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"Though we have acheived progress, our work is not over. That is why I support the mission of the Arms Control Association. It is, quite simply, the most effective and important organization working in the field today." 

– Larry Weiler
Former U.S.-Russian arms control negotiator
August 7, 2018
Iran

Israel Claims Secret Nuclear Site in Iran


November 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed what he described as a secret nuclear warehouse in Iran and publicly called for International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to visit the site, putting pressure on the international watchdog agency that could hamper its independence.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, addressing the United Nations, uses a visual aid to highlight his allegations about a “secret atomic warehouse” in Tehran. His comments were misleading, according to two U.S. intelligence officials cited by Reuters. (Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)Netanyahu’s allegations come as the United States is pressuring countries to support its sanctions on Iran and as the remaining P4+1 parties (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom) to the July 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran are taking steps to work around the coercive U.S. measures and preserve the accord. (See ACT, October 2018.)

Speaking at the UN General Assembly on Sept. 27, Netanyahu described the facility in central Tehran as a “secret atomic warehouse for storing massive amounts of equipment and material from Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program.” Netanyahu called on IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano to “do the right thing” and inspect the warehouse “immediately” before Iran finished clearing it out.

Amano pushed back in an Oct. 2 statement, saying that the agency does not take any information at “face value.” Although Amano did not mention Netanyahu directly, he said that all material, including that received from third parties, is subject to a rigorous and independent assessment. Further, Amano said that IAEA nuclear verification work “must always be impartial, factual, and professional” and that the agency’s independence is “of paramount importance.”

Netanyahu’s remarks garnered headlines around the world, but it remains unclear whether the facility is of interest to the IAEA. Still, Netanyahu’s comments could complicate work by the agency. IAEA inspectors should visit the facility if their assessment determines that an inspection is warranted. Yet, if inspectors visit the site now, it may appear as if the IAEA is acting at Israel’s behest, which would jeopardize the agency’s credibility and independence.

Brandishing a picture of the facility, Netanyahu charged that Iran removed 15 kilograms of radioactive material from the warehouse in August. It is not clear if Netanyahu was referring to uranium, plutonium, or another radioactive material. Possession of undeclared uranium or plutonium would violate Iran’s safeguards agreement and the multilateral nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but radioactive materials used for a variety of purposes, including medical and industrial activities, are not subject to the same restrictions.

U.S. intelligence officials also disputed Netanyahu’s description of the facility and said his comments were misleading. One intelligence official quoted by Reuters on Sept. 27 said that the facility has been known to the U.S. intelligence community for some time and is full of documents, not nuclear equipment. The officials said that “so far as anyone knows, there is nothing in it that would allow Iran to break out” of the nuclear deal any faster. Iranian officials immediately denounced Netanyahu’s accusation as a farce, and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on Sept. 30 that Netanyahu is “desperately seeking to find a pretext to create hype” about Iran’s nuclear program.

This is the second time Netanyahu has publicly revealed what he describes as secret information tied to Iran’s nuclear weapons program. In February 2018, Israel stole archival material from a facility in Iran that appears to document activities related to the country’s nuclear weapons development and shared the information with several states and the IAEA.

Netanyahu publicly revealed that the raid took place and released some details from the stolen material at a press conference in April, just weeks before U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement and reimpose sanctions, despite Iran’s compliance with the provisions of the deal. Israel is one of the few states that encouraged Trump to withdraw from the accord.

In his Sept. 27 speech, Netanyahu claimed that the IAEA “has still not taken any action” following up on the archival material and “has not demanded to inspect a single new site.”

The information shared publicly confirms what the IAEA and the U.S. intelligence community already concluded, that Iran had an organized illicit nuclear weapons program that it abandoned in 2003, although some activities continued. The IAEA reported in 2015 that it had no evidence of nuclear activities with military dimensions after 2009.

Netanyahu’s allegation that the IAEA has done nothing appears to be at odds with the U.S. assessment.

During the IAEA Board of Governors meeting on Sept. 11–14, Nicole Shampaine, an official at the U.S. mission in Vienna, told the board that the United States supports the agency’s “careful assessment of the newly acquired archive materials.” She said any “concern” related to undeclared nuclear activities or material must be pursued and the United States has “full confidence” in the IAEA and its inspectors “to do so appropriately.”

If any of the archival material indicated that Iran pursued illicit nuclear activities after the nuclear deal was concluded, it is likely that the Trump administration would have accused Iran of violating the agreement and its safeguards obligations under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), given Trump’s animosity toward the accord.

The U.S. State Department released a report in April that concluded Iran is in compliance with its NPT obligations and, through 2017, with the Iran nuclear deal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s charge draws pushback from the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

U.S. Officials Dispute Netanyahu's Secret Iranian Nuclear Site Claim | P4+1 and Iran Deal Alert, October 18, 2018

U.S. Officials Dispute Netanyahu's Secret Iranian Nuclear Site Claim In his address to the UN General Assembly , Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed what he described as a secret nuclear warehouse “storing massive amounts of equipment and material from Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program,” a claim that U.S. intelligence officials have told reporters is misleading. Netanyahu’s Sept. 27 allegations came as U.S. President Donald Trump threatened countries that do not support U.S. sanctions on Iran with “severe consequences,” and as the remaining P4+1 parties to the July 2015...

Trump Challenges Europeans Over Iran Deal


October 2018
By Terry Atlas and Kelsey Davenport

The Iran nuclear deal remains on life support, as U.S. President Donald Trump redoubles his efforts to kill an arrangement that is successfully restraining Iran’s nuclear program.

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the UN General Assembly on September 25, denouncing what he called the “corrupt dictatorship” in Iran. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)Nearly five months after Trump unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 accord, Iran continues to comply with restrictions on its nuclear activities as the European Union, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom seek work-arounds to renewed U.S. sanctions on the Islamic republic.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wrote in a Sept. 23 column in The Washington Post that he is allowing a “short grace period” to see what the other parties to the accord, including Russia and China, are able to do to offset Trump’s pressure tactics, notably U.S. efforts to prevent Iranian oil sales. U.S. officials are pressuring states that import Iranian oil to cut purchases or face severe sanctions that will enter back into effect Nov. 5.

The other parties to the nuclear deal met at the United Nations on Sept. 24, the eve of Trump’s second General Assembly address, to assess what they called “practical proposals” to offset U.S. actions and to protect “legitimate business” dealings with Iran. Afterward, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, speaking alongside Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, said the parties agreed to establish a “special purpose vehicle” to facilitate purchases of Iranian imports and exports, including oil.

“In practical terms, this will mean that EU member states will set up a legal entity to facilitate legitimate financial transactions with Iran, and this will allow European companies to continue to trade with Iran in accordance with European Union law,” she said. “And it will be open to other partners in the world.”

This puts the countries, including close U.S. allies, in direct defiance of Trump, who told the General Assembly on Sept. 25 that the United States will increase its “campaign of economic pressure” on Tehran. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, warned allies and others against trying to evade sanctions.

Bolton characterized the European plan as just rhetoric and suggested any such action would have consequences. “We do not intend to have our sanctions evaded by Europe or by anyone else,” he said in a speech Sept. 25 detailing the administration’s redlines for Iranian leaders.

Trump, at the UN, said the oil-related sanctions will be followed by other punitive measures to thwart what he characterized as a “corrupt dictatorship” that still harbors nuclear weapons ambitions and foments turmoil in the Middle East through its support of militant groups.

“We ask all nations to isolate Iran’s regime as long as its aggression continues,” he said. Further, using language linked to potential regime change, he said, “[W]e ask all nations to support Iran’s people as they struggle to reclaim their religious and righteous destiny.”

But it is the United States that appears isolated. At a special UN Security Council session chaired by Trump Sept. 26, called to highlight nonproliferation priorities, top leaders one after the other directly criticized his decision to abandon the Iran deal and urged Tehran to continue to comply with the accord.

The Trump administration, which denies an overt goal of regime change, has said it is seeking to force Iran to negotiate a more wide-ranging deal that includes restraints on its regional interference and ballistic missile program and tighter restrictions on nuclear activities.

President of Iran Hassan Rouhani addresses the UN General Assembly on September 25. World leaders gathered for the 73rd annual meeting at the UN headquarters in New York. (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)Iran has ruled out such talks, at least until the United States returns to the nuclear accord negotiated during the Obama administration. Trump’s offer of direct talks “is not honest or genuine” given his actions, Rouhani said in his column. Rouhani told the UN General Assembly on Sept. 25 that beginning a dialogue starts with ending threats and unjust sanctions.

The Europeans have been particularly determined to try to preserve the 2015 pact because it has effectively halted Iran’s nuclear advances and reopened a lucrative market for European trade and because they are alarmed by a drift toward an imaginable U.S. war with Iran, encouraged by Saudi Arabia and Israel. It is unclear whether their new initiatives to shield companies from U.S. sanctions will have much effect, with major European companies already abandoning Iran.

More important may be what actions Iran’s biggest oil purchasers, China and India, take in light of the U.S. sanctions. Both have substantially reduced oil purchases, although it is uncertain what Beijing may decide in light of growing trade disputes with the Trump administration.

Iran agreed to the nuclear deal in return for the lifting of U.S., EU, and UN sanctions, hoping for a boost to the country’s struggling economy. In the face of rising tensions with the Trump administration and internal mismanagement of the economy, the value of the Iranian currency has plummeted by as much as 70 percent in the past year, fueling protests against Rouhani’s government.

Iranian officials have said they could restart nuclear activities, such as enriching uranium at prohibited levels, within days if there is a decision to do so. An Iranian decision to exit the nuclear deal might play well for anti-U.S. sentiment, but would pose a different set of risks for the regime.

Iran has continued to abide by the terms of the nuclear agreement, according to an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Aug. 20, the first since the United States began reimposing sanctions Aug. 7. The report also said Iran is abiding by the deal’s more intrusive IAEA monitoring and verification mechanisms, which provide inspector access “to all the sites and locations” necessary to visit.

The IAEA reports do not contain any details on what sites the agency visits outside of Iran’s declared nuclear program, but there are some indications that inspections took place at two universities in Iran in July. According to several news outlets, protests broke out over the IAEA presence.

The report does not mention a reported new advanced-centrifuge production facility. The official Iranian news agency IRNA on Sept. 9 quoted Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, as saying that the facility is “fully complete and set up.” The construction of such a facility does not violate the deal, but it would be a violation if Tehran manufactured centrifuges outside of the narrow scope of production permitted by the accord.

The IAEA report also does not mention the stolen trove of secret Iranian documents, which Israel disclosed earlier this year, relating to Iran’s past nuclear weapons activities. But Nicole Shampaine, a U.S. official at the U.S. Mission in Vienna, told the IAEA Board of Governors Sept. 12 that the United States supports the “IAEA’s careful assessment of the newly acquired archive materials from Iran’s past nuclear weapons program. She said the existence of the documentation demonstrates that Iran “sought to preserve the information and expertise from that past program.”

EU plans steps to get around U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Iran Continues to Meet JCPOA Limits, Despite Sanctions

Unsurprisingly, Iran continues to abide by its commitments under the multilateral nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), according to the most recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The report is the first since a tranche of U.S. sanctions reimposed by U.S. President Donald Trump in violation of the JCPOA entered into full effect Aug. 7. IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano told the agency’s Board of Governors Sept. 10 that “Iran is implementing its nuclear-related commitments” and urged Tehran to continue to fully abide by the deal. The...

Iran Pushes for EU Measures to Preserve Oil Sales | P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, September 7, 2018

Iran Pushes for EU Measures to Preserve Oil Sales Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said Aug. 29 that “hope should be abandoned” for the multilateral nuclear deal that Iran reached with six countries and the European Union in 2015 and he seemed to dismiss European efforts to sustain the deal as insufficient. Khamenei and other Iranian officials contend that the remaining P4+1 parties to the nuclear deal (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom) are not doing enough to counteract sanctions reimposed by the United States. With U.S. sanctions targeting Iran’s oil sector set to...

Trump Faces Resistance on Iran Sanctions


September 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

The first tranche of U.S. sanctions on Iran took effect Aug. 7 as the remaining parties to the nuclear deal with Iran committed themselves to maintaining economic ties despite U.S. threats of “severe consequences” for any entity that defies the U.S. policy.

Pedestrians glace at the depressed value of the Iranian rial posted at a currency exchange shop in Tehran on August 8, the day after the reimposed U.S. sanctions took effect. (Photo: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)Although the sanctions were reimposed in May, when U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the multilateral nuclear accord known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the United States allowed entities 90 or 180 days to wind down their activities in the Islamic republic before the U.S. restrictions would enter into full effect. (See ACT, June 2018.)

The remaining states-party to the nuclear deal—China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom—and the European Union said they will stand by the accord and will not abide by the U.S. measures as long as Iran meets its commitments under the agreement. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, reflecting the strains between the United States and its closest European allies, warned on Aug. 8 that U.S. actions against Iran may lead to further turmoil in the Middle East.

The Aug. 7 sanctions target the purchase of U.S. dollars; trade in aluminum, steel, coal, and precious metals; and the automotive sector. The Trump administration also revoked licenses allowing the United States to import certain foodstuffs from and export commercial aircraft parts to Iran.

In an Aug. 6 statement, Trump said that the United States is fully committed to enforcing all sanctions and that entities that fail to comply “risk severe consequences.” He later tweeted that “anyone doing business with Iran will not be doing business with the United States” and said he was seeking “world peace, nothing less.”

While acknowledging sanctions pressure, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called on Iranians to “overcome this with unity” and said Washington “will regret imposing sanctions on Iran.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement pledging to do “everything necessary” to maintain the nuclear deal, including measures to protect trade with Iran. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Beijing will protect its commercial cooperation with Iran.

The foreign ministers of the EU, France, Germany, and the UK said on Aug. 6 that they were “determined to protect European economic operators engaged in legitimate business with Iran” in accordance with EU law and the 2016 UN Security Council resolution endorsing the nuclear deal.

Before the U.S. sanctions went into effect, the EU adopted an update to its so-called blocking regulation to cover U.S. sanctions on Iran. Nathalie Tocci, a special adviser to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, said on Aug. 7 that the EU will sanction European companies that abide by U.S. secondary sanctions.

It is unclear whether the regulation will provide EU companies enough protection from U.S. sanctions penalties for them to risk continuing to do business with Iran. A number of EU companies have announced that they are suspending operations in Iran.

In a July letter to the European officials, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made clear that the United States would not grant sanctions exemptions requested by the EU.

Following the Pompeo letter, 10 Republican senators hinted at retaliation if European states tried to block or get around the application of the U.S sanctions. The Republican letter, addressed to the French, German, and UK ambassadors in Washington, said it would be “particularly troubling if you sought to evade or undermine” U.S. law and steps to do so “could well prompt Congressional action” to ensure the integrity of the sanctions.

 It is unclear why the senators would describe actions to block the sanctions as “evasion” when the three countries have no legal obligation to abide by U.S. sanctions and have stated that sustaining the nuclear deal is in their national security interests.

A more significant set of sanctions, which primarily target states purchasing oil from Iran, is scheduled to go into effect Nov. 5. Oil revenue constitutes 70 percent of Iran’s total exports, and it remains to be seen how significantly oil exports will be hit, particularly given that China, Iran’s top oil purchaser, does not appear to be planning any cutback.

The U.S. law providing for the oil sanctions does not require a complete cutoff of Iranian oil purchases. A country can apply for a waiver if it makes a “significant reduction” every 180 days. The law does not define “significant reduction,” and initially the Trump administration was insisting that states completely end Iranian oil imports. Pompeo said on July 22 that the goal is to get “as close to zero as possible.”

Rouhani warned on July 22 that if Iranian oil exports are blocked, no other country in the region will be able to export oil. He appeared to be referring to Iran’s ability to block the Strait of Hormuz, through which about a third of all oil shipped by sea passes.

Rouhani also said that “peace with Iran is the mother of all peace and war with Iran is the mother of all war,” a statement that drew a threatening Trump tweet in all capital letters: “Never ever threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before.”

The Trump administration continues to maintain that the goal of sanctions is to get a “better deal” with Iran that addresses not only the nuclear program but all of Iran’s ballistic missile and provocative regional activities.

Certain statements, however, suggest a broader goal of triggering major political change in Iran, although the administration denies a policy of regime change. Before joining the administration, Pompeo and Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, had publicly favored U.S. policies to press for regime change.

“Anyone who’s hoping for regime change must not forget that whatever follows could bring us much bigger problems,” Mass said in a German press interview.

Trump maintains that he is willing to meet with Rouhani without preconditions, but Pompeo outlined a dozen requirements that would require Tehran to unilaterally change policies and actions before sanctions relief is granted.

For his part, Rouhani said on Aug. 6 that the United States must return to compliance with the nuclear deal before talks could occur. He said that “if you stab someone with a knife and then say you want talks, then the first thing you have to do is remove the knife.”

 

Other countries want to maintain the Iran nuclear deal that the United States abandoned.

U.S. Touts Sanctions Success as EU Announces Iran Package | The P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, August 24, 2018

U.S. Touts Sanctions Success as EU Announces Iran Package During an Aug. 19-22 trip to Israel, National Security Advisor John Bolton said U.S. sanctions reimposed on Iran are having economic effects “even stronger than we anticipated” and that the United States expects that Europeans will see that the “choice between doing business with Iran or doing business with the United States is very clear.” Iran figured prominently in discussions between Bolton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. At a joint Aug. 20 press conference , Netanyahu again thanked the Trump administration for...

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


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.

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

EU Acts to Block U.S. Sanctions on Iran


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.

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

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