Negotiating a Strong Deal with Iran

In his recent book Nuclear Iran (Harvard University Press, 2014), Jeremy Bernstein notes that centrifuge plants are simpler to conceal than nuclear reactors. Under the terms of a nuclear deal between Iran and the EU3+3 (Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia, and the United States) that have been made public, there was no mention of inspection or verification at undeclared facilities in Iran that may contain concealed centrifuge sites. Iran’s military sites, for example, will likely be off limits to inspectors under the terms of a prospective deal. Inspection and verification is only being discussed in relation to Iran’s enrichment cycle (manufacturing the fissile material for a bomb).

Yet the only way anyone can be confident that Iran is not secretly violating the terms of an agreement is to make the entire Iranian nuclear program transparent. This should include the outstanding status of the Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s program (which falls outside the framework of the current negotiation), Iran’s ongoing ballistic missile development (missiles that are used almost exclusively to deliver nuclear warheads), and the nuclear research and development that takes place at Iran’s military sites like Parchin, which have been off-limits to international inspectors.

Transparency Above All

Curiously, transparency has been absent from the public discussions about a deal. In a recent New York Times op-ed, “Deterring an Iranian Nuclear Breakout,” Robert Einhorn uses the phrases “intrusive verification provisions” and “robust inspections” to describe how Iran’s enrichment program would be monitored under the terms of a prospective deal. Newly appointed U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken also told the New York Times that “highly intrusive inspections” would be required, but the details of which were still being negotiated. The International Crisis Group consistently uses the phrase “intrusive” to refer to how Iran’s program would be monitored under the terms of a negotiated deal. In its May 2014 report (p. 22), the Crisis Group states that Iran “appears much more willing to accept additional transparency measures,” implying that transparency has degrees.

This misimpression may come from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s own rhetorical sleight-of-hand. In his first news conference after being elected in June 2013, Rouhani told the media that Iran’s nuclear program is “completely transparent,” but at the same time he also added that Iran was ready “to show greater transparency.” However, allowing Iran additional enrichment capacity in exchange for ‘additional’ transparency at existing facilities is a fool’s bargain because as Jeremy Bernstein suggests in Nuclear Iran, additional enrichment is likely to be conducted at a concealed facility that is unknown to inspectors. In other words, inspection and verification should not be limited to Iran’s enrichment infrastructure. A deal should provide inspectors with a broad mandate for verification that includes both declared and undeclared nuclear sites in Iran.

Suspected nuclear activities at Iran’s military sites need to be addressed in the framework of the current negotiations. In October 2014, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano told an audience at the Brookings Institution that the IAEA was “unable to provide credible assurance about the…

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