Wasted Leverage and Reckless Delusions

Wasted Leverage and Reckless Delusions

By Steve Astrachan

Prior to the scheduled vote in Congress on the Iran Nuclear Agreement (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), I contacted my representative and asked him to vote against the measure. Unfortunately, when it came before Congress, members were denied the opportunity to express an opinion. Senate Democrats had garnered enough support to block a procedural vote against the JCPA with a filibuster, which ended all discussion.

In my view, some of the major problems with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) include:

(1) Iran is a member of the Joint Commission that oversees the compliance regimen. Thus, the Iranian regime can have an influence on the evaluation of its own compliance with the JCPOA. (Preamble and General Provisions, IX)

(2) Under the JCPOA Iran can make a complaint of non-compliance on other’s part and use that allegation as a basis to cease its own commitments under the JCPOA. (Dispute Resolution Mechanism, 36)

(3) The process for inspection of undeclared sites is too long. Although much discussion has centered on the 24-day notice period, that period itself begins only after a drawn out process of communication. Such provisions allow Iran more than adequate time to clean up any undeclared site that comes under suspicion. “Anywhere, anytime” inspections are a minimal and vital necessity to any process for controlling the Iranian strategic nuclear program. (Q. Access, 75, 76, 77, and 78)

(4) The JCPOA creates a multi-lateral obligation to assist Iran in the protection of its nuclear program from sabotage. Thus rather than create a vulnerability in this always-hostile resource, the JCPOA actually secures it. (Annex III, C. 10)

(5) The JCPOA allows Iran to begin the importation of ballistic missiles in eight years. Thus the Administration’s claim that the JCPOA concerns only the nuclear program is not true. The JCPOA, with all its other faults, allows Iran legally to become even more lethal in the near future.

The recent revelations that the IAEA agreements allow Iran to conduct its own monitoring program for portions of its compound bring into question the viability of the whole agreement. Creating the façade of effectiveness for this unviable process will leave us more vulnerable with it than without it. The following is a list of some of the problematic areas of the JCPOA.

Joint Comprehensive Plan of Actions Problems

Preamble and General Provisions

IX. “A Joint Commission consisting of the E3/EU+3 and Iran will be established to monitor the implementation of this JCPOA and will carry out the functions provided for in this JCPAO.”

Comment: This provision places Iran on the Joint Commission and thus in a position to influence the monitoring of its own actions. The agreement requires Iran to reduce the number of centrifuges enriching uranium by about half, to sell most of its current uranium stockpile or “downblend” it to lower levels of enrichment, and to accept inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The general outline of the accord includes some useful limits on Iran, if it chooses to abide by them. Tehran will be allowed to operate a little more than 5,000 of its first-generation centrifuges at its Natanz facility, and only there. It will not enrich uranium above civilian-grade levels for at least 15 years. Who really believes that Iran will not reconnect all of its centrifuges and open all its facilities when it decides to without permission from anyone?

B. Arak, Heavy Water Reprocessing.

8. “Except for the first core load, all of the activities for redesigning and manufacturing of the fuel assemblies for the redesigned reactor will be carried out in Iran.”

Comment: The reactor at Arak will be retooled to render it incapable of producing weapons-grade plutonium. The underground nuclear facility at Fordow will remain open but be converted into a “nuclear, physics, technology, research center,” with no fissile material present and centrifuges under monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency. This might be comforting if Iran could be trusted. But looking at history, Iran signed the Additional Protocol in December 2003. The signature meant nothing: By September 2005 the IAEA reported that Iran wasn’t meeting its commitments, and Iran abandoned all pretense of compliance by February 2006. The agreement also permits Iran to phase out the first-generation centrifuges on which it now relies and focus its research and development by exclusively using a number of advanced centrifuge models many times more efficient, which has been Tehran’s plan all along. Since Iran is the party under observation, all activities involved in the process should, as much as possible, occur outside of Iran.

14. “Iran will fully implement the ‘Roadmap for Clarification of Past and Present Outstanding Issues’…Full implementation of activities undertaken under the Roadmap by Iran will be completed by 15 October 2015, and subsequently the Director General will provide by 15 December 2015 the final assessment on the resolution of all past and present outstanding issues to the Board of Governors and the E3+3. In their capacity as members of the Board of Governors, they will submit a resolution to the Board of Governors for taking necessary action.”

Comment: The process for evaluating the military dimensions of Iran’s past nuclear activities is vital and should be given adequate time. The four-month period allocated for this task is not adequate, especially given Iran’s proclivity to obfuscate inspections. The IAEA has sought access to the Parchin facility for more than a decade, and U.S. officials have said the deal requires Iran to come clean about Parchin by agreeing on an inspections protocol with the IAEA by the end of this year. But the Parchin inspections were part of a secret side agreement between the IAEA and Iran—not between Iran and the six negotiating countries. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano has told members of the U.S. Congress that he’s bound by secrecy and can’t show them the side deals. The press accounts say that Iran will be allowed to take its own soil samples and take its own pictures of the sites in question.


28. “The E3/EU+3 and Iran commit to implement this JCPOA in a good and in a constructive atmosphere, based on mutual respect, and to refrain from any action inconstant with the letter, spirit, and intent of this JCPOA that would undermine its successful implementation.”

Comment: The recent demonstrations with the “Death to Israel, Death to America” chants clearly violate this provision of the JCPOA and should be taken as both symbolic of the regime’s intentions and a clear violation for further action. The official Adoption Day for the agreement was Oct 18, 2015. Just days later Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wrote a letter attempting to change the deal. He wrote that economic sanctions must be lifted permanently, rather than temporarily suspended, that sanctions against Iran for its support of terrorism and its human-rights abuses must end, and that Iran will not ship out its enriched uranium and modify its plutonium reactor in Arak until the IAEA gives Iran a pass on all “past and future issues of its nuclear program.” He also reiterated his call for a huge R&D effort so that Iran will have at least 190,000 centrifuges when the nuclear deal expires.

Dispute Resolution Mechanism.

36. “If Iran believed that any or all of the E3/Eu+3 were not meeting their commitments under this JCPOA, Iran could refer the issue to the Joint Commission for resolution; similarly, if any of the E3/EU+3 believed that Iran was not meeting its commitments under this JCPOA, the E3/EU+3 could do the same. The Joint Commission would have 15 days to resolve the issue, unless the time period was extended by consensus… and if the complaining participant deems the issue to constitute significant non-performance, then that participant could treat the unresolved issue as grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part and/or notify the U.N. Security Council that it believes the issue constitutes significant nonperformance.”

Comment: This clause gives Iran the ability to cease performing its obligations by charging that any other party to the inspection process is not meeting its obligations. Thus Iran has an escape clause when it should be required to comply in all circumstances.

Annex I – Nuclear-related measures

E. Spent Fuel Reprocessing Activities

25. “Iran will not produce, seek, or acquire separated plutonium, highly enriched uranium (defined as 20% or greater uranium-236), or neptunium (except for use as laboratory standard instruments using neptunium) for 15 years.”

Comment: Any time limit on the Iranian nuclear program should be much longer, at least 25 years.

F. Enrichment Capacity

27. “Iran will keep its enrichment capacity at no more than 5060 IR-1 centrifuge machines in no more than 30 cascades in their current configuration in currently operating units at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) for 10 years.”

Comment: Any time limit on the Iranian nuclear program should be much longer, at least 25 years. These negotiations were conducted with the notion that Iran can be trusted not to reconnect its centrifuges on short notice or increase its rates of uranium production.

G. Centrifuges Research and Development

32. “Iran will continue to conduct enrichment R&D in a manner that does not accumulate enriched uranium. For 10 years…”

37. “…Iran will continue testing of the IR-6 on single centrifuge machines and its intermediate cascades and will commence testing up to 30 centrifuge machines from one and a half years before the end of year 10. Iran will proceed from single centrifuge machines and small cascades to intermediate cascaded in a logical sequence.”

38. “Iran will commence, upon start of implementation of the JCPOA, testing of the IR-8 on single centrifuge machines and its intermediate cascades and will commence the testing of up to 30 centrifuge machines from one and a half years before the end of year 10. Iran will proceed from single centrifuges to small cascades to intermediate cascades in a logical sequence.”

43. “Consistent with its plan and internationally established practices, Iran intends to continue R&D on new type of centrifuge through computer modeling and simulations, including at universities. For any such project to a prototype stage for mechanical testing within 10 years, a full presentation to, and approval by, the Joint Commission is needed.”

Comment: For the above four paragraphs, any time limit on the Iranian nuclear program should be much longer, at least 25 years. Iran has spent more than a decade using the diplomatic process to buy time and advance its nuclear programs. Now that they’ve learned to enrich, they can suspend that effort and in exchange gain time to work on advanced centrifuge R&D.

H. Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant

46. “For 15 years, Iran will maintain no more than 1044 IR-1 centrifuge machines at one wing of the FFEP.”

47. “Iran will limit its stable isotope production with gas centrifuges to the FFEP for 15 years and will use no more than 348 IR-1 centrifuges for these activities at the FFEP.”

Comment: Any time limit on the Iranian nuclear program should be much longer, at least 25 years. In 2014 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, usually described as a moderate, spoke at the U.N. as follows: “The people of Iran cannot place trust in any security cooperation between their government and those who have imposed sanctions.” How, then, can we trust the Iranian regime?

J. Uranium Stocks and Fuels

56. “Iran will maintain a total enriched uranium stockpile of no more than 300 kg of up to 3.67% enriched uranium hexafluoride (or the equivalent in different chemical forms) for 15 years.”

Comment: Any time limit on the Iranian nuclear program should be much longer, at least 25 years.

P. Transparency Related to Enrichment

70. “For 15 years, Iran will permit the IAEA to implement continuous monitoring, including through containment and surveillance measures, as necessary to verify that stored centrifuges and infrastructure remain in storage, and are only used to replace failed or damaged centrifuges, as specified in the Annex.”

71. Iran will permit the IAEA regular access, including daily access as requested by the IAEA, to relevant buildings at Natanz, including all parts of the FEP at FFEP, for 15 years.

72. For 15 years, the Natanz enrichment site will be the sole location for all of Iran’s uranium enrichment-related activities including safeguarded R&D.

73. Iran intends to apply nuclear export policies and practices in line with the internationally established standards for the export of nuclear material, equipment, and technology. For 15 years, Iran will only engage, including through export of any enrichment or enrichment related equipment and technology, with any other country, or with any foreign entity in enrichment or enrichment-related activities, including related research and development activities, following approval by the Joint Commission Joint Commission.

Comment: For the above four paragraphs, any time limit on the Iranian nuclear program should be much longer, at least 25 years.

Q. Access

75. In furtherance of the implementation of the JCPOA, if the IAEA has concerns regarding undeclared nuclear material or activities, or activities inconsistent with the JCPOA, at locations that have not been declared under the comprehensive safeguards agreement of Additional Protocol, the IAEA will provide Iran the basis for such concerns and request clarification.

76. If Iran’s explanations do not resolve the IAEA’s concerns, the Agency may request access to such locations for the sole reason to verify the absence of undeclared nuclear materials and activities or activities inconsistent with the JCPOA at such locations. The IAEA will provide Iran the reason for access in writing and will make available relevant information.

77. Iran may propose to the IAEA alternative means of resolving the IAEA’s concerns that enable the IAEA to verify the absence of undeclared nuclear materials and activities or activities inconsistent with the JCPOA at the locations in question, which should be given due and prompt consideration.

78. If the absence of undeclared nuclear materials and activities or activities inconsistent with the JCPOA cannot be verified after the implementation of the alternative arrangements agreed by Iran and the IAEA, or if the two sides are unable to reach satisfactory arrangements to verify the absence of undeclared nuclear materials and activities or activities inconsistent with the JCPOA at the specified locations within 14 days of the IAEA’s original request for access, Iran, in consultation with the members of the Joint Commission, would resolve the IAEA’s concerns through necessary means agreed between Iran and the IAEA. In the absence of an agreement, the members of the Joint Commission, by consensus or by vote of 5 or more of its 8 members, would advise on the necessary means to resolve the IAEA’s concerns. The process of consultation with, and any action by, the members of the Joint Commission would not exceed 7 days, and Iran would implement the necessary means within 3 additional days.

Comment: The above four paragraphs constitute the process of gaining access to undeclared sites. For the undeclared sites, the JCPOA provides a fairly lengthy process of resolution before the well-known 24-day notice period. Thus access to any undeclared site may involve months. This provision is a far cry from the “anytime, anywhere” access that began as a mainstay of our policy.

S. Other Uranium Isotope Separation Activities

81. For 10 years, Iran’s uranium isotope separation-related research and development or production of activities will be exclusively based on gaseous centrifuge technology. (2) Iran will permit IAEA access to verify that uranium isotope separation production and R&D activities are consistent with this Annex.

Comment: Monitoring and enforcement are important because these are the loopholes that let North Korea produce nuclear weapons after agreeing to diplomatic deals with the U.N. and the U.S. Any time limit on the Iranian nuclear program should be much longer, at least 25 years.

Annex III – Civil Nuclear Cooperation

D. Nuclear Safety, Safeguards, and Security

10. Nuclear Security

E3/EU+3 parties, and possibly other states, as appropriate, are prepared to cooperate with Iran on the implementation of nuclear security guidelines and best practices. Cooperation in the following areas is envisaged:

10. Cooperation through training and workshops to strengthen Iran’s ability to prevent, protect and respond to nuclear security threats to nuclear facilities and systems as well as to enable effective and sustainable nuclear security and physical protection systems.

Comment: This provision obligates us and other parties including the Russian Federation to assist Iran in the protection of its nuclear assets.

Annex V – Implementation Plan(1)

D. Transition Day

19. Transition Day will occur 8 years from Adoption Day or upon a report from the Director General of the IAEA to the IAEA Board of Governors and in parallel to the U.N. Security Council stating that the IAEA had reached the Broader Conclusion that nuclear material in Iran remains in peaceful activities, whichever is earlier.

20. The European Union will terminate the provision of Council Regulation (EU) No 267/2012 and suspend the corresponding provision of Council Decision 2010/413/CFSP specified in Sections (in so far as it concerns Articles 15 and 18 of Council Decision and Articles 36 and 37 of Council Regulation): 1.5.1 and 1.5.2 (in so far as it concerns Ballistic Missiles restrictions); 1.6.1-1.9.1 of Annex II.

Comment: The importation of ballistic missiles by Iran should be beyond imagination, let alone a part of the JCPOA. Already in October Iran test-fired a new-generation ballistic missile with an estimated 1,000-mile range with only one practical military use: to deliver a nuclear warhead.

With all evidence to the contrary, President Obama and other members of his Administration remain confident that the JCPOA will bring Iran into line with the civilized world. But Iran continues to imprison U.S. citizens on spurious charges; it is the primary supplier of weapons to the other state sponsors of terror, as well as to Hezbollah and Hamas; sanctions are being lifted from Iranians charged with human rights violations and terrorism; and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently released a five-year plan calling for significant expansion of Iran’s ballistic-missile and cyberwar program and an increase in Iran’s defense capabilities.

Every administration since the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was seized in 1979 has secretly or publicly attempted to negotiate with Iran to no avail. Perhaps the Ayatollahs were watching our actions with North Korea. In 1994 under President Bill Clinton the U.S. and North Korea signed the Agreed Framework to halt North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons. Each time NK broke the agreement, the U.S. made more concessions. Now NK not only has developed long-range ballistic missiles but also is testing nuclear weapons.

If our goal were to reestablish a balance of power in the Middle East, the usual plan would have been to strengthen the weaker side, not the expanding power. The question is, does this agreement bring the U.S. further away from a nuclear confrontation with Iran or ever closer?