On Friday, Iran demanded that sanctions be lifted immediately, following several days of P5+1 concessions during the ongoing negotiations. Over twitter, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani demanded the quick removal of sanctions on Iran. The Obama administration has repeatedly stated that sanctions would only be removed gradually, when Iran demonstrates compliance with a nuclear agreement’s stipulations. Rouhani’s demand comes on the heels of reports that the P5+1 have backed away from previous positions.
In 2012, the Obama administration and European governments insisted on “the immediate closing and ultimate dismantling” of the enrichment facility at Fordow. However, yesterday the Associated Press reported that the P5+1 will allow Iran to maintain Fordow and run around 480 centrifuges in the facility. This concession is problematic because Iran could potentially expel inspectors and quickly repurpose the centrifuges to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon. Fordow is a heavily fortified underground facility, and largely immune to attack.
A couple days ago, The Wall Street Journal reported that the P5+1 are weakening their demand that Iran cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and disclose the potential military dimensions (PMDs), of their nuclear program. Iran has prohibited the IAEA from accessing sites or interviewing people connected to the PMDs of its program, and has only partially addressed one out of twelve of the IAEA’s outstanding concerns, in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1929.
However, according to the P5+1’s new plan, Iran “wouldn’t be expected to immediately clarify all the outstanding questions raised by the IAEA” until several years after an agreement is signed. Nuclear experts have argued that failing to fully address the military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program would make it extremely difficult to design an effective verification system, and Michael Singh, Managing Director at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, has asserted that "without insight into the full extent of Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities, no amount of monitoring and inspection can provide true confidence that Iran lacks a parallel program beyond inspectors’ view.” Additionally, experts argue that without clarification of PMDs, it will be impossible to calculate how fast Iran could develop a nuclear weapon. Finally, allowing Iran to continue to stonewall until much of the sanctions pressure will have been lifted is risky. David Albright, founder and president of the Institute for Science and International Security, remarks “If Iran is able to successfully evade addressing the IAEA’s concerns now, when biting sanctions are in place, why would it address them later when these sanctions are lifted, regardless of anything it may pledge today?”
IIIn a rare show of bipartisan cooperation, the Senate unanimously passed a proposal put forward by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) on Thursday that would re-impose sanctions on Iran if Tehran was found to be in noncompliance with any nuclear agreement. The vote was 100-0.
The nonbinding language is grounded in sections of the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015, commonly known as the Kirk-Menendez bill, which calls for increased pressure on Iran should the Iranians fail to agree to a deal that puts their nuclear program beyond use for weaponization. Senator Kirk said that the amendment was the “key Iran vote of this session of Congress.”
“I hope we can all vote for this because it doesn’t do anything to cause disarray in the negotiations,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) on the Senate floor. “What it says is if there is a deal and there’s a break-out by Iran, we’d have a very quick way to restore sanctions.”
The vote took place against the backdrop of controversy generated by an Associated Press story that one of the West's concessions to Iran during negotiations over its nuclear program was that they would allow the Islamic Republic to continue spinning centrifuges in the fortified underground military bunker at Fordow that they had clandestinely transformed into an enrichment facility.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the other main sponsor of the Kirk-Menendez bill, expressed his concerns in a press release about the administration’s position with regard to the talks: “My fear is that we are no longer guided by the principle that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal,’ but instead we are negotiating ‘any deal for a deal’s sake’.”