June 25, 2015

Corker Convenes Hearing to Evaluate Key Components of Potential Final Nuclear Agreement with Iran

Experts Stress Intrusive Verification, Disclosure of Iran’s Past Weaponization Work, and Durability of Nuclear Constraints

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today held a hearing with experts on the Middle East and nuclear non-proliferation to evaluate key components of a possible final nuclear agreement with Iran. Among the issues raised, the witnesses stressed the significance of intrusive verification of Iranian compliance backed by strict enforcement mechanisms, the necessity for disclosure of Iran’s past weaponization work, and the durability of constraints on Iran’s nuclear program given the potential for a sunset of the restrictions after 10 or 15 years. Today’s hearing marked the sixth in a series of briefings and hearings held by the committee this month to prepare members for congressional review of a final deal as the P5+1 nations and Iran attempt to meet a June 30 deadline for an agreement.

“I fear that the administration may again provide the green light for a slow and measured nuclear development program that does little to deter Iran from laying the foundation for a weapons program after it reaps the benefits of sanctions relief,” said Corker. “It’s my own hope that obviously we end up with a very strong agreement. I obviously have a lot of concerns, and there are some remaining issues where I hope we will hold firm. I believe we would be so much better off if we just continued to negotiate and not rush to some artificial deadline on June 30 and try to shortcut some of these very important issues.”

David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, presented a detailed analysis of how Congress should assess any final agreement with Iran.

“Congress should evaluate the technical limits and verification measures set out in the deal to ensure they adequately constrain Iran’s nuclear activities and capabilities and its ability to violate the agreement. In particular, the verification arrangements should ensure the reaching of an understanding about past and possibly on-going Iranian work on nuclear weapons and ensure prompt access to any Iranian sites, whether military or civilian,” said Albright. “Enforcement will require maintaining leverage against Iran if it cheats, yet reliance on a snapback of sanctions as the only leverage in the case of an Iranian breakout appears deeply ineffective to pressure Iran to reverse course.”

Dr. Ray Takeyh, senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council for Foreign Relations, called Iran’s disclosure of possible military dimensions of its nuclear program to the International Atomic Energy Agency “indispensable,” while noting those activities could be on going. He also questioned whether Iran can be trusted to meet future verification requirements when it is currently violating existing obligations.

“[S]ome of these weaponization activities may in fact be ongoing because they are extremely difficult to detect and impossible to justify moving forward without actually having access to some of those depositories and scientists and so forth. That is indispensable,” said Tayekh. “Second of all, Iran is in violation of the safeguard agreement today. It is not letting the inspectors into Parchin. It has done much to cleanse it to the dissatisfaction of Director General Amano. So as it is negotiating a future verification plan, it is in violation of its current verification plan.”

Albright also urged the United States to “consider walking away if its redlines or its basic goals are not met,” rejecting the notion that without a deal war would be inevitable.

“I don’t see this as a stark choice between a deal or war. I think that is kind of a Washingtonian game that’s played in order to try and intimidate people,” said Albright. “I think realistically what would happen is that the U.S. would move to increase pressure with its allies, and China and Russia would have to be kind of brought along. It will be tough, but I think the idea would be to increase pressure to get back to negotiations on a better basis.”

In advance of Thursday’s hearing, a bipartisan group of academics and former government officials, including five former Obama administration officials, wrote a letter to the president expressing concern that elements of an agreement with Iran “may fall short of meeting the administration’s own standard of a ‘good’ agreement’”.