Live blog: The Iran nuclear deal


6:05 PM: Netanyahu and Obama have tough talk

So was the call on speaker phone? Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama have a contentious phone call on the Iran deal.

12:45 PM: Read the talking points the White House is giving sympathetic Jews

The White House issues Iran-deal talking points based on the recent letter by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

I wrote the other day about how the Washington Institute convened a panel of former officials of Republican and Democratic administrations and of backers and skeptics of the Iran talks and got them to sign off on what an adequate deal should look like.

Notably, the language of the Washington Institute letter departed in critical areas from AIPAC’s five points, noted in the same link. The letter offered a middle way for lawmakers and others who may be skeptical of the deal but who were less inclined to kill it without at least first considering it. One for-instance: The Washington Institute’s letter substituted the more flexible “timely” in describing access for nuclear inspectors, as opposed to AIPAC’s “anytime, anywhere” formulation.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the House minority whip, notably embraced the Washington Institute language. So, today, did the Reform movement, the Jewish largest denomination in the United States.

“One helpful touchstone for our analysis of this agreement is the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Public Statement on U.S. Policy Toward the Iran Nuclear Negotiations, which was endorsed by a panel of bipartisan diplomats and calls for a five-point program ensuring that Iran will not become a nuclear threshold state,” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the Union for Reform Judaism president, said in a statement. He added in a follow-up phone call to me: “We’re asking others to take a deep breath, let’s have a serious and civil discussion debate about its merits.”

Now, I’ve obtained talking points that the White House is distributing to sympathetic Jews, arguing that the deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, matches and even betters the Washington Institute markers. Here they are:

JCPOA Exceeds WINEP Benchmarks

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) exceeds all five benchmarks for a good deal published by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s (WINEP) bipartisan group for the Iran nuclear issue. The JCPOA reaffirms U.S. policy to prevent Iran from producing sufficient fissile material for a nuclear weapon – or otherwise acquiring or building one.

Monitoring and Verification:

WINEP Benchmark

The inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (the “IAEA”) charged with monitoring compliance with the agreement must have timely and effective access to any sites in Iran they need to visit in order to verify Iran’s compliance with the agreement. This must include military (including IRGC) and other sensitive facilities. Iran must not be able to deny or delay timely access to any site anywhere in the country that the inspectors need to visit in order to carry out their responsibilities.

JCPOA Commitment

The JCPOA ensures both timely and effective International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to any location in Iran necessary in order to verify Iran’s compliance. Not only will the IAEA have daily access to Iran’s primary nuclear sites, Natanz (1) and Fordow (2), but it will be able to conduct regular monitoring – using modern technology (3) – of Iran’s uranium mines and mills (4) and its centrifuge production, assembly, and storage facilities (5). This means that the IAEA will have access to the supply chain that supports Iran’s nuclear program, as well as be able to continuously monitor the nuclear infrastructure that is removed as a requirement of this deal. In an instance where the IAEA has a question about an undeclared location outside Iran’s declared nuclear program, the IAEA will be able to request access under the Additional Protocol (AP), which Iran will implement as part of the JCPOA (6). Access under the Additional Protocol will be used by the IAEA to verify at undeclared sites that no unapproved nuclear activity is occurring. Military and other sensitive sites are not exempt from the AP. Above and beyond the AP, the JCPOA has an additional procedure that will effectively require Iran to grant IAEA access to any requested location within a predetermined, limited time period. (7) If Iran denies access through this procedure, it would be in violation of the JCPOA. Moreover, the establishment of a dedicated procurement channel for Iran’s nuclear program will also enable the close monitoring and approval of materials so as to minimize the chances of any diversion to a secret program.

Possible Military Dimensions

WINEP benchmark

The IAEA inspectors must be able, in a timely and effective manner, to take samples, to interview scientists and government officials, to inspect sites, and to review and copy documents as required for their investigation of Iran’s past and any ongoing nuclear weaponization activities (“Possible Military Dimensions” or “PMD”). This work needs to be accomplished before any significant sanctions relief.

JCPOA commitment

Iran has agreed to address all of the outstanding issues with regards to PMD in a comprehensive and time-limited manner. The IAEA and Iran together have developed and agreed on this time-limited process through which Iran will address the IAEA’s questions by simultaneously and meaningfully engaging on all of the issues set out in the IAEA Director General’s November 2011 report on PMD. Iran has committed, as a condition of the JCPOA (8), to provide the information and access the IAEA needs to complete its investigation of PMD and issue its independent assessment. Appropriate access will be given to Parchin. Iran will provide this information and access within the next three months – by October 15th. Sanctions relief will not be provided unless and until Iran completes this process and gives the IAEA what it needs. In addition to addressing past weaponziation concerns, the JCPOA also puts into place new commitments by Iran not to engage in select activities which could contribute to the development of a nuclear explosive device. (9)

Advanced Centrifuges

WINEP benchmark

The agreement must establish strict limits on advanced centrifuge R&D, testing, and deployment in the first ten years, and preclude the rapid technical upgrade and expansion of Iran’s enrichment capacity after the initial ten-year period. The goal is to push back Iran’s deployment of advanced centrifuges as long as possible, and ensure that any such deployment occurs at a measured, incremental pace consonant with a peaceful nuclear program.

JCPOA commitment

The JCPOA establishes strict limits on advanced centrifuge R&D, testing, and deployment in the first 10 years, and, after the initial decade, Iran must abide by its enrichment and R&D plan submitted to the IAEA under the Additional Protocol. Pursuant to the JCPOA, this plan ensures a measured, incremental growth in Iran’s enrichment capacity consonant with a peaceful nuclear program. Iran’s enrichment R&D with uranium will only include IR-4, IR-5, IR-6, and IR-8 centrifuges for the first decade and will be limited to single centrifuges and small cascades (less than 30) at Natanz. (10) Mechanical testing will be limited to not more than 2 single centrifuges on the IR-2m, IR-4, IR-5, IR-6, IR-6s, IR-7, and IR-8 for the first decade. (11) These R&D activities will be closely monitored by the IAEA and are sufficiently limited that, even if Iran violates its JCPOA commitments, Iran’s breakout timeline for a single nuclear weapon would remain at least 1 year for the first decade of the JCPOA and remain longer than the 2-3 months it is today for several years beyond Year 10.

Sanctions relief

WINEP benchmark

Relief must be based on Iran’s performance of its obligations. Suspension or lifting of the most significant sanctions must not occur until the IAEA confirms that Iran has taken the key steps required to come into compliance with the agreement. Non-nuclear sanctions (such as for terrorism) must remain in effect and be vigorously enforced.

JCPOA commitment

Under the JCPOA, Iran will only receive additional UN, EU, and U.S. sanctions relief beyond the small level of relief in the Joint Plan of Action once the IAEA verifies that Iran has implemented key nuclear-related measures agreed upon in the JCPOA. (12) U.S. sanctions imposed for non-nuclear reasons will remain in effect and will continue to be vigorously enforced.

Consequences of Violations

WINEP benchmark

The agreement must include a timely and effective mechanism to re-impose sanctions automatically if Iran is found to be in violation of the agreement, including by denying or delaying IAEA access. In addition, the United States must itself articulate the serious consequences Iran will face in that event.

JCPOA commitment

The JCPOA has a procedure that will require Iran to grant IAEA access to any requested location within a predetermined, limited time period. (13) If Iran denies access through this procedure, it would break its JCPOA commitment and sanctions could be snapped back. This includes a mechanism that will allow any member of the P5+1 to unilaterally snap back UN sanctions if there is a violation for the initial 10 years of the JCPOA. Put simply, neither Iran, Russia, nor China – or all 3 together – could block the snapback of these sanctions. There is also a political understanding among the P5 to reimpose UN sanctions in Years 11-15 if Iran violates the JCPOA. And, the EU and United States can snap back their sanctions at any time if Iran does not meet its commitments. The United States will always retain the ability to take whatever steps necessary to protect America’s security and prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon if it chooses to seek to acquire one. In fact, this deal puts us in a better position to do so, if necessary, in the future.


1 JCPOA Annex I, Section P
2 JCPOA Annex I, Section H
3 JCPOA Annex I, Section N
4 JCPOA Annex I, Section O
5 JCPOA Annex I, Section K
6 JCPOA Annex I, Section I
7 JCPOA Annex I, Section Q
8 JCPOA Main Text
9 JCPOA Annex, I, Section T
10 JCPOA Annex I, Section G
11 JCPOA Annex I, Section G
12 JCPOA Annex V, Paragraph 14
13 JCPOA Annex I, Section Q

11:06 AM: Tough words from the ADL

The ADL issues the toughest statement on the deal I’ve seen from a mainstream Jewish organization, albeit still within the “read it closely and make up your mind” spectrum. It reads:

“We are deeply disappointed by the terms of the final deal with Iran announced today which seem to fall far short of the President’s objective of preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear weapon state. The thrust of the deal relies entirely on Iran’s good faith and the ability of the IAEA to effectively carry out its inspection obligations.

“While President Obama, Secretary Kerry, Undersecretary Wendy Sherman and the P5+1 negotiators invested a formidable amount of effort in securing a respite from the most immediate threat posed by Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions, the deal does not prevent it for the long term. In 10 years, Iran will be able to rapidly expand its enrichment capacity.

“At best, if Iran fully complies with the terms of the deal, its nuclear weapons ambitions will be deferred during the 10-15 year term of most restrictions. At worst, in the view of many highly respected experts, Iran will continue to clandestinely pursue illicit activities, like weaponization research.

“At the same time, serious questions remain about whether the agreed inspection regime will deter or catch Iranian cheating. Meanwhile, the front-end loaded infusion of billions of dollars in sanctions relief will finance Iran’s ongoing global campaign of terror against Israel and other U.S. allies, and be used to further exert its influence across the Middle East, thereby harming U.S. interests.”

10:59 AM: Obama to call Netanyahu, other allies

 In a conference call with reporters this morning, a senior administration official says President Barack Obama is likely to call Netanyahu later today, as well as European allies, to discuss the deal.

“He will certainly speak to the prime minister of Israel,” the official says. “They have clear differences, but given our relationship to Israel and our commitment to their security, he will certainly want to speak.”

10:38 AM: Netanyahu calls deal ‘stunning historical mistake’

Netanyahu’s first post-deal press conference: He calls the deal a “stunning historical mistake” and says Israel is not bound by it. JTA’s Ben Sales examines Israel’s options here.

10:05 AM EDT: Rep. Steve Israel is ‘skeptical’ times 3

Reactions to the Iran nuclear deal are spilling into my inbox and all over my Twitter feed.

They range from very likely to approve (Nancy Pelosi) to sharp disapproval (Marco Rubio). But the bulk, from Democrats and Republicans as well as from Jewish groups are: “We’re skeptical, let’s read it closely and then we’ll see.”

Significantly, AIPAC falls into that broad middle, albeit leaning toward the “skeptical” side. The group’s statement reads:

“During these negotiations, we outlined five critical requirements for a good deal. We are deeply concerned based on initial reports that this proposed agreement may not meet these requirements, and thereby would fail to block Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon and would further entrench and empower the leading state sponsor of terror. As the administration has agreed, now is the time for Congress to carefully review all elements of the proposed agreement to ensure that Iran is verifiably prevented from attaining a nuclear weapon. We intend to examine closely the details of the agreement against that standard, and we will then issue a fuller assessment.”

My bet is that AIPAC is likely to rally against the deal. That it stops short, today, of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s outright dismissal of the deal, however, may signal the difficulties any opposition will present to AIPAC’s commitment to bipartisanship.

My favorite comment so far comes from the office of Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), who uses “skeptical” three times in three sentences and who reminds us he is Jewish, saying:

“I was skeptical at the beginning of this process, and I remain skeptical of the Iranians. In the fall, there will be a vote on this deal, and my obligation is to review every word, sentence, and paragraph of the deal to ensure it satisfies my continued concerns. Until then, you can continue to count me in the ‘skeptical’ column.

“Rep. Israel is the highest ranking Jewish Democrat in the House of Representatives and a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.”


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