A group of prominent American security advisers, including five with ties to President Barrack Obama’s first term, warned on Wednesday that a deal on curbing Iran’s nuclear program was at risk of failing to provide adequate safeguards.
In an open letter, the group of former U.S. officials and foreign policy experts cautioned that an Iran nuclear deal would “fall short of meeting the administration’s own standard of a ‘good’ agreement” unless it included a tougher line on United Nations nuclear inspections and conditions for sanctions relief.
The release of the letter, which was signed by Dennis Ross, an adviser on Iran and the Middle East in Obama’s first term, comes as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry prepares to fly to Vienna on Friday to join the talks.
In addition to Ross, the letter was signed by David Petraeus, former CIA director and U.S. commander in Iraq, Robert Einhorn, a former member of the U.S. negotiating team with Iran, retired U.S. General James Cartwright and Gary Samore, an Obama adviser on nuclear policy turned president of the advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran.
The letter was also signed by Stephen Hadley, a national security adviser to both former President George W. Bush and his brother, Republican presidential contender Jeb Bush.
Among the requirements identified by the former diplomats, military officers and lawmakers were intrusive snap inspections of Iran’s nuclear and military sites, a resolution of questions surrounding secretly developed nuclear-weapons technologies and a phased reduction of international sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
The group also called on the White House, in a public statement, to make clear to Iran the U.S. would use military force if Tehran moved to assemble the materials and technologies for a nuclear weapon. …
The signatories try to frame this dissent as positively as possible, but their list of essential elements for a deal that are currently missing from the framework looks like a comprehensive rejection of the Obama/Kerry approach:
We are united in our view that to maximize its potential for deterring and dissuading Iran from building a nuclear weapon, the emerging nuclear agreement must – in addition to its existing provisions – provide the following:
- Monitoring and Verification: 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.
- Possible Military Dimensions: 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.
- Advanced Centrifuges: 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.
- Sanctions Relief: 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.
- Consequences of Violations: 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.
Most importantly, it is vital for the United States to affirm that it is U.S. policy to prevent Iran from producing sufficient fissile material for a nuclear weapon – or otherwise acquiring or building one – both during the agreement and after it expires. Precisely because Iran will be left as a nuclear threshold state (and has clearly preserved the option of becoming a nuclear weapon state), the United States must go on record now that it is committed to using all means necessary, including military force, to prevent this. The President should declare this to be U.S. policy and Congress should formally endorse it. In addition, Congressional review of any agreement should precede any formal action on the agreement in the United Nations.
The most amusing part of this argument is “in addition to existing provisions.” These should be all of the provisions. It’s almost impossible to imagine what interests the US and the West have outside of these parameters. What are we going to inspect, if not “military and other sensitive facilities”? How will verification work otherwise? Why would we lift sanctions without such verification?
This statement almost explicitly states that the Obama/Kerry direction in these talks are a path to surrender. It’s worth noting that while Petraeus was working in the Obama administration (as well as some of these other advisers), this list of objectives was explicitly endorsed by Obama. Now that they’ve left, Obama has jettisoned these principles in favor of getting any kind of deal he can before he leaves office. It’s shameful, and it’s dangerous.