Press Call: Analysis of the Iran Framework
Iran Showdown: Analysis of the Iran Framework
Friday, April 3, 2015
The National Security Network will be hosting a press call on Friday 4/3 at 11:30 AM Eastern time. The discussion will focus on analysis of the substantive aspects of the framework announced between the P5+1 nations and Iran in Lausanne, as well as its implications for the Middle East, Israel, and US politics.
The call will be moderated by NSN Executive Director John Bradshaw. Our speakers will include Suzanne DiMaggio of the New American Foundation, Ilan Goldenberg of the Center for a New American Security, and Dr. Jim Walsh of MIT’s Security Studies program. You can find a short bio of each of the participants below.
Suzanne DiMaggio is a Senior Fellow and the Director of the Iran Initiative at the New America Foundation, where she focuses on the organization’s growing body of national security work throughout the Middle East and Asia and new initiatives on regional and global governance. She leads a program on the future of U.S.-Iran relations that looks at Iran in the context of the broader region and emphasizes ties to the Gulf states, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other major players.
Ilan Goldenberg is Senior Fellow and Director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. He is a foreign policy and defense expert with extensive government experience covering Iran’s nuclear program, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the broader challenges facing the Middle East. Prior to CNAS, Mr. Goldenberg served as the Chief of Staff to the Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations at the U.S. Department of State.
Dr. Jim Walsh is an expert in international security and a Research Associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Security Studies Program (SSP). Dr. Walsh’s research and writings focus on international security, and in particular, topics involving nuclear weapons and terrorism. Dr. Walsh has testified before the United States Senate on the issue of nuclear terrorism and on Iran’s nuclear program. He is one of a handful of Americans who has traveled to both Iran and North Korea for talks with officials about nuclear issues.
John Bradshaw, J.D., is the Executive Director of the National Security Network. Prior to joining NSN, Bradshaw served as the Executive Director of the Enough Project at the Center for American Progress. Bradshaw served as Washington Director of Physicians for Human Rights. He also worked as a Senior Advisor at the Open Society Policy Center. Previously, Bradshaw was a Foreign Service Officer, serving in Venezuela, Brazil, and Burma, as well as in the State Department’s East Asia and Human Rights bureaus. He also served as a foreign policy advisor to Senator Paul Wellstone and to Senator Robert Torricelli, both members of the Foreign Relations Committee. Earlier in his career, he was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines.
TRANSCRIPT & AUDIO
To listen to the audio, click here.
Please note that the audio starts at 00:13:02
JOHN BRADSHAW: [13:00] This is John Bradshaw, I am the Executive Director of the National Security Network and we are hosting this call this morning about the Iran framework. We have three panelists. They will each speak for about five to seven minutes, then I will open the floor for questions.
Let me introduce our three panelists, first we will have Dr. Jim Walsh. Dr. Walsh is an expert in international security and a Research Associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Security Studies Program. Next we will have Suzanne DiMaggio who is a Senior Fellow and the Director of the Iran Initiative at the New America Foundation. And then we will have Ilan Goldenberg, who is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. You have more extensive bios of all of our speakers in the materials that we sent to you.
Our first speaker, Jim Walsh, will talk about some of the technical elements of the agreement that was announced yesterday, and put it in the context of other nonproliferation agreements. Suzanne will talk about the political dynamics in Tehran, the reactions in Tehran, implications for U.S. policy in the region and how this will impact U.S.-Iran relations. Then we will have Ilan following up talking about the deal in some other aspects, also talk about regional issues and the impact on Israel and Arab countries and will also touch on how this deal will be handled by Congress.
With that I will start with our panelist. When we get to the Q&A you do not need to get into a queue, there is no button you need to push. You will be able to just speak and ask your question. Everyone who is not speaking please keep your phones on mute. With that I will turn it over to Jim Walsh.
Jim, go ahead.
JIM WALSH: [15:00] Well thank you very much, I’m not going to speak for that long because I’m sure most of you have seen the White House fact sheet that provides details on this and it may be that question and answers are the place to follow up on some of the particulars that might be confusing.
Let me put this in some historical context. This is not our first rodeo; it’s not our first non-proliferation agreement. We have done this for decades, usually with bad guys. You don’t make agreements with your friends; you usually make them with bad guys you have bad relations with. And over the course of time for the seventy years of the nuclear age, we have found that agreements are the most effective way to limit a country’s nuclear ambitions and put it on a different course. There is a lot of academic research to support that, and I can go into that if you want, but from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty to US-Soviet arms control to the non-pro agreement with Libya, the track record is spectacular. People will debate about the Agreed Framework and North Korea, and I’m happy to address that, but one summery way to think about that is that while that agreement was in effect, that was ten years that the reactor at Yongbyon did not operate, ten years that North Korea did not engage in long-range missile tests, and I think a lot of people would like to have that right now if they could.
There’s a lot of history here, and a lot of history of success. Now applying it to the current agreement I would say that’s important because this is arguably the strongest agreement in the history of the nuclear non-proliferation regime. Even stronger than the NPT, if you go back and read the NPT, which didn’t even have an enforcement clause. The requirements for Iran are unprecedented, and whether it’s inspection and verification, commitments not to reprocess forever, we can go through different pieces of it but there’s no agreement like this in the nuclear age. So let’s just hit some of the highlights, most of which you’re probably familiar with. On enrichment, the line has been it cuts their centrifuges by two-thirds, I would go beyond that because they have 19,000 centrifuges; 9,000 are operating, but they have 19,000. And it’s not just two-thirds; it’s down to 5,000 because of the 6,000 they have, only 5,000 will be operating. In addition, they’re capped enrichment, the JPOA, the interim agreement capped that nothing above 5%. This goes further down to nothing above 3.67%, which you cannot use for a weapons program without further enrichment. And it vastly limits the stockpile down to about 300 kilograms of LAU. So that’ll be accomplished either through shipping some of it out to be fabricated into fuel plates or dilution or the reduction of fuel plates in Iran. But that takes large sitting stockpile of low-enriched uranium off the table. The underground facility, the Fordow facility near Qom, that’s not going to be used for enrichment. They’ll have some centrifuges there, but they will not be operating, that’s a significant development.[18:11] I would say throughout this agreement, what you notice if you look at the White House fact sheet, is the years associated with it. Some limits are 10 years, some are 15, some are 25, some are forever. And I think that outcome was far better than observers were expecting. I think what we got yesterday was an announcement of a deal that is both more detailed than expected and that the details are more robust from a non-proliferation standpoint. I’d say one of the more interesting and overlooked issues is on the issue of R and D and the advanced centrifuges, at least according to the White House fact sheet, it actually writes into the agreement or part of its understanding that research and development will be allowed, but it won’t be able-whatever configuration of centrifuges they produce will not be allowed to produce less than a 1-year breakout time. I’ve never heard of that in an agreement, so that is noteworthy and unique. Of course inspections will be extended, you know IAEA said that under the JPOA they’ve doubled the number of inspectors in Iran; my guess is this comprehensive agreement will go beyond that, we will see, I don’t know what the percentage will be but the agency will have to increase the number of inspectors because their mandate and ability to inspect facilities is increased under this agreement.
I think noteworthy and probably overlooked is the focus on the supply chain. You may have seen a line in there about a dedicated procurement channel, and most people didn’t talk about that yesterday, understandably, but what that’s really getting at is being able to monitor everything that’s imported into Iran from outside sources that’s related to their peaceful nuclear program. And then going upstream all the way to the access to the mines continuous surveillance, that probably means video surveillance, that’s typically what that means in IAEA safeguards ,for 25 years. So you know you can’t have a clandestine facility or fool around at the edges unless you have the uranium to do it. This will monitor uranium mines for 25 years and will set up a special process for monitoring imports and exports related to nuclear technology. So that’s a big deal.
Those are new elements, and pieces that people have not yet really been discussing. Pretty broad language on IAEA’s ability to investigate suspicious sites, language that says that they can look anywhere in the country, that is pretty unprecedented. And then of course with reactors and reprocessing, something that I was struck by was that Arak heavy water reactor, the construction of which is currently suspended. They’re just going to start from scratch. They’re going to take the core out, scrap it, and start over and build a new reactor with a new design that will make it less proliferation-prone. And then again, something really not commented on yesterday, they’ve agreed to ship out all the spent fuel. So if you ship out the spent fuel, then it’s not there to extract plutonium from. The way you get plutonium is take nuclear waste and reprocess it. So they’re agreeing both to ship out the waste, which sort of solves that problem at the first go, and in addition, not to build a reprocessing plant. So even if they had the waste on site and it was under normal inspections on site in Iran, absent a reprocessing plant you cannot extract the plutonium from the spent fuel. So they’ve sort of doubled down on their confidence building in terms of that Arak heavy water reactor, which is often called or the concern was that it might provide a plutonium route to the bomb and that seems pretty well shut off.
Why don’t I stop there, happy to delve into the details in question and answer, but again I think I would conclude by saying this: at least the non-proliferation regime and non-proliferation agreements have been unbelievably successful over time, and this is probably the strongest one we’ve seen so far.
JOHN BRADSHAW: [22:27] Great, thanks a lot Jim. We now turn it over to Suzanne DiMaggio. Go ahead Suzanne.
SUZANNE DIMAGGIO: [22:35] OK, thanks so much. So I’m going to focus first on the political dynamics in Tehran and the reaction there, and briefly on the implications, potential implications for U.S.-Iran relations.
So far, there is no official word yet from Supreme Leader Khamenei. However, on a Twitter feed earlier he did say something along the lines that the Iranian people did not cave in, and they triumphed over their enemies. Perhaps more importantly, reports on the Friday prayer sessions throughout the country, particularly the one in Tehran, hailed a framework for the nuclear deal. This was given by a hardline cleric; this is a sign, in my estimation, that the Supreme Leader and other hardliners are backing the accord. The prayer sessions also focused on the Supreme Leader’s support, particularly of Zarif in this negotiation. Now some opponents to the deal in Washington and elsewhere have based their opposition on the assumption or expectation that Khamenei would never accept the deal, but I don’t think this is the case. Even prior to the Lausanne framework, there were clear signs of a coalescing around the coming nuclear deal with the P5+1. Again Khamenei expressed support for Rouhani and the nuclear negotiators. It’s what I would call an enforced discipline that he has put across Iran’s political system in support of the negotiations, keeping hardline opponents to a deal at bay.
Of course there are some criticisms, some early criticisms that are being voiced is that it’s not a balanced agreement. I saw something along the lines of an advisor to Khamenei saying the deal especially gives too much concessions on the Fordow facility. But overall I think we’re seeing an Iranian system ready and standing by this deal and being supportive of it. But at the same time we can see this dynamic change quickly, particularly if it becomes apparent that the U.S. Congress is unsupportive of the agreement and is out to undermine sanctions relief.
A quick word about my understanding of Khamenei’s role vis a vi the process: I’m not surprised he hasn’t released a formal statement yet. If you look at the experience with the interim agreement, the Joint Plan of Action, which was reached in November 2013, he did not outwardly endorse that agreement. What he did was endorse President Rouhani’s report of that accord. He supported the President and a senior Iranian official indicated to me that it would be the same process for the final nuclear deal, if and when it is reached.[25:54] Now President Rouhani did give an address to the nation earlier today. He emphasized that Iran intends to fulfill its commitments. He also viewed it as an opportunity to promote the deal at home and send signals to the region and beyond. He called the agreement a basis for more constructive engagement with the world. He also called for the removal of hurdles in foreign relations, emphasized that impediments to business need to be eliminated and so forth. So this moment is an important one for Rouhani; in 18 months since the controversial phone call with President Obama, he needed to show progress, and although in the next few months we won’t see any additional sanctions relief, the idea that it’s coming is exactly the boost that he needed.
Now I see several risks ahead for the Iranians in these next 3 months and beyond. I think the first one is uncertainty vis a vi congress. Also I think the Iranians are concerned about the next administration beyond President Obama. This is important because they recognize that the task of working with Congress to permanently lift the sanctions will fall on the shoulders of President Obama’s successor. Obama will have executive authority to waive sanctions, but the actual permanent lifting of the sanctions will likely not come until the next administration. The Iranians are also facing some internal risks. Obviously keeping hardliners at bay while they work this out, but secondly I would say I think we saw with foreign minister Zarif when he arrived back in Tehran, he received a hero’s welcome. Equivalent to a rock star’s welcome, I would call it. So Iran’s leadership will be faced with managing the expectations within its own population, especially those who might see Iran’s reintegration with the global economy as an opening for greater political and social freedoms. This is something that I think the Iranian leadership is attuned to, and it will be interesting to watch how they deal with this.
A quick comment about the agreement itself-the framework that was reached. I think it was impressive how it is allowing a win-win narrative for both sides. For Iran it hits all the points they were looking for, it’s respect, it’s legitimate right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. It allows it to maintain an enrichment capacity, it’s bringing to end nuclear-related sanctions. It’s at the end of the day the Iranians can say we made this deal, we did not have to submit to dismantlement, we did not have to shut down any facilities, and we’re getting full sanctions relief. Of course the United States is spinning it a little bit of a different way. I would call this, “you say tomato, you say tomahto” approach to diplomacy, and as long as it works all the more power to them.
Now moving on to the implications for U.S.-Iran relations and particularly the potential for standing dialogue. It’s clear these negotiations have lead to a de-escalation in hostilities between Washington and Tehran. It’s provided our U.S. diplomats and Iranian diplomats with a channel for sustained, direct, bilateral communication for the first time in 35 years, and looking ahead I do not see that communication decreasing. If anything, it will only increase. So the question is, could reaching a final deal unlock a channel for broader dialogue between the U.S. and Iran on issues? Particularly where they both have some compelling common interests. I think it’s important to note that since June 2014 discussions between U.S. and Iranian officials on ISIS have been taking place during bilateral talks as part of the nuclear negotiations. And we learned during the more recent round of bilateral discussion that Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Zarif discussed Yemen.
I would propose that if such a deal is reached and implemented and the IAEA continues to verify that Iran is complying with commitments, there are two particular issues that seem high on the list for more discussions. One obviously is ISIS, and the second I would add to that is working together to help stabilize the new unity government in Afghanistan. Now of course any expanded dialogue with Iran would lead critics to give strong pushback on it to the Obama Administration, particularly from Congress and as well as from Israel and our allies in the Gulf who clearly view an ascendant Iran and the prospects of a warming U.S.-Iran relationship as threatening. Here I would say much will depend on how Tehran reacts. Will it work to tamp down tensions and offer reassurances or assert itself in ways that may be viewed as provocative. I’ll leave it at that, and I’m happy to answer any questions.
JOHN BRADSHAW: [31:45] Thank you Suzanne, we will now turn it over to Ilan Goldenberg.
ILAN GOLDENBERG: [31:54] Thank you John, it is good to be here. What I thought I would do is talk very briefly about what the Administration is going to need to do next. I think there are two immediate tasks for the White House right now. One is its engagement with Congress and two is its engagement with nervous allies and partners in the Middle East.
In terms of Congress, the question is what happens when Congress comes back in a couple of weeks and will there be new legislation passed? I am pretty skeptical at this point that Congress will be able to push anything through with a veto proof majority because I think the President has a very strong card to play with this agreement and the level of detail that is in it, and you will see, you are already seeing, intensive engagement with Congress, it is likely to continue.
There are two possible pieces of legislation. The first is the Kirk-Menendez, which is new legislation on sanctions. Kirk has already said they are going go to move that beyond June 30th and it is unlikely that there will be a vote before the June 30th deadline for an agreement. The second is the Corker-Menendez legislation, which is about giving Congress an opportunity to have an up or down vote. Also some other items are in there that I think both endanger the agreement because they raise the concerns Suzanne mentioned in terms of Iran’s reaction, and also take away some of the President’s flexibility in terms of his ability to remove sanctions in a way you would want to remove sanctions, in a smart way early in the agreement.
Right now you’ve got supposedly 63 or 64 Democratic members on that. You still don’t have a veto proof majority and I think with this deal it is highly unlikely you will get a veto proof majority, it is always possible, but if anything you’ll see some Democrats probably move away from passing anything because the reality is that the whole point of this legislation is to say Congress can have an up or down vote. Congress can have an up or down vote after June 30th whether or not there is this piece of legislation or not. I think ironically the threat of legislation, and the threat of this legislation was probably useful in pushing towards this agreement now at this moment and get beyond just the JPOA to something more sustainable and long-term. But the threat of legislation is very different from the legislation itself, which would dramatically undermine an agreement.
The right place for Congress here is to wait until after the agreement on June 30th then at that point to engage with the Administration on a piece of legislation that might involve an up or down vote that would certainly involve putting in place top implementation and oversight to ensure that an agreement can be implemented over time, and can also provide funding for things like more IAEA inspectors to ensure this robust inspections regime that has been agreed to can actually be effectively implemented. That is really the more appropriate place for Congress in these talks.[34:57] I think that most likely you are going to get there. I don’t see a high likelihood scenario where Congress at this point steps in and undercuts the agreement because I don’t think that members of Congress want to own the alternatives, and really what we are talking about here is a set of centrist Democrats who are the key swing votes and it is hard to see them going against the President given what has come out, and given, you know, the support that has come from these sort of centrist voices. You see moderate Republicans and moderate Democratic experts all basically saying this is more than we expected, this is a pretty good deal, but obviously much more will have to be in a final agreement. So that is where I think Congress is.
In terms of the region, I think we saw President Obama very clearly in his comments yesterday hold out an olive branch both to the Saudis and the Israelis, the two that are really most concerned about this. And what the Administration’s task here is going to be, first with our Gulf partners, is to make absolutely clear to them that this is not a pivot to Persia. This is not a strategic re-alignment. I don’t think anyone sees that as realistic. I think, as Suzanne pointed out, what this is a transition, ideally, from the situation where you adversarial, dysfunctional relationship where two countries don’t talk to each other for 35 years, to a relationship of competitors. We will continue to disagree on some things with the Iranians, they are going to continue to support Hezbollah, they are going to continue to support Assad, there are things where they will continue to support sham militias in Iraq that we might not agree with. There will continue to be conflict. [36:38] But there are also areas of overlapping interests, and there you have to sit down and negotiate. So the idea is this is where we are going. Now I think the President is going to have to make that case very clearly to the Saudis.
What you saw is that King Salman and the Saudis took a pretty moderate approach today in their response and essentially indicated, Salman was very specific and came out and essentially came out and gave a very wary sort of yes, or at least the read out of the call between the President and the King was not a whole sale rejection of the agreement. What they really care about is the region. And I think the President’s move to invite the GCC states to Camp David was important. Also, I think American support for what the Saudis are doing in Yemen is really not about Yemen policy, I mean it might be, but it is really about U.S.-Saudi relations and the United States essentially saying ‘Well sure, I’m not sure this is a great idea, but we are going to support you if this is what your perspective is and what the region wants’ as a way of signaling that the United States is still there and is not pivoting away from the region.
Now, in terms of the Israelis this is a little more complicated right now. Prime Minister Netanyahu came out pretty forcefully today against the agreement which is not surprising, but the question is what is he going to do now. He’s got two options, one is he can continue to really go at it in the American press and he can continue to lobby Congress hard to get passed legislation that would essentially kill the deal. If he does that he is likely to be frozen out by the White House, but the President the President did signal today in his response that he would like to get back to consulting closely with the Israelis on these matters. And if what Netanyahu does is to publically disagree with the deal, which he probably will, he will quietly stop some of his lobbying efforts, and some of these efforts targeted at the American press, media and Hill. Then you can see the Administration going back to a position where Israel has the opportunity to influence the agreement, influence the implementation mechanisms that come after the agreement through quiet dialogue, and respective dialogue that for years in the early part of the Obama Administration we had on this issue. And if that happens then I think there are also reassurances that the United States can provide Israel, quietly, about how it will implement and how it will enforce the agreement. There are things that can be done to improve Israel’s situation and layout many of their concerns that will also work for the U.S.-Israel relationship. So I think that is the other big task at hand, but there I really think the ball is in Netanyahu’s court. He needs to make a decision on how he wants to approach this – continue in the public or move to something more private.[39:24] I’ll just finish by saying the third task, that we haven’t talked so much about but in some ways is the biggest, most important task, is actually getting to an agreement on June 30th or soon thereafter and getting to that final deal. Now it is not going to be easy, it is going to be complicated, it is going to involve a lot of drama and moments of no brinkmanship, perhaps missing deadlines as negotiators did this time. All that is going to happen again this time. And it will look like they are teetering at certain moments. But people really need to keep a steady eye on the ball.
The reality here is the President before this deal was saying 50-50 we are going to get to an agreement. I would argue it is more 75-25 or 80-20 that you will get to a final agreement given how far the parties have come. So there will be all kinds of drama of course, it is the natural process of negotiations just like any tough international negotiation or domestic negotiation for that matter. Just look at some of the recent negotiations on the Hill and shutting down the federal government. But I think that most likely you are going to get there for a final agreement on June 30th or soon thereafter.
I will stop there and turn it over to John.
JOHN BRADSHAW: [40:35] Thanks Ilan, and thanks Jim and Suzanne. So we will now open up the floor to questions from reports. Please state your name and your outlet if you’re not asking a question, remain on mute. But to ask a question, you don’t need to push any button or get in a queue, you can just go ahead and ask questions. So we’ll open the floor for the first question.
RACHEL OSWALD (CQ Roll Call): [40:57] Hi, this is Rachel Oswald calling from CQ Roll Call. I have a couple questions on what this means for Congress, specifically this White House fact sheet that was released yesterday, Prime Minister Zarif in a post he put on Twitter said there was no need to “spin” using fact sheets so early on, and I have heard from at least 1 lawmaker that he needs Iran to officially recognize all the points in the fact sheet before he will decide whether he is going to support Corker-Menendez. Do you, Ilan, anticipate this becoming a big stumbling block, and Suzanne to, if you want to answer, will Iran, we talked about this a little earlier, but what are Iran’s reasons for not officially recognizing the fact sheet at this point?
ILAN GOLDENBERG: [41:55] So I can start with Congress and I’ll just quote Suzanne’s language on you know the “you say tomato, I say tomato” use of diplomacy, which I think is a great line. Suzanne I’m going to steal that and use it. But I think that’s what is going on here; the administration is going to have to come back and there will be classified briefings that I’m sure get into a lot more detail than what’s even in that fact sheet, to walk folks through it. But you know this is going to be a balancing act on both sides. The administration needs to sell the deal at home and Iranians need to sell the deal at home. And they need to do it in such a way that doesn’t actually undercut the ability to get to the final agreement. You can’t ask either side to go too far on this. I don’t think that a member of Congress should expect the Iranians to publicly come out and align with the White House fact sheet. That’s not going to happen, that’s not how these deals work. But I do think that once they hear what the administration believes has been negotiated behind closed doors and the reasons for the Iranian’s not wanting to publicly line up with this level of detail at this moment, I think that you will probably get there on that. This is par for any agreement of such complexity and magnitude. But Suzanne I don’t know if you want to…
SUZANNE DIMAGGIO: [43:10] OK, thanks Ilan. I would just say that the Iranians have an allergy to fact sheets. They hate them. And all along I think the press reports got this right, the ones that did report. There was some tension between the Iranian and U.S. delegations about what would constitute the written outcome of this discussion. Now I would place here some emphasis on the importance of the Iranian team. I think we’ve been very fortunate to have the team led by someone like Zarif, who understands the U.S. political system, warts and all, as well as anyone. That was clearly demonstrated when he had to school Senator Cotton on our own Constitution. But beyond that, I had a discussion with a senior Iranian earlier in this process and he said to me something that stuck with me, and that was “we know what you [the U.S.] has to do and say to sell this deal in Washington. Please understand that we have the same pressures and we have to do and say certain things too.” So that was really my point- the Iranians from the beginning, that I said earlier, have always been emphasizing that we need a win-win outcome, and this is really what they meant. I think the document was pretty good at presenting a win-win narrative as I said. It really gave Iran some latitude to hit all the points they need to, and at the same time we knew that Washington, particularly Congress, would want to see some specifics. And here I think I was quite surprised by how many specifics were in the actual document, and I think it’ll go a long way towards assuring those members of Congress who were more worried than not that this was a good outcome.
JIM WALSH: [45:25] Not to put too fine a point on it, but the idea of insisting that the Iranians sign off to a U.S. fact sheet is just illogical and the threat that if you don’t do that, therefore I’m going to endorse legislation that might undermine the agreement, I mean, this is a framework agreement, so then we get the actual agreement. Which is written down and everyone can read. That’s the point on June 30, when we move to an actual, written agreement, that’s the point where members of Congress will be able to read what the legal commitments are of all the parties. But it just doesn’t make any sense; it sort of reverses the process. The agreement comes at the end, not at the beginning.
JOHN BRADSHAW: [46:12] Thanks Jim. Can we have our next question from another reporter please? Go ahead.
AMANDA BOWEN: [46:25] Hi, I wanted to ask Jim, you mentioned many elements of the agreement are 10 years, 15 years, 20 years or beyond, can you go into more detail of the permanent elements that will stay in place on the agreement?
JIM WALSH: [46:37] Sure. So some of the permanent agreements are legal and others are commitments that Iran is making on its own. So what are the legal ones? The legal ones include all the commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, its safeguards agreements. So when under the fact sheet you’ll notice that Iran has not been adhering to, and I hate to get technical here, Subsidiary Code 3.1, and that’s an aspect of Iran’s safeguards agreements with the IAEA that requires it to provide advanced notice to the agency if Iran plans to build any new facilities. Now under this agreement it’s not going to building any new facilities for a long long while, but should it do so in the future, it will be obliged forever to notify the agency in advance of that. And if it goes on to try to begin construction of facilities without that notification, that is a violation of its safeguards agreements. Similarly, they have pledged to adopt the Additional Protocol, and those obligations continue in perpetuity. And then in addition to the NPT, the Safeguards, 3.1, and the Additional Protocol, Iran is making a unilateral commitment not to develop reprocessing plants. And you cannot extract plutonium from nuclear waste unless you have a reprocessing plant, at least not on any sort of moderate scale.
Oh and I left one out, it also, and there are so many parts I’m probably going to leave a lot of stuff out, but it is also committing on this Arak reactor. Remember that is sort of permanent too in a different sort of way. When you rebuild the reactor under a different design and once you fire up the reactor, you can’t go back in and change it. It’s hot at that point, so once they build the new reactor that’s replacing the Arak reactor and it comes online, that’s a done deal. They aren’t going back on that. And their commitment to send out the spent fuel, again a necessary requirement in order to reprocess plutonium, the fact sheet describes that as indefinite. So another couple of elements that extend even beyond 25 years.
SUZANNE DIMAGGIO: [49:09] Can I make a quick point on Arak, just as follow up? And this goes back to my point about how Iranians are spinning this the way they want. But when I look at what has to be done to Arak to change it in this way, it comes pretty darn close to dismantling it. Correct me if I’m wrong Jim, so as I said, the U.S. is stopping short of using the word dismantle because they know that’s a red line for the Iranians.
JOHN BRADSHAW: [49:45] Thanks Suzanne and Jim. Other questions from reporters? Please state your name and your outlet when you ask a question.
RACHEL OSWALD, CQ Roll Call: [50:15] I have a question. My question then would be for any speaker, is your impression that Iran and the United States are on the same page about sanctions being snapped back if violations occur? Because Zarif seemed, it seemed like he was saying that Iran only needed to prove itself once in order for all sanctions to be lifted.
SUZANNE DIMAGGIO: [50:45] I think on snap back options, the Iranians are on board with it, but this is one of the areas that details have to be worked out. I think the Iranians would prefer to have a concrete mechanism whereby any potential violation is brought to a group or committee that’s designated by the P5+1 to examine it. I heard one proposal that said it could include a representative from Iran, a representative or two from the P5+1, one from the IAEA. I think this is the kind of direction they would like to move so those details have to be worked out. Secondly, what I found interesting in what Zarif said yesterday in Lausanne was he did mention that there would be a reciprocal mechanism for snap-back. And by this I think one of the things the Iranians regret they did not do earlier was put in place a mechanism to monitor compliance with sanctions relief. And as we’ve seen through the process for the interim agreement there have been some bumps along the way in how that sanctions relief proceeded. That I think really irked the Iranians, so I think we’ll also see some sort of mechanism to look at how sanctions are relieved and make sure that process goes smoothly.
ILAN GOLDENBERG: [52:20] This is Ilan, I want to chime in on a couple things here. I think for the administration, what they want to do is the snap-back option is complicated because what the Administration wants is something that doesn’t give the Russians, Chinese, or Iranians a veto over a snap-back. And I think that that’s hard, not just for Iran to accept, but as much as difficult for the Russians or the Chinese to accept since they very much covet their role in the UN Security Council and the veto power that comes with. But you know, from the White House perspective, anything that essentially meant new sanctions that would require Russian or Chinese votes is almost impossible to pass. So I think that you’ll have to wait and see about how they actually manage to work this out and what kind of mechanism it is, you know. But I think that there will definitely be a feel that there needs to be some kind of automaticity, but a realistic way of snapping this back.
The other thing I’ll say though is, in some ways, what’s useful about the snapback, there’s been all kinds of criticism about well logistically it would take so long to punish or put anything back together. The best example we have is the JPOA and in fact there were moments of also, some work Iranians did on the IR-5 centrifuge, which became questionable- was this a violation? Wasn’t it a violation? Iranians stop doing it very quickly when negotiators came to them and said let’s find a way to work this out, and is this a violation. We think you might be violating the JPOA. So as long as you have the mechanism in place and you are able to catch and monitor you never actually get to the point of a snapback. The point of a snapback is it creates a deterrent which allows resolution of a question very quickly before it ever gets to that point.
JOHN BRADSHAW: [54:18] Thanks Ilan, that’s a great point. Other questions from reporters on the call?
RACHEL OSWALD, CQ Roll Call: [54:35] This is for Ilan. So it looks to me that key to securing passage of Corker-Menendez will be enough centrist Democrats being convinced that the GOP, is that when Republican senators make a decision on whether to approve the Iran deal they will not be voting for ideological or partisan reasons. That they will look at the deal as it is. What do you think the prospects are on that and who do you think, l guess besides Bob Corker is best positioned in the Republican party on the Senate Side, and also on the house side as well, to kind of talk to centrist Democrats and assure them that there won’t be another act like the Cotton letter which appeared very partisan.
ILAN GOLDENBERG: [55:22] Well I think the problem is, I think we’re beyond that point. Given the Cotton letter, given Netanyahu’s speech in the last month, I think anybody who signed on to the Cotton letter, and there are 47 members, is not in a position to now be able to try to convince democrats. And this is exactly what folks like Angus King and those fence-sitters were saying, if this looks like it’s a partisan shot at the president and it’s not about the policy I’m not going to support it.
So just trying to think through who are those, I mean honestly I don’t think there’s almost any Republicans who could do it. Maybe it’s some of the other centrist Democrats who continue to support the legislation who are going to have to move other Democrats along. It’s going to have to be folks like Tim Kane or Ben Cardin, if they decide they are going to support it, who would actually have to try to get other Democrats to move along. I think that given where the situation is today, it’s sort of strange credulity. I mean on the House side it’s again, it’s some of those Democratic centrists and leaders on these issues, like Elliott Engel, who become key players and you know you saw his statement yesterday, which was supportive but said “I need to see the details.” I think that’s where you’re going to see most of these centrist Democrats come down, they’re going to say this, it seems like quite an accomplishment, looking forward to hearing more about it, let’s talk some more and figure it out and I need to be reassured. And I think that that reassurance is going to take time and it’s going to come through classified briefings that are probably already beginning but aren’t really going to happen until folks get back, that’s how I see this playing out.
But the reality is that at the end of the day, when Congress looks at the alternatives, do they really want to own this issue given the public reaction that you’ve seen, given that I’ve only a little bit of initial polling, and John I don’t know if you know more on this, we’ll see polling in the next two weeks too. And I have a feeling the American public is going to strongly support this deal given the level of details and given the way it’s presented, given initial reaction at the expert level, bi-partisan reaction at the expert level, and I have a hard time seeing members at that point tanking the agreement by passing legislation over the Administration’s objections.
JOHN BRADSHAW: [57:39] You’re right Ilan, polling has shown strong support and I agree with you that we will likely see that go up in the next couple of weeks because of the way this has been framed and presented. Do we have other questions from reporters on the call?
JOHN BRADSHAW: [58:10] Let me ask one, Jim this is mostly for you. In the next 3 months as we move towards June 30th, obviously there is a lot of work to be done and things to be hammered out, what do you think are most likely to be the major sticking points and most challenging issues? Some of the issues that were outlined in the fact sheet and may be relatively easy to resolve, but there are a few, maybe reducing of the LAU stockpile, that we are likely to see emerging as the real battlegrounds as we try to get to a final deal.
JIM WALSH: [58:44] Well I think most of them, I mean there are things on the non-proliferation side that will remain to be a challenge, and especially as you define them on paper and as specific actions. But I think most of that, most of the contentious issues will be less about non-proliferation obligations and more about the sequencing of sanctions relief and the UN Security Council sanctions. You know, I think there’s going to be, and I don’t know how they can deal with it, but those folks who oppose any agreement with Iran may very well try to sabotage it by passing sanctions that are on other “non-nuclear issues.” Let’s say, as you heard yesterday in Lausanne that the sanctions relief comes from sanctions related to the nuclear, and there may be some mischief where opponents of any deal will try to pass sanctions legislation that they say on the surface is aimed at terrorism or protection of religious minorities or whatever you want to say, but is really just sanctions in a same act given a different cover, and how to deal with that I think that’s something that will be a challenge, as well as the actual UN Security Council and U.S. sanctions, congressionally mandated U.S. sanctions rollback.
But on the technical side, I think my guess is it’s the same issues that you’ve heard they were wrestling with towards the end of the negotiations. That is to say, what happens in some of the out years, particularly around R & D? I mean they have, according to the fact sheet, they have a pretty robust formulation now that whatever is done with advanced centrifuge designs, the deployment of those centrifuges will be done in such a way as to preserve a year breakout time. But I think that R & D is especially an issue, and fixing the out years will be an issue. I think there may be, the language is pretty broad in the fact sheet about IAEA’s ability to go anywhere in the country. Traditionally, that’s not really the case. Countries, all countries, not least the United States, get very nervous about the notion of saying anyone can go anywhere because of sensitive facilities. There are sensitive military facilities in the U.S., there are sensitive intelligence facilities, there are all sorts of things that you don’t want anyone snooping around in. Even if you don’t have nuclear activity there, you don’t want them snooping around, so I think there will be some work around how that is actually operationalized.
I don’t think it’s going to be a carte blanche, I don’t think it could be a carte blanche. Certainly no-one could submit to that, no matter what their country was. But I think there will be some process here that would allow them to manage that. There will have to be some burden of proof; it can’t be just that “Oh I feel like visiting this site today.” This military site. So there definitely will have to be some work around that.
JOHN BRADSHAW: [1:02:05] Great, thanks Jim. Any final questions from reporters? We’ll wrap up shortly but we may have time for one last question if anyone has one.
RACHEL OSWALD, CQ Roll Call: [1:02:17] I have another question. What do you make of how aligned are they on the sequencing of the sanctions on the UN and the EU? There are also a few questions about whether those sanctions, when those sanctions will be lifted. And what is the realistic power of lawmakers in the U.S. to derail the deal if they vote to forbid the lifting of Congressional sanctions when the U.S. sanctions, to my understanding, are going to be lifted toward the end anyway?
JIM WALSH: [1:02:50] I will defer to Susan, but I can offer some initial results. I think your impulse is right, that let me take the latter question first, on congressionally mandated sanctions. I mean, the sanctions relief that’s going to come early is going to, actually this is addressed to both I think. I think you’ll see sanctions relief from the Europeans right out of the gate, and you’ll see sanctions relief on those sanctions that whose origin was in the Executive Branch.
Sanctions come from different places and have different forms. Some of the sanctions in place over the years were purely executive sanctions. So President Obama has the full authority to revoke those sanctions as he deems fit. They were not produced by Congress; they were produced by the office of the President. Then there are congressional sanctions where built into the sanctions legislation are waivers. And so they will be able to provide some sanctions relief there. That won’t be sufficient for the Iranians because they don’t want to have to go through a situation where they are on parole indefinitely and every six months the sanctions or waivers are rolled over, so you know that will work for a while, that’s not going to work forever. And eventually Congress does have to weigh in to repeal that architecture.
But you’re absolutely right; I think that comes at the end. And I agree with my colleagues, I think that the political momentum is with this agreement. And this will likely be a virtuous circle, as was the JPOA. That is to say as each side acts in accordance with their obligations it will give the other sides confidence to move forward, and then that builds in a virtuous way. So by the time we get to an end it may not actually be a very big deal, but it’s hard to imagine where we’re going to be ten of fifteen years down the road. And honestly the UN Security Council and EU sanctions, I think the EU sanctions relief will come quickly but I don’t think the UN Security Council issue will languish and because it’s important to Iran and it’s also tied to the possible military dimensions issue, if I read correctly, I may be wrong but if I read it correctly, they have to settle up with the IAEA over possible military dimensions before being able to go back to the UN to get this resolved. Again I think the lawyers are going to have a tough time here writing a new resolution that both eliminates most of the provisions of the old resolutions and yet retains some leverage in some form. So the operationalizing will be difficult, but I think that certainly the Iranians will be motivated to want to see that sooner rather than later. So I don’t think that’s going to languish too long, if it takes time it’s going to take time because it’s difficult, not because of some other reason. But I expect the European and Executive authority sanctions relief to come quickly.
SUZANNE DIMAGGIO: [1:05:58] On this issue I think Jim’s description of the process is right. On the UN Security Council related sanctions, I think what’s being discussed is a new UN Security Council resolution that would supersede existing resolutions. This is a creative way to deal with some of the problems that exist there, and some aspects of the previous revolutions will remain in place. Those that, my understanding, relate to missiles and other aspects will likely stay in place. And then one other point I wanted to make is that I think I see this as a major point of leverage for the Administration. This is an agreement; this isn’t a U.S. – Iran agreement. This is an agreement Iran is reaching with the major powers. And if Congress derails it and the rest of the world and our allies in particular are ready to go forward, that will leave us in a very difficult situation. I would call it one of the worst outcomes that could possibly happen. In such a situation the bets are off regarding the cohesion of the international sanctions regime, we could see especially China and Russia peeling off pretty quickly, but also India and Japan and Australia and other countries. Will they abide by existing sanctions? I really don’t think so.
JOHN BRADSHAW: [1:07:26] Thanks Suzanne, thanks Jim, and thanks to Illan when he was on the call. We’re going to go ahead and wrap it up. Thanks to all of our panelists, thanks to all the reporters who joined us today. We will have the audio of this call posted at some point this afternoon, if you have any questions about anything just be in touch with Adrian Arroyo who helped set up the call, and with that, we will close it out. Thanks everybody.