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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
Nuclear Nonproliferation

Triggers, Redlines, and the Fate of the Iran Nuclear Accord

Why action now by Congress could be counterproductive.

December 2017
By Richard Nephew

Following President Donald Trump’s decision no longer to certify that the Iran nuclear accord is in the
U.S. national security interest, the conversation in Washington has focused on what Congress can and ought to do next.

Given the centrality of the issue of when certain restrictions on Iran's nuclear activities expire under the accord, there is a possibility that Congress will seek to pass legislation to address the perceived problem by attempting to unilaterally change the terms of the 2015 agreement. Republican Senators Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Tom Cotton (Ark.) said they would introduce legislation1 that creates triggers or redlines for the automatic snapback of U.S. sanctions suspended pursuant to the agreement, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), although there is a chance that they will hold off moving forward for some time due to lack of support.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) with President Donald Trump at the White House on August 2. Cotton has been a leading voice in the Senate urging the president not to certify Iranian compliance with the nuclear accord, so that Congress can act.  (Photo credit: Zach Gibson - Pool/Getty Images)These triggers or redlines could be simple (e.g., focused on uranium centrifuge numbers) or complex (e.g., related to stages of ballistic missile development). Yet, the concept is the same across the board: manage the political problem of a president who campaigned against the nuclear agreement having to validate Iranian compliance, which is occurring, while devolving responsibility for the response to that compliance away from the chief executive and legislative branch to a set of “dead man’s switches.”

Separate and apart from the wisdom of this approach, discussion of such options misses the real point concerning Iran and the challenge if Iran’s nuclear program expands in the future. The central challenge is not in figuring out how the United States could respond in such a scenario; it is in ascertaining how best to achieve the goal of preventing Iran’s nuclear program from expanding in the first place. In legislating on the topic of nuclear redlines and Iranian sunsets, Congress may be able to cobble together a framework for managing the U.S. policy response. By doing so, however, Congress might eliminate any chance for negotiations with the Iranians to arrest this problem. In fact, legislating on Iranian behavior without any thought as to how Iran will actually be convinced to agree is not only somewhat pointless, it is also counterproductive in the extreme.

The Trouble With Triggers

To start, it is worth reviewing the text of existing U.S. law, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (INARA). In essence, it lays out the process whereby the JCPOA would be evaluated by Congress for its suitability and then enforced into the future. Congress was not entirely clear as to what would be involved in the JCPOA, as specific provisions were still under negotiation with the Iranians and U.S. partners in the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom) when the legislation passed. Nevertheless, as a result of extensive briefings provided by the Obama administration, Congress had a decent idea that the agreement would involve U.S. and UN Security Council sanctions relief being traded for Iran accepting restrictions on its nuclear program, as well as additional monitoring and transparency.

Congress therefore gave itself a broad mandate to review the JCPOA and its constituent parts and the president a broad obligation to confirm on a regular basis that Iran was living up to its responsibilities under the deal. The result was a series of reporting requirements imposed on various parts of the U.S. executive branch and intelligence community, as well as the quarterly certification requirement that Iran was complying with its obligations and that sanctions relief under the JCPOA was in the U.S. national security interest. It is this latter point that the president has now refused to certify.

The rest of that law, however, is constructed as a way of signaling to Iran what would happen if it were to cheat on its obligations and to simplify the process of mounting that response. The concept is that a sanctions snapback strategy might be required if Iran starts to break out of its nuclear restrictions and that it would be prudent for that process to be as expedient as possible. Congress therefore defined cheating in broad terms, speaking of “material breaches,” “compliance incidents,” and even “potentially significant breaches.”

Congress wisely left the determination of what constitutes what in the hands of the president and the executive branch, requiring information about any such problems but avoiding prescription. Congress even acknowledged the possibility that a breach or compliance issue might arise but be “cured” by Iran, noting in essence that mistakes or provocations were to be expected during the JCPOA and that flexibility ought to be afforded to the president and his diplomats to fix them.

By discussing redlines and triggers, Congress may undo this effective and prudent setup to our collective detriment. First and foremost, if drawn tightly, such redlines and triggers could create unwarranted and unnecessary crises with Iran even where fundamental risks from the nuclear program are not present. Triggers and redlines are intended to serve as a forcing function in which A automatically results in B. For example, a redline may be drawn that Iran may not possess more than 300 kilograms of enriched uranium in forms other than fuel in perpetuity. If the amount of enriched uranium was reported at 301 kilograms, although this has no significance from the perspective of weapons breakout, the result would be the same as if Iran possessed 1,000 or 10,000 kilograms of enriched uranium in the same form: snapback of U.S. sanctions and likely a confrontation with Iran. At the same time, if the decision is made to have a redline that is looser than the underlying JCPOA requirement, say, a redline at 350 kilograms rather than 301, then the approach opens up areas of “acceptable” marginal behavior, giving Iran the impression that it can play within the range of 300-350 kilograms.

Some may argue that this is precisely why a tight trigger ought to be agreed, to stop Iran from playing games on the margins of the JCPOA. Proponents of this strategy might note that Iran played such games on heavy-water production in 2016, edging just over the permissible threshold of heavy-water possession on two occasions, and that it is precisely this kind of behavior that merits prevention. The theory goes that if Iran sees a tight trigger, it will be dissuaded from testing the fences that ring it in the JCPOA.

But, there are few scenarios in which a numerical benchmark is obtainable. Many of the issues in the JCPOA depend on interpretation of data where there may be no consensus or no judgment. On transparency and verification, for example, throughout the JCPOA, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is called on to conduct inspections and complementary access visits in order to verify various aspects of the agreement. As a matter of logical necessity, it is up to the IAEA to make the call as to whether it assesses Iranian compliance with those elements or not. Member states can object to the IAEA assessment and render their own verdicts, but this too is a subjective appraisal. It is impossible, therefore, to have a trigger attached to such access that is immune from interpretation unless it is so mundane as to be meaningless (e.g., numbers of inspector visits).

This opens up another problem: what happens if part of the JCPOA is not captured under an explicit trigger? Just as with the concept of a 350-kilogram limit on enriched uranium, any indication given to Iran that some provisions are less important than others could convey an unhelpful signal to Iran that noncompliance in one area would be treated differently than noncompliance in another. Even if a catchall provision were to be retained, the damage might still be done, as it is human nature to take signals from perceived prioritization. After all, laws are written to forbid specific crimes rather than to encourage people to behave as good citizens.

Last but not least, if a trigger and redline approach operates as intended, then it eliminates the opportunity for diplomacy and negotiation in managing incidents that might emerge. Automaticity in the design of snapback means by its very definition that once an assessment of noncompliance is made, there would be limited opportunities for the Iranians to make redress. Presumably, they could do so before such a determination was reported to Congress, although this would create all the same problems as under the present system and as outlined above with respect to a more flexible interpretation of noncompliance.

After that, unless there is significant leeway accorded to the president on enforcement of snapped-back sanctions, which would reduce the credibility of threat itself, the die would be cast. This might be fine if the intent is to police behavior without concern for the consequences of violations, but it is worth underscoring that it is not in the interest of the United States for there to be violations in the first place. The entire basis of the accord was that the imposition of consequences for Iran’s violations of its obligations was less valuable than a resolution of the underlying nuclear problem with Iran. That would not necessarily be the case with a less flexible approach.

In all of this, an analogy with U.S. nuclear strategy in the 1950s and 1960s may be warranted. Advocates of the trigger and redline approach lament the flexible response arrangements of the present, but it is not apparent that going to a “massive retaliation” strategy would accomplish much more than raising real risks of a rapid and unintended escalation into a crisis with Iran.

Of course, some advocates of triggers and redlines have underscored that their interest is not necessarily in going after Iran today but rather laying out a set of requirements on Iran for the future. This trigger and redline approach would be potentially different because it would not be intended to resolve implementation problems but rather to police Iranian behavior after Iran’s affirmative obligations under the JCPOA start to lapse.

In this conception, the redlines and triggers would not really come into play until such time as Iran’s nuclear program begins to change and expand toward the later years of the JCPOA restrictions, or roughly 2023 forward. Options could include things such as a decision to snap-back sanctions if Iran fields advanced centrifuges in greater numbers than research and development scale starting in 2028 or a decision to reimpose sanctions if Iran declined to source its future power reactors from foreign vendors, instead preferring to build and fuel its own.

From a nonproliferation perspective, both of these Iranian steps are objectionable in their own ways. Other examples of potentially problematic Iranian nuclear activities that could occur as restrictions lapse abound, such as a decision by Iran to restart R&D on spent fuel reprocessing or the production of uranium enriched to a level higher than 3.67 percent U-235. For this reason, it is in the U.S. interest to avoid these outcomes and to work to prevent these developments.

The Matter of Iranian Honor

Those inclined to pursue a redline and trigger approach appear to believe that the most effective way forward is to threaten Iran into cooperation. They are arguing implicitly that an Iran that knows the potential consequences of its activities is an Iran that will stay meekly in its box, abiding by foreign-imposed restrictions.

Unfortunately, that is not likely to take place. Iran’s very core identity is that of a revolutionary state that resists the imperialistic tendencies of the West and those of the United States in particular. This identity was forged in the resentments that were engendered in a history of colonialism and foreign power domination, most recently experienced in the U.S. and UK-assisted coup against Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953 and in the predatory oil investment arrangements that Iranians felt were foisted on them throughout the 20th century.

Iranian soldiers march Sept. 22 past President Hassan Rouhani during the annual military parade in Tehran marking the anniversary of the outbreak of its 1980-1988 war with Iraq. Rouhani vowed that Iran will boost its ballistic missile capabilities despite criticism from the United States.  (Photo credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images)Taking aside completely whether a U.S. decision to impose penalties against Iran for nuclear activities that, to a certain extent, were determined to be acceptable in the JCPOA would be a violation, the simple reality is that an overt imposition of obligations on Iran from the outside is the completely wrong way to start this conversation with Iran. Throughout the 2002-2015 period, when various attempts at negotiation with Iran were made, the Iranians were unambiguous about precisely one thing: they would not accept any arrangement in which they were forced to obey the demands of an outside power.

The Iranian system imposed this constraint, and Iranian negotiators observed it religiously. It is this reason, for example, that the JCPOA and the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) that preceded it included so many references to Iran undertaking voluntary actions or making a decision as to what it would do. The legal impact of these decisions was the same as a prohibition, but the phrasing was an essential element of getting Iran to agree.

U.S. negotiators were confronted with this challenge early on in the JPOA’s restrictions on its enrichment plants and the Arak heavy-water reactor. The United States wanted to have a concrete requirement on Iran not to expand its enrichment plants or to construct the reactor, which would be capable of producing weapons-usable plutonium. Iran would not agree to such blunt language. In the end, the United States agreed to accept a statement that “Iran announces that it will not make any further advances of its activities at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant, Fordow, or the Arak reactor, designated by the IAEA as IR-40.”2 The United States then used IAEA inspector access and U.S. intelligence resources to verify that this announced intention was observed.

The result was that Iran was able to frame its commitment in its own way, and the United States got the desired end result. Proponents of a trigger and redline approach might argue that they too would be fine with such an outcome and that their concept would not inherently preclude Iran making a similar declaration in the future. Yet, by framing the very discussion of this approach as coercing Iran’s future behavior, Congress would nonetheless feed into the internal deliberations in Iran as to why it would be taking or, more likely, forgoing nuclear steps in the future. This would make the jobs of those future Iranian leaders more difficult if not impossible, especially if the next few years involve a more general increase in tensions between the United States and Iran.

An important difference must be made between legislating what the United States wants and getting what the United States wants. Congress naturally has the ability under the U.S. Constitution to set conditions for what the U.S. executive branch can offer insofar as sanctions relief is concerned or even what would constitute an acceptable policy toward Iran. Historical precedent has tended to accord a president latitude in implementing his own foreign policy, which Congress has largely respected. Yet, Congress cannot legislate what a foreign government will do, only what the United States will do in response. The problem therefore emerges: how to get Iran to sign on to U.S. requirements and preferences.

The prevailing theory of the redline approach is that the threat of overwhelming U.S. sanctions pressure will be sufficient. This is a dubious proposition. U.S. sanctions prior to the 2013 JPOA were hardly light in touch, driving the Iranian economy into recession and depriving it of more than $50 billion in oil revenues in 2012 alone. Some have argued that Iran would have accepted deeper concessions in JCPOA negotiations had sanctions not been held back in 2013, but this is at best conjecture and speculation, if not wishful thinking. This author’s own assessment is that sanctions had delivered as much pressure as was going to be achievable and that they were a wasting asset.

Either way, the sanctions pressure was able to bring Iran along only so far, and bringing more to bear would require not only snapback but far deeper sanctions against Iran. Given international hesitancy to support the Trump administration approach, it is a purely hypothetical exercise to suggest that even snapback would be effective, much less obtaining the comprehensive global embargo against Iran that would be necessary for a sanctions-focused strategy to have even a chance of succeeding.

Getting the Best of Both Worlds

As was hinted in the description of what Iran accepted in JPOA language, the right answer is to get Iran to believe it is in its own interest to take the required steps and to be able to sell the result at home. This requires more tact and diplomacy and less rigid demands from the outside, but has the hope of creating actual solutions with Iran and a more sustainable agreement to boot.

To start, Congress should not change the approach of a flexible response to compliance standards embodied in INARA, and it should not adopt rigid redlines to manage Iran’s future nuclear program. Instead, Congress should maintain its more general view of how Iranian compliance under the JCPOA should be judged and should outline the broad strokes of U.S. priorities for future negotiations with Iran.

Activists participate in a protest in front of the White House October 12 denouncing President Trump's anticipated decision to decertify the Iran nuclear deal.  (Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)Congress can offer legislation that mandates reimposition of U.S. sanctions against Iran long into the future if evidence emerges that Iran is once again violating its nonproliferation commitments or that the IAEA is unable to provide assurances as to the absence of undeclared Iranian nuclear activities after the JCPOA’s expanded verification requirements end. This would be the establishment of a redline but one sufficiently distant and broad so as to permit latitude for executive branch performance. Alternatively and preferably, Congress can simply wait to see what happens, content in the knowledge that a massive snapback of sanctions remains a U.S. policy option in perpetuity, provided there is adequate cause and scope.

Privately, Congress can register with the administration its views as to what would constitute sufficient measures for a long-term arrangement, charging the administration to seek negotiations with Iran and other U.S. partners in its pursuit. The administration can define core elements for such an arrangement, prioritizing those measures that would provide expanded confidence as to Iran’s nuclear intent, and then seek a variety of ways for bringing them about. These could include enhancements to the IAEA’s standard safeguards practices, improved global export controls, regional arrangements, and even a direct agreement with Iran.3

Such a strategy would not generate immediate headlines nor would it satisfy the visceral desire on the part of some to see Iran acquiesce to the demands of the United States. Yet, it might just have a chance of securing the kind of steps and commitments on Iran’s part that would be necessary to convert the JCPOA into a longer-term, more sustainable nonproliferation instrument.

ENDNOTES

1. “Fixing the Iran Deal: Background and Key Elements,” n.d., https://www.foreign.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/INARA%20Amendment%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf.

2. “Appendix C: Text of the Joint Plan of Action,” Arms Control Association, June 23, 2014, https://www.armscontrol.org/reports/Solving-the-Iranian-Nuclear-Puzzle/2014/06/APPENDIX_C-Text-of-the-Joint-Plan-of-Action.

3. Robert Einhorn and Richard Nephew, “The Iran Nuclear Deal: Prelude to Proliferation in the Middle East,” Brookings Institution, May 31, 2016, https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-iran-nuclear-deal-prelude-to-proliferation-in-the-middle-east/.


Richard Nephew is a senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. Previously, he was principal deputy coordinator for sanctions policy at the Department of State from 2013 to 2015. Nephew also served as the lead sanctions expert for the U.S. team negotiating with Iran on the nuclear deal. From May 2011 to January 2013, Nephew served as the director for Iran on the National Security Council Staff.

 

Pope Condemns Having Nuclear Weapons

Pope Francis challenges the concept of nuclear deterrence.

December 2017
By Kelsey Davenport in Rome

Pope Francis firmly condemned the possession of nuclear weapons for the first time at a Vatican conference on disarmament, a significant move that extends the Roman Catholic Church’s position on the immorality of nuclear weapons.

The Holy See’s Dicastery for Integral Human Development hosted the conference Nov. 10-11 to discuss the steps toward a world without nuclear weapons. Cardinal Peter Turkson, the head of the dicastery, warned of the “increasing drumbeat of a possible nuclear conflagration” and said that a candid conversation is urgently needed on how to move toward a nuclear weapons-free world.

Pope Francis is greeted by participants at a conference on nuclear disarmament on November 10 at the Vatican.   (Photo credit: L'Osservatore Romano/Vatican)The pope’s comments reflect a notable shift on the issue of possession of nuclear weapons. Although the Roman Catholic Church has consistently advocated for the abolition of nuclear weapons, it has accepted nuclear deterrence on a limited basis. The 1963 papal encyclical “Pacem in Terris” stated that minimum nuclear capability to deter a nuclear attack is acceptable as an interim ethic until disarmament is achieved. Pope John Paul II reiterated this in 1982, noting that nuclear deterrence is morally acceptable as a “step on the way toward a progressive disarmament.”

Under Pope Francis, however, the church began to revisit its position on the morality of deterrence and, in a 2014 study document, said that the “use of nuclear weapons is absolutely prohibited.” At the December 2014 conference in Vienna on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi said that “reliance on a strategy of nuclear deterrence has created a less secure world,” and he called for all countries to review whether deterrence actually provides a “stable basis for peace.” (See ACT, January/February 2015.)

Pope Francis’s Nov. 10 statement at the Vatican conference directly addresses the question of possession of nuclear weapons. “If we also take into account the risk of an accidental detonation as a result of error of any kind, the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned,” he said.

Pope Francis also noted both the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use and the “false sense of security” created by nuclear weapons as reasons for condemning possession. This shift was motivated by several additional factors he cited, including the high cost of nuclear weapons and the failure to make progress on disarmament.

Gerard Powers, director of Catholic peacebuilding studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, said that the conference clearly indicated that the “moral imperative of nuclear disarmament” is at the center of the Roman Catholic Church’s agenda for international peace. The Kroc Institute was one of the sponsors of the conference.

Nuclear Ban Treaty

Pope Francis said that nuclear disarmament is an achievable goal. “Progress that is both effective and inclusive can achieve the utopia” of a world free of nuclear weapons, “contrary to the criticism of those who consider idealistic any process of dismantling arsenals,” he said.

Pope Francis on Nuclear Weapons

“[T]he escalation of the arms race continues unabated and the price of modernizing and developing weaponry, not only nuclear weapons, represents a considerable expense for nations. As a result, the real priorities facing our human family, such as the fight against poverty, the promotion of peace, the undertaking of educational, ecological and healthcare projects, and the development of human rights, are relegated to second place.

Nor can we fail to be genuinely concerned by the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental effects of any employment of nuclear devices. If we also take into account the risk of an accidental detonation as a result of error of any kind, the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned. For they exist in the service of a mentality of fear that affects not only the parties in conflict but the entire human race…. Weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security.”

He and many other speakers at the conference called attention to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted in July 2017 by 122 non-nuclear-armed states, and noted its importance in prohibiting nuclear weapons and building the norm against possession. (See ACT, July/August 2017.)

The pope described the express prohibition in the treaty as filling a “significant judicial lacuna,” similar to the manner in which chemical weapons, biological weapons, and landmines are prohibited by international treaty.

The Holy See participated in the treaty negotiations and was the first state to deposit its ratification of the ban. (See ACT, October 2017.) A group of Nobel Laureates participating in the conference, including representatives from the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, issued a statement at the conference that expressed gratitude to the pope for his position and applauded his efforts to promote nuclear disarmament.

Many speakers at the conference called attention to the significance of the ban treaty while noting that additional work is necessary to advance disarmament. Thomas Hajnoczi, who headed Austria’s delegation during the treaty negotiation, said his country will “actively seek dialogue” with nuclear-armed states and non-nuclear-weapon states in order to “broaden the common basis for taking joint further steps” toward a nuclear weapons-free world.

Rose Gottemoeller, deputy secretary-general of NATO, also called for all states to do more to advance toward that goal but in a way that does not “jeopardize international peace and security.” The member countries of the military alliance, which rely on nuclear deterrence provided by the French, UK, and U.S. nuclear arsenals, have rejected the prohibition treaty as dangerous. Other nuclear-armed states, including Russia and China, also do not support the treaty.

Gottemoeller pushed back against criticism that there has been no progress on disarmament. While emphasizing that the current number of U.S. nuclear weapons remains too high and more must be done to reduce the arsenal, she said that the United States and Russia have “reduced reliance on nuclear weapons in our nuclear strategies.”

Nuclear Weapons Costs

The cost of maintaining nuclear weapons and investing in new delivery systems was a key criticism voiced by many conference participants. Pope Francis stated that the high cost of nuclear weapons “represents a considerable expense for nations” at the expense of “real priorities facing the human family.”

The United States, for instance, is embarking on costly upgrades to its nuclear arsenal. When combined with sustainment costs, U.S. nuclear forces will cost more than $1.5 trillion over the next 30 years.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said that the church cannot “approve a debilitating arms race” and renewed a 1967 proposal by Pope Paul VI that called for all states to set aside a portion of military budgets for a fund that would serve impoverished people worldwide.

Further, several speakers noted that nuclear modernization programs are sparking a new arms race. Izumi Nakamitsu, UN undersecretary-general for disarmament affairs, warned that the “modernization campaigns in every single nuclear-armed state are provoking a qualitative, if not quantitative, arms race.”

San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy said that nuclear powers are on the “cusp of modernization programs that will dramatically intensify the trajectory toward proliferation and ultimately confrontation” and emphasized that the Roman Catholic Church should speak with “prophetic power and certitude” to the nuclear powers.

 

Trump Sets U.S. Up to Violate Iran Deal

Next steps fall to Congress, as key allies appeal for U.S. to stick with the nuclear accord.


November 2017
By Kelsey Davenport

President Donald Trump directed his administration to work with Congress to address “serious flaws” in the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran, but with Tehran and Washington’s negotiating partners rejecting renegotiations, his approach is unlikely to yield results and risks resulting in the United States violating the agreement.

Outlining his Iran policy in an Oct. 13 speech, Trump said he would terminate the accord if Congress and the U.S. negotiating partners in the P5+1 group—China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom—fail to address areas of concern, such as the expiration of certain nuclear constraints and Iran’s ballistic missile development.

President Donald Trump speaks October 13 at the White House about his decision to deny quarterly certification of the Iran nuclear deal. (Photo credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)Trump also said he was withholding a quarterly certification to Congress tied to the nuclear deal on the grounds that sanctions relief provided to Iran was not proportionate to the restrictions on Tehran’s nuclear program. That was an expected step after Trump said in July that he was unlikely to issue the certification. (See ACT, September 2017.)

The certification is a U.S. legal requirement comprised of several determinations. In addition to the determination on sanctions proportionality, the certification includes determinations related to Iran’s compliance with the deal and the national security value of the accord. In the weeks leading up to the certification deadline, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson noted that Iran was meeting its obligations; and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that the deal is in the U.S. national security interest, indicators that key advisers in Trump’s cabinet opposed his decision to withhold certification.

Withholding certification does not violate the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Trump said that the United States intends to remain party to the agreement for now, while he looks to Congress and U.S. allies to "address the deal's many serious flaws."

Despite Trump’s threats to terminate the accord if changes are not made, Washington’s negotiating partners and Iran rejected renegotiating elements of the deal. Shortly after Trump’s Oct. 13 announcement, Federica Mogherini, EU foreign policy chief and head of the P5+1, said that the deal is working, the EU will continue to implement it, and it is “not up to a single country to terminate it.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is under pressure from regime hardliners, said Iran “will not be the first to withdraw from the deal but, if its rights and interests in the deal are not respected, it will stop implementing all its commitments and will resume its peaceful nuclear program without any restrictions.”

Washington’s actions prove that the United States is “not a reliable negotiating partner,” he said, a statement that could have ramifications for any future talks with Iran, as well as for U.S. efforts to negotiate with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a joint statement Oct. 13 expressing “concern about the possible implications” of Trump’s decision to withhold certification and encouraging him and Congress to consider “the implications to the security of the U.S. and its allies before taking any steps that might undermine the JCPOA, such as re-imposing sanctions on Iran lifted under the agreement.”

Withholding certification allows Congress to introduce legislation within 60 days to reimpose sanctions waived under the deal using an expedited legislative process, but it appears unlikely that Congress will pursue this route, which would clearly violate the agreement.

The current approach espoused by several Senate Republicans would seek to address Trump’s concerns about ballistic missiles and limits that expire under the deal and refrain from reimposing sanctions. Still, if enacted as described, this approach would violate the terms of the accord by seeking to pressure Iran, under threat of sanctions, to abide by limits for a longer duration than required under the deal.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) released a factsheet Oct. 13 summarizing his legislative approach, titled “Fixing the Iran Deal,” which outlines that U.S. sanctions waived under the deal will be reimposed automatically if Iran takes certain steps, including activities that are permitted under the nuclear deal or will be permitted in the out years of the agreement.

For instance, the factsheet says that U.S. sanctions waived under the deal will snap back automatically if Iran’s nuclear weapons “breakout” time, commonly defined as the time it would take Iran to amass enough weapons-grade fissile material for one bomb, drops to less than one year.

For the first 10 years of the nuclear deal, the combination of limits on Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity and stockpile of enriched uranium holds Iran to a 12-month breakout time. By year 15, however, certain limits expire; and Iran could choose to expand its uranium-enrichment capacity, at which point breakout would likely drop below 12 months.

Despite the deal permitting Iran to expand uranium enrichment, U.S. sanctions would be automatically reimposed at that point, which many experts contend violates the agreement. Corker’s factsheet, however, argues that approach is “ridding the JCPOA of sunset provisions as they apply to U.S. sanctions.”

Trump did not specifically mention Corker’s initiative in his speech, but said he supported congressional efforts to “make all restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activity permanent under U.S. law” and “prevent Iran from developing” an intercontinental ballistic missile.

It seems unlikely that Democrats would support any approach that violates the deal. In the Senate, any such effort to bring legislation altering the terms of the nuclear deal up for a vote would require 60 votes; and key Senate Democrats, including several who opposed the deal in 2015, signaled they do not support abrogating the deal.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, opposed the deal in 2015, but denounced Trump’s decision to withholding certification as “reckless” and “without factual or material evidence” to warrant such a move.

Cardin said that “we will not buy into the false premise that it is Congress’ role to legislate solutions to problems of [Trump’s] own making” and that it is “up to Congress to show the world that there is bipartisan support for the United States to uphold its commitments, including the JCPOA.”

An official from a European country that participated in the negotiations told Arms Control Today on Oct. 23 that the “deal is done” and that “any efforts to unilaterally change its terms” jeopardizes the agreement.

He said Mogherini was very clear at the United Nations in September that there is “no interest in or need to renegotiate or reopen the accord.” Concerns outside of the deal, such as ballistic missiles, can be addressed separately from implementation of the agreement, he added.

May, Macron, and Merkel made a similar statement in their Oct. 13 letter, saying that they “stand ready to take further appropriate measures to address” issues such as ballistic missile development “at the same time as we work to preserve the JCPOA.”

Corker’s factsheet does not explicitly mention ballistic missiles, but in interviews following Trump’s speech, he has said his approach may reimpose sanctions automatically in response to certain ballistic missile activities conducted by Iran.

The nuclear deal does not prohibit Iran from developing ballistic missiles, but the UN Security Council resolution endorsing the deal “called upon” Iran to refrain from testing ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons and regulates Iran’s purchases of materials and technology relevant to developing ballistic missiles.

The United States, as permitted by the accord, continues to sanction individuals and entities involved with Iran’s ballistic missile activities.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

Arms Control Association Applauds 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Winner ICAN

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Body: 

Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons a Turning Point
Statement from Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball

For Immediate Release: October 6, 2017

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107

(WASHINGTON, DC)—We are pleased and excited that the Nobel Committee has awarded the 2017 Peace Prize to our colleagues at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). Their work in raising awareness about the catastrophic impacts of nuclear weapons and their years-long campaign for the negotiation of the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) has helped to reset the terms of the seven-decade-long struggle to prevent nuclear war and eliminate nuclear weapons in important and helpful ways.

At a time when nuclear dangers and tensions are rising, ICAN’s call to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons is the appropriate rejoinder to those governments and leaders who continue to promote the role and potential use of these mass terror weapons in the 21st century.

At a result of the TPNW, for the first time since the invention of the atomic bomb, nuclear weapons development, production, possession, use, threat of use, and stationing of another country’s nuclear weapons on a states party's national territory are all expressly prohibited in a global treaty. The treaty also requires states to provide assistance to those affected by nuclear weapons use and testing. Over time, the TPNW will further delegitimize nuclear weapons and strengthen the legal and political norm against their use. Steps aimed at reducing the risk of catastrophic nuclear weapons use are necessary and should be welcomed.

ICAN was a catalyst for the new treaty, which was negotiated by a group of over 130 non-nuclear weapon states and is an expression of the deep concern about the enormous risks posed by nuclear weapons and the growing frustration with the failure of the nuclear-armed states to fulfill their nuclear disarmament commitments. The initiative underscores the need for the nuclear weapons states’ to meet their existing legal obligations to end the nuclear arms race and pursue disarmament and the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.

Others involved in the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons initiative, including the winners of the 2014 and 2015 Arms Control Persons of the Year Award, Amb. Alexander Kmentt of Austria and hibakusha survivor and anti-nuclear activist Setsuko Thurlow, and their colleagues in government and civil society also deserve tremendous credit.

Serious work lies ahead. We will continue to partner with our friends in the ICAN network and with other nongovernmental leaders to inform and influence public and policy maker action on effective measures to reduce and eliminate the dangers posed by nuclear weapons.

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Listen to our European Partners: Sustain the Nuclear Deal with Iran

Before taking action to undermine or violate the nuclear deal with Iran, President Donald Trump and the U.S. Congress would be wise to heed the words of Washington’s European partners in the deal, namely that the agreement is working and renegotiation is futile. Ambassador David O’Sullivan of the European Union, Ambassador Peter Wittig of Germany, Ambassador Gerard Araud of France, and Ambassador Kim Darroch of the United Kingdom, joined forces to deliver these messages at the Atlantic Council Sept. 25 , just three weeks ahead of the Oct. 15 deadline for Trump to issue or withhold a...

Grasping at Straws

The Trump Administration and its supporters outside of the U.S. government are laboring mightily to convince the international community that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is a bad deal for the United States. Unfortunately for them, Iranian compliance keeps getting in the way. We can see this in the way in which senior U.S. government officials speak to issues of Iranian compliance. During press availability on the margins of the UN General Assembly, Secretary of State Tillerson was careful to note that Iran is in “ technical ” compliance with the JCPOA, but argued that this...

Urgent Need to De-escalate Tensions Between Washington and Pyongyang

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Statement from Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball

For Immediate Release: September 22, 2017

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 102

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—The escalating crisis over North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests has now reached an extremely dangerous level. The risk of conflict through miscalculation by either side is unacceptably high.

Mr.Ri Yong Ho, Foreign Ministrer of the Democratic People's Republic of KoreaWe are alarmed and strongly condemn the unecessary and provocative threat of massive retaliation against Pyongyang by President Donald Trump in his UN address on Sept. 19, and we condemn in the strongest possible terms the suggestion by the Foreign Minister of the DPRK on Sept. 22 that his government may conduct a nuclear test explosion in or over the Pacific Ocean in reaction to Mr. Trump’s remarks.

Such a nuclear test would be a threat not just to the United States, but would be a global security and health threat to the entire international community, which has prohibited all nuclear test explosions through the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. A nuclear test explosion over the Pacific could trigger events that escalate even further beyond the control of Washington and Pyongyang.

We strongly appeal to key leaders in the region, particularly the United States and North Korea, to immediately take steps ease tensions and refrain from making any further threats of nuclear or missile tests or military action of any kind. Each side must chose their words very carefully and seek open direct channel of communication to avoid miscommunication and miscalculation. The current path being pursued by both sides leads to catastrophe.

We call on the UN Secretary-General to convene a series of emergency, closed-door meetings with senior leaders from the members of Six-Party-Talks to intiate a serious dialogue designed to lower tensions and address issues of mutual concern.

US Special Representative for North Korea Policy Joseph Yun (L) talks with South Korea's representative to the six-party talks, Kim Hong-Kyun (R), during their meeting at the foreign ministry in Seoul on March 22, 2017. The meeting came as a new North Korean missile test failed on March 22, according to the South's defence ministry, two weeks after Pyongyang launched four rockets in what it called a drill for an attack on US bases in Japan. (Photo: JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)It is past time for a direct dialogue, without preconditions, that sets a new course — toward a negotiated or brokered agreement that addresses the concerns of the international community and the security concerns of the DPRK. Such a course begins with an immediate halt to further nuclear test explosions and intermediate- or long-range ballistic missile tests and any military exercises that could be interpreted to be practice runs for an attack.

As President John F. Kennedy said following the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis: “Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to the choice of either a humiliating defeat or a nuclear war.”

Now is the time to back away from edge of a conflict that could escalate to the nuclear level all too quickly.


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The P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, September 2017

EU Affirms Iran Deal Compliance, Rejects Renegotiation EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini stated unequivocally after a ministerial meeting between the P5+1 (China, France Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) and Iran that all parties agreed that the nuclear deal is being fully implemented and there are no violations. She said that the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is delivering on its purpose, and there is “no need to renegotiate parts of the agreement.” Mogherini said that issues outside the scope of the deal should be “...

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons At A Glance

September 2017

Contacts: Daryl Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Alicia Sanders-Zakre, (202) 463-8270 ext. 113

Updated: September 2017

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which was negotiated by more than 130 states, is a good faith effort to meet their responsibility as signatories of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to pursue effective measures on disarmament. The prohibition treaty further reinforces the commitments of these states against the use, threat of use, development, production, manufacture, acquisition, possession, stockpiling, transfer, stationing, or installation of nuclear weapons. It reinforces states' commitments to the NPT and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Although the prohibition treaty by itself will not eliminate any nuclear weapons, the treaty can help to further delegitimize nuclear weapons and strengthen the legal and political norm against their use.

The Treaty

Preamble

The treaty has a 24-paragraph preamble acknowledging the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use and the value of existing international disarmament agreements including the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and nuclear-weapon-free-zone agreements, as well as the “right” of states-parties to peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Prohibitions (Article 1)

States-parties are prohibited to use, threaten to use, develop, produce, manufacture, acquire, possess, stockpile, transfer, station, or install nuclear weapons or assist with any prohibited activities.

Declarations (Article 2)

A state-party must declare, when joining the treaty, whether it has eliminated a previous nuclear weapons program, currently has nuclear weapons, or holds another country's nuclear weapons on its territory. If a state has another country’s nuclear weapons on its territory when it signs the treaty, it must remove them. If it has its own nuclear weapons, it must eliminate them.

Safeguards (Article 3)

Non-nuclear-weapon states are required to have, at a minimum, a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) “without prejudice” to any future additional agreements.

Nuclear-weapon states accession (Article 4)

There are two ways for a nuclear-weapon state to accede to the treaty and eliminate its nuclear weapons: it can join the treaty and then destroy its nuclear weapons or destroy its nuclear weapons and then join the treaty. States that “destroy and join” must cooperate with a “competent international authority” designated by the treaty to verify dismantlement. States that “join and destroy” must immediately remove nuclear weapons from operational status and submit a time-bound plan for their destruction within 60 days of joining the treaty.

The treaty does not specify which “competent international authority” would be suited to verify irreversible disarmament of a nuclear-armed state that decides to join the treaty, but the treaty allows for an appropriate authority to be designated at a later date. The treaty requires any current or former nuclear-weapon state that seeks to join the prohibition treaty to conclude a safeguards agreement with the IAEA to verify that nuclear materials are not diverted from peaceful to weapons purposes.

Positive obligations (Articles 6 and 7)

The treaty obligates states-parties to provide victim assistance and environmental remediation to those affected by nuclear weapon use and testing.

Meetings of states-parties, signature, ratification and entry into force (Articles 8, 13, 14, and 15)

Biennial meetings of states-parties will address implementation and other measures. Review conferences will be held every six years. The treaty, open for signature on September 20th, 2017, enters into force 90 days after the 50th state ratifies it.

Background

The initiative to negotiate a "legally binding instrument" to prohibit nuclear weapons is the result of a years-long process that grew out of a renewed recognition of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use, the rising risk of accidental or intentional nuclear use, and a growing sense of frustration that key nuclear disarmament commitments made by the nuclear-weapon states were not being fulfilled.

The 2010 NPT Review Conference unanimously "expresse[d] its deep concern at the continued risk for humanity represented by the possibility that these weapons could be used and the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from the use of nuclear weapons."

These concerns motivated a group of states, including Norway, Mexico, and Austria to organize a series of three conferences in 2013 and 2014 on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapon use.

Following the conclusion of the 2015 NPT Review Conference, these and other states agreed to set up an open ended working group in 2016 on advancing multilateral disarmament negotiations. The working group led to the formulation of a resolution in the UN General Assembly to start negotiations in 2017 on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons. The resolution passed the UN General Assembly First Committee by a vote of 123-38 with 16 abstentions in November 2016 and was subsequently adopted by the General Assembly as a whole.

Costa Rica’s UN Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez (left), president of the UN conference to negotiate a nuclear-weapons ban treaty, chairs a meeting of the conference March 30. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

The first negotiating session was held at the UN in New York on March 27-31 with some 130 governments, and dozens of civil society organizations, participating. The president of the negotiations, Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gomez, compiled states' expressed opinions from the first round of negotiations into a draft convention on the prohibition of nuclear weapons issued on May 22 in Geneva. The second and final round of negotiations took place on June 15-July 7 in New York, with participants adopting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by a vote of 122-1-1. The Netherlands voted against adoption, and Singapore abstained.

Reactions From the Nuclear-Armed States

Nuclear-weapon states and many NATO members have opposed the initiative from the beginning. Although the United States and the United Kingdom participated in the 2014 Conference on the Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons in Vienna, leaders from Washington and the other nuclear-weapon states boycotted the working group sessions and the 2017 treaty negotiations.

These states contend that the treaty will distract attention from other disarmament and nonproliferation initiatives, such as negotiating a fissile material cutoff treaty or ratifying the CTBT. They have expressed concern that the nuclear prohibition treaty could undermine the NPT and the extensive safeguard provisions included therein by giving states the option to "forum shop," or choose between the two treaties.

Arguments for the Treaty From Proponent States

Supporters of the nuclear prohibition treaty argue that it will close a "legal gap" that exists regarding nuclear weapons, which are not expressly outlawed by the NPT even though their use would be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict. They argue that the prohibition treaty initiative reinforces the NPT and its Article VI requirement for nuclear disarmament and that it can reduce the salience of nuclear weapons and help prompt more urgent action to reduce nuclear risk and promote disarmament.

Timeline

2010
May 3-28: The final document of the 2010 Review Conference for the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) acknowledges the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use. 

2013
March 4-5: The first conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons use takes place in Oslo, Norway. 

2014
February 13-14: The second conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use takes place in Nayarit, Mexico.  
December 8-9: The final conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use takes place in Vienna, Austria.  
December 9: 127 states endorse the Humanitarian Pledge, calling on all NPT states parties to renew their commitment to Article VI of the NPT and to take interim steps to reduce the risk of nuclear use.

2015
October 29: The UN General Assembly First Committee votes 135-12 with 33 abstentions on a resolution to create an Open Ended Working Group to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations. 

2016
February 22-26: The first working group to advance multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations meets in Geneva, Switzerland. 
May 2-4 and 9-13: The second working group to advance multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations meets in Geneva, Switzerland.  
August 16-19: The third working group to advance multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations meets in Geneva, Switzerland, approving a final report by a vote of 68-22 with 13 abstentions.  
October 27: The First Committee adopts a resolution to begin negotiations in 2017 on a nuclear prohibition treaty in 2017 on a nuclear prohibition treaty by a vote of 123-38 with 16 abstentions.  
December 23: The General Assembly approves the resolution to begin negotiations on a nuclear prohibition treaty adopted by the First Committee by a vote of 113-35 and 13 abstentions.

2017
March 27-31: The first round of negotiations on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons takes place at the United Nations in New York.  
May 22: President Elayne Whyte Gómez presents the first draft text of the treaty at the United Nations in Geneva.
June 15-July 7: The second round of negotiations on a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons takes place at the United Nations in New York. 
July 7: The treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons is adopted by a vote of 122-1-1. The Netherlands voted against the treaty, and Singapore abstained.
September 20: The TPNW opens for signature in New York. Fifty states signed the treaty and three additional states both signed and ratified it by the day's end.

Strategic Arms Control and Policy

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More Than 80 Nuclear Nonproliferation Experts Reaffirm Support for the Iran Nuclear Deal

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Experts urge the Trump administration and the U.S. Congress to continue to fulfill Washington’s commitments under the multilateral accord.

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Urge the Trump administration and the U.S. Congress to continue to fulfill Washington’s commitments under the multilateral accord.

For Immediate Release: Sept. 13, 2017

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, 202-463-8270 ext. 107; Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy, 202-463-8270 x102.

(Washington, D.C.)—More than 80 of the world's leading nuclear nonproliferation specialists issued a joint statement Wednesday on why the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between six world powers and Iran “has proven to be an effective and verifiable arrangement that is a net plus for international nuclear nonproliferation efforts.”

Centrifuges enriching uranium (illustrative photo: US Department of Energy/Wikimedia Commons)“Since the nuclear deal was implemented in January 2016, the JCPOA has dramatically reduced the risk posed by Iran’s nuclear program and mandated unprecedented monitoring and transparency measures that make it very likely that any possible future effort by Iran to pursue nuclear weapons, even a clandestine program, would be detected promptly,” the statement notes.

The statement is endorsed by former U.S. nuclear negotiators, former senior U.S. nonproliferation and intelligence officials, a former director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a former member of the UN Panel of Experts on Iran, and leading nuclear specialists from the United States and around the globe.

“We firmly support vigorous efforts to monitor and enforce compliance with the JCPOA,” the experts say, “ but we are concerned by statements from the Trump administration that it may be seeking to create a false pretext for accusing Iran of noncooperation or noncompliance with the agreement in order to trigger the reimposition of nuclear-related sanctions against Iran.”

Under the terms of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, the administration must certify to Congress every 90 days that Iran is fully implementing the nuclear deal. Failure to issue the certification would open the door for Congress, under expedited procedures, to introduce legislation to reimpose nuclear sanctions that were lifted in exchange for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program that block its pathways to a bomb. The next certification deadline arrives in mid-October.

“Abandoning the deal without clear evidence of an unresolved material breach by Iran that is corroborated by the other EU3+3 partners runs the risk that Tehran would resume some of its nuclear activities,” they warn.

Thus far, reporting from the U.S. intelligence community, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the other parties to the agreement make it clear that Iran is meeting its many JCPOA commitments. These include long-term, verifiable restrictions on Iran's sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities, many of which will last for 10 years, some for 15 years, some for 25 years, with enhanced IAEA monitoring under Iran's additional protocol agreement with the IAEA and modified code 3.1 safeguards provisions lasting indefinitely.

“[U]nilateral action by the United States, especially on the basis of unsupported contentions of Iranian cheating, would isolate the United States. In doing so, the United States would discourage Iran and others—including Washington’s EU3+3 partners—from supporting any U.S. proposal for negotiations on a new agreement while simultaneously damaging the agreement in place,” the experts say.

The statement concludes: “we urge the Trump administration and the U.S. Congress to continue to fulfill Washington’s commitments under the accord and to refrain from actions that undermine U.S. obligations in the agreement.”

“Given that we are already struggling to contain the North Korean nuclear and missile crisis, it would be extremely unwise for the president to initiate steps that could unravel the highly successful 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which could create a second major nonproliferation crisis,” said Kelsey Davenport, nonproliferation policy director for the Arms Control Association, which organized the statement.

The full text of the statement is below and available in a PDF version.


Statement from Nuclear Nonproliferation Specialists on the Iran Nuclear Deal

September 2017

More than two years after the conclusion of negotiations on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) by the United States, its international negotiating partners (EU, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom), and Iran, the agreement has proven to be an effective and verifiable arrangement that is a net plus for international nuclear nonproliferation efforts.

The JCPOA is also considered an important success of multilateral diplomacy, the full implementation of which is critical to international peace and security.

Since the nuclear deal was implemented in January 2016, the JCPOA has dramatically reduced the risk posed by Iran’s nuclear program and mandated unprecedented monitoring and transparency measures that make it very likely that any possible future effort by Iran to pursue nuclear weapons, even a clandestine program, would be detected promptly. By blocking Iran’s potential pathways to nuclear weapons, the JCPOA has also decreased the likelihood of destabilizing nuclear competition in the region.

To meet its JCPOA obligations, Iran dismantled more than 13,000 centrifuges, placed them in monitored storage, and shipped out more than 11 tons of low-enriched uranium. Since implementation day, Iran has met its commitments to enrich uranium only up to 3.67 percent uranium-235, retain no more than the equivalent of 300 kilograms of uranium enriched to 3.67 percent in its stockpile, and enrich using only 5,060 first generation, IR-1 centrifuges.

Taken together these restrictions ensure that Iran’s capability to produce enough bomb-grade uranium sufficient for one weapon would be approximately 12 months for a decade or more. This conclusion was underscored by Daniel Coats, Donald Trump’s Director of National Intelligence, who stated in the May 2017 Worldwide Threat Assessment, that the JCPOA has “enhanced the transparency of Iran’s nuclear activities” and “extended the amount of time Iran would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon from a few months to about a year.” Prior to commencing negotiations with Iran in 2013, that timeline would have been 2-3 months.

The JCPOA has effectively eliminated Iran’s ability to produce and separate plutonium for a nuclear weapon for at least 15 years. Iran removed the vessel that would hold the core of the Arak reactor, filled it with cement, and is working with the EU3+3 on new core reactor design in which plutonium production would be reduced ten-fold. Iran also committed not to research how to reprocess spent fuel, much less engage in it, which would delay even more significantly Iran’s ability to ever extract plutonium from any nuclear fuel it possesses. Additionally, Iran agreed to ship its spent fuel out of the country for 15 years.

Since implementation day in January 2016, Iran’s compliance with its obligations has been effectively verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) through an intrusive, multilayered monitoring regime that spans Iran’s nuclear supply chain. The JCPOA mandates continuous surveillance of key activities, such as uranium mining and centrifuge production, and application of Iran’s Additional Protocol, which gives inspectors additional information about, and access to, Iran’s nuclear facilities. Iran’s enrichment levels are also monitored in real time.

Taken together, these rigorous limits and transparency measures will make it very likely that any future effort by Iran to pursue nuclear weapons, even a clandestine program, would be detected promptly, providing the opportunity to intervene decisively to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

The JCPOA has proven flexible and responsive to implementation problems that emerge. When Iran’s supply of heavy water twice marginally exceeded the limit set by the JCPOA, the IAEA noted the excess and Iran promptly rectified the situation, which never posed a proliferation risk. While exceeding the limit by any amount is unhelpful, the way it and other definitional disagreements have been promptly rectified demonstrates the effectiveness of mechanisms established by the deal to resolve technical concerns. As of August, no international organization or national government has made any allegations of Iranian violations.

We firmly support vigorous efforts to monitor and enforce compliance with the JCPOA, but we are concerned by statements from the Trump administration that it may be seeking to create a false pretext for accusing Iran of noncooperation or noncompliance with the agreement in order to trigger the re-imposition of nuclear-related sanctions against Iran.

Abandoning the deal without clear evidence of an unresolved material breach by Iran that is corroborated by the other EU3+3 partners runs the risk that Tehran would resume some of its nuclear activities, such as enriching uranium to higher levels or increasing the number of operating centrifuges. These steps would decrease the time it would take for Iran to obtain enough nuclear material for a warhead.

Furthermore, unilateral action by the United States, especially on the basis of unsupported contentions of Iranian cheating, would isolate the United States. In doing so, the United States would discourage Iran and others—including Washington’s EU3+3 partners—from supporting any U.S. proposal for negotiations on a new agreement while simultaneously damaging the agreement in place. Such an approach would also impede the United States’ ability to seek future nonproliferation agreements, both with Iran and in the broader international community.

As long as Iran continues to fully implement the JCPOA, the nuclear deal advances the security interests of the United States, its EU3+3 partners, states in the region, and the entire international community. Abandoning the deal would also increase the likelihood of wider conflict in the Middle East and could trigger a destabilizing nuclear competition in region.

We strongly urge all parties to the JCPOA to meet their respective obligations under the terms of the agreement and to refrain from actions and statements that undermine its continued and effective implementation.

Furthermore, we urge the Trump administration and the U.S. Congress to continue to fulfill Washington’s commitments under the accord and to refrain from actions that undermine U.S. obligations in the agreement.

Sincerely,

Amb. Nobuyasu Abe, Commissioner of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission,* former UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs and former Director-General for Arms Control and Science Affairs of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs

James Acton, Co-Director, Nuclear Policy Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace*

Amb. Sergey Batsanov, Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, and former Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Conference on Disarmament (1989-1993)

Amb. Brooke D. Anderson, former Chief of Staff and Counselor for the National Security Council

Alexandra Bell, Senior Policy, Director Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation

Bruce Blair, Research Scholar, Princeton University; U.S. Secretary of State's International Security Advisory Board Member (2011-17)

Barry M. Blechman, Co-Founder, Stimson Center*

Hans Blix, former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency

Hon. Avis Bohlen, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control

Des Browne, Lord Browne of Ladyton, former Secretary of State for Defense of the UK, Chair of the European Leadership Network (ELN) and Vice Chair of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI)

Matthew Bunn, Professor of Practice, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University and former adviser to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Susan F. Burk, former Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation and former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation, U.S. Department of State

John Carlson, Counselor, Nuclear Threat Initiative, former Director General, Australian Safeguards and Nonproliferation Office, Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office

Joseph Cirincione, President, Ploughshares Fund

Avner Cohen, Ph.D., Professor and Senior Fellow, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Tom Collina, Director of Policy, Ploughshares Fund

Thomas Countryman, former Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation

Philip E. Coyle, III, former Associate Director for National Security and International Affairs, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, Arms Control Association

Amb. Jayantha Dhanapala, former UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs

Professor Shen Dingli, Associate Dean at the Institute of International Studies and Director of the Program on Arms Control and Regional Security Studies at Fudan University

Amb. Sergio Duarte, former UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs

Robert J. Einhorn, former U.S Department of State Special Advisor for Nonproliferation and Arms Control (2009-2013)

Dina Esfandiary, MacArthur Fellow, Centre for Science and Security Studies, Department of War Studies, Kings College London

Marc Finaud, Arms Proliferation Cluster Leader, Geneva Centre for Security Policy

Trevor Findlay, Senior Research Fellow, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne

Jon Finer, former U.S. State Department Chief of Staff and Director of Policy Planning

Ellie Geranmayeh, Senior Policy Fellow, Middle East & Africa Programme, European Council on Foreign Relations

Alexander Glaser, Associate Professor, Co-Director, Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University

Ilan Goldberg, Director of Middle East Security Program, Center for a New American Security, former Iran Team Chief, Office of the Secretary of Defense, U.S. Department of Defense

Lisbeth Gronlund, Co-Director, Global Security Program, Union of Concerned Scientists

Morton H. Halperin, former Director of Policy Planning Staff, U.S Department of State

Amb. Laura S. H. Holgate, former U.S. Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency

Amb. Bonnie Jenkins, Joint Fellow, Brookings Institution* and University of Pennsylvania Perry World House,* and former Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs at the U.S. Department of State

Colin H. Kahl, former Deputy Assistant to President Obama and National Security Advisor to Vice President Biden

Mary Kaszynski, Deputy Director of Policy, Ploughshares Fund

Togzhan Kassenova, Fellow, Nuclear Policy Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace*

Catherine Kelleher, former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia

R. Scott Kemp, Assistant Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT, former science advisor to the U.S. Department of State's Special Advisor for Nonproliferation and Arms Control

Amb. (ret.) Laura E. Kennedy, former U.S. Representative to the Conference on Disarmament, Geneva

Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association

Michael Krepon, Co-Founder, Stimson Center

Ulrich Kühn, Nonresident Scholar, Nuclear Policy Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Ellen Laipson, President Emeritus, Stimson Center and former Vice Chair, National Intelligence Council

Jeffrey Lewis, Adjunct Professor, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey*

Rebecca Lissner, Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations*

Jan M. Lodal, former Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, U.S. Department of Defense

Robert Malley, former Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North African and Gulf Region

Jessica Matthews, former Director, National Security Council Office of Global Issues

Fred McGoldrick, former Director of the Office of Nonproliferation and Export Policy, U.S. Department of State

Brian McKeon, former Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, U.S. Department of Defense

Oliver Meier, Deputy Head, International Security Division, German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP)*

Zia Mian, Co-Director, Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University

Nicholas Miller, Assistant Professor, Dartmouth College

Adam Mount, Ph.D., Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress*

Richard Nephew, Senior Research Scholar, Center on Global Energy Policy, Columbia University, former Principal Deputy Coordinator for Sanctions Policy at the U.S. Department of State, and Director for Iran on the National Security Staff

Götz Neuneck, Professor of Physics and Acting Co-Director of the Institute of Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg (IFSH) *

George Perkovich, Ken Olivier And Angela Nomellini Chair, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace*

Amb. Thomas R. Pickering, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Russian Federation, India, Israel, and Jordan

Amb. (ret.) Steven Pifer, Nonresident Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution*

Paul R. Pillar, former U.S. National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia

Valerie Plame, former CIA covert operations officer

Joshua Pollack, Senior Research Associate, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey*

Dr. William C. Potter, Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar Professor of Nonproliferation Studies, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey*

Edward Price, Special Assistant for National Security Affairs to President Obama

Professor Paolo Cotta-Ramusino, Secretary General of Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, and Professor of Mathematical Physics, Universita' degli Studi di Milano

Tariq Rauf, former Head of Verification and Security Policy Coordination, Office reporting to the Director General, International Atomic Energy Agency

Laura Rockwood, Executive Director, Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation

Nickolas Roth, Research Associate, Project on Managing the Atom, Belfer Center, Harvard University

Dr. Randy Rydell, former Senior Political Affairs Officer (retired), UN Office for Disarmament Affairs

Andrew K. Semmel, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Nuclear Nonproliferation (2003-2007), U.S. Department of State

Thomas E. Shea, Ph.D., Senior Adjunct Fellow, Federation of American Scientists, former International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards official, and former Sector Head of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Programs, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Jacqueline Shire, former Member of UN Panel of Experts (Iran) established under Security Council Resolution 1929 (2010)

Leonard Spector, Executive Director, Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies,* and former Assistant Deputy Administrator for Arms Control and Nonproliferation at the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration

Sharon Squassoni, Director, Proliferation Prevention Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies*

Ariane M. Tabatabai, Director of Curriculum, Security Studies Program, Georgetown University

Greg Thielmann, former Director of the Strategic, Proliferation and Military Affairs Office, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, U.S. Department of State

John Tierney, Executive Director, Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, former Member of Congress (1997-2015)

Dr. Ali Vaez, Senior Iran Analyst, International Crisis Group

Frank N. von Hippel, former Assistant Director for National Security, White House Office of Science and Global Security

David Wade, Chief of Staff to U.S. Department of State (2013-2015)

Dr. James Walsh, Senior Research Associate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Security Studies Program

Anthony Wier, Legislative Secretary for Nuclear Disarmament and Pentagon Spending, Friends Committee on National Legislation

Jon Wolfsthal, former Special Assistant to the President for National Security and Senior Director for Nonproliferation and Arms Control at the National Security Council

David Wright, Co-Director, Global Security Program, Union of Concerned Scientists

*institution listed for identification purposes only

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