Nine Red Lines For a Nuclear Agreement With Iran

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The Iran nuclear talks have missed the June 30 deadline imposed by US President Barack Obama for a final agreement, but the US negotiators are hoping a deal can be struck by July 7. This is an important date because under the Corker-Cardin bill (the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015), if an agreement is sent to Congress by July 9, the House and Senate will have only 30 days to review it. If submitted after July 9, however, legislators will have 60 days.

We believe the Obama administration has made unacceptable concessions to Iran in the nuclear talks and, as a result, that any agreement produced by these talks will be a very bad deal.

But what would a “good” deal with Iran look like? To answer this question, the Center for Security Policy, in conjunction with many experts, came up with the following nine red lines, which we have nicknamed “The National Security Nine,” for an acceptable nuclear agreement with Iran. These red lines are:

1. No uranium enrichment.

The nuclear agreement currently being negotiated will allow Iran to continue to enrich uranium. None of Iran’s uranium centrifuges (or any of its nuclear infrastructure) will be destroyed or removed from the country. The timetable to an Iranian nuclear bomb will be shortened during a nuclear agreement since Iran will be allowed to develop advanced enrichment centrifuges during a nuclear agreement.

We reject all of these concessions and call on the United States to return to its previous position – and that of the UN Security Council – that Iran must halt its uranium enrichment program. Conceding uranium enrichment to Iran legitimizes its use of a dangerous nuclear technology and will undermine global nuclear nonproliferation efforts.

We also fear this concession will lead to uranium enrichment by other states. Any nuclear agreement with Iran must bar uranium enrichment and require that all uranium enrichment centrifuges be disassembled and removed from enrichment facilities. Iran must halt R&D of advanced centrifuges. Iran also must send its entire enriched uranium stockpile out of the country.

2. No plutonium-producing reactors.

The nuclear agreement currently being negotiated will allow Iran to continue construction of its Arak heavy-water nuclear reactor. This reactor will supposedly be redesigned so it will produce less plutonium. But the production by Iran of any plutonium should be a show-stopper.

We reject this concession because heavy-water reactors are a serious proliferation risk as plutonium can be extracted from their spent fuel rods. We call on the United States to return to its previous position that work on Iran’s Arak heavy-water reactor must be halted permanently, and the reactor dismantled. Iran also should be barred from building heavy-water reactors in the future.

3. Robust verification.

Iran must permit IAEA inspectors full access to all declared and suspect nuclear sites, including military facilities. Inspectors must be permitted to make any-time, any-place surprise inspections.

Instead, Iranian officials recently have said non-declared sites and military facilities will be off limits to IAEA inspectors. In response, the Obama administration reportedly is considering agreeing to “managed access” for IAEA inspectors to some Iranian military facilities. We believe this would be an unacceptable compromise that would fall far short of the robust and intrusive inspections that President Obama promised in April 2015.

4. Questions must be answered about Possible Military Dimensions (PMDs).

A meaningful nuclear agreement must require Iran to answer the IAEA’s outstanding questions about possible past and ongoing nuclear weapons work to establish a baseline for verification.

Secretary of State John Kerry on April 16 indicated that the US may drop this requirement because “we are not fixated on Iran specifically accounting for what they did at one point in time or another. We know what they did.” Kerry also said: “We have absolute knowledge with respect to the certain military activities they were engaged in.” We reject these statements and call for Iran to provide a full accounting of its nuclear weapons-related work because of the poor track record of US intelligence in monitoring and detecting WMD programs in Iraq, Iran, North Korea and other states.

5. Lift sanctions in stages in response to Iranian compliance.

Sanctions must be lifted gradually in response to proven compliance by Iran. There can be no sanctions relief in the form of a “signing bonus.” Since we doubt sanctions can be “snapped back” once they are lifted, no sanctions can be provisionally waived.

6. Iran must curtail and agree to limitations on its ballistic missile program.

Iran’s missile program is the delivery system of choice for its nuclear weapons program. A meaningful nuclear agreement with Iran must require Tehran to significantly curtail its missile program and become a member in good standing of the Missile Technology Control Regime and the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation.

7. Iran must agree to end its meddling in regional conflicts and sponsorship of terror.

A nuclear agreement cannot allow Tehran to use fungible billions of dollars in sanctions relief and the release of frozen funds for its ongoing efforts to destabilize the Middle East and sponsor terrorism. Sanctions relief must be tied to a demonstrable improvement in Iranian behavior.

8. Iran must cease its hostility toward Israel.

America cannot strike an agreement providing billions of dollars in sanctions relief to a state that explicitly seeks to destroy one of its closest allies. The Iranian government must agree to end its hostility toward Israel – including halting weapons shipments to Hamas and Hezbollah – as part of any nuclear agreement.

9. Iran must release all US prisoners.

Iran is illegally holding four American citizens prisoner: Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian; Iranian-American Christian pastor Saeed Abedini; former US Marine Amir Hekmati; and former FBI agent Robert Levinson. Rezaian, Abedini and Hekmati have been charged with espionage. Iran claims Levinson’s whereabouts are unknown. Iran must agree to release all four Americans as part of a nuclear agreement.

OUR RED lines are similar to minimum conditions for a nuclear deal set by many members of Congress and the government of Israel. They include provisions that go beyond what some other critics of the Iran negotiations would require.

For example, a recent bipartisan letter organized by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy was critical of President Obama’s nuclear diplomacy with Iran, but was willing to settle for “strict limits” on the development of Iranian advanced centrifuges during a nuclear agreement.

We disagree. Iran should not be enriching any uranium. It should not have any uranium enrichment centrifuges. Talk of simply putting limits of how fast Iran can develop advanced centrifuges amounts is contrary to what President Obama declared was the object of these negotiations as recently as June 30, 2015: “[A]ssuring that the pathways for Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon are closed.” To the contrary, allowing Tehran not only to continue to maintain its existing inventory of centrifuges, but to increase its capacity with advanced designs, will greatly diminish the length of time it will take for the mullahs to breakout of any agreement.

The National Security Nine redlines constitute terms that would achieve the desired result – a nuclear deal with Iran that actually stops its pursuit of nuclear weapons. As it happens, they are also consistent with what President Obama promised for a nuclear agreement with Iran during an October 22, 2012 presidential debate with Mitt Romney when he said: “Our goal is to get Iran to recognize it needs to give up its nuclear program and abide by the UN resolutions that have been in place.” The president also said during this debate: “But the deal we’ll accept is – they end their nuclear program. It’s very straightforward.”

We call on Congress to insist on a good nuclear agreement with Iran and to hold President Obama to his word, by adopting the National Security Nine red lines and rejecting any Iran deal produced in the nuclear talks that falls short of them.

Frank Gaffney, Jr.
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