With the U.S. Senate considering a Republican-backed resolution of disapproval over the historic nuclear agreement with Iran, Media Matters debunks the myths that have pervaded the media debate on the deal.
Resolution On Iran Deal Weighed In U.S. Senate
Senate Split Down Partisan Lines Over Approval Of Iran Nuclear Agreement. As the Los Angeles Times reported on September 8:
President Obama on Tuesday secured what he hopes will be the final Senate votes needed to block passage of a GOP-backed resolution of disapproval against the landmark Iran nuclear deal, as Congress returned from recess to face a complicated fall schedule that also includes efforts to prevent another government shutdown.
First on the agenda this month is the internationally endorsed Iran pact, which has divided an already partisan Congress.
Three more Democratic senators announced their endorsement Tuesday, creating a 41-vote firewall of support, even though it remains unclear if all Democrats will agree to filibuster the resolution and prevent a vote on it from even taking place. [Los Angeles Times, 9/8/15]
MYTH: Iran Deal Makes The U.S. And Israel Less Safe
Fox Host: “The More You Dig Into [The Iran Deal], The Scarier It Is.” On the July 15 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, host Steve Doocy fearmongered over the Iran deal, saying, “The more you dig into it, the scarier it is.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/15/15]
Rush Limbaugh: Obama Sold Out America To Iran With Nuclear Deal. On the July 14 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh argued that while it may be unthinkable that Obama would “sell the United States out to the Iranians,” that's what happened:
LIMBAUGH: Now, I know a lot of you are hoping against hope that the things you've heard about this that are bad for America are not true. I know you're hoping that some of the analysis of the deal that you may have seen or heard, that describes how really bad it is, is just maybe a little partisan, really isn't true. Because no matter what else Obama has done, and his party, no matter what else they have done with domestic policy, surely, you're saying to yourself, they would not sell the United States out to the Iranians. You want to hold on to that, I understand it.
You want to grasp that, embrace that, and you really don't want to believe -- some of you -- really don't want to believe that what's happened here has happened. But it has, folks. There isn't a mushy middle on this. It's bad. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 7/14/15]
Breitbart News: Israel Will Be Forced To Attack Iran To Defend Its Statehood. Writing at Breitbart News, Joel Pollak claimed that the nuclear agreement forces Israel to launch a “pre-emptive strike against Iran” in order to defend itself:
The nuclear deal reached with Iran on Tuesday is clouded by uncertainty about whether the Iranian regime will live up to its relatively weak commitments. One outcome is almost certain, however: Israel will launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran, hoping to weaken the regime and stop, or slow, its nuclear program.
Israel will attack-possibly by year's end-because there is no other way to disrupt Iran's advance to regional hegemony, which will become unstoppable once the deal's provisions-especially the non-nuclear provisions-begin to take effect.
Despite what the Obama administration and its media supporters are saying, there is almost no doubt that the Iran deal, should it survive Congress, will enable Iran to become a nuclear power.
But Israel will attack before it loses the option. It will do so because the purpose of Israeli statehood is to enable Jews to defend themselves, and not rely on the help or mercy of others. [Breitbart.com, 7/14/15]
NY Times: “29 U.S. Scientists Praise Iran Nuclear Deal.” The New York Times reported that 29 of the nation's top scientists with an expertise in nuclear weapons issues wrote a letter to President Obama praising the merits of the nuclear deal and calling it “innovative” and “stringent”:
Twenty-nine of the nation's top scientists -- including Nobel laureates, veteran makers of nuclear arms and former White House science advisers -- wrote to President Obama on Saturday to praise the Iran deal, calling it innovative and stringent.
The letter, from some of the world's most knowledgeable experts in the fields of nuclear weapons and arms control, arrives as Mr. Obama is lobbying Congress, the American public and the nation's allies to support the agreement.
Most of the 29 who signed the letter are physicists, and many of them have held what the government calls Q clearances -- granting access to a special category of secret information that bears on the design of nuclear arms and is considered equivalent to the military's top secret security clearance.
The letter uses the words “innovative” and “stringent” more than a half-dozen times, saying, for instance, that the Iran accord has “more stringent constraints than any previously negotiated nonproliferation framework.” [The New York Times, 8/8/15]
Independent Arms Control Experts: “The Deal Is Excellent Compared To Where We Are Today.” Experts from several leading nuclear arms control organizations agree that the nuclear deal with Iran leaves the world safer than the status quo:
Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, believes “the deal is excellent compared to where we are today.”
“It puts a gap between [Iran's] ability to build a bomb and actually doing it, and the gap is big enough for us to do something about it if we detect them moving toward a bomb,” Lewis said. “At the highest macro level, I think that's fantastic.”
As to critics who say a better deal should have been reached, Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association, puts it in simple terms: "A perfect deal was not attainable.
“Overall, it's a very strong and good deal, but it wasn't negotiations that resulted in a score of 100-0 for the US,” Reif said. “That's not how international negotiations go.”
Added James Acton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program and senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment: “You can't compare this to a perfect deal, which was never attainable.” [Defense News, 7/18/15]
Global Nuclear Security Expert: “Uranium Path, Blocked ... Plutonium Path, Blocked ... Covert Path, Blocked.” Joe Cirincione of the Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation, detailed in an article for Slate how the deal blocks Iran's path to a bomb and “makes it extraordinarily difficult for Iran to cheat”:
This deal blocks [the uranium] path. Iran has agreed to rip out over two-thirds of the 19,000 centrifuges it has installed. Just over 5,000 centrifuges will be allowed to continue enriching uranium. All will be located at one facility at Natanz. The deep underground facility at Fordow that so worried Israeli planners (since it could not be destroyed with their weapons) will be shrunk to a couple of hundred operating centrifuges--and these are prohibited from doing any uranium enrichment. They will be used to purify other elements and be closely monitored.
Furthermore, Iran must shrink its stored stockpile of uranium gas from some 10,000 kilograms to just 300 kilograms--and cannot enrich any uranium above 3.67 percent. This limit lasts for 15 years.
Together, these cuts mean that even if Iran tried to renege on the agreement, it would take it at least a year to make enough uranium for one bomb--more than enough time to detect the effort and take economic, diplomatic, or military steps to stop it.
Uranium path, blocked.
Without the deal there is a second way Iran could make a bomb--with plutonium. The bomb at Hiroshima was made of uranium; the bomb at Nagasaki was made of plutonium. Unlike uranium, plutonium does not exist in nature. It is made inside nuclear reactors, as part of the fission process, and then extracted from the spent fuel rods. Iran is constructing a research reactor at Arak that would have produced about 8 kilograms of plutonium each year, or enough theoretically for about two bombs.
Under the new deal, Iran has agreed to completely reconfigure the Arak reactor so that it will produce less than 1 kilogram a year. The old core will be shipped out of the country. Further, Iran has agreed to never build facilities that could reprocess fuel rods and all spent fuel will be shipped out the country.
Plutonium path, blocked.
Finally, without the deal Iran could try to build a covert facility where it could secretly enrich uranium. The verification and monitoring system required by this deal makes that all but impossible
Inspectors will now track Iran's uranium from the time it comes out of the ground to the time it ends up as gas stored in cylinders. There will be state-of-the-art fiber-optic seals, sensors, and cameras at every facility, inventories of all equipment, tracking of scientists and nuclear workers, and 24/7 inspections. Inspectors will also monitor the manufacture of all centrifuges and related machinery. A special “procurement channel” will be set up through which all of Iran's imported nuclear-related equipment must go.
This makes it extraordinarily difficult for Iran to cheat. Iran might want to set up a covert enrichment plant, but where would it get the uranium? Or the centrifuges? Or the scientists? If a 100 scientists suddenly don't show up for work at Natanz, it will be noticed. If the uranium in the gas doesn't equal the uranium mined, it will be noticed. If the parts made for centrifuges don't end up in new centrifuges, it will be noticed. Iran might be able to evade one level of monitoring but the chance that it could evade all the overlapping levels will be remote.
Covert path, blocked. [Slate, 7/14/15]
Wash. Post: Deal Will Reduce Iran's Ability To Enrich Uranium Far Below Weapons Grade. The Washington Post explained how the nuclear deal limits Iran to uranium enrichment levels far below what is needed to make a nuclear weapon:
[The Washington Post, 7/14/15]
MYTH: Deal Will Allow Iran To Have A Nuclear Weapon After It Expires
National Review Editor: Deal Allows Iran “To Become A Threshold Nuclear Power.” National Review editor Rich Lowry said the nuclear deal would leave Iran on the threshold of possessing a nuclear weapon:
This deal is the result of coercive diplomacy absent coercion. In essence, it allows Iran to become a threshold nuclear power (preserving much of its nuclear infrastructure and continuing to enrich) in exchange for us not having to do anything to try to stop Iran from becoming a threshold nuclear power. [National Review, 8/7/15]
Charles Krauthammer: "Iran Is Going To Be Welcomed Into The Nuclear Club" In 10 To 15 Years. On the August 4 edition of Fox News' Special Report, contributor Charles Krauthammer claimed that because of the deal, “People are beginning to understand that in 10 or at the latest 15 years Iran is going to be welcomed into the nuclear club with everything but an induction ceremony.” [Fox News, Special Report, 8/4/15, via Nexis]
FACT: Iran Is “Permanently” Bound By Curbs On Ability To Obtain Nuclear Weapon, Even After Some Provisions Expire
PolitiFact: Even With Sunset Provisions, Iran Will Still Be "Permanently" Bound "By Other Curbs On Its Ability To Produce A Nuclear Weapon." PolitiFact wrote that while certain aspects of the deal would eventually expire, “Iran will still be bound -- permanently -- by other curbs on its ability to produce a nuclear weapon,” according to experts:
Scrutiny and limits on Iran don't simply drop to zero after 10, 15, 20 or 25 years. While a number of the particularly intrusive provisions will lapse, Iran will still be bound -- permanently -- by other curbs on its ability to produce a nuclear weapon.
For starters, Iran must comply with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that it signed in 1974. This commits Iran to not pursuing nuclear weapons. It must also ratify the stricter curbs contained in the “Additional Protocol,” which expanded the types of sites inspectors could visit on short notice. Iran signed the protocol in 2003 but quit adhering to it three years later and has never ratified it. Under the nuclear deal, Iran must ratify the Additional Protocol within eight years, or else the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany would be able to take punitive action, said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.
The agreement also demands that Iran implement “modified Code 3.1,” which requires the country to notify the International Atomic Energy Agency when it decides to build a nuclear facility, rather than six months before introducing nuclear material, and to keep the agency informed on changes to designs of existing nuclear sites.
“Iran would have the obligation to cooperate with the IAEA in this way in perpetuity,” Richard Nephew, a Brookings Institution senior fellow, wrote earlier this year. Iran, he wrote, “would be expected to fulfill the normal requirements of any IAEA-inspected country, whatever those may be, at the time a deal formally concludes. ... Nowhere has the United States agreed that Iran would be immunized forever more from international scrutiny after a deal eventually ends.” If Iran acted contrary to its obligations, Nephew wrote, “this would permit the United States and its partners to respond with a range of options, up to and including the use of military force.” [PolitiFact, 9/3/15]
MYTH: Sanctions Relief In Deal Is A “Recipe For War”
Fox Guest Rudy Giuliani: Sanction Relief In Iran Deal “Is A Recipe For War.” On the August 5 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, former New York City mayor and frequent Fox guest Rudy Giuliani criticized the Iran deal's sanction relief, declaring it “a recipe for war as opposed to the opposite” because it puts “billions of dollars” into Iran's hands:
RUDY GIULIANI: I mean, the question is, this has to get evaluated on the merits of is it a good deal or a bad deal. It's a very, very bad deal because we are putting hundreds of millions and billions of dollars into the hands of a man who wants to destroy the state of Israel, wants to destroy the United States, has become and is the biggest sponsor of terrorism in the world. The deal makes no sense to me. To put billions of dollars in the hands of a man who wants to commit murder is, to me, highly irresponsible. Secondly, why the president trusts the Ayatollah to keep any of the commitments in the deal that he supposedly made indicates the president is being naive. This is a recipe for war, as opposed to the opposite. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 8/5/15]
Fox Host Eric Bolling: Dropping Sanctions In Deal Is Cutting “A Deal With The Devil.” On the July 14 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-hosts Dana Perino, Eric Bolling, and Kimberly Guilfoyle argued that the Iran deal's “snap sanctions” would not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Bolling likened the deal to “a deal with the devil”:
DANA PERINO: I want to ask you about the sanctions piece because one of the deals going up to this moment was that there might be snap sanctions so that if Iran doesn't hold up its end of the deal, that all of the sudden these world powers would be willing to put the sanctions back on. I think we have to be clear. That is never going to happen.
JUAN WILLIAMS: Look, what would you say then, Greg? More sanctions?
ERIC BOLLING: Yes.
GREG GUTFELD: Sure.
KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE: Yes.
WILLIAMS: Oh, more sanctions to what end?
BOLLING: It is working.
WILLIAMS: Guess what, and your point was those Europeans, those Chinese, those Russians, no -- those sanctions would unravel.
BOLLING: All right, Juan. So let them deal with them. Let them cut a deal with the devil. [Fox News, The Five, 7/14/15]
The Diplomat Acclaims “Sophistication” Of Sanctions Relief And “Snap Back” Mechanism. Writing for The Diplomat, foreign affairs and international security expert Ankit Panda outlined how “snap-back” sanctions will not only keep Iran compliant, but can also be applied regardless of any objections raised by China or Russia:
What many observers of the Iran talks have been pleasantly surprised by is the sophistication of the mechanism included in the final deal that could allow the United States and its three P5+1 European allies to reinstate sanctions against Iran if Tehran is found to be violation of the terms of the agreement. Notably, this “snap back” mechanism would allow the United States to reinstate U.N. sanctions without the acquiescence of Russia and China (despite their United Nations Security Council vetoes).
Where the United States preserved unique leverage-and immunity from a Russian or Chinese veto against resuming old UN Security Council sanctions-is the next step. If the Security Council doesn't act in 30 days, all of the pre-JCPOA nuclear-related sanctions on Iran come back into place automatically. Basically, the U.S. and the EU states in the P5+1 can veto ongoing sanctions relief but Russia and China can't veto a return to the status quo ante. A scenario in which Iran is non-compliant with the JCPOA and escapes the old sanctions simply will not be possible. [The Diplomat, 7/15/15]
International Relations Expert: If Iran Cheats, Sanctions Will Snap Back And Deal Goes Out The Window. Writing for Foreign Policy, Harvard international relations professor Stephen M. Walt argued that Iran has great strategic interests in not acquiring a nuclear weapon under the provisions of the deal, in part because of the sanctions' snap-back provision:
And let's not forget that there is no evidence Iran is dead set on having an actual nuclear weapon, and it certainly hasn't been hellbent on getting one as soon as possible. Indeed, U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded it has no nuclear weapons program today, a position they have held consistently since 2007. That isn't all that surprising: As I've argued before, Iran has sound, strategic reasons for not getting the bomb, just as it has sound, strategic reasons to want the potential to acquire one should circumstances warrant it at some point in the future. But if Iran were to move in that direction under this agreement, the world would know it almost immediately, sanctions would snap back, military action would become more likely, and all the benefits Iran gains from the deal would go right out the window. [Foreign Policy, 8/3/15]
MYTH: Sanctions Relief Will Greatly Increase Iran's Ability To Fund Terrorism
Free Beacon: “Iran Terror Funding Gets $4.8 Billion Boost Under Nuke Deal.” The Washington Free Beacon cited a conservative group's study to claim that sanctions relief in the Iran deal gives billions of dollars to terrorists:
Sanctions relief provided to Iran under a recently inked nuclear accord is expected to boost the Islamic Republic's military spending by nearly $5 billion dollars, with much of that money going to fund Iran's terror forces, according to a new study by a Washington, D.C.-based think-tank.
Under the parameters of the deal, Iran will receive nearly $150 billion in sanctions relief and cash assets. Because the money comes with no strings attached, it is expected that Iran will spend the money to fund its global terrorism operation, as well as its defense sector. [Washington Free Beacon, 8/10/15]
FACT: Experts Believe Iran Will Use Sanction Relief To Restart Economy, Say Terrorists Would Benefit More From Rejection Of Deal
CIA: Sanctions Relief Will Mostly Go To Servicing Iran's Outstanding Debts And Repairing Crippled Economy. A recent CIA report determined that the majority of the money that enters Iran after the sanctions are lifted would go to propping up the economy and paying down debts. From the Los Angeles Times:
A secret U.S. intelligence assessment predicts that Iran's government will pump most of an expected $100-billion windfall from the lifting of international sanctions into the country's flagging economy and won't significantly boost funding for militant groups it supports in the Middle East.
Intelligence analysts concluded that even if Tehran increased support for Hezbollah commanders in Lebanon, Houthi rebels in Yemen or President Bashar Assad's embattled government in Syria, the extra cash is unlikely to tip the balance of power in the world's most volatile region, according to two U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the intelligence document. [Los Angeles Times, 7/16/15]
Deal Maintains Sanctions Related To Iran's Support For Terrorist Groups. The Los Angeles Times further explained how U.S. sanctions related to “support for groups linked to terrorism will stay in place” under the deal:
The United States will rescind most of its banking sanctions, allowing Iranian banks to reconnect to the global financial system, and will lift restrictions on various Iranian industries, as well as trade in gold and other precious metals. Nearly 750 companies, individuals, aircraft and ships will be removed from U.S. blacklists.
Sanctions related to Iran's human rights abuses and support for groups linked to terrorism will stay in place. A U.N. arms embargo will lift in five years, and restrictions on the transfer of ballistic missile technology will remain for eight years, although the White House said the U.S. and its Persian Gulf allies would step up efforts to block Iranian military shipments or other support to its proxies. [Los Angeles Times, 7/16/15]
Center On Arms Control And Non-Proliferation: If The Deal Is Rejected And Iran Obtains A Bomb, Terrorist Allies Would Benefit. The Center On Arms Control And Non-Proliferation warned that “if Iran obtains a nuclear weapon, the nuclear deterrent that Iran would extend to its terrorist allies would pose an even greater threat. This deal eliminates that threat, preventing a dramatically worse security situation.” [Center On Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, 8/3/15]
MYTH: Secret Side Deal Allows Iran To Inspect Itself
AP: Iran Will Be Allowed To Inspect Its Own Military Site. On August 19, the Associated Press claimed that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would allow Iran “to use its own inspectors to investigate a site it has been accused of using to develop nuclear arms.” The article claimed that Iran would only provide the IAEA with photographic and video evidence from areas Iran determined were not “off-limits” and the IAEA would be “barred from physically visiting the site”:
Iran will be allowed to use its own inspectors to investigate a site it has been accused of using to develop nuclear arms, operating under a secret agreement with the U.N. agency that normally carries out such work, according to a document seen by The Associated Press.
Iran has refused access to Parchin for years and has denied any interest in -- or work on -- nuclear weapons. Based on U.S., Israeli and other intelligence and its own research, the IAEA suspects that the Islamic Republic may have experimented with high-explosive detonators for nuclear arms.
The IAEA has cited evidence, based on satellite images, of possible attempts to sanitize the site since the alleged work stopped more than a decade ago.
The document seen by the AP is a draft that one official familiar with its contents said doesn't differ substantially from the final version. He demanded anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the issue in public.
The document is labeled “separate arrangement II,” indicating there is another confidential agreement between Iran and the IAEA governing the agency's probe of the nuclear weapons allegations.
Iran is to provide agency experts with photos and videos of locations the IAEA says are linked to the alleged weapons work, “taking into account military concerns.”
That wording suggests that -- beyond being barred from physically visiting the site -- the agency won't get photo or video information from areas Iran says are off-limits because they have military significance.
While the document says the IAEA “will ensure the technical authenticity” of Iran's inspection, it does not say how. [Associated Press, 8/19/15]
Townhall: “Wow: AP Confirms Secret Side Deal Allows Iran To Inspect Itself At Key Nuclear Site.” Townhall's Guy Benson claimed that a “secret side deal allows Iran to inspect itself at [a] key nuclear site”:
Rumors to this effect have been swirling for weeks, as you're already aware. The Obama administration has been evasive about several secret side deals cut between Iran and the IAEA, prompting criticism from skeptics of the accord who note that US law requires the White House to release every single letter of the agreement to Congress for review. Secretary of State John Kerry has dodged questions about what these bonus bargains entail, and which US officials are privy to their contents. The Associated Press is now confirming that the IAEA has agreed to allow Iran to effectively inspect itself at the controversial Parchin nuclear site, within the context of accounting for the past military dimensions of the regime's nuclear program. [Townhall, 8/19/15]
National Review: "IAEA Tells Congressmen Of Two Secret Side Deals To Iran Agreement That Won't Be Shared With Congress." Fred Fleitz wrote in the National Review of a “secret side deals to the nuclear agreement with Iran”:
Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and Congressmen (sic) Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) issued a press release yesterday on a startling discovery they made during a July 17 meeting with International Atomic Energy Agency officials in Vienna: There are two secret side deals to the nuclear agreement with Iran that will not be shared with other nations, with Congress, or with the U.S. public.
One of these side deals concerns inspection of the Parchin military base, where Iran reportedly has conducted explosive testing related to nuclear-warhead development. The Iranian government has refused to allow the IAEA to visit this site. Over the last several years, Iran has taken steps to clean up evidence of weapons-related activity at Parchin.
The other secret side deal concerns how the IAEA and Iran will resolve outstanding issues on possible military dimensions (PMDs) of Iran's nuclear program. In late 2013, Iran agreed to resolve IAEA questions about nuclear weapons-related work in twelve areas. Iran only answered questions in one of these areas and rejected the rest as based on forgeries and fabrications. [National Review, 7/22/15]
FACT: Side Deal Concerns Only Past Activity At One Site -- IAEA Has Ability To Ensure Iran's Full Compliance With Long-Term Deal
NBC News: Deal Between Iran And The IAEA Aims To “Close The File” On Past Activity At Parchin Only, And Not The Long-Term Inspection Regime As Part Of The Landmark Deal. As NBC News explained, the side deal between the IAEA and Iran pertains only to past military nuclear activity at the Parchin military site, and “not the long-term inspection regime agreed to for the remainder of the nuclear deal”:
Iran is required to “close the file” on past military dimensions of its nuclear program before it can get sanctions relief and proceed with the long-term nuclear deal negotiated in Vienna.
But, Wednesday night, two senior U.S. officials told NBC News that the unusual arrangement between the IAEA and Tehran relates only to past military activity and that UN inspectors, including IAEA Director Yukiya Amano, would be on site to supervise the Iranians at every step of the way.
Both sides agree the controversial arrangement only involves Parchin and its past military activity -- not the long-term inspection regime agreed to for the remainder of the nuclear deal. The administration claims the future inspection regime is unprecedented in its intrusiveness. [NBC News, 8/19/15]
Arms Control Association's Tariq Rauf: IAEA Deal With Iran Is Aimed At Determining Past Activity “Under Direct Supervision And Control Of IAEA Supervisors.” On August 20, the Arms Control Association's Tariq Rauf clarified that the inspections at Iran's Parchin military base would determine past activity and that the IAEA would have “managed access” to the site. He added that the sampling procedures “carried out at Parchin by Iranian technicians under the direct supervision and control of IAEA inspectors would not necessarily compromise the environmental sampling exercise.”
Under the 'road map, the IAEA and Iran also concluded separate arrangements to address the issues of (a) a possible military dimension to Iran's nuclear programme as set out in the Annex to the November 2011 IAEA report and (b) activities at Parchin, a large military-industrial factory in Iran.
IAEA monitoring and verification in Iran at Parchin as recently reported, concerns two separate but related issues (1) IAEA environmental sampling and (2) IAEA (managed) access, to sites and locations at the Parchin military-industrial facility.
The “rocket-science” comes into play at the labs where through very sophisticated analyses using electron microscopes and mass spectrometers nuclear material can be detected at the nano-gram level. There is no way an inspected State confidently can “sanitize” or erase all signs of nuclear material where it has been used at a location.
Under regular IAEA safeguards inspections, Agency inspectors carry out the swiping and collection of samples, as at Bushehr, Esfahan, Natanz, Fordow and elsewhere in Iran. Parchin being a military industrial facility is not subject to regular IAEA safeguards as it is not a “nuclear facility” as defined for purposes of IAEA safeguards. The IAEA, however, can request and obtain access to a facility such as Parchin under “managed access” provisions of Iran's Additional Protocol (AP) to its safeguards agreement with the IAEA. It would be unusual but by no means technically compromising to have Iranian technicians collect swipe samples at sites and locations at Parchin in the physical presence and direct line of sight of IAEA inspectors, including filming, and using swipe kits and collection bags provided by the IAEA. The Agency inspectors then would seal the bags containing the swipe samples; they could leave behind one sealed bag at the IAEA Office in Iran as a “control” to be used if there is a dispute later about the results. The other three or four bags of swipe samples would be taken by the IAEA to NML/ESL and the analytical procedures described above would come into play. The results from all three or four labs to have analyzed the samples must match to give a positive or a negative finding on the presence and isotopics of uranium and/or plutonium. Given the sensitivity of the Iran nuclear file, it is not unreasonable under the circumstances for Iran to insist on following the sampling taking by its technicians in the presence of Agency inspectors noted above, mainly to guard against the risk of inadvertent contamination from nuclear material traces on the clothing of the inspectors which might have been worn at some other location in another country at a previous inspection. Such contamination while rare is not unknown and has occurred in a few cases elsewhere.
To conclude, the environmental sampling taking carried out at Parchin by Iranian technicians under the direct supervision and control of IAEA inspectors would not necessarily compromise the environmental sampling exercise. [Arms Control Association, 8/20/15]
Nonproliferation Expert: “Parchin Is A Red Herring.” On July 20, Vox's Max Fisher published an interview with nuclear nonproliferation expert Aaron Stein, who explained that the IAEA would not find anything at Parchin, saying, “it's completely stripped of anything of value,” and emphasizing that "[t]he intention of this agreement is to take the weapons option off the table for the next 25 years, and the agreement does that":
Max Fisher: Right, PMD -- “possible military dimensions,” the idea that Iran has to reveal any past work it's done on military elements of a nuclear program. In other words, to disclose any past work specifically on getting a bomb. I know that was a big issue in the negotiations, and it looks like it's going to be a big political issue now. How important is that?
Aaron Stein: A lot of it has focused on Parchin. [Iran had conducted some past nuclear work at its military facility at Parchin.] Parchin is a red herring; I have no idea why the IAEA is so hung up on Parchin. They won't find anything there -- it's completely stripped of anything of value.
The real concerns about Iran's PMD were weapons-specific tests. I'm talking about the development of a shock implosion system to generate a nuclear explosion and the conducting of weapons-specific mathematical and computer modulate tests.
Max Fisher: So the issue for the nuclear deal is that, in order for the deal to go forward, Iran has to satisfy the IAEA that they have sufficiently disclosed information about past weapons research?
Aaron Stein: Yes. They'll find some creative language to get around this, there's no doubt in my mind. There are very few people who seriously believe that Iran wasn't up to no good between 1985 and 2003. The intention of this agreement is to take the weapons option off the table for the next 25 years, and the agreement does that.
In the past, the way the IAEA resolved this is by using language that didn't call Iran a liar flat-out, but rather said that Iran's explanation is not inconsistent with how this may have happened, something along those lines. The agency will basically cast out on Iran's explanations without saying so, or say so in a very diplomatic language. [Vox, 7/20/15]
Global Nuclear Security Experts: Criticism Of Inspection Regime Is “Particularly Ridiculous To Anyone Who Knows Anything About Inspecting Nuclear Programs.” Cirincione of the Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation, said experts are in agreement that nothing could be added to the deal to increase the effectiveness of the inspections (emphasis added):
Joe Cirincione, president of the Washington-based Plowshares Fund, added Iran has very little, if any, room for error to hide a secret attempt at a nuclear program.
“The claims about the inspection regime are particularly ridiculous to anyone who knows anything about inspecting nuclear programs. If Iran were to flush the evidence down the toilet, they'd have a radioactive toilet. And if they were to rip out the toilet, they'd have a radioactive hole in the ground. They simply won't be able to cheat,” he said.
“There is no silver bullet,” to preventing a secret Iranian program, [Carnegie Endowment Nuclear Policy Program co-director James] Acton noted. “There is nothing else that could be included in this agreement that solves the problem. What it does contain is a series of provisions that significantly mitigate the chance.”
In other words, while a black program may be hypothetical, it is logistically very, very difficult. And Iran was never going to allow inspectors 24/7 access to its entire territory, so the system put in place here helps create roadblocks to a secret program being spun up, Reif said.
According to [the senior director for arms control and nonproliferation at the U.S. National Security Council, Jon] Wolfsthal, Washington aims to expand the funding, technological expertise and personnel it contributes to the IAEA to ensure "24/7 monitoring.
“We're providing satellite coverage, live camera feeds, radio identification, tamper seals. ... We will know whatever goes on in those facilities,” he said. [Defense News, 7/18/15]
FACT: Side Roadmap Deal With IAEA Is “Standard Operating Procedure” And Unrelated To U.S. Role In Inspections
IAEA Director: Claims Iran Can Inspect Itself “Misrepresent” Inspection Agreement. In an August 20 press release, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said he was “disturbed by statements suggesting that the IAEA has given responsibility for nuclear inspections to Iran,” adding that such statements “misrepresent” the verification inspection agreement between the IAEA and Iran:
I am disturbed by statements suggesting that the IAEA has given responsibility for nuclear inspections to Iran. Such statements misrepresent the way in which we will undertake this important verification work.
The separate arrangements under the Road-map agreed between the IAEA and Iran in July are confidential and I have a legal obligation not to make them public - the same obligation I have for hundreds of such arrangements made with other IAEA Member States.
However, I can state that the arrangements are technically sound and consistent with our long-established practices. They do not compromise our safeguards standards in any way. The Road-map between Iran and the IAEA is a very robust agreement, with strict timelines, which will help us to clarify past and present outstanding issues regarding Iran's nuclear programme. [International Atomic Energy Agency, 8/20/15]
Center For Arms Control And Non-Proliferation: Iran Must Submit Full Report To IAEA Regarding Its Nuclear History Before Sanctions Are Lifted, And It's “Standard Operating Procedure” For Deal To Be Confidential. The CACNP explained how Iran and the IAEA signed a bilateral confidential agreement similar to those signed in previous nuclear arms reduction deals, most recently with Libya:
Under the deal, Iran must submit a full report to the IAEA regarding its nuclear history before it can receive any sanctions relief. The IAEA will review the report and follow-up with Iran in order to conclude its investigation. The IAEA has said that it expects to complete this report by the end of 2015.
Some critics are calling this a secret side deal between the IAEA and Iran; however, this is standard operating procedure, and every such agreement the IAEA has with other countries is also confidential. This was even true during the IAEA's inspections into Libya. While the general public is not privy to the details of the arrangement, it is safe to assume that the United States government has been fully briefed on the procedures.
The arrangement specifies procedural information regarding how the IAEA will conduct its investigation into Iran's past nuclear history, including mentioning the names of informants who will be interviewed. Releasing this information would place those informants, and the information they hold, at risk. [Center On Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, 8/3/15]
U.S. Plays “Critical” Support Role Ensuring Accuracy Of IAEA Inspections. NPR explained how the U.S. will most likely not directly inspect Iranian sites because the language in the agreement allows for only inspectors from countries that “have diplomatic relations with Iran” to protect the objectivity of the inspections:
[T]he language in the agreement says that Iran “will generally allow the designation of inspectors from nations that have diplomatic relations with Iran.”
Since the U.S. and Iran broke off ties after the 1979 Islamic revolution, it appears unlikely that any American inspectors will be getting a first-hand look at the Iranian nuclear facilities.
Trevor Findlay of Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs says it is not necessary and, perhaps, not helpful, to have American inspectors inside Iran.
“In the Iraq case that was a significant point of controversy,” Findlay told NPR. The presence of US inspectors in UN teams in Iraq “caused political difficulties and in the end was counterproductive.”
The IAEA needs to make sure that its reports on Iran are viewed around the world as objective, [Trevor Findlay of Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs] said. He thinks the U.S. could do more in Vienna, where the inspectors' reports are analyzed and where the IAEA's task force on Iran is based.
“The United States often provides cost-free experts to the agency, they provide technology, they provide intelligence information, so the role of the United States is critical,” Findlay said.
U.S. officials say they will make sure the IAEA has what it needs. Jon Wolfsthal, a nuclear expert in the White House, told the Atlantic Council that the Obama administration is already offering technology to ensure Iran adheres to strict limits on its uranium enrichment program. [NPR, 7/18/15]
Myth: Most Americans Don't Support Terms Of Iran Deal
Wash. Post: “The Iran Deal Is Unpopular.” In a September 1 article, The Washington Post reported on a Quinnipiac survey of 1,563 registered voters taken August 20-25 that suggested the agreement reached by the U.S. and world powers with Iran to limit that country's nuclear program is unpopular with voters. According to The Post:
House and Senate Democrats appear to get little politically, at least in the near term, out of going on the record for or against the Iran deal -- except yet another chance to take one for the team. A Monday Quinnipiac University poll revealed that just 25 percent of Americans support the deal, while 55 percent oppose it, yet Obama is close to his magic number of 34 in the Senate to save the deal from Republicans in Congress. [The Washington Post, 9/1/15]
Fox News' MacCallum: 56 Percent Believe The Deal Would Make The World Less Safe. On the September 1 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum cited the Quinnipiac poll finding that 56 percent of respondents believe the nuclear deal with Iran would make the world less safe:
GEN. JACK KEANE: Yeah, I totally agree with the Cheneys here, Martha. The most stunning revelation in this nuclear deal is the thing that they just put their finger on. The entire nuclear infrastructure stays in place, except for some significant reductions of centrifuges and enriched uranium. But in 10 years, they can activate those centrifuges and begin to enrich uranium again with some restrictions. In 15 years, those restrictions are entirely removed and Iran has a clear pathway to a nuclear weapon, and as the Cheneys suggest, they wouldn't stop with one weapon, it would actually be a nuclear arsenal. I mean, that is absolutely extraordinary that that's part of this framework agreement. And the president's thesis is he's blocking Iran from having a weapon when actually he's providing a pathway to that weapon.
MARTHA MACCALLUM: Well, he has said he believes that it's exactly the opposite. But a poll of the American people shows that they are in agreement more with the Cheneys, I guess, and with you on this one. Do you think the nuclear deal with Iran is going to make the world safer? And 56 percent say that they believe that it will make the world less safe. And you also referenced something written by Henry Kissinger that is quite surprising. Tell everybody about that, general.
KEANE: Well, when you posit the fact that Iran will eventually have a weapon, what choice do Iran's enemies in the region have when that begins to take place? Clearly they have to protect themselves. Iran is seeking regional domination and it's had a measure of success in doing it so far. So they will -- they will arm themselves. They will at least begin with a nuclear threshold and eventually a nuclear weapon. What Henry Kissinger has said, Iran having a nuclear weapon is the most dangerous threat to civilization he has seen in his lifetime, to include Nazism and communism, because it will lead to what we're just talking about -- nuclear proliferation in the region -- very volatile, dynamic region, which would likely lead, in Dr. Kissinger's mind, to the first ever nuclear exchange. And that is catastrophic. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 9/1/15]
CNN: Respondents Support Iran Deal When Provided With More Information About Terms. CNN asked half of the respondents to its poll a question that explained the agreement's “major restrictions on [Iran's] nuclear program” and provisions for “greater international inspection of its nuclear facilities.” The other half of respondents were asked a question that provided no details about the deal but simply asked whether Congress should approve or reject it. CNN's poll found that 50 percent of respondents supported the deal when its details were provided.
From the poll:
[CNN/ORC International poll, August 13-16, 2015]
Poll That Actually Explained The Deal Finds Majority Support. A poll conducted by the University of Maryland's Center for International and Security Studies found that when respondents were provided with background information about the terms of the deal, a majority favored congressional approval:
Citizen Cabinet surveys are not meant to simply be another poll. Rather the goal is to find out what a representative panel of registered voters recommends when they are given a briefing and hear arguments for and against the key options. The process they go through is called a 'policymaking simulation,' in that the goal is to put the respondent into the shoes of a policymaker. The content of the simulation is vetted with Congressional staffers and other experts to assure accuracy and balance.
In the current Citizen Cabinet survey the simulation focused much more deeply on the terms of the deal, especially the terms that have been highly criticized by Members of Congress. Panelists were first briefed on the origins of the international dispute over Iran's nuclear program and the main issues during the negotiations and given a detailed summary of the agreement's main features. Then panelists evaluated a series of critiques--some general, some quite specific--prominent in the Congressional debate, and assessed a rebuttal offered for each.
After considering the various arguments and options, panelists reassessed the options separately. Approving of the deal was found slightly more acceptable or tolerable, and not approving of the deal slightly less so. Panelists were finally asked whether they would recommend that their Members of Congress approve of the deal. Those that did not recommend approval were offered other options. Ultimately 55% recommended approval, including 72% of Democrats, 61% of Independents and 33% of Republicans. Twenty three percent recommended ramping up sanctions, 14% seeking to renegotiate the deal, and 7% using military threats.
[University of Maryland, September 2015]
Poll Finds That Iran Deal Is Popular With Constituents Of Undecided Members Of Congress. A September 8 poll conducted by Public Policy Polling found that the deal is popular with constituents of undecided representatives:
-55% of voters across the 23 states/districts support the proposed deal to only 39% who are opposed. There is overwhelming favor for it with Democratic voters- 72% of them support it, compared to only 23% who say they're against it. There are very few voters intensely opposed to the deal- just 32% of voters overall, and 18% of Democrats, say they 'strongly oppose it.' And it has support from critical independent voters- 50% are in favor to 44% opposed.
-57% of Jewish voters support the deal, to only 37% who are opposed. The 20 point margin in support of the agreement among Jewish voters in these districts matches what a J Street poll found among Jewish voters nationally in July right after the agreement was reached. Both surveys found that Jewish voters are slightly more supportive of the deal even than the population as a whole.
-Voters want their Senators/Representatives to vote to allow the agreement to go forward. Only 40% of voters think they should vote to block the agreement from being implemented, compared to 52% who say they want them to vote to allow the agreement to go forward. Again the Democratic base is heavily in favor of moving the agreement forward, with 69% saying they hope their elected officials will vote for it.
The takeaways from this poll are clear- voters are firmly behind the Iran deal and they want their Senators/Representatives to vote to approve it. And both of those things are especially true when it comes to Democratic voters. Supporting the Iran deal is the best thing politically for the Senators and House members in these districts.
Public Policy Polling surveyed 13,578 registered voters in AL-7, AZ-1, CA-26, CA-31, CA-33, CA-36, FL-18, FL-22, IA-2, statewide in Maryland, MD-2, MD-3, MD-6, statewide in Michigan, NE-2, statewide in New Jersey, NV-1, NY-8, OH-9, RI-1, RI-2, WA-1, and WA-6 between August 26th and 31st on behalf of Americans United for Change. The survey's margin of error is +/-0.8% [Public Policy Polling, 9/8/15]
MYTH: Iran Nuclear Deal Is “Exactly What Happened” In Failed Deal With North Korea
Fox News' Sean Hannity: “This Is Exactly What Happened In North Korea's Nuclear Deal.” On the July 13 edition of The Sean Hannity Show, host Sean Hannity claimed:
HANNITY: There is something really, deeply, radically wrong with a president that does not see the danger here. But he's doing it anyway.
Sounds like Bill Clinton's announcement of North Korea's nuclear deal. It's déjà vu all over again. Remember what Bill Clinton said about North Korea, it sounds like what Obama's saying about Iran. [The] Clinton deal didn't work and North Korea's a nuclear nation and they got a ton of money out of us on top of it all. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 7/13/15]
Fox's Jenna Lee: “Some Say [The North Korea Deal] Can Apply More Here” Than Other Examples. On the July 14 edition of Fox's Happening Now, host Jenna Lee compared the Iran deal with the 1994 Agreed Framework with North Korea. She asked a guest to address this, saying: “Go back ... as we wrap up our conversation here, about the North Korea deal. Because again, that's more recent history, and it -- some say it can apply more here than going back to the Soviet Union as a model.” [Fox News, Happening Now, 7/14/15]
Fox's Eric Bolling: North Korea Deal Had “A Similar Path” As Iran Deal. On the July 14 edition of Fox's The Five, co-host Eric Bolling asked, “So how did the deal we made with North Korea turn out? How did that one turn out? Because it was a similar path.” [Fox News, The Five, 7/14/15]
FACT: Iran Nuclear Deal Concerns Different Circumstances Than North Korean Deal, Is Much More Substantial
State Department's Marie Harf: Unlike Iran, “North Korea Had Produced Weapons-Grade Plutonium Prior” To Agreement. In a press briefing on April 23, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf addressed the comparison between the Iran deal and the North Korean Agreed Framework:
MS HARF: There's no - the comparison is just - they're completely different things, and I'm happy to talk through why a little bit. The comprehensive deal we are seeking to negotiate with Iran is fundamentally different than what we did in terms of our approach to North Korea. In the early 1990s, North Korea had produced weapons-grade plutonium prior to agreeing to limited IAEA inspections. After the Agreed Framework, they agreed to more intrusive inspections; but in 2002, when they finally broke its commitments, its violations were detected by the IAEA. We've also said very publicly that one of the reasons we have the Additional Protocol now, which is a key part of what we're negotiating with Iran, is in fact because of the lessons we learned from the North Korea situation. [U.S. Department of State, 4/23/15]
National Security Expert: Unlike The 4-Page North Korea Deal, Iran Deal Has “Unprecedented Degree Of Monitoring And Inspections.” Paul Pillar, nonresident senior fellow for both the Center for Security Studies and the Brookings Institution, wrote in his blog for The National Interest, “The Agreed Framework was a sketchy four-page document that provided for little in the way of monitoring and enforcement. In contrast, the leading feature of the agreement being negotiated with Iran is its unprecedented degree of monitoring and inspections. The final agreement will have an enforcement and dispute resolution mechanism consistent with the Additional Protocol pertaining to work of the International Atomic Energy Agency.” [The National Interest, 5/19/15]
Carnegie Endowment For International Peace: “The Iran Nuclear Deal Is Not The North Korea Deal.” According to an April 28 article by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) titled, “Why the Iran Nuclear Deal Is Not the North Korea Deal,” all members of the P5+1, including Russia and China, are involved and invested in the deal, unlike the bilateral North Korean deal between only the U.S. and North Korea:
The negotiations that produced the 1994 Agreed Framework were conducted by the United States and the DPRK alone. The other permanent members of the UN Security Council were not invested in it and in its enforcement.
The P5+1 perceive major national and collective interests in preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and in upholding the NPT. Each of these states has invested national prestige in demonstrating that their collective effort can abate a threat to international peace and security. They have made this clear in a number of ways, including by authorizing and enforcing an unprecedented array of economic sanctions on Iran. The intensity of these states' support for sanctions has varied, and the P5+1--particularly Russia--may have different priorities in dealing with Iran if and when the nuclear case is resolved. But there is reason to believe that they all are prepared to hold Iran to account for fulfilling the terms of an agreement. [Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 4/28/15]
CEIP: Iran Deal “Explicitly Addresses All Pathways To The Bomb.” The April 28 CEIP article further explained that in contrast to the deal with North Korea, every path to nuclear weapons is addressed in the Iran deal:
The Agreed Framework focused specifically on the DPRK's plutonium program. The framework also reaffirmed the DPRK's broader commitment not to seek nuclear weapons by any means, pursuant to the 1992 Joint Declaration of South and North Korea on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. As it turned out, the DPRK secretly imported uranium enrichment technology from Pakistan and developed a parallel route for acquiring weapons-usable fissile material.
The proposed agreement with Iran explicitly covers both the uranium and plutonium pathways to acquiring nuclear weapons, and includes extensive measures to verify that declared and undeclared pathways would be blocked. [Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 4/28/15]
MYTH: Iran Deal Forces U.S. To Defend Iran Against Potential Israeli Attack
Washington Free Beacon: Obama Administration Not Denying Iran Deal Would Protect Iran From Israeli Sabotage. The Washington Free Beacon reported that Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz did “not [deny]” that the deal would oblige the U.S. to “help protect Iran's nuclear program from future sabotage by Iran's opponents, notably Israel”:
Top Obama administration officials testified Thursday that the United States would help ensure the “physical security” of Iran's nuclear infrastructure as part of the nuclear agreement they reached with the Islamic republic two weeks ago.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) asked the assembled officials whether a controversial provision in Annex III of the agreement obligated the United States to help protect Iran's nuclear program from future sabotage by Iran's opponents, notably Israel.
The charge was ducked, but not denied, by Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. [Washington Free Beacon, 7/23/15]
Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft: "US To Protect Iranian Nuclear Sites from Israeli Attack" Under Iran Deal. Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft wrote an article headlined, “OBAMA DEAL=> US to Protect Iranian Nuclear Sites from Israeli Attack” that claimed "[t]he Obama administration is going to help Iran protect their nuclear sites and systems from an Israeli attack." [Gateway Pundit, 7/20/15]
FACT: Under Deal, U.S. May Help Iran Against “Thieves And Terrorists” -- Does Not Concern Israel Or U.S. Obligations To Its Ally
FactCheck.org: Provision Of Deal Focused On Protecting Iran Nuclear Material “Against Thieves And Terrorists,” Not Israeli Attack. FactCheck.org, writing about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump repeating this claim, reported that experts have said the belief the U.S. would have to defend Iran from an Israeli attack “are, at best, exaggerated,” because the provision actually focuses on “protect[ing] nuclear materials from theft (say, if terrorists tried to steal Iranian assets) or from sabotage (with the intent of causing a hazardous-materials threat to health)”:
But experts told PolitiFact Florida in late July that such interpretations are, at best, exaggerated. The aim of the provision, they said, is to protect nuclear materials from theft (say, if terrorists tried to steal Iranian assets) or from sabotage (with the intent of causing a hazardous-materials threat to health).
“It has nothing to do with helping Iran protect its nuclear facilities from a military attack” of the kind that Israel or Egypt might carry out, Bunn said. “It's about protecting against thieves and terrorists who might want to steal nuclear material or sabotage a nuclear facility.”
Bunn added that by its plain language, the provision does not obligate any of the signatories, including the United States, to do anything in particular. Rather, it says the signatories are “prepared” to cooperate with Iran on these topics, with lots of wiggle room for all sides.
Meanwhile, the agreement allows -- but doesn't mandate -- training for Iran in protecting against threats such as cyber-sabotage. [FactCheck.org, 9/4/15]