Hearing Wrap-Up: “Nuclear Agreement with Iran: Can’t Trust, Can We Verify?”

April 24, 2015

On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee conducted a hearing that analyzed the prospective nuclear agreement with Iran. The hearing, which featured testimony from David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security, former head of the Iraq Survey Group Charles Duelfer, and Stephen G. Rademaker of the Bipartisan Policy Center and the Podesta Group, discussed key questions about the deal and the necessary terms for a final agreement that would advance U.S. strategic objectives.

The Foreign Policy Initiative believes that the following excerpts from the witnesses’ prepared testimony will help policymakers, lawmakers, and the general public understand the challenges facing U.S. negotiating efforts with Iran.

Full Text of Testimony

David Albright

Charles Duelfer

Stephen G. Rademaker


The Strategic Significance of the Framework

“The [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)] is not, of course, a final agreement. But the details that have emerged give us a reasonably good understanding of what the final agreement will look like. And while certainly the bargain will have some positive features, there should be no misunderstanding about its overall significance. This deal will represent acceptance by the international community of Iran as a nuclear weapons threshold state. … And by ‘accepting,’ I mean that the United States is abandoning the policy pursued for more than twenty years by the Clinton, Bush, and, until now, Obama Administrations, to make sure Iran neither had nuclear weapons nor was on the threshold of producing them. We are committing to drop our nuclear-related sanctions, accept the legitimacy of the nuclear program that is affording Iran this capability, and even to support future international transfers of equipment and technology to that program.” – Stephen G. Rademaker

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

“…Iran and the IAEA have been working in a step-wise approach to address the IAEA’s concerns about Iran’s alleged past and possibly on-going work on nuclear weapons development and other possible military dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program. However, this IAEA/Iran track has gone poorly, and Iran has shown increasingly an unwillingness to address the IAEA’s concerns, asserting disingenuously that it never had a nuclear weapons program. It continues to dissemble and stonewall the inspectors and apparently remains committed to severely weakening IAEA safeguards and verification in general, actions inconsistent with achieving adequate verification under a comprehensive plan. Recently, Iranian officials have asserted that the IAEA will never be allowed to visit military sites in Iran. Without a fundamental shift in Iran’s views on safeguards and verification, the prospect of obtaining adequate verification measures fades.” – David Albright

Sanctions Relief and ‘Snap-Back’ Sanctions

“In economic terms, this deal offers Iran a huge shot in the arm. According to a Wall Street Journal report last week, the Obama Administration estimates that implementation of the deal will give Iran access to $100-140 billion in frozen funds in offshore accounts, with $30-50 billion of that to be released immediately upon signature. This compares to a government budget in Iran this year of roughly $300 billion. … [T]he economics of this deal suggest to me that we are about to diminish the prospects for transformation in Iran rather than enhance them.” – Stephen G. Rademaker

“The removal of UN Security Council [sanctions] resolutions should be tied to the long term resolution of the PMD file, a determination by the IAEA of the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program, and the demonstration of adequate verification arrangements on Iran’s industrial infrastructure, both military and civilian, related to the potential development of nuclear weapons.” – David Albright

“Moreover, the power behind the inspectors is greatly reduced since sanctions remain OFF unless the inspectors report something negative. And, what will constitute a sufficiently negative report? Delayed access? Ambiguous data? Once commerce is flowing, it is generally understood, it will be very difficult to stop. Saddam knew this and worked this successfully through illicit trade. In the Iran case it will not even be illicit.  Further, unity in the Security Council is highly questionable. Moreover, I cannot imagine the Security Council delegating its decision authority to re-impose sanctions to the head of the IAEA. That would certainly make the position much more political. Any ‘snap-back’ provision, while desirable in principle, may not be achievable in practice.” – Charles Duelfer

Implications for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime

“In this deal … the United States is approving the possession by Iran of a limited enrichment capability for the next ten years, and an extremely robust enrichment capability thereafter. If the United States is prepared to concede this capability to Iran, what country are we going to deny it to? Especially when it comes to close allies of the United States, how will we explain to them that uranium enrichment technology is so sensitive that we only trust Iran with it, and couldn’t possibly allow them to have it? This is not a hypothetical concern. Senior Saudi officials have already stated publicly that they intend to match whatever nuclear capabilities we concede to Iran in this deal. And Saudi Arabia is hardly the only country in the Middle East that is worried about Iran’s growing nuclear capabilities. How will American officials talk these countries out of following in Iran’s footsteps to achieve a hedge against Iran’s newly accepted status as a nuclear weapons threshold state?” – Stephen G. Rademaker

Past Iranian Violations

“Tehran’s long history of violations, subterfuge, and non-cooperation require extraordinary arrangements to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is indeed peaceful. … The most critical reasons are Iran’s violations of its safeguards agreement, actions which have been inconsistent with that agreement and a peaceful nuclear program, and its long history of non-cooperation with the IAEA.” – David Albright

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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.
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