Nuclear Issue

  • 2021-02-10

    After four years of instability and a constant risk of regional conflict under the Trump administration, it is now time for a unified transatlantic approach that is realistic about what is possible with Iran. Rather than complicating a US return to the nuclear deal in a fashion that risks closing the door to all negotiations, Europeans should declare clear support for a focused approach on preserving this critical agreement. By doing so, they would also widen the space for negotiations with Iran on regional security.

  • 2021-02-08

    By stating initial terms that he knows Washington will not meet right now, the Supreme Leader is once again signaling his lack of interest in returning to full JCPOA compliance—at least not before President Rouhani leaves office in August. In one of his few in-person speeches since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei stated on February 7 that Iran would not pull its nuclear program back into compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action until “America lifts all sanctions.” Addressing an audience of air force commanders, he laid out his stance in no uncertain terms: “If they want Iran to return to its JCPOA commitments, America should lift the sanctions entirely, in practice not in words. Then we verify it and see if sanctions are properly lifted before we return to the JCPOA’s commitments...This is the Islamic Republic’s irrevocable and definitive policy, and a matter of consensus between the country’s officials.” He also responded to remarks that President Biden gave to CBS News earlier in the day: “Americans and Europeans have no right to stipulate and place conditions due to their violation of their JCPOA commitments. The party that should rightfully place conditions is the Islamic Republic, because it is committed to [the JCPOA].” 

  • 2021-02-02

    According to Obama, by entering the JCPOA, the US made it possible to “strengthen the hand of those more moderate forces inside of Iran.” The JCPOA was “not dependent on anticipating those changes. If they don’t change at all, we’re still better off having the deal.” Obama’s point of view was driven by US intelligence assessments which, in 2015, put Iran’s “breakout times” at two or three months. By entering the JCPOA, the US was “purchasing for 13, 14, 15 years assurances that the breakout is at least a year ... that – that if they decided to break the deal, kick out all the inspectors, break the seals and go for a bomb, we’d have over a year to respond. And we have those assurances for at least well over a decade.” The important takeaway is what Obama said next. “And then in years 13 and 14, it is possible that those breakout times would have been much shorter, but at that point we have much better ideas about what it is that their program involves. We have much more insight into their capabilities. And the option of a future president to take action if in fact they try to obtain a nuclear weapon is undiminished.” In short, if Iran did not use the JCPOA as a vehicle to understand that it did not need a nuclear program, and voluntarily abandon its nuclear activities, then the US would take action that would prevent the ‘sunset clauses’ from ever expiring. Unfortunately for Obama, Biden, and the proponents of the JCPOA, Trump wasn’t willing to play that game. Recognizing that the underlying logic behind the Obama approach to the JCPOA was predicated on the belief that Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions were only being temporarily delayed by the ‘sunset clauses’, Trump simply withdrew from the agreement, moving the time for presidential action forward by a decade. In many ways, Trump’s approach to Iran, while fundamentally flawed, was at least honest. The same cannot be said about the Obama administration which negotiated the original deal, or the Biden administration which is now compelled to deal with the fallout of Obama’s deceit and Trump’s actions in response to that deceit. Time is running out for Biden and Blinken if they hope to revive the JCPOA. Iran’s conservative-dominated parliament has set a deadline of February 21 for the US to lift sanctions that had been reimposed when Trump removed the US from the JCPOA. If the US fails to act, then Iran will likely suspend the enhanced inspections of its nuclear sites by the IAEA, and further increase its uranium enrichment capacity. 

  • 2021-01-31

    In this meeting, Imam Khamenei stated that the side with the right to set conditions for the continuation of the JCPOA deal is Iran, and its irrevocable condition is that the United States must remove all sanctions, and not just on paper but in action. Imam Khamenei stated, “If they want Iran to return to its JCPOA commitments, the US should remove all sanctions in action. After they have done this, we will check if the sanctions have truly been removed. Once this is done, we will resume our JCPOA commitments.” 

  • 2021-01-28

    In an interview with Oksana Boyko, host of RT’s Worlds Apart, the top Iranian diplomat said it would be a mistake to think that his personal relationship with Biden could help trigger a major diplomatic breakthrough between the two longtime rivals. Zarif said his history with Biden can be traced back nearly 20 years, when he served as Iran’s envoy to the UN. But he insisted that his interactions with the Delaware senator were strictly professional.

  • 2021-01-28

    The net result of Iran’s uranium metal factory would be to turn 20 percent enriched UF6 into another form that is not suitable for enrichment. That is a commendable nonproliferation goal. When the IAEA totals Iran’s inventories of LEU and different forms of material—such as UF6 or fuel compounds—the 20 percent material no longer in enrichable form should be inventoried as material no longer appropriate for a weapons program. However, there are a few other footnotes about Iran’s production of uranium metal that are concerning. Iran could gain industrial knowledge of how to make weapons metal that could be useful in the future. A first-generation uranium nuclear weapon uses about 12 kilograms of weapons-grade metal, according to open sources. That is a very small amount especially if one weapon per year is a goal. It can be done in a small industrial laboratory, not a factory. On the other hand, natural uranium—and depleted uranium—can be used in armor-penetrating conventional bullets. These bullets are deadly and effective in conventional engagements between tank armies,. The quantities needed for a military campaign are in the tens or hundreds of tons, as the US has demonstrated in places such as Kuwait and Kosovo. This requires a factory, but the material is not enriched at all and, thus, is completely different from a nuclear weapons program. Iran’s growing stockpile of 20 percent UF6 is far less worrisome when it is converted to a form not suitable for further enrichment. This is a nonproliferation victory.

  • 2021-01-27

    In the coming weeks, TRANSITION 2021 memos by Washington Institute for Near East Policy will address the broad issues facing the Biden administration in the West Asia region. These range from the region’s strategic position in the context of Great Power competition, Iran’s nuclear program, and how to most effectively elevate human rights and democracy in West Asia. Arab-Israel normalization diplomacy, Red Sea security as well as challenges and opportunities in northwest Africa will be addressed. In advance of the event, the think tank’s comments on the Islamic Republic of Iran is worth deliberating. “Less for less” to get “more for more” Dennis Ross, a former special assistant to President Barack Obama, provides an approach to reengaging Iran in nuclear diplomacy to preserve what he calls U.S. negotiating leverage and strengthen American alliances in Europe and across West Asia. He proposes an alternative “less for less” approach toward Iran for the U.S. to get “more for more”. 

  • 2021-01-27

    Dr. Ravanchi is Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations and his country’s highest-ranking diplomat in the United States. He helped negotiate the 2015 nuclear agreement, from which former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States in 2018, and which President Biden has said he wants to rejoin. Iran is now in violation of some terms of the agreement but has said there is a window to revive the deal.

  • 2021-01-22

    A host of former Iranian deputy foreign ministers and ambassadors have issued a statement on Iran’s expectations of new US President Joe Biden.The full text of the statement follows.

  • 2021-01-21

    The Biden administration must resist pressure from members of Congress and others who are urging an unconditional return to the JCPOA. Even the deal’s fervent supporters need to recognize that its fundamental assumptions—that Iran had abandoned its quest for a military nuclear option and would moderate its behavior—have been thoroughly disproved. At the same time, America must consult its Middle East allies about what they think a better deal would look like. Such a deal would verifiably and permanently remove Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons. This means not merely mothballing the nuclear infrastructure, but eliminating it. It means empowering international inspectors with unlimited and immediate access to any suspect enrichment or weaponization site. It means maintaining economic and diplomatic pressure on the regime until it truly comes clean about its undeclared nuclear activities and ceases to develop missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. A better deal will deny Iran the ability to commit the violations it is now committing with impunity. […] The JCPOA is also incompatible with President Biden’s long-standing commitment to Israel’s security. At a 2015 gathering celebrating Israel’s independence, then–Vice President Biden said: “Israel is absolutely essential—absolutely essential—[for the] security of Jews around the world … Imagine what it would say about humanity and the future of the 21st century if Israel were not sustained, vibrant and free.” Reviving the JCPOA will endanger that vision, ensuring the emergence of a nuclear Iran or a desperate war to stop it. Biden is a proven friend who has shared Israel’s hopes and fears. He must prevent that nightmare.