The Arms Control Association is an "exceptional organization that effectively addresses pressing national and international challenges with an impact that is disproportionate to its small size." 

– John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
January 19, 2011
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

The P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, July 23

The Administration Makes Its Case Obama administration officials are out in force on the Capitol Hill and on the airwaves to explain the benefits of the comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran. Secretary of State John Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz, and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew testified at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing this morning. For the three secretaries, this is the second trip to Congress in less than 24 hours—the group briefed members of the House and Senate in closed sessions, yesterday. Moniz also pressed his case that the inspections regime outlined in the deal...

The P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, July 21

Start the Clocks With an historic comprehensive nuclear deal in hand, the focus now shifts from Vienna to the domestic stage, where debates over the deal are taking place in Tehran and the capitals of the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States). In the United States the clock started on the sixty-day congressional review period after the Obama administration sent the deal and supporting certifications to Congress on Sunday. Congress now has until Sept. 17 to decide if it will vote on a resolution to approve or disapprove the agreement. President Barack...

The P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal: Outcome, Implementation, and Verification



Thursday, July 16, 2015
9:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Root Room
1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.

Transcript available below.
Video available on CSPAN.

On July 14, negotiators from the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and Iran secured a comprehensive nuclear agreement designed to verifiably block Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons development and guard against a clandestine weapons program in exchange for sanctions relief.

On July 16, the Arms Control Association brought together former high-level government officials and experts to address the challenges of implementing the deal and discuss steps that can be taken to enhance prospects for the deal’s success.  

Speakers include:

  • Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, Arms Control Association;
  • Ilan Goldenberg, Senior Fellow and Director, Middle East Security Program, Center for a New American Security and a former Special Advisor on the Middle East and former Iran Team Chief in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy;
  • Richard Nephew, Program Director of Economic Statecraft, Sanctions and Energy Markets, Columbia University and former Principal Deputy Coordinator for Sanctions Policy, Department of State, and former Director for Iran, National Security Staff; and
  • Daryl G. Kimballmoderator, Executive Director, Arms Control Association.


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

KIMBALL: Well, good morning, everyone. Welcome to the Arms Control Association's briefing today on "The P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal: The outcomes, implementation and verification." I'm Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association, and we are an independent, nonpartisan organization. We were established in 1971 to provide information, ideas, solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

We have organized today's event to do discuss the recently concluded P5+1 and Iran nuclear deal, which is among the most complex and consequential of the nuclear age, which began 70 years ago today, with the first atomic bomb, which was detonated in New Mexico.

This agreement follows over two years of diplomatic machinations, intense negotiations involving seven nations, including long-time adversaries.

Our organization, the Arms Control Association, has intensively followed Iran's program and the diplomatic efforts to rein it in. And we have over this period of time sought to identify practical, technical and policy solutions to address the many different challenges on this issue so that the negotiators can help arrive at an agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran.

In our analysis, after looking at the document, which is over 100 pages, quite substantial, is that it can effectively and verifiably block Iran's potential uranium and plutonium pathways to nuclear weapons and guard against a clandestine weapons program for more than a generation.

That's a view shared by a wide variety of nonproliferation security experts. And we believe it will be a net plus for nuclear nonproliferation, the effort to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and for U.S. and regional security.

Congress now has 60 days to review this complex agreement, and we believe that each and every member needs to take a serious look at this agreement, get the answers to their questions -- and there are many questions -- and consider the benefits and the alternatives.

So to help contribute to this debate we have gathered three top-notch experts who are going to discuss the agreement, how it works, what its impact will be. We are going to start with the Arms Control Association's director for nonproliferation policy, Kelsey Davenport. She has been the author of our major research reports and policy briefs on this issue and she has been very closely monitoring the talks for more than four years or so. I think she is still recovering from her latest tour of duty, two and a half weeks in Vienna, the site of the final round of the talks.

And next we are going to hear from Richard Nephew, who is former principal deputy coordinator for sanctions policy at the U.S. Department of State, and director for Iran on the National Security Council staff. So he was one of the negotiators until the beginning of this year.

He is now the program director for economic statecraft, sanctions and energy markets at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University in New York, and is a nonresident senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Center at Brookings.

Then we are going to hear from Ilan Goldenberg, who is senior fellow and director for Middle East security programs at the Center for New American Security, and foreign policy and defense expert with extensive government experience covering Iran's program.

So after their opening comments and remarks about the agreement, its impacts, we are going to take your questions.

And I just want to make a final observation and thought before I ask Kelsey to talk about the nuclear nonproliferation elements of the agreement. Like any diplomatic agreement, this one is the product of give-and-take. It's not perfect. But if you look at it as a whole, we think it is very strong and is in many ways stronger than the framework that was reached in early April by the P5+1 and Iran.

Yet, it is clear already, just a couple of days after this agreement was concluded, that many critics believe that by rejecting the agreement, increasing sanctions pressure on Iran, the U.S. can somehow coerce, convince the leaders of Iran to dismantle its nuclear program or agree to better terms.

I think, many people think, I think the president thinks, because we heard him say this yesterday, this is basically a dangerous illusion. There isn't a better deal on the horizon, and if Congress somehow blocks this agreement, there are going to be very tough, negative consequences. We will have broken with our European allies. The necessary international support for Iran-related sanctions will dissipate. Iran would not be subject to limits on its nuclear program and could expand this program. We would lose out on enhanced inspections. The risk of a nuclear-armed Iran and a conflict would grow. It wouldn't be inevitable, but it would grow.

So a lot is at stake, and in the coming weeks we hope Congress is going to take a hard look at the agreement, what it does, and the alternatives.

So with that, let me turn it over to Kelsey Davenport, and then we will move briefly on to our other speakers. Thanks.

DAVENPORT: Great. Thank you, Daryl, and thank you all for being here this morning. At least I think it's morning. I'm still not quite sure what time zone I'm in.

So I want to talk today mostly about the nuclear elements of the deal, and while I won't be able to touch on all 158 pages of the agreement, during the question-and-answer we can explore the areas that I don't touch on, and would be happy to take any questions.

But from the perspective of the Arms Control Association, this is a very strong agreement from a nonproliferation perspective. In many ways it exceeds the expectations of what we thought a good agreement would need to achieve to block Iran's pathways to nuclear weapons and put in place an intrusive monitoring and verification regime that would ensure quick detection of any covert activity.

No, this deal is not perfect but it's good enough and it meets U.S. nonproliferation goals. It safeguards U.S. national security, and it's good for regional security as well.

So to get into first some of the details. The parameters that were agreed to in April in Lausanne, particularly on the uranium enrichment, were details. They were strong, and from our assessments, with these parameters in place it would take Iran more than 12 months to produce enough material for one nuclear weapon. That's about 25 kilograms of uranium enriched to above 90 percent.

And that will be achieved by reducing Iran's centrifuges from 19,000 down to 6,000, of which 5,000 will be operating. Iran's stockpile will also be capped at 300 kilograms. So all of that we knew.

But what we get from the final deal are a number of details that strengthen this assessment that Iran cannot quickly move toward nuclear weapons. One of the things that becomes clear in this deal is that all of the excess centrifuge machines will be removed, all of the infrastructure, the piping, vacuums, will also be taken out and stored under IAEA seal. These seals will feed directly to the agency so we have greater assurance that if Iran were to try and access these machines, the IAEA would immediately know.

Also, it's important to note that Iran will be using these machines to replace and repair any broken machines, and Iran will not be producing any additional centrifuges unless the stockpile of machines reduces to under 500. So this idea that Iran is going to use time to build up its centrifuges to quickly deploy them later is false, and it will be -- the machines will be counted and inventoried under the deal. So again, these are provisions that add a greater level of confidence.

Also, we have more information about the stockpile. In Lausanne, Iran agreed to reduce its stockpile of low enriched uranium, uranium enriched to about 3.67 percent, or reactor grade, from the approximate 10,000 kilograms it has now down to 300 kilograms. And that includes uranium in all forms.

Iran will not be able to simply convert the gas into oxide. Oxide can be converted back to gas and further enriched. So this is the entire stockpile will be capped at 300 kilograms.

Any scrap material that's in process, that's enriched to 3.67 percent, or even up to 20 percent, will be turned into fuel plates for the Tehran research reactor. The material that can't be turned into fuel plates will either be shipped out of the country, diluted, or mixed in a form that it cannot be enriched further.

So again, additional steps that Iran will take to ensure that there is not scrap material lying around that can be enriched further, providing more assurance that Iran cannot obtain the material necessary for a bomb under 12 months.

Now there is also been some concern about the fact that the agreement leaves about 1,000 centrifuges at the Fordo facility, which Iran originally began to build in secret, that's deep in a mountain near the city of Qom.

Now, the 1,000 centrifuges that will be there, about 350 of the centrifuges will be used for stable isotope production. Now these machines cannot then be transitioned back to uranium enrichment, so that leaves about 600 machines that are idle.

The rest of the centrifuges and the associated infrastructure will be removed and it will be placed under seal back at the Natanz facility, which is where the 5,000 operating centrifuges will continue to produce enriched uranium.

So Iran can't take these machines back to Fordo, begin operating them quickly and use this facility to reduce enriched uranium. The IAEA would be able to detect any of those moves because the centrifuges are stored off-site, and because the IAEA will have access on a daily basis, if it wants it, to the Fordo facility. So this facility really does not pose a threat for the duration of the limitations there, which is 15 years. So very strong on the Fordo facility.

Now one of the criticisms that frequently has been levered against this deal is, what will happen after 10 years? Because in 10 years Iran -- Iran committed for 10 years to operate 5,060 of its IR-1 centrifuges. Iran is not going to go over a cliff in 10 years, and this agreement makes very clear that the work on advance centrifuge machines will be limited and they will be phased in in such a way that one day after 10 years Iran cannot deploy thousands of IR-8 centrifuges and then be just weeks away from attaining the material for a nuclear weapon.

So to look a little bit more closely at the R&D, Iran currently has about 1,000 advanced centrifuge machines in various states at its Natanz pilot production facility. Iran will have a few months to finish up the testing with some of those cascades, and then it will remove nearly all of the advanced machines and store them under seal.

During the duration, the 10-year duration, Iran will be allowed to operate one IR-4 machine, one IR-5 machine, one IR-6 machine and one IR-8 machine for eight years. It can test these machines with uranium but it cannot use these machines to accumulate enriched uranium. So again, we are not going to see a proliferation of advanced centrifuge machines that Iran can quickly use to break out.

After about eight and a half years, Iran will be able to test about 30 IR-6 machines and 30 IR-8 machines. And at that point they can begin producing about 200 of each of these models per year, but they will not be producing the rotors for these machines.

So around year 10, then, when Iran begins to transition these machines, it's important to note that its SWU capacity also will remain relatively stable for the next about three years.

UNKNOWN: What's SWU capacity, Kelsey?

DAVENPORT: I'm getting to SWU capacity. So SWU capacity is the measure of efficiency of a centrifuge machine. So that means that the capacity of Iran's 5,060 IR-1 centrifuges will remain constant as new machines are introduced. So if an IR-6 machine, say, has 10 times the SWU capacity of an IR-1 machine, if Iran introduces an IR-6 machine, they have to remove 10 IR-1s.

So this again ensures that we won't see a ramp-up in Iran's nuclear capacity immediately after sort of the 10-year restrictions on just using IR-1s to enrich uranium expire.

It's also important to note that we should not view any of these elements in isolation. So in addition to these restrictions on the number of machines that are being produced, Iran's procurement of materials that can be used for centrifuge development will also be monitored by the joint commission, which is set up through the deal, and any changes that Iran wants to make to its R&D will also have to be approved by the joint commission.

So if Iran starts to move or try and sort of move away from the R&D plan that it will submit to the IAEA as part of its additional protocol, it will become clear very quickly to the joint commission.

So one of the other areas where there has been a lot of questions relates to the transparency and the monitoring and verification elements of the deal. And this is something that at the Arms Control Association we were very concerned about because of Iran's illicit nuclear activities in the past.

But we feel that the intrusive inspections and monitoring and verification regime produced under this agreement will provide the highest degree of confidence that Iran cannot pursue nuclear weapons, either at its declared facilities or covertly.

So first at the declared facilities. Iran will have to expand its nuclear declaration under its additional protocol, which Iran has agreed to implement and then ratify within the eight years of the agreement. Now the additional protocol is an agreement between Iran and the IAEA that expands upon Iran's comprehensive safeguards agreement. It expands the number of declared sites. It gives inspectors greater access, and access on short notice to inspect these sites.

And on top of this, the agreement lays down a number of provisions that allows for continuous monitoring across Iran's entire fuel supply chain. That's 25 years at the uranium mines and mills, and 20 years at the centrifuge production shops, and then the continuous monitoring at Natanz and Fordo as well.

Essentially this means that if Iran wanted to covertly pursue nuclear weapons, they would need to replicate the entire fuel supply. They would need to find a new source of uranium ore, they would need to convert that into gas, and then they would need to enrich it. And these are large programs. You're not going to be able to hide this in a basement or even, you know, in a warehouse at a military facility.

Now another check against sort of this covert -- the concern about a covert nuclear weapons program comes with the increased access that will be granted to inspectors under the additional protocol. And it's very clear in the deal that if concerns arise about illicit nuclear activities, the IAEA will be permitted managed access to sites of concern, including military sites.

Now managed access means that Iran can state some conditions to protect sensitive military information, but it's important to realize that ultimately it will be the IAEA's decision about whether or not the conditions Iran places on access are adequate. And if the IAEA feels like they are not adequate, there is an adjudication mechanism in place that will decide if the IAEA should be given expanded access.

So if Iran and the IAEA cannot come to a decision within 14 days about access, the joint commission, which includes members of the P5+1 countries, the European Union and Iran, will have seven days to decide on access. And that's decided by a consensus vote, so five of the eight members. So that means Iran, China and Russia together can't block access. And then Iran will have an additional three days to comply with the joint commission's recommendation.

So in total, if the IAEA wants to access the sites, they can only be blocked from doing that for 24 days. Twenty-four days may be time for Iran to remove any equipment that is put in place, but it isn't enough time for Iran to eradicate any indication that illicit nuclear activities had taken place, and that's in part due to the very sophisticated environmental sampling that the IAEA can conduct.

So these layers really demonstrate the strength of the monitoring and verification, and I think it's worth noting too that we consider monitoring and verification in this deal by looking at the IAEA, but it isn't just the IAEA that's going to have its eyes on Iran's nuclear program. The national intelligence organizations of the United States, of the European countries, and I'm sure of Israel, will continue to watch Iran very closely.

In short, to sum up, I think the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, said this is as solid of a verification regime as you can get. No element is going to provide you a 100 percent guarantee, but together it provides the highest degree of certainty that Iran is not covertly pursuing nuclear weapons.

Also, I think it's important to note that Iran's nuclear decision-making generally has been guided by sort of a cost-benefit analysis. So with this deal in place, the cost of cheating becomes exponentially higher because this is an agreement that Iran voluntarily signed on to, and within the agreement there are further commitments by Iran not to undertake any experiments related to nuclear weapons development.

So if Iran was found to be violating this deal that it agreed to voluntarily, we'll see an extremely strong reaction by the international community. So it also changes the cost-benefit analysis.

There are a few additional elements that I think are important and worth noting that I don't think have gotten much coverage so far. There are conditions where Iran cannot export any nuclear material or technology unless it's approved by the joint commission. I think that's important when we think about sort of the spread of -- containing the spread of these technologies.

There will be joint work on the fabrication of fuel elements, which provides Iran the ability then to fuel the Iraq reactor using the domestic fuel that it produces. And then also if there are concerns about noncompliance, there will be sort of a time-bound sort of 35-day period that consists of review by the joint commission, review by the ministers if necessary, that really ensures that if any party is not satisfied with the breach then, it can move on and take the case to the Security Council.

So there are a number of other provisions in this deal that just add to its strength and amplify the non-proliferation value.

So finally, moving forward, Congress now has the opportunity to weigh in on this deal, but with the power that Congress has to vote on agreement comes a great deal of responsibility. And if they cause or prevent this deal from being implemented, I think they need to buy the consequences, which certainly will likely lead to escalation on the part of Iran, escalation -- sanctions from the U.S. side, and could increase the chances of a military conflict.

So when looking at this deal, it's important that Congress evaluates the deal on its merits. Does it block Iran's pathways to nuclear weapons? Yes. Does it put in place intrusive monitoring and verification? Yes. Does it provide recourse in the case of violation? Yes.

And really, also considered against the alternatives there is no better deal out there. We have heard about the need for any time-anywhere inspections. Those aren't necessary. The International Atomic Energy Agency can do its job with the flexibility granted to it under the additional protocol.

We have heard that more pressure would perhaps induce Iran to make greater concessions. I think a deal like this deal that allows Iran to say it met its strategic objectives of retaining a limited civilian nuclear program and receiving sanctions relief gives Iran greater buy-in to the agreement. It makes the deal more sustainable because Iran sees incentives to comply. So I think this idea that more concessions were necessary would not produce necessarily a stronger deal.

Also again, I think it's important that when evaluating this deal we don't miss the forest for the trees. All of these elements need to be viewed together. If we look too closely at any one particular detail, we may miss the symbiotic relationship between the entirety of the package.

And ultimately this deal removes the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon. It's good for U.S. security, it's good for regional security, and I think it deserves the support of policymakers here in Washington.

KIMBALL: All right, thank you very much, Kelsey, for that overview and the details on some of the new elements. And you mentioned sanctions. We are going to turn to that issue now and how that relates to this agreement from Richard Nephew.

Richard, thanks for being here.

NEPHEW: Thanks for having me, and thanks, everybody, for being here today.

I was just going to touch on three points to deal with the sanction-related issue. First, I wanted to touch on the contents of the relief and the timeline and sequence of how it would all be rolled out.

Second, I want to touch on what's left because I think while there is a sense out there that this means the entire U.S. or international sanctions regime has been taken away, that's simply not true. Some of the sanctions that remain in place frankly are going to continue to hamper Iran's ability to even take advantage of some of the relief, which may be in itself a future problem.

And last, I want to touch on the impact of sanctions relief and how the Iranian economy, how the Iranian population and how the Iranian security apparatus may use the benefits of sanctions relief.

So first off, I can say in terms of the contents, I actually have a much easier job than Kelsey because the sanctions relief package is fairly straightforward and it's fairly direct and it's fairly broad. The decision was made very clearly by the negotiating partners to make this an issue of the nuclear problem and how to get resolution of the nuclear problem by incentivizing rapid Iranian action.

So the timeline that's been established for implementation of relief was configured as such. The Iranians have to complete all of the nuclear modifications that Kelsey was outlining, with a few things that, just by their very nature, are going to have to continue on for eight, 10 years, in some instances going on for 25 before any new sanctions relief will be given.

So all this talk about signing bonuses and billions of dollars flooding into Iran before a single centrifuge has been dismantled is all false. The way the relief is structured at this point and the way that the deal puts it in place, the Iranians are not going to see anything beyond the joint plan of action's continuing relief until they have done their part. Period.

Now, when they have done their part, the relief that they are going to get is going to be substantial, and in the judgment of myself, and I think of the administration, it was worthwhile in order to get the kinds of nuclear concessions that Kelsey has laid out.

So what's in play? Well, first off, all of the U.S. sanctions that are going to be discussed here are secondary in nature. They do not include the U.S. primary embargo, which is off the table, with the exception of a few very specific license things.

What the U.S. has offered to do is to provide relief from the sanctions that it imposes on foreign companies' interactions with Iran. So if you are BP, if you are Totol (ph), if you are any number of other companies that reside out there in the world, you are now going to be able to do business with Iran after the Iranians have done the nuclear steps that they are supposed to do.

And it's going to be across a wide range of sectors. The energy sector, both in terms of the sale and purchase of products, investment, financial services, financial transactions, insurance, transportation. There's going to be a wide range of economic activity that the Iranians are going to be able to do. Again, with foreign companies and foreign actors, subject to their own laws.

Now this will not take place until after these nuclear steps have been taken, which is going to take a long time as well. The way that the timeline has been set up, we are now in a period that you could loosely call phase 1, but leading up to adoption day. And it's in this 90-day period in which every single country that's part of the P5+1 has to go to its national legislatures or any other legal procedures that they have and to get buy-in for the deal.

Upon the expiration of this 90-day clock, or sooner if the parties agree, and frankly I don't think that's possible, given our own 60-day clock here in the United States, then the Iranians will start to take their steps. And this will include removal of centrifuges, modification of the Iraq (ph) reactor, as well as a variety of other nuclear things that Kelsey was describing.

For the United States, European Union, there is a requirement to have in place the waivers and legal modifications to sanctions that will start upon IAEA verification that the Iranians have done what they were supposed to do. So there will be promulgation of new regulations and new executive orders and waivers and things along those lines, but they are all going to be tied to a trigger, and that trigger is a report by the IAEA director general that the things that the Iranians are supposed to do have in fact been done.

There are a variety of estimates out there as to how long this could potentially take. My own estimate, we can talk about this as we get into questions, is that it would be easily four to six months before the Iranians would be able to have achieved primarily the removal of centrifuges. It's theoretically possible that can go faster, but I wouldn't bet on that. I think four to six months is a pretty good timeline.

So if you add 90 days plus four to six months, we are really talking about April, maybe March, when the Iranians are actually going to be able to achieve sanctions relief, and when they are going to start to see new business start to flow.

That's very important because that basically means that for the time being the Iranians are highly incentivized to do all the things they are supposed to do, and we are going to see the Iranians take all the steps that they were required to do in order to see a dollar of the additional relief they're supposed to get.

Back during the joint plan of action I remember vividly there was a lot of suggestion that the Iranians were somehow going to stop implementing their obligations before the deal becomes implemented. I think, frankly, that the scope and scale of this relief suggests that that would not in fact be the case here.

There is then basically a hiatus in terms of additional sanctions relief for eight years or the IAEA's reaching a broader conclusion of the nature of Iran's nuclear program, whichever one comes first. And during this time relief will continue to exist, the Iranians will be able to take advantage of it, but they are also going to be under restrictions.

And Kelsey described some of these, but one of the most important ones that I want to touch on is the procurement channel and how it relates to the sanctions that still remain. Under this eight-year time period, the Iranians are going to have to go to the procurement channel established under the joint commission to ask for any nuclear-related items, and that's because the nuclear-related Security Council restrictions are going to remain in place.

And they are going to remain in place and require Iran to describe what it intends to do with these items and to submit itself to end-use verification checks and a variety of other different checks to ensure that they are actually going where they are supposed to be going. So in this instance it's both a restriction on the Iranians as well as a still being utilized part of the sanctions regime that will be in place.

The procurement channel itself will extend another two years beyond this adoption -- beyond this eight-year period until the U.N. Security Council's requirements themselves are canceled in 10 years' time.

There will be after this eight-year period, though, modification to other parts of the Security Council infrastructure and other legal instruments, including the United States and the E.U. These primarily deal with proliferation-related items and potential sources of concern.

It's notable, though, that if you look at the text, what's put in is not Iran will get to import whatever it wants to import from anyone it wants to import. Rather, certainly from the U.S. perspective, Iran will from that point forward be treated like anybody else, which means it will still be subject to export controls and still potentially subject to U.S. sanctions if we were to find that there were things going on there that we had concerns about.

That's basically it in terms of the sanctions lift timing. The Iranians don't get anything until after they have implemented their nuclear obligations. That will take between four to six months after this 90-day period, so around April of 2016, and then nothing really again for a number of years thereafter.

The question, therefore, becomes, what's left? Well, as I said, there are a number of very specific restrictions that remain in place with regard to Iran's ability to acquire nuclear-related items, plus missile-related technology, so on and so forth. But that's not the limit of it.

U.S. sanctions with respect to terrorism and human rights will remain in place. The U.S. primary embargo will remain in place, with the exception of some very specific licensable transactions involving, for instance, the sale of commercial planes.

However, even in that provision it's very clearly stated that they have to be used for civil uses. So if the United States were to find all of a sudden that a brand-new Boeing that arrived in Tehran was now funneling arms into Assad, assuming we're talking about Assad still in power many years from now, then that would be cause to terminate the licensing. That's clearly stated in the text.

And this also means, therefore, that the Iranians are going to have to be on their best behavior with respect to these planes because they are quite obvious. And as we've discovered, the United States has the ability to detect what kinds of planes are being used for what kinds of purposes and then to identify them back to the international community.

The Iranians are also going to have to deal with the continued sanction. They have a number of people that could be loosely described as bad guys, including the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is going to remain under U.S. sanctions, the Quds force, which remains under sanctions, Kassim Suleimani, who will remain under sanctions.

And there has been a lot of talk about this so I will just take a brief moment to describe it, about what is contained in the actual deal. Kassim Suleimani will in fact will be de-listed by the U.N. and by the E.U., and that's because he was designated for nuclear-related reasons by both of those institutions.

In the United States, on the other hand, he was designated for terrorism, and in the United States' system that means he stays in place as a sanctioned inpidual until such time as he stops engaging in things we consider to be terrorism. I don't really think that's a likely event.

This is also important because the United States is not removing infrastructure it uses to make these residual sanctions impactful. And that includes the very important tool of CISADA, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability Pestment Act, section 104. It's in this provision that the United States has exerted a lot of pressure on the international financial system with respect to designated entities.

Basically, when you boil it right down to it, the law provides for the United States to sanction those who conduct transactions on behalf of U.S.-designated people. Now the list of U.S.-designated people, inpiduals and entities, is going to go down when the nuclear-related targets are removed, but it will not go away, particularly for these terrorism, human rights and other related targets.

So the Iranians are still going to be under the pressure of having to face financial sector cutoff for all those entities and inpiduals who remain on the list, which means that institutions like Bank Saderat, which is a U.S.-designated bank for terrorism-related purposes, are going to remain and the financial impact on that bank is going to remain as well.

By the way, this means that any additional targets the U.S. identifies as being involved in terrorism or human rights-related violations also are potentially subject to the same sort of cutoff.

So the Iranians still are going to have to worry about what could potentially happen to their financial sector if in fact they amp up and start using the banks that we are even de-listing now for different purposes.

I think it's important at this juncture to note that the sanctions relief will not be this end-all and be-all restoration and renaissance for Iran. It's going to do a lot. But the very point that some sanctions remain, and the fact that there is going to be reputational and business risk attached to doing business in Iran means that the sanctions relief is going to take a long time to mature.

Now, from one perspective this is really good because that means that for those of us who are concerned about Iran's ability to do awful things in the region, and Ilan will speak to that, it means that there is a way of pacing and controlling and modifying Iranian behavior because if we continue to identify inpiduals and entities as involved in terrorism then the Iranians are going to have to deal with the consequences of that.

This is not U.S. unilateral sanctions disarmament. Period. This is a step to provide Iran palpable, useful relief, but they are going to be under the same threat with respect to these institutions that they were yesterday, the day before that, 10 years -- at this point five years ago once CISADA came into -- first into effect.

When you add that to the fact that a lot of businesses are going to be concerned about the possibility of snapback, I think you can see that there is going to take a long time for there to be a resurgence in a lot of really long-term trade with Iran. My own expectation is that the Iranians are going to see a lot of short-term business deals, purchases of their oil, things that people can do and then get out of Iran at they need to for the initial couple of years.

This is simple prudence on the part of international businesses. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to do multibillion dollars worth of investment in the country when you have the risk of either snapback, noncompliance finding or some other concern that could get you in hot water, both in Washington as well as with your stockholders.

There may be some businesses that are willing to do this, but I would bet that they're going to build force majeure clauses into their contracts to allow them to get out of Iran very, very quickly, if in fact there were to be a reverse in the sanctions.

So the business operating environment in Iran will be different than it will be in other countries in the Middle East. And this would frankly be, notwithstanding the presence of sanctions, because Iran is still a difficult place to do business itself. The bureaucratic red tape in Tehran is as cumbersome and difficult to deal with as anywhere else in the world, and it's notable the number of international oil companies have said that they don't find the current contracts that the Iranians are starting to beat about with respect to oil services is all that attractive. They are looking for better terms.

This speaks to the fact that it's going to take time for the Iranians to get through their own bureaucratic process and overcome resistance and nervousness on the part of companies to really plunge back in.

But Iran is going to get a benefit, and the real threat to, I think, the longevity of a deal is that this benefit is too slow in coming on, and there is, I think, a very significant risk that the Iranians at some point say, we are not getting what we need. And it's at that point that you could see them say, we need to reconsider the terms of this deal.

So I think basically the sanctions relief picture in Iran is favorable to the P5+1, it's favorable to the United States. It will provide Iran some advantages, but it is not something that is going to overnight change the Iranian economy. That's going to take time, and there are ways to control it still further. Thank you.

KIMBALL: Thanks a lot, Richard. That was very helpful.

Now we are going to turn to Ilan Goldenberg, who is going to talk about the regional security dynamics related to this agreement.

GOLDENBERG: Thank you, Daryl, and thanks, everybody, for being here and for the Arms Control Association for having me.

I thought what I'd do is talk about the three major actors in the region who are reacting to this agreement and what's going to happen there, the first being Iran, the second being Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states around it, and the third being Israel.

Now I should start from the position that because of the nonproliferation benefits of the agreement, I very much agree with my colleagues up here that this is something that is in the national interest of the United States and that we need to be pursuing. But the regional ramifications are going to, I think, be much more complicated and mixed and there is going to be some negative downsides we are also going to have to manage, especially with some of our traditional partners over the next few years.

That doesn't mean we should be letting the tail wag the dog and not doing something that is in America's fundamental national security interests, but this is something that we are going to have to deal with.

So starting with how we expect the deal to shake out in Iran over the next few years. You sort of hear these two schools of thoughts and theories. One is, President Rouhani, Foreign Minister Zarif, these are the pragmatists inside the Iranian system. They are not democrats. They are men of the revolution.

I don't think they're looking for liberalism Western-style to break out tomorrow in Tehran, but they are more pragmatic when they weigh sort of the economic benefits and the benefits of international engagement versus support for terrorism and things like the nuclear program, and are more interested in those first set of interests for Iran.

Are they going to gain more influence and then be able to reflect into a more pragmatic Iranian foreign policy? And there's a real strong case to be made that's the case. Rouhani was elected based on the fact -- and allowed to come to power also by the supreme leader based on the fact that he would get the sanctions relief, that he would get this nuclear agreement. He's going to have tremendous credibility now and leverage.

We have parliamentary elections in Iran next March. It will be an interesting time in terms of the sanctions relief calendar that Richard just laid out, and to see if, you know, the pragmatic faction can pick up more seats inside the Iranian system. And we are going to have to see -- I do think that Rouhani and Zarif now could potentially have more influence in other areas of Iranian foreign policy where they haven't had as much effect.

On the other hand, you could also make the argument that the hardliners are going to double down, that they're going to want to batten down the hatches, they are not going to want to see this deal lead to more liberalization inside of Iran. They're going to take a harder line, they're going to use some of that money that comes in to increase their support for some of their activities in Syria and Iraq in Yemen and elsewhere in the region. That's going to happen too.

I would argue that the most likely scenario is both of these things are going to happen at the same time, and what you're going to end up with in Iran very likely for the next few years is a very intense political competition amongst the various factions around the supreme leader, who ultimately Ali Khamenei makes the final decisions.

Now Khamenei is someone who leans toward the hard-liner perspective, very skeptical the United States, has not left Iran in years. But he's also somebody who rules by consensus, so if all of his people come to him and all the key factions come to him and say, boss, this is what we should do, he usually goes in that direction.

I don't see him pursuing a major rapprochement with the United States in the years ahead, but he is going to pass from the scene at some point, I think before the expiration of this deal, given his health and his age, and at that moment we're really going to see, OK, what has this agreement and what has the aftermath in terms of political debate inside of Iran done? Who is his successor? What kind of system comes after him?

We haven't had a transition of power in Iran since 1989. It's been a long time. So this is going to be a major moment to indicate if we are going to see a fundamental shifting in Iran's foreign policy. Whether that fundamental shift happens or not, the deal is still implementable, the agreement still happens, but this is a potential huge benefit that we are going to have to watch over the next few years.

The second challenge is Israel. What happens there? Now obviously the Israelis are close partners of ours, and I spent years at the Pentagon working on Iran where one of our primary interests was in dealing with Israel and reassuring Israel and talking to them about the nuclear program, especially the time where speculation was much more rife that they might consider taking things into their own hands.

What I found from those exchanges was a couple of things. One, the Israelis, it's a small country surrounded by a lot of unfriendly neighbors in a very tough part of the world, and the approach that they take is they assume the absolute worst-case scenarios. I sort of like the joke that, you know, as American foreign policy makers we do our contingency planning based on worst-case scenarios and our policy based on most likely scenarios, whereas the Israelis do their contingency planning based on worst-case scenarios and their policy based on worst-case scenarios.

So this is where you get this difference in perception that has led to, I think, the break that we have got here with Israel. It's unfortunate that we've had this break, and I think part of it is personal between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu and their personal styles, and part of this is this problem that we've had historically with Israel in differing risk perceptions, you know.

I think that going forward -- well, one thing I'll say, one of the unfortunate side effects of it has been that I always found engaging with the Israelis was incredibly useful when you were doing things like negotiating with Iran because they would come in with a group of very smart people who spent all their time working on this, and they would give you all the worst-case scenarios.

They would red-team it for you in some ways really effectively, and sometimes you could say, well, I don't really believe that that's credible, we don't believe that scenario is credible. But sometimes you could say, well, actually that's something we haven't thought about. Then it helps improve American policy. I think it's unfortunate we've had this split and pide, which has I think limited that over the next few months.

What happens next there? The Prime Minister has made very clear that he is going to oppose this agreement and try to undermine it in Congress. I think that is a big mistake because I think at the end of the day I don't think it's very likely that he will succeed, and what he's doing by doing that is really -- he's taking a bipartisan issue and turning it into -- support for Israel into a wedge issue inside the U.S. Congress, which I think is very damaging for Israel's long-term interests.

And I think there's a lot of people -- the political establishment in Israel is absolutely against the agreement because Prime Minister Netanyahu has set the conditions where it's impossible to be for the agreement. Even his political critics will say, I don't like your approach to how you're dealing with the Americans but I hate this deal.

The security establishment is different. They are much more subtle about it. I think because they also take that lower risk perception, they are ultimately uncomfortable with some elements of the agreement, but at the end of agree they don't see it as this existential threat that the prime minister does.

And what we are likely to see there -- what they do also are very concerned about is the way the prime minister has decided to handle himself, which is a very public confrontation with the president, going directly into the American media, going directly to Congress on this and trying to circumvent the executive branch.

That's something that I think causes a lot of anxiety for Israelis because Iran might, in many of their views, be an existential threat but fraying of the U.S.-Israel relationship is a more existential threat and has more importance to Israel's long-term security for many of them.

So I think that the big question is what happens after the 60 days, what happens after the congressional vote. Do the Israelis finally say, does the prime minister, which he is being encouraged by many to do, finally say, OK, I'm going to take my disagreements quiet and we are going to go back and start quietly engaging with the administration and seeing if the United States can find ways to fill this security gap that we now feel and these insecurities to American reassurances, which is what we have traditionally done? Or has he decided to write off this president and spend the next year and a half publicly confronting him?

I would really hope that he chooses the former and not the latter, and I know that there's a lot of people in the security establishment in Israel that would hope to see that too, but we're going to have to wait and see. And the president has already reached out. President Obama reached out to Prime Minister Netanyahu in April and tried to bring him back into the fold and say, let's take our conversations quietly, back to those back channels that we often consult in those closed rooms, as opposed to this public spat.

And he was rejected at the time, and I believe he tried to do that again earlier this week and was rejected, but let's see if the prime minister's view changes in September. We'll have to wait and see about that.

Finally, there is the third element here, which is Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. They view things, I think, very differently than the Israelis. They have some overlap, but some differences too. Whereas Israel really is focused on the nuclear program, it also cares about Iran's regional behavior. Saudi Arabia really is focused on the regional question. They care about Iran's support for terrorism. They view what is happening right now in the region as Iran picking up influence in Syria and Iraq and Yemen and elsewhere, and that's their major anxiety.

People speculate that Saudi Arabia will respond to this by starting to build out its own nuclear infrastructure. I don't actually believe that's the problem. I think that's very unlikely. That's expensive, that takes time, there are costs that come to them in terms of international reactions, in terms of their relationship with the United States.

I think the real concern is that they are feeling -- they have this concern that the United States is pivoting to Iran and rearranging the alliance dynamics in the Middle East, which I don't think the Obama administration's intending to do, and certainly not what I would recommend to them. We still have a lot of things where we disagree with the Iranians.

Feeling that concern, the Saudis start to lash out in some destabilizing ways and take steps that we think are against our interests and against their interests in the region, and I think the best example of that might be what they have done in Yemen recently with this intervention without really a clear strategic plan about what happens after you start bombing the Houthis and pretty much putting a blockade on Yemen with really no endgame in sight.

So that's, I think, the more fundamental question for the Saudis, and one that, you know, the United States is going to have to wrestle with, both this president and the next. Because the reality is it's going to be hard for this president to do -- any president who is the one who cuts the deal with Iran, which I think we need it to do, is going to take a big hit in the Gulf and in Israel, as President Obama has done. In some ways it's almost the next president who has to come in and start to really do the big hug with some of our partners.

So what do we do going forward to try to address these challenges? I would argue there's three or four things that we need to do.

First, take advantage of the fact that we actually have this channel of communications with the Iranians for the first time in 35 years. That is meaningful and important, the fact that Kerry and Zarif have each other's email addresses and phone numbers, there is a channel. I can't tell you how many times when, you know, we wanted to, we were at the Pentagon, find ways to communicate to the Iranians, whether it was, hey, let's avoid a conflict here, or, knock it off, you are about to do something that you're going to regret if you go in that direction.

So having those channels I think it's very important. Talking is always better than not talking, and seeing if there are ways to start working together on some discrete issues. I think our interests in Afghanistan, maritime security and avoiding potential escalation in the Gulf, or inadvertent escalation in the Gulf are two interesting areas for early pursuit. There's other things, more people-to-people and things like that.

But even as we do that, especially as the sanctions are coming off, it makes sense to push back more forcefully on some of Iran's destabilizing activities in the region through joint efforts with our partners. Showing up in Saudi Arabia, for example, with a high-level delegation maybe led by Ash Carter and John Brennan, and saying, we are here to talk not about the nuclear program and not about how we deal with ISIS and Sunni extremists. We are here to have a serious and strategic conversation with you about how we are going to deal with Iran in the region. Let's talk about steps we can take together -- joint covert action, more aggressive interdictions, more -- potentially more serious efforts to train Sunni opposition in Syria and in Iraq, sort of partners we can work with in both those countries, things like that that will signal to our partners that we mean it when we say we are going to push back on this behavior that we don't find acceptable in Iran.

And also important signals to the Iranians that, you know, the nuclear deal doesn't give you free range over the region to pursue all these activities. We are going to push back. And one thing I will tell you is, when the United States pushes back against Iran, Iran backs off. Iran has no interest in a direct fight with the United States, and sometimes you do need to, you know, flex your muscles to show some deterrence. So I think that's another key thing that we have to be doing.

And the third element obviously needs to be just reassurance of other forms beyond those two, which for our partners I don't think we need to be selling the Saudis F-35s. I don't see -- they already outspend the Iranians dramatically. It's not about big weaponry, it's about the small stuff, but it's about training them to actually counter some of this low and asymmetric warfare.

But you know, security assurances, to some extent, there's things like that we can be doing with our partners in a set of activities, also with the Israelis, that can signal to them that we're sticking around, that this isn't a fundamental strategic pivot, that we're going to push back, even as we engage.

And we can do both. Just, you know, I'd say, I'll just close by saying that, you know, it's a very complicated balancing act to pull something like that off. It sends some mixed messages. But this has worked on Iran's nuclear program.

We just spent the last five, 10 years using a combination of pressure and engagement to get the Iranians to the table. And one on its own wouldn't have worked. And take that basic philosophy and apply it to the problems we face with Iran and the Middle East and the problems we face with our partners, and I think you can get there with this combination of tools.

So I'll stop there and hand it back now.

KIMBALL: All right. Well, thank you very much, Ilan.

As I said at the beginning, this agreement, this process is complex, it's consequential, and I think we've given you quite a bit to contemplate. It's now your turn to ask us a few questions that we're going to try to answer.

And I want to start out with some of the journalists that are here.

And Virginia, there's a question up here in front, if you'd bring the mike up.

And just identify yourself and tell us who you would like to answer the question. Thanks.

QUESTION: Yeah. Michael Gordon, New York Times. I have a question on the sequencing of sanctions relief, just a technical question, but just to clarify it in this 150-plus-page document.

The broad conclusion to be issued by the IAEA is obviously not going to come for a period of years. But Director General Amano on the day the agreement was promulgated presented a road map that's to lead to an assessment by December 15th. And he articulated a number of steps that are to be taken.

As you understand the agreement, what sanctions relief can be provided prior to this December 15th assessment of where Iran stands on possible military dimensions? And what sanctions relief can only be provided after this assessment is completed and if it's a favorable resolution?

KIMBALL: Richard?

NEPHEW: So that's a great question. And it's especially complicated because we've now got two processes that are working simultaneous here.

I would say very simply I don't see any sanctions relief happening before PMD has been laid to rest. That's in part because the obligation on Iran is somewhat different than the obligation that technology IAEA has taken unto itself. Right?

The timing of the obligation that the IAEA has accepted is that it gets Iran's compliance, Iran's cooperation by the 15th of October. Right?

Well, based upon the structure of the implementation phase of the deal, there is zero chance that any sanctions relief can happen before that cooperation has been given. Right?

It's written into the document as an obligation of the Iranians to have done this by adoption day. And so as a consequence of that, if they didn't provide the cooperation, the United States and the P5+1 partners would be in a position to say, well, you're not fulfilling the terms of the deal, and so they could walk away from the deal altogether, you could theoretically go the dispute resolution process, so on and so forth.

Bottom line is, because of when Iran has to take its steps, right, I don't think that there's any chance that any additional relief could be given.

Now, there is potentially a theoretical world in which adoption has taken place, the Iranians speed through implementation, right, and the director general has not issued his report by the 15th of December. I can see that as a theoretical possibility.

I think that is highly unlikely, I'd put it almost at impossible because of how long it would take them to do things like removing centrifuges. But that is something that theoretically could happen.

This then goes to the question of, what are you going to get out of that report from the director general, right? There are only two conclusions that could potentially come out of the report: Iran had a weapons program, Iran didn't have a weapons program. And either circumstance, we think we already know the answer to the first, right, and we think it's the first, and so there's nothing really that's going to change the timing of relief and the timing of what goes forward because we already know the answer to it and the access and transparency to verify, it's not ongoing, will have already begun.

So I don't see in reading the documents that there is an explicit bit of sanctions tied to the explicit bit of PMD. But I think the way the sequence works and what the requirements are on each part of this means that there won't be any relief until Iran's done its part and then the report itself will kind of be icing on the cake, to some extent.

KIMBALL: Well, let me just ask you, Richard and Kelsey, to clarify one aspect of this, which is when we say Iran does its part with respect to the IAEA investigation, that means what?

As I understand it and I'm reading it, that means the Iranians need to provide the cooperation, the information, the access that the IAEA believes is necessary for it to close out its investigation, right? But not necessarily the time it would take for the agency, which can take a long time to draw conclusions from that information.

Is that correct? Or what is your -- am I wrong on this?

DAVENPORT: Well, according to the road map, Iran has to provide the International Atomic Energy Agency with the information access to answer all of the concerns that the agency laid out in the annex to its November 2011 report. And it needs to provide that information by August 15th.

Then the IAEA will evaluate that information. And by September 15th, if they want to ask Iran any follow-up questions, then that information can then be -- then Iran has some time to follow up with that information.

And ideally, this process is all concluded by October 15th.

Then by December 15th, IAEA has said it will issue its assessment about the sort of the full system of Iran's past PMD work. So that's according to the separate road map that the IAEA and Iran agreed upon and announced the same day as the deal, which was Tuesday.

KIMBALL: OK, thanks for the clarification.

All right. Other journalists who have questions?

Yes, ma'am? Thank you.

QUESTION: Hi. Jessica Schulberg, Huffington Post. This is mostly for Richard.

Is there any concern about kind of a contradiction or contradictory message that could be sent if Congress imposes new sanctions kind of immediately after the deal?

There were some efforts before the deal was reached to extend the 1996 Iran Sanctions Act for 10 years and I saw that part of that was addressed in the nuclear agreement. What kind of message would it send to extend sanctions under the guise of it being related to terrorism or human rights in the region?

NEPHEW: So I would definitely say there is always a risk of mixed messages here. And I think that there is a risk that acting, to some degree, precipitously with respect to imposing new sanctions is a real problem.

That said, I mean, let's be clear, the Iranians are not agreeing anywhere in this that they won't engage in things that look like to us terrorism or violations of Iranian human rights or other actions that we've got problems with. So they aren't changing their fundamental behaviors either.

What I think will have to happen, frankly, is navigating the tension between the Iranians doing bad acts in the region, but not pursuing nuclear-related bad acts that give us cause to walk away from the deal, us addressing Iranian bad acts, including through the use of sanctions, but not doing so to such a degree that the Iranians say, well, forget it, we're going to go get our nuclear weapons program back, you know, in effect because we think that the deal is coming unhinged through the back door.

And I think the text, it's interesting, tries to deal with this a couple of different ways. That the parties agree not to do things that are at variance with the purposes of the JCPOA, that the parties agree not to try and back-door things through regulations that were lifted as part of the deal.

So I think there's a tension here. I think it would be better to let the deal implement itself and get started before anybody on any side starts trying to rock the boat.

But ultimately, the true test really of the deal will be, can we keep it going, can we keep this arms control arrangement and this nonproliferation arrangement together, notwithstanding the fact that we've got all these other problems.

We were able to do so with the Soviet Union, we've been able to do so with the NPT if you think about it in a broader sense, so I think we can do that here. But I think we all have to be careful about what we do.

KIMBALL: All right. Other questions, please?

Why don't we go over here on this side, this gentleman, and then Nancy?

QUESTION: Hi. Adam Basiano (ph) with Senate Foreign Relations, minority side. This question is mostly for you, Kelsey.

Like you said, this is not a perfect deal, but I'm wondering, are there significant loopholes in the monitoring regime, in your opinion, maybe specifically with regards to secret facilities or past, undeclared nuclear efforts? Or are there no significant loopholes? Thank you.

DAVENPORT: I don't see any significant loopholes in terms of the monitoring and verification and that's in part because of the flexibility granted to the International Atomic Energy Agency under the additional protocol.

And also, I think it's important to remember that with this accelerated time line of the PMD investigation, the agency can still use the information gathered to inform its future decisions about what it monitors, what it looks for and where it goes.

Because when you consider sort of the entirety of Iran's nuclear program, with the expanded declaration under the additional protocol, the IAEA will now have much more regular access to every element of Iran's nuclear program that have far expanded from what it has access to now.

That includes the mines and the mills, the centrifuge production sites, the heavy water production plants for the Iraq reactor, all areas that the IAEA has had very little access to in the past.

There also is an element that will be put in place called modified Code 3.1 to the IAEA safeguards agreement and that ensures early notification for the IAEA of design changes to nuclear facilities or if Iran decides to build any new nuclear facilities.

So when you consider early notification, when you consider the expanded declaration and short notice access to all of the facilities in the expanded declaration, when you consider the flexibility that will allow the IAEA inspectors to access sites if concerns arise within 24 days, and then you layer on top of that the continuous monitoring, the use of these advanced technologies to check enrichment levels on a regular basis, to, you know, use radio seals, and then you add on top of that U.S. intelligence, the intelligence of other countries, including Israel, I think you have a system that is so layered that even if no one element is a 100 percent guarantee, an alarm bell will trip at some point because Iran would need to recreate the entirety of its process in order to covertly pursue nuclear weapons.

So I really think that this regime is as strong as it needs to be to provide sort of the highest guarantee that there will be no illicit activities, or if there are that they will be detected very quickly.

And then the U.S., the international community will have the time to respond.

KIMBALL: That is a very good explanation. It’s a reminder of one of the fundamentals of monitoring and verification that I think people lose track of. There's no such thing as 100 percent certainty of compliance with an agreement.

And one of the major purposes is to increase our confidence into the high 90s that we can detect militarily significant, non-compliant activity.

And so what does that mean for the cheater? It means the potential cheater is looking at a high 90 percent chance that they're going to get caught and that means that they've got to weigh the benefits and the costs.

And so in that sense, it can serve as a deterrent, especially when you factor in what the losses are.

So you know, there are going to be critics who are going to say, you know, this could be better here, that could be better there and those may be valid criticisms. But as a whole, as Kelsey said, the system needs to be considered as a whole and we need to consider what monitoring and verification is designed to do. It's not 100 percent certainty, but it is getting into the high, high 90s that we can catch major violations.

DAVENPORT: I would just add, too, before this deal was reached, before the interim deal was reached, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said with high confidence that the United States would be able to detect any Iranian attempt to pert material for a nuclear weapon before they were able to accumulate enough material for one bomb. So that is before all of these additional measures that are being put in place.

So I think that really does speak to how much the U.S. could do in the past, and when you add all of these other elements on top of that it provides an even stronger guarantee.

KIMBALL: All right. We had another question up front here.

Just wait for the microphone please, Nancy. Thank you.

QUESTION: Hi, Nancy Gallagher from the University of Maryland.

One of the issues that became a public controversy in the end game during the negotiations was what was going to happen with the U.N. sanctions on ballistic missiles and conventional arms. And some people have, in effect, said, oh, Iran tried to reopen something that had been settled at the very last minute. You know, other people have said, no, this was an open question all along that wasn't settled.

Given that the Luzan framework itself was never made public, but both sides, in effect, said different things about what was in it and they had agreed not to say anything that was inconsistent with what they had actually agreed, what I would like to know was, was there actually an agreement on that issue reached as part of the Luzan framework that the Iranians tried to reopen? Or was that one of the things that was genuinely an open question at the time?

KIMBALL: Richard, you want to take a whack at that? And folks should also read that newspaper, The New York Times, where there was an interesting account that speaks to that issue just this morning.

But Richard?

NEPHEW: Yeah. I mean, I guess my sense would be, I mean, frankly, you'd have to talk to the negotiators themselves. You know, I haven't been in the room since December, so I don't know to what degree it was agreed in Luzan.

I do think that there probably was a notional or provisional agreement on this point. I think the way that it erupted as a problem, particularly with the Russians coming in as hard on it (ph) as they did in support of the Iranian position, it struck me as being something that was being reopened. Or if it wasn't already closed, it was pretty closed, people were pretty confident that it was going to be closed and then it came back open.

But that said, the fundamental principle of this negotiation was always that nothing's agreed until everything's agreed. And so I am quite sure that the way the Iranians probably both described it to themselves and described it to the Americans, if in fact it is true that they tried to reopen something, is that no, other parts of the deal necessitated us coming back on this point.

And so in the end, I -- well, it's certainly interesting to know the back-and-forth. You know, I kind of look at the end result. And keeping a five-year conventional arms embargo in place against Iran when it was only adopted by the U.N. because of the nuclear-related issue I think is pretty good, especially when you have the complementary U.S. sanctions that will permit us to impose some pressure on people providing those systems to Iran going forward until whenever.

KIMBALL: All right. Well, we have a lot of questions.

All right, let's go here on the left, this gentleman. Go ahead, Steve.

QUESTION: I'm Steve Colecchi with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

I have a question, but I'd like to just make a brief comment first. I think one of the things we have that's going to be in the discourse is hope versus fear, right? Hope versus fear. And as a person of faith, of course I'd like to speak for hope a little bit.

I think we should not underestimate what implementation, painstaking implementation of this agreement will do to transform international relationships, particularly the U.S.-Iranian relationship long term, to build trust through verification, not just through good feeling.

But my question is this. We keep talking about the date by which Iran could rush to enough material for a bomb, and that's one year. And it seems to me like the assumption that then in a year they could have a bomb and threaten their neighbor. Well, they have to test it, they have to deploy it.

NEPHEW: Right.

QUESTION: Presumably, you'd want to have more than one bomb if you're going to become a nuclear power, I mean, because after you use the first one then you're kind of out of luck, you know?


So what is the realistic -- I mean, it seems to me we have a great deal of time even after that material is acquired before this becomes a genuine threat to the U.S. or anyone else.

KIMBALL: Well, the reason why the one-year breakout time line has been used as a measuring stick for the success of this, one of the reasons, is that once a country has enough fissile material for one bomb, it's very difficult to keep track of what they're doing with it.

But you're exactly right. Possessing one bomb’s worth of highly enriched uranium does not a nuclear arsenal make and there are many other steps that have to be taken. It has to be fashioned into a workable device. The country probably would want to test it to make sure it works, although there are some designs that don't have to be tested. And it also has to be mated with a delivery vehicle, a delivery system. So there's more time that would be necessary.

And of course, one nuclear weapon doesn't do too much good as a strategic weapon, maybe as a terror weapon.

But what's clear is this agreement does block all the pathways to acquiring even that much material so that Iran can't do it in any less than one year. And we didn't mention the plutonium route in the beginning, but the plutonium path to the bomb is, for all intents and purposes, completely blocked because the Arak reactor is going to be modified with some Chinese assistance so that it can't be producing a sufficient amount of plutonium in the spent fuel.

So, this is very strong in terms of preventing Iran from even amassing even that much of material.

All right. We have a lot of questions here. I’m going to try to get to a few of you but we're not going to get to all of you.

If you could, Virginia, the gentleman on your side near the middle row. Thank you. Yes.

QUESTION: Jose Chaboz (ph) from (INAUDIBLE) University.

My question is to Mr. Nephew. You know, one of several red lines of Iranians have been or their main concerns have been the sanctions, the (INAUDIBLE) sanctions as well as the sanctions against the central bank. Of course, as I recall, also there is European initiated and then followed by the American.

But in your view, what would happen to those entities, especially you spoke of the (INAUDIBLE) bank, but mostly the central bank, which is the monitor of all of the local banks in Iran, how that would be worked out.

And the second question, if I may...

KIMBALL: Very quickly, please.

QUESTION: OK. Mr. Goldenberg, if that what do you make of the comments that the president made yesterday about, you know, areas of Syria as perhaps an example of, you know, of the area that, you know, he mentioned that, you know, could be considered by Iran and the United States? What do you make of that comment?

KIMBALL: All right. So Richard and then Ilan.

NEPHEW: So, I mean, the terms of the deal basically remove the sanctions that are the most pressing on the central bank of Iran and permit Iran, generally speaking, have access to the swift system with respect to institutions that were previously designated.

So this will permit the Iranians to have broader financial ties internationally as well as to access central bank of Iran money that is located in bank accounts around the world, again, when the IAEA has verified Iran's done its nuclear bit.

GOLDENBERG: On the question of Syria, I would just say that I would argue that probably Syria is not where we want to start in terms of cooperation with the Iranians. It's probably the area where we have the most tension. If you're trying to sort of overcome 35 years of this taboo of not talking to each other, this seems to be an area where our interests are still pretty fundamentally opposed unless there's a recalculation on Iran's part that it wants to move to a political solution where Assad -- where they accept the transition away from Assad.

At the same time, I also think if we were to go tomorrow to the Iranians and say let's talk about Syria, it would just reinforce in the Saudis' in the rest of the region's mind all the worst-case assumptions about our plan to sell out Arab interests and just cut a deal with Iran.

So I would argue that probably it makes sense to start on issues that are less raw and also to think about if we're going to first spend some time pushing back in Syria and building up American leverage and investment and then coming to the negotiating table.

At the end of the day, there's only, you know, civil wars only end three ways: one, an outside power comes in and sits on the whole thing, not happening; two, one of the sides win, again, very unlikely at this point in Syria; and three, a negotiated political solution.

Iran will have to be part of that negotiated political solution. But I think first expectations on the ground, their calculus needs to change, our Sunni partners' calculus needs to change and we need to do some things to set the table for that through a policy of pushing back against Iran while finding ways to reassure our partners to do that.

KIMBALL: All right. I see Jessica Matthews who is a former president here at Carnegie and now a senior fellow. Why don't you go ahead, please.

QUESTION: Thanks, Daryl.

I wondered from all four of your points of view where are the soft spots in this thing, by which I mean the opportunities for one side or the other to fail to clearly meet their obligations that will lead to the kind of muddle that led to the unraveling of the North Korea deal, for example. Well, you violated first; no, you fell short first; no, you did.

Where are we likely to get in trouble in that respect?

KIMBALL: That's a good question. I haven't thought about it deeply since I woke up at 4 in the morning to look at the agreement. But why don't we ask each of you to give your take on that good question, starting maybe with Richard and then Kelsey and Ilan.

NEPHEW: Sure. I think the biggest risk is that because of the regional issues and terrorism-related issues, human rights-related issues, we have to continue an active sanctions policy that eventually chips away at the benefits provided in the relief.

And when you combine that with Iranian fiscal mismanagement and inability to do with their economy what they could do, either because of corruption or just because they screw up or because oil prices remain low or investment doesn't flow as fast, that the Iranian government says we're not getting what we're supposed to get.

Now, this might be honest that they're not getting what they're supposed to get because of some interaction of other sanctions. It may be just a front to cover what is bad economic policy on the Iranian part. But that could make the Iranians and certainly a populist figure like an Ahmadinejad, who knows who the next president of Iran's going to be, say we're going to pull out of this deal, it's the deal that's causing the problem, it's Rouhani who's causing the problem, you know, even though he's now in retirement.

QUESTION: (OFF MIKE) (INAUDIBLE) do you see the fact that the sanctions relief -- thank you -- might come after the parliamentary elections as a major problem here?

NEPHEW: I don't see it as a major problem, but certainly from an Iranian/Rouhani political stance, it would have been better for him and his guys had he started to have it beforehand.

But I would say this, though. The celebratory mood in Tehran is such that I think he's going to get a boost anyway through the parliamentary process. Frankly, it would have been worse for him if the relief was six months already in place and they hadn't seen real money coming back in. So the timing actually might be OK for him.

GOLDENBERG: Can I just add one point on Richard's in particular? Because I very much agree, that's the greatest risk of the deal.

But I think there is a sort of American policy solution to it. A lot of times we have multiple tools to go after terrorism, some of which are the intelligence community deploys, some of which are deployed by DOD, some of which are deployed by Treasury.

Oftentimes, the approach is, well, the Treasury approach, let's sanction something because that's the lowest-risk approach. It involves least kinetic action, the least risk of military escalation, things like that.

It might actually be that given, paradoxically, given we have this nuclear agreement, defaulting to sanctions to respond to Iranian terrorism might be the riskiest approach because it undermines a broader interest that we have in perpetuating the nuclear deal. And so maybe DOD and the intelligence community need to be thinking more and those tools need to be used more aggressively in some of the steps that we take because there's risks associated with that, too, obviously, but it's a way to compartmentalize and try to separate and protect the agreement and our nonproliferation interests from our other interests in the region.

KIMBALL: Kelsey?

DAVENPORT: I would certainly agree with both what Richard and Ilan said and add as sort of another concern about any party intentionally exploiting the review process and the ability then to go to the U.N. Security Council with the intention of not resolving the dispute, but actually trying to kill the deal.

Because essentially, if a party does not think, if any one of the states does not think that an ambiguity or a concern has been resolved in the joint commission or then through the ministerial level or using sort of an arbitration panel, then they can go directly to the U.N. Security Council.

And for the permanent five members, you know, vetoing, you know, a resolution then will start to put these sanctions back in place. And that could be deliberately used, I think, to prevent the agreement from moving forward. And that option will remain open sort of past this administration. And when you hear some of the presidential candidates explicitly talking about wanting to unravel the deal, there certainly is an opening there that gives me some concern.

KIMBALL: One other quick thought. This is not so much a big threat to the implementation of the agreement, but it's something that I think everyone needs to pay attention to, including the Congress and the other governments involved in the negotiation and the P5+1, which is that the IAEA will need additional resources to do the added work. The IAEA has a rotating team of about 50 people on the Iran file. They do a very good job, but they're going to need more people, they're going to need more resources.

And there is a zero budget growth policy affecting all U.N. agencies. And so it's going to require voluntary contributions, additional contributions from key states, the United States, to give the agency the resources they need.

We probably will be hearing from Director General Amano in the coming weeks about now that he knows, you know, exactly what the terms are and he's had a chance to look at what they need to do, we're going to be hearing more from him probably about what kinds of resources he thinks he needs on an annual and ongoing basis.

It can be done, it's just going require governments stepping up and providing those resources.

GOLDENBERG: Yeah. Can I just -- one small point because I want to add on to just one other key, I think, vulnerability in the agreement that Kelsey got at is, what happens with our presidential transition?

And I don't think that a next, even if it's a Republican or somebody who opposed the agreement, if it's implemented for the next year-and-a-half, I think that the next president will continue to implement it.

The question is, will they implement it holding their nose? Will it be the president of the United States and the secretary of state or a senior-level special envoy who has direct access to the president of the United States when something comes up and there's a problem? Or it will be some deputy assistant secretary of state deep inside the State Department that nobody's really listening to? And in that case, I think the agreement just falls apart by neglect.

And we have lots of cases where I think an example of that is North Korea, I think another example of that is, you know, the different levels of prioritization of the Iraq issue in the Bush and Obama administrations. I think Obama, in many ways, executed the Bush drawdown plan on the security framework agreement, but the level of senior-level engagement nobody watched the issue for a few years.

This matters a lot. It's also an example of -- another example is the Clinton-Bush handover on al-Qaida. This is a problem as a U.S. government we have and that we're going to have to deal with here.

NEPHEW: I would (INAUDIBLE) a lot back, so I just need to point out one other thing, too. We've talked a lot about risks coming from the P5+1 side.


But you'll have to bear in mind, you know, the Iranians have cheated on their treaty obligations for 30-odd years. Right? It is not at all outside of their capacity to either cheat intentionally, have some guy do something that he's not supposed to do and have it also become a much bigger problem. There are a variety of things on the Iran side that could also make this deal fall apart, too.

It just bears to be noted that I think, you know, we were thinking more about our own perspective here, but certainly we have to make sure the Iranians do their part, too.

KIMBALL: Well, I think we were -- that's part of our concern and we simply weren't expressing it because it's quite obvious.

We can certainly expect there will be problems along the way. This is a long-term agreement and there are going to be disputes. And there are the mechanisms available to deal with them, but it's going to take continued good judgment, political leadership and good-faith efforts, particularly on the part of the Iranians so that we don't have a major blowup along the way.

We are almost out of time. I want to see if there's one more quick question that we can answer and then we're going to be closing.

Why don't we go with this gentleman on the right side, please.

QUESTION: Jonas Plesner, ministry counselor with the embassy of Denmark.

I was actually going to ask the same question as Jessica first about the stumbling blocks you saw ahead. So I think that's pretty well-answered.

So the second one is very specific and to Richard was on the sanctions. There's a stipulation in the agreement that says that if anything is inconsistent at the U.S. state and local level, the U.S. federal government do whatever it can in its power to ensure that.

So I was just wondering whether you could clarify where that could possible that you could have sort of local, state government that would sort of put in their own Iran sanctions and if you see that as a stumbling block.

NEPHEW: Well, there are, I mean, there are state and local pestment campaigns, you know, primarily that deal with Iran that could be and I think are considered to be sanctions both by the people who come up with the idea as well as by the Iranians.

Frankly, under our federal system of government there are limitations as to what the federal government can do here. And I think that's why the language is stated as it is. You know, there is no commitment on the part of the United States federal government to force the states to abandon pestment strategies and things like that.

There are laws on the books in the federal system (INAUDIBLE) that basically give cover to pestment and say it's something that, you know, state and local officials ought to be able to do. I think you could see some attempt to modify that.

But I think more broadly there's going to be two things. One is a general statement of advocacy that, you know, pestment decisions that are inconsistent with the terms of the deal are not helpful under the foreign policy authorities given to the federal government. There should be -- a supremacy clause should grant that to the federal government and so state and local officials ought not do things that are inconsistent with that.

But second, I think there's a bigger concern about overuse of federal authorities by local jurisdictions, including sanctions that may be suspended. And I think what this is intended to say is, if you're a financial regulator, for instance, and the federal government has suspended a sanction, this covers you, too.

So what this may set up in the future is legal challenge, frankly, between the federal, state and local levels to deal with particular cases, especially if the Iranians were to complain that a particular case is inconsistent with the deal.

We'll just have to see, frankly, how the courts will deal with that if and when that comes up.

KIMBALL: All right, thanks.

Well, as we said, it's complex. There's a lot to this agreement. We hope we've clarified a good bit about how the agreement is supposed to work, what's at stake, and what are some of the other considerations down the road.

And also, we hope we've provided some insights as to why so many believe this is, on balance, in the U.S. national security interests and a major step forward for the nuclear nonproliferation effort, especially in the world's most volatile region, the Middle East.

I want to thank everybody who came here today in our audience. I want to thank the audience on C-SPAN.

And more than anything, I want to thank our speakers for the great presentations.

The transcript of this event is going to be on the Arms Control Association website within a couple of days. There's more information about the agreement, Iran's program, the time line and history of efforts to get to this point.

So please join me in a round of applause for our great speakers today.


And we are adjourned. Thank you.



Negotiators from the P5+1 and Iran are in the final stretch to secure a comprehensive nuclear agreement...

Country Resources:

P5+1 Nations and Iran Reach Historic Nuclear Deal



Arms Control Association Experts Say the Agreement Creates a Strong, Effective Barrier Against a Nuclear-Armed Iran

For Immediate Release: July 14, 2015

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, 202-277-3478; Kelsey Davenport, director of nonproliferation policy, 317-460-8806; Greg Thielmann, senior fellow, 703-946-4407.

(Washington, D.C.)—Today's announcement from the P5+1 group (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, plus Germany) and Iran that they have achieved a verifiable, comprehensive agreement to limit Iran's sensitive nuclear activities is a historic breakthrough for nuclear nonproliferation and international security.

The agreement—known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—establishes a strong and effective formula for blocking all of the pathways by which Iran could acquire material for nuclear weapons and promptly detecting and deterring possible efforts by Iran to covertly pursue nuclear weapons in the future.

We join with a wide range of nonproliferation and security experts in assessing that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which is consistent with the April 2 framework agreed to at Lausanne, is a net-plus for nuclear nonproliferation and is clearly in the interest of both the United States, its allies and partners in the Middle East, Iran, and the international community. 

When implemented, the P5+1 and Iran agreement will establish long-term, verifiable restrictions on Iran's sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities—many of these restrictions will last for 10 years, some for 15 years, and some for 25 years. Iran’s plutonium path to the bomb will be eliminated, its potential to “breakout” and amass enough bomb-grade uranium for one bomb will be expanded from approximately 2-3 months to at least 12 months.

Just as importantly, the agreement will put in place a layered monitoring regime, which will include very robust International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections under Iran's additional protocol to its comprehensive safeguards agreement, giving international inspectors access to the any Iranian facility of proliferation concern including military sites, and also as the modified code 3.1 safeguards that require early notification of design changes or new nuclear projects by Iran. These provisions will last indefinitely to help detect and deter future nuclear weapons related efforts.

The sanctions relief that Iran will receive in return as it meets its key nuclear restrictions and nonproliferation commitments also serves as an incentive for Tehran to follow through on its obligations in the long term.

If both sides comply with, and faithfully implement, their multi-year obligations, the agreement will reduce the risk of a destabilizing nuclear competition in a troubled region and head off a potentially catastrophic military conflict over Iran's nuclear program.

Some critics of this deal in the United States may still believe that by rejecting the agreement and increasing sanctions pressure on Iran, the United States can somehow coerce the leaders in Tehran to dismantle Iran’s nuclear program or agree to better terms. That is a dangerous illusion. There is no better deal on the horizon.

If Congress somehow blocks implementation of this hard-won, balanced and effective multilateral deal, the United States will have broken from its European allies, the necessary international support for Iran-related sanctions would melt away, Iran would be able to rapidly and significantly expand its capacity to produce bomb-grade material; we would lose out on securing enhanced inspections needed to detect a clandestine weapons effort. The risk of a nuclear-armed Iran would thereby increase.

In the coming weeks, members of the U.S Congress on both sides of the aisle should carefully examine this complex agreement, evaluate its benefits, and evaluate the alternatives. This is the time to seize—not squander—the chance to put in place an effective, long-term, verifiable deal that blocks Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons.—DARYL G. KIMBALL, executive director, and KELSEY DAVENPORT, director for nonproliferation policy.


The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.


Today's announcement from the P5+1 group and Iran that they have achieved a verifiable, comprehensive agreement to limit Iran's sensitive nuclear activities is a historic breakthrough...

Country Resources:

Iran, P5+1 Close to Nuclear Deal

July/August 2015

By Kelsey Davenport

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (third from right) speaks to reporters during a break in talks with the U.S. delegation, headed by Secretary of State John Kerry (third from left) in Vienna on July 3.  At Kerry’s left is Helga Schmid, deputy foreign policy chief for the European Union. (State Department Photo)Iran and six world powers are close to concluding a comprehensive nuclear agreement and expect to complete a final deal in the first part of July, according to officials from both sides. 

Last November, Iran and the six powers, known as the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), set a deadline of June 30 for completing the final agreement. But on that day, they extended the deadline by seven days because officials said they needed more time to work out solutions on sanctions and inspections.

The international community is concerned that Iran could use its nuclear program to develop weapons, while Iran maintains that the program is entirely peaceful. 

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and negotiator Sergey Ryabkov said on July 2 he was confident a deal could be reached by the July 7 deadline. In separate comments the same day, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also told ­reporters that negotiations are “moving forward” and that he is hopeful for a deal. 

In April, Iran and the P5+1 agreed on a broad set of parameters to guide the final deal. (See ACT, May 2015.

UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on July 2 that to maintain momentum toward a deal, the P5+1 foreign ministers would continue to travel to Vienna.

Over the last week of June and the first days of July, the foreign ministers from all seven countries were in Vienna at various points. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived on June 26; the State Department said he would remain in Vienna through July 7. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz traveled with Kerry to the talks. 

On June 30, President Barack Obama said he was hopeful that there would be an agreement and that the parameters agreed to in April “if implemented effectively and codified properly, would, in fact, achieve my goal, which is Iran not obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister and negotiator Abbas Araqchi said on June 26 that significant progress had been made drafting the main text and technical annexes. 

Remaining Gaps

The last weeks of the negotiations have focused on areas where details were not fully spelled out in the April 2 parameters document, according to an official from a European country at the talks. He said that efforts over the past several months have focused on “clarifying these ambiguities” and resolving other issues.

According to officials on both sides, some of the remaining gaps leading into the June talks related to UN sanctions relief and questions regarding the investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) into the past possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.

The European official said one of the most difficult areas to resolve concerned the reimposition, or “snapback,” of UN Security Council sanctions in the event of an Iranian violation of the final agreement.

Finding a mechanism to put sanctions back in place has been difficult, he said, because of “procedural differences” among the P5+1 countries.

In his July 2 comments, Ryabkov said that the negotiators were still drafting language for a UN Security Council resolution to codify the Iran deal. Officials have said in the past that a Security Council resolution will endorse a final deal. This resolution may outline how a subsequent resolution can put sanctions back into place. China and Russia were “concerned about putting sanctions back in place without a vote” and opposed any automatic reimposition, the European official said, while other countries were concerned that a restoration of sanctions could be blocked by a veto that is “politically motivated and not based on an assessment of Iran’s violation.” As permanent members of the Security Council, China and Russia could veto a resolution.

Elizabeth Rosenberg, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, said in a June 26 conference call that the mechanism to put UN sanctions back in place would be to use the veto to reimpose restrictions. Rosenberg, now at the Center for a New American Security, said that, under this mechanism, vetoing a resolution that calls for the continuation of sanctions relief at the Security Council would put the sanctions back into place.

IAEA Access

Resolution of the IAEA investigation into past Iranian activities that might have been related to the development of nuclear weapons was another issue under discussion during the last round of negotiations.

As part of the April 2 parameters, Iran agreed take steps to resolve IAEA concerns about the possible military dimensions of its nuclear program. A senior Obama administration official told reporters on June 29 that the P5+1 has tried to “ensure that [this issue] is addressed and that the IAEA is able to issue a report as it has taken on as its institutional responsibility.”

A seal placed by the International Atomic Energy Agency on the connections between cascades at the Natanz uranium-enrichment plant in Iran is shown in this photo from January 20, 2014, the day that an interim deal between Iran and six world powers went into effect. (Photo by Kazem Ghane/AFP/Getty Images)In November 2013, Iran and the IAEA reached a framework agreement to allow agency inspectors to investigate unresolved IAEA concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, including the alleged weaponization activities. That probe stalled in August 2014 after nine months of cooperation.

Iran failed to meet a deadline to provide information about two activities that could be related to nuclear weapons development, but has since resumed some cooperation. Tehran provided the IAEA with information on one of the two issues in May.

Most recently, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano traveled to Tehran on July 1 to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran. Iranian press reports quoted Shamkhani as saying on July 2 that Iran is ready to continue cooperation with the IAEA to “resolve the remaining issues.” 

In comments to the media after he returned to Vienna on July 4, Amano said a report on the weaponization activities could be completed “by the end of the year” if Iran cooperates with the agency’s investigation. Iranian officials expressed concern in the past that the IAEA’s investigation might continue indefinitely. 

Concerns about any future illicit activities would be addressed under Iran’s additional protocol. An additional protocol to a country’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA gives inspectors expanded access to nuclear facilities in that country and allows some access to sites if there is evidence that illicit nuclear activities have taken place. Iran voluntarily implemented its additional protocol between 2003 and 2006. Tehran has agreed to ratify its protocol as part of the final deal, which would make the ­commitment permanent.

Amano told the Associated Press on May 12 that, under an additional protocol, the agency can request access to a military site when it has reason to do so and that the agency has done this in the past. 

Some members of the U.S. Congress have called for “anytime, anywhere” access to Iranian sites to ensure that there are no covert nuclear activities taking place. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made that point in a June 15 letter to Obama. 

In his June 29 comments, the senior administration official said that, under an agreement, if the IAEA “believes that it needs access and has a reason for that access, then we have a process to ensure that that access is given” but that the purpose of verification is not to gain access to every military site because that is “not appropriate.”

Iran and six world powers expect to complete a final nuclear deal by the first part of July, according to officials from both sides.

The NPT: Looking Back and Looking Ahead

July/August 2015

By Henk Cor van der Kwast

A draft of the 2015 NPT Review Conference final document is distributed on May 22 at the United Nations. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)Since the first nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference, in 1975, four of these gatherings ended without agreement. Five ended with an agreed text and therefore were considered to have strengthened the NPT regime.[1] A particular feature of NPT history has been that successes and failures followed each other, an unhelpful process for the treaty. 

The failure at this year’s review conference is frustrating because the participants were close to an agreed document on all three of the so-called pillars of the NPT—disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The dramatic final act of the conference was the product of negotiations among a very few delegations. The final stages of the process were not transparent. 

Despite the frustration of many delegations with the outcome and the endgame, failure was not unexpected. Disarmament and progress on NPT implementation are dependent on the international climate. That climate has worsened since the Ukraine crisis, which is relevant to the NPT because it involves a conflict between a nuclear-weapon state and a non-nuclear-weapon state. 

The immediate cause of the failure of the 2015 review conference was disagreement between Egypt and Israel over arrangements for the planned conference on ridding the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The origins may lie somewhat deeper and are related to progress on disarmament and the inclusion of references in the proposed final document to the so-called humanitarian initiative, which emphasizes the impact of the detonation of a nuclear weapon on populations and the environment.

The agreed documents on disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful use were far from ideal, and delegations were unsatisfied with the progress compared to 2010. Nevertheless, the documents could have been the basis for further work. Also, it would have been a good sign if the perpetual cycle of success-failure-success would have been broken. 

Misjudgments, ­Misconceptions

A problem of the review conference negotiations was misconceptions by several delegations with regard to what was possible to achieve at the review conference. This led to a widened gap between the different groups of states-parties. 

  • The idea that the current international political situation and the security and strategic elements that determine political relations were not relevant or only partly relevant for the review conference was a misjudgment.

  • Many non-nuclear-weapon states did not recognize the progress that had been made on nuclear disarmament, such as the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) and Megatons to Megawatts, a program that ended in December 2013 and involved the purchase by the United States of 500 metric tons of highly enriched uranium from Russian warheads for down-blending into low-enriched uranium for commercial reactor fuel. One can argue that there was too little progress, but there was progress. The reporting by the five nuclear-weapon states on what they had been doing on nuclear disarmament received too little attention.

  • Among the nuclear-weapon states, there was an idea that they had done enough and it was not necessary for them to come forward with new proposals for further disarmament.Among these five countries, there was too little awareness of the need to do more. 

  • The nuclear-weapon states were not ready to recognize the value of the humanitarian initiative. Some refused to acknowledge the initiative in spite of three international conferences and several declarations. 

  • A number of states, including the members of the New Agenda Coalition—Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, and South Africa—were very keen on creating a basis for a new legal instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, such as a nuclear weapons convention or a ban on the possession, deployment, and use of nuclear weapons.

  • The nuclear-weapon states and some other countries considered this to be unacceptable. Expectations among states who were in favor of an instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons were high, but this never was feasible, which made the deception even bigger. 

  • In the discussion of the establishment of a WMD-free zone in the Middle East, there was little recognition of what had been achieved in the so-called Glion process, the series of consultations on the planned conference from 2013 to 2014. That process achieved more than ever before, thanks to the hard work of Jaakko Laajava, the Finnish diplomat who has been facilitating the preparations for the planned conference. 

The nuclear-weapon states, particularly Russia and the United States, the two countries with the biggest arsenals, have a special responsibility for disarmament. The perception by many other states that the nuclear-weapon states are the main beneficiaries of the NPT because it justifies their nuclear arsenals does not help the discussion. Commitment and engagement by the nuclear-weapon states are essential for the NPT and its value for the future. If there is no new and further commitment by the nuclear-weapon states on nuclear disarmament, the question about the value and future of the treaty’s “grand bargain,” whereby the nuclear-weapon states will take effective measures for further nuclear disarmament and non-nuclear-weapon states will not try to obtain nuclear weapons, becomes more pressing. 

Cooperation among the nuclear-weapon states has worked to a certain extent, but there is always the risk that it becomes the justification for a lowest-common-denominator approach. On the positive side, the reports on disarmament of the nuclear-weapon states to the third Preparatory Committee meeting and to the review conference were a step forward. The presentation of the long-awaited glossary on nuclear disarmament by China was a positive sign, but in view of the limited number of items in this glossary, further follow-up is needed. 

In view of the circumstances, the agreement at the review conference on draft documents for all three pillars, but in particular on disarmament, is remarkable. It showed limited progress, and some delegations had strong doubts as to whether they should go along, but there was agreement. This was destroyed by the disagreement on the Middle East. It was a dramatic moment when the chair called delegations to the United Nations at 10 p.m. on May 21, but the draft final document was not ready because of the difficult negotiations on the Middle East. When the document emerged at 5 a.m. on May 22, the text immediately was disputed by the small group that had negotiated on the Middle East. From then on, the conference went downhill and slipped toward failure. 

From Frustrated to Motivated?

The NPT remains the most fundamental treaty for further disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful use of nuclear energy. The treaty remains indispensable for collective security and as an instrument for further nuclear disarmament and greater access to peaceful nuclear energy. It is a legal document that is the basis for a political process for further implementation of the goals of the NPT—disarmament, cooperation on nonproliferation, and further promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy. That implies commitment and engagement by all parties to work together on the treaty. There is no free ride. 

Because the 2015 review conference did not endorse the draft documents, they do not compel the states-parties to take further implementation steps. The action plan of 2010 and the 13 “practical steps” of 2000 remain valid and are a basis for further work, with a number of issues that still need further implementation.

Although there was no consensus on the draft documents, they may have some value. In a statement to the Conference on Disarmament, Pedro Motta Pinto Coelho, the Brazilian ambassador to that body, said the final draft should be considered important as a sort of “reference document.”[2] That is a useful way to think about the document, implying that it can be the basis for action. 

Between now and the first Preparatory Committee meeting in 2017, the first task is to close the gaps that exist among different groups, among delegations, and among delegations in the same groups. That does not mean that states-parties have to give up ambitions and plans, but it implies above all that delegations have to accept realities and involve themselves on the basis of those realities. All states-parties will have to look for common ground beyond the positions taken so far. Consensus is the only way forward, although working that way implies that the consensus rule is often holding progress hostage because a single country can block progress.

The main lesson from the review conference is that different groups need each other. The nuclear-weapon states, particularly Russia and the United States, are needed for further progress on nuclear disarmament. All five of these countries need to understand that they have to do more in order to keep the system in shape. The refusal by some nuclear-weapon states to recognize the humanitarian initiative as part of the disarmament discussion is not helpful and is damaging for relations and international cooperation. The nuclear-weapon states do not have to agree on the political aims and purposes of the humanitarian initiative, but they cannot deny the mere existence of the process and declarations. 

The Way Forward

Different states-parties could take a number of concrete actions as the parties prepare for the 2017 Preparatory Committee meeting. 

Practical steps by nuclear-weapon states. The draft text from the NPT review conference “underlines the importance of practical steps for the systematic and progressive efforts for the full realization and effective implementation of disarmament,” citing Article VI of the treaty. Such steps could include providing greater transparency, reducing the operational status of nuclear weapons, discussing possibilities for the reduction of tactical weapons, limiting the role of nuclear weapons, and extending the possibilities for verification, including partnerships for verification.

Enhanced reporting by nuclear-weapon states. Since 2010 the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI)—a group consisting of Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, the Philippines, Poland, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates—has consistently raised the issue of further reporting on the progress of disarmament. Reporting makes progress visible, enhances transparency, and is an expression of commitment to the treaty. The draft text has a number of references to increasing the frequency and quality of the reporting. On the basis of the draft document, the nuclear-weapon states could commit themselves to further reporting for the 2017 Preparatory Committee meeting. 

Negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT). This is not new, but follows from the 2010 action plan. Since then, a group of governmental experts has presented its report on the issue. This report gives a substantial overview of the issues for an FMCT and can therefore serve as a basis for negotiations.

Further ratifications of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. This is also an item from the 2010 action plan. Eight key states remain holdouts, including China and the United States, two nuclear-weapon states. 

Further negotiations on arms reductions. Further and faster reductions are needed in the framework of New START. The aim of these Russian-U.S. negotiations could be cuts below New START levels, or they could aim to reach the New START levels more quickly.

Negative security assurances and nuclear-weapon-free zones. Delegations could launch an initiative for a legally binding international instrument on negative security assurances, which are commitments by the nuclear-weapon states to refrain from using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against states that have formally renounced these weapons. In the meantime, all states should further promote the creation and strengthening of nuclear-weapon-free zones.

Recognition and acceptance of the issue of the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons use. The humanitarian initiative can help to underpin efforts to reduce and eliminate nuclear weapons.

Exploration of ways to strengthen the intersessional process of the NPT. The NPT framework, with three Preparatory Committee meetings that are more or less linked to the review conference, suffers partly from its structure. Because nothing is agreed before the review conference begins, everything has to be negotiated and agreed during the four weeks of the meeting. The NPT could benefit from a process under which the work of the Preparatory Committee is more closely linked to the review conference and under which the review conference declaration is the sum of the work done over four years in the three Preparatory Committee meetings and the review conference. State-parties have the opportunity to start such a process. Discussions on strengthening the preparatory process should be undertaken before the first Preparatory Committee meeting. 

As is clear from the points above, the nuclear-weapon states continue to have a special responsibility. Even in times of strained international relations, it is in the common interest of the NPT that the nuclear-weapon states take their responsibilities seriously and show leadership to move forward. That implies actions in the different disarmament forums. 

All disarmament forums are significant; work should continue where possible. Actions in forums other than the NPT are important and strengthen the process, but they can never replace the fundamental value of the NPT and the need to strengthen that treaty further.

Henk Cor van der Kwast is permanent representative of the Netherlands to the Conference on Disarmament and disarmament ambassador at large. He was the head of the Netherlands delegation to the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Dutch government. 


1. By this standard, the successful conferences were the ones in 1975, 1985, 1995, 2000, and 2010.

2. “Statement by H.E. Ambassador Pedro Motta Pinto Coelho, Permanent Representative of Brazil to the Conference on Disarmament,” June 9, 2015, http://www.unog.ch/80256EDD006B8954/(httpAssets)/8CE652C35E1678B3C1257E5F0036250E/$file/1355+Brazil.pdf.

A particular feature of NPT history has been that successes and failures followed each other, an unhelpful process for the treaty. 

The 2015 NPT Review Conference and the Future of the Nonproliferation Regime

July/August 2015

By Andrey Baklitskiy

President Barack Obama (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet during the Group of Eight summit at the Lough Erne resort in Northern Ireland on June 17, 2013. (Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)As the latest nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference ends without an agreement on a final document, some observers begin to wonder whether the nuclear nonproliferation regime itself is in crisis. The prospects for the next review conference do not look particularly bright. 

With tensions between Moscow and Washington precluding any new arms control agreements and no multilateral disarmament negotiations in sight, non-nuclear-weapon states accuse the nuclear haves of “discrimination, hypocrisy, and failure to live up to their commitments to disarm.” As one wise observer put it, although “[e]xcessive rhetoric is a hallmark of such conferences, and it will not necessarily signify an imminent collapse of the treaty. . . these charges underscore a more basic, long-run security problem. . .  that could lead to the failure of the NPT.” It was the summer of 1985, and Joseph Nye was evaluating the cohesion of the nonproliferation regime in his article titled “NPT: The Logic of Inequality.”[1] 

The nonproliferation regime proved to be much more resilient than many observers believed. A few months after Nye published his article, the third NPT review conference ended successfully, and 10 years after that, the treaty was extended indefinitely. The majority of the NPT member states share an interest in nuclear nonproliferation, and the price of noncompliance is high enough to deter potential violators. That combination eventually brought the NPT more adherents than any arms control arrangement in history. Thus, to assess the current state of the nonproliferation regime and to understand what the 2015 review conference’s failure to produce a final document means for the regime’s future, one must put things into perspective. 

First, an NPT review conference ending without a final document is nothing new or even unusual. Since the treaty entered into force in 1970, the parties failed to reach a consensus at four out of nine review conferences: 1980, 1990, 2005, and 2015. The outcome of the 2015 conference, disappointing though it may be, says little about the major trends in the field of nonproliferation. 

Second, the main contradictions plaguing the review conferences have not changed much since 1985. The past 30 years have seen the collapse of the bipolar world and nuclear weapons tests by India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Nevertheless, it is disarmament under Article VI of the NPT that remains the most contested issue. The issue of the creation of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East—the straw that broke the camel’s back in 2015—can be traced back at least to 1974.[2] 

Third, the world has seen previous instances of standoffs between the nuclear weapons superpowers, and the nonproliferation regime managed to stay relatively intact. Current relations between Russia and the United States are frosty, which does not bode well for further bilateral disarmament. In the course of the NPT review conference, the two countries criticized each other over alleged noncompliance with international agreements. Nevertheless, both sides have continued to implement current arms control accords such as the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty despite mutual accusations over the latter. Another positive sign is that Moscow and Washington continue to work together in the P5 process.[3]  

For the moment, Russia does not support the U.S. initiative to decrease the nuclear arsenals of the two countries to 1,000 warheads each. From the Russian point of view, the prerequisite for further reductions is strategic stability, which United States is undermining by expanding its ballistic missile defense, developing prompt global-strike systems, and opposing the draft treaty banning weapons in outer space. If any of these trends changes due to new intergovernmental dynamics or a creative use of diplomacy, this could bring bilateral or multilateral disarmament initiatives back to the table. 

At the same time, new, alarming trends are emerging. Although the points of divergence in the NPT review process remain unchanged, the willingness to compromise and find consensus is fading. The dissatisfied countries are looking for shortcuts to fulfill their disarmament demands. There is a temptation to shift the discussion to forums, such as the UN General Assembly or an ad hoc body, that make decisions by majority instead of consensus. Contrary to popular belief, such a move is unlikely to result in the desired change. Instead, it would weaken the review process and consequently the nonproliferation regime itself. Two main case studies stand out. 

At the recent review conference, the intransigence of the United States and its allies, which safeguarded Israeli interests over a WMD-free zone in the Middle East, clashed with the position of Egypt, which was not ready to forget the promises made in 1995 and 2010. The conference concluded with Washington rejecting the wording on the Middle East and derailing the whole draft final document. As a result, with Jaakko Laajava all but officially resigning as facilitator of the planned conference on a WMD-free zone and no new decisions being made, the staging of the conference was put on hold indefinitely. As Mikhail Ulyanov, director of the Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control at the Russian Foreign Ministry, put it, “[T]he current mandate on the Weapons of Mass Destruction-Free Zone has expired, and a new one, it seems, may only be confirmed at the next Review Conference in 2020.”[4] Other actors might have different views. For example, nothing would prevent Arab states from bringing the issue to the UN General Assembly, where they could rally enough support to task the secretary-general with organizing the WMD-free zone conference in circumvention of the U.S. position. 

Such a move would be cheered in the Arab world, but it is difficult to see how it could help bring all regional stakeholders to the negotiating table, which is a prerequisite for success. The original Arab group text on the WMD-free zone was amended during the negotiations in an effort to gain broad support within the review conference framework. That is why the section of the draft final document on the Middle East envisioned that negotiations on the WMD-free zone conference would be consensus based, giving Israel a de facto veto over any substantial decision.[5] Should Arab states decide to push for a General Assembly resolution, they could drop out the provisions requiring consensus because they would not need them for the document to pass. Such a resolution would be even more unacceptable to Israel than the version that the review conference ultimately rejected. The resolution would pass, but in the end, the conference would fail to bring together all the countries of the region. 

Things get even more complicated when it comes to issues related to disarmament. At the review conference, some 160 member states endorsed the so-called humanitarian initiative, which emphasizes the impact of a nuclear weapons detonation on human beings and the environment. These states pushed for the establishment of a legal framework to eliminate nuclear weapons[6]—a clear nonstarter for nuclear-weapon states—and lobbied hard to insert into the final document the precise terminology developed by the group, for example, the term “humanitarian consequences.” For their part, the nuclear-weapon states rejected this approach, maintaining, contrary to the opinion of the majority of member states, that there is no need for urgent disarmament actions, and joined the non-nuclear-weapon states in discussing terminology instead of substance. 

Many participants and observers believed that the disarmament section of the draft final document, which included the humanitarian-impact language but not legally binding disarmament measures, could have been adopted. Although many non-nuclear-weapon states were less than enthusiastic about that section, no one was willing to take the blame for the failure of the conference. Some members of the humanitarian initiative were probably satisfied to hear Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, say that it was better to “conclude this conference without a final consensus document than endorse a bad final document.”[7] 

With two depositaries of the NPT—the United Kingdom and the United States—opposing a final document of the review conference over a country that was not even party to the treaty and with disarmament expectations not met, there is a good chance that actions will be taken outside the review process. The humanitarian initiative or its more radical wing—the 108 countries that endorsed the “Humanitarian Pledge” to “stigmatise, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons”[8]—might decide to start working on the long-debated legal instruments to ban nuclear weapons. This can be done through the General Assembly or within the framework of the next conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons use. 

If a nuclear weapons convention is put forward in any of this forums, nuclear-weapon states, their allies, and some of the more moderate countries are unlikely to participate. Such a move certainly would increase the divide between groups of countries with different approaches. 

The possibility of the fragmentation of the NPT review process along ideological lines has always been present. The inalienable inequality of the treaty and the large number of groups within the review process provide broad opportunities. Nevertheless, for the last 45 years, states-parties have managed to listen to each other most of the time. The dialogue between countries has made it possible to move the process forward, with the review conferences and the preparatory committees providing good platforms for discussion and consensus building. This should not stop.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (left) meets with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the United Nations on April 27, the first day of the NPT review conference. Cairo and Washington were central players in the conference’s impasse over a planned conference on a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. (Photo byJason DeCrow-Pool/Getty Images)Although Arab countries might not like to continue negotiating on the WMD-free zone, when every deadline since 1995 has been missed and no guarantee of success is given, it is obvious that the talks must continue. Continuing without Israel, however, makes little sense. The United States and Israel must take into consideration that a conference organized without Israel would only undermine trust in the region, fuel tensions, and increase pressure on the Israeli government, results that neither country wants. 

For its part, the humanitarian initiative should set clear goals and identify realistic ways to attain them. For the moment, the introduction of the humanitarian-impact language and the stressing of new evidence of the threat posed by nuclear weapons are almost outweighing the promotion of nuclear disarmament as a focus of the initiative’s members. 

The initiative was successful in bringing additional attention to the importance of Article VI and becoming a voice of the majority of NPT member states on nuclear disarmament. If it wants to stay relevant, the initiative will have to do some difficult diplomatic work to match this support with an agenda that could be seen by all member states as a starting point for discussion. Nuclear-weapon states are not going to accept a nuclear weapons convention anytime soon. This is where the lack of credible short- and medium-term proposals for nuclear disarmament on the part of the humanitarian initiative produces confusion. 

Nuclear-weapon states should not dismiss the humanitarian approach out of hand. Nuclear war would undoubtedly be a catastrophe. Nuclear-weapon states know this much better than the majority of non-nuclear-weapon states. This was the foundation of the policy of nuclear deterrence and is one of the reasons that no nuclear war has been fought over the last 70 years. Moreover, not a single nuclear-weapon state is opposed to the idea of nuclear disarmament although the security guarantees they would require may vary and the five states insist on what they describe as a “step-by-step” approach. Discussing the possible disarmament steps and the security conditions needed for them with non-nuclear-weapon states would increase the transparency of the process and strengthen the NPT and the nonproliferation regime. 

NPT member states must continue the dialogue on the most pressing issues. The 2020 NPT Review Conference will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the treaty. An often overlooked fact is that had the treaty simply been extended for 25 years back in 1995, there would have to be another extension conference five years from now with an unclear outcome. Luckily, today there is no need to worry that the NPT itself will cease to exist because of procedural issues or the objections of a single country. With this weight lifted, member states should engage each other instead to make the world safer for all of its inhabitants. The half-century-old treaty is still more than relevant for this purpose. 

Andrey Baklitskiy is director of the Russia and Nuclear Nonproliferation Program at the PIR Center, a Moscow-based global security think tank, and a research fellow at the Center for Global Trends and International Organizations of the Diplomatic Academy of the ­Russian Foreign Ministry. He attended the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee meetings in 2013 and 2014 and the review ­conference in 2015.


1. Joseph S. Nye Jr., “NPT: The Logic of Inequality,” Foreign Policy, No. 59 (Summer 1985), pp. 123–131.

2. UN General Assembly, Resolution 3263, December 9, 1974 (“Establishment of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Region of the Middle East”).

3. The five countries that the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty recognizes as nuclear-weapon states (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) also are the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and therefore are sometimes known as the P5. Since 2007, they have been meeting to discuss issues such as transparency and confidence-building measures. 

4. “Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction
Free Zone Serious Concern—Moscow,” Sputnik, June 1, 2015, http://sputniknews.com/middleeast/20150601/1022795322.html

5. 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, “Draft Final Document,” NPT/CONF.2015/R.3, May 21, 2015, p. 22.

6. 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, “Subsidiary Body 1: Draft Substantive Elements,” NPT/CONF.2015/MC.1/SB.1/CRP.1, May 8, 2015, para. 17.

7. Rose Gottemoeller, Remarks at the conclusion of the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference, New York, May 22, 2015, http://www.state.gov/t/us/2015/242778.htm.

8. Formerly the “Austrian pledge.” See “Humanitarian Pledge,” n.d., http://www.bmeia.gv.at/fileadmin/user_upload/Zentrale/Aussenpolitik/Abruestung/HINW14/HINW14_Austrian_Pledge.pdf.

As the latest nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference ends without an agreement on a final document, some observers begin to wonder whether the nuclear nonproliferation regime itself is in crisis.

A New Humanitarian Era: Prohibiting the Unacceptable

July/August 2015

By Beatrice Fihn

Alexander Kmentt of Austria (center) confers with fellow delegates at the NPT review conference on May 1. (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons)When the United States took the floor[1] to block the draft outcome document at the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, no one in the room seemed particularly surprised or even disappointed. After four weeks of discussions, even the adoption of a final outcome document would not have masked the wide differences in approaches to nuclear weapons that the treaty’s states-parties have. 

As long as some states continue to defend possession and argue for the legitimacy of nuclear weapons, the NPT cannot tackle the fundamental problem posed by these weapons, whether or not its review conference can produce an outcome document.

The Wide Divide

After the debates among nuclear-weapon states, nuclear alliance states, and non-nuclear-weapon states on the consequences and risks of nuclear weapons, it seemed unlikely that any language that could be acceptable to all would actually mean anything. One side clearly believes nuclear weapons are legitimate tools for enhancing national security while the other believes they are unacceptable weapons that should be banned. As 49 states described it at the closing of the review conference, “[T]here is a wide divide that presents itself in many fundamental aspects of what nuclear disarmament should mean. There is a reality gap, a credibility gap, a confidence gap and a moral gap.”[2]

Although Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States blocked consensus on a final draft over the proposed language on the planned conference on ridding the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction, the draft outcome document was deeply flawed on disarmament. It contained no meaningful new commitments or benchmarks and in some ways rolled back previous commitments. Moreover, many states-parties were excluded from the final negotiations.

At the closing plenary, a wide range of governments from all regions highlighted the ways that the text fell dramatically short of making credible progress.

The failure to agree on an outcome document, coupled with the lack of implementation of the “action plan” that was a key part of the agreed outcome from the 2010 review conference, has seriously undermined the belief that the NPT can be a credible path toward disarmament. Throughout the four weeks, it was made clear that the nuclear-weapon states are not interested in making any new commitments to disarmament.

Although it might be tempting to repeat the phrase “the NPT is in danger,” the developments throughout the four weeks of the recent review conference showed that states are still committed to the NPT. Most governments see the NPT as a key treaty preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and containing the only current, legally binding commitment to nuclear disarmament by the nuclear-weapon states. So, although a failure to achieve a consensus document does not in itself threaten the NPT, it might reduce the faith many governments, international organizations, and civil society organizations have in the treaty’s review process as an effective way of making progress on nuclear disarmament. It is time to pursue the objectives of the NPT in other settings. 

The Real Outcome

The real outcome of an NPT review cycle is not limited to a final document. As this 2015 review conference concluded, the “Humanitarian Pledge,”[3]—initiated by Austria as an action-oriented outcome of the three conferences in Norway, Mexico, and Austria on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons use—had been endorsed by 107 states.[4] The chair’s summary from the December 2014 conference in Vienna noted that “there is no comprehensive legal norm universally prohibiting possession, transfer, production and use of nuclear weapons.”[5] By endorsing the Humanitarian Pledge, the majority of states-parties to the NPT have committed to “pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.”[6] 

This is a significant achievement and shows a surge of interest in looking at a new, legally binding instrument to address the concerns raised through the humanitarian initiative. 

No consensus outcome document would have been able to reflect the growing interest in the humanitarian perspective on nuclear weapons use and the strong appetite for turning these concerns into concrete action. This will be the case as long as the nuclear-weapon states and many of their allies insist that nuclear weapons have security benefits (for them) and that they have a right to use such weapons to defend their national security (under circumstances they will not define). 

It is often said that the humanitarian initiative grew out of non-nuclear-weapon states’ frustration with the slow pace of disarmament. Yet, it is not just a way for these states to express frustration; it is the expression of the aspirations for humanity. “Humanitarian impact” is not a catchy phrase to use in order to create more pressure on nuclear-armed states to pursue disarmament, and the emphasis on that approach to the problem of nuclear weapons is not a “short cut” to disarmament or even an attempt to try something new when other efforts have failed. 

Instead, it is a reflection of the emergence of a new era in security policy in which humanitarian concerns and humanitarian law are growing in importance while strategic balance and power politics are seen as increasingly outdated Cold War attitudes. It should be seen as the result of a new way of conducting international relations in which problems with global impacts mean that stakeholders from all regions of the world, not just the permanent members of the UN Security Council, have the right to have a say about the solutions. 

The discussion about humanitarian impact is about the weapons themselves and what they do to people. The effects of just a single nuclear weapon are shocking and overwhelming, and they go far beyond what is acceptable.

The use of a nuclear weapon on a major populated area would immediately kill tens if not hundreds of thousands of people, with hundreds of thousands injured. The long-term consequences would significantly harm the environment, development, and the economy across borders and generations.[7] 

Nuclear weapons fundamentally violate the principles of humanitarian law. They are morally intolerable and illegitimate instruments of terror, and as the International Committee of the Red Cross stated, “[T]heir destructive power is unrivalled, their potential impact catastrophic, and yet they remain the one weapon of mass destruction not yet banned.”[8]

Closing the Gap

The failure of the 2015 NPT Review Conference will not affect the treaty’s ability to do what it is intended to do—prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and provide a legal obligation for negotiating nuclear disarmament. Together with International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, the NPT will remain a key tool for the international community to prevent new states from acquiring nuclear weapons. 

Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide delivers opening remarks on March 4, 2013, in Oslo at the first conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons use. (Mari Nordmo, UD)Pursuing the Humanitarian Pledge and prohibiting nuclear weapons may not make it easier at the next NPT review conference to achieve consensus on the question of whether nuclear weapons are legitimate tools for security, but it can catalyze action on the necessary elements to eliminate nuclear weapons. A ban on nuclear weapons could be developed and adopted through a series of negotiating conferences initiated by non-nuclear-weapon states and should be pursued in the coming years even if the nuclear-armed states choose not to participate. Such a treaty would likely entail the development of an international prohibition on the use, development, production, stockpiling, transfer, acquisition, deployment, and financing of nuclear weapons, as well as prohibiting assistance with these acts.

Progress on addressing the humanitarian concerns and the continued risk of existing nuclear arsenals is desperately needed. Despite efforts from some nuclear-weapon states to brush aside the facts presented at the three conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons use,[9] it is evident that the risk of use continues to exist and that the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of a nuclear detonation would make it difficult to provide any meaningful assistance or relief. 

As it is now 70 years since nuclear weapons inflicted unspeakable suffering on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it is essential that governments take this opportunity and start a process to prohibit nuclear weapons. 

A treaty banning nuclear weapons should not be negotiated because of the NPT and its failure to agree on an outcome document. It should be negotiated because, in today’s international context, weapons with indiscriminate, inhumane, and unacceptable effects that harm civilians, communities, and the environment should be prohibited. 

Although a ban on nuclear weapons is not automatically going to result in their elimination, it is a necessary catalyst for disarmament. The dismantlement of all nuclear arsenals might be a long process, but a clear international rejection of these weapons is going to be an essential component of future disarmament efforts. By contributing to international stigmatization and rejection of these weapons, a ban on nuclear weapons and the process to negotiate it will make the maintenance and development of nuclear weapons less attractive and more difficult for existing nuclear weapons possessors and potential new ones even if such states do not participate in the negotiations. In addition, the process to develop a treaty banning nuclear weapons could transform civil society engagement in this area and provide unprecedented opportunities for political pressure. 

No longer should it matter who has the weapon or for what reason. Inhumane practices such as torture, slavery, and threatening cities and communities with nuclear attack simply cannot be allowed to remain legal. 

With the Humanitarian Pledge as a basis, it is time for those countries willing to move forward to get together and start a process to fill the legal gap through negotiations of a new legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons. Throughout the 2015 NPT Review Conference, the increasing support for the pledge highlighted that a powerful momentum has been created throughout the review cycle. It is therefore time for a state or a group of states committed to this initiative to take the lead by initiating a process to outlaw nuclear weapons immediately. Negotiations of such a treaty could take place in any forum, but would need to be open to all states, blockable by none, and inclusive of civil society and international organizations.

As this NPT review cycle has come to an end, the strong support for the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons use and the Humanitarian Pledge has showed that prohibiting nuclear weapons is the right next step. 

Beatrice Fihn is executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and leads the campaign for a treaty banning nuclear weapons. She previously worked on disarmament issues for Reaching Critical Will of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the Geneva Centre for Security Policy.


1. Rose Gottemoeller, Remarks at 
the conclusion of the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference, New York, May 22, 2015, http://www.state.gov/t/us/2015/242778.htm

2. “2015 NPT Review Conference Joint Closing Statement as Delivered by Austria,” May 22, 2015, http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/npt/revcon2015/statements/22May_Austria.pdf.  

3. “Humanitarian Pledge,” n.d., http://www.bmeia.gv.at/fileadmin/user_upload/Zentrale/Aussenpolitik/Abruestung/HINW14/HINW14vienna_Pledge_Document.pdf

4. For a list of states endorsing the Humanitarian Pledge, see http://www.icanw.org/pledge

5. Republic of Austria, “Report and Summary of Findings of the Conference,” Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, December 8-9, 2014, http://www.bmeia.gv.at/fileadmin/user_upload/Zentrale/Aussenpolitik/Abruestung/HINW14/HINW14_Chair_s_Summary.pdf.

6. See Humanitarian Pledge. 

7. For an overview of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, see Beatrice Fihn, ed., “Unspeakable Suffering: The Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons,” Reaching Critical Will, February 2013, http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Publications/Unspeakable/Unspeakable.pdf

8. Peter Mauer, “ICRC Says Nuclear Weapons Are ‘Unacceptable Risk’ and Must Be Scrapped,” April 27, 2015, https://www.icrc.org/en/document/icrc-says-nuclear-weapons-are-unacceptable-risk-and-must-be-scrapped

9. Matthew Bolton, “No New Information on the Consequences of Nuclear Weapons?” NPT News in Review, Vol. 13, No. 10 (May 14, 2015): 7. 

No Third Use: An Interview With Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue

July/August 2015

Interviewed by Daniel Horner

Tomihisa Taue was elected mayor of Nagasaki in 2007 and began his third term in April. He is vice president of the international organization Mayors for Peace. Taue spoke by telephone with Arms Control Today from his office on June 15. In the conversation, which was conducted through an interpreter, he spoke about the possibility of a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama to Nagasaki, the concept of a Northeast Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone, and the need for the world to know and remember the facts of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.

The interview was transcribed by Nathaniel Sans. It has been edited for clarity.

Buddhist statues lie among the rubble of the U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, in this photo from the fall of that year. (Photo by Cpl. Lynn P. Walker, Jr. (Marine Corps))ACT: Thank you very much for doing this interview, Mr. Mayor. When you spoke before the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty [NPT] Review Conference on May 1, you noted that the average age of the survivors of the atomic bombings of August 6 and August 9, 1945, is 80 years. You said that “we have a responsibility to show these survivors the path to the abolition of nuclear weapons while they are alive to witness it.” As the vice president of Mayors for Peace and the mayor of Nagasaki, what specific steps do you think are necessary in the near term to put the world on the path to the abolition of nuclear weapons?

Taue: During the NPT review conference, we were not able to bridge the gaps between the nuclear-weapon states, who insisted on a step-by-step approach, and the non-nuclear-weapon states, who insisted on a comprehensive approach. We need to continue with the dialogue in order to fill in this gap.

ACT: Are there specific mechanisms that are needed? For example, you have referred in the past to creating a new and continuing conference that would be open to all countries. Is that something that should be pursued?[1]

Taue: Yes, I think that these conferences will be needed. When I visited Washington this May and met with officials of the U.S. government, I made a proposal. For example, we should set up a working group at the UN General Assembly to consider effective measures to fill in the legal gap in order to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons.

ACT: And what was the response? How did they receive the proposal?

Taue: I’m not allowed to disclose details of the discussion. However, the U.S. officials said that they would like to make every effort to adopt a final document at the NPT review conference. They were inclined to work something out at the NPT review conference to advance nuclear disarmament. Regrettably, we were not able to reach a final agreement, but they were determined to bring the conference to a successful conclusion.

ACT: At the review conference and since then, do you believe the key states have shown the necessary commitment to the abolition of nuclear weapons and established a path toward that goal?

Taue: By “the key states,” do you mean the nuclear-weapon states?

ACT: Right, the nuclear-weapon states and other states that would be part of the effort to push them, but primarily the nuclear-weapon states.

Taue: When the first proposal for the final document was reported, it was a good one. However, after the second and the third drafts had been submitted, I think the countries went a little backward. As the draft was updated, the contents were degraded. I believe that one of the reasons for this is that the nuclear-weapon states insisted on a step-by-step approach and that, as a result, the final document draft has been degraded. I think that the nuclear-weapon states need to have in mind that we need to speed up nuclear disarmament as a whole. 

ACT: So, the step-by-step approach is not sufficient, in your view?

Taue: I do not believe that the step-by-step approach is insufficient. However, there is a reality that while we were not able to proceed with the step-by-step approach, other states have obtained nuclear weapons. There is also an emerging danger that terrorists might obtain a nuclear weapon. The step-by-step approach and a comprehensive approach do not contradict each other. We can proceed with them in parallel.

ACT: In his address to the NPT review conference, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida invited world leaders to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki when they gather in Japan for the Group of Seven summit in 2016. Why would a visit to Japan by President Obama and other world leaders be meaningful to the people of Japan, and how could such a gathering be designed to catalyze action by these leaders on the next steps on nuclear disarmament?

Taue: Foreign Minister Kishida is originally from Hiroshima, so he has a strong passion for his hometown. We have continually appealed for world leaders to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki because I believe that when we discuss nuclear weapons issues, it is important to know the facts about what the use of nuclear weapons will bring about. So, with an open mind, we should first know the facts before we go into this discussion. So, I think it is important for the leaders to know what happened under those mushroom clouds.

When I met with the U.S. government officials last month, I also made a request for the president to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The reason for this is that if the U.S. president visits these atomic bomb cities, the other leaders will likely follow. The second reason is that we would like to have President Obama convey a message to the world that Nagasaki should be the last site on earth to suffer from nuclear devastation. I think that this message will be a very strong appeal to the world in continuance with the speech he made in Prague. Third, this will be a productive collaboration by President Obama and the city of Nagasaki toward nuclear abolition, which would be a great honor for us.

ACT: Are there specific steps that Japan and other middle powers, including the other members of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative,[2] can take to spur multilateral progress on nuclear disarmament? What steps can the government of Japan take to accelerate progress toward nuclear disarmament and reduce its own reliance and other states’ reliance on nuclear deterrence?

Taue: The steps that Japan could take are to establish a security policy that does not rely on nuclear deterrence, promote trust building in the region, and establish a Northeast Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region. To be precise, three states—Japan, South Korea, and North Korea—should establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone, and the neighboring nuclear-weapon states—that is, the United States, Russia, and China—will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons, and they should guarantee this. 

This idea of a comprehensive security arrangement in Northeast Asia is something that the Japanese government could implement. And this March, the Nagasaki University Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition has made a proposal of a concrete, comprehensive approach toward a Northeast Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone. This has been done with the assistance of Dr. Morton H. Halperin, and I think that their proposal is something that should be considered.[3] 

ACT: So, under this proposal, Japan would no longer rely on the so-called nuclear umbrella of the United States? Is that correct?

Taue: Yes, exactly. We will not be relying on a nuclear umbrella, but spreading a non-nuclear umbrella for the region. 

ACT: In August, the people of Nagasaki and people around the world will mark the 70th anniversary of the bombing that caused some 150,000 casualties in your city. What is the legacy of the bombings in Nagasaki today?

Taue: The atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki are still suffering from the aftereffects, and this is a negative legacy for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, nuclear weapons were made by humans, and humans can conquer, can abolish nuclear weapons. I would like to make this legacy a positive one, and that is what we are continuing to do.

ACT: In the weeks and months and years that follow the commemorations of the bombings, what should be done to ensure that the experience and lessons of August 1945 are passed on to future generations in Japan and around the world?

Taue: The most important thing is to know the facts, what the use of nuclear weapons will bring about to human beings. To know the facts is important because what we see around the world is that there are still many people who do not know about the atomic bombings. So, I think it is important for the people to know about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

In the United States, there is a widespread belief that the use of nuclear weapons was justified, that it was the right thing to do to use atomic weapons to end the war. Even if that were true, there’s a question if the United States really needed to use the second atomic bomb in Japan. So, I think the people should not be influenced by preconceptions and should first learn the facts. We would like them to think if the use of nuclear weapons to end a war is the right thing to do so that we can prevent the third use of nuclear weapons. The third thing I would like to say is that the appeal made by the atomic bomb survivors is not a message as the victims of the atomic bomb. They are conveying a message as members of the human race. They are trying to send out the message not as victims, but as human beings, on what the use of nuclear weapons will bring about to all human beings.

ACT: Thank you very much, Mr. Mayor. We very much appreciate it. 


1. Tomihisa Taue, Speech on behalf of Mayors for Peace, 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference NGO Session, New York, May 1, 2015, http://www.un.org/en/conf/npt/2015/statements/pdf/individual_10.pdf. 

2. In addition to Japan, the members of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative are Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, the Philippines, Poland, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. 

3. Satoshi Hirose et al., “Proposal: A Comprehensive Approach to a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone,” Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, Nagasaki University, March 2015, http://www.recna.nagasaki-u.ac.jp/recna/bd/files/Proposal_E.pdf. 

The mayor talks about the idea of a Northeast Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone and the need for the world to know and remember the facts of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.

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