Looming Deadline and Unanswered Questions: What's Next for the P5+1 and Iran?

On Thursday, November 20, the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), and the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill that analyzed the potential outcome of talks with Iran, and its implications for U.S. policy, as the Nov. 24 deadline rapidly approaches. The event featured Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Mark Dubowitz of FDD, Ambassador Eric Edelman of FPI and the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Dr. Olli Heinonen of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and Dr. Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations.

We believe the following quotes—in addition to the full audio of the event and the full rush transcript—will be helpful for policymakers, lawmakers, and the general public to understand the significance of the current talks with Iran and the imminent November 24 deadline. To view photos from the event, please click here.

For press inquiries, please contact FPI Director of External Affairs Rachel Hoff at RHoff@foreignpolicyi.org or 202-642-5341.



What Should a Final Deal with Iran Look Like?

“[The] first [requirement] is a closing off of all of Iran’s paths to a bomb, whether that’s via enriched uranium or plutonium from the Arak reactor. Second, any agreement has to address [the enrichment facilities at] both Fordow and Natanz. An agreement, if there is to be one, must resolve … the possible military dimensions of the program. … There must be a robust verification and monitoring regime to prevent any covert breakout. And finally, a point that I don’t believe is discussed often enough, if there is an agreement, it must cover a significant enough period of time, it must be long enough, so that Iran will not simply wait it out before the agreement expires and it is then in the position to move full speed ahead.” – Rep. Ted Deutch

Should Iran Receive Sanctions Relief?

“Sanctions relief will come only in a deal, an extension or framework if Iran meets verifiable benchmarks. They have to be clear and Iran has to clearly meet them before any sanctions relief is granted. … Should talks continue past November 24, Congress should be in a position to render new sanctions that would go into effect if Iran either is found not to be in compliance with their current restrictions or if they fail to reach a deal by the extension period.” – Rep. Ted Deutch

What Is the Role of Congress?

“If he’s [i.e., President Obama] is looking for bipartisan support, if [he just goes] it alone, you’re gonna get no [bi]partisan support.” – Sen. Mark Kirk

“The notion that sanctions can be lifted entirely, without first coming back to Congress, after Congress has imposed those sanctions to begin with, is one that will be hard to pass muster here on the Hill. … The sanctions regime that was put in place that helped drive Iran to the negotiating table was put in place in the United States by Congress. For there to be sanctions relief granted … then Congress has to play a role in making that determination.” – Rep. Ted Deutch

“The administration would be wise, if it wants to have a durable agreement, to get a congressional buy-in. Otherwise, I think this is a very thin rail for an agreement … [in light of] this level of controversy and secrecy surrounding it. It really goes to a question of its durability. … If you want to have a durable arms control agreement, you’re going to have to have some sort of a domestic consensus.” – Dr. Ray Takeyh

“I think it would be wise for the administration to engage with Congress, in a structured way, and figure out a program of smart sanctions defense, enforcement, and relief so that this could be done in a structured, effective way. Otherwise there’s going to be a lot of conflict in Washington over sanctions relief, and the only beneficiary of that will be Iran, who ultimately will be in a position where they’ll be able to cheat on any nuclear agreement without it worrying about American and Western economic leverage.” – Mark Dubowitz

“I think as a general rule of thumb, major legislation on the domestic side that is going to affect big swathes of the country, like civil rights or Social Security, are things that ought to be done by large bipartisan majorities, and that has been the tradition historically in the country. The same is true actually in the national security area. ... Every arms control agreement that we have that has passed has been by a large bipartisan majority.” – Amb. Eric Edelman


Should America and Iran Cooperate to Defeat ISIS?

“We’ve heard a lot of hogwash from the administration about working with Iran to control ISIS. That’s like hiring the arsonist to join the fire department.” – Sen. Mark Kirk

How Would an Iranian Bomb Affect Proliferation in the Region?

“In the case of Iran getting the bomb, I’ve always assumed that the roughly 200 weapons that are in Pakistan now were rent-a-bombs for Saudi Arabia—that the moment Saudi Arabia sees that the Iranians have the bomb … they’ll  use their Hertz preferred credit thing to get a couple of bombs sent over.” – Sen. Mark Kirk


Will the Talks Succeed?

“I’m actually not expecting to see a successful agreement and I think as long as the nuclear program exists in Iran, Congress should adopt the Menendez-Kirk sanctions to enable a framework of a declining Iranian economy that would improve the chances of a true monitoring of whatever commitments. The Iranians will just lie their faces off to get a bomb.” – Sen. Mark Kirk

“I think there is reason to be optimistic—if you’re Iran. And the reason for that is that I actually think it plays to Iran’s negotiating advantage for there to be some kind of parameters or framework agreement, because if there is they’ll hook the fish. What I mean by that is they’ll get our negotiators to lean forward to commit and make it actually very difficult for Western negotiators to then walk away.” – Mark Dubowitz

“I am not particularly sanguine about the possibility of a comprehensive final agreement. But I do think the P5+1 have to come out with something [on November 24]. … I do think they have to come out with some declaration of principles or agreements as opposed to just suggesting that progress that has been made is sufficient to justify prolongation of the talks.” – Dr. Ray Takeyh


Would a Deal Have Sufficient Verification Measures?

“This is a little like a blind date. It can be a very pleasant agreement, but it can also turn [into] a very disappointing evening, like it happens with a blind date sometimes. … There are so many unknowns here. We know that there are 19,000 centrifuges ready to spin in Natanz and Fordow. … But the question is, are these all the centrifuges in Iran? What kind of assurances do you have that there are not another 4,000 better centrifuges somewhere else?” – Dr. Olli Heinonen

“How to deal with non-compliance? This has not been discussed very much, and if you look at the history of Iran, we have had several occasions that they have not really adhered to the agreements which they have made. So we need now also to think that when there is non-compliance, there is a mechanism in place, that it has consequences, and the consequences have to be so strong that people really think twice … and they know that they don’t get away with that.” – Dr. Olli Heinonen


Does the Administration Have a Strategy?

“I think … that the administration does have a legislative strategy, and I have to say that I think it’s a clever one. Their strategy would be, any agreement with Iran would be a multi-stage agreement—stage one, stage two, stage three, whatever—and I think their plan is to suggest that in the first stage, sanctions relief will come in the form of presidential waivers. This way you build some momentum behind an agreement. … And then in stage two, when they need congressional relief, they’ll come to Congress and say, ‘We have a successful arms-control agreement, it is succeeding, we need sanctions relief, and if you don’t pass sanctions relief, you own this issue, you are responsible for breaking a successful arms-control agreement, and witnessing the resumption of various Iranian activities.’” – Dr. Ray Takeyh


Do We Have Significant Economic Leverage over Iran?

“Sanctions are rendered meaningless if businesses are allowed to flood into Iran. It is a real concern that some willingness to grant sanctions relief, which would then arguably provide only limited sanctions relief but would then open the way for foreign investment and a huge spike in foreign investment in Iran, would also make it exceedingly difficult to put a sanctions regime back in place. Once the genie is out of the bottle, once the companies flood into Iran, it’s going to be exceedingly difficult, I believe, to go back if the Iranians were to stop complying with whatever agreement is reached.” – Rep. Ted Deutch

“We only have the ability to use economic power to force the Iranians back into compliance. And then the question becomes, have we retained sufficient economic leverage to do so? Or, as Congressman Deutch said, are we finding ourselves in a situation where companies are streaming back into Iran, billions of dollars in investments are going back into Iran? There has been a fundamental shift in psychology, and so the Iranian economy is now on a more durable recovery path, and therefore they are actually beginning to protect themselves against further economic sanctions.” – Mark Dubowitz


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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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