FPI Bulletin: Implications of a Nuclear Agreement with Iran

July 16, 2015

On Tuesday, just hours after negotiators unveiled the final text of the nuclear deal with Iran, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on its implications. The witnesses included the Hon. Joseph I. Lieberman, former senator from Connecticut and chairman of the Iran Task Force; General Michael Hayden, USAF (Ret.), former director of the CIA; Ambassador Nicholas Burns, former undersecretary of state for political affairs; and Dr. Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) believes that the following statements made by the panel will be valuable to policymakers and their staff as they study the merits and flaws of the deal with Tehran.


The Essence of the Deal

“The agreement announced today, temporarily delays, but ultimately allows Iran to become a nuclear weapons state and indeed legitimizes Iran's possession of the nuclear capabilities that it has built up, much of it covertly in violation of international law and in breach of its obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty.” – Joe Lieberman

“I know there will be some who will try to convince members of Congress that if Congress rejects this deal, the result will be catastrophic. Some may try to intimidate and demonize critics of the agreement by arguing that a vote against this deal is a vote for war. Those are false arguments and I urge you to reject them.” – Joe Lieberman

“If you defend this agreement, you should defend why it should expire in 10 years. That's an intellectually consistent position.” – Ray Takeyh

“I think I would have preferred an entirely different set of parameters for this negotiation. An entirely different framework. But it is the framework that we have now just negotiated. I want to see our country succeed, obviously we all do. And I think there's a chance for success here but it does worry me. I would have rather seen 20 years, 30 years, rather than 10 if you ask me.” – Nicholas Burns

“In the end, this deal may not rest on trust, but it does rest on hope, the hope that a decade from now, the Islamic Republic will be a different regime, a benign power, at ease with global norms, inclined to live at peace with its neighbors. A power that is no longer fueled, animated, by anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism that have so long fueled this ideological engine. After watching the Islamic Republic for two decades, in its own idiom, in its own language, it is a hope that I have difficulty sharing.” – Ray Takeyh

What if Congress Says ‘No’?

“If this agreement is rejected by Congress, nobody can predict what will happen, but I would say that I would hope that the administration would try to regather the P5+1 and basically go back to Iran and say we couldn't sell it. We got to do a better deal here, and again, I believe that Iran needs a deal much more than we do.” – Joe Lieberman

“I wouldn't say that if you are opposed to this deal that somehow leads to war. I think that's false, too. I actually think, if the deal unravels, the Iranians are smart enough they won't go to the nuclear threshold. They’ll be some ways behind that that would not invite a military response.” – Nicholas Burns

“If the agreement is rejected, Iran will not rush to build a nuclear weapon. They will retool their program but they won't do it because they will worry that either the U.S. or Israel, if there is clear intelligence showing that they are breaking out to a nuclear weapons capacity, that the U.S. or Israel will attack them militarily and they don't want that.” – Joe Lieberman

Inspections and Verification

“As I looked at the agreement this morning, with things I hadn't seen before, the most disappointing part of it is the inspection part. It's not anywhere, anytime, it's nothing remotely like that. It allows the Iranians to object, negotiation goes on with International Atomic Energy Agency. That takes 14 days. There can be an appeal for seven days. It's not clear there's a real enforcement mechanism. This is the real hole in this agreement. If I had my druthers, that's the part I would dramatically change.” – Joe Lieberman

“I would never come to you and tell you that American national technical means will be sufficient for verifying this agreement. Without an invasive inspection regime, I would not, while I'm in government or now, tell you, ‘It's OK. We'll know enough to give you sufficient warning.’ So that really puts the weight of effort on the IAEA's ability to go anywhere at any time.” – Michael Hayden

“I think it's likely that Iran will try to cheat at some point. I think that's just an objective statement.” – Nicholas Burns

“In terms of verification demands, the verification procedure will be in place once the IAEA has credible evidence of untoward activity. That's not a card you can play every day, that there's something suspicious happening in a non-declared nuclear site. And then they will ask the Iranian government for permission to deal with that particular.

“In the annexes that I have seen, I don't know what that means in terms of inspecting the military facility. Do you do environmental sampling? Do you go through the whole thing? I don't know the answer to that.” – Ray Takeyh

“We have taken [inspections] from the technical level and put it at the political level. And I just think that's a formula for chaos, obfuscation, ambiguity, doubt, and finally, we're just not going to be able to tell you for sure where the Iranians are. – Michael Hayden

“I'm also concerned about our failure to demand an accurate accounting of the possible military dimensions of the Iranian program. Mr. Chairman, this really has special significance. It's not just what they may have done in the past to position themselves with regard to weaponization. The Iranians have been stiffing the IAEA for years on this issue. Now, we are going to rely on the IAEA for verification of this new agreement.” – Michael Hayden

Regional Implications

“I think we're going to have push back against the Iranians in the Middle East, because they are on a tear. They have become the king maker in Syria, they are… –unfortunately the most influential country in Iraq, they are running arms to Hamas in Gaza, to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and they're supporting and instigating the revolt of the Houthis tribes in Yemen that have torn that country apart. If you will, they are making a big play for power in the heart of the Sunni world.” – Nicholas Burns

“So, I think we're in the incongruous position, I certainly am, of supporting a nuclear deal and yet hoping and believing that President Obama needs to push back through a strong coalition with the Arab countries against Iranian power, and I would hope that President Obama and the Obama Administration in general would make up with Israel, would end the war of words between the White House and Israeli prime minister, would be to reinforce our military relationship with Israel, as well as the Gulf states, so we can contain Iranian power in the Middle East.” – Nicholas Burns

The Regime in Tehran

“I have heard it before, that Iran has two governments. I don't think so. Iran has one government and two faces. The government in power is the Ayatollah Khamenei and the IRGC, the face that they put out occasionally is Prime Minister Rouhani, or President Rouhani, and now in these negotiations, the Foreign Minister Zarif. But does anybody really think Zarif and Rouhani are really representative of their government? No. Not in the final analysis.” – Joe Lieberman

“I actually told National Security Advisor [Stephen] Hadley [10 years ago] that it was a policy of the Iranian government, approved at the highest levels of that government, to facilitate the killing of American and other coalition soldiers.” – Michael Hayden

“It's easy to get focused on today and forget tomorrow. But tomorrow tells us who this agreement is with. Let me be really explicit about it as you have been. This Iranian government, the Islamic Republic of Iran, has the blood of a lot of Americans on its hands. The Marines at the barracks in Beirut, the soldiers at Khobar Towers, I could go on and on.” – Joe Lieberman

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