Currently Browsing

Nuclear deal

  • 8 August 2016
  • Posted By Karina Bakhshi-Azar
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Iran deal, Nuclear deal, Nuclear deal

Frustration Grows in Iran Around Sanctions Relief Complications

This week Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani addressed the Iranian public on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Both Khamenei and Rouhani acknowledged frustration with the pace of economic relief following the lifting of sanctions, while blaming the U.S. for failing to fulfill its commitments.  As has been the case in the past, Khamenei struck a more strident tone while Rouhani emphasized that the economy was growing in spite of complications.

Khamenei addressed thousands of Iranians from different provinces on August 1 2016, to discuss his thoughts on the current state of the JCPOA. He questioned the economic benefits of the deal stating: “Weren’t the oppressive sanctions lifted so that the people would feel a change in their lives? Has there been a tangible effect on the people’s lives in the past six months [since the nuclear agreement’s implementation]?”

Khamenei’s remarks appear to be at least somewhat reflective of many in Iran, whose support for the accord has slipped since implementation. According to a study done by the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland, while the nuclear deal is still supported by a majority, the number has diminished in the past year, with the proportion who strongly approve of the agreement dropping by half.

  • 22 July 2016
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Iran deal, Nuclear deal, Nuclear deal

Examining the Deal’s Impact on Regional Proliferation

IAEAThe Obama administration chose to negotiate with Iran with two overarching goals: to close off Iran’s path to acquiring a nuclear weapon, and – by extension – to ensure that Iranian actions do not trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. The IAEA’s latest report has found that Iran continues to abide by all its commitments under the JCPOA, a clear vindication that the first goal is being accomplished. The second goal, preventing a nuclear race to the bottom in the Middle East, was simultaneously accomplished by agreeing on a level of continued enrichment that did not trigger a nuclear race.

However, many conservative foreign policy analysts have urged the administration to push for a complete suspension of Iran’s nuclear program, having deemed the region, and in particular Saudi Arabia, unable to tolerate any level of Iranian enrichment. The analysts predicted that a nuclear-armed or nuclear-threshold Iran would trigger Saudi Arabia into pursuing a nuclear weapon, which would than cascade throughout the Middle East.

The Saudis latched on to these narratives, explicitly stating that they would not hesitate to pursue a nuclear weapon should Iran develop one.

These arguments resurfaced again after the JCPOA was signed, with some arguing as early as 2015 that the deal was a diplomatic failure as it did not halt Iran’s uranium enrichment. These critics proclaimed that regional actors – such as the UAE, Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia – will no longer feel bound by their commitments to non-proliferation in light of the JCPOA as the constraints under the deal did not go far enough.

A year after the signing of the nuclear agreement is the perfect time to return to these predictions and determine how accurate they were. A cursory glance at the region demonstrates that while regional conflicts persist, there are no new nuclear states, and no indications that key regional players are moving towards pursuing a program capable of developing a nuclear weapon.

A May 2016 report from the Brookings Institution authored by former Obama administration officials Robert Einhorn and Richard Nephew evaluates the prospect of proliferation following the JCPOA. The report assesses the likelihood of regional proliferation based on three elements: domestic human capital, technology/wealth, and desire to pursue nuclear weapons, specifically focusing on Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Turkey. The ultimate assessment finds that because none possess all three elements required for pursuing a weapons program, the JCPOA “has not triggered a nuclear race”.

Saudi Arabia, crowned by the report as the most likely candidate to pursue a weapons program, fails on the first and third elements. The lack of domestic human capital and strong desire for pursuing a nuclear weapon, remain the primary obstacles between the Kingdom and a nuclear weapon. According to the report, “While they clearly have the necessary financial resources the Saudis lack the human and physical infrastructure and have had to postpone their ambitious nuclear power plans for eight years while they train the required personnel.” The report went on to find that the delay resulted from Saudi authorities recognizing “that they did not have the workforce, supply chain, or regulatory infrastructure to support such an ambitious effort”. The slow process of developing a domestic nuclear force has led the Saudis to pursue foreign assistance, though as the report notes the Saudis are years away from even constructing their first power reactor.

While the report does not rule out the possibility that Saudi Arabia may eventually acquire a full-fledged nuclear program, it found that the UAE does not seem to harbor any such aspirations. However, as the report notes, the UAE has signed agreements with the United States to forego enrichment and reprocessing and currently has four nuclear reactors, which will go online in 2017. The report notes, however, that because of foreign contractors, “the UAE will not be independently capable of operating its nuclear facilities for quite some time.”

Egypt, “the only [nation examined by the report] that previously made efforts to acquire nuclear weapons”, did not meet all three requirements either. Ultimately, Egypt today possesses the human capital and to some extent desire, but lacks the technology, according to Einhorn and Nephew. As the report states, “the Egyptian nuclear budget remains small, something that is unlikely to be remedied during ongoing domestic unrest.” Furthermore, the report found that Egyptian nuclear aspirations are not clearly linked to Iran, indicating that distance and lack of conflict would likely negate a security dilemma triggered by a potential Iranian nuclear weapons capability.

Similarly, in the report’s determination Turkey does not perceive Iran or its program as a military threat despite regional disagreements. The report noted that Turkey will not pursue nuclear weapons because “[They] believe they can count on NATO in a crisis, and would be reluctant to put their NATO ties in jeopardy by pursuing nuclear weapons.” Hence, Turkey could likely depend on NATO protections and the U.S. nuclear umbrella from nuclear threats within and outside the region. Moreover, a recent poll available in the report has found that a majority of Turks believe the nuclear deal is a positive as opposed to negative development for the region.
The report’s thesis, that Iran’s remaining nuclear program has not triggered a nuclear race, is well argued. However, the report could have gone even further. An argument can be made that the deal can support non-proliferation in the Middle East beyond the particulars of Iran’s program. At a recent event on nuclear policy for the next administration hosted by the Society for Foreign Affairs, Kelsey Davenport of the Arms Control Association made the recommendation that “One of the areas the United States can work on is to introduce the more innovative aspects of the JCPOA, such as 24-hour supervision of facilities into the standard protocols of the NPT as nations move towards nuclear power resources.” This is particularly important for the Middle East as nations such as Turkey, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia consider expanding their nuclear programs. Additionally, by removing one of the region’s foremost security threats, the JCPOA could usher in renewed focus on further non-proliferation agreements – including the pursuit of a regional Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone and the pursuit of ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty throughout the region.

While the JCPOA has not triggered a nuclear race, the accord’s collapse could potentially shift the current paradigm, forcing nations throughout the region to reassess their level of security and hence their desire to possess a nuclear weapon. It is therefore in our interest to maintain the status quo so as to ensure that the current organization of power, one which has not triggered a proliferation race, is not disrupted.

  • 28 June 2016
  • Posted By Karina Bakhshiazar
  • 1 Comments
  • Nuclear deal, Sanctions

Financial Task Force Acknowledges Iran’s Progress, Leaving Deal Opponents at Odds

On June 24, 2016, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) acknowledged Iran’s high-level political commitment to an Action Plan and their active decision to seek technical assistance in its implementation. As a result, FATF—whose purpose is the development and promotion of policies to combat money laundering and terrorist financing—suspended its calls for counter-measures on Iran for a 12 month period in order to monitor Iran’s progress in implementing the Action Plan. The move by FATF acknowledges the positive steps taken by Iran to resolve concerns regarding its banking sector–and moves Iran off the FATF “black list” and onto its “grey list.” The decision, while widely anticipated, has left Iran hawks divided in their response.

Iran’s inclusion on FATF’s blacklist had been utilized by JCPOA opponents to argue against the nuclear accord and Obama administration attempts to ensure the provision of sanctions relief. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) cited FATF’s designation of Iran and its calls for counter-measures as the primary reason for blocking administration efforts to reinstate a version of the U-turn license (under which the U.S. would permit certain dollar clearing on behalf of Iran through the U.S. financial system). In April, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce likewise claimed that FATF’s concern with Iran is “why I’m working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle on legislation to put in place strict statutory prohibitions to keep Iran from receiving the benefits of accessing the U.S. financial system.” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Jeb Hensarling also cited FATF’s call for countermeasures on Iran as the reason to oppose further diplomatic engagement with the Islamic Republic.

When U.S. officials hinted that FATF might loosen restrictions on Iran in recognition of Iran’s progress in reforming its banking laws, opponents of the nuclear accord intensified efforts to maintain the status quo. Chairman Royce penned a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, urging him to ensure that Iran remained on FATF’s list of countries that are “high-risk and non-cooperative jurisdictions” and to keep in place FATF’s call for counter-measures against Iran. Outside groups like United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) acted similarly, urging FATF to reinstate and strengthen its call for member-states and other jurisdictions to impose countermeasures against Iran.

Yet when FATF suspended its call for countermeasures, Chairman Royce, UANI, and other deal opponents spun the decision as a victory and vindication of their efforts. Careful observers will note the irony; Royce, UANI, and others had expressly called for FATF to keep in place its call for countermeasures against Iran and not to recognize the progress made by Iran in reforming its banking laws.

It is no surprise that those who utilized FATF’s stance on Iran as a means to dissuade trade and commercial engagement with Tehran are trying to square a circle and claim victory for their side. For them, bad news on Iran is good news, even when such bad news has to be invented. For its part, AIPAC was not in sync with UANI and Royce’s frame–they condemned the FATF statement as “dangerous.” However, FATF’s position is clear: Iran has made progress in reforming its banking laws; Iran has made a “high-level political commitment” to an Action Plan that commits Iran to further reform; and Iran is now deserving of a suspension of the call for countermeasures to be imposed. Being the expert global anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism organization, FATF’s judgment is to be trusted in all matters – not just when its judgment happens to run in parallel with an anti-Iran platform.

  • 16 October 2015
  • Posted By Sahar Kian
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Human Rights in Iran, Nuclear deal, Sanctions

Incentive and Investment in Iran

Having failed to block the Iran nuclear deal through Congressional review or other means, some critics of the agreement are now working to undermine its implementation. One of “backdoor” methods of countering the deal was recently laid out by panelists at a conference convened by the Washington Institute of Near East Peace. Despite the creativity in masking the true intentions of this approach, this effort is clearly yet another a disingenuous attempt to kill the deal.

Panelists at the conference discussed how to hinder sanctions relief required under the agreement by intimidating potential investors from doing business in Iran. They proposed a two-part plan designed to discourage foreign investment. First, they said investors must be convinced that doing legitimate business with Iran would be a liability from a public relations standpoint. In other words, they plan on diminishing foreign investment by making it a moral taboo to trade with Iran, and by threatening to damage the reputations of companies who consider investment. Second, they recommended that the non-nuclear sanctions that will remain in place under the deal should be expanded—which would then limit or negate the practical benefits of easing of nuclear-related sanctions.

This new effort is disconcerting and carries real risks. The nuclear deal is a good deal, and its terms – including resuming economic relations – must not be breached. The international community recognizes that the deal is based on reciprocation: if we want Iran to honor the deal, then we must also honor its terms as they were intended. If we reinterpret the terms of a deal that addresses the international community’s security concerns, we invite Iran to do the same and turn a good deal into a bad one. Moreover, it could cost us our partners’ cooperation going forward. Europe especially suffered economically as a result of the sanctions regime and is looking forward to recovering by setting the scene for serious investment in Iran. There will be little appetite for further cooperation to address other issues with Iran if the U.S. is viewed as renegotiating the agreed terms for sanctions relief and punishing our European allies in the process.