FPI Analysis: What U.S. Officials Required, What the Iran Deal Concedes

July 28, 2015

Throughout the nuclear negotiations with Iran, the Obama administration insisted on high standards for a final deal. In speeches, congressional testimony, interviews, and other public statements, U.S. officials articulated specific requirements that would, if implemented, prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

This FPI Analysis, which complements an earlier FPI publication released on June 29, assesses whether the July 14 nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), meets the administration’s own stated requirements.
 


CONTENTS

I. Requirements of the Deal

II. Inspections and Enforcement

III. The Types and Timing of Sanctions Relief



I. REQUIREMENTS OF THE DEAL

Dismantling Iran’s Nuclear Infrastructure

What U.S. Officials Required

December 4, 2013: Chief U.S. negotiator Wendy Sherman tells PBS that a final agreement should include “a lot of dismantling of their infrastructure” (emphasis added).

December 10, 2013: “I don’t think that any of us thought we were just imposing these sanctions for the sake of imposing them,” says Secretary of State John Kerry in congressional testimony. “We did it because we knew that it would hopefully help Iran dismantle its nuclear program. That was the whole point of the [sanctions] regime” (emphasis added).

What the Deal Concedes

  • Iran will neither dismantle any of its centrifuges nor close any of its nuclear facilities. Limits on the expansion of the Iranian nuclear program expire within 10 to 15 years.
  • Iran will continue to operate 5,060 centrifuges for the purpose of enriching uranium. It will place its remaining 13,500 centrifuges in storage. After 10 years, Iran may resume operation of the centrifuges in storage.
  • Research and development on a range of advanced centrifuges may continue for the agreement’s duration. In eight-and-a-half years, Tehran may begin testing up to 30 of its two most advanced centrifuges. At the end of the eighth year, Iran may begin manufacturing up to 200 of them per year per type.
  • Iran’s uranium stockpile cannot officially exceed 300 kg under the deal. However, enriched uranium in fabricated fuel assemblies “from Russia or other sources for use in Iran’s nuclear reactors will not be counted” against this limit (Paragraph 7). The “other sources” goes unspecified.
  • World powers and Iran will cooperate to strengthen and fortify Tehran’s nuclear program, including “its ability to prevent, protect and respond to nuclear security threats to nuclear facilities and systems” (Annex III, Paragraph 10).

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Iran’s ‘Right’ to Enrich Uranium

What U.S. Officials Required

November 24, 2013: “There is no right to enrich,” Secretary of State John Kerry tells ABC News. “We do not recognize a right to enrich. It is clear, in the — in the NPT, in the nonproliferation treaty, it’s very, very [clear] that there is no right to enrich.”

What the Deal Concedes

  • Tehran receives immediate permission to enrich uranium, which it had previously done in violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions. Restrictions on enrichment expire after 10 to 15 years.
  • The JCPOA asserts that none of its provisions should be considered precedents under international law or the NPT. In practice, Iran receives the right to enrich.

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The Arak Heavy Water Reactor

What U.S. Officials Required

December 10, 2013: “From our point of view, Arak is unacceptable,” says Secretary of State John Kerry in House testimony. “You can’t have a heavy water reactor.”

April 2, 2015: The U.S. version of the framework agreement with Iran states that Tehran “has committed indefinitely to not conduct reprocessing or reprocessing research and development on spent nuclear fuel” (emphasis added).

What the Deal Concedes

  • The JCPOA directs Iran to redesign the heavy water reactor at Arak such that it cannot “produce weapon-grade plutonium in normal operation” (Annex I, Paragraph 2). After 15 years, however, Tehran may acquire new heavy water reactors to produce weapons-grade plutonium.
  • After 15 years, Iran may reprocess spent fuel, engage in research and development related to reprocessing, produce plutonium and uranium metals, and build or acquire facilities to separate plutonium or uranium from spent fuel.
  • In the JCPOA, Iran states that it “does not intend” to conduct any reprocessing activities even after the binding restriction expires. At that point, however, the agreement itself technically does not prohibit them.

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The Fordow Enrichment Facility

What U.S. Officials Required

December 7, 2013: “We know that they don’t need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordow in order to have a peaceful nuclear program,” says President Obama at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum.

What the Deal Concedes

  • “Iran will convert the Fordow facility into a nuclear, physics and technology centre” (Paragraph 6) where Tehran will retain more than 1,000 centrifuges, but will neither enrich uranium nor have any nuclear material.
  • The restrictions on nuclear activities at Fordow expire after 15 years.

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

What U.S. Officials Required

February 4, 2014: “We raised possible military dimensions” in the negotiations, says chief U.S. negotiator Wendy Sherman in Senate testimony. “And in fact in the Joint Plan of Action, we have required that Iran come clean on its past actions as part of any comprehensive agreement.”

April 8, 2015: “They have to do it,” Secretary of State John Kerry tells PBS, referring to Tehran’s disclosure of PMD. “It will be done. If there’s going to be a deal, it will be done.”

What the Deal Concedes

  • The resolution of PMD concerns is not a pre-requisite for sanctions relief or any other benefit Iran will receive as part of the JCPOA.
  • On July 22, 2015, National Security Adviser Susan Rice acknowledges that the Roadmap includes secret agreements between Iran and the IAEA to which the U.S. government is not privy. During a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on July 28, 2015, Secretary of State John Kerry says he has not read the documents.

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Iran’s Breakout Capacity

What U.S. Officials Required

December 7, 2013: “It is my strong belief,” says President Obama at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum, “that we can envision an end state that gives us an assurance that even if they have some modest enrichment capability, it is so constrained and the inspections are so intrusive that they, as a practical matter, do not have breakout capacity.”

What the Deal Concedes

  • According to President Obama, the JCPOA ensures a one-year breakout time for Iran. On April 7, 2015, President Obama had told NPR that Iran’s breakout time “would have shrunk almost down to zero” in “year 13, 14, 15.”

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Iran’s Ballistic Missile Program

What U.S. Officials Required

February 4, 2014: “So it is true,” says chief U.S. negotiator Wendy Sherman in Senate testimony, “that in these first six months we have not shut down all of their production of any ballistic missile that could have anything to do with delivery of a nuclear weapon, but that is, indeed, going to be part of something that has to be addressed as part of a comprehensive agreement.”

What the Deal Concedes

  • All restrictions on ballistic missiles are lifted after eight years. However, the U.N. Security Council resolution approving the deal contains non-binding language stating that Tehran merely “is called upon” not to undertake ballistic missile activity before the eighth year.

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The Role of Congress

What U.S. Officials Required

April 8, 2014: Asked during a Senate hearing whether the Obama administration would consult with Congress about sanctions relief in the event that the P5+1 reaches a final deal with Iran, Secretary of State John Kerry says: “Well, of course, we would be obligated to under the law. … What we do will have to pass muster with Congress. We well understand that.”

July 29, 2014: “President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and the entire administration understand how vital a role Congress and this Committee play in shaping U.S. policy towards Iran,” chief U.S. negotiator Wendy Sherman states in written testimony to the Senate. “We remain committed to regular consultations, to hearing from you, and to sharing ideas.”

What the Deal Concedes

  • The deal requires approval from the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) “without delay” (Paragraph 34.i), but offers no specific timeframe that would preclude congressional approval beforehand. Nevertheless, only six days after reaching the deal on July 14, 2015, the Obama administration submitted the deal to UNSC, which approved it unanimously.
  • The deal requires the approval of the Majlis, the Iranian parliament, for a key nuclear-related provision, but requires no congressional approval for any part of the agreement. At the same time, the deal states that Congress “will refrain from re-introducing or re-imposing the sanctions” (Paragraph 26).
     


II. INSPECTIONS AND ENFORCEMENT

Anywhere, Anytime Inspections

What U.S. Officials Required

April 6, 2015: “Under this deal, you will have anywhere, anytime 24/7 access as it relates to the nuclear facilities that Iran has,” U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes tells CNN.

April 20, 2015: “We expect to have anywhere, anytime access in the sense of a well-defined process with a well-defined end time for access to places that are suspected of out-of-bounds activities,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz tells Bloomberg News.

What the Deal Concedes

  • The deal allows Iran to delay inspections for 24 days before the IAEA can visit a suspected site. “We never sought in this negotiation the capacity for so-called anytime, anywhere” inspections, Ben Rhodes tells CNN on July 14, 2015.
  • A majority of the eight members of a new Joint Commission (Iran, China, France, Germany, Russian, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union) must approve IAEA requests for access before Tehran is obliged to comply. Iran itself would be a voting member of the commission with equal standing.
  • The JCPOA specifies no means of enforcing Joint Commission rulings, although if Iran fails to comply, the U.S. could terminate the JCPOA by invoking its “snapback” provision. (See next section.)

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‘Snapback’ Sanctions

What U.S. Officials Required

April 2, 2015: According to the U.S. version of the framework agreement, “U.S. and E.U. nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps. If at any time Iran fails to fulfill its commitments, these sanctions will snap back into place.”

What the Deal Concedes

  • The JCPOA puts into place a dispute resolution process that includes multiple reviews and may last up to 35 days.
  • If a member of the P5+1 is dissatisfied with the outcome, it could refer the issue to the U.N. Security Council, which would have 30 days to resolve the issue. If it does not, previous U.N. sanctions will snap back into place.
  • The JCPOA records the Iranian position that it will cease complying with the JCPOA in whole or in part should sanctions be reimposed for any reason. In effect, the application of snapback terminates the JCPOA rather than compels Iranian compliance.
  • The JCPOA states that parties to the agreement should only initiate a snapback for “significant non-performance” by another party (Paragraph 36). Given the absence of other enforcement mechanisms, this suggests that Iran would face no consequences for incremental cheating.
  • Even if a snapback occurs, the JCPOA contains a grandfather clause that prevents the application of sanctions “to contracts signed between any party and Iran or Iranian individuals and entities” prior to the snapback (Paragraph 37).
     


III. THE TYPES AND TIMING OF SANCTIONS RELIEF

The Timing of Sanctions Relief

What U.S. Officials Required

March 3, 2014: “Iran is not open for business until Iran is closed for nuclear bombs,” says Secretary of State John Kerry in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

January 27, 2015: Under a final deal, “the international community would provide Iran with phased sanctions relief tied to verifiable actions on its part,” says Deputy Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken in Senate testimony.

What the Deal Concedes

  • Once Iran completes the initial actions required by the JCPOA, all U.N. and EU sanctions are lifted, while U.S. sanctions are waived.
  • At this point, Iran will gain access to an estimated $100 billion to $150 billion of assets currently frozen in offshore accounts, which critics call a “signing bonus.”
  • A limited number of Iranian entities and individuals will remain subject to sanctions for up to eight years.

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Terrorism and Human Rights Sanctions

What U.S. Officials Required

December 12, 2013: “We have said that this agreement pertains only to new nuclear-related sanctions in terms of what we, the European Union and the U.N. Security Council will forego,” says chief U.S. negotiator Wendy Sherman in Senate testimony.

May 1, 2014: “We have made clear that sanctions relating to terrorism and sanctions relating to human rights violations are not covered” under a final deal, says Jake Sullivan, deputy assistant to President Obama and national security advisor to Vice President Joe Biden, at a conference of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

What the Deal Concedes

  • The JCPOA lifts sanctions on numerous entities and individuals responsible for terrorism and human rights violations, including multiple leaders and divisions of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
  • The JCPOA prohibits the EU and U.S. from implementing “any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran” (Paragraph 29). The deal offers no exception for sanctions related to terrorism or human rights.
  • The agreement delineates no restrictions on Iran’s use of the $100-$150 billion “signing bonus” that it can access upon implementation of the deal. “We should expect,” National Security Adviser Susan Rice acknowledges on July 15, 2015, “that some portion of that money would go to the Iranian military and could potentially be used for the kinds of bad behavior that we have seen in the region up until now.”
  • IRGC divisions slated to receive sanctions relief include, among others, the IRGC Air Force, the IRGC Air Force Al-Ghadir Missile Command, and the IRGC Qods Force.
  • IRGC officials slated to receive sanctions relief include some of the organization’s major leaders:
    • IRGC commander Qassem Suleimani, who provided the weapons responsible for killing hundreds of U.S. troops during the war in Iraq; plotted to kill the Saudi ambassador at a restaurant in Washington, D.C.; works to sustain the brutal Assad regime; and oversees Iran’s global terror operations.
       
    • Mohammad Reza Naqdi, an IRGC general, whom the United States sanctioned in 2011 for “serious human rights abuses” related to his “violent response” to the 2009 Iranian protests. Naqdi also said “erasing Israel off the map” is “nonnegotiable.”
       
    • Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, a former interior minister, defense minister, and IRGC commander, whom the United States sanctioned in 2010 for “sustained and severe violation of human rights in Iran since the June 2009 disputed presidential election.”
       
    • Ahmad Vahidi, a former defense minister and IRGC commander, participated in the 1994 bombing attack on the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people. The United States sanctioned him in 2010 for his ties to Iran’s nuclear program.

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