IAEA 19 February Report on Iranian Compliance

IAEA 19 February Report on Iranian Compliance

by

Howard Adelman

Although the U.S. is the primary negotiator with Iran on behalf of the P5+1 team, Iran is required to be compliant with United Nations Security Council (UNSC) approved provisions in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Safeguards Agreement under the terms of the Joint Plan of Action (JPA) mandatory under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. The UNSC is the key reference point, not the U.S. The JPA of 11 November 2013, which took effect on 20 January 2014, was to be concluded by 20 July 2014, but has since been extended first to 24 November 2014 and then to 30 June of 2015. However, as efforts to blow up the agreement by the U.S. Republican-dominated Senate have advanced, with new threatened sanctions against Iran to be voted on near the end of March, pressure has increased immensely to conclude an agreement much before June. The JPA never made provision for any restrictions on Iranian missile development because there are no relevant international agreements on such restrictions. In contrast, there are strict restrictions under the 15 May 1974 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

But there are other tools that might accomplish much of the same task. On 19 February, the IAEA issued its latest report on the compliance with the Joint Plan of Action (as extended). The first impression one gets in reading the report is the sense of urgency in resolving differences. On 7 February, when Iran’s Foreign Minister, HE Mohammad Javad Zarif, met with the IAEA Director General, they agreed to discuss the whole program of compliance at all levels and resolve all outstanding issues as soon as possible.

The IAEA confirmed that:

  • Iran has not enriched UF6 above 5% U-235 at any of its declared facilities
  • As required, all of Iran’s stock of UF6 enriched up to 20% U-235 has been further processed through downblending or conversion into uranium oxide
  • Enrichment of UF6 up to 5% U-235 has continued at the regular and not an increased rate of production
  • The amount of UF6 enriched up to 5% U-235 is 7,952.9 kg
  • No additional major components have been installed at the IR-40 Reactor
  • There has been no manufacture and testing of fuel at IR-40
  • The Agency continues to enjoy managed access to centrifuge assembly workshops, centrifuge rotor production workshops and storage facilities.

It should be a done deal, right? Wrong. There were still two outstanding practical measures. First, there remain reasonable grounds to believe that Iran has not provided access to all relevant information, documentation, sites, material and personnel essential to restoring international confidence, given Iranian previous disregard for international agreements and overt and covert attempts to ignore them. Second, with respect to the initiation of high explosives and neutron transport calculations, Iran has yet to provide any explanations for discrepancies pointed out and failed to make provision for practical measures to resolve such disputes. These issues have been outstanding since last May. They are not new issues that have been placed on the table.

Clearly, Iran’s repeated stalling on these issues raised suspicions as each round of talks passes without these being resolved or Iran even making practical suggestions for their resolution. One is left with the impression that Iran has been stonewalling. In total, Iran has declared 18 nuclear facilities (not counting Parchin which Iran declares is not nuclear – see appendix) and 9 other locations where nuclear material is used (dumps & hospitals using radioactive isotopes. Although activities being undertaken by Iran at some of the facilities remain contrary to IAEA requirements, and although Iran has not suspended all of its enrichment activities, IAEA has managed to verify that material has not been diverted and is being handled in accord with the JPA. As stated above, IAEA has attested that Iran has not produced enriched U-235 above 5% and all its 20% enriched materials has been transformed as required. Further, both Iran’s material and all of its processing facilities are currently under IAEA monitoring and containment.

So what precisely is the problem? I will not rehearse the detailed account of what Iran has done to become compliant. The list is long and detailed. However, in focusing only on the gaps in failures to comply, as I will shortly do, there is a propensity to come away with a distorted picture. Even more important, Iran has been compliant on all items that are not matters of interpretive dispute as to whether compliance is required under the JPA. The interpretive issues are key, not only to assessing compliance, but in the public relations issues to establish transparency in a credible way and to ensure that core related security issues are addressed, such as missile development capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, and not simply the ability to produce weapons-grade fuel. The issue of Iran as a regional power, its influence in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and Yemen, and support of terrorism are other matters that will never become part of these negotiations.

To focus on two key outstanding issues, section H of the IAEA report details the possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program. The issue is initially one of transparency and the concern of IAEA that Iran has not disclosed nuclear-related activities involving military related organizations. Thus, the issue is not about the core of the nuclear program – the number and status of its various centrifuges and the amount and form of its nuclear materials at the core of the negotiations – but whether Iran is developing a nuclear payload for a missile and a missile capable of carrying such a payload. Does the JPA include the military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program? The IAEA says it does. Iran had never said it does not, but has never responded positively to IAEA’s probes on this issue or proposed practical alternatives for resolving them.

It does not matter what Iran thinks for two very different reasons. First, IAEA is the international arbiter, not a party negotiating with Iran. Secondly, if Iran does not deal with the issue, Obama will never get away with signing a deal and he already has more than enough difficulties on his plate from the negotiations. The opposition would turn into a firestorm quite aside from all the other issues not being dealt with in the negotiations. Specifically, IAEA requires access to all sites, equipment, persons and documents requested. IAEA’s suspicions have been further aroused by evidence IAEA has collected that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device, information contained in its November report and further corroborated by additional evidence since.

The site is Parchin, not Fardow or Natanz. Parchin is located just outside of Tehran. It is the facility identified as a possible or even probable nuclear weapons site. But the IAEA has not been able to confirm or disconfirm its suspicions, though IAEA inspectors have accumulated considerable evidence to weigh in on the probability side. Further, the activities are extensive both in terms of size, location, access to needed expertise, links with military facilities and the command centre of the Iranian military. Key evidence has been provided by a series of satellite photos over time. The only reasonable explanation for that type of construction activity seems to be the development of a nuclear military facility.

Iran negotiators have adamantly rejected these suspicions, but, as the IAEA has reported, Iran has never offered a suggested process for falsifying them. Seyed Hossein Mousavian, Iran’s chief negotiator at the talks, instead insisted that, “we completely, categorically deny any nuclear activities in Parchin. Americans, again, they are lying because the IAEA have never asked for inspections and because they have claimed we rejected the inspections of the IAEA and the IAEA up to now they have never asked for inspections.” But whatever the truth about what is taking place at Parchin, the claim that IAEA has never asked for inspections is an outright blatant lie since even the most cursory reading of IAEA reports clearly shows that Iran has repeatedly been asked for information on and access to all areas of Parchin.

Instead of Mousavian providing a method for resolving the dispute, he repeatedly goes on a rant about American perfidy, accusing the Americans of supplying doctored satellite photos, but never offers access or information to falsify the evidence or even propose a method for falsification. The problem, of course, is that the same evidence supports an interpretation of developing high explosive but non-nuclear warheads. Access to Parchin would provide evidence on what every enemy of Iran would desire – intelligence about Iran’s non-nuclear program. But information on the facility, access and inspection are the only way to resolve the dispute. However, given Iran’s other ambitions, whatever their nuclear goals are, Iran has been totally obstinate about granting information and access to Parchin. Iran has instead insisted that IAEA provide prima facie evidence of nuclear activity at Parchin.

I suspect there will be none when Iran eventually provides access under strict conditions. But developing a military warhead for high explosive material is the same as developing one for nuclear explosions. Iran did provide access to IAEA in the past, in January 2005, but since access was restricted to only one of four areas identified as being of potential interest and to only five buildings in that area, though nothing incriminating was found in the area accessed, restricted access only exacerbated suspicions. These suspicions seemed to be confirmed in November 2011 when satellite photography recorded all kinds of haulage facilities removing material consistent with the possibility of a small nuclear accident at the plant or efforts to remove such material surreptitiously. But from samples taken from the areas visited a few years earlier, IAEA could find no evidence of nuclear material being used on the site. Further, since then, given the time gap and the possible efforts at covering their tracks, the Agency’s ability to conduct effective verification has been severely compromised. Even if there is no evidence of nuclear material, Iran has enough rapid centrifuges of advanced design that, given even its stock of depleted uranium, it could rapidly move to becoming a nuclear power as long as Iran masters two other components of the system, warhead design and an appropriate missile delivery system.

If the Parchin site had been used to develop a nuclear warhead, and if there was a contamination clean-up from November 2011 until the first few months of 2012, why would the Iranians not permit full access now? Perhaps, because the inspectors could find traces of nuclear material. Perhaps because Iran did not want any inspectors near its missile development program. But without supplying either access or another satisfactory approach to resolving the issue, IAEA will not confirm Iranian full compliance and there will be no deal.

The second issue is the discrepancy in neutron transport calculations. IAEA has proposed a system assessment to resolve the problem. This involves “considering and acquiring an understanding of each issue in turn, and then integrating all of the issues into a ‘system’ and assessing that system as a whole.” The Agency has assured Iran that once it “has established an understanding of the whole picture concerning issues with possible military dimensions, it will quickly undertake its analysis and report back to the Agency’s Board of Governors.

Besides these two major outstanding issues, there are medium ones and several minor ones. A medium range issue is limiting the number of centrifuges. The measure of the number of centrifuges Iran could retain is determined by their collective output. There has been evidence that at Natanz, the technicians had lowered the average separative output of the IR-1 cascades in order to be able to retain more cascades and, hence, more centrifuges. Thus, when limits were agreed to on the average output permitted, Iran would be able to retain a greater total of cascades. It is not as if IAEA could not figure this out. They easily did. However, the effect was to view the Iranians as petty tricksters rather than as key partners in establishing total transparency. This appeared more to be petty cheating rather than inadvertent omission. This and other errors and omissions enhance suspicions. They make it very difficult for the inspectors to retain both their cool and their objectivity. Of course, these unresolved issues also enhanced the belief that the Iranians were planning a breakout in less than one year.

Another example of an even more petty lack of transparency was Iran’s failure to report on the slightly enriched uranium (to about 2%) originating from tailings and dumped into emergency holding tanks. Iran was explicitly required to report on all nuclear material it possessed. Further, Iran has not been able to explain why it has been unable to complete the conversion of 3.5% LEU hexafluoride to the oxide form but only to an intermediate form. So even though Iran’s average daily production of 3.5% low enriched uranium (LEU) has decreased, even though Iran has been compliant with JPA on a very wide front of measures, one suspects a feint. It is as if the IAEA is dealing with a habitual thief and liar who has vowed to go straight and seems to be really trying but cannot help slipping back into old patterns of dissembling and dishonesty on the margins.

Iran continues to enrich U-235 to 5% for medical use and enriched UF6 to 20% U-235i used in its research reactors, but these activities are open to inspection. Iran has not yet provided preliminary design information and the construction schedule for the nuclear plants that Iran had announced it was expecting to construct on the Bushehr site at the beginning of 2015. Until the outstanding issues are resolved, IAEA will not be in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran unless and until Iran provides the necessary cooperation with the Agency. And until the Agency can certify that all activities and nuclear material are devoted to peaceful purposes, no certification will be forthcoming.

Iran has five options. One, it can comply. Two, it can continue to stall, but that now seems to have come to a dead end on that route. Three, Iran can, through a series of small deviations, enhance its inherent capacity to produce weapons-grade uranium and therefore, reduce the real breakout period by months while it appears to be over a year. Four, Iran could try to make a side deal, say with Obama, if indeed he is the pro-Islam outlier that extremist Republicans claim he is; the evidence that Iran was trying to accomplish the third option was a counter-indication that Iranians were not up to the fourth option for that would have required Iran always to appear squeaky clean. Fifth, they could revert to the old order and the suspension of sanctions would then be cancelled. Iran seems to be trying for number three as it tries to get out of the corner in which it found itself.

Israel seems to have collected intelligence that a successful deal is in the offing. Hence the greatly enhanced activism of both Netanyahu and the Republicans in Congress. For both had been betting on the negotiations collapsing. The prospect of a successful outcome sent the fear of God down their spines. For such an agreement would not encompass Iranian missile development, only perhaps nuclear and perhaps high explosive warhead development. But certainly not Iran’s support for terrorism or its ambition to become a regional power. Just as certain, the British concern with Iran’s human rights record would not be addressed. For these reasons, any deal with Iran would be a bad deal for these critics.

Since I cannot envision the new Iran government wanting to revert to the pre-2014 regime that was crippling the Iranian economy or that Obama would agree to undercut the IAEA, and since stalling is no longer practicable, I concur with Israeli intelligence that a deal is in the offing and the IAEA will emerge as the hero of the whole process because it will also prevent the third option. Officials in Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia fear that the U.S. under Obama wants to focus its efforts on establishing order in the Middle East by accepting Iran as a regional power committed to stability and security, which may indeed be true, but this does not entail, as some also fear, replacing America’s traditional Middle East allies – Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey – with Iran.

Whatever the outcome, the use of Israel as a political football within the U.S. and the fallout between the White House and Netanyahu, though understandable from both sides, has left serious scars on the U.S.-Israeli connection. On 18 February, Josh Earnest, the White House spokesperson, insisted that they would still keep Israel informed on negotiations – as if Israel does not have independent sources for learning about the progress – but that the White House continued to be concerned about leaks. Earnest then practically called Israelis liars. “There’s no question that some of the things that the Israelis have said in characterizing our negotiating position have not been accurate,” clearly implying that some information was taken out of context and distorted. It would have been better if Earnest had referenced his charge since the dispute, as I have tried to document, is not about the particulars of the agreement, but about an agreement at all. Obama thus appears not to be playing hard ball but croquet or, at best, snooker.

Appendix – Iran’s Nuclear Sites – Note Fardow, Istafan, Natanz, Parchin and Tehran

1 Anarak – near Yazd – nuclear storage site for uranium

2 Arak – IR-40: 40 MW heavy water research reactor online in 2014 to replace Tehran research reactor producing radioisotopes for medical purposes

3 Ardakan – mill with annual capacity 120,000 metric tonnes of ore producing 50 MT uranium

4 Bonab – Atomic Energy Research Center focused on agriculture

5 Bushehr – Nuclear power plant became operational in August 2010

6 Chalus – site not currently operational for nuclear purposes

7 Darkovin – nuclear power plant with 360 MW capacity

8 Fordow – the underground uranium enrichment facility near Qom discovered in 2009 that became operational in 2011 to take over from Natanz’s enrichment of uranium to 5%

9 Gachin – uranium mine

10 Isfahan – nuclear research facility that currently operates four small nuclear research and conversion reactors

11 Karaj – Center for Agricultural Research and Nuclear Medicine

12 Lashkar Abad – pilot plant for isotope separation

13 Lavizan – decommissioned

14 Natanz – 100,000 sq. meter nuclear enrichment facility with 7,000 centrifuges producing LEU hardened by one concrete wall 2.5 meters thick and a second thick wall roof hardened by reinforced concrete and 22 meters of earth

15 Parchin – facility near Tehran for the testing and manufacturing of conventional explosives suspected of developing a nuclear warhead but full access has never been granted to IAEA

16 Ramsar – highest background radiation in the world, but not a nuclear facility

17 Saghand – Iran’s first uranium ore mine

18 Tehran – Nuclear Research Centre originally fueled by highly enriched uranium in 1967 & converted to 20% enriched facility in 1987 and in production in 2012

17 Yazd – Radiation Processing Center focused on geophysical research

Sanctions and Relief Implementation

Sanctions and Relief Implementation

by

Howard Adelman

Note that the EU3+3 (Britain, France, Germany + China, Russia and the U.S.) is the same as the P5+1 (Britain, China, France, Russia and U.S., permanent members of the UN Security Council + Germany).

To understand the current conflict over sanctions against Iran, it is helpful if we provide a brief history.

  • 1979 (November) President Carter’s Executive Order 12170 freezing Iranian assets (estimated value $10-12 billion) in response to Iranian hostage-taking of American embassy personnel by radicals protesting allowing entry to the Shah of Iran for medical treatment into the U.S.
  • 1980 embargo on U.S. trade with Iran imposed and travel ban to Iran issued
  • 1981 sanctions lifted after hostage crisis resolved
  • 1984 U.S. prohibits weapons sales, loans or assistance to Iran following Iraq invasion of Iran and belief that Iran is developing a nuclear weapons program
  • 1987 (October) President Ronald Reagan issues Executive Order 12613 prohibiting all imports from or exports into U.S. by Iran
  • 1995 (March) President Clinton issues Executive Order 12957 prohibiting all manner of trade between the U.S. and Iran in support of the Iranian petroleum industry
  • 1995 (May) President Clinton issues Executive Order 12959 prohibiting any trade with Iran
  • 1996 (August) under President Clinton, Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) (H.R. 3107, P.L. 104-172) signed into law but Libya deleted from name of law when sanctions against Libya lifted in 2006
  • 1997 (August) Mohammad Khatami, considered a reformer, elected President of Iran and president Clinton eases some sanctions
  • 2000 sanctions reduced for pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, caviar and Persian rugs
  • 2001 (August) Iran (and Libya) Sanctions Act renewed under President George W. Bush
  • 2004 U.S. Courts overrule a Treasury Department application of sanctions to intellectual exchanges and reciprocal publication arrangements
  • 2005 Mahmoud Ahmadinejad elected President of Iran and lifts suspension of uranium enrichment program agreed to with Britain, France and Germany (EU3) and sanctions in place now vigorously reinforced
  • 2006 UNSC Resolution 1696 passed against the renewal of Iranian uranium enrichment program
  • 2006 UNSC Resolution 1696
  • 2006 UNSC Resolution 1737
  • 2007 UNSC Resolution 1747
  • 2008 UNSC Resolution 1803
  • 2008 UNSC Resolution 1835
  • 2010 (June) UNSC Resolution 1929
  • 2010 (July) EU expands its sanctions beyond those required by the UNSC
  • 2012 (October) EU significantly expands and details more specifically its bans on the provision of services and equipment for the petrochemical industry, including oil tankers, the supply of services upon which Iranian production was so dependent, especially the ban in the export of certain specific metals, including graphite, that would be critical to Iran’s ability to fabricate its own machinery related to Iran’s ballistic missile development as well as its petrochemical industry
  • 2013 (March) EU imposition of sanctions against judges, media officials and a special police monitoring unit linked to the death of a dissident held in custody
  • 2013 (June) election of Hassan Rouhani government in Iran
  • 2013 (July) almost five months before Joint Plan of Action agreement signed and after Rouhani elected on a pledge to enter negotiations with the UN, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 400:20 in favour of increased sanctions against Iran
  • In contrast, following Rouhani’s election, the EU took a pro-active stand to invite Iran to join negotiations and a step-by-step approach that would restore normal economic relations while ensuring Iran’s right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes
  • Sanctions begin to be lifted for an initial six-month period by the EU in January 2014 after the JPA came into effect beginning with suspension of the ban on the import of petrochemical products and the banking and insurance related thereto.

While George W. Bush was renewing the sanctions regime against Iran, since 1998, Iran and the EU had been seeking to formalize its commercial and political cooperation arrangements and, in 2001, sought to negotiate a comprehensive trade and co-operation as well as political dialogue agreement. Negotiations started in 2002 but paused when Iran declined to engage in any further human rights dialogue after 2004. Once Iran’s clandestine nuclear development program was revealed in 2005 and Iran refused to co-operate with IAEA, all dialogue between the EU and Iran stopped.

The increasing severity of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions between 2006 and 2010 were in direct response to Iran’s refusal to abide by the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the requirements set down by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). IAEA was determined to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue to ensure the NPT was not breached. At the same time, the IAEA recognized Iran’s rights to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

The biggest change came because of independent EU action in July 2010 since the EU was then Iran’s largest trading partner. Further, London is a global financial centre; UK financial restrictions made it much more difficult for Iranian banks to use the international financial system to support its oil and gas business and Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. In addition to an embargo on nearly all dual-use goods and technology which could contribute to uranium enrichment, reprocessing of nuclear fuel, heavy water or to the development of nuclear weapons delivery systems, the EU introduced bans on the export of telecommunications, monitoring and transport equipment as well as arms, followed by more sanctions on instruments that could be used for internal repression. Perhaps the bans on investments, services and technology for the oil and gas industry were the most crippling since Iran’s oil production systems were based on European technology. European banking restrictions related to investments, grants, financial assistance, especially transfer of funds to and from Iran, and the ban on the provision of insurance services, were also enormously effective. But perhaps the sanctions that most hit home to persons of influence in Iran were the restrictions on the admission of specific persons (a long list to which more names were continuously added), freezing of their funds and economic resources and their inability to satisfy any claims.

By the time the JPA was put in place in November 2013, oil imports from Iran had fallen to zero and EU exports fell again by 26% in the 2012-2013 period. EU sanctions against Iran are based not only on the failure of Iran to be compliant with the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) but also because of Iran’s human rights record, support for terrorism, and its destructive approach to Israel-Palestine peace negotiations. Given the close economic ties between the EU and Iran, the targeted sanctions against specified individuals and organizations were even more significant because they entailed freezing of funds and economic resources of persons responsible for serious human rights violations in Iran and persons, entities and bodies associated with them. The list of people and organizations affected was long.

It was in the context of the UN sanctions against Iran for its breach of NPT that the Joint Plan of Action (JPA) has to be understood rather than the 35 years of U.S. up-and-down sanctions against Iran. In return for Iran taking steps to halt and roll back its nuclear enrichment program, the E3/EU+3 agreed to:

  • Pause efforts to further reduce Iran’s crude oil sales to enable Iran’s current customers to purchase their current average amounts of crude oil
  • Enable the repatriation of an agreed amount of revenue held abroad and, for such oil sales, suspend the EU and U.S. sanctions on associated insurance and transportation services
  • Suspend U.S. sanctions on Iran’s auto industry and associated services
  • Suspend U.S. and EU sanctions on:
    • Iran’s petrochemical exports, as well as sanctions on associated services
    • Gold and precious metals, as well as sanctions on associated services
  • License the supply and installation in Iran of spare parts for safety of Iranian civil aviation and associated services. License safety related inspections and repairs in Iran as well as associated services
  • No new nuclear-related UN Security Council or EU sanctions
  • U.S. Administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Congress, will refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions
  • Establish a financial channel to facilitate humanitarian trade (transactions involving food and agricultural products, medicine, medical devices, and medical expenses incurred abroad) for Iran’s domestic needs using Iranian oil revenues held abroad involving specified foreign banks and non-designated Iranian banks yet to be defined
  • This channel could also enable: transactions required to pay Iran’s UN obligations; and, direct tuition payments to universities and colleges for Iranian students studying abroad, up to an agreed amount for the six-month period
  • Increase the EU authorization thresholds for transactions for non-sanctioned trade to an agreed amount.

Nine months ago as the first deadline for the Joint Plan of Action approached, the negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear agreement hit a snag over the issue of sanctions, though, as became a pattern over the last nine months, the Iranians continued to voice optimism about the results of the negotiations. Thus, on 21 May 2014, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said, “Today, the nuclear negotiation is progressing and is on the threshold of reaching a conclusion.” The very next day, this was the same message coming from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Saeed Jalili, the former lead negotiator, a conservative very close to Khamenei, said, “We should permit the (Iranian) nuclear negotiation team to proceed with its programs in the framework of (the Supreme Leader’s proposed) ‘heroic lenience’ and we should all assist them in their bid to materialize the nation’s rights.”

There could be two reasons for the articulation of this optimism: 1) domestically to dampen down the ultra-conservative voices critical of the negotiations; 2) to send a message to the P5+1 that the Iranians are fully committed to the success of the negotiations. But there were two sets of issues which this optimism masked. There were disagreements about Iranian compliance that would persist for the next nine months and that I will deal with in tomorrow’s blog. Second, there were rising voices within Iran that the pace of lifting sanctions had been far too languid given the enormous concessions (in their minds) that the Iranians had made thus far in their nuclear program. Just as there were continuing concerns within the U.S about the Iranian commitments to a successful outcome of the negotiations., within Iran there were an increasing number of queries from many quarters about whether the U.S. was truly committed to lifting sanctions or whether the whole process was just a ruse to stop, set back and eventually derail Iran’s development of its nuclear program.

As reported from the Tasnin News Agency in Al-Monitor, Seyed Hossein Naghavi Hosseini, spokesperson for the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, noted “intense disagreements” over a variety of issues during the Vienna talks, including an alleged P5+1 proposal for a 10-year rollout for sanctions relief. The Iranians were afraid of a Republican backlash that could re-impose sanctions, since they already anticipated that American sanctions relief would only take place under U.S. President Barack Obama’s executive authority to waive many of the sanctions on Iran. Waivers can be easily rescinded. Iran might accept waivers, but only in an initial phase in a process leading to complete sanctions relief.

Hosseini called for lifting of all sanctions rather than segmentation and a phased-in approach, a comment directed not only at the then current snag in negotiations about sanctions, but an explicit critique of the JPA provision for the implementation of the agreement of “specified long tern duration” usually bandied about as ten years. The issue was a divide between ending or suspending sanctions.

If the U.S. insisted upon a 10-year rollout period for sanctions relief, then the Iranian rollback in its nuclear program should also be phased over ten years, Iran insisted. Yet the other side insists on Iranian compliance with IAEA requirements as a prerequisite to sanctions relief, consistent, not with the preamble of the JPA, but with the position that Iran is the outlier in its failure to comply with its international treaty obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPA). The sanctions were imposed for Iran’s failure in compliance. Making relief implementation proportionate to Iranian compliance is akin to requiring the justice system to reduce a fine in proportion to a felon desisting in the future from recommitting the felony.

The JPA calls for a “comprehensive solution.” Comprehensive entails lifting all trade, technology, banking, energy and aeronautical sanctions – including UN Security Council, EU multilateral and national sanctions – with the implication that these even included non-nuclear sanctions by the U.S. (hence the importance of having the historical background). But U.S. oil and financial sanctions are subject to the Iran Sanctions Act described above. To waive sanctions, the President must certify to Congress, not only that Iran will not be able to build nuclear weapons within a one year breakout period, but that Iran no longer seeks to build weapons of mass destruction ever. Further, the President must certify that Iran no longer sponsors terrorism (Hamas and Hezbollah, both clients of Tehran, though Hamas had a fallout with Iran over Syria). Both Hamas and Hezbollah are listed by the U.S. as terrorist organizations. Finally, the President must certify that Iran no longer represented a security threat to U.S. Interests. Given the U.S. commitment to Israel and Saudi Arabia, how could this be possible given Iran’s continuing foreign policy?

Who said that sanctions are easy to lift but hard to impose? This analysis suggests that the opposite may be truer.

All these issues end up being tied into the negotiations. And I have not even delved into the Syrian part of the equation. It is a truism that Lebanese issues and conflicts over Hezbollah cannot be resolved without reference to Syria. So bringing all of these into the negotiations would definitely kibosh them. Where do you draw the line? As we shall see tomorrow, IAEA restricts the negotiations to nuclear issues, but then includes military developments (e.g. missiles) related to nuclear militarization, but excludes other foreign policy issues.

However, with the U.S. as the lead negotiator on the side of the UNSC, the matter becomes complicated in a totally other way – not over what is included and what is excluded, but over who is included and who is excluded. Many members of Congress insist they must have a say since an act of the U.S. Congress is involved. And the Iranians, as well as everyone else, know the position of the Republicans. Senator Bob Corker, ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, however, insists that what is at stake is a good deal, not knee-jerk opposition to Iran. “If it’s a good deal, I’m going to vote for it. I want a good outcome… We haven’t been in the camp of wanting to add sanctions right now. We’ve been in the camp of wanting to find what a good deal is. So if we get a good deal, I’ll be glad to vote for it.” However, for the Republicans, merely extending the breakout period from three months to one year does not represent a good deal.

So the sanctions issue is bound to be a spoiler for both sides if politicians and the domestic constituencies behind them become convinced that Iran is not sincere in its quest to pursue a strictly peaceful use of nuclear energy. Hence, as we shall see tomorrow, the repeated reassurances that Iran is complying with almost all the requirements of the JPA. Hence, also the IAEA’s insistence of stretching beyond a narrow interpretation of nuclear negotiations to include other nuclear-related security issues (missile delivery systems) as well as assurances of full transparency.

The First Six Months of Compliance with the JPA

The First Six Months of Compliance with the JPA

by

Howard Adelman

To reiterate for the umpteenth time, the point of the JPA negotiations from the very start was not to eliminate Iran’s nuclear program, but to establish a set of provisions and verification measures to protect American and allied national security interests by limiting (not eliminating) Iran’s nuclear programs. Extensive verification measures were to be put in place intended to eliminate the risk of Iran breaking out with an ability to produce nuclear weapons at its declared and/or covert nuclear sites without being detected in a timely manner. The issue of timeliness was defined as sufficient time to permit U.S. and international responses that would prevent Iran succeeding. As clarified in the last blog, this entailed instituting very intrusive verification procedures to detect the construction and operation of secret gas centrifuge plants in Iran’s nuclear program to ensure that Iran’s actions conform to the agreements it made as interim confidence-building measures before a more comprehensive program can be put in place. For the best summaries of the monitoring of the progress of the negotiations, see the series of reports of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington (ISIS). Better yet, read the IAEA reports themselves. This blog is based on those reports.

Fordow is a nuclear enrichment plant constructed in secret at a time when Iran was obligated to report its construction to the IAEA and not only did not, but repeatedly and blatantly lied about it, absolutely denying such a development. That alone required any verification process to be very robust. The plant is buried deep under a mountain near the Iranian holy city of Qom. The only purpose of the plant is to produce military-grade nuclear materials, though Iran argues the grade of nuclear material is required for its research reactor. In September 2009, its existence was publicly revealed by President Obama. The end goal of the negotiations had to be closing this site. If Iran wanted to continue producing nuclear material for peaceful purposes, it did not need a plant under a mountain resistant even to bunker bomb attacks, though the access tunnels, ventilation equipment and electronic supply would not be immune. The interim goal was to halt Iran’s progress in its tracks and to cut through Iran’s duplicitous and contradictory reporting on its activities to the IAEA between 2009 and 2013.

The truth: at Fordow, Iran had installed almost 2,800 first generation IR-1 centrifuges in two halls each designed to hold 8 cascades of 174 centrifuges per cascade = 1,392 centrifuges x 2 = 2784 centrifuges of which 696 were operational. According to the IAEA, 4 cascades of 174 centrifuges (696) in two tandem sets to produce near 20 percent low enriched uranium the only real purpose of which was nuclear weaponry. In the JPA, at Fordow:

  • there will be no further enrichment over 5% at 4 cascades now enriching uranium
  • enrichment capacity will not be increased
  • Iran will not feed UF6 into the other 12 non-operative state cascades
  • There will be no further interconnections made between cascades
  • Any replacements of existing centrifuges will be of centrifuges of the same type.

To ensure the above, Iran agreed not only to stop making 20% enriched uranium, not only to install no further advanced centrifuges at Fordow, but also to disconnect the piping of cascades not in operation, maintain those centrifuges in a non-operative state and only enrich uranium up to 5% in the 4 operating cascades. In the end, Iran would have to actually remove about 15,000 of its centrifuges after the JPA was signed according to the Washington Post.

Note that in the JPA interim agreement, Iran could continue enrichment at its R&D Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant and even develop more advanced centrifuges, but these developments would be monitored to ensure conformity with IAEA safeguards. In spite of this provision, by February 2014, even Israel’s senior security officials in the IDF and Mossad had begun to consider whether Iran was sincere in following a new tack and that, possibly, this was not just a new phase in past deceptive practices. At the renewable energy meeting in Abu Dhabi on 18-19 January, Israeli Water and Energy Minister Silvan Shalom listened intently to Iran’s minister of energy. More significantly, at the Munich Security Conference on 2 February, Israel Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon sat in the front row of a panel discussion that included Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

What was happening with Iran’s agreement to convert its existing 20% enriched uranium, 50% as working stock of 20% oxide for fabrication of fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) while the other 50% had to be diluted to no more than 5% low enriched uranium (LEU) hexafluoride? If the 20% enriched oxide is reconverted to a fluoride form and then further enriched to weapon-grade level (90% U235), this would be enough to make a 25 kg bomb. Recall that Little Boy dropped on Hiroshima was a 15 kiloton bomb and Far Boy dropped on Nagasaki was a 21 kiloton bomb, not 25 kg. Nevertheless, if Iran is truly committed to the use of nuclear energy only for peaceful purposes, it does not need 20% enriched nuclear material.

Why do I go into all this detail? Why not jump to much more recent reports, or even more, to the latest AIAE Report on Iran’s compliance with the JPA? There are several reasons. First, I want to establish my credibility; I have read all the reports. Second, I want to try to see if there is a pattern in Iran’s compliance and non-compliance, for both are at work. Third, I want to demonstrate that, as far as possible, I have tried to be fair in appraising Iran’s compliance with the terms of the JPA. On the other hand, I do not want to burden readers with a morass of details. So after this initial review of the first six months and my conclusions about a pattern, in Monday’s blog I will jump to the very recent report of the IAEA that I received yesterday to assess whether in fact my perceptions of a pattern are correct.

As a result of last February’s IAEA report, one clear sign of progress was that Iran agreed that it would put on hold any plans to build additional centrifuge plants, more specifically, the plans for the third centrifuge plant that AIAE had revealed. On the other hand, trust was not enhanced in Iran’s intentions when commitments come only after new discoveries by the IAEA. There is a clear perception that there is a continuing failure to provide full disclosure, though certainly a great deal that IAEA did not know previously has been disclosed. Hence, IAEA determined to place a priority on gaining access to a full range of information that it did not have last February and that it would need to assess Iran’s compliance and even perhaps its intentions.

One area of critical importance was Iran’s research and development program mentioned above. Unfortunately, for many observers of this process, the JPA did not adequately address this issue and, by omission, Iran was permitted to undertake research to improve the quality of its centrifuges. This is understandable in a way since better centrifuges are also needed for the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Iran may not develop new types of centrifuges using uranium hexafluoride at its Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant, but it can undertake research to improve the performance of existing centrifuges. The dilemma is that, given the goals of the JPA to limit the breakout period to at least a year, significant improvements in the performance of Iran’s existing centrifuges could significantly reduce that timeframe. Yet there is no provision in the JPA to limit the possibility. So the negotiators are working on using the transparency clauses to ensure Iran reveals its improvements.

The issue of a breakthrough with laser enrichment is instructive. In 2010, Iran announced that it had significantly improved performance through a laser enrichment program. The JPA in the technical annexes provided seven practical methods for monitoring this possibility of accelerating the breakout period. Iran was required to implement them by 15 May 2014. As we shall see, Iran did comply with these additional “technical” requirements, including the requirement that Iran provide full relevant information on the Lashkar Ab’ad Laser Research Centre and to allow inspection visits.

Reduction in suspicion of Iran is not helped when, at the time the JPA was signed and immediately thereafter, all work on construction and improvements at the Parchin military site seemed to be at a standstill, but the February satellite photos revealed that new activity was taking place at the site and Iran had not informed IAEA that this was taking place. In the meanwhile, Ira’s Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, was performing the role of the eternal optimist on the international stage signaling that a comprehensive deal was doable in the next 4-5 months.

What was becoming clear was that two intersecting issues were clear. First, there had to be strict limits on the number of centrifuges Iran could have. Second, as and if their productive capacity improved, those numbers had to be reduced. As the quality of the enrichment program improves, the number of centrifuges in operation had to decrease. Otherwise there was no way of being secure about a breakout period that seemed reasonable at the time of any deal.

The other complementary issue was the amount and quality of nuclear material that Iran had already in hand. The 20 February 2014 IAEA report was promising because IAEA could, by then, provide a reasonably accurate picture of the total volume of 20% enriched uranium that Iran had on hand, especially since the JPA had agreed that 50% of that material could be retained in the form of oxide. The problem, as everyone recognized, was that this process could be reversed for the nuclear material retained in oxide form using its existing technological knowhow and equipment. Only two steps were needed: 1) converting it back into a hexafluoride form, and 2) then enrich it to a grade suitable for nuclear weapons. So the negotiators had to make this process impossible. The question was not only whether, at the end of six months, Iran had converted all or almost all of its stock of 20% enriched uranium equally into the two forms provided in the JPA, but how to ensure 135-175 kg of 20% enriched uranium now in oxide form could and would not be reconverted back into hexafluoride form.

The 20 March 2014 IAEA report was very positive. Iran had made progress on a number of fronts in complying with the terms of the JPA:

  • No new enriched U-235 to 20%
  • No expanded conversion capacity
  • Degraded 74.6 kg of 20% enriched U-235 to no more than 5%
  • 7 kg of 20% enriched U-235 had been converted to the oxide form
  • No efforts had been made to reconvert U-235
  • Iran had provided information on the continued construction of the Enriched Uranium Production Plant (EUPP) that was to be used to degrade 20% enriched U-235, but the work had not completed
  • No processing at the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR)
  • Iran had complied with the terms of the Safeguard Agreement
  • Iran had provided information on the uranium mine at Gchine
  • Daily access had been provided to both Natanz and Fordow
  • Inspection via managed access had been allowed to the centrifuge assembly workshop, the centrifuge rotor production workshop and to storage facilities.

Perhaps Zarif had been right to be optimistic. Though Olli Heinonen, the Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and former Deputy Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, also seemed optimistic, he reminded everyone that a great deal of confirmation work remained to be done and the results of inspections still had to be completed. Even the delay in meeting targets for conversion of 20% enriched UF6 to 5% enriched UF6 as uranium oxide was explicable in terms of plant construction delays.

Nevertheless, the negotiations were haunted by a number of unresolved issues. Iran has been suspiciously intransigent about the Parchin facility where Digital Globe imagery dated 25 April 2014 shows signs of renewed external activity there, a critical observation since this is where Iran’s nuclear weapons development program takes place. Iran had promised to clear up crucial questions about its past nuclear military production, but has not yet complied. What, in fact, has Iran done towards producing nuclear weapons?

Nevertheless, the IAEA May 2014 report remained optimistic since enrichment to almost 20% had ceased, 100kg of 20% enriched had been converted to less than 5% and its stock of hexafluoride was approaching zero, no new centrifuges were installed at Natanz and Fordow, and Iran complied with the practical measures insisted on by IAEA. What also becomes clear, the restrictions in examining the military dimension of Iran’s program were a mistake as, without such information, it is impossible to calculate with any degree of accuracy Iran’s break out time frame. Knowing this, IAEA promised to report back on that dimension of the nuclear issue.

Ironically, problems were emerging on the provisions for removing sanctions:

Sunday:           Sanctions and the Implementation of Relief

Monday:          The 20 February 2015 IAEA Report

Tuesday          My Overall Assessment of the Nuclear Negotiations

Wednesday    Libya

Monitoring and Verifying the JPA in a Duplicitous Environment

Monitoring and Verifying the JPA in a Duplicitous Environment

by

Howard Adelman

I have lost track of the number of times that I have been asked why I tied Argentina into the “discussions” between Israel and the U.S. and the negotiations between Iran and the U.S. over the nuclear issue. The parallelism in the roots of anti-Semitism in both Argentina and Iran seemed a stretch. The evidence for Iran bombing the Jewish cultural centre in Buenos Aries in 1994 seemed a long time ago and, further, did not appear to have any connection with nuclear materials, even if the bombing constituted an argument for Iran’s determined, venomous and lethal manner of conducting foreign policy. Though the possibility that Iran was planning a similar attack last year in Montevideo, Uruguay certainly raised a red flag, it seemed to reflect on Iran’s overseas intelligence agency that would target civilians and not its nuclear policy. Two days ago, the diplomatic connection was made. Argentina formally asked the U.S. to include the issue of the 1994 bombing within the nuclear negotiations. I could say that I anticipated this connection, but I did not.

As I am prone to say, FAT CHANCE! Argentine courts may have accused a group of Iranians of planning the attack on the AMIA Jewish community centre that killed 85 people, and Iran’s intelligence service may even have had a hand in the murder of Alberto Nisman, but why would that instigate Argentina’s Foreign Minister, Héctor Timerman, to send a letter to John Kerry to make a request made previously. “I am asking you again that the AMIA issue be included in the negotiations with the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

The answer I think is simple, since Argentina does not really expect the Obama administration, given the importance this administration has placed on the negotiations with Iran, to actually push to have that item on the agenda when no provision was made for adding new agenda items under negotiation in the Joint Plan of Action (JPA) agreed to by Iran. President Cristina Férnandez and Héctor Timerman very badly need to divert the focus on them brought about because they have been accused of conspiring with Iran to whitewash the crime in order to clinch a grains-for-oil deal. This is not about electioneering since Férnandez is constitutionally barred from running in October for a third consecutive term. This is also not just about their historical legacy. Both do not want to be accused let alone tried for a criminal conspiracy.

But why make such an obviously fruitless effort? As Jen Psaki diplomatically replied on behalf of the U.S. State Department, she was unaware of any plans to raise the AMIA issue in the negotiations. Because Férnandez and Timerman believe that Mossad, and, perhaps, even the CIA, are behind the effort to shift the focus of anger for the unresolved AMIA bombing on them by delivering to Alberto Nisman allegedly incriminating evidence that there had been such a deal. I suspect, and I only suspect for I have absolutely no evidence for it, that Férnandez and Timerman both believe that Iran was behind Nisman’s killing. Finding Iran responsible is not the problem for them. But if that investigation leads back to connecting them to a deal with Iran to shift the investigation to the side because of an oil-for-grain deal, that would be a very serious problem subjecting both to being charged for criminal conspiracy to hide a crime, even if they were never proven guilty of that charge.

However, this blog is not intended to be a whodunit. It is more of an inquiry into what is really going on and a whydunit. Shifting now back to the substance of the negotiations is necessary, but I will try to tie all loose ends together, and well before the June deadline for doing this in the nuclear negotiations. Before I undertake the comparison, Machiavellian diplomacy requires that a person talk out of two sides of his/her face at one and the same time. My analysis in my last blog suggested that the pro-Iranian thrust of the preamble of JPA might have been deliberate in order to allow Iran to be boxed in tighter than otherwise might be the case by the substantive clauses. Those specific regulations are about performance rather than intentions, but unless viewed through the lenses of possible malevolent intent, then the only assessment will be of the performance relative to the term of agreement and not to the issue of the test itself which, in the end, is intended to examine intent and ensure behaviour conforms to that intent. But that latter issue must in turn be placed within a more general context.

The current Iran regime has been conducting a pro-Jewish (definitely not pro-Zionist) public relations campaign to offset the widespread image of the Iran power-brokers as uniformly anti-Semitic. Mair Javendafar, a Jew originally from Iran who teaches Contemporary Iranian Politics in Israel, documented that offensive in a recent article in Al-Monitor entitled, “Rouhani accommodates Iran’s Jewish students.”

President Hassan Rouhani as of 4 February made what had been an emerging practice official – Jewish students no longer are required to attend school on Shabat, a decree that resurrected a practice initiated right after the 1979 revolution but did not last. A year ago, Rouhani’s government donated $400,000 to the Jewish charity hospital. In December, he also unveiled a memorial to Jewish soldiers who died in the Iraq-Iran war. As well as attending such memorials, Ali Younesi, Rouhani’s special assistant, visits synagogues and other Jewish institutions. In the meanwhile, a second Holocaust denial cartoon exhibition is being organized in Tehran, so President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s heritage is still alive and well. After all, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also called the Holocaust a hoax. All this is for a population that now numbers less than 9,000. In 1979, when Iran severed relations with Israel, the Jewish population there totaled 80,000, mostly in Tehran. So what is the relationship between these recent pro-Jewish initiatives, Iran’s virulent anti-Israeli stance and the nuclear negotiations?

A similar dual track process is visible in Obama’s relationship with Netanyahu. When Netanyahu addressed the UN in September, Obama had a private discussion with Netanyahu over their differences, but only after Obama went through a barrage of denials that he was snubbing Netanyahu and refusing to meet with him. The Israeli press reported that the White House had turned down a request for a meeting while the White House issued a statement that no request had been made. One brouhaha follows another, and each one ending in an affirmation from the White House that American ties with Israel are deep and abiding.

In one case, the head of Mossad, Tamir Pardo, was reported as even opposing additional sanctions against Iran. However, in a 19 January meeting, Pardo absolutely denied that he had said any such thing. Quite the contrary. He insisted that the sanctions had been very effective and were the key instruments that brought Iran to the negotiating table. Further, Pardo agreed with a carrot and stick approach to negotiating with Iran rather than a confrontational posture based on absolute demands. Pardo’s criticism was about the absence of a sufficiently large stick in pressuring Iran. That stick, he insisted, should include stopping the talks and resuming under better parameters. He reinforced Kissinger’s critique that the parameters of the talks were flawed. What I wanted to emphasize here is the continuing disinformation war surrounding the negotiations. Thus, normally astute reporters, such as David Ignatius of the Washington Post, is used as a conduit to get out the message that the Obama White House had decided to cut out the Israelis from any briefing on the negotiations, and then, subsequently, the White House denies there was any truth to the story. This exercise in simulation diplomatic warfare is part of the fog of diplomatic war.

We know the following. Before negotiations even opened on the basis of the JPA in November 2013, Obama and Netanyahu were at loggerheads over the Iran negotiations. America’s goal was to extend the breakout period for construction of a nuclear weapon to at least one year, not, as many Republican critics contend, that this had been a change in policy from the original goal of eliminating Iran’s potential to produce nuclear weapons altogether – a goal few viewed as achievable without bringing down the regime. Israel’s goal was to end the ability of Iran to produce nuclear weapons ever. Henry Kissinger in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee cited the UNSC resolution “to deny Iran the capability to develop a military option.” True, but hardly revealing since the issue was how best to operationalize that goal, by instituting inspections and oversights and extending Iran’s breakout period for a year or by insisting that Iran’s nuclear program in its entirely be dismantled, a goal which the JPA explicitly rejected as unrealizable. Does one opt for conflict prevention which would require a much higher level of confrontation, or conflict management at a much lower level of engagement?

In January, in a phone call between Obama and Netanyahu, Obama had asked Netanyahu to hold his diplomatic firepower while negotiators explored whether Iran would agree to a deal that limited centrifuges and stockpiles in order to extend the breakout period for Iran to at least a year. Netanyahu responded to the American negotiating position that a year wasn’t enough; he repeated Israel’s hardline insistence that Iran should not be allowed any centrifuges or enrichment. There had been two additional differences in the background. As already mentioned, Obama seemed willing to permit Iran to become a regional power and even recently endorsed such a proposition. That possibility made Israel (and Saudi Arabia) apoplectic. Israel wanted to reign in and, hopefully, eliminate Iran’s ability to send missiles to Israel; the JPA made no reference to missiles. In addition, Kissinger criticized the two developments as leading to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East so that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt would be pressured to begin a process of developing a capability for making nuclear weapons.

The implication that this week’s simulated exercise in diplomatic warfare arose because Netanyahu had released information about the American goal of a one-year breakout period, is nonsense. Anyone who did any reading on the matter knew this and has known this for at least a year. (See my previous two blogs on the progress of the negotiations.) One did not need Netanyahu to learn about this. The White House in January had not only asked, but urged Netanyahu to hold his diplomatic firepower when Israeli intelligence had concluded that a deal was now possible and even imminent. Netanyahu determined to scuttle the deal. While the negotiations had been continuing previously and success was not imminent – rather failure seemed in the offing – Netanyahu had held most of his fire. That phase was over. Netanyahu and his Republican allies in Congress were explicitly out to kibosh the agreement before it was too late. The issue was not over the specifics – whether Iran would be allowed to retain 6,500 or 7,000 centrifuges, but over the deal itself.

To repeat. The issue is that the deal now seems not only possible but imminent. For allowing Iran to retain its centrifuges that would allow it in a year to upgrade its uranium to weapons grade, had all along been unacceptable to Netanyahu, let alone the absence of any limits on Iranian missile development. Piled on these old schisms is now a new one. The White House now seems determined to lift sanctions without Congressional approval if it gets the deal it wants rather than face certain defeat by presenting the deal negotiated to the Senate for ratification.

The issue is even larger. The Iranian religious regime is opposed to liberalism and Western values, but has fully embraced its technology, except when the electronic revolution threatens its system of corruption and authoritarianism, its repression of rights and freedoms. Any deal agreed to now will strengthen Iran’s preservation of its Manichean world view which has focused on Zionism as the fundamental source of all evil, the Small Satan for which America, the Great Satan, is its major tool. This stance, if it is the governing one, will, in the end, sabotage the Iranian government’s current genuine efforts in engagement with the outside world even if the intentions of the current Iranian government are really just to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. As the critics of the negotiations chime, if you believe that, then you believe pigs can fly.

There is one final contextual issue – the timing of sanctions. Iran is currently in a terrible position economically and very sensitive to external pressure given both the low price of oil and the internal weaknesses of a kleptocratic economy of rent seekers where many of the large firms are in the hands of Iranian extremists who use those businesses both to fund their political agendas as well as for personal gain. Just this week, Iran’s Central Task Force to Combat the Smuggling of Commodities and Currency pointed to corruption as a key factor behind Iran’s high inflation and high unemployment rate. Smuggling is used not only to get around sanctions, not only to feed personal greed, but to feed a dissident apolitical underground interested in cigarettes, cell phones, cosmetics, music, dance, films, alcohol and drugs. So there is a weird interdependency between the religious puritans and the secular cultural dissidents in the dependency of both on smuggling totaling over $25 billion.

How has Iran behaved since the JPA was agreed to in November 2013? For the process of negotiations, the practices of providing transparency and rules for ensuring that transparency must be assessed in order to weigh one way or another for anyone who sees a rationale in both perspectives to decide which of the alternative strategies to follow.

The JPA provided that Iran would undertake the following voluntary measures:

  • From the existing uranium enriched to 20%, Iran could retain half as working stock of 20% oxide for fabrication of fuel for the TRR while the remaining 20% UF6 had to be diluted to no more than 5%
  • There had to be no reconversion line
  • Iran must confirm that it will not enrich uranium over 5% during the six months
  • Iran must not make any further advances of its activities at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant1, Fordow2, or the Arak reactor3, designated by the IAEA as IR-40
  • When the line for conversion of UF6 enriched up to 5% to UO2 is ready, Iran has to convert that to oxide UF6 newly enriched up to 5% during the 6 month period
  • No new locations for enrichment are to be developed
  • Iran will continue safeguarded R&D practices, including enrichment R&D practices, as provided in the operational schedule of the conversion plant declared to the IAEA
  • No reprocessing or construction of a facility capable of reprocessing
  • There will be enhanced monitoring.

In addition to the above undertakings, provision was made for specified information to be provided to the IAEA, including information on Iran’s plans for nuclear facilities, a description of each building on each nuclear site, a description of the scale of operations for each location engaged in specified nuclear activities, information on uranium mines and mills, and information on source material. This information would be provided within three months of November 2013.

Iran was also required to submit an updated and completed Design Information Questionnaire for the purposes of conducting a building inspection (a DIQ) for the reactor at Arak (IR-40) to the IAEA. Iran had to agree to conform to an IAEA Safeguards Standards for IR-40. When inspectors are not present at a facility, Iran had to allow daily IAEA inspector access for DIQ verification, Interim Inventory Verification (IIV), Physical Inventory Verification (PIV), and unannounced inspections, for the purpose of access to offline surveillance records at Fordow and Natanz. IAEA has to have access to centrifuge assembly workshops, centrifuge rotor production workshops and storage facilities; and uranium mines and mills.

Five other measures for assessing Iran’s intentions and performance were put in place:

1 During the 6 months, for centrifuges that have been installed but not currently enriching uranium, Iran will not feed UF6 into them.

  1. Any replacements of centrifuges will be of the same type.
  2. At Fordow:
  • there will be no further enrichment over 5% at 4 cascades now enriching uranium
  • enrichment capacity will not be increased
  • Iran will not feed UF6 into the other 12 non-operative state cascades
  • There will be no further interconnections made between cascades
  • Any replacements of existing centrifuges will be of centrifuges of the same type.
    1. At Arak, for 6 months, Iran will not:
  • commission the reactor
  • transfer fuel or heavy water to the reactor site
  • will not test additional fuel
  • will not produce more fuel for the reactor
  • will not install remaining components.
    1. Iran’s centrifuge production during the 6 months will be dedicated to replacing damaged machines.

Without yet assessing whether Iran complied with any or all of these provisions, it is clear that these are about halting a process underway of producing military-grade nuclear fuel whatever the protestations of Iran about its commitment to exclusive peaceful use of nuclear energy. Further, it is also clear that that these were interim steps to assess sincerity by Iran and to provide a foundation for further transparency and monitoring Iranian compliance. Finally, it is also clear that the negotiations are not about eliminating Iran’s nuclear program altogether.

How did Iran perform in the first six months? What quid pro quo in lifting sanctions did the West undertake and put into effect?

Tomorrow: The First Six Months of Compliance with the JPA

The Joint Plan of Action: P5+1 and Iran

  1. The Joint Plan of Action: P5+1 and Iran

Part IV: The Washington-Jerusalem-Buenos Aries-Tehran Quadrangle

by

Howard Adelman

In the ongoing dispute between the White House and the Israeli government over the invitation to Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress on the Iran nuclear negotiations, we supposedly learned that Netanyahu would no longer be updated on the progress of those negotiations. The explanation: fear that Netanyahu will use the information for political needs. But that is not all. In addition, Obama’s National Security Advisor was said to be cutting off all contact with the Israeli National Security Council. If true, a brouhaha would now have become an imbroglio, for the dispute now would directly affect the security of Israel. Obama appeared to have declared diplomatic war against Israel, showing, perhaps for the first time since he has been president, that he too can play hardball.

In what sense could informing Netanyahu on the status of the talks allow Bibi to use that information for political purposes since he has always used information for political purposes? That was the whole point of promising to keep Jerusalem updated – as a quid pro quo to getting Israel to step down from plans to bomb the Fordow reactor and other nuclear installations in Iran. Was Obama trying to provoke Israel into using the bombing card?

When Wendy Sherman, Under Secretary of State in charge of the nuclear talks with Iran, was reported as announcing that she ceased briefing and updating Israel on the talks, were there any reports that she offered evidence that Netanyahu was using the material she supplied inappropriately to advance his own political prospects within Israel? When Susan Rice, Obama’s National Security Advisor, purportedly announced that she was cutting off all contacts with the Israeli National Security Council, and its chief, Yossi Cohen, she allegedly claimed that Israel was turning a U.S. national security issue into a political issue within the U.S. to interfere in U.S. domestic politics. But if the White House had responded in this way, Obama’s office would have been responsible for turning a minor diplomatic misstep and, in my mind, inadvisable visit, into a major security issue.

In other words, Netanyahu was being portrayed as having committed a double boo-boo and the revenge by the White House had reportedly come down swiftly and heavily. One reaction: what is Israel supposed to do when it feels the progress of the negotiations is undermining the understandings between the U.S. and Israel on the quid pro quo? Go quietly into the night?

Netanyahu’s office, however, kept its cool about the latest purported revelations as it has over the invitation to address Congress. In the latter case, Israel simply slipped out the information that Netanyahu had indeed followed protocol and informed the White House about the invitation before he accepted. (If the Oval Office only learned about the invitation from Netanyahu, their intelligence on gathering information on what is going on in Congress must be dreadful.) If Obama’s White House had indeed responded to Netanyahu’s plan to speak to a joint sitting of Congress as reported, a really serious breach in protocol would have taken place, now by the White House, for Obama’s office could have let Netanyahu know that if he accepted the invitation from the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the White House would come out with full guns blazing.

Was this only the opening salvo? Something seemed fishy. First, the alleged White House reaction was so disproportionate to the alleged offense. Second, such a response would not have been self-serving as it would have alienated much of the Jewish base who support the Democrats which would then rally on behalf of Israel – not Netanyahu – because such a response would have gone far too far. Third, Netanyahu, who is a street brawler, did not respond and return diplomatic artillery fire. His office only stated that, “The relations between the two nations are deep” and that Yossi Cohen will leave for Washington next week to take part in a conference when he will meet with Sherman and Rice, totally contrary to the report that Rice would no longer meet with Cohen.

I thought the invitation to Netanyahu was only a brouhaha, but if the report had been accurate, the tension between Netanyahu and the White House would certainly no longer be just that. Personal animosity would have risen to fever pitch and threatened the deep relations between the two countries. I had thought the acceptance of the invitation to address Congress was inadvisable, but I did not think that Obama would suddenly raise the stakes and plant a minefield for Israel around the Iran negotiations.

Are the negotiations going so badly that Obama wants to blame Israel for torpedoing them and then justify why the U.S. will not support Israel in seeking increased sanctions or even diplomatically supporting Israel in dealing with the existential threat of a nuclear-armed Iran? Is there time to step back from the breach? Certainly John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives, had issued the invitation without keeping the White House in the loop. I suspect that may have been unprecedented, not only in relations between the White House and Congress, but in the war between the Republicans and the Obama administration thus far. And clearly John Boehner has not yet bought into the compromise of a Netanyahu meeting with Congress that is a private briefing. As Boehner said, “It’s an important message that the American people need to hear.”

If the story on the White House cutting off briefings on the progress of the talks and cutting off contacts between Israel’s National Security Agency and Washington’s had been accurate, what was taking place was not only an all-out diplomatic war between Israel and the White House, but an all-out-war between the Republicans and the White House over the most important foreign policy initiative of Obama’s second term. Obama needed that like he needed a hole-in-the-head.

Before the purported huge increase in temperature in the war of words between the White House and Netanyahu, a few House of Representative democrats had tried to cool things down by asking Boehner to postpone Netanyahu’s planned speech to Congress. Representatives Keith Ellison, Steve Cohen and Maxine Waters were collecting signatures to that effect when the White House salvo allegedly went off. The petition said that, “as members of Congress who support Israel, we share concern that it appears that you are using a foreign leader as a political tool against the president.” 13 Democrat representatives indicated that they did not intend to attend the speech in addition to Vice President Joe Biden. Was the White House now undercutting the counter-attack of the Democrats in Congress by alienating a significant portion of their constituency by an unprecedented breach in the relations between the U.S. administration and Netanyahu?

As you have almost certainly learned, the Monday story in the Hebrew press has since been reported as erroneous. If so, some Haaretz reporter will have to pay a high price. The White House and the State Department both categorically denied the report that it had significantly upped the ante well beyond its clearly signaled displeasure at Netanyahu coming to Washington to address Congress in March. In fact, the day before the report appeared, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough explicitly repudiated all reports of a widening rift between the Obama administration and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On NBC’s Meet the Press, he repeated the well-worn mantra: “Our relationship with Israel is many-faceted, deep and abiding…focused on a shared series of threats, but also, on a shared series of values that one particular instance is not going to inform overwhelmingly.” Inform overwhelmingly?

So why tell a story about what turns out to be a non-story? Because it may not just be a non-story. It may have been a false leak, a way of warning Netanyahu without actually starting a full-scale diplomatic wary? Because it is important to differentiate between diplomatic artillery fire using live ammunition, artillery fire using simunition (non-lethal ammunition used in target practice and simulated war games) from a fireworks display. This may not have been a lethal salvo in a diplomatic war. But it may not just have been fireworks. Obama may have been using simunition. Further, it is important to learn the Talmudic practice of analysis based on the principle of, “On the one hand…then on the other hand.” For it is too easy to select one of the hands and presume that is the story. All hands must be analyzed and the purpose of each assessed to reveal a larger picture.

The gap between Netanyahu and Obama is deep enough. The rift between the Democrats and the Republicans in contrast to a time when politicians previously sought bipartisan support for foreign policy initiatives need not be expanded into a wide and much deeper chasm. Were the Republicans merely up to their customary obstreperous shenanigans or had Obama made so many compromises in dealing with Iran that both Israeli and U.S. vital security interests had been compromised?

There was a substantive issue that needed to be explicated. According to the Obama administration, the negotiations managed, thus far, to extract enormous concessions from Iran in the first round, a position, incidentally, echoed in Tehran by Iranian domestic critics who insist that Iran gave up too much. On the other hand, the Republican threat to pass new sanctions legislation has accelerated the tortoise-paced style of the negotiations, enough so that the White House is now leaking reports of major progress — that 80% of the differences have been resolved and a positive outcome can be expected by the March deadline. The new Senate de facto deadline had made Obama’s plan for an interim agreement on principles with a follow-up comprehensive agreement by 30 June a chimera.

That plan already had run up against the declared policies of the Iranian government. Iranian leaders have repeatedly insisted that the next stage must not be an interim deal, but must be a comprehensive one. Both sides have insisted that no agreement is better than a bad agreement. But that insistence is totally beside the point and window dressing since any agreement once made will be presented as a win-win for both sides and, hence, a good agreement. The more important procedural difference is that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who will have the final say in Iran, has insisted that he would oppose an interim agreement based on “general principles in one step, then get to specifics.” He had informed Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, his chief negotiator, that he would only endorse a comprehensive agreement based on the corollary to the November interim agreement “to build on a current momentum in order to complete these negotiations within the shortest possible time, up to four months, and if necessary to use the remaining time until the end of June to finalize any possible remaining technical and drafting work.” He would not tolerate the Sword of Damocles and the prospect of renewed sanctions hanging over the government of Iran.

Thus, both sides are now working on concluding a substantive agreement before the end of March that may include some items that still need to be resolved before the end of June. Whatever is agreed, if an agreement is reached, will not be presented as an interim agreement, but as a final one with only a few loose ends left to be tied.

However, before I get into what we know about the essential terms of the deal, it is important to understand the terms of the Joint Plan of Action (JPA) and its shortcomings. The JPA set out to provide a negotiating framework to allow Iran and the P5+1 to reach a mutually-agreed long-term comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran’s nuclear program would be exclusively peaceful. Since few countries trusted Iran to abide by its agreements given its previous behavior, the terms would have to meet two almost irreconcilable goals: putting practices in place that would prevent a nuclear breakout using Iran’s supposedly peaceful nuclear program. Secondly, it would have to satisfy the Ayatollahs that such limitations did not compromise Iran’s supposed plans for the peaceful use of its nuclear technology even if one did not buy into Iran’s protestations all along that “under no circumstances would Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons.” Its very enrichment program of U-235 could have no other purpose than use in nuclear weapons.

The initial framework agreement in itself provoked consternation in both Israel and a significant part of the Washington security establishment. First of all, not only was there no statement that the negotiations were intended to place boundaries on Iran’s quest to become a regional power – a quest which the White House had not only acceded to but has since endorsed – but there was nothing in the statement of purpose to address the problem of Iran’s continuing drive to perfect its international missile delivery system. Instead, the purpose of the negotiations as set forth was to arrive at a comprehensive solution that, “would enable Iran to fully enjoy its right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”

The two omissions and this positive formulation of goals in terms of protecting Iran’s rights, not ensuring its obligations, were sufficient to produce apoplexy in critics. However, the proposition ensuring Iran’s rights to a peaceful use of nuclear power was followed by a subsequent sentence that read, “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons.” Note the difference. The agreement will ensure that Iran can use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. The JPA does not then say that the agreement is intended to ensure that Iran can never use its nuclear capacity to produce nuclear weapons. Only that Iran affirms that intention. But Iran can affirm that it has changed its mind. The opening paragraph of intentions in the JPA could not have been more alarming for Israel, even without citing Iran’s past practices of deceit and even without the issue of Iran as a regional power and its development of missile technology.

There is clearly a Machiavellian way to read Iran’s assurance that, “under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons.” For, as stated above, the statement did not say that the agreement was intended to accomplish that goal, but that Iran affirmed that it had no intention to ever seek or develop such weapons. But Iran had always insisted on that, even as it secretly pursued a program that could only be for the production of nuclear weapons. What did Iran’s avowal mean? Was it not just posturing, lying for the sake of what Iran saw as a greater good – the extermination of Israel, a goal embraced by both so-called moderates and extremists in Tehran? Why would Israel not be frightened by such a formulation?

If in past agreements, the Iranian regime had agreed precisely to such a formulation and had broken every agreement heretofore, why repeat the process? The answer was that this time the deal would be comprehensive with respect at least to nuclear issues, and no piece of the puzzle would be agreed to until the whole puzzle was resolved. Plans for either an interim framework agreement or even a comprehensive agreement with loose ends to be subsequently cleaned up already breached that requirement. Both the transparency requirements and the limitations placed on the program would be practical. That was more than a non sequitur; the wording implied that past agreements had been impractical. In retrospect and in one sense, everyone could agree to that since, because of Iran’s non-compliance, the clauses had not achieved their stated purposes. Nevertheless, the wording clearly implied that the problem was not that Iran deliberately flouted the terms to which it had agreed, but that the terms themselves were flawed.

Anyone critical of Iran’s intentions and the integrity of its promises would be bound to be upset before finishing the first paragraph. Further, if one suspected the Obama administration of naiveté even if you were not among the nutty right who believe that Obama is a stooge to advance Islam in the world, the sensitive antennae had to go off. The opening paragraph was clearly designed only to protect the so-called moderates within Iran and not protect the believers in diplomacy and engagement in Washington from their hawkish critics. What about the agreement on a step-by-step implementation program? That seemed to contradict the need for comprehensive agreement and, presumably, implementation, before sanctions were lifted. What if the whole step-by-step process was only being used by Iran to escape as many of the existing sanctions as possible, let alone any new threatened ones, while pursuing its “peaceful” development of a nuclear capacity?

After all, the core problem was dual use. Once the enrichment capacity was in place, gearing up to produce sufficient military grade nuclear material was only a matter of time, not of capacity or skills or knowledge. Whistles were blowing. Sirens were wailing. Alarm bells were clanging. Critics were being wakened to a call to arms. And we have only read the first paragraph. After all, critics argued, when has anyone ever threatened Iran’s capacity to develop a peaceful use of nuclear energy? This was always a fictional posture of the Iranian regime. And the opening paragraph of the JPA bought into that narrative without mentioning explicitly that the intention of the agreement, not Iran’s testimony, was to ensure that a cluster of practices guarantee that Iran was permanently incapable of developing nuclear weapons. But we already know that the goal had been revised from that. It was now simply to ensure that Iran could not achieve breakout within a year.

One last point needs to be reiterated. As one of my Canadian Foreign Affairs friends assured me bluntly, and undiplomatically, I would never make a diplomat for I did not understand that the goal of diplomacy was not clear and distinct thinking, but obfuscation and equivocation. My scholastic nitpicking of the first paragraph of the JPA, I could hear him say, was beside the point. More precisely, the equivocal manner of surrendering to the other side was the point. The preamble was designed to allow one side to win rhetorical brownie points when the meat of an agreement belonged to the actual practices. What is given away in the general introductory portion of an agreement is retrieved in spades in the very specific substantive clauses.

The JPA required Iran to comply in good faith with all its previous commitments as near-term measures to be monitored by a Joint Commission made up of Britain, France and the U.S. as well as Europe + China, Russia and Germany (E3/EU+3). A key is that IAEA was tasked with verification of actions by Iran. In the first six months after the agreement was signed in November 2013, Iran was required to fulfill a number of specific requirements that IAEA would have to be able to verify.

Was IAEA up to the task? Did Iran comply with those terms?

Tomorrow: Verification of the Substantive Clauses of the JPA