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Iran

Trump Escalates Rhetoric on Iran | The P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, July 30, 2018

Trump Escalates Rhetoric on Iran Rhetoric escalated between the United States and Iran when U.S. President Donald Trump irresponsibly tweeted July 22 that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani must “NEVER EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN” or else suffer consequences the likes of which “FEW HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.” In response to Trump’s threat, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted July 23 that Iran is “UNIMPRESSED” by the bluster and ended his message with the warning “BE CAUTIOUS.” The Trump tweet was likely prompted by Rouhani warning July 22 that the United States should know...

A Path to Reducing Iran’s Missile Threat and Reconfiguring U.S. Missile Defenses

Why pursuing negotiations to limit Iran’s missiles could produce a win for all involved.


July/August 2018
By Jaganath Sankaran and Steve Fetter

President Donald Trump cast his decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal as part of his administration’s “efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.” Along with having “unacceptable” sunset provisions, he said the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) “fails to address the regime’s development of ballistic missiles that could deliver nuclear warheads.”

Iranian Sejjil (left) and Ghadr-H medium-range ballistic missiles are displayed in Tehran September 25, 2017 next to a portrait of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during annual defense-week events. (Photo: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)If these issues are addressed, Trump indicated that he is “ready, willing, and able” to negotiate a new deal. The U.S. administration, he said, “will be working with our allies to find a real, comprehensive, and lasting solution to the Iranian nuclear threat.”1

European leaders declared their intent to stay in the deal and placed the onus on the Trump administration to propose “concrete” steps toward an alternative agreement with Iran. Federica Mogherini, the European Union foreign policy chief, said that “as long as Iran continues to implement its nuclear-related commitments, as it is doing so far, the EU will remain committed to the continued, full, and effective implementation of the nuclear deal.”2 European nations are exploring means of avoiding extraterritorial enforcement of U.S. sanctions, but it will be very difficult to sustain the financial benefits promised to Iran absent U.S. participation and support.

Iran, as it girds for renewed U.S. sanctions, has been cool, even hostile, to the idea of a new arrangement that imposes restrictions beyond those of the JCPOA. Such posturing, however, may be for bargaining purposes rather than a definitive refusal to engage in negotiations. In September 2017, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif argued that if the United States “want[s] to have an addendum, there has to be an addendum on everything,” indicating the possibility of accepting restrictions beyond the JCPOA if proper economic incentives are provided.3 One prospective topic for negotiations is ballistic missiles. Iranian leaders have recently pledged to limit the range of their missiles to 2,000 kilometers, asserting that their primary national security threats lie within that range.4

A new agreement that formalizes this restraint, along with further restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities, would have many virtues. In addition to forestalling threats to most of Europe and all of the continental United States, an agreement on missile limitations could render unnecessary the planned U.S. deployment of missile defense interceptors in Poland and the existing deployment in Romania. The possibility of reducing or eliminating the European Phased Adaptive Approach for missile defense would reduce Russian motivations to deploy new nuclear weapon systems to penetrate or evade U.S. missile defenses, in turn motivating Russia to help persuade Iran to accept restraints on its missile program.

Missile Limits

As part of a new deal, Iran could agree not to flight-test missiles with ranges exceeding 2,000 kilometers.5 The limit on Iran’s missile capabilities would be in addition to constraints on its nuclear activities. To enforce such a limitation, some combination of restrictions on missile fuel, missile dead-weight, and warhead weight would need to be imposed to ensure that tested missiles could not under any circumstances exceed the 2,000-kilometer limit.

In addition to monitoring flight tests, it may be necessary to monitor experimental test facilities, such as rocket motor development and wind tunnel laboratories, to ensure compliance. For instance, Iran might be experimenting with long-range missile-related technologies at Shahrud.6 Iran may have to agree to cease such activity and provide access to verify compliance. Monitoring these facilities would help ensure Iran does not develop and test long-range missile motors and warhead re-entry vehicles.

U.S. Rear Admiral Jesse Wilson, Jr. (center), commander of Naval Surface Force Atlantic, tours the Aegis Ashore facility at Deveselu, Romania on April 14. The complex is part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach missile defense system to counter the Iranian ballistic missile threat. (Photo: Jeremy Starr/U.S. Navy/Released)Iran has tested a solid-fueled Sejjil missile that may be capable of delivering a 750-kilogram warhead approximately 2,200 kilometers. Iran also may have tested the Khorramshahr missile, having a range of 2,000 kilometers with a 1,800-kilogram warhead. Each exceeds the 2,000-kilometer limit. Iran must agree to verifiably retire these missiles and variants that might exceed the limit.

In addition to Iran’s missile program, an agreement would be needed to permit legitimate space launch capabilities while impeding the possibility of a rapid fielding of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Iran has successfully launched primitive satellites into orbit using its Safir space launch vehicle. It has also displayed a larger two-stage Simorgh launch vehicle.7 In order to permit space launch activities while preventing potential ICBM capabilities, Iran would have to accept restraints. For example, Iran may be asked to declare its rocket-fuel facilities and subject those to inspections or to stockpile only a limited amount or only certain types of rocket fuel. Additionally, Iran may be asked to assemble its space launch vehicles on a just-in-time basis to ensure that these vehicles are not available for use as missiles. Alternatively, European countries or Russia might offer guaranteed launch services at a reasonable price in exchange for a suspension of Iranian space launch activities.

U.S. Interests

A prominent concern that has animated U.S. policy toward Iran has been the possibility of it acquiring long-range missiles able to target U.S. allies in Europe and eventually the continental United States, particularly the possibility that such missiles might be armed with nuclear warheads.

A new agreement that limits Iranian nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities could ensure that Iran will not be able to mount a “nuclear blackmail” of U.S. or European cities. This in turn would allow the United States to postpone plans for completion of a European missile defense and save considerable financial resources that the United States currently spends to develop and maintain it.

It also would help address a primary Russian complaint. In his recent address to the Russian Federal Assembly, President Vladimir Putin argued that “the United States is creating a global missile defense system primarily for countering strategic arms.… [T]hese weapons form the backbone of our nuclear forces.”8 The prospect of deferring and eventually canceling the deployment of the phased adaptive approach missile defense interceptors in Poland would provide valuable leverage in future arms control talks with Russia, including in resolving disagreements over Russian violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Finally, it would free up resources to develop and install more robust regional missile defense systems, such as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in the Middle East region, thereby reassuring U.S allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, which lie within reach of Iran’s short- and medium-range conventional missiles.

For more than a decade, U.S. presidents have invested considerable capital in pursuing missile defenses against Iranian missiles with ranges exceeding 2,000 kilometers. Justifying the development of a European missile defense architecture in 2007, President George W. Bush argued that “the need for missile defense in Europe is real and I believe it’s urgent. Iran is pursuing the technology that could produce nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles of increasing range that could deliver them…. Our intelligence community assesses that, with continued foreign assistance, Iran could develop an [ICBM] capable of reaching the United States and all of Europe before 2015.”9

In 2009, President Barack Obama modified the missile defense plans developed by the Bush administration. The Obama administration argued that earlier plans had “been developed primarily to provide improved defenses for the U.S. homeland—not Europe—against long-range Iranian missiles launched one or two at a time.”10 Pointing out that ICBM threats from Iran had not matured as feared, the Obama administration initiated the phased adaptive approach. Although reduced in scope, the plan still aimed to defend European allies against Iranian missiles with ranges much greater than 2,000 kilometers.

The phased adaptive approach provides broad defensive coverages for the European theater against Iranian missiles having ranges between 2,000 and 5,000 kilometers (fig. 1), fired from near cities such as Tabriz, Mashhad and Zahedan, but little or no coverage for missiles having ranges less than 2,000 kilometers. Many U.S. military bases in the Middle East, Turkey, Iraq, and Afghanistan fall within a 2,000-kilometer range of those Iranian cities.11 Even under the best operational circumstances, the phased adaptive approach is unable to defend against Iranian missiles targeting the U.S. bases.12

A new agreement to limit the range of Iranian missiles to 2,000 kilometers would make the phased adaptive approach unnecessary. If Iranian missile threats of a range greater than 2,000 kilometers are eliminated, then the phased adaptive approach can be reconfigured to a much smaller hedge status with the goal of eventual removal. An initial hedge status, for instance, could permit the United States and Poland to “complete preparation of the missile defense sites in Poland, acquire the interceptors, but hold them in storage.”13

U.S. policymakers have consistently stated that European missile defense plans are directed only against Iran and if the threat vanishes so would the need for the defensive system. Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates writes in his memoir that, during the George W. Bush administration, he and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice “told Putin that if the Iranian missile program went away, so would the need for U.S. missile defenses in Europe.”14 Similarly, speaking in Moscow in 2009, Obama said, “I’ve made it clear that this system is directed at preventing a potential attack from Iran…. [I]f the threat from Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile program is eliminated, the driving force for missile defense in Europe will be eliminated.”15

These statements justify reconfiguring the phased adaptive approach system. One substantial benefit from such a move would be the impact on U.S.-Russian relations and bilateral arms control efforts. The Trump administration has been willing to engage Russia in arms control dialogues. A commitment to defer the deployment of interceptors in Poland would be welcome in Russia. If astutely negotiated, the reconfiguration could also be used to resolve disagreements over INF Treaty violations, extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), and provide a basis to begin negotiations on a New START follow-on agreement.

Putin has singled out the phased adaptive approach as a major point of contention in INF Treaty discussions. He has argued that the plan violates the INF Treaty because “the launch tubes where these [interceptor] missiles are stored…are the same that are used on navy ships to carry Tomahawk missiles. You can replace interceptor missiles with Tomahawks in a matter of hours, and these tubes will no longer be used to intercept missiles…. In my opinion, this is a major threat.”16 By reconfiguring the phased adaptive approach and inviting Russia to inspect the launch tubes, the United States could demonstrate its commitment to the INF Treaty. It also would provide a means to convince Russia to address its own violations of the INF Treaty.

The reconfiguration of the phased adaptive approach would have no impact on the U.S. and allied efforts to mount credible defenses against Iranian missiles with ranges less than 2,000 kilometers. The THAAD AN/TPY-2 radars reportedly deployed at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, in Camp As Saliyah in Qatar, and in the Negev Desert in Israel have wide tracking coverages over the region (fig. 2).17 Missile defense of critical U.S. bases and cities can be performed by additional THAAD batteries that can plug into these radar coverages. Also, U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Israel have procured independent missile defense systems.

What Is in It for Iran?

The Trump administration’s unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA has diluted many of the incentives Iran might have in pursuing a new deal that imposed reasonable restrictions on its missile program and further limits on its nuclear activities. Yet, U.S. participation and sanctions relief is still required for Iran to obtain the broad and unhindered access to the global economy it wants.

If the P5+1 nations (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) initiated discussions for a new deal and the United States offered full and good faith political participation, including the potential approval of the U.S. Senate, it is conceivable Iran might be induced to engage. The French, German, and UK foreign ministers, in concert with Mogherini, appear to have broached a discussion with Iran on its ballistic missile program.18

Two factors could motivate Iran’s acquiescence to missile restrictions. First, Iran perceives major threats to its security emerging primarily from its neighborhood. Its offensive military programs are designed as a conventional deterrent to counter regional threats. Missiles having ranges longer than 2,000 kilometers might not be useful in a military contingency. Second, the reimposition of U.S. sanctions would prevent Iran from realizing the gains from the JCPOA that many Iranians anticipated as key to boosting the country’s troubled economy.

Iran develops and deploys missiles primarily to compensate for material military weakness in comparison to its regional foes. One report stated that “Iran lacks the resources, industrial base, and scale of effort to compete with Arab Gulf states that can generally buy the most advanced weapons available.”19

Iranians seem to believe that their missile arsenal serves as the only potent weapon available to offset its military inferiority. For instance, in 2012 the commander of the aerospace division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps pointed out that all major U.S. bases are “good targets” for Iranian missiles with a 2,000-kilometer range. He also suggested Iran has “set up bases and deployed missiles to destroy all these [U.S.] bases in the early minutes after an attack,”20 presumably with conventional warheads. Given that Iran is more interested in responding to military threats in its neighborhood, it may be willing to give up development of missiles with ranges more than 2,000 kilometers if sufficient incentives are provided.

Such incentives can be generated if the United States lifted nuclear and missile-related sanctions and other restrictions on trade with Iran. The economic leverage that the United States wields over Iran might be used to induce it to accept a reasonable set of restraints on its missile program. Although acknowledging that the United States had lifted sanctions as agreed in the JCPOA, Iranians believe that the United States was “finding other ways to keep the negative effects of sanctions” and “prevent countries from normalizing their trade and economic relations with Iran.”21 A new deal would have to convincingly assure Iran that such restrictions would not be used if Iran honored its commitments.

Conclusion

The possibility of a new arrangement with Iran will depend on a face-saving fix for Trump that addresses his concerns about the current deal, including the issue of Iran’s missile program.22 An agreement to restrict Iran’s missile program to those having ranges of less than 2,000 kilometers might be part of such a fix.

A U.S. commitment to hedge and reduce the scope of the phased adaptive approach in Europe, along with such a new agreement, would provide many additional advantages. It may induce Russia to use its influence to persuade Iran to accept new terms. It also would demonstrate the willingness of the United States to stand by its articulated policy that U.S. missile defense plans are a response to identified threats and that if the threat ceases to exist, the United States would remove the missile defense system. Such a commitment will buy valuable leverage in arms control negotiations with Russia.

ENDNOTES

1.  The White House, “Remarks by President Trump on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” May 8, 2018, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-joint-comprehensive-plan-action/.

2.  Jon Stone, “EU Tells Trump He Doesn’t Have the Power to Unilaterally Scrap the Iran Nuclear Deal,” Independent, May 9, 2018.

3.  David Sanger and Rick Gladstone, “Iranian Foreign Minister: If U.S. Wants New Nuclear Concessions, We Do, Too,” The New York Times, September 21, 2017.

4.  “Iran Says Supreme Leader Limits Ballistic Missile Range,” Associated Press, October 31, 2017. Similar statements have been made by the Iranian leadership on a number of occasions since 2011.

5.  The flight test ban idea has been previously explored. See Michael Elleman, “Banning Long-Range Missiles in the Middle East: A First Step for Regional Arms Control,” Arms Control Today, May 2012.

6.  Max Fisher, “Deep in the Desert, Iran Quietly Advances Missile Technology,” The New York Times, May 23, 2018.

7.  U.S. National Air and Space Intelligence Center, “Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat,” NASIC-1031-0985-06, March 2006, p. 2, https://www.ausairpower.net/PDF-A/NASIC-1031-0985-06.pdf.

8.  President of Russia, “Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly,” March 1, 2018, http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/56957.

9.  “President Bush Visits National Defense University, Discusses Global War on Terror.” The White House, October 23, 2007, https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2007/10/20071023-3.html. See U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Defense, “Proposed U.S. Missile Defense Assets in Europe,” 07-MDA-2650, June 15, 2007, p. 6, https://permanent.access.gpo.gov/lps84616/bmd-europe.pdf.

10.  Robert M. Gates, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War (New York: Knopf, 2014), p. 400.

11.  The major U.S. bases within 2,000 kilometers of the three Iranian cities in figure 1 include Ali Al Salem base in Kuwait, Al Dhafra base in the United Arab Emirates, Al Udeid base in Qatar, Bagram air base in Afghanistan, Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Camp As Saliyah in Qatar, Camp Buehring in Kuwait, Fujairah base in the UAE, Jebel Ali port in the UAE, Kandahar base in Afghanistan, Kuwait Naval Base, NSA Bahrain, Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, Izmir air base in Turkey, and Thumrait air base in Oman.

12.  Defensive coverage footprints were calculated assuming missile tracking will be available immediately after boost-phase burnout. That may not be the case for many trajectories. Similarly, a single-shot defensive doctrine is assumed. A shoot-look-shoot mode would further reduce the defended area footprints. Finally, engage-on-remote mode is assumed to explore the maximum possible coverages provided by the European Phased Adaptive Approach.

13.  Brad Roberts, “Anticipating the 2017 Review of U.S. Missile Defense Policy and Posture,” in Missile Defense and Defeat: Considerations for the New Policy Review, ed. Thomas Karako (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies [CSIS], 2017), p. 35.

14.  Gates, Duty, p. 404.

15.  Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Remarks by the President at the New Economic School Graduation,” July 7, 2009.

16.  President of Russia, “Meeting With Heads of International News Agencies,” June 17, 2016, http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/52183; President of Russia, “Meeting on Defense Industry Development,” May 13, 2016, http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/51911.

17.  These locations are speculative. There is no official acknowledgment by the United States that Terminal High Altitude Area Defense radars are deployed at these sites. For sources on the locations, see Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes, “Pentagon Bulks Up Defenses in the Gulf,” The Wall Street Journal, July 17, 2012; “Construction of Negev Missile Defense Base Run by U.S. Troops Completed,” Haaretz, November 11, 2008; Karl Vick and Aaron J. Klein, “How a U.S. Radar Station in the Negev Affects a Potential Israel-Iran Clash,” Time, May 30, 2012; “Malatya Radar System to Be Commanded From Ramstein,” Hurriyet Daily News, February 4, 2012.

18.  Michael Peel, Guy Chazan, and Najmeh Bozorgmehr, “European Nations Step Up Iran Pressure in Face of Trump Threat,” Financial Times, January 16, 2018.

19.  Anthony H. Cordesman, “Military Spending and Arms Sales in the Gulf,” CSIS, April 28, 2015, p. 4, https://csis-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/legacy_files/files/publication/150428_gulfarmssales.pdf. See Trita Parsi and Tyler Cullis, “The Myth of the Iranian Military Giant,” Foreign Policy, July 10, 2015, http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/07/10/the-myth-of-the-iranian-military-giant/.

20.  Marcus George, “Iran Says Can Destroy U.S. Bases ‘Minutes After Attack,’” Reuters, July 4, 2012.

21.  Ebrahim Mohseni, Nancy Gallagher, and Clay Ramsey, “Iranian Attitude on Iranian-U.S. Relations in the Trump Era: A Public Opinion Study,” University of Maryland Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland, January 25, 2017, pp. 1-2, http://cissm.umd.edu/sites/default/files/Iranian%20Attitudes%20in%20the%20Trump%20Era%20-%20012517%20-%20FINAL.pdf.

22.  “Iran Deal’s Future May Hinge on Face-Saving Fix for Trump,” Associated Press, October 3, 2017.


Jaganath Sankaran is an assistant research professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy and a research associate at the school’s Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland. Steve Fetter is a professor at the school.

EU Acts to Block U.S. Sanctions on Iran

European leaders try to keep Trump’s action from blowing up the Iran nuclear deal.


July/August 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

The European Union adopted measures to protect European entities doing business with Iran from U.S. sanctions, but Iranian officials have said EU efforts are insufficient to persuade Tehran to remain in compliance with the accord.

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj greets to her Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif before a meeting in New Delhi on May 28. Like the EU, India is resisting renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran. “India follows only UN sanctions, and not unilateral sanctions by any country,” she said at a news conference. (Photo: Money Sharma/AFP/Getty Images)The European Commission action on June 6 updating its 1996 blocking regulation to include U.S. sanctions on Iran enters into force Aug. 5, unless more than half of the members of the European Parliament or the EU Foreign Affairs Council object prior to that date. The blocking regulation prohibits EU entities from complying with U.S. extraterritorial sanctions and allows companies to recover damages from such sanctions.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement on May 8 withdrawing from the multilateral nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and reimposing sanctions triggered 90- or 180-day wind-down periods for companies and banks to exit Iran before penalties are assessed. (See ACT, June 2018.) The 90-day period ends Aug. 6.

Despite the EU action, a number of companies already announced they are pulling out of the Iranian market, including Maersk Tankers of Denmark, General Electric, Siemens, Lukoil, and Reliance Petroleum.

Although it was expected that multinational companies would exit the Iranian market irrespective of the blocking regulation, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told the European Parliament on June 12 that the focus is on small and medium-sized enterprises that “are less engaged in the U.S. market.”

Several companies, including French automaker Renault, said they intend to remain in Iran, while others, such as French oil company Total, said they will seek U.S. sanctions waivers to continue doing business with Iran.

In a June 4 letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Mogherini along with the foreign ministers and finance ministers of the E3 (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom) requested sanctions exemptions that would allow European entities to maintain banking channels with Iran and allow existing contracts to go forward. They wrote that, as U.S. allies, they expect Washington “will refrain from taking action to harm Europe’s security interests” and reaffirmed that they consider the nuclear deal critical for protecting “collective security interests.”

There is no indication from the Trump administration that exemptions will be granted. Chris Ford, assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, said on June 11 that the United States is prepared to “lean hard on our partners and the international community” as Washington pursues its strategy of using sanctions to pressure Iran into new negotiations on its ballistic missiles and regional activities, as well as its nuclear program.

The U.S. officials have begun a “diplomatic roadshow” to discuss how to minimize exposure to U.S. sanctions and how to “work together in pursuit of a better, successor agreement,” Ford said at the Center for a New American Security.

Iranian officials have said they will not renegotiate with the United States and will continue abiding by the nuclear deal if the remaining parties can deliver on sanctions relief. Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), said on June 19 that the steps taken so far by the EU are insufficient.

The EU is working on additional options to realize the sanctions relief for Iran envisioned by the nuclear deal. Mogherini said that the “most important challenge now is to find solutions on banking and finance” to facilitate legitimate trade.

The European Commission agreed on June 6 to update the European Investment Bank’s mandate to enable lending to Iran. But it seems unlikely that the bank will decide to finance any activities in Iran. After the announcement, the bank said in a statement that it “is not the right tool” and that the bank cannot ignore the sanctions and remain a “solid and credible institution.”

Although the Trump administration appears unlikely to grant waivers for European entities, it may grant exemptions for projects specified by the nuclear deal. One of the entities redesignated under U.S. regulations as a result of the reimposition of sanctions was the AEOI, which puts at risk companies engaged on these priority nonproliferation projects.

Under the nuclear deal, Iran agreed to remove the core of its Arak reactor and modify it to produce no more than minimal amounts of weapons-usable plutonium. China is working with Iran on implementation. The nuclear deal also required Iran to convert its Fordow enrichment site into a stable-isotope research facility and refrain from any uranium-enrichment activities at the site for 15 years. Russia is assisting Iran in that project.

A State Department official told Arms Control Today on June 15 that no decision has been made on whether to pursue penalties against Chinese and Russian firms working on the Arak and Fordow projects.

Iran has continued to threaten to respond to the U.S. action by resuming prohibited nuclear activities if the remaining parties do not deliver on sanctions relief.

The most recent IAEA implementation report confirmed Iran’s compliance. But the report noted that although inspectors have had access to all sites necessary, more “timely and proactive cooperation by Iran” on access granted under an additional protocol to Iran’s safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would facilitate implementation and “enhance confidence.”

During the IAEA Board of Governors meeting, U.S. diplomat Nicole Shampaine said on June 5 that the agency “should never again have to appeal for ‘timely and proactive cooperation’ by Iran.”

Iran also notified the IAEA that it was opening a new centrifuge production facility. Reza Najafi, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, said on June 6 that the decision to open the facility reflect preparatory work “for a possible scenario” and reiterated that Iran will not start “any activities contrary” to the accord at this time.

Building a new facility for centrifuge production is not a violation of the deal if Iran notifies the agency in accordance with its safeguards obligations, which Tehran appears to have done. But if Iran were to produce centrifuge machines at that location in the future, it might breach the limits of the nuclear accord.

Under the deal, Iran can produce advanced centrifuges in line with its research and development plan and can only produce IR-1 machines, which are currently used for enriching uranium, when the number of machines in monitored storage drops below 500. Iran has not yet reached that point.

The P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, June 29, 2018

UN Secretary-General Calls for JCPOA Implementation UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the nuclear deal with Iran is at a “crossroads” and expressed his deep regret over U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement and reimpose sanctions. Guterres also called upon all states to support the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), saying “it is important that the withdrawal of one country not impede the ability of others to fully implement their commitments under the [JCPOA] or to engage in activities consistent with resolution...

Lessons from Iran for Trump’s Negotiations with North Korea

The joint statement from the historic June 12 Singapore summit meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump stated that North Korea will “work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” and the two countries “commit to hold follow-on negotiations.” Assessing whether the summit was a success or a failure will depend in large part on what the follow-on talks accomplish and if the process leads to concrete steps by North Korea to halt and roll back its nuclear weapons program. The indication in the summit document that the United States and...

IAEA Report Confirms Iran’s Compliance with the JCPOA

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear program June 6, and, unsurprisingly, the report found that Iran is complying with its commitments under the multilateral deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) . The report, finalized May 24, was the first since U.S. President Donald Trump violated the nuclear deal May 8 by reimposing sanctions on Iran, and withdrew the United States from the accord. The report bears out what Iranian officials stated after Trump’s announcement – that Iran would remain within the JCPOA, for now...

EU Moves to Block U.S. Iran Sanctions

Close U.S. allies push back after Trump rejects personal appeals not to quit the Iran nuclear deal.


June 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran and reimpose sanctions on that country is spurring Europe to block U.S. measures and shore up support to sustain the agreement.

By pulling out of the 2015 multilateral nuclear agreement, Trump delivered on a campaign promise to “tear up” the deal with Iran, which he has frequently disparaged as the “worst deal ever negotiated.” In doing so, he rebuffed personal last-minute appeals by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel during their visits to the White House in late April.

President Donald Trump leaves the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House May 8 after announcing his decision to abandon the Iran nuclear deal. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)Trump said on May 8 that if he “allowed this deal to stand, there would soon be a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.” Trump said the process he initiated in January to work with European partners to “fix” the accord is not possible under the “decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement,” despite U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo telling allies days before the announcement that he felt an agreement could be reached to address U.S. concerns. (See ACT, March 2018.)

Following up the president’s action, Pompeo in a May 21 speech outlined a broad list of demands on Iran and said the United States will impose the “strongest sanctions in history” to force Iran to end certain nuclear activities and missile programs, aid to the Syrian regime and support for militant groups in the region. The set of demands, stopping just short of an explicit call for regime change, sets the stage for further U.S. tensions with European allies and the Islamic Republic.

Even before Pompeo’s policy speech, Trump’s announcement earned sharp rebukes from Washington’s partners in the agreement, as well as the European Union, and commitments by those nations to continue implementing the accord. The extent to which that is possible is unclear, given that major foreign companies face being cut off from the U.S. banking system and other punishment if they do not adhere to U.S. sanctions on Iran.

European Council President Donald Tusk was particularly direct in his criticism, tweeting on May 16 that “[l]ooking at the latest decisions of President Trump, someone could even think: With friends like that, who needs enemies?”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani reiterated Iran’s commitment to continue abiding by the agreement, so long as Iran’s national interests are met, and said he was pleased that “the troublesome member has been eliminated” from the deal.

But Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that he wants to see “definite reassurance” and “practical guarantees” that Iran will receive the sanctions relief envisioned under the deal.

Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, said that guarantees are not possible but that the EU is determined to “act in accordance with its security interests and to protect its economic investments.” She met on May 15 with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and the foreign ministers of France, Germany, and the UK to discuss moving forward without the United States.

How Might Iran Expand Its Nuclear Capacity?

In deciding to violate the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, President Donald Trump has put at risk the extensive measures the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) imposed to block Iran from building nuclear weapons.

How long would it take if Tehran’s leaders now decide to race for the bomb? One accomplishment of the nuclear deal is that it imposed hurdles intended to ensure that Iran could not do it in less than a year. Further, for now, Iran would not be able to attempt it without being detected, thanks to the robust international inspection and monitoring required by the nuclear accord.

That timeline and the inspection tripwires could, however, become less reliable depending on Iran’s actions following the unilateral U.S. decision to reimpose sanctions.

Iranian leaders have raised the possibility of abandoning some or all of the tough nuclear restrictions they accepted in 2015 in return for the lifting of nuclear-related international sanctions. Iran could take steps, such as scaling up its nuclear program or reducing cooperation with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors, that would violate its JCPOA commitments.

“If necessary, we can begin our industrial [uranium] enrichment without any limitations,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on May 8. “We will wait for some weeks and will talk with our friends and allies and other signatories of the nuclear deal, who signed it and who will remain loyal to it. Everything depends on our national interests.”

Iran currently has 5,060 installed IR-1 centrifuge machines and a relatively small inventory of low-enriched uranium of less than 300 kilograms. Iran could quickly begin enriching the material to 20 percent uranium-235, although it would still take at least 12 months to amass enough uranium enriched further to bomb grade for one nuclear device.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said on April 21 that if the decision were made, it would take just four days to resume enrichment to 20 percent U-235. Enrichment to that level is short of the enrichment level of 90 percent necessary for weapons use, but it would reduce the time needed to produce bomb-grade material. The nuclear deal limits enrichment to levels below 3.67 percent U-235, suitable for fueling nuclear power reactors.

Iran also could reorient the Fordow underground enrichment complex, which became a physics and technology research center under the deal, and use some 1,000 IR-1 machines there. Iran’s centrifuge-based nuclear infrastructure could be further augmented with the redeployment of some 1,000 advanced IR-2M centrifuges, which were put into monitored storage under the JCPOA. Because these are two to three times more efficient than the IR-1s, their use, along with the IR-1 machines at Iran’s disposal, would reduce the time necessary to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one bomb to two to three months.

With the existing IAEA monitoring system in place, all of these steps would be promptly detected. But within months of a decision to exceed the JCPOA limits, Iran could have a vastly shorter “breakout” timeline.

Breakout calculations must take into account the fact that, before 2004, Iran engaged in an organized program of experiments useful for the development and design of nuclear weapons. U.S. intelligence agencies and the IAEA report that program is no longer underway, although it is prudent to assume that Iran has the know-how to assemble a nuclear device.

At present, Iranian engineers and scientists, building on past know-how, would likely need at least a year to assemble a workable nuclear device and mate it to a reliable ballistic missile delivery system.—DARYL G. KIMBALL

Subsequently, at a May 17 meeting of the European Commission, the body agreed to take steps in response to Trump’s reimposition of sanctions, including revising a blocking statute used by the EU in the 1990s to protect entities from U.S. sanctions on Cuba. The blocking regulation “forbids EU companies from complying with the extraterritorial effects of U.S. sanctions, allows companies to recover damages arising from such sanctions from the person causing them, and nullifies the effect in the EU of any foreign court judgements based on them,” according to a May 17 press release.

The EU is aiming to have the measure in force by Aug. 6, the day some U.S. sanctions go into effect. Although the United States has reimposed sanctions, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced on May 8 that entities would be given 90 or 180 days to wind down activities in Iran before sanctions would be enforced.

For large, multinational companies with a significant presence in the United States, the blocking regulation is unlikely to provide enough assurance for them to remain in the Iranian market. Several announced that they are winding down business in Iran and exiting contracts.

The regulation sends a strong political signal, however, and may provide cover for smaller businesses with less of a presence in the United States to continue doing business in Iran. The EU also launched a process whereby the European Investment Bank will be able to support investment activities in Iran.

EU measures to blunt the impact of sanctions call into question Trump’s plan to pressure Iran back to negotiations. Brian Hook, State Department director for policy planning, in a May 18 press conference described the goal of sanctions reimposition as creating “necessary pressure to bear on Iran to change its behavior and to pursue a new framework” that addresses Iran’s ballistic missile development and its support for terrorism, as well as its nuclear program.

In the lead up to the 2015 nuclear agreement, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), EU sanctions and EU compliance with U.S. sanctions were a critical part of the pressure campaign that pushed Iran to negotiate. With the EU and China, Russia, and other states retaining business ties with Iran, it is unlikely that the United States will be able to press Iran into new negotiations.

Trump Draws International Criticism for Quitting Iran Deal

U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal drew unusually strong criticism from U.S. allies and from partners in the negotiations. Some of those reactions:

“France, Germany, and the UK regret the U.S. decision…. The nuclear nonproliferation regime is at stake.”—French President Emmanuel Macron

“Imagine all the mutually contaminating civil wars and internecine conflicts that rage across the Middle East today. Then turn the dial, and add the possibility of a regional nuclear arms race triggered by Iran dashing for a bomb. That is the scenario which the agreement has helped to prevent.”—UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson

Newspapers in Tehran on May 9 headline the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal. (Photo:  Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)“The [deal], agreed to with Iran in 2015 and endorsed by the UN Security Council, is not perfect. It has, however, helped to curb a real threat to international peace and security. Canada regrets that the United States has decided to withdraw…particularly given that, according to the [International Atomic Energy Agency], Iran continues to implement its…commitments.”
—Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland

“I believe that it’s not right to unilaterally cancel an accord that was negotiated, that was confirmed in the UN Security Council unanimously.”—German Chancellor Angela Merkel

“The action plan does not belong to the United States alone but is a domain of the entire international community, which has repeatedly reaffirmed its interest in the preservation and long-term sustainable implementation of the [Iran deal] for the sake of strengthening international and regional peace and security as well as the nuclear nonproliferation regime.... Russia is open to further cooperation with the other…participants and will continue to actively develop bilateral collaboration and political dialogue with the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
—Russian Foreign Ministry statement

“The agreement is not perfect, and we must continue to address concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile program and its role in the region…. The U.S. decision is a step backwards. The Netherlands will work with our partners to find a solution that safeguards our own security and that of the entire European Union.”—Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok

“Australia is disappointed.”—Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop

Iran has left open the option to resume troublesome nuclear activities in response to the U.S. violation and withdrawal from the deal. In a move likely meant to signal that Iran will leave the JCPOA if the remaining parties to the agreement cannot deliver on sanctions relief, Rouhani ordered the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) to be “fully prepared for subsequent measures if needed, so in the case of need, we will start up our industrial enrichment without limitations.”

Other Iranian officials, including AEOI head Ali Akhbar Salehi, have specifically said Iran would resume enriching uranium to 20 percent uranium-235, a level that would put Tehran closer to the 90 percent U-235 required for use in nuclear weapons.

Under the JCPOA, Iran is limited to enriching uranium to 3.67 percent U-235, a level suitable for nuclear power reactors, using no more than 5,060 installed centrifuges. The accord also limits Iran to a stockpile to 300 kilograms of uranium enriched to that level, a measure to hinder any nuclear-bomb effort.

Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, confirmed on May 8 that Iran is meeting its commitments under the accord, and the agency’s May 24 quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear activities further confirmed that Tehran had not taken any steps to violate the deal after Trump withdrew.

 

The P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, May 30, 2018

Joint Commission Discusses U.S. Withdrawal Representatives from the P4+1 and Iran met in Vienna May 25 to discuss the implementation of the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) after U.S. President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions and withdrew from the agreement. While officials from the P4+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom) and Iran have met over the past several weeks , this was the first meeting of the Joint Commission, a body set up by the JCPOA to oversee implementation of the accord, since Trump’s May 8 announcement . The Joint...

National Members Call: The Future of the Iran Deal and the U.S-North Korea Summit

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Join Arms Control Association Executive Director Daryl Kimball and Director for Nonproliferation Policy Kelsey Davenport for a members-only briefing on the future of the Iran Deal and the upcoming U.S.-North Korea Summit.

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The Trump administration is moving to reimpose sanctions on Iran and any U.S. or foreign businesses that continue to do business with the country in defiant violation of the 2015 nuclear deal. 

The Trump administration’s vision of a “better deal” with Iran, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described in speaking at the Heritage Foundation today, is like a mirage in the desert—it may look good, but it is not real and there is no path to get there.

And by trying to, the United States only risks the deal at hand.

Trump’s actions could open the door for Iran to expand its nuclear capabilities, leading to a new proliferation crisis and an arms race in the Middle East. Worse still, his decision to violate the Iran deal could undermine the negotiations and change the outcomes at next month's historic summit between the United States and North Korea.

Join Arms Control Association Executive Director Daryl Kimball and Director for Nonproliferation Policy Kelsey Davenport for a members-only briefing on these developments.

This is your opportunity to engage directly with our national staff and ask what we can expect over the next few months and what these decisions mean for the United States, Iran, North Korea, and the rest of the world.

MEMBERS: Check your email for a custom registration link. 
NON-MEMBERS: Join today to receive your registration link and access code. 

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Pompeo's Vision of “Better” Iran Deal is an Illusion

In his May 21 speech at the Heritage Foundation , the new U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, defended Trump’s decision earlier this month to violate the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal with Iran, withdraw from the agreement, and pursue a “better deal.” But the Trump administration’s vision of a “better deal” with Iran is like a mirage in the desert—it may look good, but it is not real and there is no path to get there. And by trying to, the United States only risks the deal at hand. What Pompeo failed to articulate is how that “better deal” is possible, given that key U.S. allies and...

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