«Implications of a Nuclear Agreement with Iran Mark Dubowitz Executive Director Foundation for Defense of Democracies Center on Sanctions and Illicit ...»
Implications of a Nuclear Agreement
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance
Hearing before the
House Committee on Foreign Affairs
July 23, 2015
1726 M Street NW ● Suite 700 ● Washington, DC 20036
Mark Dubowitz July 23, 2015
Chairman Royce, Ranking Member Engel, members of the Committee, on behalf of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and its Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance, thank you for the opportunity to testify.
This morning, I would like to address three of the major design flaws in the Joint Comprehensive
Plan of Action (JCPOA):
1. The JCPOA effectively dismantles the U.S. and international economic sanctions architecture, which, in key areas, was designed to address the full range of Iran’s illicit activities. The JCPOA also emboldens the most hardline element of the regime, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which will be a major beneficiary of this agreement;
2. The JCPOA creates an Iranian “nuclear snapback” instead of an effective economic sanctions snapback. This “nuclear snapback” provides Tehran with the ability to immunize itself against both political and economic pressure, block the enforcement of the agreement, and diminish the ability of the United States to apply any sanctions, including even non-nuclear sanctions, against the full range of Iran’s illicit conduct; and,
3. The JCPOA provides Iran with a patient path to a nuclear weapon over the next decade and a half. Tehran has to simply abide by the agreement to emerge as a threshold nuclear power with an industrial-size enrichment program; near-zero breakout time; an easier clandestine sneak-out pathway; an advanced long-range ballistic missile program, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs); and hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief to immunize its economy against future economic snapback sanctions, increase its conventional military power, and support terrorism and other rogue regimes.
ALTERNATIVES TO THIS NUCLEAR AGREEMENTInstead of this current JCPOA, Congress should work with the Obama Administration to amend and strengthen the agreement so that it much more effectively “cut[s] off every single one of Iran’s pathways”1 to a nuclear bomb and retains tools of effective and peaceful sanctions enforcement against Iranian illicit behavior on multiple fronts. President Obama and his Cabinet have repeatedly said, “No deal is better than a bad deal.” 2 In making this commitment, the president clearly had an acceptable alternative path in mind during the negotiations or he would not havethreatened to walk away from the table if Iran didn’t come to an agreement.3 It is Barack Obama, “Press Conference by the President,” The White House, Washington, D.C., July 15, 2015.
(https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/07/15/press-conference-president) For example, Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President in a Conversation with the Saban Forum,” Willard Hotel, Washington, D.C., December 7, 2013. (https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/12/07/remarks-presidentconversation-saban-forum); John Kerry, “Interview With Martha Raddatz of ABC This Week,” Washington, D.C., March 1, 2015. (http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2015/03/238051.htm); Susan Rice, “Remarks As Prepared for Delivery at AIPAC Annual Meeting,” Washington, D.C., March 2, 2015. (https://www.whitehouse.gov/thepress-office/2015/03/02/remarks-prepared-delivery-aipac-annual-meeting-national-security-advisor) For example, June 30, 2015, President Obama said that he would “will walk away from the negotiations if, in fact, it’s a bad deal.” Barack Obama, “Remarks by President Obama and President Rousseff of Brazil in Joint Press Conference,” The White House, Washington D.C., June 30, 2015. (https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-pressoffice/2015/06/30/remarks-president-obama-and-president-rousseff-brazil-joint-press) Foundation for Defense of Democracies www.defenddemocracy.org Mark Dubowitz July 23, 2015 reasonable to assume that no president would enter negotiations, especially over something as fundamental to American national security as preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons, unless that president had a well-developed best alternative to a negotiated agreement.
That alternative path of American coercive diplomacy still exists as a viable alternative, and includes: 1) leveraging the power of U.S. secondary sanctions to persuade international financial institutions and companies to stay out of Iran; 2) the use of military power, either directly or through the support of allies, against Iranian regime interests in Syria, Iraq, Yemen; and 3) the credible threat of conventional and cyber-enabled force against Iran’s nuclear program.
If the president believes in the power of U.S. sanctions to maintain an effective economic snapback a decade or more in the future, then such an option exists today when the Iranian economy is still fragile and international investors have yet to return to Iran. If the president believes, however, that the multilateral sanctions regime cannot withstand a renewed commitment to negotiate an improved agreement, then he is admitting that the United States does not have sufficient peaceful economic leverage to enforce this agreement in the future when Iran’s nuclear program will be much bigger, Iran can leverage its “nuclear snapback” against the re-imposition of sanctions, and the regime’s economy will be much stronger.
If economic leverage is unavailable, then a future president will be left with only two options:
concede Iran’s nuclear weapons development or use military force against a much stronger Iran when its nuclear breakout or sneak-out options will be much greater, and the consequences of force will be much more severe.
Congress should insist on an alternative to this deeply flawed deal and keep the president to his commitment that such alternatives always did—and continue to—exist. An agreement that gives Iran patient pathways to a nuclear weapon, access to heavy weaponry and ICBM technology, while enriching the leading state sponsor of terrorism, should be unacceptable. An agreement that undermines the use of peaceful economic leverage should be unacceptable. An agreement that leaves military force as the only effective option for a future president to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons development should be unacceptable.
This testimony now turns to an analysis of the fundamental flaws in the construction of the JCPOA.
FLAWED DEAL CONSTRUCTION: THE PATIENT PATHWAYS TO A BOMBThe Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is fundamentally flawed in its construction. Even if Iran doesn’t violate the JCPOA, over time, it will have patient pathways to nuclear weapons, an ICBM program, access to heavy weaponry, an economy immunized against sanctions pressure, and a more powerful regional position where it can continue its destabilizing and aggressive behavior. Even if Iran abides by the deal, it can re-open and expand each of the pathways to a nuclear bomb.
Under the JCPOA, Iran will be permitted over the next 8.5 to 15 years to expand its nuclear program. The deal allows certain restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities to lapse after 8.5 and 10
years, and many additional restrictions to terminate after 15 years (see Figure 1). Additionally, once Iran has implemented its nuclear commitments under the JCPOA to reduce its operating centrifuges, reduce its low-enriched uranium stockpile, and modify the Arak heavy-water reactor, the international economic sanctions architecture will be nearly completely unwound (see Figure 2).
Figure 1: Iran’s Nuclear Expansion
“Transcript: President Obama's Full NPR Interview on Iran Nuclear Deal,” NPR, April 7, 2015.
The administration states that the goal of the nuclear deal is to cut off Iran’s “four pathways to a nuclear weapon”: the two uranium pathways through Natanz and Fordow, the plutonium pathway at the Arak reactor, and the clandestine pathway. 5 The JCPOA is fundamentally flawed in its design because if Iran abides by the deal, it can still re-open and expand each of these pathways.
During the first ten years, Iran can test advanced centrifuges in a way that does not accumulate enrichment uranium; however, after 8.5 years, Iran can commence R&D and testing with uranium in up to 30 IR-6’s and IR-8’s. 6 After ten years, Iran can increase the number and type of Ernest Moniz, “A Nuclear Deal that Offers a Safer World,” The Washington Post, April 12, 2015.
(https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-safer-iran/2015/04/12/ae3a7f78-dfae-11e4-a1b8ed88bc190d2_story.html) “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” Vienna, July 14, 2015, Annex I, paragraphs 32, 37, 38.
centrifuges operating at the Natanz facility, further reducing the limited restriction on this pathway.
As restrictions on Iran’s enrichment program lapse, Iran can operationalize an unlimited number of advanced centrifuges. These centrifuges can more easily be used in a clandestine program because they are more efficient than Iran’s basic models, can enrich uranium to weapons-grade faster requiring a fewer number of machines, and can be housed in smaller, harder-to-detect facilities. Iran’s breakout time—the amount of time it takes to enrich enough uranium for one bomb to weapons-grade—will begin to drop below the one-year breakout time after year 10 and hit near-zero breakout by year 13, according to President Obama. 7 Even if there is a “softer landing” on breakout time after year 10 than the president predicted, Iranian breakout time will fall to near-zero after year 15 given the end of restrictions on the type and quantity of centrifuge deployment, the accumulation of low-enriched uranium, and the enrichment of uranium above 3.67% to 20% and 60%.8 As a result, Iran’s nuclear program will no longer be at the one-year breakout time that the Obama Administration established as its benchmark.
Additionally, after fifteen years, Iran can build an unlimited number of advanced centrifugepowered enrichment facilities.9 Iran will also be permitted to enrich uranium at its undergrounded facility at Fordow10—a facility possibly impenetrable to U.S. military strikes.
Indeed, under the deal, Iran will be permitted to build multiple Fordow-type facilities. Thus, in a decade and a half, Iran will be on a path to an industrial-sized, widely-dispersed nuclear program with an ICBM program and will have the capability to enrich very quickly to weapons-grade at hardened, buried under mountains, Fordow-type enrichment facilities.
After fifteen years, Iran can also build an unlimited number of heavy water reactors. The JCPOA prohibits Iran from building additional heavy water reactors for 15 years and after that, relies on a non-binding Iranian intention to build only light water reactors. This intention might change.11 The deal also relies on Iranian intensions not to engage in spent fuel reprocessing, 12 a process from which plutonium for a nuclear bomb can be recovered.
The only permanent restriction on Iran’s ability to use its heavy water reactors to reprocess plutonium for weapons purposes is the requirement to ship all spent fuel out of Iran “for the lifetime of the reactor.”13 When Arak is no longer operational, does this restriction also lapse?
When Iran has multiple heavy water reactors and assesses that the United States has limited “Transcript: President Obama's Full NPR Interview on Iran Nuclear Deal,” NPR, April 7, 2015.
(http://www.npr.org/2015/04/07/397933577/transcript-president-obamas-full-npr-interview-on-iran-nuclear-deal) The JCPOA notes that Iran will only enrich to 3.67% for 15 years but does not specify the restrictions after that.
Iran’s enrichment levels after 15 years will be governed by its “voluntary commitments” in its long term enrichment and enrichment R&D plan, submitted to the IAEA. There are non-military uses for 20% and 60% enriched uranium, and therefore Iran may argue that it needs to enrich to those higher levels after 15 years. “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” Vienna, July 14, 2015, Annex I, paragraphs 28 and 52. (http://eeas.europa.eu/statementseeas/docs/iran_agreement/annex_1_nuclear_related_commitments_en.pdf) “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” Vienna, July 14, 2015, Annex I, paragraph 31.
(http://eeas.europa.eu/statements-eeas/docs/iran_agreement/annex_1_nuclear_related_commitments_en.pdf) Ibid., paragraph 45.
Ibid., paragraph 16.
Ibid., paragraphs 18-19.
Ibid., paragraph 11.
coercive options outside of military force to respond a violation of this ban, it may feel emboldened to retain spent fuel inside the country.
While abiding by the terms of the JCPOA, Iran can exercise strategic patience and wait patiently to open up these multiple pathways to nuclear weapons while building up immunity against economic sanctions, leveraging its nuclear snapback to constrain Western retaliation to violations, and increasing its regional power.
How would Iran achieve these objectives based on the JCPOA’s deal terms?
1. Do the bare minimum to address the PMD issue and fulfill the initial nuclear commitments.
Iran is required to work with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to resolve past and present issues of concern regarding the possible military dimensions (PMDs) of Iran’s program. 14 The IAEA will have tight deadlines to which it has to adhere in a politicized post-Iran deal environment. The IAEA will have limited time and space to resolve the outstanding issues.
It remains unclear what will happen if the IAEA is not satisfied. What will be its path of recourse? Will Iran be required to make an expanded declaration of all of Iran’s nuclear activities, including past activity, to set a credible baseline for monitoring and verification?
Iran has reportedly already refused to allow certain scientists and facilities to be included in the list requested during the negotiations. The bilateral IAEA-Iran agreement may reportedly include only one visit to Parchin. 15 Will the IAEA be able to interview all of the scientists, visit all of the sites, and see all of the documents to address their questions from the November 2011 IAEA report? What about questions that have arisen since that 2011 IAEA report? These appear not to be permitted under the “Roadmap for Clarification of Past and Present Outstanding Issues.”16
2. Use sanctions relief to build economic resiliency and benefit the IRGC.
After Iran completes specific, but reversible, nuclear steps, most EU and U.S. economic sanctions will begin to unwind, and Iran can increasingly immunize its economy against future economic pressure. The economic impact of sanctions relief is likely to be substantial, starting slowly after a deal and building over time.
Economic forecasts prior to the announced deal based on expectations of the sanctions relief Ibid., paragraph 66.; International Atomic Energy Agency, Press Release, “IAEA Director General's Statement and Road-map for the Clarification of Past & Present Outstanding Issues regarding Iran's Nuclear Program,” July 14, 2015. (https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/pressreleases/iaea-director-generals-statement-and-road-mapclarification-past-present-outstanding-issues-regarding-irans-nuclear-program) Louis Charbonneau & Arshad Mohammed, “Exclusive: Draft Deal Calls for UN Access to All Iran Sites – Source,” Reuters, July 13, 2015. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/07/14/us-iran-nuclear-deal-exclusiveidUSKCN0PN2NY20150714) International Atomic Energy Agency, Press Release, “IAEA Director General's Statement and Road-map for the Clarification of Past & Present Outstanding Issues regarding Iran's Nuclear Program,” July 14, 2015.