies” in sanctions implementation. The report concluded that Pyongyang is engaging in prohibited ballistic missile activities with Syria and Myanmar and exceeding caps on oil imports, including through illegal ship-to-ship transfers.

Tillerson, at the Vancouver meeting, specifically called for improving maritime interdiction activities and putting an end to ship-to-ship transfers.

The report found that North Korea evaded UN sanctions on coal by shipping it through other countries and using deceptive practices to hide the origin of the coal. Coal purchases were fully banned by Security Council Resolution 2371 in August 2017. The UN report also noted that China imported iron ore from North Korea in violation of sanctions.

China and Russia were not invited to participate in the Vancouver meeting, but Tillerson specifically called on both countries to do more to implement UN sanctions. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a Jan. 16 press briefing that China opposed the Vancouver meeting and that it has “no legality.”

Leaders at the Vancouver meeting emphasized the importance of full implementation of UN sanctions, but they appeared split on how to engage with North Korea diplomatically.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said “tough sanctions and pressure” and “the offer of a different, brighter future” must work hand in hand.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said that North Korea’s decision to engage in inter-Korean dialogue was proof that the sanctions regime is working. Kono said that it would be “naïve” to reward North Korea for engaging in inter-Korean dialogue and that now is the time to “fully and rigorously” implement UN measures. He also called for states to consider additional measures, such as cutting diplomatic ties with North Korea and repatriating North Korean workers.

Posted: March 1, 2018

Trump Threatens Iran Deal Withdrawal

U.S. demands more constraints on Iran or else.

March 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

U.S. President Donald Trump set the stage for a new showdown over Iran sanctions in early May, putting pressure on Congress and Washington’s European partners to take action to address what he describes as “disastrous flaws” in the agreement.

In a Jan. 12 statement, Trump announced that he was waiving sanctions, as required to keep the United States in compliance with the deal, but he coupled that action with an ultimatum by saying he would not reissue the waivers again unless the deal is fixed. The next sanctions waivers are due around May 12.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on January 13 that President Trump is seeking to “undermine a solid multilateral agreement.” (Photo: STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)The four “critical components” that Trump wants addressed include tying Iran’s ballistic missile program to its nuclear activities, extending limits on Iran’s nuclear program that are set to expire over time, ensuring Iran never gets close to development of a nuclear weapon, and allowing international inspectors immediate access to any site on request. Trump said that the waived U.S. sanctions should snap back immediately if Iran does not comply with the provisions he is pursing.

Under the terms of the nuclear deal, some limits on Iran’s nuclear program will expire in 10 to 25 years, whereas other provisions are permanent.

The nuclear deal does not address Iran’s ballistic missile program, although the UN Security Council’s endorsement of the agreement declared limits on Iran’s ability to transfer ballistic missiles and components and called on the country to refrain from testing missiles designed to be nuclear capable. The deal does contain provisions outlining a process for International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to request access to undeclared sites if there are concerns about illicit nuclear activity.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Jan. 13 that Trump’s statement amounts to a “desperate” attempt to “undermine a solid multilateral agreement” and is itself a violation of the nuclear deal. He called for the United States to come into “full compliance.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also rejected the U.S. approach. Moscow will not support any U.S. actions “changing the wording of the agreement,” he said. Russia was one of the P5+1 members (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) that negotiated the nuclear deal with Iran, but was not included in Trump’s request for a supplemental agreement.

Leaders from the three European countries that Trump called on to negotiate the “supplemental” agreement with the United States offered in October to work with the administration to address Iran’s ballistic missile program, but rejected any renegotiation of the nuclear deal. (See ACT, November 2017.) Those countries are France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

They did agree, however, to participate in joint working groups that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said will address the status of Iran’s nuclear program after certain limits expire and Iranian activities “not related to the nuclear program.”

Tillerson, speaking to reporters during a trip to the United Kingdom on Jan. 22, said that there is a “common view” with the Europeans that these areas need to be addressed. UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson only confirmed that the European countries share U.S. concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile program.

The three European countries could work with the United States on the ballistic missile issue if it does not “vitiate the fundaments of the Iran nuclear deal,” Johnson said.

Tillerson said that the administration cannot “set timetables for others” but that the United States is under a deadline from Trump to produce results. An official from one of the three European states told Arms Control Today on Feb. 13 that the United States has not been clear about its expectations for the working groups or the results necessary for Trump to continue to waive sanctions.

Congressional reactions to Trump’s demand that Congress pass legislation to address his four areas of concern were mixed. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a Jan. 12 statement that he was working with the administration on a way to “address the flaws in the agreement without violating U.S. commitments.” Corker said it is an opportunity to reach a “better deal” that will “stand the test of time and actually prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.” He has yet to introduce any legislation.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time of Trump’s announcement, said he was “open to legislation options that would not violate” the nuclear deal and is supported by Europe.

Posted: March 1, 2018

Mike Pence says the US is ready to negotiate with North Korea (sort of)

News Source: 
News Date: 
February 12, 2018 -05:00

Posted: February 13, 2018

The P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, February 5, 2017

P5+1, Congress Respond to Trump’s Demands to Change the Iran Nuclear Deal Officials from the United States and the E3 (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom) gathered Jan. 25 in London for a working group meeting to discuss the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and Iran’s ballistic missile program. The meeting came after U.S. President Donald Trump renewed sanctions waivers required to keep the United States in compliance with the accord Jan. 12, but threatened to withhold the next round of waivers, due May 12, if Congress and...

Seoul worried US may launch limited strike, or 'preventive' action against North Korea

News Source: 
News Date: 
January 24, 2018 -05:00

Posted: January 24, 2018

Trump’s Cynical Gambit on the Iran Nuclear Deal



Trump’s ultimatum that Congress pass legislation to unilaterally address what he describes as “flaws” in the agreement is based on flawed assumptions and puts the future of the accord in doubt.


Volume 10, Issue 2, January 17, 2018

President Donald Trump’s Jan. 12 decision to waive sanctions on Iran keeps the United States in compliance–for the time being–with its obligations under the multilateral nuclear deal with Tehran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Trump’s ultimatum that Congress pass legislation to unilaterally address what he describes as “flaws” in the agreement is based on flawed assumptions. His demands are unrealistic and put the future of the accord in doubt.

US President Donald J. Trump delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress from the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington, DC, USA, 28 February 2017. (Photo: JIM LO SCALZO/AFP/Getty Images)Trump’s Jan. 12 statement announcing the United States would waive sanctions reiterated the threat from his October Iran policy speech: “fix the deal’s disastrous flaws, or the United States will withdraw.” In the Jan. 12 statement, however, Trump put a deadline on the “fix,” declaring that he would not waive sanctions again unless Congress passes legislation to address the “flaws” and almost certainly violating the JCPOA. Before the next sanctions waivers are due on or around May 12, Trump specifically called for legislation addressing four factors:

1) It must demand that Iran allow immediate inspections at all sites requested by international inspectors.

2) Second, it must ensure that Iran never even comes close to possessing a nuclear weapon.

3) Third, unlike the nuclear deal, these provisions must have no expiration date.

4) Fourth, the legislation must explicitly state in United States law—for the first time—that long-range missile and nuclear weapons programs are inseparable, and that Iran’s development and testing of missiles should be subject to severe sanctions.

Under the nuclear deal, the United States committed to “implement this JCPOA in good faith and in a constructive atmosphere, based on mutual respect, and to refrain from any action inconsistent with the letter, spirit, and intent of this JCPOA that would undermine its successful implementation.” (See Section C.)

Conditioning continued U.S. participation in the agreement on achieving changes through unilateral action is not a good faith implementation of the JCPOA and sets the United States up to violate the agreement.

Thus far, Congress has wisely refrained from pursuing legislation that would violate the deal. In response to Trump’s ultimatum, it is critical that Congress does not kill the deal under the guise of saving it. Legislation that violates the agreement by unilaterally attempting to extend or alter the nuclear restrictions on Iran poses just as great a risk as Trump revoking the waivers, which would put the United States in material breach of its JCPOA commitments.

Moreover, any U.S. attempt to make changes to the multilateral accord will be staunchly opposed by Washington’s P5+1 negotiating partners, (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom) and would be rejected by Iran.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif quickly responded to Trump’s Jan. 12 statement by saying the JCPOA is “not renegotiable” and that the U.S. announcement amounts to a desperate attempt to “undermine a solid multilateral agreement.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Jan. 15 that Trump’s approach is unacceptable and Moscow would work to preserve the existing agreement.

Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief and head of the P5+1 group made similar comments last year, noting Sept. 21 that reopening an agreement that is working is unnecessary. Mogherini also called out Trump on his threat to blow up the deal. She warned that the JCPOA “does not belong to any single country and it is not up to any single country to terminate it.”

Clearly, pursuing Trump’s approach will only isolate the United States at a time when Washington needs to keep Iran’s nuclear program in check. Worse still, threats to pull out of the JCPOA unless other parties accede to U.S. demands will undermine cooperation on sanctions and negotiations to produce a deal to halt and reverse North Korea’s far more advanced nuclear and missile programs.

Trump’s Unrealistic Renegotiation Demands

A closer look at Trump’s four conditions for new legislation on the JCPOA show them to be unnecessary and unrealistic:

1) “It must demand that Iran allow immediate inspections at all sites requested by international inspectors.”

Additional inspections authorities dictated by Congress are unnecessary and risk undermining the independence and integrity of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Under the JCPOA, key nuclear activities in Iran are subject to continuous monitoring to verify Iran is abiding by the deal. The IAEA also has timely access to both declared and undeclared sites. Declared sites can be visited on short notice and key sites can be inspected on a daily basis if requested by the agency.

If the IAEA has questions about illicit nuclear-related activities at any undeclared site (either civilian or military) that Iran does not address, the agency can request access. If Iran does not comply or fails to provide sufficient access in 14 days, the Joint Commission set up by the JCPOA can require Iran to comply with the IAEA’s request. This process is outlined in Annex I, Section Q of the JCPOA. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano noted Oct. 13 that agency inspectors have had all the access to sites they have requested and that the verification regime is the “world’s most robust.”

The JCPOA does not allow “anytime, anywhere” inspections–but that is not necessary for a strong agreement. Nor is likely that Iran–or any other country–would agree to give inspectors carte blanche access to any site, particularly military facilities. The current measures, combined with U.S. national intelligence means, provide high confidence that any deviations from the provisions allowed in the JCPOA would be quickly detected.

Additionally, the United States cannot and should not dictate the terms of international inspections. The IAEA is an independent organization and the credibility of the agency’s work depends on that perception. For the United States or any other country to try to legislate the agency’s access risks undermining the independence and integrity that is so critical to the IAEA’s work.

2) “It must ensure that Iran never even comes close to possessing a nuclear weapon.”

It is unclear how Trump thinks legislation can or should be crafted to address this vague demand. A bill that seeks additional barriers based on a unilateral and arbitrary understanding of what constitutes "close to possessing a nuclear weapon" would be outside the scope of the JCPOA and would certainly be rejected by Iran and the United States' partners.

While some of the core restrictions under the JCPOA will expire, a shorter breakout time is not necessarily indicative of pursuing a nuclear weapons program. Currently, the breakout, or time it would take for Iran to obtain enough fissile material for one bomb, is approximately 12 months. That timeline will drop after the first 10 years of the JCPOA when restrictions begin to expire. However, a shorter breakout alone does not indicate by itself that Iran has chosen to pursue nuclear weapons. For instance, if Tehran begins producing enough enriched uranium for its Bushehr power reactor, its breakout time would be shorter, but its activities would be legally permissible under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

Additionally, key restrictions on Iran are permanent under the JCPOA. The enhanced inspections and monitoring under the additional protocol do not expire, nor does the prohibition on certain weaponization activities (Annex I, Section T). As a result, inspectors have more access than in prior years and Iran cannot claim that certain activities relevant to developing a nuclear explosive device are for conventional military purposes as it has in the past. The combination of restrictions, enhanced IAEA monitoring and access, and national intelligence means puts the United States in the best possible place to quickly detect covert nuclear activity, or a dash to nuclear weapons using declared nuclear facilities.

There are legitimate concerns about what happens in 10-15 years when some of the core nuclear limits mandated by the JCPOA are due to expire. But it is far better to sustain the current deal and look for opportunities, in conjunction with the P5+1 partners, to build on it in a way that strengthens nonproliferation in Iran and regionally, rather than risk the agreement immediately.

3) “Unlike the nuclear deal, these provisions must have no expiration date. My policy is to deny Iran all paths to a nuclear weapon—not just for ten years, but forever. If Iran does not comply with any of these provisions, American nuclear sanctions would automatically resume.”

Unilaterally demanding an extension of JCPOA restrictions under threat of reimposing sanctions would violate the deal. Under the terms of the JCPOA, full implementation of the JCPOA results in Iran being treated like any other non-nuclear weapon state under the NPT. The State Department itself stated in the 2016 Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments that with the implementation of the deal, “previous issues leading to NPT noncompliance findings [regarding Iran] had been resolved.”

Additionally, 10 years from adoption day, barring the reimposition of sanctions on Iran by the United Nations Security Council, that body will no longer be “seized” of the issue of Iran’s nuclear program. At this point, if Iran is in compliance with its international treaty obligations and the United States has no intelligence suggesting that Iran is pursuing a covert nuclear program, there is no legitimate basis to subject Iran’s nuclear program to arbitrary restrictions under threat of sanction.

The United States is also obligated in the JCPOA to seek the statutory lifting of sanctions eight years after adoption day. If Washington intends to threaten automatic reimposition of sanctions in perpetuity if Iran resumes certain nuclear activities, Congress cannot make a good faith effort to statutorily lift the measures.

The United States does not need to seek a basis now in order to respond to future, hypothetical Iranian actions. If national intelligence or evidence obtained by the IAEA were to emerge in the future that Iran had resumed nuclear-weapons related activities in violation of its NPT commitments, the United States should work multilaterally, as it did leading up to the JCPOA, to pursue a response supported by the international community.

4) “Legislation must explicitly state in United States law—for the first time—that long-range missile and nuclear weapons programs are inseparable, and that Iran’s development and testing of missiles should be subject to severe sanctions.”

Formally linking Iran’s long-range missile program to its nuclear weapons program under U.S. law risks putting in place conditions that would disrupt the JCPOA because of activities outside the scope of the agreement.

While the JCPOA does not cover Iran’s ballistic missile activities, the UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorses the deal, calls upon Iran to refrain from testing ballistic missiles designed to be nuclear-capable. While this is a nonbinding condition, the eight-year prohibitions on selling or purchasing certain ballistic missiles and related technologies without prior approval from the Security Council are absolute.

Since the Iran nuclear deal was implemented in January 2016, the UN secretary-general has issued four reports assessing the implementation the resolution. Several of the reports, including the most recent in December 2017, call into question Iran’s compliance with the restrictions, noting several allegations of illicit transfer of ballistic missile systems.

Iran’s flouting of UN Security Council restrictions is troublesome, but the United States has a number of tools to address Iran’s ballistic missile activities. The JCPOA did not waive or prohibit additional U.S. sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile activity and the United States has responded to Iran’s ballistic missile activities by passing new measures and designating individuals and entities.

In the past six months, the administration targeted additional entities assessed as involved in Iran’s ballistic missiles program as recently as Jan. 12, and Congress passed additional sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile activity in August 2017. Implementation of these measures, as well as UN restrictions, should be the focus of U.S. efforts at this point.

Given Iran’s security concerns and the current US-Iranian tensions, an agreement limiting ballistic missiles may be unlikely in short term, particularly if the JCPOA’s future is in doubt, and because of the central role that Iran’s ballistic missiles play in its national security. But the United States can and should do what it can to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 2231 and encourage Iran to abide by its announced range restriction. Iran has stated it will limit its ballistic missiles to a range of 2,000 kilometers. While this commitment is voluntary and nonbinding, it has been reiterated by the Supreme Leader, and a June 2017 report by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Ballistic Missile Analysis Committee found that Iran’s current ballistic missile inventory includes systems with a range of up to 2,000 kilometers, but did not discuss any missiles that exceed that range.

The United States should also work with its EU allies, which have stated in October a willingness to work cooperatively to address Iran’s ballistic missiles–separate from the JCPOA. That could include discussions on a regional ballistic missile limitation mechanism and greater information sharing to ensure that the existing UN restrictions, as well as U.S. sanctions, are abided by. Training on Resolution 2231 and export controls could also be beneficial to enhance compliance with existing restrictions. Given the broad authorities already on the books, a focus on implementation, rather than additional sanctions, may be the best path forward.

Going Forward

Responsible legislators should understand Trump’s demands to “fix” the deal for what they are: an attempt to force Congress to unilaterally push changes that other parties won’t accept, or allow him to reimpose sanctions in violation of U.S. commitments.

Even if the Congress proposes “fixes” to the JCPOA that do not violate the terms of the agreement outright—and it is difficult to conceive of legislation that would meet Trump’s conditions without violating the deal—there is no guarantee that Trump will not move the goalposts again in the future and demand additional concessions for continued U.S. participation in the accord.

From a nonproliferation perspective, the JCPOA can continue to block Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons for more than a decade if fully implemented. With top U.S. policymakers like Secretary of Defense James Mattis affirming that Iran is meeting its commitments and that the deal benefits U.S. national security interests, there is no reason for Washington to pull out of the deal, demand additional changes, and risk a new proliferation crisis now.

The Trump administration must recognize that the best path forward to address Iran’s nuclear program is to fully implement the agreement at hand and look for opportunities to build on its unique nonproliferation value.—KELSEY DAVENPORT, director for nonproliferation policy

Country Resources:

Posted: January 17, 2018

International Support for the Iran Nuclear Deal

International support for the 2015 nuclear deal between the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) and Iran remains strong, despite comments by U.S. President Donald Trump threatening the future of the agreement. The Arms Control Association will be adding international statements in support of the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), on this page as they are released. January 2018: General Russia We are confident that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) for the Iranian nuclear programme is among the...


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