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Suspend The Iran Nuclear Agreement, Mr. Trump – Analysis

By

By John R. Haines*

(FPRI) — Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quick to warn President-elect Donald Trump that the United States is “duty-bound . . . to abide by the country’s commitments” to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).[1] That document is the July 2015 nuclear agreement between the Islamic Republic of Iran, the P5+1 group,[2] and the European Union. “The US presidential election has no impact on Iran’s foreign policy,” said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who added:

Iran exercised vigilance to settle the nuclear dispute and got approval of the UN Security Council revoking the sanctions, so that the US government cannot change the situation.[3]

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (l), with Romanian Foreign Minister Lazar Comanescu (r)
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (l), with Romanian Foreign Minister Lazar Comanescu (r)

The official Iranian news agency IRNA reported the comments by President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif on the same day that reports appeared in the Western press alleging Iranian violations of the JCPOA.[4] The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—the United Nations agency charged with monitoring Iranian compliance under the JCPOA—”expressed concerns” about a technical breach related to Iran storing heavy water in excess of the amount permitted under the JCPOA.[5] It is the second time since the JCPOA went into effect on 16 January 2016 that inspectors found Iran in breach of the heavy water stockpile threshold.

As documented by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), the Joint Commission tasked with carrying out the JCPOA—it is comprised of representatives from Iran and the P5+1—secretly exempted certain Iranian nuclear stocks and facilities from JCPOA limits prior to Implementation Day last January:

  • Excess low-enriched uranium (LEU) hexafluoride. At some point before Implementation Day, the Joint Commission exempted an unknown quantity of Iran’s 3.5 percent low-enriched uranium (LEU) hexafluoride. Had the Joint Commission not done so, Iran would have been in immediate breach of the JCPOA’s 300 kg cap on stockpiled LEU hexafluoride. Iranian non-compliance was wholly foreseeable several months before Implementation Day, as Iran delayed processing newly produced 3.5 percent LEU into a final oxide form. Eliminating Iran’s stockpile of 3.5 percent LEU hexafluoride is important because centrifuge cascades can enrich it into near 20 percent LEU, which Iran is prohibited from stockpiling [see below].
  • Reclassified near 20 percent LEU. For reasons it did not disclose, the Joint Commission re-classified an unknown quantity of Iranian near 20 percent LEU as “unrecoverable lab contaminant.”[6] Iran agreed under the JCPOA that the only near 20 percent LEU (about 60 kilograms) it would possess after Implementation Day would be contained in fuel assemblies, in which the material is in a less re-convertible form.[7] However, Iran’s very low efficiency in producing fuel assemblies for its Tehran Research Reactor meant the process generated large quantities of valuable scrap and waste, from which Iran is able to recover uranium. Eliminating Iran’s stockpile of near 20 percent LEU is critical to maintaining the so-called breakout period—the time required to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one nuclear weapon (aka a “significant quantity” or “SQ”)—of at least twelve months.[8] The twelve-month breakout is considered the minimum necessary to detect and counter any covert Iranian weaponization effort.
  • Exempted prohibited hot cells. Again for reasons that were not disclosed, the Joint Commission allowed Iran to continue operating 19 non-complying “hot cells” (shielded nuclear radiation containment chambers) at three sites in Tehran and one in Karaj. All 19 hot cells exceed the size limit established by the JCPOA,[9] under which Iran agreed that for a period of at least fifteen years, it would not develop, acquire, build, or operate hot cells with dimensions greater than 6 cubic meters. This was intended to accommodate Iranian production of medical radioisotopes but to preclude the production of weapon-usable material.

Beyond the question of why the Joint Commission secretly approved three exemptions to the JCPOA before Implementation Day, there is also the matter of an apparent loophole in the JCPOA. Iran has exploited it to produce heavy water at higher than allowed volumes—twice the expected production rate, by the IAEA’s estimate—and then sold the excess for financial gain [see: footnote (5)]. Moreover, it is unclear whether the IAEA has access to Iran’s heavy water storage facility at Oran to monitor Iranian compliance with the JCPOA heavy water cap.

There are additional signs of activity by Iran that if not prohibited by the JCPOA, are at least inconsistent with its spirit. These include Iran resuming its manufacture of centrifuge rotor tubes and indications  that Iran may have started enriching uranium in an IR-8 centrifuge, its most advanced design.[10] Regarding the former, in mid-September 2016, Behrouz Kamalvandi of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran rejected a European Union statement demanding it provide the IAEA with specifications data for its domestically-produced centrifuges and rotor tubes:

Tehran was required to provide [the IAEA] with a series of details about its centrifuges and rotor tubes; and we have already done that. Of course, one or two member states of the European Union may have their own viewpoints, which are not the definitive opinion of the entire bloc.[11]

The JCPOA allows Iran to test and develop its latest generation IR-8 centrifuge[12] in the first year of the agreement and to expand centrifuge manufacturing capacity in the sixth year. In year 8, Iran may commence to manufacture and stockpile IR-8 centrifuges. The JCPOA permits Iran to begin installing IR-8 infrastructure at its Natanz fuel enrichment facility in year 10 and to operate an enrichment cascade with as many as 30 IR-8 centrifuges, rising to 84 centrifuges by mid-year 12.[13] ISIS’ David Albright testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in June 2015 that “No bans exist on Iran’s research and development of the IR-6 and IR-8 centrifuges, the latter of which is up to 16 times more powerful than the IR-1 centrifuge.”[14] While the JCPOA was represented by the P5+1 (and the EU) as imposing a 15-year blackout on Iranian enrichment activities, that clearly is not the case when the agreement’s details are closely scrutinized.

These issues all highlight the JCPOA’s deficiencies regarding verification and transparency. The IAEA declared on Implementation Day that its inspectors had:

[V]erified that Iran ‘has taken the actions specified’ by the JCPOA in order for Implementation Day to proceed, namely: implementing restrictions on enrichment and the number of centrifuges it has operating, reducing its stockpile to agreed-upon limits, restricting its ability to produce plutonium, and cooperating with the IAEA to implement monitoring and verification measures. In return, the United States upheld its end of the deal by lifting agreed-upon sanctions.[15]

That being said, “the IAEA reports lack the technical details necessary for independent verification of Iranian compliance—details that were present in IAEA reports on Iran’s nuclear program prior to JCPOA.”[16]

Then, there is the matter of abject cheating by Iran. In July 2016, ISIS reported that the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) tried unsuccessfully after Implementation Day to purchase an unspecified number of metric tons of controlled carbon fiber from an unnamed country.[17] After it failed to acquire the material, an AEOI spokesperson on 15 June 2016 protested that Iran was allowed to procure raw materials such as carbon fiber outside of the JCPOA-mandated Procurement Channel.[18] He punctuated his remarks by stating that Iran “would not bow” to United States’ demands that go “beyond the deal.”[19] The United States State Department has spoken publicly in defense of Iranian compliance with the JCPOA. On 8 July 2016, State Department spokesperson Mark Kirby said, “I have no information to indicate Iran has procured any materials in violation of the JCPOA” when asked about the July 2016 ISIS report. Kirby also said:

I haven’t seen that report and therefore wouldn’t be proficient enough to speak to that finding.  But I’d go back again to what I said, that we have absolutely no indication that Iran has procured any materials in violation of the JCPOA.[20]

As the July 2016 ISIS report noted, however:

Regardless of the true intentions of Iran in seeking the carbon fiber, procurement of tons of this carbon fiber would have allowed Iran to surge in the construction of advanced centrifuges in case of a breakdown of the JCPOA in the near term. Iran thus may have been seeking to hedge against any near-term breakdown of the JCPOA.[21]

A few weeks earlier, in late June 2016, Germany’s domestic security agency issued its annual report on espionage and security threats.[22] The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution [Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz or “BfV”) said the following about Iran’s nuclear-related espionage and illegal technology procurement efforts in Germany:

Iran sees itself as a leading regional power. Notwithstanding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed in Vienna on 14 July 2015, Iranian leaders are continuing to engage in an escalated level of illegal proliferation-related procurement activities.[23] [ . . . ]

Iran’s illegal procurement activities in Germany continued to be numerically high in 2015, even by international standards of comparison to, for example, North Korea. This is especially so for goods that have applications in the field of nuclear technology. The BfV also notes that the already significant procurement effort in support of Iran’s ambitious missile technology program, which, for example, could support nuclear weapons deployment, is also trending upward. It is against this backdrop that Iran’s intensive procurement activities are expected to continue by means of clandestine methods directed against Germany.[24]

The BfV identified Iran’s Intelligence Ministry (aka “VAJA”[25]) as the agency behind these espionage and illegal procurement efforts.[26] A separate report published by the North Rhine-Westphalia State Interior Ministry found that “at the same time” as the JCPOA was being implemented:

Iran continued to focus on proliferation. Almost two-thirds of identified procurement attempts are attributable to Iranian programs. While there was a slight decline in the nuclear sector, possibly as a result of the negotiations, the number of procurement attempts related to the Iranian missile program increased. As a result, the observed number of Iranian actions remained at a consistently high level.[27]

Iran by no means limited its illegal procurement efforts to Germany. In April 2015, the United Kingdom government informed the United Nations Panel of Experts—established to investigate and report possible Iranian violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions, but the JCPOA dissolved the panel, reportedly in response to demands from Iranian negotiators[28]—that it “is aware of an active Iranian nuclear procurement network which has been associated with Iran’s Centrifuge Technology Company (TESA) and Kalaye Electric Company (KEC).”[29] At the time, the United Nations Security Council had already imposed sanctions on KEC, a state-owned company subordinate to the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (it had operated in secret until it was discovered and declared to the IAEA in 2003). KEC was among the first entities sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council in 2006.[30] Sanctions had also been imposed on TESA by the European Union (in 2010) and the United States (in 2011) for its role in manufacturing centrifuge components for KEC.[31]

Experts have long acknowledged that export controls did not succeed in preventing the development of Iran’s centrifuge enrichment program. The independent monitoring group Iran Watch noted presciently in November 2004 that “Iran managed to procure much of what it needed on the nuclear black market and could continue to do so.”[32] Thus, the imposition of financial and other legally enforceable sanctions are an important complement to counter-proliferation efforts against Iran. This raises the important question of Iran’s illegal ballistic missile development program, which is the subject of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions and international sanctions.

Iran’s Nuclear-Capable Missiles

“Iran has successfully orbited satellites and announced plans to orbit a larger satellite
using a space launch vehicle (that could be capable of intercontinental ballistic missile
ranges if configured as such.”[33]
                                                                                              – Vice Admiral James D. Syring,Director, Missile Defense Agency

“If Iran sees it can violate U.N. missile sanctions with no consequence, it will violate
this nuclear deal too.”[34]
                                                                                           – Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman, House Foreign Affairs Committee

A series of resolutions adopted by the United Nations Security Council starting in 2006 recognized the interconnectedness of Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.[35] On 20 July 2015, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2231, which endorsed the JCPOA.[36] It contains language that “call[s] upon Iran” for a period of eight years “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”[37]

That language has a certain surface appeal. However, one effect of Resolution 2231 (2015) is to unwind stricter prohibitions on Iran’s ballistic missile development activities imposed by two earlier United Nations Security Council resolutions.[38] Another is to substitute a nonbinding provision for what were legally binding ones.[39] Moreover, the relevant language of Resolution 2231 (2015) is far weaker than Resolution 1929 (2010). The former only restricts Iranian “activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons” [emphasis added]. Iran chooses to interpret Resolution 2231 (2015) to refer only to missiles explicitly designed for nuclear delivery (rather than dual-purpose missiles)[40] and has stated many times that Iran’s missiles are not designed to carry nuclear warheads.

The Obama administration anemically protested in April 2016 that Iranian ballistic missile tests in October 2015 and March 2016[41] were “inconsistent with UNSCR 2231”[42] and “violated the intent”[43] of Resolution 2231. Iranian leaders have made it clear that they see the language of Resolution 2231 as non-binding so far as Iran’s ballistic missile development effort is concerned.[44]  Here again is State Department spokesperson Mark Kirby at an 8 July 2016 press briefing:

QUESTION:  Also, apparently, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has also voiced concerns in a new report saying that Iran’s actions under the missile program were, quote, ‘not consistent with the constructive spirit’ of the nuclear deal.  So I mean, again, taken together would you say – yes, I can see you saying on a – technically maybe they’re not violating their commitments, but are they living up to the spirit of the deal, would you say?

MR KIRBY:  They – we have no indications that they are in violation of the JCPOA.

QUESTION:  I didn’t say —

MR KIRBY:  No, let me —

QUESTION:  Violation of the terms or in violation of the spirit?

MR KIRBY:  Violation of the JCPOA.  They’re not violating the JCPOA.  We have no indication that they are, Elise.  Now, on the separate and distinct ballistic missile activity, support for terrorism, obviously we still have very valid concerns in that regard.  We’ve made no bones about that.[45]

Iran stridently maintains its missile activities “have nothing to do with nuclear weapons,” as Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif put it in March 2016.

Security Council Resolution 2231 does not prohibit legitimate and conventional military activities, nor does international law disallow them. Iran has never sought to acquire nuclear weapons and never will in the future, as it fully honors its commitment under the NPT and the JCPOA. Consequently, Iran’s missiles are not and could not be designed for delivery of unconventional weapons. We reject arbitrary interpretation of the provisions of Security Council Resolution 2231 and its annexes, and call upon all parties to act in good faith and refrain from provocations.[46]

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Major General Hassan Firouzabadi said this in April 2016 according to Iran’s semi-official FARS News Agency:

We studied the details of the nuclear agreement and didn’t see anything but its text and don’t have any information about its spirit . . . Therefore, the US arrogant expectations and excessive demands are ungrounded and unacceptable and no one in the Islamic Republic of Iran cares about them.[47]

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi added, “Not only does not Iran’s missile program have anything to do with the JCPOA . . . but also, as reiterated numerous times, it is not in breach of Resolution 2231, either”[48] [sic]. A senior Iranian cleric, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, went further and warned, “We are committed to our obligations, but if they [the P5+1] violate their obligations, the Iranian nation and the Islamic establishment will make them regret forever.”[49] In such an event, Iran would immediately revive its nuclear program, said President Hassan Rouhani:

If, some day, the P5+1 refuses to fulfill its commitments, we will be completely prepared, and, in terms of nuclear capabilities, we are at such a level so as to be able to reach our desired stage in a short period of time.[50]

Against this backdrop, the Obama administration in January 2016 secretly agreed to lift sanctions against Iran’s Bank Sepah and its London-based affiliate, Sepah International.[51] Sanctions had earlier been imposed against both entities because of their support of Iran’s Aerospace Industries Organization (AIO)—a subsidiary of Iran’s Defense Ministry that reportedly is controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, AIO oversees Iranian ballistic missile production[52]—and against two AIO subsidiaries, the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group (SHIG)[53] and the Shahid Bagheri Industrial Group (SBIG).[54] Together, these entities oversee Iran’s solid and liquid fueled missile development. Here is how the United States Treasury Department described Bank Sepah in January 2007:

Bank Sepah is the financial linchpin of Iran’s missile procurement network and has actively assisted Iran’s pursuit of missiles capable of carrying weapons of mass destruction . . . Through its role as a financial conduit, Bank Sepah has facilitated Iran’s international purchases of sensitive material for its missile program. In 2005, Bank Sepah financed a Chinese firm’s sale of missile related items to Iran. Also in that year, AIO directed Sepah to transfer well over half of a million dollars to a North Korean firm associated with Komid, a North Korean entity designated for providing Iran with missile technology.[55]

The existence of an Iran-North Korean nexus around missile technology is indisputable.

Evidence available in the public domain indicates that North Korea has, for several decades, supplied Iran with complete missiles and critical components for larger missiles and SLVs. The transactional relationship very likely results in information exchanges, including the sharing of flight-test data, possibly more . . . Given Pyongyang’s history of shipping missile components to Iran and others, and its willingness to support the secret construction of a nuclear reactor in Syria, it is possible, if not likely, that North Korea would ship advanced engines to Tehran, including the engine most recently tested.[56] [Author’s note: the reference is to a North Korean version of China’s YF-20 IRBM engine.]

As noted by the independent monitoring group Iran Watch:

U.S. officials have insisted that the nuclear agreement with Iran has not affected the continuation of sanctions on its ballistic missile program. Yet as part of the nuclear agreement, in addition to Bank Sepah and Sepah International, the United States removed from its blacklist seven other Iranian-controlled banks supporting Iran’s ballistic missile program, including banks that have provided financial services to Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL), which controls AIO; banks that have facilitated the purchase of missile-related items; and banks that supported sanctions evasion by entities tied to Iran’s missile program. Four of the nine banks also have links to Iran’s Bank Saderat, which remains on the U.S. blacklist for its role in financing terrorism.[57]

In July 2016, Iran took delivery from Russia of the first shipment of surface-to-air missiles for the S-300 long-range air defense system, which are expected to become operational by March 2017.[58] The missiles were moved in late August 2016 to Iran’s Fordo nuclear enrichment facility, located south of Tehran at an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps base near Qom.[59]

S-300 Missile Defense System (credit: Russian Defense Ministry)
S-300 Missile Defense System (credit: Russian Defense Ministry)

The S-300 is a Russian long-range surface-to-air missile system designed to provide defensive cover from enemy ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and aircraft. Russia recently deployed its own S-300 SAMs to Kaliningrad, Crimea, and its Tartus naval base at Latakia, Syria. The missiles delivered to Iran are Russia’s advanced PMU2 Favorit [NATO reporting name: SA-20 Gargoyle] version, which can accommodate multiple ballistic targets at a greater range (200km) and warhead weight of any S-300 capable missile.

Transferring Dual-Use Technology to Iran

“Accelerators are a viable route to acquiring fissile material . . . accelerator
technology should be considered for internationally accepted export-control list.”[60]

While Iran’s covert procurement efforts and continuing ballistic missile development program receive understandable levels of attention, other matters arising under the JCPOA have gone largely unnoticed. One of these is buried deep in Part E of the JCPOA’s Annex III, which addresses seemingly mundane matters of nuclear medicine and radioisotopes.[61] It provides for the E3/EU+3 to “cooperate” with Iran in such areas as “Upgrades to the infrastructure associated with existing cyclotron facilities, including for medical radioisotopes production” and “Facilitating Iranian acquisition of a new cyclotron.”[62] Indeed, as the author noted in July 2015, “it is surprising how much of the document deals with the matter of radioisotope production in one fashion or another. This seems little noticed so far.”[63]

The intent seems straightforward. A reference guide to the JCPOA prepared by Harvard’s Belfer Center states, “Iran will seek help in the area of nuclear medicine, including upgrades to its infrastructure for radio-isotope production.”[64] A Bipartisan Policy Center’s analysis says, “P5+1 countries will help Iran improve its use of nuclear medicine, including imaging and radiation therapy.”[65]

It also raises proliferation concerns: the ability of particle accelerators to produce manmade fissile materials has long been known.[66] As a decade-old scholarly paper warned,

Established nuclear powers and technologically sophisticated states need not contend with export controls, limited material resources or technical expertise, and clandestine objectives; the entry-level proliferator must. Some characteristics of particle accelerators are favorable under these particular constraints. Indeed, particle accelerators are useful simply because they are not nuclear reactors; their otherness currently places their technologies safely outside the nonproliferation community’s watchful eye . . . That accelerators have not yet been exploited by proliferators may be due to the method’s obscurity or to a difficulty in acquiring appropriate accelerator technology. These factors are changing.

These concerns are neither new nor novel:[67] Yugoslavia used its civil particle accelerator program as cover in the 1950s and 1960s when it diverted a 16 MeV cyclotron housed at the Rudjer Boskovic Institute to research electromagnetic isotope separation techniques.[68] Iraq did likewise in its pursuit of electromagnetic enrichment technology, something the United Nations Security Council acknowledged in the 1990s when it enacted Resolution 707 (1991) to prohibit Iraq’s use of particle accelerators. In addition to access to proliferation-facilitating technologies themselves, prohibitions like those imposed under Resolution 707 (1991) were intended to forestall (or at least to slow) the acquisition of what one author of a recent CIA monograph called the “problem [of] ‘tacit knowledge’ . . . the knowledge acquired through the actual experience of building and developing an atomic bomb.”[69]

The author’s argument made over a year ago remains valid today:

[T]he JCPOA at the same time creates conditions under which the threat of weaponization could escalate, were Iran inclined to do so, and were the JCPOA’s expectation of an omniscient inspection regime unfulfilled so far as radioisotope production. Those conditions arise from the expansion of Iran’s radioisotope production infrastructure—something intended under the JCPOA—and its consequent decentralization as Iran acquires particle accelerators from foreign suppliers and places them in operation. These same conditions raise the possibility of an associated proliferation risk, were Iran to make weapon-suitable radioisotopes available to malevolent third parties.[70]

What President Trump Must Do

“John Kerry famously said, ‘Iran deserves the benefits of the agreement they struck.’
They do not deserve to be allowed to cheat.”[71]
                                                                – Elliott Abrams

Then-candidate Donald Trump wrote in a September 2015 USA Today op-ed:

When I am elected president, I will renegotiate with Iran—right after I enable the immediate release of our American prisoners and ask Congress to impose new sanctions that stop Iran from having the ability to sponsor terrorism around the world.[72]

State Department spokesperson Mark Toner acknowledged on 9 November 2016—a day after Mr. Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States—”The agreement is valid only as long as all parties uphold it.”[73]

Iran has already breached the JCPOA multiple times. Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies made the point in September 2016 testimony before the House Financial Services Committee:

Even as Iran temporarily scales back some of its nuclear activities under the JCPOA, the regime’s illicit efforts to obtain proliferation-related technology continues while its other non-nuclear malign activities are expanding.[74]

Iran has engaged in a concerted effort to procure JCPOA-prohibited materials through covert means. It indisputably flouts United Nations Security Council prohibitions against ballistic missiles, all the while dissembling about these nuclear-capable platforms to evade JCPOA restrictions. It engages in serial provocations like deploying S-300 surface-to-air missiles at the Fordo nuclear enrichment facility, which Iran committed to permanently and irreversibly decommission. So the question arises: should President Trump suspend United States participation in the JCPOA?

One might argue that Iran already secured its most important objective under the JCPOA. The November 2013 Joint Plan of Action (the JCPOA’s predecessor agreement) unfroze some USD 11.9 billion of Iranian assets held overseas. The JCPOA released an additional USD 100 billion of Iranian overseas assets including over USD 50 billion in cash, according to the Obama administration.[75]

Iran gives every sign that it is willing to abandon the JCPOA on the slightest pretext. Whether it is sincere or simply engaging in brinksmanship is unclear though its serial violations of the JCPOA arguably makes answering that question less relevant. In early November 2016, the Lieutenant Commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), Brigadier General Hossein Salami, told a Tehran rally marking the “National Day of Fight against Global Arrogance” that if the United States “reneged” on the JCPOA, Iran “will send the deal to museum” and “go back to square one” by activating its decommissioned centrifuges.[76] Its deployment of the S-300 missile defense system to Fordow speaks clearly to Iranian preparations for just such a contingency.

According to an 8 September 2015 Statement of Administration Policy, President Trump will have the option of unilaterally snapping back American sanctions “if Iran fails to abide by its JCPOA commitments.”[77] Upon assuming office, President Trump should immediately declare his intention of doing so unless Iran ceases and desists violating the JCPOA and related United Nations Security Council actions.

The author earlier described President-elect Trump’s approach to international relations as a type of unilateralism (rejecting the pejorative isolationism) that maintains:

American interests are best served by a policy of “strategic ambiguity” (sometimes called “essential ambiguity”). Strategic ambiguity is the practice of being intentionally vague on certain aspects of foreign policy or intended actions and carries a deterrence aspect involving will and capacity.[78]

Strategic ambiguity vis-à-vis Iran would purposefully leave unanswered the question of how far the United States is ultimately willing to go to deter its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, including whether the United States would act alone or in concert with allies. It is unambiguous, however, about whether the United States will act: it will. Strategic ambiguity vis-à-vis Iran undergirds a policy of containing the regime, where containment is used in the Kennan-esque sense of an instrument to achieve victory, not a defensive strategy.[79]

Karim Sadjadpour begins his brilliant 2010 essay “The Sources of Soviet Iranian Conduct” [sic] with a question:

Is Iran the “victim” motivated by an immutable ideological opposition to the United States, or is it the “victim” reacting to punitive U.S. policies? To paraphrase Henry Kissinger, is Iran a nation or a cause?[80]

His answer is that “underneath the ideological veneer, the anti-Americanism of Iran’s hard-liners is driven in no small part by self-preservation.”[81] The Obama administration has unwittingly made self-preservation a much easier task, thanks in no small part to its unfreezing of tens of billions of dollars in Iranian assets. The Obama administration gambled that it could induce Iran to rejoin the community of nations. It lost that bet.

Karim Sadjadpour adapts to modern Iran several of George Kennan’s observations about the Soviet Union in his 1947 essay, “The Sources of Soviet Conduct.” One in particular has application to Iranian actions in the nuclear and missile realms:

The Islamic Republic may make tactical offers of compromise, but its enmity toward the West is strategic . . . If the Iranian government occasionally sets its signature to documents that would indicate the contrary, this is to be regarded as a tactical maneuver permissible in dealing with the enemy and should be taken in the spirit of caveat emptor.[82]

Iran does not seek accommodation, and President Trump should not offer it. What he must offer is resolve that the United States will tolerate nothing short of the full and unconditional termination of Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Suspending the Panglossian JCPOA is a good place to start.

Newton’s third law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In dealing with Iran’s ruling clique, that reaction is apt to be a disproportionate[83] and asymmetric one. So how might the leaders of the Islamic Republic respond to President Trump?

One answer is that Iran would maintain its current emphasis on ballistic missile development and attempt to accelerate those programs, possibly in collusion with North Korea or other malign states. “Iran ranks fourth among the world missile powers after the US, Russia and China,” declared Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan in December 2014, who added that Iran “is trying to increase the precision of [its] missiles and their endurance, and (also) make them radar-evading.”[84] Another is that Iran would threaten to restart uranium enrichment although actually doing so would quickly place Iran into conflict with the rest of the P5+1, which would not be to its immediate political advantage as it attempts to isolate the United States. A third is that Iran would no doubt exploit its substantial capabilities for asymmetric warfare in the Gulf and the Arabian Sea, likely targeting United States naval forces there.[85]

In response, President Trump should take advantage President Obama’s March 2016 continuation of the two-decade old “national emergency declared with respect to Iran,”[86] in which President Obama declared:

[C]ertain actions and policies of the Government of Iran are contrary to the interests of the United States in the region and continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.[87]

President Trump must clearly state what those “actions and policies” are, and why they pose a threat to the United States. A good starting point would be to categorically reject Iran’s attempt to evade the JCPOA and other sanctions by knowingly misrepresenting its nuclear-capable ballistic missiles; as Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi put it last July, “[they had] not been designed for carrying nuclear warheads.”[88] Another is the February 2016 set of findings by President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper:

We . . . continue to assess that Iran does not face any insurmountable technical barriers to producing a nuclear weapon . . . We judge that Tehran would choose ballistic missiles as its preferred method of delivering nuclear weapons, if it builds them. Iran’s ballistic missiles are inherently capable of delivering WMD, and Tehran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East. Iran’s progress on space launch vehicles—along with its desire to deter the United States and its allies—provides Tehran with the means and motivation to develop longer-range missiles, including ICBMs.

Supreme Leader Khamenei continues to view the United States as a major threat to Iran, and we assess that his views will not change, despite implementation of the JCPOA deal . . . Iran’s military and security services are keen to demonstrate that their regional power ambitions have not been altered by the JCPOA deal.[89]

President Trump should identify the specific set of actions Iran must take to avoid the imposition (or in some instances, the “snapback” re-imposition) of unilateral American sanctions and applicable deadlines by which Iran’s compliance with these required actions must be certified by competent authorities. Iran’s failure to comply fully and continuously with these required actions, including providing unfettered access to authorities charged with certifying its compliance, will trigger the imposition of American sanctions. He should state unambiguously that any such sanctions are designed with the intent of crippling Iran’s economy and isolating its leaders. President Trump’s credibility will be severely undermined if other voices inside the Trump administration speak in contradictory or conflicting terms about Iran. Just this week, many observers were troubled when a senior advisor to President-elect Trump appeared to waver from the President-elect’s stated position on the “disastrous” JCPOA.[90]

President Trump must backstop these demands with the credible threat of armed force. As Ray Takeyh argues, “The historical record is clear on the likely effects:”

In 2003, the Islamic Republic suspended all of its nuclear activities for it feared that an emboldened George W. Bush administration fresh from the shock-and-awe invasion of Iraq may target Iran next. The mullahs are sensitive to power, and not blandishments, and will likely think twice before tangling with a hawkish administration.[91]

President Trump should take advantage of a demonstrated Congressional majority opposing the JCPOA.[92] In the Senate, both Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer opposed the JCPOA, the latter stating in August 2015 that “I will vote to disapprove the agreement, not because I believe war is a viable or desirable option, nor to challenge the path of diplomacy. It is because I believe Iran will not change.”[93] President Trump should immediately ask the Congressional leadership to reintroduce and fast-track three legislative measures from the 114th Congress. The first is “The No 2H2O from Iran Act,” which prohibits the use of federal funds to purchase heavy water from Iran.[94] The second is “The Iran Accountability Act,” which expands and makes mandatory United States sanctions on Iran for human rights violations, support for terrorism and money laundering, and ballistic missile activities.[95] This third is “The United States Financial Services Protection Act,” which blocks Iran’s access to the United States dollar for financial transactions involving transfers of funds to or from Iran.[96]

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton set the mark for Iranian compliance in a December 2015 speech at the Brookings Institution. She said:

Our message to Iran must be unequivocal. There will be consequences for even small violations and we are ready to snap back sanctions into place. Our position must be to distrust and verify . . . we will make sure the Iranians and the world understand that the United States will act decisively if necessary including taking military action.[97]

One suspects that President-elect Trump would comfortably repeat those same words. Now, it is up to him to turn those words into action.

About the author:
*John R. Haines
is a Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and Executive Director of FPRI’s Princeton Committee. He is also a Trustee of FPRI.

Source:
This article was published by FPRI

Notes:
[1] “Zarif: US duty-bound to stay committed to JCPOA.” Islamic Republic News Agency/IRNA [published online in English 9 November 2016]. http://217.25.54.55/en/News/82301238/. Last accessed 9 November 2016.

[2] The “P5+1” is a reference to a group of countries formed in 2006 to work on diplomatic issues of common interest. The “P5” is the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, respectively—and the “+1” is Germany. The JCPOA documents refer to the seven entities of the P5+1 and the European Union, respectively, as the “E3/EU+3”. It is comprised of the “E3” or Germany, France and Italy; the “EU” or European Union; and the “3” or China, Russia, and the United States.

[3] “Rouhani: US presidential election has no impact on Iran’s foreign policy.” Islamic Republic News Agency/IRNA [published online in English 9 November 2016]. http://217.25.54.55/en/News/82301766/. Last accessed 9 November 2016.

[4] “UN Sees Small but Significant Iranian Nuke Deal Violation.” The New York Times [published online 9 November 2016]. http://mobile.nytimes.com/aponline/2016/11/09/world/middleeast/ap-iran-nuclear.html?referer=https://www.google.com/. Last accessed 9 November 2016.

[5] Heavy water (deuterium oxide) is used as a neutron moderator in a nuclear reactor. Heavy water reactors can avoid the need to enrich uranium, and produce relatively large amounts of plutonium as a waste product that is usable in nuclear weapons. Heavy water also is used as a source of deuterium and tritium, both of which are used in boosted fission weapons (in which the rate and the yield of a fission reaction are increased). Iran began producing heavy water in 2006 for the nuclear reactor it was constructing at Arak. The JCPOA provides for the Arak reactor’s redesign and reconstruction to eliminate its use of heavy water. The Joint Commission secretly agreed at some point prior to Implementation Day to allow Iran to export heavy water in excess of the JCPOA cap for sale on the open market, even though Iran did not have a buyer. It also permitted Iran to store the excess heavy water under its own control at a facility in the city of Oman. In April 2016, the United States announced that it was buying 32 metric tons of Iranian heavy water for USD 8.6 million, in order to keep Iran in compliance with the JCPOA’s stockpile limit of 130 metric tons.

[6] According to a 6 September 2016 independent report, “One former IAEA safeguards official estimated that based on his direct experience with Iranian LEU waste that the amount could exceed 100 kilograms, and perhaps considerably so. He based this mainly on the amount of LEU in sludge waste and chemical traps associated with the enrichment plants. These estimates would place the amount in the range of roughly one percent of the total amount of LEU produced, which is about 16,000 kilograms (hexafluoride mass).” See: David Albright & Andrea Stricker (2016). “In Response to Reactions over our JCPOA Exemptions Paper.” ISIS report dated 6 September 2016. http://isis-online.org/isis-reports/detail/in-response-to-reactions-over-our-jcpoa-exemptions-paper/. Last accessed 11 November 2016.

[7] This, too, was reasonably foreseeable. Iran had earlier failed to live up to its commitment to fabricate near 20 percent LEU oxide into fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor when the JCPOA’s interim period was extended beyond its initial July 2014 deadline.

[8] David Albright & Serena Kelleher-Vergantini (2015). “The U.S. Fact Sheet’s Missing Parts: Iran’s Near 20 Percent LEU.” Institute for Science and International Security report dated 4 May 2015. http://www.isisnucleariran.org/assets/pdf/LEU_20_percent_update_May_4_2015_Final.pdf. Last accessed 10 November 2016.

[9] For a detailed discussion of these exemptions, see David Albright & Andrea Stricker (2016). “JCPOA Exemptions Revealed.” Institute for Science and International Security report dated 1 September 2016. http://isis-online.org/uploads/isis-reports/documents/JCPOA_Exemptions_Revealed_1Sept2016_Final1.pdf. Last accessed 10 November 2016.

[10] David Albright & Andrea Stricker (2016). “Analysis of the IAEA’s Third Iran Deal Report: Filling in Missing Details.” Institute for Science and International Security report dated 9 September 2016. http://www.isisnucleariran.org/assets/pdf/Analysis_of_IAEA_Third_JCPOA_Report_9Sept2016-Final1.pdf. Last accessed 10 November 2016.

[11] “IAEA already in possession of data on centrifuges under JCPOA: Iran.” Presstv.ir [published online in English 18 September 2016]. http://www.presstv.ir/DetailFr/2016/09/18/485209/Iran-AP-Behrouz-Kamalvandi. Last accessed 10 November 2016.

[12] Iran’s advanced IR-8 centrifuge was first displayed in public on 16 January 2016 in a Fars News Agency video documentary. See: http://en.farsnews.com/player.aspx?nn=13941028001127. Last accessed 10 November 2016.

[13] “Iran’s Long-Term Centrifuge Enrichment Plan: Providing Needed Transparency.” Institute for Science and International Security report dated 2 August 2016. http://isis-online.org/uploads/isis-reports/documents/ISIS_Report_2Aug2016.pdf. Last accessed 10 November 2016.

[14] “Secret document lifts key Iran nuke constraints: report.” The Hill [published online 18 July 2015]. http://thehill.com/policy/defense/288191-secret-document-lifts-key-iran-nuke-constraints-report. Last accessed 10 November 2016.

[15] Bipartisan Policy Center (2016). “JCPOA at One.” Report dated July 2016, 2. http://cdn.bipartisanpolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/BPC-JCPOA-Anniversary.pdf. Last accessed 11 November 2016. The text in quotation marks is from The International Atomic Energy Agency (2015). Verification and Monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in Light of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 (16 January 2016). https://www.iaea.org/sites/default/files/16/06/gov2016-23.pdf. Last accessed 11 November 2016.

[16] Ibid., 3.

[17] David Albright & Andrea Stricker (2016). “Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Attempted Carbon Fiber Procurement.” Institute for Science and International Security report dated 7 July 2016.  http://isis-online.org/uploads/isis-reports/documents/AEOI_Attempted_Carbon_Fiber_Procurement_7Jul2016.pdf. Last accessed 10 November 2016.

[18] United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 (2015). https://www.iaea.org/sites/default/files/unsc_resolution2231-2015.pdf. Last accessed 11 November 2916.

[19] “AEOI Spokesman: Iran Not to Bow to US Pressures for Extra JCPOA Undertakings.” Fars News Agency [published online in English 15 June 2016]. http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950326001031. Last accessed 10 November 2016.

[20] United States State Department (2016). Daily Press Briefing, 8 July 2016. http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2016/07/259479.htm#IRAN. Last accessed 10 November 2016.

[21] Albright & Stricker (2016). “Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Attempted Carbon Fiber Procurement,” op cit., 2.

[22] Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (2016). Verfassungsschutzbericht 2015 [published in German 28 June 2016]. Available for download at: https://www.verfassungsschutz.de/de/oeffentlichkeitsarbeit/publikationen/verfassungsschutzberichte/vsbericht-2015. Last accessed 10 November 2016.

[23] Ibid., 247. The quoted text reads in the original German: “Der Iran sieht sich als Regionalmacht mit Führungsanspruch. Ungeachtet des am 14. Juli 2015 in Wien unterzeichneten, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action “setzen iranische Stellen ihre illegalen proliferationsrelevanten Beschaffungsaktivitäten auf hohem Niveau fort.

[24] Ibid., 265. The quoted text reads in the original German: “Die vom BfV festgestellten illegalen iranischen Beschaffungsversuche in Deutschland befanden sich 2015 weiterhin auf einem auch im internationalen Vergleich quantitativ hohen Niveau. Dies Nordkorea

galt vor allem für Güter, die im Bereich Nukleartechnik eingesetzt werden können. Das BfV konstatiert auch im Bereich des ambitionierten iranischen Trägertechnologieprogramms, das unter anderem dem Einsatz von Kernwaffen dienen könnte, eine steigende Tendenz der ohnehin schon erheblichen Beschaffungsbemühungen. Vor diesem Hintergrund sind weiterhin intensive Beschaffungsaktivitäten des Iran unter Nutzung konspirativer Methodik in Deutschland zu erwarten.”

[25] VAJA is the acronym of the Persian transliteration Vezarat-e Ettela’at Jomhuri-ye Eslami-ye Iran, or “Ministry of Intelligence of the Islamic Republic of Iran”.

[26] Ibid., 279.

[27] Ministerium für Inneres und Kommunales des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen (2016). Verfassungsschutzbericht des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen 2015. (Düsseldorf: Ministerium für Inneres und Kommunales des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen) 214-215.

[28] According to the independent monitoring group Iran Watch, while the “Panel of Experts was one of the most valuable international instruments for scrutinizing and publicizing illicit Iranian activity,” it was “dissolved as part of the nuclear agreement” ” . . . in response to demands from Iranian negotiators.” See: “New Guidance on U.N. Procurement Channel Raises Larger Questions about Iran Deal Enforcement.” Iran Watch [published online 17 March 2016]. http://www.iranwatch.org/our-publications/nuclear-iran-weekly/new-guidance-un-procurement-channel-raises-larger-questions-about-iran-deal-enforcement. Last accessed 13 November 2016.

[29] “Exclusive – Britain told U.N. monitors of active Iran nuclear procurement: pane.” Reuters [published online 30 April 2015]. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclear-idUSKBN0NL09220150430. Last accessed 12 November 2016.

[30] “UK reports active nuclear procurement involving sanctioned companies.” Iran Watch [published online 5 May 2015]. http://www.iranwatch.org/our-publications/nuclear-iran-weekly/uk-reports-active-nuclear-procurement-involving-sanctioned-companies. Last accessed 12 November 2016.

[31] Ibid.

[32] “How to Prevent a Nuclear-Armed Iran.” Report of 19 November 2004 Roundtable. Iran Watch [published online 19 November 2004]. http://www.iranwatch.org/our-publications/roundtable/how-prevent-nuclear-armed-iran. Last accessed 12 November 2016.

[33] Unclassified Statement of Vice Admiral J.D. Syring, USN Director, Missile Defense Agency, Before the House Armed Service Committee Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, Thursday, April 14, 2016. http://docs.house.gov/meetings/AS/AS29/20160414/104621/HHRG-114-AS29-Wstate-SyringJ-20160414.pdf. Last accessed 11 November 2016.

[34] “Chairman Royce Statement on Iran’s Latest Ballistic Missile Launch.” Press release dated 9 March 2016. https://foreignaffairs.house.gov/press-release/chairman-royce-statement-on-irans-latest-ballistic-missile-launch/. Last accessed 11 November 2016.

[35] These include: Resolution 1737 (2006) demanding IAEA access to all Iranian nuclear facilities and requiring Iran to implement the Additional Protocol to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons; Resolution 1737 (2006) demanding Iran suspend all enrichment activities and heavy water-related projects; Resolution 1747 (2007) demanding Iran cease all weapons exports; and Resolution 1939 (2010) requiring Iran to refrain from all ballistic missile-related activities.

[36] See: http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/2231(2015). Last accessed 12 November 2016.

[37] United Nations Security Council (2015). Resolution 2231 (2015) “Ballistic missile-related transfers and activities.” http://www.un.org/en/sc/2231/restrictions-ballistic.shtml. Last accessed 14 November 2016.

[38] According to the Arms Control Association, “UN Security Council Resolution 1737, passed in December 2006, states that countries must not provide technical or financial assistance, training, or resources related to certain nuclear and ballistic missile-related goods, and that all member states must refrain from importing designated nuclear and ballistic missile-related items from Iran. UN Security Council Resolution 1929, passed in June 2010, establishes a comprehensive arms embargo on Iran, banning the sale of ‘battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles or missile systems’ to Iran.  Iran is also prohibited from undertaking any activity related to ballistic missiles, and the resolution requires states to take necessary measures to prevent technology relevant to ballistic missiles from reaching Iran.” See: “Addressing Iran’s Ballistic Missiles in the JCPOA and UNSC Resolution.” Arms Control Association [published online 27 July 2015]. https://www.armscontrol.org/Issue-Briefs/2015-07-27/Addressing-Irans-Ballistic-Missiles-in-the-JCPOA-and-UNSC-Resolution. Last accessed 14 November 2016.

[39] One characteristic analysis of the text of Resolution 2231 reads as follows: “The substitution of the leading phrase ‘calls upon’ in this text in Resolution 2231 has legal significance . . . The change to this invitational yet legally nonbinding phrase in Resolution 2231 means that, as of January 16, 2016, Iran is no longer under a legal prohibition regarding its ballistic missile activity from the Security Council. The remaining hortatory expression in Resolution 2231 by its terms expires on October 18, 2023.” Dan Joyner (2016). “Iran’s Ballistic Missile Launches Do Not Violate UN Security Council Resolutions.” Arms Control Law [published online 11 March 2016]. https://armscontrollaw.com/2016/03/11/irans-ballistic-missile-launches-do-not-violate-un-security-council-resolutions/. Last accessed 14 November 2016.

[40] “Iran Test Fires Nuclear-Capable Ballistic Missile in Apparent Violation of U.N. Resolutions.” Iran Watch [published online 15 October 2015]. http://www.iranwatch.org/our-publications/nuclear-iran-weekly/iran-test-fires-nuclear-capable-ballistic-missile-apparent-violation-un-resolutions. Last accessed 14 November 2016.

[41] In October 2015, Iran test fired its Emad (Farsi for “pillar”) intermediate-range ballistic missile. Its reported technical specifications meet the Missile Technology Control Regime’s definition of a “nuclear capable” missile, i.e., one capable of delivering a payload weighing at least 500 kilograms to a range of at least 300 kilometers. [See: http://www.nti.org/learn/treaties-and-regimes/missile-technology-control-regime-mtcr/. Last accessed 14 November 2016] In March 2016, Iran test fired two Qadr-H [sometimes spelled Ghadr-H) missiles inscribed with the phrase “Israel must be wiped out” that landed some 1400 kilometers (870 miles) in the Sea of Oman.

[42] “Under Secretary Thomas A. Shannon. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on Iran’s Recent Actions and Implementation of the JCPOA Tuesday, April 5, 2016 4-5.” http://www.foreign.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/040516_Shannon_Testimony.pdf. Last accessed 14 November 2016.

[43] This statement came in an exchange between Under Secretary Thomas A. Shannon and Senator David Perdue during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on 5 April 2016:

Under Secretary Shannon: From my point of view, 2231 is telling Iran that it should not be undertaking any activity related to ballistic missiles, and that’s how we act. In other words, we responded to the ballistic missile launches with designations, and we will continue to respond.

Senator Perdue: So we responded as if it were a violation?

Under Secretary Shannon: We did.

Senator Perdue: Ok. So you think it is a violation?

Under Secretary Shannon: Let me put it this way, I believe it violated the intent of 2231.

See: http://www.perdue.senate.gov/news/press-releases/_senator-david-perdue-probes-state-department-over-recent-iranian-missile-launches-. Last accessed 14 November 2016].

[44] “FM Spokeswoman: N. Agreement Not to Affect Iran’s Defensive Capabilities.” Fars New Agency [published online in English 13 October 2015]. http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13940721000994. Last accessed 14 November 2016.

[45] United States State Department (2016), op cit.

[46] “Iran’s Missile Tests Not in Violation of JCPOA, UN Resolution 2231.” Iran Review [published online 15 March 2016]. http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Iran-s-Missile-Tests-Not-in-Violation-of-JCPOA-UN-Resolution-2231.htm. Last accessed 14 November 2016.

[47] “Iranian Top Commander Views Obama’s Remarks as Excessive Demand.” Fars News Agency [published online in English 5 April 2016]. http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950117001169. Last accessed 14 November 2016.

[48] Islamic Republic of Iran Permanent Mission to the United Nations (2016). Iran rejects NATO claims on missile work.” Press TV [published online 11 July 2016]. http://iran-un.org/en/2016/07/11/iran-rejects-nato-claims-on-missile-work/. Last accessed 14 November 2016.

[49] “P5+1 to forever regret any JCPOA violation: Iran cleric.” Press TV [published online 22 June 2016]. http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2016/07/22/476403/Iran-P51-Ahmad-Khatami-Friday-prayers-JCPOA-Ban-Kimoon. Last accessed 14 November 2016.

[50] “If P5+1 Violates JCPOA, Iran Fully Restores its N-Program.” Iran Review [published online 14 July 2016]. http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Iran-Confronts-Measures-Hindering-its-Missile-Program.htm. Last accessed 14 November 2016.

[51] Jay Solomon & Carol E. Lee (2016). “U.S. Signed Secret Document to Lift U.N. Sanctions on Iranian Banks.” The Wall Street Journal [published online 29 September 2016].  http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-signed-secret-document-to-lift-u-n-sanctions-on-iranian-banks-1475193723. Last accessed 13 November 2016.

[52] The United States Treasury Department reports that AIO, along with its multiple subsidiaries, subordinates and front companies, have been involved in purchasing millions of dollars worth of equipment on behalf of AIO for the development of Iran’s missile program. On 29 June 2005, the United States Treasury Department added AIO to the “Specially Designated National” roster maintained by its Office of Foreign Assets Control. The effect of this action was to freeze AIO assets under the jurisdiction of the United States and to prohibit United States parties from engaging in transactions with AIO, all pursuant to the authority of Executive Order 13382. That executive order targets entities identified by the United States government as being engaged in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and WMD delivery systems.

In July 2005, the German government issued an early warning document urging caution in commercial dealings with AIO and suggesting all AIO procurement activities must be assumed to serve military aims unless proved otherwise by specific and verifiable means. On 24 April 2007, the European Union listed linked AIO to Iranian proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities and its development of nuclear weapon delivery systems. The action required European Union member states to freeze all funds and economic resources owned, held or controlled by AIO. In 2009, the Japanese government listed AIO as an “entity of concern for proliferation” relating to missiles, the same year that the British government listed it as “an entity of potential concern” for WMD-related procurement. See: “Aerospace Industries Organization (AIO).” Iran Watch [published online 17 March 2010]. http://www.iranwatch.org/iranian-entities/aerospace-industries-organization-aio. Last accessed 13 November 2016.

[53] SHIG is an AIO-subordinate entity responsible for Iran’s liquid-fuelled ballistic missile program, including its medium-range Shahab-3 missile. It was listed in an annex to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1737 (2006) as an entity involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program. See: “Shahid Hemat Industrial Group (SHIG).” Iran Watch [published online 22 August 2014]. http://www.iranwatch.org/iranian-entities/shahid-hemat-industrial-group-shig. Last accessed 13 November 2016.

The reporting name “Shahab” means “meteor” or “shooting star” in Farsi; its alternate reporting name, Zelzal-3, means “earthquake.” The Shahab-3/Zelzal-3 is derived from the North Korean No-dong missile (which itself is based on the Soviet-era Scud-B missile, and a rocket engine design adapted from the Soviet SS-N-4 SLBM). The road-mobile or silo-based missile system’s estimated operational range is 1300km (808 miles) and its estimated maximum range is 2000km (1243 miles). The missile system’s maximum payload is a single 1200kg warhead. While Iran arms its Shahab-3/Zelzal-3 missiles with conventional high explosive warheads, experts believe they are likely capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Range varies upon payload weight, so heavier first-generation nuclear warheads would likely have a much shorter range than a smaller unitary HE warhead. See: “Shahab 3.” Center for Strategic International Studies Missile Defense Project [published online 9 August 2016]. Threat CSIS Missile Defense Project. http://missilethreat.com/missiles/shahab-3/. Last accessed 13 November 2016. See also: “Shahab-3, 3A/Zelzal-3.” GlobalSecurity.org. http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/iran/shahab-3.htm. Last accessed 13 November 2016.

[54] SBIG is an AIO-subordinate entity reportedly responsible for long-range missile development, including Iranian rocket fuel and missile technology programs.  Like SHIG, SBIG It was listed in an annex to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1737 (2006). It has reportedly shipped materials to the Syrian Research and Study Center in Damascus via Venezuela’s Conviasa airline, allegedly including computer numerical control machines, computers for controlling missiles, and materials for the development of carriers. See: “Shahid Bagheri Industrial Group (SHIG).” Iran Watch [published online 22 August 2014]. http://www.iranwatch.org/iranian-entities/shahid-bagheri-industrial-group. Last accessed 13 November 2016.

SBIG produces Iran’s Fateh-110/M-600 missiles and its Fajr rocket systems. The Fateh-110/M-600 is a road-mobile short-range missile system with a known range of 210km (130 miles) and a claimed range of 300km (186 miles). It carries a single 500kg high explosive or chemical warhead.  Iran claims to have anti-ship variants including the Hormuz-1 and Hormuz-2 and the Khalij Fars although the United States Defense Department disputes this claim. Iran is known to have transferred some number of Fatewh-110/M-600 missiles to Syria and Hezbollah. SBIG-produced Fajr-3 and the mobile-launched Fajr-5 (the Farsi name Fajr mean “dawn”) multiple launch rocket systems have respective range of 40km (25 miles) and 75km (50 miles), respectively. The Fajr-3 is almost identical to two North Korean rocket launchers, the M-1985 and M-1991. The Fajr-5 is based on the Chinese Weishi-1 [WS-1] MLRS, which China first exported to Iran c.1990. See: “Iranian Rockets.” GlobalSecurity.org. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/iran/mrl-iran.htm. Last accessed 13 November 2016.

[55] “Iran’s Bank Sepah Designated by Treasury Sepah Facilitating Iran’s Weapons Program.” United States Treasury Department Press Center HP-219 dated 9 January 2007. https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/hp219.aspx. Last accessed 13 November 2016.

[56] Michael Elleman (2016). “North Korean-Iran Missile Cooperation.” 38 North [published online 22 September 2016]. http://38north.org/2016/09/melleman092216/. Last accessed 13 November 2016.

[57] “U.S. Surrenders Powerful Financial Weapon to Counter Iran’s Missile Program.” Iran Watch [published online 6 October 2016]. http://www.iranwatch.org/our-publications/policy-briefs/us-surrenders-powerful-financial-weapon-counter-irans-missile-program#sdfootnote4sym. Last accessed 13 November 2016.

[58] “Iran Receives Missiles of S­-300 Air Defense System.” Iran Watch [published online 18 July 2016]. http://www.iranwatch.org/news-brief/iran-receives-missiles-s-300-air-defense-system. Last accessed 13 November 2016.

[59] It is difficult to reconcile Iran’s decision to move the S-300 missile system to Fordow with its commitments under the JCPOA. Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization designed the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (its second pilot enrichment plant after Natanz) to house up to 16 IR-1 gas centrifuge cascades (a total of 3000 centrifuges). By late December 2011, Iran had activated Fordow’s Unit 1 and Unit 2 enrichment halls (both designed to hold up to eight cascades of 174 IR-1 centrifuges). In late 2012 and early 2013, it installed four cascades of 174 IR-1 centrifuges (two sets of two cascades working in tandem) to enrich 19.75 percent Low Enriched Uranium. Iran transferred LEU production to Fordow from the Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant in order to insulate it from possible military strikes; Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak called it a “zone of immunity.” Under the JCPOA, Iran agreed to decommission the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant and pledged not to enrich uranium or conduct any uranium enrichment-related R&D there for a period of fifteen (15) years.

[60] R. Scott Kemp (2005). “Nuclear Proliferation with Particle Accelerators.” Science and Global Security. 13:3, 183-207. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.539.3763&rep=rep1&type=pdf. Last accessed 14 November 2016.

[61] See: Annex III. Civil Nuclear Cooperation. Section E. Nuclear Medicine and Radioisotopes, Associated Technologies, Facilities and Processes, 6-7. https://eeas.europa.eu/statements-eeas/docs/iran_agreement/annex_3_civil_nuclear_cooperation_en.pdf. Last accessed 14 November 2016.

[62] Ibid., 6. See E.11.1 and E.11.2, respectively.

[63] John R. Haines (2015). “Iran, Radioisotopes, & the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.” FPRI E-Notes [published online 27 July 2015]. http://www.fpri.org/article/2015/07/iran-radioisotopes-the-joint-comprehensive-plan-of-action/. Last accessed 14 November 2016.

[64] Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (2015). The Iran Nuclear Deal: A Definitive Guide. (Cambridge, MA: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs) 66

[65] Blaise Misztal (2015). “Iran Deal: Section-by-Section Analysis.” Bipartisan Policy Center [published online 14 July 2015]. http://bipartisanpolicy.org/blog/iran-deal-analysis/. Last accessed 14 November 2016.

[66] Kemp (2005), op cit., 183.

[67] That statement applies directly to Iran as well. In 1990, Iran purchased a 30 MeV cyclotron (identical to one purchased by Syria) and a 1-milliamp calutron from China. The equipment’s installation at the Karaj Agricultural and Medical Center led to allegations that China was building a uranium enrichment facility there. [Anthony H. Cordesman & Adam C. Seitz (2009). Iranian Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Birth of a Regional Nuclear Arms Race? (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO) 223] Iran was able to develop a major cyclotron laboratory in the early 1990s with grants from the IAEA totaling some USD 8.2 million. [United States Congress Office of Technology Assessment (1995). “Nuclear Safeguards and the International Atomic Energy Agency.” Report OTA-ISS-615 dated April 1995. (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office).  56]

[68] Slobodan Nakicenovic (1961). Nuclear Energy in Yugoslavia. (Beograd: Export Press) 41-42. See also: Andrew Koch (1997). “Yugoslavia’s Nuclear Legacy: Should We Worry?” The Nonproliferation Review (Spring-Summer) 124.

[69] Michael Aaron Dennis (2013). “Tacit Knowledge as a Factor in the Proliferation of WMD: The Example of Nuclear Weapons.” Studies in Intelligence. 57:3, 1. https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol-57-no-3/pdfs/Dennis-Tacit%20Knowledge%20and%20Proliferation.pdf. Last accessed 14 November 2016. He wrote, “lack of tacit knowledge is not likely to a stop an illicit program in its tracks, but without it, a weapons program is likely to fail more often in its early stages, cost more through a period of trial and error, and take longer to reach fruition.”

[70] Haines (2015), op cit.

[71] Elliott Abrams (2016). “Iran is Cheating on the Nuclear Deal.” Pressure Points blog, Council on Foreign Relations website. http://blogs.cfr.org/abrams/2016/07/11/iran-is-cheating-on-the-nuclear-deal/. Last accessed 11 November 2016.

[72] “Donald Trump: Amateur hour with the Iran nuclear deal.” USA Today [published online 8 September 2015]. http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2015/09/08/donald-trump-amateur-hour-iran-nuclear-deal-column/71884090/. Last accessed 14 November 2016.

[73] “Iran Deal Endangered if Trump Seeks to Renegotiate Its Terms.” The New York Times [published online 11 November 2016]. http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2016/11/11/us/politics/ap-us-trump-iran-nuclear-deal.html. Last accessed 14 November 2016.

[74] Mark Dubowitz (2016). “Fueling Terror: The Danger of Ransom Payments to Iran.” Testimony of Mark Dubowitz, Executive Director, Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance before the House Financial Services Committee

Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations (8 September 2016). http://financialservices.house.gov/uploadedfiles/hhrg-114-ba09-wstate-mdubowitz-20160908.pdf. Last accessed 14 November 2016.

[75] “Written Testimony of Adam J. Szubin, Acting Under Secretary of Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs.” Testimony before Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, 5 August 2015. https://www.treasury.gov/press- center/press-releases/Pages/jl0144.aspx. Last accessed 14 November 2016.

[76] “Iran to Send JCPOA to Museum If US Ignores Commitments: IRGC Commander.” Tasmin News Agency [published online in English 3 November 2016]. http://www.tasnimnews.com/en/news/2016/11/03/1230445/iran-to-send-jcpoa-to-museum-if-us-ignores-commitments-irgc-commander. Last accessed 11 November 2016.

[77] https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/114/saphjr64r_20150908.pdf. Last accessed 14 November 2016.

[78] John R. Haines (2016). “Divining a ‘Trump Doctrine’: Finding the Contours of Donald Trump’s Foreign & National Security Policy.” FPRI E-Notes [published online 18 March 2016]. http://www.fpri.org/article/2016/03/divining-trump-doctrine-finding-contours-donald-trumps-foreign-national-security-policy/. Last accessed 14 November 2016.

[79] Melvin P. Leffler (2008). Containment. (Princeton: Princeton University Press) 236.

[80] Karim Sadjadpour (2010). “The Sources of Soviet Iranian Conduct. George Kennan’s Lessons for Understanding and Dealing with Tehran.” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. https://assets.aspeninstitute.org/content/uploads/files/content/docs/congressional/Sadjadpour_Essay.pdf. Last accessed 14 November 2016.

[81]Ibid.

[82] Ibid.

[83] Iran somewhat ironically is mimicking Israel’s practice of deterrence through disproportionate response.

[84] ” Iran Developing Radar-Evading Missiles.” FARS News Agency [published online 20 December 2014]. http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13930929000548. Last accessed 15 November 2016.

[85] Iran’s capabilities for asymmetric warfare in the Gulf and the Arabian Sea including submarines and submersibles, mine warfare capabilities, anti-ship missiles, marines and special forces, and a wide variety of smaller craft that can be used to swarm targets. See: Anthony H. Cordesman, Alexander Wilner & Michael Gibbs (2012). Iran and the Gulf Military Balance.

The Conventional and Asymmetric Dimensions. Sixth Working Draft Revised 10 October 2012. (Washington, D.C.: Center for Strategic & International Studies) 72. https://csis-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/legacy_files/files/publication/121010_Iran_Gulf%20Military_Balance.pdf. Last accessed 15 November 2016. As the study’s authors wrote, “Iran’s recent threats to ‘close the Gulf’ provide another tangible illustration of Iran’s asymmetric warfare capabilities.” Ibid., 129.

[86] Pursuant to the authority of Section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), President Obama on 9 March 2016 by executive order continued  “the national emergency with respect to Iran that was declared on March 15, 1995 . . . in effect beyond March 15, 2016.” [See: http://iranprimer.usip.org/blog/2016/may/02/us-renews-state-of-emergency-iran. Last accessed 15 November 2016].

[87] Ibid.

[88] “Iran Blasts UN Chief’s Report on Resolution 2231 as ‘Unbalanced, Biased.’” FARS News Agency [published online 18 July 2016]. http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950428001308. Last accessed 15 November 2016.

[89] “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community.” Statement for the Record by James R. Clapper Director of National Intelligence before the Senate Armed Services Committee. 9 February 2016. http://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Clapper_02-09-16.pdf. Last accessed 15 November 2016.

[90] “Adviser says Trump won’t rip up Iran deal, signals he may not move embassy.” Times of Israel [published online 11 November 2016]. http://www.timesofisrael.com/adviser-says-trump-wont-rip-up-iran-deal-signals-he-may-not-move-embassy/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter. Last accessed 15 November 2016.

[91] Ray Takeyh (2016). “Trump Can Make Iran Policy Great Again.” Foreign Policy [published online 11 November 2016]. http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/11/11/trump-will-make-iran-policy-great-again/. Last accessed 15 November 2016.

[92] In May 2015, both the House (400-25) and the Senate (98-1) approved “The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015” giving Congress the right to review the JCPOA. In September 2015, the House of Representatives rejected legislation to approve the JCPOA by an overwhelming 162-269 vote. A Senate resolution rejecting the JCPOA received 56 votes in favor (but fell short of the 60 votes required under the Senate filibuster rule).

[93] Senator Charles E. Schumer (2015). “My Position on the Iran Deal.” Press release dated 6 August 2015. https://www.schumer.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/my-position-on-the-iran-deal. Last accessed 15 November 2016.

[94] H.R. 5119 (114th Congress). https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/5119/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22HR+5119%22%5D%7D. Last accessed 15 November 2016.

[95] H.R. 5639 (114th Congress). https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/5631/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22HR+5631%22%5D%7D. Last accessed 15 November 2016.

[96] H.R. 4992 (114th Congress). https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/4992?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22HR+4992%22%5D%7D&resultIndex=1. Last accessed 15 November 2016.

[97] Hillary Rodham Clinton (2015). Keynote Address. The Brookings Institute Saban Forum 2015. Israel and the United States: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. 18. https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Uncorrected-TranscriptKeynote-addressFormer-Secretary-of-State-Hillary-Rodham-Clinton.pdf. Last Accessed 15 November 2016.


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Published by the Foreign Policy Research Institute

Published by the Foreign Policy Research Institute

Founded in 1955, FPRI (http://www.fpri.org/) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization devoted to bringing the insights of scholarship to bear on the development of policies that advance U.S. national interests and seeks to add perspective to events by fitting them into the larger historical and cultural context of international politics.

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