Home Update Another deadline passes in Iran nuclear negotiations

Another deadline passes in Iran nuclear negotiations

Another deadline passes in Iran nuclear negotiations

Update from AIJAC

July 10, 2015
Number 07/15 #02

The extended deadline for finalising a nuclear deal in the P5+1 talks with Iran, scheduled to end yesterday after being extended from June 30 (and having previously been extended twice), has been extended again. While some reports say it is only for 72 hours, the White House is also apparently preparing public opinion for a third option: ongoing indefinite talks while keeping in place the November 2013 interim agreement. 

Iran’s most recent new demand is reportedly that all arms embargoes on Iran must be ended as part of the deal.

This Update analyses this reality as well as some of the concessions that the US-led P5+1 has offered Iran to get to this point.

We lead with American columnist Cliff May, offering a very strong critique of US government policies that have brought us to the point where, as he puts it, “Every time Secretary of State John Kerry thinks he has found a creative way to cave in to some Iranian demand, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei comes up with a new ‘red line.'” May argues that the deal amounts to offering Iran, the leading international state sponsor of terror, a path to nuclear weapons, plus tens of billions of dollars in sanctions relief. He argues Obama has convinced himself, with very little evidence, that Iran’s misbehaviour will be ended by a nuclear deal, and May calls upon both Congressional leaders and Presidential candidates from both parties to declare a strong willingness to rigorously police future Iranian behaviour should they win office. For his full analysis, CLICK HERE. Meanwhile, Iran experts Reuel Marc Gerecht and Mark Dubowitz argue that a deal, and the inevitable Iranian efforts to test it, may actually make a confrontation with the US more likely.

Next up is an editorial from the Washington Post, expressing concern about the way the US reacted – or failed to react – to recent revelations about the failure of Iran to meet certain obligations under the interim nuclear accord. Iran was to convert all enriched uranium it created over a certain threshold into a specific oxide that cannot easily be further enriched, but failed to do so, instead converting it to a different oxide that is easier to further enrich later. Moreover, not only did the US Administration fail to hold Iran to account for this, when the problem was pointed out by both the Institute for Science and International Security and the New York Times, Administration spokespersons rushed to attack these neutral sources for their correct claims. The Post argues that this bodes poorly for Administration ability to handle future Iranian cheating –  to read its full argument, CLICK HERE. More on the US Administration’s tendency to defend Iran in public opinion comes from Reuters.

Finally, an American think tank, the Foreign Policy Initiative, has collected a series of direct quotes from  Obama Administration sources which appear to illustrate how its negotiating stance with Iran has changed over time. The detailed collection shows that the Administration has conceded its original position to Iran on a whole variety of issues – in terms of what constitutes a good deal, in terms of Iran’s claimed “right to enrich uranium”, in terms of sanctions relief, in terms of inspections, and in terms of whether a military option remains possible if talks fail. It’s the clearest statement we have seen of the extent of the concessions that have gradually been offered to Iran. To read it all, CLICK HERE. More on the US retreat from previous positions in the talks from Lee Smith.

Readers may also be interested in:


Hard as they try, U.S. negotiators can’t seem to appease Iran’s rulers

Washington Times, Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Imagine if, on Sept. 12, 2001, I had written a column predicting that within less than 15 years, the president of the United States would be offering the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism a path to nuclear weapons and tens of billions of dollars. You’d have thought me a lunatic. But that’s what President Obama means to do.

What’s gumming up the works? Every time Secretary of State John Kerry thinks he has found a creative way to cave in to some Iranian demand, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei comes up with a new “red line.”

Just to be clear: There can be no doubt that the Islamic Republic of Iran is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism. No less an authority than the U.S. government has affirmed that many times over. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Americans have been killed and maimed by Iranian-backed militias and proxies in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan — although a plan to blow up a posh restaurant in Georgetown did go astray.

The founding principle of Iran‘s 1979 Islamic Revolution was “Death to America.” Even as Iranian negotiators have smiled across the table at their American counterparts, that chant has been repeated — not least by Ayatollah Khamenei himself.

All this and more is elided by those determined to believe that, with the signing of an agreement, Iran will become what Mr. Obama has called a “successful regional power.” And why anyone would think that description implies something beneficial for America and America’s allies is a mystery.

When the current round of negotiations began, the goal was to persuade Iran‘s rulers to dismantle a nuclear weapons program they claimed they didn’t have, didn’t need and didn’t want. Little by little, Iran‘s skilled negotiators turned the talks upside down: The agreement currently under discussion would legitimize their nuclear weapons program — without their even having to acknowledge its existence.

As now envisaged, key nuclear restrictions will disappear after 10 years and most restrictions will disappear after 15 years. In the meantime, the Iranian regime will develop an industrial-size, advanced-centrifuge-powered nuclear program with unlimited enrichment capacity, virtually undetectable breakout and much easier clandestine sneakout.

In other words, if Iran‘s rulers are patient and abide by the terms of the agreement, they will be welcomed into the nuclear club in little more than a decade. If they are impatient and violate the terms of the agreement — as they have consistently violated past obligations — they could have nukes much sooner.

Meanwhile, Iran‘s development of intercontinental ballistic missiles — a program whose only purpose is to provide a means to deliver thermonuclear warheads to targets overseas — will continue unimpeded. Early on, Iranian envoys told American negotiators that their ICBMs were not negotiable. In this and many other instances, the American negotiators acquiesced.

Why is Mr. Obama so willing — if not eager — to embrace diplomatic defeat? He may sincerely believe that Iran‘s rulers will, over the years ahead, prioritize improving the lives of average Iranians over building a vast new empire — something akin to a caliphate. But no evidence supports that belief. No historical experience suggests that a regime that has survived for more than three decades thanks to its ruthlessness and brutality is likely to undergo such a transformation within that time frame.

What can be done? To start, members of Congress who comprehend what’s happening need to go on record registering their disapproval of Mr. Obama’s very bad deal. They should do what they can to resist the lifting of sanctions. This will not be easy for Democrats: The White House — and various groups on the far left — will exert intense political pressure on them. They would be well-advised to cast their gaze on the future: Congressmen have legacies, too.

Second, each and every presidential candidate — Hillary Rodham Clinton emphatically included — should affirm that, during the first year of the next administration, Iran‘s rulers will be required to verifiably demonstrate that they have halted their nuclear weapons programs. The next president must have reason to be confident that there are no undeclared nuclear weapons sites or activities.

If that doesn’t happen, if the Iranians cheat or if international inspectors are not getting the access they require, the new administration, unlike the current administration, must not look the other way or act as Iran‘s lawyers. Instead, steps must be taken to re-impose crippling sanctions, prevent nuclear restrictions from sunsetting as this deal contemplates, and put other options back on the table — in a manner that Iran‘s rulers will regard as credible.

Saying this sooner rather than later is vital: It can act as a disincentive to European and American businessmen who may otherwise be inclined to rush to Iran and plunk down big investments, after which they will become the regime’s de facto lobbyists.

Mr. Obama is keenly interested in his place in history. He apparently believes that concluding an agreement with Iran will be the equivalent of President Nixon’s rapprochement with China. It’s worth recalling that, in 1972, President Nixon actually went to China where he and Chairman Mao Zedong shook hands and talked.

A not-so-lunatic prediction: Ayatollah Khamenei will never deign to meet with Mr. Obama, shake his hand, clink glasses of pomegranate juice and chat.

Instead, the Supreme Leader will continue to demonstrate his abiding abhorrence for “the Great Satan” and what he regards as its pathetic attempts to appease him. He believes humiliating America diplomatically is just the beginning. He foresees a future of weakness and eventual defeat for the United States. By contrast, he foresees a future of growing power and restored glory for the Islamic Republic. If you think those are lunatic predictions, you’re badly mistaken once again.

Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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Editorial: The U.S. response to Iran’s cheating is a worrying omen

July 6

IF IT is reached in the coming days, a nuclear deal with Iran will be, at best, an unsatisfying and risky compromise. Iran’s emergence as a threshold nuclear power, with the ability to produce a weapon quickly, will not be prevented; it will be postponed, by 10 to 15 years. In exchange, Tehran will reap hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief it can use to revive its economy and fund the wars it is waging around the Middle East.

Whether this flawed deal is sustainable will depend on a complex set of verification arrangements and provisions for restoring sanctions in the event of cheating. The schemes may or may not work; the history of the comparable nuclear accord with North Korea in the 1990s is not encouraging. The United States and its allies will have to be aggressive in countering the inevitable Iranian attempts to test the accord and willing to insist on consequences even if it means straining relations with friendly governments or imposing costs on Western companies.

That’s why a recent controversy over Iran’s compliance with the interim accord now governing its nuclear work is troubling. The deal allowed Iran to continue enriching uranium, but required that amounts over a specified ceiling be converted into an oxide powder that cannot easily be further enriched. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran met the requirement for the total size of its stockpile on June 30, but it did so by converting some of its enriched uranium into a different oxide form, apparently because of problems with a plant set up to carry out the powder conversion.

Rather than publicly report this departure from the accord, the Obama administration chose to quietly accept it. When a respected independent think tank, the Institute for Science and International Security, began pointing out the problem, the administration’s response was to rush to Iran’s defense — and heatedly attack the institute as well as a report in the New York Times.

This points to two dangers in the implementation of any longterm deal. One is “a U.S. willingness to legally reinterpret the deal when Iran cannot do what it said it would do, in order to justify that non-performance,” institute President David Albright and his colleague Andrea Stricker wrote. In other words, overlooking Iranian cheating is easier than confronting it.

This weakness is matched by a White House proclivity to respond to questions about Iran’s performance by attacking those who raise them. Mr. Albright, a physicist with a long record of providing non-partisan expert analysis of nuclear proliferation issues, said on the Foreign Policy Web site that he had been unfairly labeled as an adversary of the Iran deal and that campaign-style “war room” tactics are being used by the White House to fend off legitimate questions.

In the case of the oxide conversion, the discrepancy may be less important than the administration’s warped reaction. A final accord will require Iran to ship most of its uranium stockpile out of the country, or reverse its enrichment. But there surely will be other instances of Iranian non-compliance. If the deal is to serve U.S. interests, the Obama administration and its successors will have to respond to them more firmly and less defensively.

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FPI Analysis: What U.S. Officials Said on Iran, What We Know Now

Over the past three years, the Obama administration has delineated the criteria that any final nuclear agreement between the P5+1 and Iran must meet. In speeches, congressional testimony, press conferences, and media interviews, administration officials have also articulated their expectations from Tehran with repeated declarations: “No deal is better than a bad deal.”

This FPI Analysis, which updates an earlier publication from January 2015, compiles many of the administration’s own statements on nuclear negotiations with Iran over the past three years, and compares them with current U.S. positions. It also examines U.S. statements on a range of other issues related to U.S. policy toward Tehran, and assesses whether subsequent events have validated them.


I. Requirements for a Good Deal

II. Dismantling Sanctions

III. Iran’s Ballistic Missile and Terrorist Threats

IV. U.S. Credibility and the Role of Congress


Dismantling Iran’s Nuclear Program

What They Said Then

December 4, 2013: Chief U.S. negotiator Wendy Sherman tells PBS that a final agreement should include “a lot of dismantling of their infrastructure.”

December 10, 2013: “I don’t think that any of us thought we were just imposing these sanctions for the sake of imposing them,” says Secretary of State John Kerry in congressional testimony. “We did it because we knew that it would hopefully help Iran dismantle its nuclear program. That was the whole point of the [sanctions] regime.”

What We Know Now

April 2, 2015: The P5+1 and Iran reach a framework agreement that does not require Tehran to dismantle its nuclear infrastructure. “Iran is not going to simply dismantle its program because we demand it to do so,” President Obama says in a Rose Garden statement.


Iran’s “Right” to Enrich Uranium

What They Said Then

November 24, 2013: “There is no right to enrich,” Secretary of State John Kerry tells ABC News. “We do not recognize a right to enrich. It is clear, in the — in the NPT, in the nonproliferation treaty, it’s very, very [clear] that there is no right to enrich.”

What We Know Now

December 10, 2013: “There is no right to enrich in the NPT,” says Secretary of State John Kerry in House testimony. “But neither is it denied. The NPT is silent on the issue.” In a final agreement, Kerry adds, “I can’t tell you they might not have some enrichment.”

April 2, 2015: The P5+1 and Iran reach a framework agreement that permits Iran to enrich uranium in more than 5,000 centrifuges and to retain more than 1,000 additional centrifuges in storage. “As soon as we got into the real negotiations with them,” a senior U.S. official tells The Wall Street Journal, “we understood that any final deal was going to involve some domestic enrichment capability. But I can honestly tell you, we always anticipated that.”


The Fordow Enrichment Facility

What They Said Then

December 7, 2013: “We know that they don’t need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordow in order to have a peaceful nuclear program,” says President Obama at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum.

What We Know Now

April 2, 2015: The P5+1 and Iran reach a framework agreement indicating that Fordow will remain open as a research facility, and may retain approximately 1,000 centrifuges capable of nuclear enrichment.

June 24, 2015: According to a draft appendix to the final deal obtained by the Associated Press (AP), Iran will use Fordow for isotope production rather than uranium enrichment. However, as the AP notes, “isotope production uses the same technology as enrichment and can be quickly re-engineered” for nuclear weapons development.


The Arak Heavy Water Reactor

What They Said Then

December 10, 2013: “From our point of view, Arak is unacceptable,” says Secretary of State John Kerry in House testimony. “You can’t have a heavy water reactor.”

What We Know Now

April 2, 2015: The P5+1 and Iran reach a framework agreement that leaves the fate of Arak unclear. According to the U.S. version, the overall Arak facility would remain, but the “original core of the reactor, which would have enabled the production of significant quantities of weapons-grade plutonium, will be destroyed or removed from the country.” The Iranian version of the agreement contains no such provision.

June 24, 2015: According to a draft appendix to the final deal obtained by the AP, Iran will receive “light-water nuclear reactors instead of its nearly completed heavy-water facility at Arak.” However, a sufficient quantity of light-water reactors can also produce the requisite amount of bomb-grade plutonium to develop a nuclear weapon.


The Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s Nuclear Program

What They Said Then

February 4, 2014: “We raised possible military dimensions” in the negotiations, says chief U.S. negotiator Wendy Sherman in Senate testimony. “And in fact in the Joint Plan of Action, we have required that Iran come clean on its past actions as part of any comprehensive agreement.”

April 8, 2015: “They have to do it,” Secretary of State John Kerry tells PBS, referring to Tehran’s disclosure of PMD. “It will be done. If there’s going to be a deal, it will be done.”

What We Know Now

June 16, 2015: During a press availability, Secretary of State John Kerry says the Obama administration no longer considers Iran’s disclosure of PMD a priority. “We know what they did,” he says. “We have no doubt. We have absolute knowledge with respect to the certain military activities they were engaged in. What we’re concerned about is going forward.” Only eight days earlier, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano had said the agency lacks such knowledge.


Iran’s Breakout Capacity

What They Said Then

December 7, 2013: “It is my strong belief,” says President Obama at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum, “that we can envision an end state that gives us an assurance that even if they have some modest enrichment capability, it is so constrained and the inspections are so intrusive that they, as a practical matter, do not have breakout capacity.”

What We Know Now

April 2, 2015: According to the U.S. version of the framework agreement, Iran will have a breakout time of one year for a duration of at least ten years. The Iranian version and the joint EU-Iran statement omit the issue entirely.

April 7, 2015: “What is a more relevant fear” under a deal, President Obama tells NPR, “would be that in year 13, 14, 15, they have advanced centrifuges that enrich uranium fairly rapidly, and at that point the breakout times would have shrunk almost down to zero.”


The Timing of Sanctions Relief under a Deal

What They Said Then

March 3, 2014: “Iran is not open for business until Iran is closed for nuclear bombs,” says Secretary of State John Kerry in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

January 27, 2015: Under a final deal, “the international community would provide Iran with phased sanctions relief tied to verifiable actions on its part,” says Deputy Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken in Senate testimony.

What We Know Now

April 2, 2015: The P5+1 and Iran reach a framework agreement that leaves the timing of sanctions relief ambiguous. The U.S. version states that Iran will receive sanctions relief “after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps” (emphasis added). Tehran’s version states that sanctions “will be immediately removed after reaching a comprehensive agreement” (emphasis added). The joint EU-Iran statement says Iran will receive relief “simultaneously with the IAEA-verified implementation by Iran of its key nuclear commitments” (emphasis added).

April 17, 2015: Administration officials tell The Wall Street Journal that Iran may receive a signing bonus of $30 billion to $50 billion immediately upon reaching a deal. About a month later, in an interview for The Atlantic, President Obama speaks to the possibility of $150 billion in sanctions relief.


The Types of Sanctions Relief

What They Said Then

December 12, 2013: “We have said that this agreement pertains only to new nuclear-related sanctions in terms of what we, the European Union and the U.N. Security Council will forego,” says chief U.S. negotiator Wendy Sherman in Senate testimony.

May 1, 2014: “We have made clear that sanctions relating to terrorism and sanctions relating to human rights violations are not covered” under a final deal, says Jake Sullivan, deputy assistant to President Obama and national security advisor to Vice President Joe Biden, at a conference of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

What We Know Now

April 2, 2015: The P5+1 and Iran reach a framework agreement that leaves unclear the types of sanctions relief Tehran will receive. The U.S. version maintains the administration’s earlier position that Iran will receive only nuclear-related sanctions relief. However, according to the Iranian version, “all of the sanctions will be immediately removed after reaching a comprehensive agreement” (emphasis added).

June 9, 2015: The AP reports that the Obama administration, as part of a final deal, will redefine “nuclear-related” sanctions to include sanctions related to ballistic missiles, terrorism and human rights.


The Impact of Sanctions Relief under the JPOA

What They Said Then

December 10, 2013: In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, David Cohen, the Treasury Department official responsible for overseeing Iran sanctions, calls the sanctions relief in the JPOA “economically insignificant to Iran.” “Iran,” he claims, “will be even deeper in the hole six months from now, when the deal expires, than it is today.”

What We Know Now

February 4, 2015: According to a joint report by Roubini Global Economics and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, “Iran has escaped from the severe recession that threatened its economy in 2012 and early 2013.” Sanctions relief under the JPOA, the report adds, has resulted in an “improvement in market sentiment to stabilize its economy and build up economic resilience against future sanctions pressure.”


Sanctions Enforcement during Negotiations

What They Said Then

February 11, 2014: Referring to potential sanctions violators during negotiations, President Obama says, “we will come down on them like a ton of bricks.”

What We Know Now

June 9, 2015: The U.N. releases a report indicating that countries have failed to report violations of Security Council sanctions, including violations that occurred overtly. This phenomenon could reflect “a political decision by some member states to refrain from reporting to avoid a possible negative impact on ongoing negotiations,” the report states.

June 17, 2015: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) releases a report criticizing the Obama administration for a delay of three or more years in providing congressionally mandated reports of sanctions violations under the 2006 Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act. GAO also notes that State Department officials attributed their procrastination to “a variety of political concerns, such as international negotiations.”


Iran’s Ballistic Missile Program

What They Said Then

February 4, 2014: “So it is true,” says chief U.S. negotiator Wendy Sherman in Senate testimony, “that in these first six months we have not shut down all of their production of any ballistic missile that could have anything to do with delivery of a nuclear weapon, but that is, indeed, going to be part of something that has to be addressed as part of a comprehensive agreement.”

What We Know Now

March 19, 2015: “The scope of this agreement, if there is one, is the nuclear program,” says Deputy Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken in House testimony. “That’s what our partners have agreed to. That is what is being negotiated. It is not a missile agreement.”

April 2, 2015: The P5+1 and Iran reach a framework agreement that leaves the fate of Iran’s ballistic missiles unclear. The U.S. version of the framework vaguely states that a future U.N. Security Council (UNSC) resolution will impose “[i]mportant restrictions” on Iran’s ballistic missiles — even though Tehran already remains in violation of five UNSC resolutions passed between 2006 and 2010 that target the program. The Iranian version of the framework and the joint EU-Iran statement omit the issue entirely.


Intelligence Assessments of the Iranian Terror Threat

What They Said Then

February 26, 2015: Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James R. Clapper releases an annual security report known as the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community that fails to mention Iran and its foremost proxy, Hizballah, as terrorist threats. The omission marks a stark deviation from previous editions.

What We Know Now

June 3, 2015: Following congressional pressure, DNI Clapper acknowledges that the report erred in omitting the Iranian and Hizballah terrorist threat, but insists that the intelligence community (IC) had always recognized it. “A specific reference to the terrorist threat from Iran and Hizballah … would have been appropriate for the 2015 Assessment, but the lack of its inclusion is in no way a change in the IC’s assessment,” he writes.


The Nature of the Iranian Regime

What They Said Then

December 29, 2014: If Iran and the P5+1 reach a nuclear deal, President Obama tells NPR, “it would be a very successful regional power that was also abiding by international norms and international rules, and that would be good for everybody.”

April 7, 2015: “It is possible that if we sign this nuclear deal, we strengthen the hand of those more moderate forces inside of Iran,” President Obama tells NPR.

What We Know Now

March 12, 2015: The United Nations releases a report documenting Tehran’s extensive and unabated human rights abuses against its own people.

March 21, 2015: Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, leads a crowd in chants of “Death to America.” Two days later, the White House says his words were “intended for a domestic political audience.”

June 19, 2015: The State Department releases its annual Country Reports on Terrorism for 2014, which indicates that Iran has continued to support the Lebanese terrorist group Hizballah, Iraqi Shiite militias, the brutal Assad regime, and Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza. The regime, states the report, has also sought to increase its influence in Asia, Africa and Latin America.


Iran’s Compliance with the JPOA

What They Said Then

July 20, 2014: “Everything that Iran was supposed to do they have done with respect to” the JPOA, Secretary of State John Kerry tells Fox News. He adds, “the world is safer, and this is a smart deal.”

What We Know Now

November 7, 2014: An IAEA report states that Iran has fed gas into an advanced centrifuge known as the IR-5, which David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, describes as “an apparent violation of Iran’s commitment to freeze centrifuge R&D activities at the Natanz pilot plant.”

June 1, 2015: The IAEA states that Iran has increased its stockpile of nuclear fuel by about 20 percent over the previous 18 months of negotiations, reports The New York Times.


Iran’s Nuclear Program Under the JPOA

What They Said Then

January 20, 2015: ‘Our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran, where, for the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material,” says President Obama in his State of the Union address, repeating the claim he made upon the JPOA‘s announcement in November 2013.

What We Know Now

January 22, 2015: The Washington Post‘s Fact Checker gives President Obama’s claim three Pinocchios. Olli Heinonen, former deputy director for safeguards at the IAEA, tells the Post not only that Tehran “is still producing uranium enriched up to 5-percent uranium,” but that the “latter stocks have actually increased.” Nuclear expert David Albright tells the Post that Iran has not reduced its stockpile of 3.5 percent uranium but merely diluted it, a process that is easily reversible. Iran’s nuclear material, says Albright, has increased “about a bomb’s worth during the JPOA.”


Iran’s Current Breakout Time

What They Said Then

March 14, 2013: “Right now, we think it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon,” President Obama tells Israeli television.

What We Know Now

April 1, 2015: The Obama administration declassifies a years-old intelligence estimate that Iran’s breakout time is two to three months. Approximately three weeks later, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz says the administration has held this assessment for “quite some time.”


Prevention vs. Containment

What They Said Then

March 4, 2012: “Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” says President Obama in a speech to AIPAC.

January 24, 2013: “I repeat here today: Our policy is not containment, it is prevention, and the clock is ticking on our efforts to secure responsible compliance,” says John Kerry at his confirmation hearing for secretary of state.

What We Know Now

April 7, 2015: In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George P. Shultz write, “negotiations that began 12 years ago as an international effort to prevent an Iranian capability to develop a nuclear arsenal are ending with an agreement that concedes this very capability, albeit short of its full capacity in the first 10 years.” “The gradual expiration of the framework agreement, beginning in a decade,” Kissinger and Shultz add, “will enable Iran to become a significant nuclear, industrial and military power after that time — in the scope and sophistication of its nuclear program and its latent capacity to weaponize at a time of its choosing.”


The Risk of Regional Proliferation

What They Said Then

March 5, 2015: A nuclear deal with Iran “will reduce the pressure for a regional nuclear arms race, and it will increase the strength of the international nonproliferation regime,” says Secretary of State John Kerry during a press availability.

What We Know Now

May 13, 2015: “Saudi Arabia and many of the smaller Arab states are now vowing to match whatever nuclear enrichment capability Iran is permitted to retain” under a deal, The New York Times reports. Prince Turki bin Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence chief, says during a visit to Seoul that the deal “opens the door to nuclear proliferation, not closes it, as was the initial intention.”


The Role of Congress

What They Said Then

April 8, 2014: Asked during a Senate hearing whether the Obama administration would consult with Congress about sanctions relief in the event that the P5+1 reaches a final deal with Iran, Secretary of State John Kerry says: “Well, of course, we would be obligated to under the law. … What we do will have to pass muster with Congress. We well understand that.”

July 29, 2014: “President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and the entire administration understand how vital a role Congress and this Committee play in shaping U.S. policy towards Iran,” chief U.S. negotiator Wendy Sherman states in written testimony to the Senate. “We remain committed to regular consultations, to hearing from you, and to sharing ideas.”

What We Know Now

February 28, 2015: The White House threatens to veto the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, which would allow Congress to vote on any deal with Iran. When the legislation gains enough congressional support to override a veto, President Obama relents, ultimately signing the bill into law on May 22 after near-unanimous votes in the House and Senate.


The Military Option

What They Said Then

Selected Statements by President Obama on the Military Option against Iran

  • “As president of the United States, I don’t bluff.” (March 2, 2012)  
  • “I will take no options off the table.” (March 4, 2012)  
  • “When I say all options are at the table, I mean it.” (March 5, 2012)  
  • “I will repeat that we take no options off the table.” (September 30, 2013)  
  • “When the president of the United States says that he doesn’t take any options off the table, that should be taken seriously.” (December 7, 2013)  
  • “[I] stand ready to exercise all options to make sure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon.” (January 28, 2014)  
  • “Now, if Iran ends up ultimately not being able to say yes [to a deal] … then we’re going to have to explore other options.” (January 16, 2015)  
  • “I keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran.” (January 20, 2015)

What We Know Now

May 29, 2015: “A military solution will not fix it, even if the United States participates,” President Obama tells Israeli television. “It would temporarily slow down an Iranian nuclear program, but it will not eliminate it.”


“No Deal is Better than a Bad Deal”

What They Said Then

“No deal is better than a bad deal.”

(A Selected List)

– President Barack Obama, December 7, 2013

– Secretary of State John Kerry, November 10, 2013

– National Security Advisor Susan Rice, November 13, 2013

– Secretary of State John Kerry, November 24, 2013

– Secretary of State John Kerry, December 7, 2014

– Deputy Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, January 21, 2015

– Secretary of State John Kerry, March 1, 2015

– National Security Advisor Susan Rice, March 2, 2015

What We Know Now

June 24, 2015: In a public statement on the Iran nuclear negotiations, a bipartisan group of American diplomats, legislators, policymakers, and experts — including five former Obama administration officials — writes:

The agreement will not prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapons capability. It will not require the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear enrichment infrastructure. …

…we fear that the current negotiations … may fall short of meeting the administration’s own standard of a “good” agreement.

The Obama administration remains on the verge of signing such an agreement.


FPI Intern Ben Ehrlich contributed research to this report.


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