Goals and Significance of the Iran Deal

Goals and Significance of the Iran Deal

by

Howard Adelman

This past summer, John Robson wrote an op-ed in the National Post (17 July 2015) claiming that, “those most determined to stop Iran from going nuclear are most unhappy with the deal.” He went from that assumption to its presumed opposite, asserting that those most committed to the deal then must have a very different agenda than stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. He speculated that it might mean a desire to promote regime change provided that this happens before Iran goes nuclear in ten years. Or perhaps the real motive is a soft-headed rather than hard-hearted intent simply to delay Iran going nuclear for just ten years. (He did not write soft-hearted versus hard-headed, but if he so deliberately turns what is written on its head, he perhaps deserves the same treatment, even if only for a weak attempt at humour.)

However, ignoring the extreme misrepresentation for the moment, just look at the bad logic. To repeat, he insists that, “those most determined to stop Iran from going nuclear are most unhappy with the deal.” But is it not more valid to assert that those most unhappy with the deal are more determined to continue economically crippling Iran so it is less able to pursue its hegemonic program in the Middle East and enhance its extreme antagonism towards Israel? Are these goals not the primary ones rather than any determination to stop Iran from going nuclear? The presumption that Netanyahu and his ilk are the ones most determined to stop Iran from going nuclear is a presumption, not a fact, and I would argue a false one. Further, even if it was accepted that the extreme opponents of the deal are the ones most determined to stop Iran from going nuclear – a very questionable assumption indeed – it does not follow that this is the reason that they are really unhappy with the deal. Nor does it explain their actions, particularly Netanyahu appearing before the American Congress to try to persuade Americans to kill the deal. Netanyahu said, “I deeply regret that some perceive my being here as political; that was never my intention.” But how else can one describe the enormous effort the Jewish state put in to killing the deal. Motives can be overdetermined – to kill the deal, to prevent Iran from becoming an even more powerful economic and military power in the region, and even, perhaps, to heighten the political schisms already in America.

The false assumptions and illogic in reasoning is also to be found in the characterization of the proponents of the deal. While those proponents, as I indicated in my last blog, have a modest agenda focused only on making sure Iran does not develop nuclear weapons and that they have no agenda beyond that, the argument that they must have another hidden agenda, such as an illusionary expectation of regime change, does not follow from the argument that the opponents of the deal are most determined to stop Iran from becoming nuclear. It is both logically and empirically possible that the proponents and opponents are equally, or almost equally opposed to Iran not acquiring nuclear arms, but either side may have additional, and often very understandable and even commendable goals separate from that one, such as the fairly obvious one, that Netanyahu also has the goal of keeping Iran crippled economically.

Now I wish that John Robson were just an extreme example of a critic who is both illogical and misrepresents reality, but, unfortunately, this is not the case. He may teach history in Ottawa and be a journalist and documentary filmmaker, but he also may be one of the poorest critics of the accord. He, however, has lots of company, though many do not defend that opposition on the basis of sheer partisanship that is immune to wrestling with facts and rational argument.

Take another critic of the accord, Shimon Kofler Fogel, CEO for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), the Canadian counterpart to America’s AIPAC. At least in his op-ed alongside John Robson’s, he says what he believes is wrong in his view of the deal, that it fails to leverage the diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran to reign in its hegemonic foreign policy goals and its extreme antipathy to Israel. He is absolutely correct. It does not do that. Further, all parties negotiating with Iran did not believe that was a feasible goal. But Fogel, though accurate about the non-achievement of the accord, is also guilty of false reasoning. If the weight of sanctions coerced the Iranian regime to come to the negotiating table, then, he argues, it follows that those conditions can and ought to have been used to modify Iranian foreign policy. But that does not follow at all, not only not for Iran, but for virtually all of the other representatives of the six nations negotiating with Iran.

The fact that Iran is the leading sponsor of terror in the Middle East (I personally think ISIS is, but Iran is horrible enough, and the point is not worth debating here), that it is a brutal regime with an enormous number of executions per year and extreme repression of its minorities, mainly Bahä.a’is, does not invalidate the value of the agreement. Fogel’s recommendation that relief from the sanctions should be tied to Iranian tangible progress on reducing Iran’s role as a state-sponsor of terror is disingenuous. For, to repeat, it was neither the goal of the negotiations nor one that any reasonably-knowledgeable person argues could be achieved by negotiations at this time. The agreement already allows for his other recommendations – continuing to define Iran as a state-sponsor of terrorism, continuing the criticism of Iran for its horrendous human rights record and the continuing use of sanctions for these reasons – quite separate from the provisions of the Special Economic Measures Act.

The goal of the negotiations with Iran was clearly spelled out in Obama’s first election platform, but particularly in the Prague Agenda articulated in an Obama speech in Hradčany Square of the Czech capital on 5 April 2009, which focused on Iran, not as a rogue state, not as a promoter of terrorism, not as a human rights abuser and, most of all, not as an intractable enemy of Israel. The focus was on promoting the peaceful use of nuclear energy and reinforcing mechanisms in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Obama was intent on reducing the risks posed by nuclear weapons while simultaneously supporting and promoting nuclear energy as an alternative for peaceful purposes.

The Prague Agenda included a broad swath of goals, many since achieved:

  • Negotiating a new START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) with Russia to reduce their strategic nuclear arsenals by 30%;
  • Cancellation of the Bush plan to deploy ground-based strategic missile interceptors in Europe;
  • Restricting the strategic use of America’s nuclear arsenal to deterrence only;
  • Banning nuclear testing for the future.

The Prague Agenda included further restrictions on North Korea and Pakistan, but these have notably not been achieved. However, the goal of rallying international support and engaging Iran to resolve the crisis over its military nuclear program has now finally been achieved after over five years of work. The Majli, the Iranian parliament has just endorsed the deal. So has the Obama administration. “My administration will seek engagement with Iran based on mutual interests and mutual respect. We believe in dialogue. But in that dialogue we will present a clear choice. We want Iran to take its rightful place in the community.” (my italics) Israel wanted no such result for this regime.

Making the world safer from nuclear terror and reigning in Iran did not supplant the need for deterrence and a strong regional strategy. (It may have had an inadvertent impact on it.) Further, the achievement of such a goal of eliminating the prospect of Iran becoming a nuclear power had to meet a number of criteria:

  1. The strongest inspection and verification system ever;
  2. Elimination of advanced centrifuges and a significant reduction of older models;
  3. A virtual elimination of Iran’s stockpile of highly enriched uranium
  4. Sanctions relief as a quid pro quo;
  5. Spelling out repercussions in case of violations.

A further word is needed on the prospect of regime change in Iran and transformation of its confrontational ideology. Paul Berman in The Tablet on 15 July 2015 focused on a single paragraph in Obama’s speech about the conclusion of the Iran deal. Obama stated in reference to U.S./Iran relations, “Our differences are real, and the difficult history between our nations cannot be ignored. But it is possible to change. The path of violence and rigid ideology, a foreign policy based on threats to attack your neighbors or eradicate Israel – that’s a dead end. A different path, one of tolerance and peaceful resolution of conflict, leads to more integration into the global economy, more engagement with the international community, and the ability of the Iranian people to prosper and thrive.”

Paul Berman insisted that this one paragraph was crucial because, “if a change among the Iranians is not, in fact, possible, then Obama’s critics are right. The deal will turn out to be a disaster because, in the short run, it will strengthen the Islamic Republic conventionally and, in the long run, will strengthen the Islamic Republic unconventionally – and, all the while, the Islamic Republic will go on treading the dead-end path of violence and rigid ideology and the dream of eradicating demonic enemies. It is hard to imagine how, under those circumstances, the deal will reduce the chances of war. On the contrary, Iran’s endangered neighbors will contemplate their own prospective eradication and will certainly notice that time is against them, and they would be foolish not to act.”

It is one thing to argue that regime transformation may take place as a result of the deal and the insistence that it must take place or else the deal is more than worthless for it will enhance the prospect of war in the region. Obama made the former claim. Berman extracted from that slim possibility and transformed it magically into an absolute necessity. In that case, then the nuclear containment deal to peaceful uses is only as good as the strength of the possibility of transformation of the Iranian regime. That is clearly not Obama’s position.

It is and was certainly not the goal of the Iranians who stood steadfast in the opposition to the “arrogant” U.S., “the policies of which they viewed to be at 180 degrees to their own. The U.S. remained as the “Great Satan” ever after 18 months of negotiations. Israel remained its implacable enemy. Though Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei insisted that the deal was only about guaranteeing that Iran could continue its peaceful program of developing nuclear energy and had no wider goals, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani insisted there was another aim: opening a new chapter of cooperation with the outside world after years of sanctions. He predicted that the “win-win” result would gradually eliminate mutual mistrust. Similarly, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also saw the deal as going beyond the nuclear arrangements and hopefully could lead to greater regional and international cooperation.

What have Benjamin Netanyahu’s goals been in rejecting and criticizing the negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program? Let me go back to his address to a joint session of Congress, not the one earlier this year, but the one he delivered on 24 May 2011 before the negotiations got underway and when the Arab Spring remained a gleam in many eyes, including Netanyahu’s. Though most of his address focused on the negotiations with the Palestinians, a small portion of his remarks addressed the question of Iran. Iran was depicted as the most powerful force in the Middle East opposed to modernity, opposed to democracy and opposed to peace. Here are Netanyahu’s words verbatim:

The tyranny in Tehran brutalizes its own people. It supports attacks against Americans troops in Afghanistan and in Iraq. It subjugates Lebanon and Gaza. It sponsors terror worldwide.

When I last stood here, I spoke of the consequences of Iran developing nuclear weapons. Now time is running out. The hinge of history may soon turn, for the greatest danger of all could soon be upon us: a militant Islamic regime armed with nuclear weapons. (my italics) Militant Islam threatens the world. It threatens Islam. A nuclear-armed Iran would ignite a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. It would give terrorists a nuclear umbrella. It would make the nightmare of nuclear terrorism a clear and present danger throughout the world.

These were not Obama’s words, but those of Netanyahu. Then he came across as the most vocal champion of ensuring that a militant Iran did not possess nuclear weapons. Just over seven months later, in the 2012 new year, when the U.S. led the successful charge to impose new and tough sanctions against Iran’s oil and banking industry as the “only” diplomatic measure that could force Iran to the negotiating table, after President Obama signed legislation imposing sanctions against Iran’s central bank to impede Iranian oil sales and the EU put plans in place for an oil embargo, this goal was no longer sufficient for Netanyahu. The consequent weakening of the Iranian rial led Iran to state that it was willing to permit a visit by a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which, independently of the world powers, had suggested that Iran was working towards acquiring the ability to make nuclear weapons. As the goal of dismantling Iran’s nuclear weapons came nearer, Netanyahu’s pitch shifted.

There was one discordant note at the time. Israel wanted the U.S. to warn Iran that if the sanctions and diplomacy failed to get Iran to abandon its nuclear program, the U.S. should warn Iran that the U.S. would resort to military means to stop Iran. While not ruling out such a possibility, the U.S. refused to threaten Iran if negotiations failed. In contrast, Netanyahu, while applauding the new economic sanctions aimed at stopping Iran’s military nuclear program, insisted that only if the sanctions were combined with the threat of military action would the effort succeed. Netanyahu was proven wrong. It succeeded beyond most expectations. No threat of military action was necessary.

That note threatening military action grew far more shrill when Netanyahu, during the period in which he was struggling to put together a new coalition government, addressed an AIPAC Policy Conference in March 2013. After the usual praise for the President and Vice-President of the U.S., after the accolades to the government of the United States as Israel’s best and most steadfast ally, Netanyahu now insisted far more vociferously that sanctions were insufficient and that Iran needed to be militarily threatened.

Iran has made it clear that it will continue to defy the will of the international community. Time after time, the world powers have tabled diplomatic proposals to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue peacefully. But diplomacy has not worked. (my italics) Iran ignores these offers. It is running out the clock. It has used negotiations to buy time to press ahead with its nuclear program. Thus far, the sanctions have not stopped the nuclear program either. The sanctions have hit the Iranian economy hard. But Iran’s leaders grit their teeth and move forward. Iran enriches more and more uranium.  It installs faster and faster centrifuges Iran has still not crossed the red line I drew at the United Nations last September. But they are getting closer and closer to that line. And they are putting themselves in a position to cross that line very quickly once they decide to do so. Ladies and Gentlemen, to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, we cannot allow Iran to cross that line. We must stop its nuclear enrichment program before it will be too late.  Words alone will not stop Iran.  Sanctions alone will not stop Iran. (my italics) Sanctions must be coupled with a clear and credible military threat if diplomacy and sanctions fail.

From March 2013 until November 2013 when the negotiators were on the verge of a tentative deal with Iran, and with the US Senate poised to authorize new sanctions, and after Obama phoned Netanyahu to ask him not to oppose the deal, Netanyahu did just that, openly opposed the deal by phoning all the other leaders asking them to block it. French President François Hollande agreed. The French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, carried the message to his colleagues in the negotiations which bought time for Israel to take further steps to try to stop the deal after Netanyahu had failed to persuade John Kerry at Ben Gurion Airport not to loosen sanctions without the Iranians agreeing to halt the nuclear project altogether. The sticking points then were Iran’s stock of enriched uranium and the heavy water reactor at Arak that could produce plutonium from spent fuel.

The delay turned out to be temporary only. On 24 November 2013, an interim agreement, called the Joint Plan of Action, was agreed upon in Geneva that provided for a short-term freeze on much of Iran’s nuclear program in return for a decrease in the economic sanctions against Iran, the agreement to commence on 20 January 2014. Iran agreed not to commission or fuel the Arak heavy-water reactor or build a reprocessing plant to convert spent fuel into plutonium, agreed not to commission the Bushehr Nuclear Plant, the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plan, the Isafahn uranium-conversion plant, the Natanz uranium-conversion plant and the Parchin military research and development complex. Iran also agreed to stop enriching uranium above 5% reactor-grade, and to dilute its stock of 20%-enriched uranium. As well, Iran agreed not to increase its stockpile of low-enriched uranium and to leave half its 16,000 centrifuges inoperable, all this to be verified by more extensive and frequent inspections.

That is when Netanyahu first labelled the deal a historic mistake and became an implacable foe to the negotiations. But not because it left Iran as an implacable foe of Israel. Not because of Iran’s hegemonic ambitions in the region. Those reasons would come later. At that point the deal was opposed because it did not dismantle Iran’s nuclear capacity altogether. In other words, Netanyahu now opposed Iran even having the ability to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Netanyahu had upped the ante and produced a deep gulf between Israel and the P5+1, for the premise of the negotiations from the get-go was that Iran would be allowed to use its nuclear knowhow and facilities for peaceful purposes. In his speech to the Knesset on the Plan of Action, Netanyahu admitted that sanctions without a military threat had, in fact, produced significant and successful results, but the deal was still bad because the results were not tangible. Effectively shutting down Iran’s nuclear military production was insufficient.

From then on, the line of attack grew more shrill, more definitive, and the grounds expanded until the bulk of the weight was not on the efficacy of inspections or the length of time Iran’s military nuclear program would be in place, though these were always there and were almost always deformed with less and less resemblance to the actual terms of the agreement. It soon became obvious and clear that Netanyahu was not really after an agreement that halted the possibility of Iran developing nuclear weapons, but that he opposed the deal because Iran without nuclear arms would be an even more dangerous foe of Israel. However, preventing Iran from using its facilities for peaceful purposes had never been a premise of the negotiations or there never would have been any negotiations. Further, that goal of dismantling Iran’s nuclear facilities altogether had not been Netanyahu’s goal eighteen months earlier.

Netanyahu was now engaged in gross exaggeration if not an outright lie. “Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world .” (my italics) This is a bad agreement; this is a historic mistake. This became his mantra. Both were evaluations of a very dubious nature as more and more information emerged about both the Action Plan and the terms of the ongoing negotiations. Netanyahu’s efforts to weave his new critique and reconcile it with his old support for simply a ban on Iran’s ability to make nuclear weapons was skating on thinner and thinner ice. The release of the final agreement in July allowed him to fall through the ice, but the freezing water has not reduced the pitch of his hysteria one iota. Netanyahu had established to any objective observer, as distinct from his horde of cheerleaders, that he was not the one most opposed to Iran developing nuclear weapons; he wanted to keep Iran impoverished for very understandable reasons given Iran’s irrational and extreme antipathy towards Israel.

The Iranian Nuclear Deal – Part II

The Iranian Nuclear Deal – Part II

by

Howard Adelman

The Significance of the Agreement

Was this the “the most significant and tangible progress that we’ve made with Iran” since Obama took office? Or was the agreement a “historic mistake”, a loss of momentum towards capitulation by Iran or the readiness to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities by the allies? Without question it was the most significant agreement since there had been none for decades. Its projected impact was presumed to be very large whether one approved or disapproved of the deal. The real question is whether the agreement represented progress or a historic mistake.

Canada took a position somewhere between Netanyahu and Obama by emphasizing scepticism and withholding its support of the agreement until such time as Iran granted “unfettered access” to all of Iran’s nuclear facilities. Further, Canada waited to see whether the verification promised in the deal was fulfilled. Although the Harper government said it had been moving economic self-interest to the front in its foreign policy, in the case of Iran, Canada closed its embassy and delayed the gold rush of opportunities as western companies sought to establish a foothold in the opening with Iran. At the same time, Canada abandoned its political lockstep link to Israeli policy, hence losing any advantage by the delay.

Why then did Avi Benlolo of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center support the Canadian position since Canada supported the interim agreement if full transparency and verification resulted. Benolo was far more critical of the agreement and accused the P5+1 of being suckered by Iran’s new smiling diplomacy while Iran retained its deep antipathy to the West and remained determined to develop nuclear weapons while it bought the necessary time to progress towards that goal. For Benolo, the Iranian retreat had to be surrender, not just of the entire nuclear program, but of the support for terrorism. Canada stipulated no such conditions.

Certainly, the agreement does nothing substantive to curb Iran’s rogue status in the international community. However, the interim agreement opens wide such a possibility. The real substantive dispute is whether the interim agreement denies Iran the right to enrich uranium or whether it reified Iran’s right to enrich uranium, as President Rouhani declared? Uranium enrichment can produce low-enriched uranium (LEU) used as fuel in civilian nuclear reactors, or highly enriched uranium for fissile material for nuclear weapons. John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, claimed that Iran was not given any inherent and unfettered right to enrich uranium, but concedes that Iran will likely be given a limited, completely verifiable right to have a very constrained program of enrichment for peaceful (medical) purposes.

This was not a zone of creative ambiguity because Iran retains the right to enrich uranium to 5% purity for peaceful purposes, but is explicitly denied the right to enrich uranium to 20% purity to enable Iran, with banks of centrifuges, then to increase that uranium readily to 90% purity for weapon’s grade purposes. The agreement does NOT enshrine an apparent promise that at the end of the process, Iran would be entitled to enrich uranium as it wants, when it wants and as much as it wants. Such a charge makes nonsense of the plain text of the agreement.

In a more modest but very severe criticism, did the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) shred six United Nations Security Council resolutions that required the Islamic Republic of Islam to abandon its enrichment program and reprocessing facilities? Not as I read the intent of the agreement that followed the interim one. Further, the UN resolutions demanded only that Iran “suspend” its nuclear enrichment program, embark on a course of confidence-building measures, suspend the construction of heavy water plant at Arak for producing plutonium and ratify the IAEA additional protocol. Iran did all of these.

The first three points were already part of the interim agreement. The UNSC nonbinding resolutions required a suspension of Iran’s enrichment, a reconsideration of its decision to build a heavy-water nuclear reactor, and Tehran’s implementation of “transparency measures” providing inspectors with access to non-nuclear facilities, procurement documents, and the opportunity to interview certain Iranian officials. This is precisely what the interim agreement achieved. Perhaps, these successes may be inadequate, may cover up for a long term malevolent intent, but they seem clearly to fulfil both the letter and spirit of the UNSC resolutions. Previously, Iran had accelerated work on its uranium enrichment program (it had stopped in November 2004) and stopped voluntarily adhering to the Additional Protocol. The interim agreement seems to fulfil the aims of the UNSC resolutions in accordance with the goals of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2006.

The Reception in Iran

The agreement had a fiery reception in Iran, only second to the one that greeted the agreement in the United States. On 23 June 2015, three weeks prior to the signing of the agreement, the Majlis, Iran’s Parliament, passed The Government’s Obligation Act to Protect the Nuclear Rights and Achievements of the Iranian Nation (the Iran Nuclear Achievements Act – INAA) by a vote of 213 to 10. The Act provided that all sanctions be lifted on the day Iran began to comply with the obligations of the Agreement, a requirement that the JCPOA definitively did not make. However, there was nothing in the agreement that contradicted the Act’s requirements on inspections restricted to nuclear facilities but banning access to military bases and security sensitive areas because the Act also provided that such access conform to Supreme National Security policies. Therefore, the steps to obtain such approval were included in the agreement. More importantly, the Act only required that the agreement be submitted to the Majlis, not endorsed by that body.

Less than a week after the deal was signed on 14 July 2015, the Majlis set up a special commission to examine the JCPOA with a vote on its report scheduled just after the deadline for American Congressional approval. However, two days before the deal was signed, President Rouhani signed the law safeguarding Iran’s nuclear achievements and ordered the relevant ministries to implement INAA, in effect, JCPOA. The hardliners in Iran, parallel to the hardliners in the U.S., were denied a voice to a great degree to articulate their strong opposition because the Supreme National Security Council issued a directive to media outlets to avoid representing Iran as divided about the deal and, therefore, avoid permitting the hardliners – the fundamentalists, authoritarians and militants – to criticize the deal and insist that the agreement crossed the red line of the Supreme Leader. By 3 September, the Supreme Leader weighed in and reversed the intent of the legislation and determined that the Majlis should make the final decision, not the government on its own; Majlis approval now seemed to be required.

But the make-up of the Special Commission, while giving the opposition a strong voice, still seemed to assure that the agreement would be approved. The Majlis 15-member Special Commission for examining the nuclear agreement consisted of a clear majority of moderates: 6 members representing not only the United Front but the Combatant Clergy, the Pathfinders and the Resistance Front. They were opposed by the 6 members of the Stability Front, the party of extremist fundamentalists. However, the opposition on the other flank to the so-called moderates were the Reformists (2 seats) and independent (1 seat) who were expected to support the moderates on approving the deal. In any case, the Majlis was very weak relative to the Executive branch of government and the Executive Branch was fully committed to implementing the deal.

The Reception Elsewhere and in the United States

I have already referred to the overwhelming opposition to the deal In Israel. However, in Europe the agreement had vast support. Further, 70 nuclear non-proliferation experts endorsed the agreement. So did the United Nations Security Council in a unanimous vote. The agreement, however, was vociferously and overwhelmingly opposed by Republican majorities in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate where the vote on the deal was scheduled for September. A two-thirds vote would have to be mustered to overthrow a Presidential deal since the Senate had already surrendered its power to formally endorse the agreement.

The key players were 28 Jewish Congressmen; all but one were Democrats or independents who support the Democrats. There were 19 in the House and 9 in the Senate. The huge lobbying effort of AIPAC (American Israeli Public Affairs Committee), the Jewish pro-Israel lobby group and the outspoken voice of Netanyahu who addressed a joint session of Congress, was not able to dissuade 19 of the 28 Jewish congressional members from endorsing the agreement. Congress thus could not muster the votes to defeat a Presidential override of any act to delay or defeat the agreement.  In effect, without a formal vote, the deal was sealed on 17 September, the agreed allotted time for the opposition to see if it could muster sufficient votes to override the agreement.

Setting aside the actual legislative victory of sorts, why is there a plethora of institutions, politicians and pundits in the United States even opposed to the agreement? Am I missing something?  No. The critics play on ambiguity. They say that the agreement enshrines Iran’s right to enrich uranium, as if this was a problem. The agreement does say explicitly that Iran has the right to enrich uranium to 5% for peaceful purposes. Iran does not have the right for further enrichment. Obfuscating this difference just confuses the public for political purposes. John Kerry did not say that Iran had no right to enrich uranium. He said that Iran had no right to enrich uranium to weapons grade, a very different matter. The reality is that Iran was within 6-8 weeks of a breakout point. If the negotiations had failed, the choice then was bombing the facilities or merely increasing sanctions. If the deal succeeds, Iran will be much further back, but will have acquired access to funds and a restored faith in the Iranian rial so the economy will improve spectacularly. But this is what the P5+1 want as well as Iran – for that would help solidify support for the agreement. Further, if the new transparency reveals cheating, the sanctions would be quickly re-imposed, the rial would plummet in value and Iran would be even worse off than it is now with dashed domestic hopes and a restive public.

If the deal had not been made, following the pattern George Bush did in 2003 when he rejected Iranian overtures to make a deal in the expectation that the Iranian regime would collapse, the results would have been disastrous. When Bush scuttled a prospective deal, Iran did not collapse. Iran has almost 20,000 centrifuges rather than the less than 200 it had ten years ago. Iran would be able to approach the breaking point without breaking into the production of nuclear weapons, thereby keeping the rest of the world on tenterhooks. If Israel attacked and even succeeded, Israel would likely be labelled the rogue state, not Iran. More seriously, Iran would feel free, and China and Russia would support Iran, to complete its nuclear program in order to defend itself against future attacks from Israel. The nascent hope is that the Iranian population will turn to greater trust in dealing with the rest of the world. Iran could come out of the cold.

The Danger to Israel and Saudi Arabia

This is precisely the real danger for Israel and the Gulf states. They do not want a more powerful non-nuclear Iran. After all, Iran is the main supporter of Assad in Syria, sponsors Hezbollah in Lebanon, has made the Iraqi Shiite-dominated regime in Iraq a satrap, supports subversion in Bahrain, and is a supporter of Hamas. Retaining the sanctions and fencing Iran in is more important for Israel than reversing Iran’s direction towards an ability to make nuclear weapons. The agreement is seen as a golden opportunity to improve relations with the West, strengthen the regime and improve the support of moderates by Iranians. But that is the real threat for Israel.

Regev, Netanyahu’s spokesman, says on CNN that, “Of course, we want to see diplomacy succeed. Of course, we’d like to see a peaceful solution. Israel, more than any other country, has an interest in a successful diplomatic outcome ultimately. We’re the first people on the firing line,” he is being somewhat disingenuous. Yes, Israel does want a proper deal, but not only to stop but dismantle Iran’s nuclear program. More importantly, and understandably, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, want a weaker Iran. Parts of the domestic population who have been persecuted for years – the Bahá’is for example – concur. However, the United Arab Emirates had long before concluded that even the interim agreement reinforced “the stability of the region” while Bahrain welcomed the removal of fear.

The reality is that without Israel’s screams as well as threats, it is questionable whether the rest of the world would have been nearly as sensitive to the developments in Iran. Did Netanyahu build on this diplomatic success in making the world keenly alert to the Iran nuclear threat not only to Israel but to all of the Middle East and the rest of the world?  The world answered Israel’s call to impose severe sanctions. Chalk two up for Israel’s diplomatic success. However, Israel’s belligerency, its full frontal assault by all its ministers using inflammatory rhetoric against the agreement rather than reasoned debate, may not be seen just as Israel serving as bad cop, but as Israel performing a spoiler role.

This criticism of Israel does not mean that I am no longer sceptical about Iran’s intentions. They have been clear. Iran wants to retain the ability to maintain a short gap between a break out point and their existing facilities. Their negotiating stance attempted to keep that time line as short as possible while the P5+1 strived to lengthen it enormously. The issue has not been over the actual production of nuclear weapons, but reducing significantly the capacity to move to a breakout point in short order.

Since the Iranians had achieved the status of a near-nuclear power, it was an optimum time for Iran to negotiate an ending, if possible, to their economic straightjacket. Israel and Saudi criticism was that relief from sanctions, though amounting to only six billion spread over six months as a result of the interim agreement, and fifty billion at the end of the rainbow of a full agreement, was too rich a reward for signing the agreement. Iran’s achievement had reached a tipping point – either the large possibility of a bombing raid on its nuclear facilities or a diplomatic agreement. That is why the Saudis and Israel dubbed the agreement as a capitulation to a charm offensive and fraud by Iran (Minister of Defence for Israel, Moshe Ya’alon) and characterized the interim agreement as a cosmetic rather than a substantial agreement. However, Saudi Arabia was eventually persuaded to come around and support the deal. Israel alone remained the outlier.

Understandably to some degree! After all, the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, continues to call Israelis rabid dogs, expresses the desire to see not only Israel disappear, but for Iran to be the agent for that event as he reiterates his desire to wipe Israel (which he repeatedly describes as a cancer) off the map. The Saudis too wanted a total dismantling of the Iranian nuclear program. The Israelis and Saudis had good reason to fear that P5+1 would be satisfied with sufficient dismantling to lengthen the time between a resumption of its program and the ability to make a nuclear weapon only a year. For Israel and Saudi Arabia, this was insufficient. They wanted enough dismantling of the production capability to make it unviable. The intelligence services of the U.S. advised the President that such a goal itself was not viable, but the program could be sufficiently dismantled and disabled such that, with inspections and oversight, the possibility of Iran resuming a nuclear military production program would be significantly reduced and, in any case, risked bringing a huge and perhaps even stronger sanctions attack against Iran. This persuaded Saudi Arabia to change its stance.

The Implications

So the devil is in the details of a final agreement; the number of centrifuges permitted – less than 6,000 – making enrichment past 5% both prohibited, but also a trigger for an immediate resumption of sanctions; the dismantling or conversion of the Arak facility to a light-water reactor rather than one capable of producing plutonium; the elimination of all uranium enrich stocks above 5%.

Israel lost its diplomatic battle in a second sense. Few believe Israel could or would now cross not only the Americans but every one of the world’s great economic and military powers and bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. But Israeli leaders continue to bellow and blow exhibiting petulance instead of considered criticisms, sound bites linked to insults, accusations and aspersions rather than a policy alternative. A more careful course of diplomatic discourse would have been welcome. At the same time, Israel used the back door to offer comments to improve the interim deal. Do those complaints advance or harm the country’s national interests? Is perpetual petulance and in-your-face bellyaching really a constructive form of diplomacy? Israel performed any presumed role as the bad cop like an amateur stage performer.

Goals and Significance of the Iran Deal

Goals and Significance of the Iran Deal

by

Howard Adelman

This past summer, John Robson wrote an op-ed in the National Post (17 July 2015) claiming that, “those most determined to stop Iran from going nuclear are most unhappy with the deal.” He went from that assumption to its presumed opposite, asserting that those most committed to the deal then must have a very different agenda than stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. He speculated that it might mean a desire to promote regime change provided that this happens before Iran goes nuclear in ten years. Or perhaps the real motive is a soft-headed rather than hard-hearted intent simply to delay Iran going nuclear for just ten years. (He did not write soft-hearted versus hard-headed, but if he so deliberately turns what is written on its head, he perhaps deserves the same treatment, even if only for a weak attempt at humour.)

However, ignoring the extreme misrepresentation for the moment, just look at the bad logic. To repeat, he insists that, “those most determined to stop Iran from going nuclear are most unhappy with the deal.” But is it not more valid to assert that those most unhappy with the deal are more determined to continue economically crippling Iran so it is less able to pursue its hegemonic program in the Middle East and enhance its extreme antagonism towards Israel than they are determined to stop Iran from going nuclear? The presumption that Netanyahu and his ilk are the ones most determined to stop Iran from going nuclear is a presumption, not a fact, and I would argue a false one. Further, even if it was accepted that the extreme opponents of the deal are the ones most determined to stop Iran from going nuclear – a very questionable assumption indeed – it does not follow that this is the reason that they are unhappy with the deal.

The false assumptions and illogic in reasoning is also to be found in the characterization of the proponents of the deal. While those proponents, as I indicated in my last blog, have a modest agenda focused only on making sure Iran does not develop nuclear weapons and that they have no agenda beyond that, the argument that they must have another hidden agenda, such as an illusionary expectation of regime change, does not follow from the argument that the opponents of the deal are most determined to stop Iran from becoming nuclear. It is both logically and empirically possible that the proponents and opponents are equally, or almost equally opposed to Iran not acquiring nuclear arms, but either side may have additional, and often very understandable and even commendable goals separate from that one, such as the fairly obvious one, that Netanyahu also has the goal of keeping Iran crippled economically.

Now I wish that John Robson were just an extreme example of a critic who is both illogical and misrepresents reality, but, unfortunately, this is not the case. He may teach history in Ottawa and be a journalist and documentary filmmaker, but he also may be one of the stupidest critics of the accord. He, however, has lots of company, though many do not defend that opposition on the basis of sheer partisanship that is immune to wrestling with facts and rational argument.

Take another critic of the accord, Shimon Kofler Fogel, CEO for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), the Canadian counterpart to America’s AIPAC. At least in his op-ed alongside John Robson’s, he says what he believes is wrong in his view of the deal, that it fails to leverage the diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran to reign in its hegemonic foreign policy goals and its extreme antipathy to Israel. He is absolutely correct. It does not do that. Further, all parties negotiating with Iran did not believe that was a feasible goal. But Fogel, though accurate about the non-achievement of the accord, is also guilty of false reasoning. If the weight of sanctions coerced the Iranian regime to come to the negotiating table, then, he argues, it follows that those conditions can and ought to have been used to modify Iranian foreign policy. But that does not follow at all, not only not for Iran, but for virtually all of the other representatives of the six nations negotiating with Iran.

The fact that Iran is the leading sponsor of terror in the Middle East (I personally think ISIS is, but Iran is horrible enough, and the point is not worth debating here), that it is a brutal regime with an enormous number of executions per year and extreme repression of its minorities, mainly Bahá’is, does not invalidate the value of the agreement. Fogel’s recommendation that relief from the sanctions should be tied to Iranian tangible progress on reducing Iran’s role as a state-sponsor of terror is disingenuous. For, to repeat, it was neither the goal of the negotiations nor one that any reasonably-knowledgeable person argues could be achieved by negotiations at this time. The agreement already allows for his other recommendations – continuing to define Iran as a state-sponsor of terrorism, continuing the criticism of Iran for its horrendous human rights record and the continuing use of sanctions for these reasons – quite separate from the provisions of the Special Economic Measures Act.

The goal of the negotiations with Iran was clearly spelled out in Obama’s first election platform, but particularly in the Prague Agenda articulated in an Obama speech in Hradčany Square of the Czech capital on 5 April 2009, which focused on Iran, not as a rogue state, not as a promoter of terrorism, not as a human-rights abuser and, most of all, not as an intractable enemy of Israel. The focus was on promoting the peaceful use of nuclear energy and reinforcing mechanisms in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Obama was intent on reducing the risks posed by nuclear weapons while simultaneously supporting and promoting nuclear energy as an alternative for peaceful purposes.

The Prague Agenda included a broad swath of goals, many since achieved:

  • Negotiating a new START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) with Russia to reduce their strategic nuclear arsenals by 30%;
  • Cancellation of the Bush plan to deploy ground-based strategic missile interceptors in Europe;
  • Restricting the strategic use of America’s nuclear arsenal to deterrence only;
  • Banning nuclear testing for the future.

The Prague Agenda included further restrictions on North Korea and Pakistan, but these have notably not been achieved. However, one goal concerning Iran, rallying international support and engaging Iran to resolve the crisis over its military nuclear program, has now finally been achieved after over five years of work. “My administration will seek engagement with Iran based on mutual interests and mutual respect. We believe in dialogue. But in that dialogue we will present a clear choice. We want Iran to take its rightful place in the community.” (my italics) Israel wanted no such result for this regime.

Making the world safer from nuclear terror and reigning in Iran did not supplant the need for deterrence and a strong regional strategy. (As we shall see, it may have had an inadvertent impact on it.) Further, the achievement of such a goal of eliminating the prospect of Iran becoming a nuclear power had to meet a number of criteria:

  1. The strongest inspection and verification system ever;
  2. Elimination of advanced centrifuges and a significant reduction of older models;
  3. A virtual elimination of Iran’s stockpile of highly enriched uranium
  4. Sanctions relief as a quid pro quo;
  5. Spelling out repercussions in case of violations.

A further word is needed on the prospect of regime change in Iran and transformation of its confrontational ideology. Paul Berman in The Tablet on 15 July 2015 focused on a single paragraph in Obama’s speech about the conclusion of the Iran deal. Obama stated in reference to U.S./Iran relations, “Our differences are real, and the difficult history between our nations cannot be ignored. But it is possible to change. The path of violence and rigid ideology, a foreign policy based on threats to attack your neighbors or eradicate Israel—that’s a dead end. A different path, one of tolerance and peaceful resolution of conflict, leads to more integration into the global economy, more engagement with the international community, and the ability of the Iranian people to prosper and thrive.”

Paul Berman insisted that this one paragraph was crucial because, “if a change among the Iranians is not, in fact, possible, then Obama’s critics are right. The deal will turn out to be a disaster because, in the short run, it will strengthen the Islamic Republic conventionally and, in the long run, will strengthen the Islamic Republic unconventionally—and, all the while, the Islamic Republic will go on treading the dead-end path of violence and rigid ideology and the dream of eradicating demonic enemies. It is hard to imagine how, under those circumstances, the deal will reduce the chances of war. On the contrary, Iran’s endangered neighbors will contemplate their own prospective eradication and will certainly notice that time is against them, and they would be foolish not to act.”

It is one thing to argue that regime transformation may take place as a result of the deal and the insistence that it must take place or else the deal is more than worthless for it will enhance the prospect of war in the region. Obama made the former claim. Berman extracted from that slim possibility and transformed it magically into an absolute necessity. In that case, then the nuclear containment deal to peaceful uses is only as good as the strength of the possibility of transformation of the Iranian regime. That is clearly not Obama’s position.

It is and was certainly not the goal of the Iranians who stood steadfast in the opposition to the “arrogant” U.S., “the policies of which they viewed to be at 180 degrees to their own. The U.S. remained as the “Great Satan” ever after 18 months of negotiations. Israel remained its implacable enemy. Though Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei insisted that the deal was only about guaranteeing that Iran could continue its peaceful program of developing nuclear energy and had no wider goals, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani insisted there was another aim: opening a new chapter of cooperation with the outside world after years of sanctions. He predicted that the “win-win” result would gradually eliminate mutual mistrust. Similarly, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also saw the deal as going beyond the nuclear arrangements and hopefully could lead to greater regional and international cooperation.

What have Benjamin Netanyahu’s goals been in rejecting and criticizing the negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program? Let me go back to his address to a joint session of Congress, not the one earlier this year, but the one he delivered on 24 May 2011 before the negotiations got underway and when the Arab Spring remained a gleam in many eyes, including Netanyahu’s. Though most of his address focused on the negotiations with the Palestinians, a small portion of his remarks addressed the question of Iran. Iran was depicted as the most powerful force in the Middle East opposed to modernity, opposed to democracy and opposed to peace. Here are Netanyahu’s words verbatim:

The tyranny in Tehran brutalizes its own people. It supports attacks against Americans troops in Afghanistan and in Iraq. It subjugates Lebanon and Gaza. It sponsors terror worldwide.

When I last stood here, I spoke of the consequences of Iran developing nuclear weapons. Now time is running out. The hinge of history may soon turn, for the greatest danger of all could soon be upon U.S.: a militant Islamic regime armed with nuclear weapons. (my italics) Militant Islam threatens the world. It threatens Islam. A nuclear-armed Iran would ignite a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. It would give terrorists a nuclear umbrella. It would make the nightmare of nuclear terrorism a clear and present danger throughout the world.

These were not Obama’s words, but those of Netanyahu. Then he came across as the most vocal champion of ensuring that a militant Iran did not possess nuclear weapons. Just over seven months later, in the 2012 new year, when the U.S. led the successful charge to impose new and tough sanctions against Iran’s oil and banking industry as the “only” diplomatic measure that could force Iran to the negotiating table, after President Obama signed legislation………..imposing sanctions against Iran’s central bank to impede Iranian oil sales and the EU put plans in place for an oil embargo, this goal was no longer sufficient for Netanyahu. The consequent weakening of the Iranian rial led Iran to state that it was willing to permit a visit by a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which, independently of the world powers, had suggested that Iran was working towards acquiring the ability to make nuclear weapons. As the goal of dismantling Iran’s nuclear weapons came nearer, Netanyahu’s pitch shifted.

There was one discordant note at the time. Israel wanted the US.. to warn Iran that if the sanctions and diplomacy failed to get Iran to abandon its nuclear program, the U.S. should warn Iran that the U.S. would resort to military means to stop Iran. While not ruling out such a possibility, the U.S. refused to threaten Iran if negotiations failed. In contrast, Netanyahu, while applauding the new economic sanctions aimed at stopping Iran’s military nuclear program, insisted that only if the sanctions were combined with the threat of military action would the effort succeed. Netanyahu was proven wrong. It succeeded beyond most expectations. No threat of military action was necessary.

That note threatening military action grew far more shrill when Netanyahu, during the period in which he was struggling to put together a new coalition government, addressed an AIPAC Policy Conference in March 2013. After the usual praise for the President and Vice-President of the US, after the accolades to the government of the United States as Israel’s best and most steadfast ally, Netanyahu now insisted far more vociferously that sanctions were insufficient and that Iran needed to be militarily threatened.

Iran has made it clear that it will continue to defy the will of the international community. Time after time, the world powers have tabled diplomatic proposals to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue peacefully. But diplomacy has not worked. (my italics) Iran ignores these offers. It is running out the clock. It has USed negotiations to buy time to press ahead with its nuclear program. Thus far, the sanctions have not stopped the nuclear program either. The sanctions have hit the Iranian economy hard. But Iran’s leaders grit their teeth and move forward. Iran enriches more and more uranium.  It installs faster and faster centrifuges Iran has still not crossed the red line I drew at the United Nations last September. But they are getting closer and closer to that line. And they are putting themselves in a position to cross that line very quickly once they decide to do so. Ladies and Gentlemen, to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, we cannot allow Iran to cross that line. We must stop its nuclear enrichment program before it will be too late.  Words alone will not stop Iran.  Sanctions alone will not stop Iran. (my italics) Sanctions must be coupled with a clear and credible military threat if diplomacy and sanctions fail.

From March 2013 until November 2013 when the negotiators were on the verge of a tentative deal with Iran, and with the U.S. Senate poised to authorize new sanctions, and after Obama phoned Netanyahu to ask him not to oppose the deal, Netanyahu did just that, openly opposed the deal by phoning all the other leaders asking them to block it. French President François Hollande agreed. The French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, carried the message to his colleagues in the negotiations which bought time for Israel to take further steps to try to stop the deal after Netanyahu had failed to persuade John Kerry at Ben Gurion Airport not to loosen sanctions without the Iranians agreeing to halt the nuclear project altogether. The sticking points then were Iran’s stock of enriched uranium and the heavy water reactor at Arak that could produce plutonium from spent fuel.

The delay turned out to be temporary only. On 24 November 2013, an interim agreement, called the Joint Plan of Action, was agreed upon in Geneva that provided for a short-term freeze on much of Iran’s nuclear program in return for a decrease in the economic sanctions against Iran, the agreement to commence on 20 January 2014. Iran agreed not to commission or fuel the Arak heavy-water reactor or build a reprocessing plant to convert spent fuel into plutonium, agreed not to commission the Bushehr Nuclear Plant, the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plan, the Isafahn uranium-conversion plant, the Natanz uranium-conversion plant and the Parchin military research and development complex. Iran also agreed to stop enriching uranium above 5% reactor-grade, and to dilute its stock of 20%-enriched uranium. As well, Iran agreed not to increase its stockpile of low-enriched uranium and to leave half its 16,000 centrifuges inoperable, all this to be verified by more extensive and frequent inspections.

That is when Netanyahu first labelled the deal a historic mistake and became an implacable foe to the negotiations. But not because it left Iran as an implacable foe of Israel. Not because of Iran’s hegemonic ambitions in the region. Those reasons would come later. At that point the deal was opposed because it did not dismantle Iran’s nuclear capacity altogether. In other words, Netanyahu now opposed Iran even having the ability to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Netanyahu had upped the ante and produced a deep gulf between Israel and the P5+1, for the premise of the negotiations from the get-go was that Iran would be allowed to use its nuclear knowhow and facilities for peaceful purpose. In his speech to the Knesset on the Plan of Action, Netanyahu admitted that sanctions without a military threat had, in fact, produced significant and successful results, but the deal was still bad because the results were not tangible. Effectively shutting down Iran’s nuclear military production was insufficient.

From then on, the line of attack grew more shrill, more definitive, and the grounds expanded until the bulk of the weight was not on the efficacy of inspections or the length of time Iran’s military nuclear program would be in place, though these were always there and were almost always deformed with less and less resemblance to the actual terms of the agreement. It soon became obvious and clear that Netanyahu was not really after an agreement that halted the possibility of Iran developing nuclear weapons, but that he opposed the deal because Iran without nuclear arms would be an even more dangeroUS foe of Israel. However, preventing Iran from using its facilities for peaceful purposes had never been a premise of the negotiations or there never would have been any negotiations. Further, that goal of dismantling Iran’s nuclear facilities altogether had not been Netanyahu’s goal eighteen months earlier.

Netanyahu was now engaged in gross exaggeration if not an outright lie. “Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world .” (my italics) This is a bad agreement; this is a historic mistake. This became his mantra. Both were evaluations of a very dubious nature as more and more information emerged about both the Action Plan and the terms of the ongoing negotiations. Netanyahu’s efforts to weave his new critique and reconcile it with his old support for simply a ban on Iran’s ability to make nuclear weapons was skating on thinner and thinner ice. The release of the final agreement in July allowed him to fall through the ice, but the freezing water has not reduced the pitch of his hysteria one iota. Netanyahu had established to any objective observer, as distinct from his horde of cheerleaders, that he was not the one most opposed to Iran developing nuclear weapons; he wanted to keep Iran impoverished for very understandable reasons given Iran’s irrational and extreme antipathy towards Israel.

Overview Iran Deal

The Iran Deal – An Overview

by

Howard Adelman

I was on my island up north in the week that the Iran deal was concluded. I was not connected to the internet. My reading and analysis was focused on continuing my blogs on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) evaluation of the Gaza War. So when I returned, I not only had to read the 159 pages of the Iran deal, but the writings of over 100 commentators on that deal. Initially, in reading the terms of the agreement and the commentators over 36 hours, I began to think I was an alien in a foreign world. For I was reading a cascade of criticisms of the deal, initially without any commentator offering a positive response. However, before the end of my reading, I breathed somewhat easier. For I was not alone. There were others who agreed that overall and on balance the deal was a good one. Those commentators consisted of only about 20% of those I read, but on this issue I felt strengthened that I was not totally out of synch with what appeared to be a dominant note from the commentators.

Unlike the UNHRC evaluation, the Iran deal is not a retrospective analysis, but a performative one in its own right. The agreement changes the world in which we live and changes it significantly. So I temporarily suspended my analysis of the UNHRC Report on the Gaza War – I will return to it – and offered my analysis of the Iran deal, focusing first on the agreements that led up to it, then the commentators and only in the end provide my own detailed analysis of the agreement itself. In doing so, I will mainly deal with commentators who think the deal is a bad one and, most of my discussion will focus on the comments under four categories:

  1. Goals and significance of the deal;
  2. Intentions and motives (different than the goals);
  3. Consequences;
  4. Erroneous assumptions.

Thus, I will also be dealing with the commentators in reverse to a natural order that would begin with the deal itself and then deal with its misinterpretations and effects. In this backwards approach, let me first clarify why my approach relies on a cool, detached analytic tone rather than on a lamentation, aichah, the first word of Lamentations as Rabbi Splansky cited in her response to the Iran deal.

My oldest son, Jeremy, is named after the prophet of peace, Jeremiah, who is credited with this lamentation and who warned of the imminent threats to Israel. It is what we read on Tisha B’Av, an annual fast day in the Jewish religious calendar commemorating a number of disasters inflicted against the Jews over the course of history and when the rabbi gave her sermon on the Iran Deal. As Rabbi Splansky wrote, the word aichah is not the response of an inquisitive mind, but of an aching soul. It arises from the deep well of our being, from a history of horrific experience. The lamentation does not invite discussion, but a communion of crying and screaming “Alas!” and “Woe are we!”

Rabbi Splansky asks us to understand the deal and view ourselves as Jews within the large arch of Jewish history. However, looking at the Iran deal from the perspective of the three weeks of mourning for the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem does not invite questioning, including the questioning of whether mourning is the appropriate response. It may help us understand the deep roots of that response and why the leaders of the opposition in Israel line up with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in deploring the deal, but restricting their criticism to how he allowed this to happen on his watch, as if the Prime Minister of a small country like Israel could manipulate and control the outcome, not just of American thinking and policy, but of all of the five powerful states who are the permanent members of the Security Council as well as Germany in whose name this deal has been made. To claim that Netanyahu was guilty of failing to stop the juggernaut of China, Russia, France, Britain as well as America, not to speak of Germany, is just chutzpah and partisan politics. It deserves to be largely ignored.

Unlike Rabbi Splansky who says that, “Everyone is watching, worrying, wondering, but God only knows,” I take the position that even God does not know. For God has always been very poor at prophecy dealing with the future and was often on the wrong side of history. Further, unlike the watchers and kvetchers and those stunned in awe, either in fear and bewilderment or in wondrous appreciation, I believe in the power of an inquisitive mind that can enlighten us on this deal, on its significance, on its intentions, on its possible and even likely consequences, and, most of all, on the actual contents of the deal instead of the projections onto that agreement sometimes, to be charitable, propelled more by fear and worry than by detached analysis.

Let me begin by putting my approach up front after my reading the commentators – well over one hundred – and my very initial reading of the deal. (I will return to that reading near the end of this series.) Not surprising, since I have written about this a number of times in the past, overall my reaction closely resembles that of President Obama who, in an interview with Tom Friedman of The New York Times, offered his own evaluation of the deal. I have arrived at similar, but not identical conclusions. They are as follows:

In contrast to the view that the deal should have eliminated Iran’s nuclear infrastructure altogether given the powerful effects of the sanctions and the enormous powers arrayed against Iran, and the evaluation that the leverage has been squandered, I hold that this was never the premise nor the intention of the negotiations, nor one that could have been achieved or needed to have been achieved. If in the late thirties, a deal depriving Hitler of any capacity to make nuclear arms with a full scale inspection regime (admittedly a far-fetched imaginative stretch), such a deal would have been preferable to a Nazi Germany that could arm itself with nuclear weapons within three months while doing nothing about Hitler’s anti-Semitic genocidal plans and his record of persecutions or his ambitions for hegemonic conquest of Europe. The issue is not about whether Iran is an evil regime or about depriving Iran of even an ability to enhance its peaceful development of nuclear energy, if only to save face. The deal is only about control of nuclear weapons over which there was a global consensus. There was no consensus about depriving Iran of its nuclear infrastructure, only of its capacity to make nuclear weapons against the terms of the International Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Second, such an agreement does not rely on trust. Given Iran’s horrific treatment of dissidents and minorities, particularly of Bahá’is, its hegemonic ambitions in the Middle East, its overt support of terrorists such as Hezbollah and Hamas, and its repeated pronouncements of an intention to wipe Israel from the face of the earth, let alone Iran’s past record of working on the development of a nuclear weapons capacity behind the backs of international inspectors, any agreement has to be based on a deep distrust of Iran and putting in place an unprecedented inspection regime that could come as close as possible to reducing any chance that Iran could deceive the international community and revert to advancing its nuclear weapons program.

What is required and is in question is whether a powerful, but not perfect – an impossible dream – verifiable regime to cut off Iran’s capacity to enrich uranium, remove the majority of its cascades, including all of those of the most advanced technology, remove almost all of its highly enriched uranium needed for nuclear bombs, initiate a very intrusive and extensive inspections regime (we will have to see whether it is as intrusive and extensive as Obama argues that it is), and shut down Iran’s capacity to produce plutonium, is sufficient. However, if inspectors have to give 24 days – not 24 hours – notice for inspections, as too many interpreters have insisted, then that would certainly raise questions about the adequacy of the inspections regime. But, to adumbrate and deviate from the order of my presentation, the agreement definitely does not say that 24 days notice must be given for an inspection.

For all the facilities on the list (known sites for nuclear work), the 150 inspectors stationed in Iran will have immediate access at any time of the day or night and with no notice. Further, the inspection of Iran’s nuclear regime has no termination date; it continues “forever”. Only the inspection of non-nuclear facilities terminates, and then only after 25 years. The 24 days notice applies to suspected, illicit or unreported sites. 24 days is a maximum not a requisite. The section on inspections provides for the following:

Inspectors must be allowed to enter any suspect facility in Iran within at most (my italics) 24 days. If they aren’t, this will be considered a violation that could lead to renewed sanctions.

The procedure for those 24 days is as follows: If IAEA inspectors suspect that illicit or undeclared nuclear activity is taking place at an unmonitored facility, like a military base, it must first request explanations from Iran. If the explanations don’t satisfy the inspectors, they can ask to visit the facility.

The Iranians can then suggest ways of resolving the issue that don’t involve a visit. But if the inspectors remain unsatisfied 14 days after first broaching their suspicions to Iran, the matter will be transferred to the eight-member committee overseeing the deal’s implementation.

The committee will have seven days to try to find a solution that satisfies everyone. But if no such solution is found, the committee will then vote on whether Iran must allow the visit.

That decision requires only a simple majority – five of the eight members. Since Iran enjoys reliable backing from only two other panel members, Russia and China, it will have trouble preventing a decision ordering it to allow the visit. If such a decision is made, Iran must permit the visit within three days, hence the 24 day maximum period.

Certainly, aside from the routine monitoring required under the agreement, if inspections cannot realistically be done to cover research and development and to cover possibly new secret facilities under development, then the agreement might be just a sham and a cover for further cheating. Thus, evaluating the quality of the inspection regime will be crucial.  However, when a commentator insists that 24 days notice must be given for any inspection, one immediately recognizes that the individual has not read the agreement and that the comments are worth far less than the value of the paper on which those comments have been printed or, if in electronic version, far less than even the infinitesimal cost of electronic publishing. Or else the author is an outright liar.

To revert to my initial main point, regime change, or even deprivation of Iran’s capacity to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, was never the goal of the negotiations. If those had been the ambitions, there never would have been any negotiations in the first place. So one has to ask whether we are better off with an Iran on the verge of developing a nuclear military capacity or an Iran prevented from so doing, but at a cost, the opening of the dams that had confined Iran’s earnings from its oil into reserves which Iran could not access, but now would be able to do so, thereby enabling Iran to expand its purchase of conventional weapons and expand its support of terrorism. This was the critical choice between the Scylla of an Iran on the verge of producing nuclear weapons or the Charybdis of an Iran with its treasury replenished and enabled to enhance its terrorist and hegemonic foreign policy. Over this choice, there can be reasonable differences and very varied conclusions. But criticizing the deal for its failure to produce deliverables which it never was intended to produce nor could produce is simply misplaced and disingenuous.

Would the deal, however, advance the process of regime change or even open the possibility of regime change? I think this is not a likely possibility. Others argue that it is. I find the latter to be wishful thinking and an unsound foundation for making a deal. Others who are equally pessimistic about this possibility think that should be a reason for not making a deal. I disagree with them as well. If the deal depended on its value only if it leads to or even makes more likely regime change, then that is absolutely no ground for supporting this deal, though I welcome the fact that this deal will increase the slim possibility of facilitating regime change for a number of reasons, including reinforcing the factions that are not identical with the genocidal extremists in the regime.

As will be seen when I turn my attention to the commentators, reading all those accounts reinforces my conviction that they have deliberately shifted the debate from preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power to the criticism that the deal does nothing, or, perhaps, by the odd moderate critic, does very little to stop this evil regime and undermine its authoritarianism within and its destructive ambitions in its foreign policy. Those criticisms are by and large correct. But they are totally beside the point. And that is their point, to distract citizens of the world from the achievements of the deal and view the agreement from the perspective of what was not and could not be achieved.

The issue is whether a deal with a non-nuclear-armed Iran is better than no deal that allows Iran to bring its nuclear armaments program to fruition – ignoring Iranian claims that they never had a goal of developing nuclear weapons. This is the core question. Some might argue that an Iran that completes its nuclear program but remains under severe sanctions that cripple its economy is a better choice because it limits the non-nuclear trouble-making in which Iran is deeply involved in the regime. Better an economically crippled nuclear–armed Iranian regime than one which is infused with cash, and, though deprived of its nuclear capacity, can now extensively expand its programs and foreign policy of undermining Saudi Arabia, keeping its satraps in place in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Gaza, and, thereby, significantly enhance the threats to Israel. That is an argument worthy of engagement. But, as will be seen, this is not the approach of the vast majority of the critics of the accord.

On another point, the inspection regime does not end in ten years. The inspection regime continues. The fact that I have to state this boldly, and will subsequently support this extensively, is a testament to a great deal of the misreporting and misinterpretation of the deal. Similarly, the agreement does not remove all sanctions. It only removes those put in place to enforce the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Other sanctions exist. Those sanctions could themselves be expanded. A whole set of other tools could be activated to target the Iranian abuse of human rights and its support of terrorism. The deal allows the West (and East) to further such an agenda, even though it is highly unlikely that Russia or China would join in such an effort. This may make a strong argument for using the confinement of the nuclear development program as leverage to fight against Iran’s hegemonic interests and its abuse of the rights of its own citizens rather than a goal in its own right, but it is actually shocking how few of the critics, as shall be seen, are this honest and straightforward in their criticisms.

President Obama has made the very valid point that this agreement is totally one-sided. Iran gives up its capacity to make nuclear weapons. Iran gives up almost all of its enriched uranium. Does the agreement curtail the nuclear weapons programs of China, of Russia, of France, of the U.K. or of the United States? Not at all. Nor does it restrict any of the parties from using other diplomatic, legal, economic and moral tools at its disposal for confronting the regime in other areas. What is given up is holding hostage Iran’s treasure and wealth, money which does not belong to any party except Iran, in return for Iran backing away from its nuclear arms program. Further, it removes the pressures on China and Russia, both of which have grown antsy under the sanctions regime, particularly China which has been denied access to Iranian oil in exchange for its exports. The deal removes the possibility that the sanctions regime could collapse from within because of the tensions among and different interests of the members of the negotiating team dealing with Iran.

More specifically, the U.S. and Israel (as well as Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies) can cooperate much further in limiting Iran’s hegemonic goals. Congress was unable to veto the deal. Then an enlarged program of dealing with Israel’s and Saudi’s enemies, specifically Iran, can be advanced. Further, if Iran does not live up to its commitments, the snap-back provision allows the sanctions to be re-imposed without a new vote in the Security Council. Now some may argue that this is correct in theory, but once Russia and Iran are offside on sanctions, they can remain offside by obfuscating and delaying any practical re-imposition of the sanctions regime. That is fully possible now. Further, the West has other means of leverage than diplomatic and moral suasion to keep China and Russia on side in addition to the interests of those two countries in preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power. However, there is an even more serious problem about the snap-back provision. It would take place against a regime that had recovered its economic stability and wealth and would, consequently, make the snap-back provision much less effective, especially in the short run. Instead of starting from an advanced position with sanctions with Iran on its knees, the West would be back to a zero starting point. How does the Agreement handle such a foreseeable contingency?

So we have the following issues to sort out over the next series of blogs. To what degree can the inspections regime work? Are the inherent weaknesses of the snap-back provisions sufficient to offset the advantages Iran will have gained? Is the likelihood, not just risk, of Iran advancing its conventional arms program and its geo-political advances in the Middle East too much to pay for obtaining an Iran without nuclear weapons? Finally, since there are no deep signs of an ideological change within Iran and no signs at all of a regime change, with the momentum having been somewhat lifted with the easing of sanctions, was the gamble worth the cost? After all, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif may have concluded that the world has changed with the Vienna Agreement, but Iran’s view of Israel as an unrepentant enemy has not altered one iota. As he said in an interview with journalists after the conclusion of the agreement, while calling for his enemies in Sunni dominated states to reconcile with Iran, there was no such call to Israel. Israel, in his view, needs, “crisis and wars to continue to hide their aggressions and their inhumane policies against the people of Lebanon, Palestine and the people of the region, so peace is an existential threat to them.” [Translation: Iran will remain an existential threat to Israel.] Given Iran’s rejection of Israel as having a place in the Middle East, Iran will clearly be better off and richer and freer to advance its implacable opposition to Israel.

I began with the words of one rabbi. Let me end with the words of another. “I understand that not all experts believe that the deal to be struck in Vienna is bad for Israel. Perhaps they know things that aren’t obvious to the public, even to those of us who follow the criticism of the current government. To end on a positive note: let’s hope that the optimists will be proven right. The alternative is too grim to contemplate.” If “Alas!” and “Woe is Me!” are not to stand in the way of reasonable and detached analysis, the other alternative of relying on hope with no basis in reality is just as bad, especially when it presumes that supporters of the deal argue that it is not bad for Israel. I have not read one who makes such an argument. Instead, most supporters argue that the deal is bad for Israel in many ways, but the alternative of no deal is even worse. Whether that argument is valid is open to question. But let us not misrepresent supporters of the deal. More importantly, DO NOT support the deal if the foundation for that support is a misplaced optimism or “hope”.

The Joint Plan of Action – 24 November 2013

The Joint Plan of Action – 24 November 2013

by

Howard Adelman

While the Framework of Cooperation Agreement (FCA) between Iran and the IAEA focused on transparency, access, inspection and verification, the Joint Plan of Action (JPA) on Iran’s Nuclear Program concentrated on the substantive issues of how much uranium, to what degree of enrichment, how many centrifuges Iran would be permitted, what type, and the future of the Arak heavy water plant. The principles of the agreement were clear. Iran’s nuclear program would not be dismantled altogether. Instead, Iran would be assured that it could develop its nuclear program provided it was restricted to peaceful uses only. Inspections had to verify that to be the case. Rather than the suggestion that after some years – say fifteen – Iran would be able to develop a nuclear weapons program, the agreement was very explicit: “under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons.” The language was unequivocal.

The key element to be worked out was a mutually-defined enrichment program. Further, it was to be implemented in a step-by-step fashion so that, as Iran complied and was proven to be in compliance, both UN and multilateral sanctions would be lifted in lockstep, and, again, each step taken with proper monitoring. In the first step with an initial duration of 6 months, subject to extension by mutual consent, Iran agreed to cut in half its uranium stockpile enriched to almost 20%; the reduction was to be less than 5% with no possibility of reconversion. During that period, Iran agreed not to enrich any uranium above 5%. Iran further agreed not to make any improvements or upgrades in its Natanz and Fordow enrichment plants or its Arak reactor. Enriched uranium from its new cascade could be enriched only up to 5%, but then converted to oxide UF6. There was to be no construction of new enrichment facilities. At the same time, in addition to the provisions of the agreement with the IAEA, detailed specifications were inserted for that monitoring.

So much for any silly assertions that Iran gave up nothing and got the lifting of sanctions in return. But what concessions did Iran get from the P5+1 (P3+3 in the agreement)? The P5+1 did not roll back any sanctions against oil exports from Iran, but agreed to pause its efforts to further reduce Iran’s foreign sales and allowed Iran to repatriate funds from that level of sales. The sanctions on indemnity insurance and transportation would be lifted to allow for this level of trade. The P5+1 also agreed to suspend sanctions on petrochemical and precious metal exports, on the Iranian auto industry as well as associated services. The international community would allow Iran to import spare parts for the civil aeroplane industry.  Neither the UN, the EU nor the U.S. would impose new sanctions. For money held abroad, a channel would be created for repatriating such funds for humanitarian purposes – health, food, college and university fees for Iranian students studying abroad, and to pay UN fees. The levels imposed by the EU on non-sanctioned trade were to be increased.

The agreement then set forth how the ensuing detailed negotiations would proceed to establish norms for the size and scope of nuclear enrichment, deal with the Arak threat, otherwise implement full transparency and ratify the Additional Protocol to the Non-proliferation Treaty.

What were the results? As of February 2015, both the EU and Washington provided a report on implementation that showed clearly that both Iran and the P5+1 had completed compliance or were in the process of complying. The following is a summary.

Iranian Actions  Status 
By January 20, halt production of near-20% enriched uranium hexafluoride gas (UF6) and commit to only enrich up to 5%. Completed

According to the January 20 IAEA report, Iran had halted enrichment to 20% UF6.

By January 20, disable the configuration of the centrifuge cascades Iran has been using to produce 20% enriched UF6. Completed

According to the January 20 IAEA report, Iran had ceased operating its interconnected centrifuges enriching to 20% UF6. The February 20 IAEA report said that Iran is now using the four cascades at Fordow to enrich uranium to 5%.

On January 20, continue conversion of half of its stockpile of near-20% uranium hexafluoride gas (UF6) into uranium oxide powder as working stock for fabricating fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor. Completed

According to the July 20 IAEA report, Iran completed the process of converting half of its stockpile of 20% enriched UF6 gas (~104 kg) to uranium oxide powder.

On January 20, begin dilution of half of its stockpile of 20% UF6 to no more than 5% enriched UF6 and complete dilution by April 20. Completed

According to the April IAEA report, Iran completed the dilution of half of its stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium.

Continue only its safeguarded research and development practices, including its current enrichment research practices, which were not designated for accumulation of the enriched uranium. Completed

In the February 20 IAEA report, the agency verified that Iran was continuing its safeguarded research and development practices at Natanz and was not using the research to accumulate uranium as it tested advanced models.

By April 20, provide the IAEA with:
  • plans for nuclear facilities
Completed

Iran submitted details on site selection for 16 nuclear power plants to the IAEA, its initial plans for 10 future enrichment sites, and a light water reactor.

  • descriptions of buildings located on nuclear sites
Completed
  • the scale of operations for each location
Completed
  • information on uranium mines and mills
Completed

According to the May 23 IAEA report, Iran has visited the Gchine Mine, the Saghand Mine and the Ardakan Uranium production plant.

  • information on source material
Completed

Iran provided the IAEA with information about source material on April 20, according to the May 23 IAEA report.

Submit an updated Design Information Questionnaire (DIQ) for the reactor at Arak (IR-40). Completed

Iran submitted at updated DIQ on the reactor to the IAEA on February 12, according to the agency’s Feb. 20 report.

Take steps to conclude a safeguards approach with the IAEA for the Arak reactor. Completed

The IAEA and Iran met on May 5 to discuss the revised safeguards approach. According to the June 20 report, Iran has reached an agreement with the agency on the safeguards approach.

Allow daily IAEA inspector access at Fordow and Nantanz, including scheduled and unannounced inspections and access to surveillance information on a daily basis. Completed

As of the February 20 IAEA report, the IAEA was able to install surveillance measures at Natanz and Fordow to facilitate daily monitoring and came to an agreement regarding the facilitation of daily access.

(Prior to the Joint Plan of Action, the IAEA had accessed Fordow on a weekly basis, and Natanz on a biweekly basis.)

Allow the IAEA to conduct monthly inspections of the heavy water reactor at Arak and associated facilities. Completed

The IAEA was able to make its first monthly visit and access the heavy water reactor on Feb. 12, according to the agency’s Feb. 20 IAEA report.

(Prior inspections were conducted at the reactor once every three months, and other facilities at the site were not included.)

Provide information to allow the IAEA inspectors managed access to:  
  • centrifuge assembly workshops
Completed

The IAEA was able to visit the facility between February 3-7.

  • centrifuge rotor production
Completed

The IAEA was able to visit the facility between February 3-7.

  • workshops and storage facilities
Completed

The IAEA was able to visit the facility between February 3-7.

  • uranium mines and mills
Completed

The IAEA has been able to access Iran’s two uranium mines at Gchine and Saghand and the milling facility at Ardakan.

Provide figures that will allow the IAEA to verify that centrifuge production will be dedicated to the replacement of damaged machines. Completed

The IAEA has had access to Iran’s centrifuge workshops and facilities.

Cap the size of the 5% enriched UF6 stockpile. Completed

The November 24 IAEA report on implementation of the Joint Plan of Action noted that Iran’s stockpile of UF6 gas was 7,400 kg, below January’s level of 7,560 kg.

Iran Will Refrain From the Following Actions Status
Refrain from installing a reconversion line to reconvert uranium oxide powder to 20% UF6. Complying

The January 20 IAEA report said that Iran does not have a reconversion line in place.

Refrain from reprocessing or constructing a facility capable of reprocessing materials. Complying

In a January 18 letter to the IAEA, Iran said it will not engage in reprocessing or construct a reprocessing facility over the six months of the deal. The January 20 IAEA report confirmed that no reprocessing is taking place at the Tehran Research Reactor or MIX facility.

Refrain from making any further advances of its activities at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant.

(This includes not installing new centrifuges and not feeding UF6 into the roughly half the centrifuges at Natanz that are installed but not yet enriching uranium.)

Complying

The IAEA verified in the February 20 report that Iran has not made any further advances and no new centrifuges are enriching uranium.

Refrain from making any further advances of its activities at Fordow.

(This includes not installing new centrifuges, not feeding UF6 into the three quarters at Fordow that are installed but not yet enriching uranium, and not interconnecting the cascades.)

Complying

The IAEA verified that Iran has not made any further advances and no new centrifuges are enriching uranium.

Replacing existing centrifuges only with centrifuges of the same type. Complying

As of the February 20 IAEA report, the agency did not report any violation of this restriction, and surveillance has been set up to monitor any changes.

Refrain from commissioning the heavy water reactor at Arak. Complying

The February 20 IAEA report said that Iran had not conducted any activities to further the Arak reactor.

Refrain from transferring fuel or heavy water to the Arak reactor. Complying

The February 20 IAEA report said that Iran had not conducted any activities to further the Arak reactor.

Refrain from testing additional fuel or producing more fuel. Complying

The February 20 IAEA report said that Iran had not manufactured or tested any reactor fuel, and the number of fuel rods produced remains at 11.

Refrain from installing any additional reactor components at the Arak site. Complying

The February 20 IAEA report said that Iran had not conducted any activities to further advance the Arak reactor.

Limit centrifuge production to those needed to replace damaged machines. Complying

The IAEA has regular managed access to centrifuge assembly workshops.

Refrain from constructing any new locations for enrichment. Complying

In a January 18 letter to the IAEA Iran said it would not pursue any new uranium enrichment sites during the six months of the agreement.

P5+1 Actions  Status 
Pause efforts to reduce Iran’s crude oil sales, allowing Iran’s current customers to purchase their current average amounts of crude oil, including the EU prohibition on providing insurance for vessels carrying Iranian oil. Complying

In a January 20 press release, the EU Council of Foreign Ministers announced the suspension of sanctions preventing the insurance of vessels. However, not enough time has passed to determine if Iran’s current oil customers are importing at their current average amounts.

Enable the repatriation of $4.2 billion of Iranian revenue held abroad on the following schedule:
  • Feb. 1: $550 million
Completed**

Iran received its first installment as scheduled on February 1. These funds were released from Japan.

  • March 1: $450 million (half of the dilution of the 20% stockpile of UF6 complete)
Completed**

IAEA Director General Amano confirmed that half of the dilution was completed on time in his remarks to the IAEA Board of Governors on March 3.

  • March 7: $550 million
Completed**
  • April 10: $550 million
Completed**
  • April 15: $450 million (dilution of the entire stockpile of 20% UF6 complete)
Completed**
  • May 14: $550 million
Completed
  • June 17: $550 million
Completed
  • July 20: $550 million.
Completed
Suspend US sanctions on Iran’s petrochemical exports and associated services.* Completed

In a January 20 statement, the White House announced that the United States would begin suspending sanctions.

Suspend US sanctions on Iran’s import and export of gold and precious metals as well as sanctions on associated services.* Completed

In a January 20 statement, White House announced that the United States would begin suspending sanctions.

Suspend U.S. sanctions on Iran imports of goods and services for its automotive manufacturing sector. Completed

In a January 20 statement, White House announced that the United States would begin suspending sanctions.

Suspend EU sanctions on Iran’s petrochemical exports and associated services.* Completed

In a January 20 press release, the EU Council of Foreign Ministers announced the suspension of sanctions.

Suspend EU sanctions on Iran’s import and export of gold and precious metals as well as associated services.* Completed

In a January 20 press release, the EU Council of Foreign Ministers announced the suspension of sanctions.

License the supply of spare parts and services for safety of flight for Iranian civil aviation and associated services.* Completed

In a January 20 statement, White House Press announced that the United States would begin suspending sanctions. On April 4, Boeing confirmed that it received a license from the Treasury Department for exporting spare aircraft parts.

License safety related inspections and repairs in Iran for Iranian civil aviation sector as well as associated services.* Completed

In a January 20 statement, White House Press secretary said that the United States would begin suspending sanctions.

Establish a financial channel to facilitate humanitarian trade for Iran’s domestic needs using Iranian oil revenue held abroad:

  • food and agricultural products
  • medicine, medical devices, and medical expenses incurred abroad
  • Iran’s UN dues
  • tuition payments to universities and colleges for Iranian students studying abroad.
Completed
Increase the EU authorization thresholds for transactions for non-sanctioned trade to an agreed amount. Completed

In a January 20 press release, the EU Council of Foreign Ministers increased by tenfold the thresholds for authorizing financial transfers.

P5+1 Will Refrain From the Following Actions Status
Not pass new nuclear-related UN Security Council sanctions. Complying

There have been no new UN Security Council resolutions sanctioning Iran.

Not pass new EU nuclear-related sanctions. Complying

On December 16, the EU Council of Foreign Ministers committed not to impose any further sanctions on Iran during the implementation of the Joint Plan of Action.

Not impose new U.S. nuclear-related sanctions. Complying

A bill introduced in the U.S. Senate (S1881) would impose further sanctions on Iran, but it has not yet been voted on.

Iranian Actions ( to be completed as part of the extension before Nov. 24, 2014) Status
Convert 25 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium powder from oxide form to fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor Completed

According to the IAEA’s monthly progress report, Iran completed the conversion.

Convert the stockpile of uranium enriched to less than 2 percent (about 3 metric tons) to natural uranium Completed

According to the November 2014 quarterly IAEA report, Iran completed blending down the tails.

P5+1 Actions ( to be completed as part of the extension before Nov. 24, 2014) Status
Enable the repatriation of $2.8 billion dollars in frozen Iranian oil revenues held abroad Completed

Iran received $2.8 billion in repatriated funds.

Iranian Actions ( to be completed as part of the extension before June 30, 2015) Status
Convert 35 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium powder from oxide form to fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor In Progress

According to the Feb. 19 IAEA report, Iran has converted 32 kg since July 24, 2014.

Expand IAEA access to centrifuge production facilities to double the current frequency and allow for no-notice or “snap” inspections Complying 
Limit research and development on advanced centrifuges that move the machines to the next level of development including:

o    Iran cannot pursue semi-industrial-scale operation of the IR-2M, and without that Iran does not have the confidence to mass-produce this type of centrifuge, which would be necessary in any breakout scenario.
o    Iran cannot feed the IR-5 with uranium gas, the next step in its development.
o    Iran cannot pursue gas testing of the IR-6 on a cascade level, the next step in its development.
o    Iran cannot install the IR-8 at the Natanz Pilot Plant, without which Iran cannot move beyond mechanical testing and into gas testing.
§  *(While most of this pre-existed the extension — the extension helps plug the gaps and ensure that all models of Iran’s advanced centrifuges cannot move to the next phase of testing.)

Complying

The IAEA has regular access to the research and development area for advanced centrifuges at Natanz and has noted no violations as of December.

Forgo any other forms of enrichment, including laser enrichment Complying
P5+1 Actions ( to be completed as part of the extension before June 30, 2015) Status
Enable the repatriation of $700 million dollars per month in frozen Iranian oil revenues held abroad Complying

The 2013 Framework for Cooperation Agreement (FCA):

The 2013 Framework for Cooperation Agreement (FCA):

Transparency, Inspection and Verification

by

Howard Adelman

In Tehran, with the aim of “ensuring the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme through the resolution of all outstanding issues that have not already been resolved by the IAEA,”  on 11 November 2013, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, and Iran’s Vice-President, Ali Akbar Salehi, signed a Framework for Cooperation Agreement (FCA). Those outstanding issues included disputes over IAEA verification activities, Iran supplying timely information about its nuclear facilities and the implementation of transparency measures. More specifically, the FCA laid out initial practical steps for Iran to take within three months, including allowing IAEA access to the Heavy Water Production Plant at Arak and the Gehine uranium mine in Bandar Abbas. Iran promised to provide IAEA with information on all new research reactors and nuclear power plants that Iran planned to build on sixteen sites. In addition, Iran agreed to provide information on Iran’s announced additional enrichment facilities and its laser enrichment technology. In return, IAEA agreed “to take into account Iran’s security concerns, including through the use of managed access and the protection of confidential information.” The latter qualification to the principle of transparency would offer an enormous target for critics of the IAEA agreement with Tehran.

The FCA is a short agreement that went to the heart of the IAEA role of inspection and verification as well as Iran’s responsibility to be transparent. The qualification: Iran demanded that this not give IAEA free reign to access Iran’s conventional military program. IAEA acknowledged that this would be accomplished through “managed access” and the non-disclosure of sensitive data. As Professor Toope pointed out, the transparency requirement and the inspection and verification procedures were necessarily intrusive because of IAEA’s decade long experience with Iran’s evasions, secrecy, misrepresentations and very low marks for demonstrating transparency. The record clearly shows why this deep distrust was warranted.

However, this absence of full transparency and the provision of misleading information were also characteristic of the data and analysis the U.S. Intelligence services provided to IAEA. The situation got so bad under the Bush administration that in February 2007, IAEA presumably leaked a report by some of the IAEA diplomats that most intelligence reports provided by U.S. intelligence to IAEA had proven to be inaccurate. The information did not lead to any discoveries that Iran had been surreptitiously conducting a military nuclear program.

This IAEA frustration with the U.S. even broke into the open. On 10 May 2007, IAEA, as well as Iran, denounced the report that Iran had blocked IAEA inspections of Iran’s enrichment facilities. Marc Vidricaire, the spokesman for IAEA, stated unequivocally, “We have not been denied access at any time, including in the past few weeks.” Thus, IAEA had to walk a fine diplomatic line between hyperbolic and false claims of the Americans under the Bush administration and efforts to sabotage the principle of transparency by the Ahmadinejad government in Iran. It seemed also clear that Iran was only really moved to demonstrate cooperation and transparency to try to head off further sanctions. This seemed certainly to be the case when Iran on 20 July 2007 gave IAEA access to the Arak complex over eight months.

There were even encouraging reports, such as the 30 August 2007 IAEA assessment, that Natanz was operating well below its capacity in enriching uranium; only 12 of the 18 centrifuge cascades were in operation. IAEA was also able to verify that there had been no diversion of the declared nuclear material. Even IAEA’s much repeated complaints about access to Iran’s plutonium experiments and the problem of contaminated spent fuel containers were resolved. Given IAEA’s stringent protocols for inspection and verification, these were impressive findings, especially since they took place midway in Ahmadinejad’s first term in office.

There was even a plan of action to resolve a number of remaining issues within a reasonable time frame. These measures proved to be insufficient even though they addressed the transparency, inspection and verification side of the puzzle. For Iran under Ahmadinejad was unwilling to curtail let alone cut back on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. However, under the work plan, IAEA would be enabled to inspect and verify a number of issues related to the nature and scope of Iran’s nuclear program that it had not been unable to do heretofore. As a result, and seemingly undercutting the American push for more sanctions, Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the IAEA, in October 2007 told the International Herald Tribune that IAEA had no evidence of Iran developing nuclear weapons. However, IAEA still had a number of concerns about weaponization.

Subsequently, IAEA confirmed on 15 November 2007 that Iran’s claims and what was revealed through inspection and verification measures were consistent. The big issue remaining was Iran’s refusal to sign the Additional Protocol of the non-proliferation agreement to include plans as well as activities within its monitoring program. This was the key obstacle that was resolved in 2013. On the more substantive issues, Americans were pushing for complete cessation of all enrichment while Iran insisted on its right under international law to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. This insistence persisted for a short period even when Ahmadinejad was replaced by a more progressive political leader in 2013. The logjam was only broken when Iran agreed to allow full transparency re both nuclear weapons production and planning, with the qualification that the secrecy of its conventional military not be breached.

At the end of 2007, after what appeared to be a sincere though very inadequate effort to satisfy IAEA and the P5+1, Ahmadinejad proposed a detour which was also interpreted as a feint. Enriching uranium for Iran would take place in a neutral third country, presumably one of the Gulf states. This was more than the P5+1 achieved in the end, but, as in 2004, a potential opening was closed because the P5+1 under U.S. pressure had adopted a very hard line – no enrichment whatsoever. Iran insisted that no self-respecting state could permit such a limitation on a peaceful nuclear enrichment program and refused to bend.

In spite of IAEA’s stellar performance of integrity as an international inspection and verification agency, the Israelis, Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s then Minister of Strategic Affairs in particular, denounced IAEA-director AlBaradei as a lackey of the Iranians.

On 22 February 2008, IAEA issued a clean bill of health on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, including on all outstanding issues. This was confirmed three months later in the IAEA May Report, but Iran still refused access to its centrifuge manufacturing sites. Iran’s acceding to the Additional Protocol was important since, without that and the inspection and verification regime that went along with it, IAEA could only state that there was no evidence that Iran had a nuclear weaponization program. It could not verify the total absence of such a plan and program in undeclared nuclear facilities, for example, whether the claims by Iran’s critics that Iran had clandestinely received information on how to design a high explosive charge suitable for an implosion nuclear device.

What had been revealed? The list included such items as the fact that the number of operating centrifuges at the Iranian fuel enrichment plant in Isfahan had increased. All uranium hexafluoride was under IAEA safeguards, contrary to the multitude of rumours otherwise that uranium hexafluoride was missing. To summarize:

  • Even under the Ahmadinejad regime, and under pressure of increasing sanctions, the IAEA had gained access to all of Iran’s declared nuclear facilities
  • The outstanding issue on the inspection regime was whether Iran would accede to all the contents of the its nuclear program to enable the AIEA to investigate Iran’s past plans and its potential future ones
  • Beyond the transparency, inspection and verification issues, the S. kept insisting on complete cessation of Iran’s nuclear enrichment program.

The IAEA and Tehran were at a standstill. In its 19 February 2009 Report, IAEA noted that Iran continued to enrich uranium and had produced over a ton of low enriched uranium, contrary to the requirements of the UN Security Council, but at levels consistent with similar enrichment plants elsewhere. The Report also confirmed that no ongoing reprocessing had been taking place at Iran’s Tehran Research Reactor and Xenon Radioisotope Production Facility. However, Iran still refused to provide design information or access to verify design information for its IR-40 heavy water research reactor in accordance with the Additional Protocol and in spite of Iran’s February 2003 agreement to do so.

The Agency insisted on its right to verify design information independent of the stage of construction or the presence of nuclear material. Hence IAEA’s concerns about possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program. So the disagreement over Iran’s repeated refusal to implement the Additional Protocol continued, though the IAEA confirmed that, thus far, the agency had not been able to find any evidence that Tehran was seeking to make a nuclear weapon and that no nuclear material could be removed for further enrichment to make nuclear weapons without the agency’s knowledge though in September 2009 the IAEA reprimanded Iran for not disclosing that it had built another enrichment facility at Qom. IAEA demanded that Iran freeze its construction and any uranium enrichment.

By February 2010, IAEA had become thoroughly exasperated on learning that Iran had purchased additional sensitive technology, had conducted secret tests of high-precision detonators and modified designs of missile cones to accommodate larger payloads, all steps associated with the development of nuclear warheads. Since by May 2010 Iran produced over 2.5 tons of low-enriched uranium, enough when further enriched to make two nuclear weapons. The breakout period was now estimated to be about a year.

The IAEA-Iran dispute escalated. In July 2010, Iran banned two IAEA inspectors. In August, IAEA accused Iran of initiating a new cascade with 164 centrifuges at Natanz capable of enriching uranium to 19.5%. Fifteen months later, IAEA reported that it had credible evidence that Iran was designing a nuclear weapon and, through satellite imagery had identified a large explosive containment vessel inside Parchin. Iran continued to deny IAEA access to Parchin.

By the Spring of 2012, IAEA and Iran were engaged in a loud war of words, of accusations and counter-accusations. It was clear that Iran was operating more cascades, was enriching uranium to 19.5% but had not yet been able to get its advanced design centrifuges to work. Even more frightening, in May 2012, IAEA reported detecting uranium enriched to 27% at Fordow, an enrichment level that clearly pointed to the aim of producing a nuclear weapon. By August, Iran had doubled the number of centrifuges enriching uranium at Fordow and was now in possession of 190 kg of 19.5% enriched uranium, creeping very close to Israel’s red line of 250 kg, especially since in September 2012 AIAE reported that Iran had completed advanced work on its computer modeling pointing to advanced nuclear weapons research.

The situation continued to worsen. At Fordow, 16 cascades of 174 IR-1 centrifuges each had been installed with half in production mode, though only half of that half were actually operating. By November 2012, the total of highly enriched uranium had reached 233 kg, perilously close to Netanyahu’s red line. Iran continued to deny IAEA access to Fordow. Arak was expected to be operational in early 2014.

By February 2013, Netanyahu’s red line had been crossed. Iran had 280kg of near 20% enriched uranium. The rate of increase was 15 kg per month. The air was filled with rumours of an imminent Israeli air strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities in the aftermath of Israel’s 2007 destruction of the Syrian nuclear facility at Rif Dimahq. (See the 28 September 2012 Report of the Congressional Research Service analyzing the possibility of an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities –   https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/R42443.pdf) The signals to Iran and the rest of the world were unmistakable. Even Saudi Arabia let it be known that it favoured such an attack. Netanyahu warned that Iranian nuclear weapons would unleash the possibility of nuclear terrorism, provide Iranian sponsored terrorists with a nuclear cover and would threaten the world’s oil supply as well as instigating Turkey and Saudi Arabia to join the nuclear arms race in the Middle East. However, Israel still lacked the support of the U.S. for such an initiative as the Americans favoured further diplomacy, especially in light of the imminent elections in Iran. Israel had been supplied with bunker buster bombs, the U.S. continued to refuse to supply Israel with deep penetration ones. Even though Israel had only two planes known to be equipped to carry such bombs, Israel let it be known that it had plans to “go it alone.”

2013 was the tipping point. Israel’s chief of staff, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz in April 2013 said that Israel was still willing to give sanctions a chance, but warned that Iran could achieve “nuclear capability before the end of the year.” The doomsday clock had only eight months at most left.

Everything changed with the change in government in Iran, especially in the aftermath of Barack Obama becoming president. A Framework for Cooperation Agreement (FCA) was signed by IAEA.

Tomorrow: The 24 November 2013 Joint Plan of Action

The Deep Foundation for the Iran Nuclear Deal

The Deep Foundation for the Iran Nuclear Deal

by

Howard Adelman

Instead of waiting until the end, let me sum up the main conclusions I arrived at from studying the history of the Iran and P5+1 negotiations leading up to the 2013 Framework and Joint Plan of Action deals. That way the reader can keep them in mind as he or she reads this potted history and sees if they would draw the same conclusions, most of which are not controversial. Or else they may also not want to bother reading the rest at all.

  1. A deal between parties needs willing parties on both sides. Between 2000-2008, the allied side lacked a committed U.S. partner. Between 2005-2012, Iran was an unwilling partner. The deal came together (and rather quickly) in 2013 because both sides were ready to make a deal.
  2. The allies could have obtained better terms that included non-nuclear items, such as ending Iran’s support for Hamas and Hezbollah, if they had negotiated in 2003.
  3. Once Iran went full speed ahead on its nuclear program and invested so much in it, the only deal available was a restriction on Iran’s capacity to build nuclear weapons.
  4. The total elimination of Iran’s right to have a peaceful nuclear enrichment program was never on the table.
  5. Netanyahu was opposed to making a deal with Iran no matter what the terms of the deal were.

Professor Toope in his discussion of the Iran nuclear deal on Yom Kippur did not have time to spell out the background to the deal; he concentrated on the analysis of the terms. In my last blog, I referred only to one item in that background, the 11 November 2013 Framework for Cooperation Agreement (FCA) with IAEA and the 24 November 2013 Joint Plan of Action Agreement (JPAA) with the P5+1 that put in place the foundations for the detailed negotiations.

The deeper foundation was that Iran under the Shah had signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1970 making any Iranian nuclear program subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection. In 1987, Iran began to use the black market to acquire the capacity to enrich uranium by purchasing the technical details on how to build a P-1 centrifuge from the Pakistani nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of the atomic bomb in Pakistan and the greatest scourge ever in the business of nuclear proliferation.

Back in December 1975, after three years on the job, Khan left his position with the Physical Dynamic Research Laboratory (FDO) in The Netherlands, a subcontractor in the uranium enrichment consortium, with copied blueprints for centrifuges and the list of suppliers needed to build one for Pakistan, a goal achieved by 1978. However, because of the USSR’s war in Afghanistan, no sanctions were imposed on Pakistan lest Pakistan be pushed into the Soviet embrace. By the 1980s, Pakistan was able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon.

Soon after, Khan began supplying the Iranian Ruhollah Khomeini regime. (Khomeini was the founder of the Iranian revolution who ruled from 1979-1989 as distinct from the current Ali Khamenei Supreme Leader who succeeded him.) Iran received both blueprints and a list of suppliers. Khan’s clandestine activities spread to North Korea, Syria and Libya through the nineties. The Pakistan authorities, if not aware of his nefarious activities before the turn of the millennium, a highly dubious proposition, finally forced Khan into retirement in 2001 and put him under arrest in 2004. He was convicted but pardoned the very next day by President Pervez Musharraf and only held under “house arrest” until 2009.

The whole surreptitious trade in nuclear materials, centrifuges and centrifuge components came into the open when Libya renounced production of nuclear weapons in 2003 and Colonel Qaddafi turned all of this valuable intelligence over to the CIA, ending once and for all any credible claim that Iran, and of course Pakistan, were not involved in illegal transfers of nuclear technology. George W. Bush had gone after the one country, Iraq, that for one reason or another had declined Khan’s offers to provide nuclear technology to it. The result of the huge American mistake: the effective destruction of Iraq and eventual turning of most parts, except for the Kurdish area, either into a satrap of Iran or control by ISIS.

The 2003-2004 revelations set off an international effort to rein Iran in, possibly less from the fear of Iran as a nuclear power than the fear that Israel, with U.S. backing given Bush’s record, would bomb Iran and expand the sphere of instability in the Middle East beyond Iraq. (Arab Spring was not yet on the horizon.) The effort was accelerated with the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the wild man of Iranian politics, as President in 2005 with 62% of ballots cast. In his previous position as mayor of Tehran and as President, he was both a hardliner and irrational. It was under his watch that the UN became increasingly aggressive with a sanctions regime put in place until the election of a “reformer,” Hassan Rouhani, on 15 June 2013. Within the next six months, on 11 November 2013, the Framework for Cooperation Agreement (FCA) and, on 24 November 2013, the Joint Plan of Action, were both signed. The two will be discussed in subsequent blogs.

This set of blogs is intended to sum up the foundation of the Iran nuclear deal, depict and evaluate its terms and the role and motives of various agents for the part played leading to the agreement on the terms. For example, did Netanyahu really believe the deal was a bad one and, if so, why? Was he justified? Or was he whipping up fear for domestic purposes to ensure he would remain in power? Or was he using Iran’s nuclear enrichment program as a wedge issue to keep Iran, a real conventional threat to Israel, ostracized and isolated? What effect did Netanyahu’s opposition have on the terms of the deal, on Israel’s relationship with the U.S., and on the security of Israel itself?

Before Ahmadinejad assumed office, Iran was the last signatory to the non-proliferation treaty to accept the obligation of providing the IAEA will all plans related to nuclear activities. The then President of Iran, using high level officials in President Mohammad Khatami’s government of Iran (1997-2005), set up a back diplomatic channel that promised not only full transparency into the Iranian nuclear program, but cessation of support for Hezbollah and Hamas. The proposal was purportedly endorsed by Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Bush administration ignored the offer.

Key European governments – France, Germany and the UK – did not. Together with the Iranian government, they along with Iran jointly issued the Tehran Declaration that would be recycled as the foundation for the FCA in 2013, but stripped of its non-nuclear provisions. Iran had agreed to the following:

  • Pledged full cooperation with the IAEA
  • Promised to sign and implement the Additional Protocol on disclosure of any plans as a voluntary, confidence-building measure
  • Agreed to suspend its enrichment and reprocessing activities during the course of the negotiations.

In return, the EU-3 agreed to:

  • recognize Iran’s rights to develop a nuclear program for peaceful purposes
  • discuss ways Iran could provide “satisfactory assurances” with respect to its nuclear power program
  • provide Iran with easier access to modern nuclear technology as long as Iran was in compliance with its signed obligations.

As a result, Iran signed the Additional Protocol on 18 December 2003 and set out to file the required reports with the IAEA as well as allow access to IAEA inspectors. The backlash within Iran, in part based on wild distortions of the Tehran Declaration, is viewed as one of the catalysts for Ahmadinejad’s resounding victory in the 2005 elections and the subsequent suspension of Iran’s agreement to abide by the Additional Protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran also reneged on the promise to allow unfettered access to Iran’s nuclear program. Instead, Iran accelerated its nuclear program, though, given Iran’s pattern of deceit as revealed in the IAEA Report of 15 November 2004, many contend this began even before Ahmadinejad took power. But, as will be seen in the next blog, the real acceleration started in the latter half of 2008.

Iran tried to blame its resorting to surreptitious activities on the American obstreperous barricades to Iran developing a nuclear program for peaceful purposes. The IAEA 2004 Report was agnostic on whether Iran was developing its technology for the military use of nuclear weapons, for the IAEA found no evidence that the previous undeclared activities were geared to developing a nuclear weapons program. On the other hand, neither could the IAEA vouch for the exclusively peaceful nature of the program.

In 2004, Iran voluntarily suspended its uranium enrichment program, but refused to agree to a permanent termination. Under pressure from the U.S., the EU could not agree to a partial limitation with the only condition, the enrichment could not be diverted for military purposes. It is not clear whether the failure of the EU to recognize Iran’s right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes helped elect Ahmadinejad as President in June 2005 in an election largely fought on domestic issues – corruption and renewal. During the first few months of Ahmadinejad assuming the presidency, there was a flurry of events:

  • In August 2005, Iran removed the seals on its uranium enrichment facilities at Isfahan
  • Germany responded and refused to either export any more nuclear equipment to Iran or even refund monies already on deposit
  • The IAEA reported that bomb-grade uranium found on inspected materials in Iran came from imported parts from Pakistan
  • In September 2005, the EU rejected Ahmadinejad’s offer at the UN that Iran’s enrichment program be managed by an international consortium and the Paris Agreement was dead
  • In February 2006, the IAEA in a 27-3 vote reported Iran’s non-compliance to the Security Council
  • In 2006, the Bush administration in Washington insisted that Iran could have no enrichment program whatsoever;
  • After that there were no substantive further negotiations until Ahmadinejad left office.

Even though U.S. intelligence at the end of 2006 declared that there was no evidence that Iran had a military nuclear program, that year was a turning point. It began with the reference of Iran to the Security Council to require Iran to suspend its enrichment program, cease construction of the Arak heavy water reactor (necessary for the production of plutonium) and fully cooperate with the IAEA. Iran signalled a willingness to cooperate but, at the same time, announced its initial success in enriching uranium to 3.5% at Natanz. In June, the first iteration of what would become the 2013 Framework agreement was proposed by some permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany.

On 31 July, the UNSC adopted Res. 1696 demanding Iran suspend its enrichment program altogether. Though rejected, Iran responded with an offer to negotiate. At the same time, a new tunnel entrance was constructed at the Estfahan uranium enrichment facility and construction resumed at the Natanz conversion facility. By the end of the year, the UNSC passed Res. 1737 imposing sanctions on Iran for the first time even though American intelligence had concluded there was no evidence Iran had a nuclear weapons program. Countries were prohibited from transferring sensitive and nuclear-related technology to Iran. The assets of ten Iranian organizations and twelve individuals were frozen.

These resolutions were passed under the authority of Article 41 of Chapter VII of the UN Charter permitting the exercise of UNSC authority even though a peace threat had not been determined. However, unlike article 42, which does require a peace threat determination, there was no binding enforcement obligation under article 41. The sanctions only became effective because of the power and positions of the P5+1 and their willingness to impose sanctions. The failure to establish an actual threat to the peace sewed a fatal flaw in the long term effectiveness of the sanctions, especially if the P5+1 lost their united front. In that case, even if the U.S. had the power alone to make the sanctions quite effective, without a solid legal and even moral authority, the sanctions regime was being built on straw.

While emphasizing the importance of political and diplomatic efforts to ensure that Iran’s nuclear programme was exclusively for peaceful purposes, three months later in March 2007, Res. 1747 was passed under Article 41 of the Charter. The resolution elaborated on the implementation of the sanctions Res. 1737 and introduced broader sanctions and targets in paragraphs 5 and 7:

Para 5: Decides that Iran shall not supply, sell or transfer directly or indirectly from its territory or by its nationals or using its flag vessels or aircraft any arms or related materiel, and that all States shall prohibit the procurement of such items from Iran by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in the territory of Iran.

Para 7: Calls upon all States and international financial institutions not to enter into new commitments for grants, financial assistance, and concessional loans, to the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, except for humanitarian and developmental purposes.

Under this pressure, Iran agreed on a “work plan” in late August,but there was no substantive progress in the ongoing negotiations. In December, the U.S. publicly declassified and released a summary of the National Intelligence Estimate Report on Iran’s nuclear program, concluding that the intelligence community judged “with high confidence” that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003 and, further, declared that the program had not resumed as of mid-2007. Breakout time was then considered to be three years.

In March 2008, UNSC Res. 1803 was passed broadening the sanctions and the targets even further, but also offering to freeze further sanctions in return for Iran halting its enrichment program. In February 2009, Iran announced that it had successfully carried out its first satellite launch. Barack Obama was then President of the U.S. and he agreed that henceforth the U.S. would participate fully in the P5+1 talks with Iran without Iran agreeing to meet demands first. However, this seemed to have no influence on the Iranian election in which incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner, even though there was some evidence and many claims that the election had been rigged.  In the period of unrest and protests, diplomatic efforts were suspended. The suspension of back channel talks was reinforced when France, the U.K. and the U.S. jointly revealed that Iran had been constructing a secret, second uranium-enrichment facility at Fordow near the holy city of Qom.

New proposals nevertheless followed – a fuel swap with respect to the enriched uranium. In the interim, in 2010 Iran began enriching uranium to almost 20% instead of trading its 3.5% enriched uranium for 19.5% enriched uranium for Iran’s research program.  However, in May Iran agreed to a specific version of the fuel swap agreement, but that was vetoed by France, Russia and the U.S. Instead, the UNSC adopted UNSC Res. 1929 on 9 June 2010 again expanding the sanctions that now placed an arms embargo on Iran and prohibited ballistic missile testing. Seizure of shipments to Iran was authorized. On 24 June 2010, the U.S. Congress adopted the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISAD) aimed at firms investing in Iran’s energy sector and companies which sell refined petroleum to Iran. The sanctions were not set to expire until 2016. Two days later, the EU imposed even broader sanctions aimed not only at energy and trade, but at financial services and more extensive asset freezes.

During this period, Israel had not been sitting still. In 2005, the Jewish state defined the Iranian nuclear program as an existential threat. Israel was widely believed to be behind the Stuxnet computer virus that disrupted Iran’s nuclear enrichment program at Nantaz in September 2010.  Israeli decision-makers began to consider whether and when to order a military attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities. As rumours grew that such an attack might be imminent, the P5+1, fearing enormous economic, political regional and global security repercussions, upped the pace and efforts at reaching a deal with Iran. However, between 2010 and 2012 the negotiations with Iran produced no substantive results. In the interim in 2011, Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant began operating and achieved a sustained nuclear reaction. Further, Iran announced its intention to increase the amount of 19.5% enriched uranium it produced. This was all documented in the IAEA 8 November 2011 Report. That document also included further information on Iran’s deceptive practices even before 2004.

Then the final turn of the screw. As part of the National Defense Authorization Act, Congress passed legislation allowing the U.S. to sanction foreign banks if they process transactions with the Central Bank of Iran. The EU slapped a ban on the import of Iranian oil and prevented insurance companies from indemnifying tankers carrying Iranian oil. Negotiations, though protracted, began in earnest and at a deeper level through 2012 with more substantive exchanges of proposals and, on another level, crucial technical meetings. However, there was still no substantive movement on key issues.

At the United Nations on 27 September 2012, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew a red-line: if Iran amassed enough (250 kilos) uranium enriched to 20 percent. Without saying so, the red line implied that Israel would then launch an air attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities. (See the U.S. Government analysis of that threat: http://fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/R42443.pdf.) Initially this did not seem to deter Iran as, according to the IAEA November report, more centrifuges were installed at Natanz and Iran completed installation of the 2,800 centrifuges for Fordow. However, Iran kept constant the number of cascades producing 20 percent enriched uranium. The P5+1 talks with Iran still went nowhere until Hassan Rouhani, a former nuclear negotiator, was elected president of Iran on 14 June 2013.

With that, especially after Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at the UN in September 2013 presented a new proposal to the Americans and President Barack Obama had a telephone conversation with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, talks then moved very rapidly towards the conclusion of the November 2013 Framework for Cooperation Agreement (FCA) and the Joint Plan of Action in response to the demonstrably new candor from Iran.

Next: The Terms of the Framework for Cooperation Agreement (FCA)