FPI Resources and Analysis on the Iran Nuclear Deal

September 8, 2015

Read This Compilation As a Single PDF File

Executive Summary

The Iranian nuclear agreement fails to achieve its critical objective: blocking all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon. While President Obama insists “this deal is not built on trust,” key verification provisions are buried in a pair of confidential side agreements that allow Iran to conduct its own inspections of nuclear weapons research facilities.

The nuclear deal also violates numerous red lines that the Obama administration drew during the negotiations. As such, it contradicts the guiding principle the administration articulated repeatedly over the past two years: No deal is better than a bad deal.

The President now insists there are no alternatives to a deal that fails to meet his administration’s own standards. Rather than address substantive criticism of the agreement, he presents a false choice between accepting the deal and going to war with Iran. Rather than keeping a promise to consult fully with Congress, Obama brought the agreement to the U.N. for approval before the House and Senate could vote.

The full list of concessions to Iran underscores how much the White House has conceded. These concession include: “anytime, anywhere” inspections; Tehran’s coming clean on the possible military dimensions (PMD) of its nuclear program; constraints on Iran’s ballistic missile program; and the retention of international sanctions targeting Iran’s support for terrorism and human rights violations. Disconcertingly, this list of concessions may continue to expand, as Iranian officials dispute the administration’s view of what the agreement actually entails.

The contents of the nuclear deal also reflect an artificial distinction between Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and the brutal, aggressive nature of the Iranian regime. Nothing in the agreement addresses Tehran’s pervasive human rights abuses, including its imprisonment of American hostages. Iran’s regional aggression — including its support for proxies in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen — is also ignored. Nor is Iran’s naval aggression in the Persian Gulf subjected to any constraints.

The agreement also ignored Iran’s partnerships with rogue regimes throughout the world. Robust ties with North Korea, China, and Russia have enabled Tehran to advance its nuclear program, bypass U.S. sanctions, and undermine U.S. global leadership. These ties will only grow as international sanctions are lifted.

In contrast to the agreement now on the table, a good deal would be verifiable, impose long-term restrictions on the size and capability of the Iranian nuclear program, include plausible enforcement mechanisms, and tie sanctions relief to long-term Iranian compliance.

As policymakers and the larger public continue to debate the consequences of this agreement, FPI has collected a number of our recent publications that should serve as a concise resource for further research.

Read This Compilation As a Single PDF File


I. The Nuclear Agreement


I. The Nuclear Agreement

FPI Fact Sheet: The Nuclear Agreement (July 21, 2015)

The agreement with Iran, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), seeks to impose a range of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions. This FPI Fact Sheet provides a basic outline of the key provisions of the deal in order to help policymakers understand the respective obligations of its signatories.

On Iran, “No Deal Is Better than a Bad Deal” (July 14, 2015)

In the early days of U.S. negotiations with Iran, President Obama declared, “No deal is better than a bad deal.”  Secretary of State John Kerry said exactly the same thing no fewer than four times. On this key point, there was strong bipartisan agreement. Thus, “no deal is better than a bad deal” became a concise statement of the idea that the U.S. should pursue vigorous diplomacy, but not at the expense of its national security.

Obama Offers a False Choice on Iran (August 6, 2015)

In the final days of the talks, the President reminded us, “I’ve said from the start I will walk away from the negotiations if, in fact, it’s a bad deal.” In other words, President Obama always believed that he had options other than a bad deal and war. Yet he now says, “let’s not mince words. The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy or some form of war – maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon.”

The Alternative to a Bad Deal with Iran (July 27, 2015)

Defenders of the nuclear deal with Iran are right to ask what the alternatives are to the offer that’s now on the table. What’s excessive is their confidence that the only alternative to this deal is war. In fact, the alternative is not hard to describe and is not terribly dramatic.

U.N. Vote Subverts Congressional Oversight of Iran Nuclear Deal (July 20, 2015)

By advancing a U.N. Security Council (UNSC) vote on the Iranian nuclear agreement today, the Obama administration violated its pledge to provide Congress with a meaningful role in reviewing the deal. Instead, its decision ensures the dismantling of the international sanctions architecture with or without congressional approval. The White House’s move also demonstrates bad faith by ignoring the 98 senators and 400 representatives who voted for the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which authorizes a congressional vote on the deal.


II. The Administration’s Standards for a Deal

What U.S. Officials Required, What the 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 assesses whether the July 14 nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), meets the administration’s own stated requirements.

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.

What U.S. Officials Said on Iran, What We Know Now (June 29, 2015)

Over the past three years, the Obama administration has delineated the criteria that any final nuclear agreement between the P5+1 and Iran must meet. In speeches, congressional testimony, press conferences, and media interviews, administration officials have also articulated their expectations from Tehran with repeated declarations: “No deal is better than a bad deal.” This FPI Analysis compiles many of the administration’s own statements on nuclear negotiations with Iran over the past three years, and compares them with current U.S. positions. It also examines U.S. statements on a range of other issues related to U.S. policy toward Tehran, and assesses whether subsequent events have validated them.

Iran Nuclear Deal—High Standards or No Standards? (March 3, 2015)

Speaking this morning before a Joint Session of Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a stern warning about the dangers of a flawed nuclear deal with Iran. Netanyahu’s presence in the Capitol has become a source of controversy, yet his prescriptions for nuclear diplomacy reflect the concerns of prominent figures on both sides of the partisan divide.


III. Inspections, Verification and Enforcement

Iranian Self-Inspection Plan Leaves Verification Regime in Tatters (August 25, 2015)

The newly disclosed draft text of one of two confidential side deals to the Iranian nuclear agreement demonstrates that the inspections regime depends on trust, not verification. In fact, by allowing Tehran to inspect the Parchin military complex on its own, the side deal makes a mockery of President Obama’s claim that the nuclear agreement “is the strongest non-proliferation agreement ever negotiated,” and sets a dangerous precedent for other proliferators to follow. The administration must provide Congress with an opportunity to review the second side deal in order to ensure the absence of additional concessions that would further cripple the overall nuclear agreement.

A Deal Based on Trust, Not Verification (July 17, 2015)

Ambassador Nicholas Burns testified this week, “I think it’s likely that Iran will try to cheat at some point. I think that’s just an objective statement.” Ambassador Dennis Ross wrote, “Given Iran’s track record, it will likely cheat along the margins to test the means of verification” created by the Vienna nuclear deal. It’s worth listening to Burns and Ross because they have held senior policymaking positions and have resigned themselves to accepting this deal as the least of many evils. Yet if Iran is so determined to cheat, the nuclear deal leaves the U.S. allies without the means to catch Iran and force it back into line.

Kerry Misleads on “Anytime, Anywhere” Inspections (August 10, 2015)

Since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was announced last month, critics have expressed their disappointment that the plan does not allow “anytime, anywhere” access for inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Instead, the deal would allow Iran to postpone inspections for up to 24 days, during which time it could move suspicious materials and attempt to cover its tracks, as Iran is reportedly doing at the Parchin military complex now. Secretary of State John Kerry now insists, “There’s no such thing in arms control as anytime, anywhere,” but in reality, arms inspectors, diplomats, and scholars have long recognized the importance of “anytime, anywhere” inspections.

Another Concession to Iran on Sanctions (June 23, 2015)

On April 2, immediately after Iran and the P5+1 concluded a nuclear framework agreement, President Obama said that U.S. sanctions on Iran “for its support of terrorism, its human rights abuses, its ballistic missile program, will continue to be fully enforced” under a final deal. According to a recent Associated Press report, however, the Obama administration will instead drop most of these penalties in an audacious attempt to redefine the meaning of “nuclear-related” sanctions — and, as a consequence, free up billions of dollars that Tehran can use to build ballistic missiles, sponsor terrorist attacks, and oppress its people with impunity.

Will We Let Iran, Like Russia, Violate Its Nuclear Pact? (April 13, 2015)

Previously, President Obama had said that the nuclear framework agreement between Iran and the P5+1 last week will provide “the most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated for any nuclear program in history.” Unfortunately, past American efforts to enforce arms control agreements offer reason to doubt that the United States will actually hold Iran accountable for any violations–just as Khamenei’s speech suggests that Tehran will take full advantage of this. One 1987 arms control agreement between the United States and Russia is a case in point.


IV. Weaponization and Ballistic Missiles

Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of the Iranian Nuclear Program (August 3, 2015)

Before Congress can render judgment on the nuclear deal with Iran, it must fully understand how the agreement will address Iran’s previous efforts to develop nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) calls these activities the possible military dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program, and they include everything from covert tests of nuclear detonators to designing warheads. However, although Iran has agreed to a Roadmap to address the IAEA’s concerns, the document does not explicitly condition sanctions relief on the resolution of PMD, effectively giving Tehran little incentive to fulfill its obligations.

Ticking Toward Capitulation (June 19, 2015)

On April 8, Secretary of State John Kerry offered a blunt message to the Iranian regime. To reach a deal, he said, it must come clean about the possible military dimensions of its nuclear program – diplomatic parlance for the regime’s past efforts to weaponize nuclear material and develop other military hardware. “They have to do it,” he declared. “It will be done. If there’s going to be a deal, it will be done.” On June 16, Kerry announced that it will not be done.

Nuclear Deal Could Give Iran Warhead Detonators (August 12, 2015)

As part of the nuclear deal with Iran, the U.S. and its negotiating partners pledged that they “will cooperate, as appropriate, in the field of peaceful uses of nuclear energy and engage in mutually determined civil nuclear cooperation projects.” (Paragraph xiii) While not objectionable in principle, this cooperation may entail the transfer of dual-use technologies that may advance Iran’s nuclear weapons capabilities. One specific cause of concern is the potential transfer of what Annex IV describes as “multi-point explosive detonation systems suitable for a nuclear explosive device.”

Iran’s Ballistic Missile Program Continues (August 31, 2015)

Iran’s stated plans to continue developing ballistic missiles undermine President Obama’s claim that Tehran will face restrictions on the weaponry for eight years. While the nuclear agreement itself contains no limitations on ballistic missiles, U.N. Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2231, which followed the deal, imposes two: a non-binding restriction on domestic ballistic missile activity and a binding restriction on acquiring missiles from abroad. Such provisions contrast sharply with prior UNSC resolutions, which prohibited both procurement and development of the weaponry. Iran’s defiance thus bodes ill for future prospects of compliance with the overall agreement.


V. Human Rights

Iran’s Human Rights Abuses Persist as Nuclear Talks Near Deadline (June 9, 2015)

The Iranian regime’s ongoing oppression of its own people offers a bleak reminder of the stakes of the nuclear negotiations as a June 30 deadline nears. Although President Obama has said that a nuclear deal may “strengthen the hand of those more moderate forces inside of Iran,” the truth is that Tehran continues to execute innocents, torture prisoners, stifle free speech, and subjugate women, gays and lesbians, journalists, political dissidents, and ethnic and religious minorities. Iran’s behavior is not improving, and its disregard for both its own commitments and international norms indicates that the regime will subvert and circumvent any nuclear deal it negotiates.

Tehran’s Show Trial for an American Hostage (May 27, 2015)

Iran’s trial of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian demonstrates that Tehran expects no meaningful consequences from America for its actions. On the contrary, Washington’s desperate push for a nuclear deal, along with its refusal to challenge Iran’s regional aggression, has left Tehran more confident than ever that it can provoke the White House with impunity. Under these circumstances, Tehran’s belligerence will continue unless President Obama imposes consequences on Iran for its behavior rather than rewards it with further concessions.

Under Rouhani, Iran’s Extremism Persists (October 29, 2014)

President Hassan Rouhani has failed to fulfill his pledges to promote “equal civil rights” in Iran and advance a “constructive approach to diplomacy.” Instead, he has presided over a regime that continues to support wide-ranging political repression, religious persecution, and global terrorism. In the most recent high-profile abuse, Tehran on Saturday executed a 26-year-old woman for killing the man she said attempted to rape her, defying sustained international pressure for her release and spurning charges that the regime had elicited her confession by force.


VI. Iran’s International Partners

Iran-North Korea Cooperation May Sabotage Nuclear Deal (June 2, 2015)

The 30-year relationship between Tehran and Pyongyang reflects both shared interests and shared opposition to the United States and its allies … Moreover, as Iran’s key supplier of ballistic missile technology since the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, Pyongyang has relied on Tehran for a major portion of its hard currency.

China-Iran Strategic Partnership Undermines Nuclear Talk (April 27, 2015)

Since the 1980s, China and Iran have developed a robust military, economic and diplomatic partnership aimed at countering U.S. leadership and accelerating their own rise as regional hegemons.

The Risks of Growing Russia-Iran Ties (April 21, 2015)

The Kremlin’s [sale of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles] reflects newly resurgent ties with Iran over the past year that have proven staggering in their scale: a military cooperation deal, an agreement to build two more nuclear reactors in Iran, and a $20 billion trade pact that evades Western sanctions.


VII. Iran, ISIS and Regional Aggression

Iran’s Naval Aggression and Regional Ambitions (May 6, 2015)

Iran views its navy as one of its most powerful instruments to challenge U.S. influence in the region … The Iranian navy’s position in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, which spans just 21 miles at its narrowest point and channels 40 percent of the world’s oil tanker traffic, strengthens its ability to intimidate both the United States and the international community as a whole.

In the War on ISIS, Iran is not a Reliable Partner (March 10, 2015)

President Obama’s belief that Iran can serve as a reliable partner in the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of Tehran’s objectives. Iran seeks not to complement U.S. efforts to advance regional stability, but to project its own hegemonic ambitions.

While Negotiators Talk, the Middle East Erupts (March 30, 2015)

In a bizarre turn of events last week, the United States commenced air strikes in support of an Iranian-backed offensive against the Iraqi town of Tikrit on the same day that Saudi Arabia launched air strikes against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. All the while, Secretary of State John Kerry huddled with Iranian negotiators in Lausanne to discuss their latest nuclear demands. This bewildering swirl of activity is a reminder that despite the Obama administration’s hope for a transformative agreement, Iran’s bid for hegemony in the Middle East will continue to destabilize the region no matter the result of nuclear talks.


VIII. The April 2 Joint Plan of Action

Unanswered Questions Pervade Iran Nuclear Framework (April 3, 2015)

On Thursday, negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 concluded with the simultaneous release of a joint statement by Iran and the European Union and of a far more detailed State Department parameters document. In light of both the discrepancies between the documents and the dispute between Washington and Tehran as to their relative import, the dénouement in Lausanne raises many questions about the standards to which Iran will be held in a comprehensive agreement.

Amid Ambiguities in Iran Deal, Troubling Facts Persist (April 8, 2015)

While the proposed nuclear framework agreement reached last week between Iran and the P5+1 leaves many pivotal questions unanswered, several facts about the deal are clear: Iran will emerge from the agreement as a threshold nuclear state, the risk of proliferation will increase, and Iran’s regional aggression will continue unabated. Moreover, America’s poor record in enforcing arms control agreements offers further reason to question the viability of a final deal. These troubling realities undermine the prospects for securing a deal with Iran that would enhance American security or achieve President Obama’s stated goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.


IX. Timeline on Iranian Diplomacy

Defiance and Desperation in Iran Nuclear Talks (November 2014—March 2015)

Defiance and Western Desperation in Nuclear Talks(November 2013- November 2014)

Diplomacy and Pressure on Iran’s Nuclear Program (August 2012-June 2014)

See also:

Mission Statement

The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
Read More