"I actually have a pretty good collection of Arms Control Today, which I have read throughout my career. It's one of the few really serious publications on arms control issues."
– Gary Samore
Former White House Coordinator for Arms Control and WMD Terrorism
Kelsey Davenport

P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Talks Alert, June 9

Slow But Steady Progress on Draft Deal Just three weeks remain before the June 30 deadline for Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) to reach a comprehensive nuclear agreement. Iran and the P5+1 met June 4 in Vienna at the political director level. Technical talks between the two sides on the annexes are ongoing. Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister and negotiator Abbas Araqchi told Iranian news outlets on June 6 that the main text will be about 20 pages with five technical annexes totaling 40-50 pages. Araqchi said that the task of completing...

P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Talks Alert, June 4

Another Round in Vienna Negotiators reconvened in Vienna today to continue work on the comprehensive nuclear agreement. The political directors from the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and Iran met on June 4, following a June 3 coordination meeting of the P5+1. Meetings between the technical experts from Iran and the P5+1 are also ongoing. This week's talks followed a May 30 meeting in Switzerland between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minster Mohammad Javad Zarif. The meeting, which included U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest...

Mideast Zone Plan Stymies NPT Meeting

June 2015

By Kelsey Davenport

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry addresses the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference at the United Nations on April 27. During the conference, Egypt made a proposal that set deadlines for a planned conference on ridding the Middle East of nonconventional weapons. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)The United States and two of its allies said they could not support the draft final document of last month’s nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference because of language in the document laying out a process for convening a conference on establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East. But supporters of the language defended it as a reasonable attempt to ensure that a conference takes place and there is progress toward establishing the zone.

In remarks on May 22, the last day of the four-week-long conference at the United Nations, Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said the United States would have been prepared to endorse the rest of the draft document, covering the three so-called pillars of the treaty—disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Gottemoeller said the blame “lies squarely with those states that were unable to show any flexibility in pursuit of the convening of a Middle East conference that enshrined the principles of consensus and equality.” Canada and the United Kingdom joined the United States in objecting to the draft document because of the language dealing with the WMD-free zone.

The language in the document, which set a deadline for holding the conference, the appointment of a special representative, and consultations to establish an agenda, emerged out of intense negotiations that eventually involved Taous Feroukhi of Algeria, the conference president. The language contained elements from a proposal that Egypt had made earlier in the conference.

In his May 22 statement at the conference, Hisham Badr, Egyptian assistant foreign minister, said his government was “extremely disappointed” that consensus had been blocked. Egypt and the rest of the Arab Group were prepared to accept what was presented in the final document on the process for establishing the WMD-free zone, he said. The Arab countries cooperated “to the full” to find a compromise in the final document on a process for establishing the zone, Badr said.

In another statement at the closing of the conference, Iran’s Hamid Badinejad, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), accused the United States of blocking consensus to “to safeguard the interests of a particular nonparty of the treaty,” Israel, which he said has “endangered the peace and security of the region by developing a nuclear weapons capability.” He said that NAM states were ready to join the consensus on the proposed language for the final document despite “dissatisfactions” with sections of the text, such as the ones on the pace of disarmament.

At issue was an agreement from the 2010 review conference to hold a conference by 2012 on establishing the WMD-free zone. That conference was not held due to differences over the scope of the agenda and other issues (see ACT, December 2012), prompting countries in the region to call for a new process to establish the zone.

The proposed zone would cover the 27 Arab League countries, Iran, and Israel. All of the countries except Israel are parties to the NPT and participated in the review conference. Israel attended as an observer.
The draft final document called for the UN secretary-general to convene a conference by March 1, 2016, aimed at “launching a continuous process of negotiating and concluding a legally binding treaty” that establishes a WMD-free zone in the Middle East.

The document called for the secretary-general to appoint by July 1 a special representative to facilitate the process. The facilitator would work with the secretary-general, as well as Russia, the UK, and the United States, to consult with the states in the region on the agenda for the conference.

Under the language in the draft document, if an agenda for the conference were agreed before the March deadline, the secretary-general would have to convene the conference within 45 days of agreement on the agenda.

Gottemoeller, citing Egypt in particular, decried the insistence on “unrealistic and unworkable conditions,” including the imposition of “an arbitrary deadline.”

An Egyptian official said in a May 23 e-mail that the U.S. objection is “unjustifiable” and that, “without deadlines, no progress will be made.” The official said that “Israel will continue to refuse to compromise” on the issue of the conference agenda, which will delay progress on the zone.

In a May 23 statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the United States for refusing to accept the draft language that would “single out Israel” and ignore its security interests.

In a May 4 statement at the NPT conference, Badr said the 2010 mandate for the current facilitator, Finnish diplomat Jaakko Laajava, “has elapsed” and a “fresh approach” is necessary. Since the 2012 postponement, Laajava has held five consultations with countries in the region as part of an effort to reach consensus on the conference agenda.

In his statement, Badr said the UN secretary-general should convene the conference within 180 days of the adoption of a final document at the NPT review conference.

The United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom said they could not support language in the NPT review conference’s draft final document setting a deadline and other requirements for a conference on ridding the Middle East of nonconventional...

Iran, P5+1 Make Progress on Nuclear Text

June 2015

By Kelsey Davenport

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks at New York University on April 29. (Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images)Iran and six world powers have drafted a final text for a nuclear deal, but still need to come to terms over some passages, an Iranian negotiator said last month.

Speaking to reporters after a May 12 meeting with EU deputy negotiator Helga Schmid in Vienna, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said the two sides have reached agreement on significant portions of the final text, but differences remain in “certain paragraphs.”

In a May 22 e-mail, an EU official also said that the two sides had made progress on the final text.
Iran and the six-country group, known as the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), aim to complete a comprehensive nuclear deal by June 30. (See ACT, December 2014.) On April 2 in Lausanne, Switzerland, the parties announced an agreement on the broad parameters of the pact. (See ACT, May 2015.)

Since the April breakthrough, Iran and the P5+1 have continued to work on the draft of the final text. The most recent meeting among all seven countries at the level of political directors took place May 15 in Vienna. Araqchi and Schmid also met May 20-22 in the Austrian capital.

Negotiators have been meeting at the technical level in New York and Vienna over the past month.
After the May 15 meeting, Araqchi told reporters he was hopeful the text could be finalized by June 30.

Renewed Sanctions

One of the areas of a deal that has generated significant discussion over the past several weeks is the reimposition of sanctions if Iran is found to be in violation of an agreement.
An Israeli official said in a May 20 interview that Israel has “serious concerns about the ability of the United States and others to reimpose sanctions in the event of a breach.”

He said it would be difficult to “put the genie back in the bottle” after companies began to establish economic ties with Iran and that renewed sanctions are ineffectual in preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons if it abandons the deal.

Richard Nephew, former principal deputy coordinator for sanctions policy at the U.S. State Department, said on May 14 that the renewal of sanctions is not intended to stop Iran from breaking out of the deal and openly pursuing nuclear weapons. In the event of an Iranian breakout, the United States will not respond with sanctions, but will be “in a place in which military force is going to have to be considered,” he said at the Arms Control Association annual meeting.

Nephew, now director of the Program on Economic Statecraft, Sanctions, and Energy Markets at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, said the “bigger issue is differentiating” between material breaches of the deal and technical violations.

A minimum of 12 months before Iran can break out of its commitments under the deal provides plenty of time “to go down the sanctions path and escalate pressure on the regime in a very serious way,” Nephew said, if Iran were taking actions in the “middle space” between technical violations, such as a valve in the wrong position, and breakout.

According to a White House summary of the April 2 parameters, when the deal is implemented, Iran will be at least 12 months away from producing enough nuclear material for one bomb for at least a decade.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on April 29 that procedures will also be in place and will be implemented if the United States does not live up to its commitments.

Zarif, speaking at a New America Foundation event in New York, said that due to a lack of trust between the sides, the deal will have a “reciprocal procedure” that will allow each side to “revert back” to certain activities if one party is “not living up to its commitments” and the issue cannot be resolved.

Iran, IAEA Meet

Between his meetings with Schmid, Araqchi met with officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is headquartered in Vienna.

The IAEA is conducting talks with Iran on implementation of the November 2013 framework agreement to allow agency inspectors to investigate unresolved IAEA concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, including alleged past activities related to nuclear weapons development. (See ACT, December 2013.)

After nine months of cooperation, the IAEA probe stalled last August when Iran failed to meet a deadline to provide information about two activities that could be related to nuclear weapons development. (See ACT, October 2014.) An IAEA team traveled to Tehran in April to continue talks on how to move forward with the investigation.

One of the controversies surrounding the IAEA inquiry has to do with access to military sites where the agency says that some of the alleged activities may have taken place and access to sites in the future if additional allegations emerge.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said as recently as May 20 that “no permission” will be given to inspect military facilities.

IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano told the Associated Press on May 12 that, under an additional protocol, the agency can request access to a military site when it has reason to do so.

An additional protocol gives inspectors expanded access to nuclear facilities and allows some access to sites if there is evidence that illicit nuclear activities have taken place. Iran voluntarily implemented its additional protocol between 2003 and 2006. Tehran has agreed to ratify its protocol as part of the final deal, which would make the commitment permanent.

The IAEA request for access to Iranian military sites is similar to requests the agency has made to “many other countries from time to time,” Amano said.

Colin Kahl, national security adviser to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, said at the Arms Control Association meeting that the U.S. understanding of Iran’s additional protocol is that it would allow IAEA access to military sites if the agency suspected “weaponization-related activities.”

Iran and six world powers have agreed on major portions of a final nuclear deal, an Iranian negotiator said last month.

Bill Allowing Vote on Iran Deal Approved

June 2015

By Kelsey Davenport

Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), center, brings down the gavel to begin an April 14 meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to mark up legislation giving Congress a vote on a nuclear agreement that the United States and five other countries are negotiating with Iran. Corker, who chairs the committee, is flanked by Senator James Risch (R-Idaho), left, and Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the panel’s ranking member. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)Congress passed legislation last month giving lawmakers an opportunity to vote on a comprehensive nuclear agreement that the United States and its partners are negotiating with Iran. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law May 22.

The White House had objected to an earlier version of the bill, but spokesman Eric Schultz said at a May 15 press briefing that the revised version represents a “reasonable and acceptable compromise.”

The United States and five other world powers—China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom—aim to finalize the deal with Iran by June 30 (see, "Iran, P5+1 Make Progress on Nuclear Text").

The Senate passed the Iran Nuclear Review Act of 2015 by a vote of 98-1 on May 7. The House of Representatives passed the same legislation 400-25 on May 14.

Votes against the bill came primarily from Republicans, such as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) who asserted on May 7 that the bill is not strong enough. He said the Iran deal should be submitted as a treaty, which would require approval by two-thirds of the Senate, rather than as an executive agreement, which does not require congressional approval.

Under the law, Congress will have 30 days after the administration submits the agreement to Congress to review the deal and have the option of holding a vote to approve or disapprove it. The administration may waive sanctions imposed by executive order; other sanctions are in legislation passed by Congress and require a vote in that body to be terminated. The law prohibits the administration from suspending these congressional sanctions for 30 days while the agreement is reviewed.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said on May 14 that passage of the legislation will give Congress the opportunity to “stop a bad deal” with Iran.

Obama originally threatened to veto the bill, but dropped his objection to the legislation when Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the primary author of the bill, reached a compromise with the committee’s ranking member, Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), that removed some of the provisions to which the White House had objected. (See ACT, May 2015.)

The changes also led a number of Democrats who originally had opposed the bill to vote in favor of its passage. They said they supported the bill as long as it was not amended in a way that would damage the negotiations.

Republicans in the House and Senate attempted to amend the legislation to impose additional conditions for sanctions to be waived, such as presidential certifications that Iran is not supporting terrorism. None of these amendments passed, and many were blocked from consideration on the floor of both chambers.

Implications of a Vote

If Congress votes to approve the deal or takes no action, implementation of the agreement begins under the schedule that the pact will set.

If Congress votes to disapprove the nuclear deal, Obama is likely to veto the resolution of disapproval within the 12-day period mandated by the law.

According to the law, sanctions remain suspended for 10 days after a veto, giving Congress time to attempt to override the veto. An override would require a two-thirds majority in each chamber.

Recent action in the House makes it seem unlikely that Congress could override Obama’s veto in the event of a vote of disapproval. On May 7, 150 House Democrats sent Obama a letter expressing support for the Iran negotiations. The 150 signers represent more than one-third of the House’s 435 members.

The letter expresses support for allowing the U.S. negotiating team the “space and time necessary” to finalize a nuclear deal. The letter said that if the United States were to “cause the collapse” of negotiations, a nuclear-armed Iran would be more likely and the sanctions regime would unravel.

One of the authors of the letter, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (Texas), said in a May 7 press release that the letter shows “significant” congressional support for “negotiating a strong, verifiable, final agreement.” The other authors were Jan Schakowsky (Ill.) and David Price (N.C.).

Iran’s Parliament Acts

Iran’s parliament, the Majlis, is working on its own legislation giving the members of parliament a voice on the nuclear deal.

Ariane Tabatabai, a visiting professor at Georgetown University teaching a course on Iran and its nuclear program, said in a May 19 e-mail that the Majlis is “closely watching and mirroring congressional actions on the Iran talks.”

Tabatabai said the Majlis bill calls for “fixing certain ‘requirements’ for the negotiations” that are in the April 2 agreement. These fixes include requiring sanctions to be lifted simultaneously with Iranian actions mandated by the agreement, reducing the duration of limits on Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity to five years, and reducing the monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency so that access to military sites such as Parchin, a site that the agency requested to visit, will not be permitted.

Iran and the six world powers agreed in April to the parameters of a final deal. Under that agreement, Iran would limit its uranium-enrichment capacity for 10 years and accept monitoring and verification that would allow some access to military sites.

Tabatabai said a vote on the bill is likely in the next few weeks but that she doubts it will derail the process and affect the talks. She noted that there is some support for the negotiations within the Majlis. Although the bill will add some pressure to the Iranian negotiators to ensure the deal meets certain conditions, the legislation is more about the “Majlis flexing its muscles,” she said.

Congress passed legislation giving lawmakers the opportunity to vote on a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran.

North Korea Tests Missile for Submarine

June 2015

By Kelsey Davenport

Secretary of State John Kerry (left) gestures during a joint press conference with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se in Seoul on May 18. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)North Korea claimed it launched a ballistic missile from a submarine last month, but some Western analysts contend that the missile was ejected from a submerged barge.

Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said that the May 9 test was a successful “underwater test fire” of a “strategic” ballistic missile from a submarine. The missile traveled about 150 meters before crashing into the sea, the KCNA said.

North Korea is prohibited from testing ballistic missiles by several UN Security Council resolutions. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said on May 11 that the United States is calling on Pyongyang to “refrain from actions that further raise tensions in the region” and to take steps to fulfill its international obligations.

The KCNA did not say where the test took place, but analysts believe it was off the Sinpo South Naval Shipyard, on the eastern shore of North Korea.

Joseph Bermudez, chief analytics officer for AllSource Analysis, wrote in his May 13 analysis for 38 North, an online publication of the U.S. Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, that the test was likely an ejection test of a ballistic missile from a submerged barge. Ejection tests are designed to evaluate stabilization systems and the process of underwater launch.

Bermudez said that testing a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from a new, experimental ballistic missile submarine that North Korea had launched only eight months ago would “be at the uppermost limits of North Korean naval and ballistic missile design and development capabilities.”

A launch from a submerged barge is “more reasonable in line with assessed North Korean capabilities,” he said. Citing satellite imagery, Bermudez said such a vessel was present at the Sinpo shipyard.
Moving Forward

Michael Elleman, who served as a missile expert for the UN team that conducted weapons inspections in Iraq after the Persian Gulf War, said in a May 19 e-mail that the test is likely the “second step in the overall [North Korean] process of developing an SLBM capability.” The United States performed similar “pop-out” tests for the Polaris SLBM program, he said. The first step is ejecting a missile from a launch tube on the ground, Elleman said.

Elleman, who is now with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said North Korea still must take a number of steps before it can reliably deploy an SLBM. A typical sequence would include additional ejection tests from a submerged barge, land-based tests of the missile, and then a full flight test of the SLBM from the barge and submarine, he said.

At a May 19 event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Adm. James Winnefeld, vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that North Korea is not as far along as its “spinmeisters would have us believe” and remains “many years away” from an SLBM capability.

Elleman said North Korea has “demonstrated a willingness to accept risks for weapons performance and reliability,” so the SLBM could be deployed sooner, but would likely have a reliability of less than 50 percent.

Elleman noted several operational obstacles to North Korean deployment of SLBMs, including developing secure communications with the submarine and establishing a command-and-control system. The latter could be difficult for the Kim Jong Un regime, Elleman said, as most dictators “do not enjoy delegating authorities,” especially with nuclear warheads involved.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on May 18 during a visit to Seoul that China and the United States are discussing imposing additional sanctions on North Korea because of “recent provocations.” Kerry said the discussions would continue in June.

Kerry said Beijing has “extraordinary leverage” over North Korea. China is North Korea’s largest trading partner.

ICBM Dispute

A launcher carrying what analysts have said is a mock-up of the North Korean KN-08 intercontinental ballistic missile moves through Pyongyang on April 15, 2012, as part of a military parade marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the country’s founder. (Pedro Ugarte/AFP/Getty Images)North Korea’s capability to deploy an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of delivering nuclear weapons also is in dispute.

North Korea claims its KN-08, or Hwasong-13, a road-mobile ballistic missile, is capable of reaching the United States with a nuclear warhead. That distance is more than 5,500 kilometers and therefore puts the KN-08 in the ICBM category.

North Korea is estimated to have six to eight plutonium-based warheads and may have additional warheads that use highly enriched uranium.

The KN-08 was first paraded in April 2012. At that time, many analysts said they believed the missile to be a mock-up. (See ACT, March 2013.) Subsequent displays of the missile have featured more-plausible design features, but there is still controversy about the extent of the missile’s development and how close the missile is to operational status. It is not known to have been flight-tested.

A May 20 story on Foreign Policy’s website quoted National Security Council spokesman Patrick Ventrell as saying that the United States does not think that North Korea can miniaturize a warhead to put on a ballistic missile.

But Adm. William Gortney, the head of U.S. Northern Command, told reporters at the Pentagon on April 7 that it is the U.S. assessment that the KN-08 is operational and North Korea could use the missile to shoot a nuclear warhead at the United States.

Elaine Bunn, deputy assistant secretary of defense of nuclear and missile defense policy, said at an April 7 event at CSIS that the “reliability of an untested KN-08 is likely to be very low.”

In the May 19 e-mail, Elleman said that if the KN-08 were deployed today, it would likely “fail more often than not” but that, for deterrence purposes, North Korea “gain[s] considerable dissuasive capacity” by deploying the missile.

North Korea claimed it launched a ballistic missile from a submarine, but some analysts contend it came from a submerged barge.

P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Talks Alert, May 28

The Home Stretch With only about a month to go until the June 30 deadline for completing a comprehensive nuclear deal, Iran and six world powers have made considerable progress on the final text of the agreement but still have some tough issues to resolve. Iranian and French officials have recently said the negotiations may extend a few days into July. U.S. officials have reiterated they intend to complete the negotiations by the end of June. Over the past month, technical teams have been hard at work in New York and Vienna working out the details of the comprehensive agreement and drafting...

Egypt’s Abrupt About Face Hurts Zone Prospects

At the mid-point in the month-long 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in New York, there is growing frustration about the new approach being pursued by Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and other Arab League states on the goal of convening a conference to discuss a weapons of mass destruction (WMD) free-zone in the Middle East. A proposal engineered and advanced by Egypt would give the UN Secretary General the sole responsibility to hold a conference on establishing such a zone . But this proposal, which would cut out Finnish diplomat Jaako Laajava—the...

Senate Moves on Iran Bill

May 2015

By Kelsey Davenport

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), left, shakes hands with ranking member Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) during an April 14 committee markup of legislation that would require the president to submit a nuclear deal with Iran to Congress for review. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted unanimously last month to approve legislation that would require the president to submit a nuclear deal with Iran to Congress for review. 

Shortly before the April 14 vote, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama would sign the bill the committee was about to consider although Obama was not “particularly thrilled” with it. The Obama administration had threatened to veto an earlier version of the bill, but negotiations between the committee chairman and its ranking member eliminated some of the provisions most objectionable to the White House. 

Negotiators from Iran and six world powers announced a framework outlining the major parameters of a deal on April 2 in Lausanne, Switzerland. The deadline for completing a comprehensive nuclear deal is June 30 (see page 27).

Although the agreement will not be a treaty, which requires the approval of two-thirds of the Senate, many lawmakers voiced support for congressional review of any agreement.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) introduced a bill in February that would give Congress the option to vote on any agreement that the Obama administration and its five negotiating partners (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom) reach with Iran.

Corker, chairman of the foreign relations panel and primary author of the bill, reached a compromise with ranking member Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) that revised the original legislation. The changes led several Democrats on the committee who originally had opposed the Corker bill to support it. 

After the committee vote, Corker said the new version still allows Congress “the opportunity to review any final deal to ensure it is verifiable and enforceable before the president could act to unwind the sanctions that Congress put in place.” Congress has passed several laws imposing sanctions on Iran for a number of issues, including its nuclear program. 

One of the modifications to the bill eliminated a controversial provision that said sanctions could not be waived unless the president has certified that Iran is not involved in any acts of terrorism. Critics of the original bill argued that the provision was misguided because Iran’s support for terrorism is outside of the scope of the negotiations on Tehran’s nuclear program.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who initially opposed the deal, said during the committee meeting that she was able to support the revised legislation because it removed “extraneous” issues such as the terrorism provision and that putting these elements back in the bill would be a “deal breaker.” 

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) introduced an amendment to reinsert the terrorism provision, but it was defeated 13-6. Corker and three other Republican senators—Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), and David Perdue (Ga.)—joined the Democrats on the committee in voting against the amendment.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said he would withdraw his support if the legislation was amended on the Senate floor in a way that would hurt the prospects for a comprehensive deal.

The legislation still requires the president to submit the text of any agreement to Congress and prohibits the administration from suspending congressional sanctions, but the review period is reduced from 60 days to 30 days. In addition to sanctions passed by Congress, executive orders issued by Obama and past presidents have placed sanctions on Iran. Those can be lifted without congressional action. 

During the review period, Congress can vote to approve or disapprove the agreement or take no action. If a resolution of disapproval is passed, there is an additional 12-day period for the president to sign or veto the resolution. If the resolution is vetoed, sanctions remain suspended for an additional 10 days, giving Congress time to override the veto. 

If Congress votes to approve the deal or takes no action, implementation of the agreement begins as scheduled under the terms of the pact. 

The bill puts in place extensive reporting requirements on a range of issues related to Iran’s implementation of the nuclear deal. If the bill becomes law, the administration would be required to report to Congress every 90 days on Iran’s compliance with the agreement. If Iran were not complying with the terms of a deal, Congress could vote, on an expedited basis, to reinstate sanctions on Iran. 

Cardin said in an April 14 statement that the legislation defines an “appropriate role for Congress” in reviewing any deal with Iran and will “strengthen the President’s hand in negotiations.”

A UK official, however, said in an April 15 interview that even in its amended state, the legislation is “unhelpful as the negotiators work to finish the comprehensive deal.” 

He said passage of the bill “strengthens the Iranian hand” by giving Tehran a reason to blame Washington if the negotiations do not succeed. The Obama administration should have maintained its opposition to the legislation, he said. 

In her April 14 comments, Boxer said she felt that the legislation voted out of committee would not derail the negotiations as the original version would have. 

 Also on April 14, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he is “hopeful” the Senate will vote on the legislation “in the next couple of weeks” and that the House will then move on the bill.

News Analysis: Iran, P5+1 Agree on Framework Deal

May 2015

By Kelsey Davenport

Iran and six world powers announced last month that they had reached agreement on the broad parameters of a comprehensive nuclear deal. 

In an April 2 joint statement in the Swiss city of Lausanne, Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) said the agreement on the key elements is a “decisive step” that will form the basis of a final text for a comprehensive agreement. 

The two sides aim to complete a final deal by June 30. Iran maintains that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful, but the international community is concerned that Iran may choose to pursue nuclear weapons. 

The April 2 statement did not contain much detail, but noted that Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity and stockpiles would be limited, that the Fordow enrichment facility would be repurposed for research and development, and that the currently incomplete Arak heavy-water reactor would be redesigned so as not to produce weapons-grade plutonium. 

Parameters of a Comprehensive Deal 

After 15 months of intensive negotiations, Iran and six world powers reached agreement on the broad parameters of a comprehensive nuclear deal. A joint April 2 announcement in Lausanne, Switzerland, by Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) laid out the framework that will guide negotiators as they work to complete the final deal by June 30. The White House released a summary that offered details on the framework. 

According to the summary, the comprehensive agreement would require Iran to

•   reduce the number of installed centrifuges from about 19,000 to 6,104, of which 5,060 will be used for enriching uranium for 10 years;

•   store dismantled machines under seal of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA);

•   cap uranium-enrichment levels at 3.67 percent (reactor grade) for 15 years; 

•   reduce stockpiles of reactor-grade enriched uranium from 10,000 kilograms to 300 kilograms;

•   convert the Fordow enrichment facility to a research center, with no uranium enrichment for at least 15 years;

•   convert the 900 centrifuges at Fordow to enrichment of elements other than uranium for medical purposes;

•   limit research and development on advanced centrifuges for at least 10 years;

•   destroy and replace the core of the Arak heavy-water reactor so the reactor cannot produce weapons-grade plutonium;

•   commit not to separate plutonium from spent fuel; 

•   allow continuous monitoring of uranium mines and mills for 25 years;

•   allow continuous monitoring of centrifuge production and storage facilities for 20 years; 

•   allow continuous monitoring of the Fordow and Natanz enrichment sites;

•   implement an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement with the IAEA; and

•   cooperate with the IAEA investigation into allegations that, in the past, Iran’s nuclear program had “military dimensions.”

In addition, the P5+1 would develop a dedicated, monitored channel for Iran’s procurement of dual-use technology.

The P5+1 would be required to terminate some and suspend other nuclear-related UN, U.S., and EU sanctions as Iran takes key steps.

    The statement outlined additional transparency measures that Iran is to take under a final deal. The statement also said that EU sanctions will be terminated and U.S. nuclear sanctions suspended simultaneously as Iran takes key nuclear steps.

    Opinions on the agreed parameters and on whether the limitations will prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons were mixed, generally breaking along predictable lines.

    President Barack Obama said shortly after the announcement that if the framework is translated into a final deal, it will “cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon” and will make the United States and the world safer. 

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on April 5 that the agreed parameters will make for a “very bad deal.” He criticized the agreement for leaving Iran’s nuclear infrastructure in place and doing nothing to curb Iranian ballistic missile development. Critics, including Netanyahu, have called for a deal to limit the range of Iran’s ballistic missiles. 

    The White House released a detailed summary of the parameters that included a description of specific cuts to Iran’s nuclear program and agreed transparency measures. In April 3 remarks in Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister and lead negotiator Mohammad Javad Zarif did not endorse the document and emphasized different elements than the White House did. 

    In his statement in Tehran, Zarif highlighted particular provisions of the deal permitting Iran to continue operating all of its nuclear sites and to conduct nuclear-related research and development in areas such as testing of advanced centrifuge machines. Zarif emphasized that sanctions would be removed at the beginning of an agreement. Those are key goals for Iran in a comprehensive nuclear deal. 

    Both sides said that a number of details remain to resolved before a final agreement can be reached. The parties met again in Vienna on April 22 to begin drafting the comprehensive deal. 

    Enrichment Limits

    Some of the most significant details of the White House summary related to limitations on Iran’s uranium-enrichment program. 

    According to the summary, Iran will cut the number of its installed first-generation centrifuges, the IR-1, from more than 19,000 to 6,104, of which 5,060 will be operating at the Natanz enrichment facility. That number is about half of the current enrichment capacity, about 10,200 operating IR-1 centrifuges. 

    Under a final deal, the roughly 900 IR-1 machines that are not operating would be at the Fordow facility for research. Some of those machines would be used for enrichment of elements other than uranium for research and medical purposes. These limits would remain in place for 10 years. 

    Iran also would limit its enrichment of uranium to reactor-grade levels, 3.67 percent uranium-235, for 15 years and limit its stockpile of enriched uranium gas to 300 kilograms. Iran currently has about 10,000 kilograms in gas form enriched to this level. 

    Together, these limitations would increase to at least 12 months the time it would take Iran to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one weapon, 25 kilograms of material with an enrichment level above 90 percent U-235. Currently that time period, commonly known as breakout time, is estimated to be two to three months. The Obama administration set a breakout time of one year as a goal for the talks. (See ACT, December 2014.)

    One of the issues yet to be resolved involves neutralizing Iran’s stockpile of enriched material in excess of the 300 kilograms enriched to 3.67 percent. Options include diluting the material down to natural uranium levels of about 0.7 percent U-235, shipping it to Russia, or selling it on the open market. 

    Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s minister for intelligence and strategic affairs, expressed a preference on April 6 for shipping the stockpile to Russia.

    The method of disposition does not affect the breakout time or the outcome, namely that about 97 percent of Iran’s current stockpile of enriched uranium would no longer be available for possible further enrichment to weapons-grade levels. 

    Intrusive Monitoring 

    One of the most critical elements of an effective nuclear deal with Iran is ensuring that the enhanced monitoring and verification regime is intrusive enough to block a covert path to nuclear weapons development and is able to detect very quickly any deviation from the deal. 

    The monitoring regime as described in the White House summary is a multilayered approach that subjects every step of Iran’s nuclear fuel cycle and supply chains to intensive monitoring and verification. Obama characterized it as the most intensive monitoring regime devised to date and said that “if Iran cheats, the world will know.” 

    In addition to regular access to Iran’s declared nuclear facilities, such as Natanz, Fordow, and Arak, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would operate continuous surveillance of Iran’s uranium mines for 25 years. The production areas for centrifuge rotors and bellows would be under continuous surveillance for 20 years. The stored centrifuges removed from Fordow and Natanz also would be under continuous surveillance. In addition, any dual-use items or materials procured for Iran’s nuclear program would move through a designated channel and be subject to monitoring and approval. Currently, UN sanctions prohibit the purchase of materials or technology that could be used to advance Iran’s nuclear program. 

    Taken together, these measures cover Iran’s supply chain and would help ensure that Tehran is not covertly pursuing nuclear weapons using a clandestine parallel program.

    The parameters of the deal include Iran’s immediate implementation of an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement with the IAEA. This requirement expands Iran’s nuclear declaration to include a larger number of sites that encompass the entirety of Iran’s fuel cycle. Agency inspectors would have access to a greater number of facilities and the ability to conduct short-notice inspections. 

    An additional protocol is permanent once ratified. Iran and the IAEA negotiated an additional protocol in 2003, and Iran voluntarily adhered to it until 2006. 

    The IAEA would receive earlier notification of any new nuclear facilities that Iran intends to build through implementation of a safeguards provision known as “modified Code 3.1.” Under that provision, Iran must notify the agency as soon as it decides to build a new facility. Under existing safeguards, Iran is required to provide notice to the agency only six months before it commissions a facility. 

    Greater notice would give the international community more time to assess the impact of the new facilities and ensure that they are in line with Iran’s peaceful nuclear program.

    Critics, including Netanyahu and some U.S. lawmakers, argue that the comprehensive nuclear deal must allow for inspections at any time and at any place, including at military sites. Supporters counter that it is unrealistic to assume that any country would accept unlimited, no-notice inspections at any and all military sites.

    U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in an April 12 op-ed in The Washington Post that the covert pathway to nuclear weapons development by Iran is blocked by “unprecedented safeguards and access” to Iran’s nuclear sites.

    Iran and six world powers announced an agreement on the broad parameters of a comprehensive nuclear deal.


    Subscribe to RSS - Kelsey Davenport