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"...the Arms Control Association [does] so much to keep the focus on the issues so important to everyone here, to hold our leaders accountable to inspire creative thinking and to press for change. So we are grateful for your leadership and for the unyielding dedication to global nuclear security."
– Lord Des Browne
Vice Chairman, Nuclear Threat Initiative
Kelsey Davenport

The Washington Post and the Myth of “Eliminating” Iran’s Nuclear “Potential”

The February 5 Washington Post editorial , “The emerging Iran nuclear deal raises major concerns,” accuses the Obama administration of moving the goal post on an Iranian nuclear deal. The editorial says, “where it once aimed to eliminate Iran’s ability to enrich uranium, the administration now appears ready to accept an infrastructure of thousands of Iranian centrifuges.” False. Zero enrichment is not, and has not, been the Obama administration’s aim for a nuclear agreement. Nor is it necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. The goal of U.S. policy has been, is, and must be...

Iran Nuclear Negotiations: Separating Myth from Reality

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Volume 7, Issue 2, January 23, 2015 

As the United States and its P5+1 negotiating partners (China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom) move closer to a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran, myths and misperceptions about Iran's nuclear program, its intentions, and U.S. policy goals in the negotiations cloud discussion of this important international security priority.  

An effective, verifiable comprehensive nuclear agreement is in the best interest of the U.S. national security and the stability of the Middle East. Such an important issue deserves discussion and debate based on facts, not myths.  

This issue brief seeks to dispel some of the most commonly held and articulated misconceptions about Iran's nuclear activities and the negotiations.

Iran's Nuclear Program

MYTH: Iran is pursuing a covert nuclear weapons program.

REALITY: According to evidence collected by and shared with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran had an organized nuclear weapons program, but abandoned it in 2003. These activities are referred to as the "possible military dimensions" of Iran's nuclear program and are actively being investigated by the IAEA. This corresponds with the assessment from the 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear program, which also stated with moderate confidence that Iran had not restarted its nuclear program. In the 2014 Worldwide Threat Assessment, the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper also said that Iran also would not be able to divert safeguarded nuclear material and enrich enough to weapons grade for a bomb without discovery. 

According to a 2011 IAEA report, activities that could be relevant to nuclear weapons development may have continued after 2003, but not as part of an organized program.

MYTH: Iran is developing long-range ballistic missiles that could be armed with nuclear warheads.  

REALITY: The U.S. intelligence community assess that Iran may be technically capable of developing an ICBM with sufficient foreign assistance, not that they are doing so. To date, Iran has never tested any long-range rockets. Iran's longest-range missiles (2,000 kilometers) are medium-range ballistic missiles, not intercontinental-range missiles, as some have suggested. Iran would need an ICBM with a range of over 9,000 kilometers to reach the United States. Experts assess that even if Iran makes a concerted effort, deploying such a missile within the decade is unlikely. Additionally, if a comprehensive nuclear deal blocks Iran's potential pathways to a bomb, its ballistic missiles become less of a threat, because they cannot be armed with a nuclear weapon. 

MYTH: UN Security Council resolutions require Iran to permanently halt enrichment, dismantle its enrichment facilities, and dismantle the heavy water reactor at Arak.

REALITY: Since July 2006, the Security Council has passed six resolutions calling on Iran to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities and work on the heavy-water reactor at Arak. None of the six resolutions passed by the UN Security Council called for Iran to dismantle its enrichment facilities or permanently halt enrichment.  The call for suspension was intended to push Iran to comply with the IAEA investigation into concerns about past activities possibly related to nuclear weapons development, and to promote a diplomatic resolution to the concerns over Iran's nuclear program.

During debate on the most recent resolution in June 2010, British Ambassador to the United Nations Mark Lyall Grant, speaking on behalf of the P5+1, said the resolution was intended to keep "the door open for continued engagement" with Iran over its nuclear program. He said that the purpose of such diplomatic efforts must be to achieve a comprehensive, long-term settlement, that respects Iran's legitimate right to the peaceful use of atomic energy. The Security Council resolutions were never intended to eliminate an Iranian civil nuclear program in the future that complies with the conditions of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

MYTH: Iran is just using the negotiations to buy more time to advance its nuclear program and nuclear weapons-related capabilities.  

REALITY: This argument may have been valid before the November 2013 interim agreement, but not now. The interim agreement has pushed Iran further away from a nuclear weapons capability by halting Iran's progress on nuclear projects of greatest proliferation concern-thus buying time to negotiate a comprehensive, long-term agreement to block Iran's potential pathways to the bomb.

Furthermore, according to April 2013 testimony from James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, Iran could not divert nuclear material and enrich enough weapons grade material for a bomb without being detected. The additional monitoring and verification measures put in place under the November 2013 interim agreement, including daily access to Iran's uranium-enrichment sites and caps on stockpiles of enriched-uranium gas, bars uranium enrichment beyond 5% uranium-235 (weapons-grade is 90%) and the introduction of additional uranium centrifuge machines, all of which provide additional assurances that Iran is not pursuing a covert nuclear weapons program.

MYTH: Iran needs a large-scale uranium-enrichment program to provide for its nuclear energy needs.

REALITY: Iran's current, practical needs for enriched uranium are very limited and will remain so over the next several years. There is no practical reason for Iran not to be able to reduce its uranium-enrichment capacity in the near-term in order to build confidence it is not seeking an option to build nuclear weapons.

Iran is currently operating about 10,200 first-generation IR-1 operating centrifuges, which exceeds its current needs. Iran also has approximately 9,000 more centrifuges that are installed but are not yet operating, including some 1,000 more advanced IR2-M machines.

However, Iran says it cannot afford to reduce that number because it wants to increase its enrichment capacity significantly by the 2020s. Iran points to its hopes for building new nuclear power reactors and says it wants to be able to eventually produce fuel for its one operating light-water reactor at Bushehr, which would require the equivalent of over 100,000 IR-1 machines.

Currently, Bushehr uses fuel provided by Russia under a 10-year deal that could be extended past its 2021 end date. In fact, Russia is obliged to supply fuel unless Iran chooses not to renew the contract--which would be a foolish move given the fact that Iran does not currently have the technical capacity to fabricate fuel for the reactor. A new deal with Russia for two additional reactors at the Bushehr site will be fueled by Russia for their duration, thus not requiring domestically produced Iranian fuel.

Impact of the Joint Plan of Action

MYTH: The interim agreement, or Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), has not stopped advances in Iran's nuclear program.

REALITY: Implementation of the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action has halted the expansion of Iran's nuclear program and rolled back the most proliferation sensitive elements.  

In total, under the Joint Plan of Action, Iran has stopped enriching uranium to 20 percent, a key proliferation concern to the P5+1 because 20 percent enriched material is more easily enriched to weapons-grade material (greater than 90 percent U-235).  

Over the past twelve months, Iran also took steps to neutralize its stockpile of 20 percent enriched-uranium gas. Iran also halted major construction activities on its Arak heavy-water reactor project, froze the number of its operating and installed centrifuges, and agreed to more intrusive inspections, including daily access to its enrichment facilities. Iran also agreed only to produce centrifuges necessary to replace damaged machines.

MYTH: Iran has violated the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action by operating an advanced centrifuge, the IR-5.

REALITY: The IAEA's quarterly report of Nov. 7, 2014, noted that Iran began feeding natural uranium hexafluoride "intermittently" into a single IR-5 centrifuge at its pilot facility for the first time. While unhelpful, this does not appear to be a violation of the Joint Plan of Action, which prohibits the use of advanced centrifuges to accumulate enriched uranium. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Nov. 24, 2014 that both Iran and the P5+1 have upheld their commitments under the interim deal. However, to dispel any ambiguities, in the extension agreed to on Nov. 24 , 2014, Iran agreed not to feed the IR-5 at this time.  

MYTH: Allowing Iran an enrichment program recognizes a "right to enrich" under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which the United States has long opposed.  

REALITY: While the NPT clearly affords non-nuclear weapons states access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes in return for pledging not to pursue nuclear weapons and having IAEA safeguards in place, it does not specifically afford or deny enrichment and reprocessing rights to member states. Iran interprets the treaty to include a "right to enrich" and has insisted that its right to enrichment be "respected" under a nuclear agreement.

The U.S. policy does not recognizes a "right to enrich" under the NPT. In the interim agreement, the United States and its P5+1 partners acknowledged that Iran has an enrichment program and will retain a limited enrichment program in a comprehensive deal commensurate with its "practical needs."  

Acknowledging that a program exists is not the same as acknowledging that a treaty affords a "right." The United States has done the former, not the latter. And, after reaching the agreement last November, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated that U.S. policy remains unchanged by the agreement. In an interview with ABC he adamantly said, "there is no inherent right to enrich."

Sanctions 

MYTH: New sanctions that go into effect after the negotiation deadline are not a violation of the interim deal.

REALITY: Even if new sanctions do not go into effect until after the June 30, 2015 deadline for negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran, they would still violate the November 2013 interim deal. In that agreement, the United States committed not to initiate any new nuclear-related sanctions on Iran during the talks.  

In a January 16, 2015 press conference, President Barack Obama asked Congress to hold off on new sanctions, saying that they would "jeopardize the possibility" of a nuclear deal. Iran made clear last year that it would interpret such a move as a violation of the Joint Plan of Action.  

Additionally, new sanctions risk fracturing the international coalition supporting sanctions, which is instrumental to maintaining pressure on Iran. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power noted on January 12, 2015, that "if we pull the trigger on new nuclear-related sanctions now, we will go from isolating Iran to potentially isolating ourselves.

MYTH: Additional sanctions will pressure Iran into dismantling its nuclear program.

REALITY: The international sanctions regime helped push Iran toward the negotiating table. Increasing sanctions at this time, however, violates the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action and risks pushing Iran toward escalatory measures and away from the negotiating table. Moving forward on any sanctions bill will give the hardliners in Iran considerable ammunition to assert that the United States is not following through on its commitments in the Joint Plan of Action and will not negotiate a comprehensive agreement in good faith. This could narrow the space that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has to negotiate a final deal even further.

New sanctions could also cause Iran to pull out of the negotiations. Iran made clear last year that it would interpret such a move as a violation of the Joint Plan of Action. Iran's Foreign Minister and lead negotiator Mohammad Javad Zarif said  that a "deal is dead" if the United States imposes more sanctions, even if they do not go into effect during the negotiations.

While complete dismantlement of Iran's nuclear program may have been the most ideal end-state, and possible a decade ago when Iran only had several hundred centrifuges, it is unrealistic and unnecessary. A final deal with stringent limits and intrusive monitoring and verification will guard against a nuclear-armed Iran and ensure that there is no covert program. Insisting on complete dismantlement of Iran's uranium-enrichment program also goes against the broad parameters for a comprehensive deal outlined in the Nov. 2013 interim agreement, which recognized that under a long-term agreement, Iran would have a limited enrichment program based on its "practical needs."

Negotiations on Comprehensive Nuclear Deal with Iran

MYTH: A comprehensive deal will not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons using a covert program.

REALITY: A comprehensive agreement will block Iran's uranium and plutonium pathways to the bomb. Among other features, the agreement will set verifiable limits on Iran's uranium-enrichment capacity and its stockpiles of enriched uranium. It would also dramatically cut the output of weapons-usable plutonium at the Arak heavy-water reactor. U.S. negotiators have stated that an acceptable final deal will push the time it would take Iran to produce enough highly enriched uranium for one bomb to 12 months.

A comprehensive deal also would put in place additional measures to ensure that any covert program is deterred or quickly detected. The additional monitoring and verification under the interim agreement has already dramatically expanded international oversight of Iran's nuclear program through increased IAEA access to sites. A comprehensive deal will provide additional monitoring and verification.

In addition, Iran has agreed to implement and ratify the additional protocol as part of a comprehensive deal. Specifically, it gives the IAEA expanded right of access to information and sites. With the additional protocol, the agency will have regular access to Iran's entire fuel cycle, including facilities such as Iran's uranium mines, centrifuge production facilities, and heavy-water production plant. This will make it far more difficult for Iran to siphon off materials for a covert program.

The additional protocol also helps the IAEA check for any clandestine nuclear activities in Iran by providing the agency with greater authority to carry out inspections in any facility with nuclear material. It also enables the agency to visit the nuclear facilities on short notice, making it more difficult to cover-up any activities intended to divert materials or that are inconsistent with a facilities' stated purposes.

MYTH: Iran needs to provide the IAEA with information about its past activities possibly related to nuclear weapons development before a comprehensive agreement is negotiated.

REALITY: On November 11, 2013, Iran and the IAEA concluded a framework agreement for moving forward to resolve the outstanding concerns. Under the terms of the framework, Iran and the IAEA agreed to resolve all outstanding issues, including past military dimensions, in a step-by-step manner. Iran has provided the IAEA with information on 16 areas to date, but is behind on turning over information on two past military dimension issues. Tying a comprehensive nuclear agreement to a resolution of the IAEA's investigation into the past activities is unnecessary and risks derailing a deal.

Resolving the questions about the past military dimension issue is important but is not a prerequisite for a comprehensive nuclear agreement. Nor is it realistic or necessary to expect a full "confession" from Iran that it pursued nuclear weapons in the past. Expecting Iran to "confess" that it pursued a nuclear weapons program is unrealistic and unnecessary. After having spent years denying that it pursued nuclear weapons and having delivered a fatwa against nuclear weapons, Tehran's senior leaders cannot afford to admit that it hid a nuclear weapons program.

Both sides understand that the IAEA investigation of past Iranian activities with possible military dimensions will continue after a comprehensive nuclear agreement is reached. At the same time, all sanctions tied to this particular issue should not be removed unless the questions are adequately resolved. This makes it more likely that if there is a comprehensive nuclear agreement, Iran will have a stronger incentive to provide the IAEA with the information necessary to determine that no such efforts are taking place now or will in the future.

MYTH: A nuclear deal with Iran, like a treaty or a "123" Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, requires Congressional approval.  

REALITY: Unlike a treaty, which requires the support of two-thirds of the Senate, a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran does not require a vote of approval from Congress. Unlike a civil nuclear cooperation agreement between the United States and another country, a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran will be a political agreement between the five-permanent members of the UN Security Council and Iran designed to induce Iran to meet goals and obligations established by the Security Council and through Iran's safeguards agreement with the IAEA.

Over time, Congress will, however, have a vital role in implementing a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran, including legislative action to remove and/or not renew legislatively-mandated, nuclear-related sanctions on Iran if and when Iran fulfils key non-proliferation obligations called for in a comprehensive agreement.

MYTH: A nuclear deal that allows Iran uranium enrichment and civilian nuclear power program will cause a proliferation cascade in the Middle East, with countries like Saudi Arabia deciding to move toward nuclear weapons.

REALITY: A verifiable, comprehensive nuclear deal will impose strict limits and monitoring on Iran's nuclear program, thus reducing the risk that Iran may someday pursue nuclear weapons. This will provide assurance to the international community that Tehran is not seeking nuclear weapons and that any deviations from the deal will be quickly noticed. This should reduce, not increase, the temptation by some states in the Middle East-particularly Saudi Arabia-to pursue the technical capabilities necessary to acquire nuclear weapons.

The alternative--no comprehensive P5+1 and Iran nuclear deal--would lead to an unconstrained Iranian nuclear program with less monitoring. This poses more of a threat to countries in the region and could increase the possibility of a "proliferation cascade" in the region.

MYTH: A good comprehensive deal with Iran must dismantle Iran's nuclear weapons capability.

REALITY: Iran has had a nuclear weapons capability, but has chosen not to develop nuclear weapons. The 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) assessed that Iran has developed a range of technologies, including uranium enrichment, nuclear warhead mechanics, and delivery systems, that would give it the option to launch a nuclear weapons development effort in a relatively short time frame "if it so chooses." Eliminating that capability is, for all practical purposes, not possible. Even if Iran completely "dismantled" its nuclear infrastructure, it could rebuild it. Tougher sanctions or a military strike also will not eliminate the knowledge and basic industrial capacity that Iran has developed and could rebuild.  

Ergo, the goal of a verifiable, comprehensive agreement must be to prevent Iran from exercising that capability by limiting and constraining its nuclear capacity (especially fissile material production) and by increasing transparency over its program. Phased sanctions relief also offers incentives for continued compliance to comply with the deal and not decide to build a nuclear weapon in the future.

Conclusion

U.S. negotiators have an historic opportunity to reach a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran that limits its nuclear program, blocks its pathways to a bomb, and guards against covert activities. The gravity of the situation demands a discussion on a comprehensive nuclear deal that is based on the realities of Iran's nuclear program, not myths and misconceptions about Tehran's past and current activities.--KELSEY DAVENPORT, DIRECTOR OF NONPROLIFERATION POLICY

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today.

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This issue brief seeks to dispel some of the most commonly held and articulated misconceptions about Iran's nuclear activities and the negotiations.

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Congress Should Support Negotiations, Not New Iran Sanctions

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Volume 7, Issue 1, January 15, 2015 

The United States has an historic opportunity to limit Iran’s nuclear program, block its pathways to the bomb, and guard against a covert nuclear weapons program.

Congressional action on sanctions at this time, however, threatens the significant progress made over the past year by the United States, its allies, and Iran toward a comprehensive nuclear deal.

Moving forward on new sanctions legislation against Iran threatens to derail negotiations, push Iran away from the negotiating table, and erode international support for the sanctions regime currently in place.

Contrary to the claims of sanctions proponents, any new nuclear-related sanctions legislation on Iran at this time would violate the terms of the first-phase deal that the United States and its P5+1 negotiating partners (China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom) committed to in the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action.

In addition, a bill might place new and unrealistic requirements on the comprehensive agreement that the parties are currently negotiating. Efforts by the U.S. Congress to move the goalposts for the final phase negotiations beyond the parameters already established by the P5+1 would undermine prospects for a final phase agreement.

A comprehensive nuclear agreement between the P5+1 and Iran is the only effective way to limit Iran's nuclear program and ensure that it is entirely peaceful. Rather than sabotaging the progress made to date and undermining the prospects for a more far-reaching final phase deal, the Congress should allow the P5+1 negotiators the time and support necessary to negotiate an effective diplomatic solution.

Sanctions Violate the Interim Deal

Several members of Congress are drafting new sanctions legislation. If approved, these sanctions would directly violate the United States commitment to "refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions" under the November 24, 2013 interim agreement

The most imminent sanctions bill will be considered before the Senate Banking Committee on Jan. 20 and marked-up later in the week. Its primary authors, Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), introduced a sanctions bill in December 2013, S. 1881, which, if passed, would have derailed the talks and the progress generated under the interim deal--which has halted the most worrisome aspects of Iran’s nuclear program and rolled back key elements.

Proponents of additional sanctions at this time claim that these measures will not go into effect until negotiations breakdown and that the possibility of additional sanctions pressure will keep Iran at the negotiating table.

However, passing new sanctions while talks are ongoing risks shattering the carefully built international coalition pressuring Iran to remain at the negotiating table.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said on Jan. 12 that the administration opposes new sanctions at this time, noting that "if we pull the trigger on new nuclear-related sanctions now, we will go from isolating Iran to potentially isolating ourselves."

If Washington passes sanctions now, the United States would be blamed for any breakdown of the talks, and other countries may resume trade with Iran. That would dramatically reduce U.S. leverage and the prospects for a diplomatic solution.

Even if sanctions were designed not go into effect immediately, and are “triggered” by an event such as the breakdown of talks, they would directly contradict the terms of the Joint Plan of Action. Triggered sanctions that depend on a “breakdown” also would require a subjective determination of what constitutes a breakdown in the talks.

Elizabeth Rosenberg, a former senior advisor the U.S. Department of Treasury, said at an Arms Control Association-Carnegie event on Dec. 3 that triggered sanctions send the wrong message to Iran. Rosenberg, now at the Center for a New American Security, said that sanctions at this time “... will be seen as an act of bad faith in Iran on the part of the U.S. and a sign that the U.S. negotiating team will not be able to deliver what it promises and that it won’t be able to successfully coordinate with Congress.”  

Rosenberg also said that “Iranians may not believe that Congress won’t change the goal posts again” when it comes time to lift sanctions when Iran takes particular actions in the event of a comprehensive agreement.

More Pressure Will Not Help

Some members of Congress, however, mistakenly believe that additional economic pressure at this time will push Iran to make further concessions at the negotiating table.

Kirk said on Jan. 4, “now is the time to put pressure on Iran especially with oil prices so low. We are uniquely advantaged at this time to shut down this nuclear program.”

This reasoning is illogical and incorrect for several reasons.

From a negotiating perspective, moving forward on any sanctions bill will give the hardliners in Iran considerable ammunition to assert that the United States is not following through on its commitments in the Joint Plan of Action and will not negotiate a comprehensive agreement in good faith. This could narrow the space that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has to negotiate a final deal even further.

New sanctions could also cause Iran to pull out of the negotiations. Iran made clear last year that it would interpret such a move as a violation of the Joint Plan of Action. Iran's Foreign Minister and lead negotiator Mohammad Javad Zarif said that a "deal is dead" if the United States imposes more sanctions, even if they do not go into effect during the negotiations.

However, for some members of Congress, the purpose of passing new sanctions is to end negotiations. Sen.Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said on Jan. 13 “the end of these negotiations isn't an unintended consequence of congressional action. It is very much an intended consequence, a feature, not a bug, so to speak."

Rejecting a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran before it is reached is irresponsible and dangerous. If the United States violates the interim agreement and talks fail, Iran is likely to also move down the path of escalation.

In December 2013, after Menendez and Kirk released the text of their sanctions bill, S. 1881, Iran drafted a law that would require Tehran to increase its uranium enrichment to 60 percent. One Iranian lawmaker said it was in response to “America’s hostile act.” While short of the 90 percent required for weapons-grade uranium, 60 percent puts Iran considerably closer than the five percent cap Tehran agreed to under the interim agreement.

The only way to block Iran’s pathways to the bomb, limit its nuclear activities, and put in place sufficiently intrusive monitoring to promptly detect a dash to the bomb is through a comprehensive nuclear deal. A return to the pre-interim agreement status quo of Iran’s steadily increasing nuclear capabilities with less international monitoring threatens U.S. and international security.  

Onerous and Unrealistic Conditions

Sanctions legislation in the past has also sought to put onerous and unnecessary constraints on the terms of a final deal. S. 1881, for instance, contained provisions that prevented sanctions relief unless Iran agreed to zero-enrichment and complete dismantlement of its "illicit nuclear infrastructure," which presumably would include Iran's uranium-enrichment facilities and the heavy-water reactor project at Arak.

Not only are these demands unrealistic and unnecessary to guard against a nuclear weapons program, they also contradict the broad parameters laid out in the November 2013 interim agreement. The interim deal states that Iran will have a limited uranium-enrichment program based on its “practical needs.”

Demanding complete dismantlement or zero enrichment may have been conceivable a decade ago when Iran only had a few hundred centrifuges. But today, demands that Iran permanently halt uranium enrichment are unrealistic and unattainable. A deal that bars Iran from enriching uranium for peaceful purposes would be unsustainable politically inside Iran. Additionally, such an outcome is not necessary.

The agreement that the negotiators from the United States, France, the U.K. Germany, France, China and Russia are now pursuing would dramatically increase the time it would take to produce enough enriched uranium for a bomb and put in place new international monitoring mechanisms to ensure compliance and to promptly detect a clandestine nuclear weapons effort.

Bottom Line

Contrary to the claims of proponents, legislation that imposes new sanctions on Iran would undermine, not enhance, the diplomatic effort to secure a comprehensive nuclear deal to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.

New, additional sanctions on Iran are clearly unnecessary at this time. The existing sanctions regime provides more than sufficient leverage on Iran to keep it at the negotiating table.

To date, both the P5+1 and Iran have abided by their commitments under the interim agreement known as the Joint Plan of Action. The enactment of additional sanctions would violate the commitment made by the United States in the interim agreement and could push Iran take escalatory steps of its own or pull out of the negotiations.  

If the International Atomic Energy Agency determines in the future that Iran is not fulfilling its commitments under the interim agreement, the Congress would still have the option to act quickly, and if necessary enact new sanctions. But as long as Iran and the P5+1 are holding up their ends of the agreement and a comprehensive deal is possible, Congress should support, not sabotage, the talks. --KELSEY DAVENPORT, DIRECTOR FOR NONPROLIFERATION POLICY

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The United States has an historic opportunity to limit Iran's nuclear program, block its pathways to the bomb, and guard against a covert nuclear weapons program.

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Illicit Traffickers Arrested in Moldova

January/February 2015

By Kelsey Davenport

Seven people were arrested in Moldova in December for allegedly smuggling radioactive materials that could be used in a dirty bomb.

Dirty bombs combine conventional explosives with radioactive sources to spread contamination.

Ion Bodrug, an official in Moldova’s Interior Ministry, said at a Dec. 9 press conference that raids in Chisinau and two other towns found 200 grams of uranium-238, one kilogram of mercury, and one kilogram of a radioactive substance.

U-238 is the most common isotope of uranium. Unlike U-235, it cannot be used as a nuclear explosive material.

The suspects allegedly transported the material, estimated to be worth about $2.1 million, from Russia on a train, Bodrug said. He did not say if the suspects had arranged a sale, but police collected documents and computers during the raids that uncovered the materials.

Interpol and the FBI worked with Moldovan authorities to uncover the smuggling operation and apprehend the suspects.

In a Dec. 11 press release, Jeffrey Muller, a member of Interpol’s team dealing with chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons-related issues, said the incident demonstrates the need for a “coordinated international approach” to prevent illicit trafficking of radioactive sources and nuclear materials across borders.

According to the Interpol statement, the seven individuals arrested are part of a criminal network that specializes in trafficking radioactive materials.

The International Atomic Energy Agency keeps a database to track incidents of illicit trafficking, theft, or misuse of radioactive and nuclear materials. According to the agency, states report more than 100 incidents a year to the database.

Six people were arrested in Moldova in 2011 for trying to sell one kilogram of weapons-usable uranium.

Seven people were arrested in Moldova in December for allegedly smuggling radioactive materials that could be used in a dirty bomb.

Understanding the Extension of the Iran Nuclear Talks and the Joint Plan of Action

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Volume 6, Issue 12, December 23, 2014

The decision last month by the United States, its P5+1 negotiating partners, and Iran to extend their negotiations by additional four months means that a long-term resolution to the impasse over Iran’s nuclear program has been delayed once again. At the same time, it also means that significant restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program remain in place while the nuclear talks continue.

Not only did the two sides agree to extend the restrictions on Iran’s program that were put in place under the November 2013 interim agreement, formally known as the Joint Plan of Action, but additional restrictions were put in place under the terms of the extension to ensure that progress on the most proliferation-sensitive elements of Iran’s nuclear program is halted.

To date, both Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russian, the United Kingdom, and the United States) have adhered to the obligations of the interim agreement. In the press conference announcing the extension of the talks and the Joint Plan of Action on November 24, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called attention to the compliance record, noting that there have been no violations of the agreement.

Terms of the Extension

Under the terms of the extension, Iran and the P5+1 committed to reaching a political agreement on the terms of a comprehensive nuclear deal within four months of November 24, 2014 and then taking an additional three months to complete any technical annexes by June 30, 2015.

However, several of the parties expressed an intention to complete the negotiations on a political agreement in a shorter time frame. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters on November 24 that a deal could be reached in a matter a days. British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond said that two to three months was a realistic goal. Regardless of the timing, the restrictions of the interim agreement will remain in place through June 2015.

In total, under the terms of the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action, Iran has stopped enriching uranium to 20 percent, a key proliferation concern to the P5+1 because 20 percent enriched material is more easily enriched to weapons-grade material (greater than 90 percent U-235). Leading up to the interim deal, Iran had nearly amassed enough 20 percent enriched uranium gas, which when further enriched to weapons grade, is enough for one bomb (about 250 kilograms).

Over the past twelve months, Iran also took steps to neutralize its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium gas. Half of its stockpile was blended down to less than five percent enriched uranium gas, and the other half was converted to more proliferation-resistant uranium powder, which is used to make fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor.

Iran also halted major construction activities at the Arak reactor, froze the number of its operating and installed centrifuges, and agreed to more intrusive inspections, including daily access to its enrichment facilities.  Iran also agreed only to produce centrifuges necessary to replace damaged machines.

The extension announced November 24 imposes additional obligations on Iran. Under the new restrictions, Iran will continue to convert its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium powder into fuel plates. At the time of the Nov. 24 extension, Iran had approximately 75 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium powder in its stockpile. Tehran agreed to convert 35 kilograms of this powder into fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor over the next seven months.[1]

While this material can be converted back into gas form for further enrichment, the conversion steps would take additional time and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would very likely detect any such efforts quickly. Iran also committed not to set up a line to reconvert uranium oxide powder back into gas. The IAEA notes in its reports on Iran’s nuclear program that no such conversion line exists.

Iran and the P5+1 also agreed to more specific restrictions on Iran’s research and development program to resolve ambiguities and prevent Iran from moving its advanced centrifuges to new levels of testing.

Under the interim agreement, Iran can continue its safeguarded research and development activities.  This includes testing of advanced centrifuges at the Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant, so long as testing is not used for the accumulation of enriched uranium.

The additional restrictions on research and development as a result of the Nov. 24 extension, are designed to resolve ambiguities[2] regarding permitted and prohibited research activities. According to the documents outlining the extension, these provisions are designed to “limit research and development on advanced centrifuges that move the machines to the next level of development.”

Under these provisions, Iran agreed not to test the IR-5 with uranium hexafluoride gas. Iran also agreed not to pursue testing of the IR-6 on a cascade level with uranium gas, or semi-industrial scale testing of the IR-2M. Iran also agreed not to complete installation of the IR-8 centrifuge, which is currently partially installed at the Natanz pilot plant.

The IAEA will also have greater access to Iran’s centrifuge production sites under the extension. According to the terms, the agency’s inspections visits will double and be conducted with very little notice.

Taken together, the limits on research and development and regular access to monitor centrifuge production facilities will prevent Iran from refining and mass-producing more efficient machines that could allow it to move more quickly to enrich material for weapons purposes.

Iran also agreed to forgo uranium enrichment using other methods, including laser enrichment. While it is unlikely that Iran could move quickly to enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels using these alternative methods, the commitment to refrain from testing any of these methods is positive and should mitigate concerns about covert enrichment activities involving such technologies.

Iran is known to have experimented with laser enrichment in the past, and as part of its agreement to cooperate with the IAEA’s investigation into inconsistencies with its nuclear declaration and alleged activities with past military dimensions, Iran provided the agency with information about its laser enrichment activities. Iran also granted the IAEA access to the Lashkar Ab’ad Laser Centre on March 12 as part of its investigation.

On the P5+1 side, the limited sanctions relief from the United States and the European Union in the petrochemical and precious metals trade remains in place. As does the commitment not to pass any new nuclear-related sanctions at the U.S., EU, or UN levels. The humanitarian channel also remains in place.

In addition, Iran will receive access to $700 million of its frozen assets per month.

Conclusion

With the Joint Plan of Action in effect, Iran’s nuclear program remains limited and highly-monitored. The additional measures in the extension move Iran further away from a dash to the bomb. And contrary to the assertion of some skeptics, Iran cannot use the extension to advance its nuclear capabilities.

President Barack Obama said on December 21 in an interview on CNN's "State of the Union" that since the United States began negotiations with Iran in mid-2013, it’s "probably the first year and a half in which Iran has not advanced its nuclear program in the last decade."  

Both sides must use the additional time afforded by the extension of the talks wisely. It is essential that the two sides work expeditiously but carefully to bridge remaining gaps necessary to conclude an effective, verifiable, long-term agreement that blocks all of Iran’s potential pathways to nuclear weapons: the plutonium route, the enriched uranium route, as well as the clandestine route. –KELSEY DAVENPORT and DARYL G. KIMBALL


ENDNOTES

[1] As pointed out by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) in a Dec. 9, 2014 paper, some of the material fed into the conversion process remains within the process or in scrap or waste form. Some of this material can be recovered and converted back into gas for further enrichment. We agree that the waste and scrap are an issue of nonproliferation concern that should be dealt with appropriately in the comprehensive agreement now under negotiation. However, in judging Iran’s compliance with its obligations under the terms of the Joint Plan of Action, it is our judgment, and that of the IAEA, that Iran is in compliance with the commitments as set forth in the interim agreement.

[2] The IAEA’s quarterly report of Nov. 7, 2014, noted that Iran began feeding natural uranium hexafluoride “intermittently” into a single IR-5 centrifuge at its pilot facility. While unhelpful, this does not appear to be a “violation” of the Joint Plan of Action, as the ISIS has alleged. ISIS published an analysis on the IAEA report that said that “Iran may have violated” the Joint Plan of Action by starting to feed natural uranium gas into the IR-5 centrifuge. ISIS went on to claim that: "Under the interim deal, this centrifuge should not have been fed with (gas) as reported in this safeguards report." See: “U.S. experts disagree on whether Iran violated nuclear deal with powers,” by Fredrik Dahl, Reuters, Nov. 8, 2014. 

            However, the text of the Joint Plan of Action is more ambiguous than ISIS suggests. It says: "Iran will continue its safeguarded R&D practices, including its current enrichment R&D practices, which are not designed for accumulation of the enriched uranium." The Nov. 7 IAEA report noted, in paragraphs 25 and 26, that no low-enriched uranium was withdrawn as the product and tails were recombined at the end of the process.

            Furthermore, while the Joint Plan of Action prohibits the introduction of uranium gas into additional centrifuges at Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP), it does not rule out research and development of this kind at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP).

            However, due to the ambiguous nature of the terms of the Joint Plan of Action and the concern that Iran might try to exploit those ambiguities, the P5+1 succeeded in persuading Iran to agree to further limits on feeding or testing its more advanced types of centrifuges as part of the extended Joint Plan of Action.

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Under the terms of the extension, Iran and the P5+1 committed to reaching a political agreement on the terms of a comprehensive nuclear deal within four months of November 24, 2014.

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North Korea Wants Talks, Russia Says

December 2014

By Kelsey Davenport

North Korea is prepared to resume negotiations over its nuclear program without preconditions, according to Russia’s foreign minister.

Sergey Lavrov said on Nov. 20 that Russia had received the assurances from a North Korean special envoy who met with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier in the week.

North Korean special envoy Choe Ryong Hae meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (not shown) in Moscow on November 20. (ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)The envoy delivered a letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which said that Pyongyang wanted to restart multilateral talks and promised “cooperation in solving problems that are now lingering on the Korean peninsula,” according to Lavrov.

The so-called six-party talks, which include China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States, began in 2003 with the goal of dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program and continued intermittently until April 2009, when North Korea said it would no longer participate.

As part of the talks, North Korea committed to denuclearization in a 2005 joint statement with the other five countries. (See ACT, November 2013.)

On July 30, Glyn Davies, special representative for North Korea policy at the U.S. State Department, said that the United States is looking for substantial actions by North Korea on denuclearization before restarting talks. Davies said these actions could include steps by North Korea such as freezing its nuclear program and inviting inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency back into the country. North Korea expelled inspectors in 2009.

These preconditions are necessary because North Korea “increasingly rejects meaningful negotiations,” he said.
Davies was succeeded as special representative by Sung Kim on Nov. 6.

In a Nov. 26 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Duyeon Kim of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said, “Pyongyang seems to want arms control talks rather than denuclearization talks, which would be unacceptable for Washington and its other six-party partners.”

Due to domestic political pressures, the Obama administration needs an “obvious sign that Pyongyang is serious about denuclearization or else it would be too politically risky for Washington to resume six-party talks without some predictability that talks won’t fail again,” Kim said.

Lavrov’s Nov. 20 announcement came the same day that North Korea threatened a fourth nuclear test in response to a resolution passed by the UN Human Rights Committee on Nov. 18 that recommends referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court for human rights abuses.

Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) blamed the United States for orchestrating the resolution and said in a Nov. 20 article that “U.S. hostile action makes it hard for [North Korea] to exercise any restraint any longer in conducting a new nuclear test.”

North Korea tested nuclear devices in October 2006, May 2009, and February 2013 and is believed to have an arsenal of approximately eight to 12 nuclear weapons.

During the run-up to the 2013 test, experts had said North Korea might be attempting to test a miniaturized device that eventually could allow Pyongyang to place nuclear weapons on its missiles.

The KCNA statement on the day of that test said North Korea was testing a miniaturized device. The statement did not provide additional details, and the claim has been difficult for outsiders to substantiate.

On Oct. 25, however, Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, told reporters that he believed that the North Koreans have “the capability to have miniaturized a device at this point and they have the technology to potentially actually deliver” such a device.

Scaparotti said he did not believe that North Korea has actually placed a nuclear weapon on a missile and acknowledged that his assessment was not based on “hard evidence” but on his own view of Pyongyang’s technological capabilities.

In April 2013, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency concluded with “moderate confidence” that North Korea had acquired the capability to place a nuclear weapon on a missile that has a range of less than 1,000 miles.

According to an April 2013 statement from James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, the U.S. intelligence agencies did not all reach the same conclusion, and President Barack Obama also disputed the claim.
South Korea has claimed for some time that North Korea could fit a nuclear warhead on a missile.

A former South Korean official told Arms Control Today last May that Pyongyang can “likely fit a nuclear warhead on a Rodong missile” although it is not certain that the warhead would detonate properly.

The medium-range Rodong missile, also known as the Nodong, is a deployed system with a range of 1,300 kilometers. This places South Korea, Japan, and parts of China within its range.

North Korea may also be pursuing the ability to launch ballistic missiles from a submarine.

According to an Oct. 18 analysis by Joseph Bermudez on 38 North, a website run by the U.S. Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, North Korea has a previously unidentified submarine at the Sinpo South Shipyard whose design resembles one used by Yugoslavia.

North Korea obtained submarine designs from Yugoslavia during the 1970s and has used the designs on its past submarine work, he said.

Although Bermudez said it was “too early to identify the missions intended for this new class of submarine,” it appeared to be “designed as a test bed for a submarine-launched ballistic missile.”

In a subsequent analysis on Oct. 28, Bermudez noted a new test stand at the Sinpo South Shipyard, “probably intended to explore the possibility of launching ballistic missiles from submarines or of a shipboard vertical launch ballistic missile capability.”

The latter would allow North Korea to launch ballistic missiles from surface ships.

Bermudez cautioned against exaggerating the threat posed by the submarine. He said that if North Korea decides to pursue this capability, “it will likely take years to design, develop, manufacture and deploy an operational submarine-launched ballistic missile force.”

North Korea is prepared to resume negotiations over its nuclear program without preconditions, according to Russia’s foreign minister.

Iran, P5+1 Extend Nuclear Talks

December 2014

Kelsey Davenport

Iran and six world powers extended negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear agreement for a second time after failing to reach a deal by Nov. 24.

Negotiators now see a “credible path” toward a comprehensive agreement and aim to conclude a deal by June 30, according to a Nov. 24 joint statement from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the European Union’s Catherine Ashton, lead negotiator for the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States). The statement came after seven days of talks in Vienna.

In November 2013, Iran and the P5+1 reached an interim agreement and said they intended to complete negotiations on a comprehensive deal, for which they later set a deadline of July 20. On that date, however, negotiators announced that they would need additional time and extended the talks until Nov. 24. (See ACT, September 2014.)

Since the July extension, Iran and the P5+1 have met multiple times in a variety of formats, including a Nov. 9-10 meeting in Muscat, Oman, involving Ashton, Zarif, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

In the statement announcing the most recent extension, Ashton and Zarif said the two sides aim to reach a political agreement within four months and then complete the technical annexes for a comprehensive agreement before the June 30 deadline.

During the extension, both sides will continue to implement the 2013 interim agreement, the statement said. That agreement halts Iranian nuclear activities, provides limited sanctions relief from the P5+1, and allows Iran access to certain frozen assets. (See ACT, December 2013.)

Kerry, who joined the talks on Nov. 20, also delivered a statement on Nov. 24, saying that more time is needed because the issues are technical and complex and that the United States wants to get the “right agreement.”
According to Kerry, that means a deal that must “close off all of the pathways for Iran to get fissile material for a nuclear weapon” and put in place “a new level of transparency and verification.” In return, Iran would receive relief from nuclear-related sanctions.

Iran maintains that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful, but the international community is concerned Iran may choose to develop nuclear weapons.

On Nov. 17, the day before the most recent round of talks started, a senior U.S. official said on a media call that an extension had not been discussed and the parties were “focused on whether we can get a comprehensive understanding concluded” by Nov. 24.

Another official at the talks said in a Nov. 25 interview that negotiators resisted discussion on extending the talks until “very close to the end” when it was clear the two sides could not reach an agreement.

Some officials were disappointed by the length of the extension, he said, and would have favored a shorter time frame for reaching an agreement or a longer stay in Vienna to see if an agreement could be reached.

In remarks to the press following the extension announcement, Zarif said that the political agreement could be reached “in a few days” if the countries are willing to be flexible and make “hard decisions.”

UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on Nov. 24 that negotiators gave themselves four months but aim to reach the political agreement in “three months or so.” Hammond said both sides would need to be flexible to get an agreement.
 
Enrichment an Obstacle
Left to right, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi attend a November 24 session of the Vienna talks on Iran’s nuclear program. Their countries are members of the P5+1, which also includes Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. (JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty)At the time of the first extension in July, negotiators said that Iran and the P5+1 had found common ground on a number of issues, such as the future of the uncompleted Arak heavy-water reactor and the Fordow enrichment facility. But significant gaps on key issues remained. (See ACT, September 2014.)

During the week of talks last month, the two sides made “real and substantial progress,” including on some of the “most vexing challenges,” Kerry said in his statement. Negotiators now see ways to reach agreement on some intractable issues, he said.

Determining the size of Iran’s uranium-enrichment program and the sequence of sanctions relief have been difficult issues for the negotiators to resolve, but a third official at the talks said in a Nov. 24 interview that the sides made “serious progress” on the issue of uranium enrichment.

The official said it has been extremely difficult to find a solution that meets the P5+1 “breakout demands” and leaves enough uranium-enrichment capability intact for Iran to “sell the compromise in Tehran.”

Breakout, in this case, refers to the amount of time it would take for Iran to enrich enough uranium to weapons grade for one nuclear weapon, about 25 kilograms of uranium enriched to a level at which 90 percent of the material is uranium-235. Additional time is required to weaponize the material. 

Currently, it would take Iran two to three months to produce enough material for one weapon, according to Kerry’s congressional testimony earlier this year. Kerry has said that the United States wants to extend that time to about a year.

To achieve this goal, the P5+1 wants to reduce Iran’s enrichment capacity and place limits on other elements of its nuclear program, including the stockpiles of enriched material that Iran maintains and the types of new centrifuges that the country is developing.

Iran currently is enriching uranium to less than 5 percent U-235, an enrichment level that would make the material usable in power reactors.

Tehran says it needs to increase its uranium-enrichment capacity in the future to provide fuel for nuclear power reactors it plans to build. Under a contract that runs through 2021, Russia is supplying the fuel for Iran’s only currently operating power reactor, at Bushehr.

Although the third official acknowledged that Iran and the P5+1 likely could not have reached an agreement by Nov. 24 on uranium enrichment, he said that some of the officials at the talks favored a shorter extension of several weeks to close the remaining gaps and expressed concern that the long extension may result in a “loss of momentum.”

Hammond said negotiators need to “take the momentum that has been generated over the last month or so” and “keep moving with it.”

Sanctions Relief
A man looks at newspapers displayed outside a kiosk in Tehran on November 25, a day after Iran and the P5+1 announced that they were extending their talks for a second time. (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)In the Nov. 25 interview, the second official said that finding a compromise on sanctions relief still poses a significant challenge. Iran is subject to U.S., EU, and UN sanctions because of its nuclear activities.

Earlier in the talks, Iran was pushing for an approach that would provide relief from banking and oil sanctions, which are imposed primarily through U.S. and EU measures, in the early phases of a deal, the official said. But when talks resumed in September after the announcement of the first extension, Iran pressed for the lifting of UN sanctions, the official said.

Since 2006, the UN Security Council has passed four resolutions imposing sanctions on Iran in a variety of areas for failing to comply with a July 2006 resolution requiring Tehran to halt its uranium-enrichment activities. The sanctions cover such areas as investment in some parts of Iran’s economy and the import or export of materials and technologies that could be used for Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

In March 2006, Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, requested Security Council action because he thought it could “serve as a forum to find ways and means to bring back all the parties to the negotiating table.”

Prior to his request for UN action, France, Germany, and the UK were negotiating with Iran on its nuclear program after the international community discovered that Iran was building the Natanz facility in secret.

There are concerns about lifting sanctions too early because the P5+1 wants to ensure that Iran continues to comply with a comprehensive deal for the long term, the second official said. If the sanctions relief comes too early, it may be difficult to reimpose measures if Iran does not adhere to the agreement, the official said.

Kerry said the P5+1 wants to “terminate the sanctions” but “the world still has serious questions about Iran’s nuclear program.” Iran will need to take “concrete, verifiable steps to answer those questions” before the sanctions are terminated, he said.

Bernadette Meehan, spokeswoman for the U.S. National Security Council, said on Oct. 19 that the administration has been “clear that initially there would be suspension” of sanctions and that termination of the sanctions would come after Iran meets “serious and substantive benchmarks.”

The president has the authority to waive most sanctions on Iran for national security purposes for short periods of time.

Additional Sanctions Threatened
Under the interim agreement, the United States pledged not to impose any additional nuclear-related sanctions on Iran.

Although those conditions still apply to the extension, the second official expressed concern that U.S. members of Congress may “disregard the negotiators” and press ahead with sanctions that could “spoil the chances of a deal,” particularly once the Republican-controlled Congress convenes in January.

In the Nov. 4 elections, Republicans gained control of the Senate and increased their majority in the House of Representatives.

After the announcement on extending the talks, several members of Congress spoke out in favor of new measures to put additional pressure on Iran.

In a joint statement, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), and John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the “latest extension of talks should be coupled with increased sanctions.” Although the senators said they support diplomatic efforts, they also said they were concerned that allowing Iran any enrichment capability in a deal could lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

Kerry asked Congress to support the extension and said that negotiators have “earned the benefit of the doubt” by producing an agreement that has worked and has not been violated by either side. Although Iran receives limited sanctions relief under the interim agreement, the sanctions regime “remains intact,” Kerry said.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said it would be “unwise” for Congress to pass new sanctions during the extension and that such new sanctions would be a violation of the interim agreement. Murphy said it is important that the United States is not responsible for a “breakdown in negotiations.”

Sanctions would create an opening for Iran “to retaliate by resuming uranium enrichment to 20 percent, adding new and advanced centrifuges, or other dangerous and escalatory measures,” Murphy said.

Iran halted enrichment of uranium to 20 percent as part of the interim agreement and eliminated its stockpile of gas enriched to that level. The stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium in gas form was a particular concern to the P5+1 because uranium enriched to that level is more easily enriched further to weapons grade.

Iran and six world powers extended talks on a comprehensive nuclear deal for a second time after failing to reach an agreement last month.

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