November 26, 2013

Policy Memo: A Good Iran Deal – Spin vs Reality

In order to help convert this agreement into a final deal, Congress must have accurate information about the benefits of the interim deal and not allow spin to derail this opportunity to prevent war and prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.

With the interim agreement between the P5+1 and Iran agreeing to a interim deal, the U.S. and its allies have won immediate, verifiable security gains that will ensure Iran cannot advance towards a nuclear weapon during negotiations. Now, America must ensure diplomacy can secure a final deal that builds on the interim agreement by codifying restraints and verification measures to ensure Iran cannot develop nuclear weapons in exchange for lifting sanctions. In order to help convert this agreement into a final deal, Congress must have accurate information about the benefits of the interim deal and not allow spin to derail this opportunity to prevent war and prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.
Claim: This deal gives too much sanctions relief
Fact: The sanctions relief provided in the deal is targeted, temporary, and conditional.
  • Sanctions will be reimposed if Iran reneges on the deal or if a final deal is not completed within the six-month time frame. 
  • The core sanctions on oil and financial transactions will all remain intact to be leveraged for final Iranian nuclear concessions
  • The sanctions that will be eased have largely only come into force recently and if a deal is not reached or Iran cheats, will be rapidly reinstated. 
Claim: This deal does not require enough of Iran
Fact: The majority of concessions required in this deal are from Iran, not the U.S. or P5+1
  • The interim deal requires Iran to rollback major components of its nuclear program, including requiring Iran to halt its 20% enrichment and eliminate its stockpiles of 20% LEU.
  • Iran cannot install or activate any new centrifuges during the interim deal – effectively freezing their enrichment capabilities. This means Iran cannot advance its program or stall for time during the negotiations.
  • Without a deal, Iran could bring thousands of centrifuges online at any time and greatly decrease the time it would take them to acquire sufficient nuclear material for a weapon.
Claim: The limited sanctions relief in the interim deal will dismantle the sanctions
Fact: Sanctions are not a game of Jenga. Narrowly targeted sanctions relief is not going to collapse years of sanctions.
  • Private companies are not going to rush to enter Iranian markets on the basis of an interim deal, and they are certainly not going to risk the wrath of sanctions penalties—which very much remain on the books.
  • According to sanctions lawyer Sam Cutler, “Six years of robust enforcement and serious penalties for violating Iran sanctions have led to the exodus of reputable companies from Iran. These firms will be very wary of investing again without concrete assurances that they will not feel the wrath of U.S. regulatory agencies.”
Claim: Congress can impose further sanctions to maximize pressure on Iran
Fact: The true threat of sanctions collapse comes from overplaying our hand.
  • Countries like China, India, South Korea, and Turkey have complied with U.S. sanctions that hurt their own economic interest based on the promise that sanctions would be used as diplomatic leverage to end the standoff peacefully.
  • If the U.S. is perceived as unwilling to ever trade in these sanctions even as Iran puts a reasonable offer on the table, these countries will not continue to enforce the sanctions on a broken promise.
  • Refusing to convert existing sanctions into a reasonable deal will cause the sanctions collapse without Iran making a single concession.
  • Further sanctions would renege on the interim deal; even by passing sanctions with a delayed implementation, Congress would provide Iranian hardliners with ammo to attack the deal and undermine confidence that the President will hold up his bargain.   
Claim: By not demanding Iran dismantle its enrichment program, the deal will allow Iran to continue violating UN Security Council resolutions
Fact: No UNSC resolution has required Iran to dismantle its nuclear program.
  • The UN Security Council requires Iran to suspend its enrichment program until Iran can restore confidence that its program is purely for civilian use. The rationale for this demand was to ensure Iran did not advance its program—and thus increase its leverage—in the middle of negotiations.
  • The deal imposes restrictions on Iran’s enrichment and capabilities during the negotiations. This ensures Iran cannot use talks to buy time and advance its program, and that as the negotiations progress, we are ensured Iran cannot cross a nuclear breakout threshold.
Claim: The U.S. must not accept any deal that does not end all Iranian enrichment
Fact: Demanding zero enrichment would derail a deal to secure stringent verification mechanisms. A deal is only as good as its verification mechanisms.
  • Verification, not enrichment, is key to ensuring Iran cannot build nuclear weapons. Getting a deal does not mean trusting Iran, it means verifying through stringent inspections.
  • The zero-enrichment demand has caused the U.S. to miss major opportunities in the past and bought Iran time to advance their nuclear work. Under the Bush Administration, the U.S. rejected an Iranian proposal that would have limited Iran to 3,000 centrifuges and refused to negotiate while Iran enriched. Now, a decade and countless sanctions later, Iran has 19,000 centrifuges.
  • Iran is not going to give up enrichment, which it perceives as its right under the nonproliferation treaty (five other non-nuclear weapons states enrich uranium on their own soil: Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands).
  • Even if Iran were to surrender enrichment, it would provide zero assurance they would actually follow through. It is critical we secure strong verification measures that ensure Iran cannot work to build nuclear weapons, regardless of whether or not they enrich.
  • We can either demand zero enrichment and get nothing or demand stringent inspections and get restrictions on enrichment and verification to ensure Iran cannot cheat.
Claim: Sanctions are what brought us here, more sanctions will help make sure we reach a final deal
Fact: New sanctions would violate the interim deal. We got the interim deal by lifting sanctions, we will only get a final deal by lifting sanctions.
  • Sanctions are supposed to be diplomatic leverage. They don’t “work” when they’re imposed, they work when they have been traded in for concessions.
  • The U.S. and Iran have been trapped in a vicious cycle of mutual escalation for the past decade. As the U.S. has added to its leverage by escalating sanctions, Iran added to its own leverage by installing centrifuges and escalating its nuclear program. Piling on more sanctions would collapse the interim deal and put us back into the vicious cycle of escalation. 
  • If the US violates the interim deal with more sanctions, the Iranians would walk and the international community would walk with them; the deal would unravel and the sanctions would unravel without Iran making a single concession.
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