A bipartisan group convened under the auspices of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy released a “Public Statement on U.S. Policy Toward the Iran Nuclear Negotiations.” The group—comprising former Obama administration officials like David Petraeus, Robert Einhorn, Dennis Ross, Gary Samore, and David Makovsky—sets out a list of five conditions that have to be met for a good deal.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
It’s a solid outline for a good agreement. The problem, however, is that the White House, according to recent reports, is unlikely to secure any of them. For instance, consider just one, the second point, regarding PMDs. As John Kerry explained last week, “We’re not fixated on Iran specifically accounting for what they did at one point in time or another. It’s critical to us to know that going forward, those activities have been stopped, and that we can account for that in a legitimate way.” In other words, the administration isn’t going to compel the Iranians to come clear about their past work on the military aspects of their nuclear program—which means there is no possible way to verify whether or not Tehran is keeping its part of the agreement.
The bipartisan statement simply underscores how far the administration is from even meeting the minimum requirements for a good deal. But then, the Obama administration was never interested in driving a hard bargain—or else, as Speaker of the House John Boehner has repeatedly said, the president would demand the Iranians release the four American hostages they’re holding: Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati, Jason Rezaian and Robert Levinson.
Those names should be on the tip of every administration official’s tongue. When John Kerry and other White House aides are exchanging pleasantries and dining tips with their Iranian counterparts in Vienna over the next week, they might spare a thought for their fellow Americans held hostage by the terrorist regime their interlocutors represent.