FPI Analysis: How Iran Contradicts What U.S. Officials Say on the Nuclear Deal

August 11, 2015

Since Iran and the P5+1 reached the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on July 14, Tehran and Washington have described both the deal and its implications in dramatically different ways. Whereas the Obama administration presented it as an ironclad guarantee against an Iranian nuclear bomb, Iran's leaders vowed that its nuclear activities would endure, and repeatedly called for America’s destruction. This FPI Analysis highlights the contrasting ways that the two countries have portrayed the deal, and raises questions both about Tehran’s commitment to its terms and about the Obama administration’s optimism concerning its potential efficacy. 
 



I. REQUIREMENTS OF THE DEAL

Iran’s Nuclear Progress under the Deal

What U.S. Officials Say

July 14, 2015: “Without this deal, there would be no agreed-upon limitations for the Iranian nuclear program,” says President Obama in a speech announcing the agreement.

How Iran Contradicts Them

July 18, 2015: Under the deal, says Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a speech, “The research and development of the nuclear industry will continue; the progress of the nuclear industry will continue; this is the thing that they endeavored for years [to prevent] [but] today, [they] have put it on paper and are signing [that paper to show] that they have no objection.”

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Anytime, Anywhere Inspections

What U.S. Officials Say

July 14, 2015: “Because of this deal, inspectors will also be able to access any suspicious location,” says President Obama in a speech announcing the agreement. “Put simply, the organization responsible for the inspections, the IAEA, will have access where necessary, when necessary.”

How Iran Contradicts Them

July 14, 2015: “We’ve said very clearly that our military sites are off limits,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tells CNN. “We are prepared to cooperate with the IAEA and we have now a program to cooperate and I think if you read the agreement, Annex I of the agreement, it’s clearly written that … the attempts to verify possible undeclared activity are not designed or are not aimed at military or other secrets of Iran or any other country.”

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Duration of the Agreement

What U.S. Officials Say

August 5, 2015: “After two years of negotiations, we have achieved a detailed arrangement that permanently prohibits Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” says President Obama in a speech at American University (emphasis added).

How Iran Contradicts Them

July 14, 2015: “In the final days of negotiations,” says President Hassan Rouhani in a speech, previous requests from world powers for 20-year restrictions on centrifuges “shrank to eight years.” Moreover, “in today’s [agreement], regardless of the IAEA, after 10 years of implementation of the agreement, the nuclear dossier will be completely removed from the [U.N.] Security Council.”

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Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s Nuclear Program

What U.S. Officials Say

July 24, 2015: “PMD has to be resolved before they get one ounce of sanctions relief,” Secretary of State John Kerry tells the Council on Foreign Relations.

How Iran Contradicts Them

July 21, 2015: “By December 15, at the end of the year, the issue [of PMD] should be determined,” says Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. “The IAEA will submit its report to the board of governors. It will only submit it. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action will continue independently of the results of this report” (emphasis added). The JCPOA provides hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief.

July 22, 2015: “In the agreement, it is only mentioned that Iran will cooperate [regarding PMD issues]…it [issue of PMD] is not part of the agreement,” says chief negotiator and deputy foreign minister Abbas Aragchi.

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‘Snapback’ Sanctions

What U.S. Officials Say

July 14, 2015: “If Iran violates the deal, all of these [American and U.N. Security Council] sanctions will snap back into place,” says President Obama in a speech announcing the agreement. “So there’s a very clear incentive for Iran to follow through, and there are very real consequences for a violation.”

How Iran Contradicts Them

August 4, 2015: An Iranian state news outlet reports that Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the snapback plan is unrealistic. Zarif “dismissed western officials’ remarks that the sanctions can be re-imposed against Iran in a short period of time,” states the report, “and said such a process needs several years while Tehran’s return to its past nuclear activities can be done in a shorter time if the world powers don’t remain committed to their undertakings.”

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Iran’s Ballistic Missile Program

What U.S. Officials Say

July 14, 2015: “Iran,” says President Obama upon announcing the agreement, “must abide by the deal before additional sanctions are lifted, including … eight years for restrictions related to ballistic missiles. All of this will be memorialized and endorsed in a new United Nations Security Council resolution.” 

How Iran Contradicts Them

July 21, 2015: “Using the ballistic missiles doesn’t violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and it is a violation of a paragraph in the annex of the [U.N. Security Council] Resolution [2231], which is non-binding,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tells the Iranian parliament. He adds, “This paragraph [of the annex] speaks about missiles with nuclear warheads capability and since we don’t design any of our missiles for carrying nuclear weapons, therefore, this paragraph is not related to us at all.”
 



II. IRAN’S STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES

Iran as a Regional Power

What U.S. Officials Say

July 14, 2015: Because of the deal, President Obama tells The New York Times’ Thomas L. Friedman, the Iranians “have the ability now to take some decisive steps to move toward a more constructive relationship with the world community. … They need to seize that opportunity, their leaders need to seize that opportunity. And the truth of the matter is that Iran will be and should be a regional power.”

How Iran Contradicts Them

July 18, 2015: “Our policy toward the arrogant government of America will not change a bit” under the deal, says the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a speech. “As I have repeated frequently, we have no negotiation with America on different global and regional issues. … America’s policies in the region are 180 degrees different from the policies of the Islamic Republic.”

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Responsibility for Terrorism

What U.S. Officials Say

July 14, 2015: “We share the concerns expressed by many of our friends in the Middle East, including Israel and the Gulf States, about Iran’s support for terrorism and its use of proxies to destabilize the region,” says President Obama in a speech announcing the deal. He adds: “The path of violence and rigid ideology, a foreign policy based on threats to attack your neighbors or eradicate Israel — that’s a dead end. … This deal offers an opportunity to move in a new direction. We should seize it.”

How Iran Contradicts Them

July 18, 2015: In a speech punctuated by chants of “death to America” and “death to Israel,” Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, says: “The so-called honest and truthful politicians of America call [Hezbollah] terrorist and call Iran supporter of terrorism due to its support for these [people]! You are supporting terrorism. It is you who create Daesh [i.e., ISIS], it is you who train terrorist(s), [it is] you who keep the evil and terrorist Zionists under your wing; you are [true] supporters of terrorist(s).”

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The Legitimacy of Iran’s Nuclear Program

What U.S. Officials Say

July 28, 2015: “I’ve heard critics suggest that the Vienna agreement would somehow legitimatize Iran’s nuclear program,” Secretary of State John Kerry says during a House hearing. “That is nonsense. Under the agreement, Iran’s leaders are permanently barred from pursuing a nuclear weapon.”

How Iran Contradicts Them

July 14, 2015: “This is the most important day in the past 12 years,” says President Hassan Rouhani in an address to the Iranian nation. “Historically, this is the day on which all the large countries and the superpowers in the world have officially recognized Iran’s nuclear activities.”

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The Role of Russia

What U.S. Officials Say

July 14, 2015: “Russia was a help on this,” President Obama tells The New York Times’ Thomas L. Friedman. “I’ll be honest with you. I was not sure given the strong differences we are having with Russia right now around Ukraine, whether this would sustain itself. Putin and the Russian government compartmentalized on this in a way that surprised me, and we would have not achieved this agreement had it not been for Russia’s willingness to stick with us and the other P5-Plus members in insisting on a strong deal.”

How Iran Contradicts Them

July 14, 2015: The deal excludes the sale of Russia’s S-300 anti-aircraft missile defense system to Iran as part of its five-year arms embargo. “The S-300 is not included in these restrictions and is outside the sphere of the IAEA,” says Abbas Aragchi, chief Iranian negotiator and deputy foreign minister, on July 22, 2015.

August 7, 2015: An Iranian official states that Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Qods Force, visited Moscow in July for meetings with Russian leaders. Such a trip violates international sanctions, which target Soleimani for his role in advancing Tehran’s global terror operations.

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The Role of China

What U.S. Officials Say

July 23, 2015: China was “really surprisingly and very welcomingly deeply committed to this effort and very anti- any nuclear weapon for Iran,” Secretary of State John Kerry says during a Senate hearing.

How Iran Contradicts Them

July 22, 2015: Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, says Iran and China “will build four nuclear power plants simultaneously in [Iran] in the next two to three years. Over 20,000 nuclear engineers will start working there.”

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Iran’s Support for Syria

What U.S. Officials Say

August 5, 2015: “I do think the window has opened a crack for us to get a political resolution in Syria,” President Obama tells a group of journalists. He adds: “There’s no way to resolve Syria without Iran being involved, given its financing of Assad and the fact that Hezbollah is probably the most effective fighting force that Assad can count on.”

How Iran Contradicts Them

July 15, 2015: “The issue of Iranian assistance to Syria must not be criticized,” says Hojjat al Eslam Ali Saidi, the supreme leader’s representative to the IRGC, “because the line of resistance in Syria is the front line of resistance against arrogance [the West] and the Zionist regime [Israel]. So, if this line falls, the other lines will fall after it.”

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U.S. and Iranian Domestic Considerations

What U.S. Officials Say

July 23, 2015: Asked by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) during a Senate hearing to respond to the Iranian supreme leader’s statement that the deal would not halt Tehran’s nuclear program, Secretary of State John Kerry says, “What he’s doing is protecting his domestic turf.”

How Iran Contradicts Them

July 18, 2015: In response to U.S. claims that the deal bars Iran from a nuclear program, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweets that Tehran seeks no nuclear weapons, and that the “Americans’ recent bragging … is due to domestic problems.” 

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Iran’s Satisfaction with the Deal

What U.S. Officials Say

July 23, 2015: “I can assure you this [deal] is not what Iran wanted,” says Secretary of State John Kerry during a Senate hearing. “It is a substantial dialing back of their program.”

How Iran Contradicts Them

July 14, 2015: “In the negotiations we sought to achieve four goals,” says President Hassan Rouhani in a speech. “The first goal was to continue the nuclear capabilities, the nuclear technology, and even the nuclear activity within Iran. The second goal was to lift the mistaken, oppressive, and inhumane sanctions. The third goal was to remove all the U.N. Security Council Resolutions that we view as illegal. The fourth goal was to remove the Iranian nuclear dossier from Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter and from the Security Council in general. In today’s agreement, in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, all four goals have been achieved.”

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Iran’s Military

What U.S. Officials Say

July 14, 2015: Asked by Thomas L. Friedman of The New York Times why Iran should be afraid of the United States, President Obama says, “Because we could knock out their military in speed and dispatch if we chose to.”

How Iran Contradicts Them

July 25, 2015: The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, tweets an image of President Obama holding a gun to his own head. “US president has said he could knock out Iran’s military. We welcome no war, nor do we initiate any war, but..,” the tweet states.

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Israel’s Security under the Deal

What U.S. Officials Say

July 17, 2015: “This agreement … makes Israel safer,” Secretary of State John Kerry tells MSNBC.

How Iran Contradicts Them

July 20, 2015: “#Israel’s security will not be ensured whether there will be an #IranDeal or not,” tweets the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
 

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