Testimony of Robert Joseph: Implications of a Nuclear Agreement with Iran (Part III) July 23, 2015
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Assertions to the contrary aside, the nuclear agreement will likely lead to a greater chance of conflict and war. With increased military capabilities, and a nuclear weapons option that it can exercise when necessary, Iran may become even more aggressive in the region in promoting its theocratic and national goals – undermining long term American allies in a region of vital U.S. interests. With the U.S. pull out of Afghanistan and drawdown in Iraq, Iran is the prime candidate to become the preeminent power in the Gulf and beyond. And given the lifting of the embargoes on conventional arms and ballistic missiles, Iran’s military capabilities will grow all the more, creating even greater incentive for Iran’s Arab neighbors to increase their arms. Media reports indicate that the Obama Administration has already signaled that it will increase arms transfers to the region.
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The notion that Iran’s leaders will become more moderate as a result of the nuclear agreement has no basis in fact. Following the conclusion of the negotiations, Iran’s Supreme Leader again denounced the United States to cheers of Death to America. In his speech, he made clear that Iran would continue to support its allies in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon, and reaffirmed his support to terrorists groups dedicated to the destruction of Israel.
Iran’s economy will benefit from the end of sanctions, with the likely result that the regime will be strengthened. This will enable it to continue, if not intensify, its brutal repression of all domestic opposition in the struggle for a free and democratic Iran. And with a nuclear weapons capability in waiting, Iran’s leaders will be even more secure in persecuting their domestic opponents without fear of external intervention.
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Despite having been negotiated in the name of nonproliferation, the JCPOA undermines the international nonproliferation regime. The provisions relating to the timelines for suspect site inspections (permitting an initial delay of 24 days in place of a 24 hour notice) and the failure to firmly back the IAEA investigation of Iran’s possible military activities undercut the authority of the Agency. Both may well be used by future proliferators as precedents to hide their activities and avoid penalties. American leadership of the international regime will also be weakened because of the abandonment of decades of U.S. policy discouraging the spread of enrichment and reprocessing activities. How can the United States credibly argue that Iran can have a large-scale enrichment capability but Saudi Arabia and other states, including allies such as South Korea, should not?
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A third flaw is the early relief of sanctions and the JCPOA “snap-back” provisions -- a clear triumph of hope over experience. It took over ten years for sanctions to have a substantial effect on Iran’s economy. Once sanctions are further loosened and most ended, it will be extraordinarily difficult to restore them. We will have given up our leverage and will be dependent on Russia, China and others, including friends, with commercial interests in continuing to do business with Iran. There are procedures that that suggest sanctions will be reconstituted if violations occur, although perhaps as long as 85 days after the fact. But there are many detours that could delay imposition and, once the restrictions are lifted in 10-15 years, the option of restoring effective sanctions is for all practical purposes removed altogether.
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President Obama has stated that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is not based on trust but on rigorous monitoring and verification. Iran has repeatedly proven itself a master of denial and deception in cheating on every nuclear agreement it has signed to date. The expectation, based on over twenty years of experience, is that Iran will cheat again if it can get away with it.
Unfortunately, the terms of the agreement do not provide for an effective means to detect or deter cheating, unless Iran decides to violate its commitments openly at declared facilities under IAEA monitoring. Here, the added access and information that Iran must provide under the Additional Protocol and other relevant provisions of the JCPOA would be beneficial. The problem is that Teheran is less likely to cheat in front of the international inspectors than at undeclared sites such as military bases where it has cheated in the past and where Iran’s Supreme Leader has ruled out any inspections.
In fact, the suspect site provisions contained in the JCPOA – the managed access and the dispute resolution procedures – are significantly weaker than the measures contained in the standard Additional Protocol. Twenty-four hour notice is replaced by a 24 day notice. And if Iran continues to object, the procedures could result in additional delays of days or weeks before Iran is actually confronted with the choice of permitting access or having the case referred to the Security Council – something Iran has never seemed all that concerned about in the first instance. In short, instead of anywhere, anytime, unfettered access to places, people and documentation – all essential for effective verification – implementation of the JCPOA is dependent on Iran’s cooperation.