Update from AIJAC
October 29, 2015
Number 10/15 #09
Last week, on Oct. 18, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Iran nuclear agreement reached in July, was officially “adopted” under the complicated schedule for implementation which was part of the agreement. And a few days later, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – who had never previously publicly endorsed the deal – wrote a letter to Iranian President Rouhani which was reported as giving “tepid approval” for it. In fact, as this Update discusses, that letter seemed to require the Iranian government to re-write key elements of the deal before it could be implemented. (The full text of the letter in Iran’s official translation – as well as Khamenei’s accompanying facebook post – can be read here).
First up is a direct analysis of the nine conditions that Khamenei placed on implementing the deal – and what they mean in terms of altering the existing terms of agreement. It comes from Y. Carmon and A. Savyon of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). Basically, they argue, the bottom line is that Khamenei is demanding that Iran refuse to implement its key obligations under the agreement on a whole range of issues – for instance of removing existing stockpiles of enriched uranium and altering the design of the plutonium-producing Arak reactor – until Iran receives additional concessions. These include all sanctions are first to be completely lifted – not merely suspended, as the agreement calls for to allow “snapback” in the event of Iranian cheating – as well as demanding that non-nuclear sanctions be included and no such sanctions ever be reinstated, also conditions the agreement does not promise. For MEMRI’s complete analysis, CLICK HERE.
Next up is Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens, who agrees with the MEMRI analysis of what Khamenei is trying to do, but offers a wider context, arguing “Iran is testing the agreement, reinterpreting it, tearing it up line by line.” He says this was in the context of other recent provocative Iranian actions that prompted a tepid US response – the illegal testing of a new missile and the sentencing of prominent American reporter Jason Rezaian on trumped-up charges. He argues the JCPOA in any case represents a US “surrender dressed up as diplomacy” and the Iranians are not prepared to allow the US to escape with any dignity, despite the hopes of the US Administration. For the rest of his argument, CLICK HERE.
Finally, we offer a brief comment on the state of the implementation plans for the JCPOA – and the Administration’s hope it will lead to Iranian moderation – from veteran US official and Mideast mediator Aaron David Miller. Miller says that it is now clear that, contrary to moderation hopes, the Iranian regime is “not moderating its repressive and authoritarian character but consolidating it.” While he points to the missile test, the Rezaian case, and Iran’s increasingly aggressive behaviour in Syria as examples, he also offers various reasons why he doesn’t expect this reality to change any time soon. For Miller’s knowledgeable analysis in full, CLICK HERE.
Readers may also be interested in:
- Nicholas Gallagher on why the US decision to invite Iran to join the Syria talks looks like another capitulation to Iran.
- A comment on how Israel should respond to the Russian intervention in Syria from noted Israeli strategist Amos Yadlin and his colleague Carmit Valensi. Plus, Syria expert Fred Hof explains how he got Syria so wrong a few years ago.
- Expert Stephen Cook offers a diagnosis and some policy idea for why the Arab Spring came out so differently to what most people expected.
- A useful profile of ISIS “Caliph” Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi.
- AIJAC’s Ari Wenig offers more concrete evidence that Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party is continuing to incite Palestinians to engage in stabbings and other attacks on Israeli civilians.
Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei’s Letter Of Guidelines To President Rohani On JCPOA Sets Nine Conditions Nullifying Original Agreement Announced July 14, 2015
By: Y. Carmon and A. Savyon*
MEMRI, October 22, 2015
On October 21, 2015, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei published a letter of guidelines to Iranian President Hassan Rohani on the execution of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The letter’s publication coincides with the days of the Ashura that are of vital religious and national significance in Iran and symbolize steadfastness against the forces of evil. Intended as an historical document aimed at assuring Iran’s future, the letter was posted on Khamenei’s website in Persian and tweeted from his Twitter account and posted on his Facebook page in English (see Appendices), and published in English by the official Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting authority IRIB (see below). The letter is now a founding document in all things concerning the JCPOA and the conditions under which Iran will be willing to execute it.
The letter, defined by Khamenei on his website as “conditional approval” of the JCPOA, sets several new conditions for Iran’s execution of the agreement. These conditions constitute late and unilateral additions to the agreement concluded three months previously that fundamentally change it. Khamenei stresses that the agreement awaits his opinion following what he calls “precise and responsible examination” in the Majlis and “clearance of this agreement through legal channels” in Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.
It should be further noted that in his introduction to the new conditions, Khamenei attacks the U.S. and President Obama with great hostility, and calls for Obama to be prosecuted by international judiciary institutions. He states that Obama had sent him two letters declaring that he has no intention of subverting the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran, but adds that the U.S.’s support for fitna in Iran (i.e. the popular post-election unrest in 2009), its monetary aid to opponents of the Republic, and its explicit threats to attack Iran have proven the opposite and have exposed the real intent of America’s leaders, whose enmity towards Iran will not end. He wrote that the Americans’ behavior in the nuclear talks is another link in the chain of its enmity towards Iran, that America entered into the talks with the aim of “deception,” and that therefore Iran must remain alert in light of America’s hostile intentions.
The set of conditions laid out by Khamenei creates a situation in which not only does the Iranian side refrain from approving the JCPOA, but, with nearly every point, creates a separate obstacle, such that executing the agreement is not possible.
The following are Khamenei’s nine conditions, and their implications:
Khamenei’s Conditions For Iranian Execution Of The JCPOA
First condition: Khamenei demands that the U.S. and Europe lift the sanctions, not suspend them, and in addition demands “solid and sufficient” guarantees in advance that this will be done, before Iran takes its own steps and meets its own obligations under the agreement. These guarantees, insists Khamenei, must include, inter alia, an official letter from the U.S. president and from the EU undertaking to fully lift the sanctions. Furthermore, he demands that this letter will state that any declaration by the West that the “structure of the sanctions will remain in force” (i.e. allowing snapback) will be considered “non-compliance with the JCPOA” on the part of the West.
Implications: These conditions constitute a total change of the JCPOA. Khamenei is not allowing any execution of the JCPOA by Iran until this is accepted in writing by the other side, and thus he is nullifying the JCPOA as agreed upon on July 14, 2015.
Second condition: Any sanctions against Iran “at every level and on every pretext,” including terrorism and human rights violations, by any one of the countries participating in the negotiations will “constitute a violation of the JCPOA,” and a reason for Iran to stop executing the agreement.
Implications: This demand, that links the JCPOA to other issues and prohibits any punishment of Iran on any issue and for any reason, serves as an excuse for Iran to cancel the agreement.
Third condition: Under the JCPOA, Iran is obligated, following the JCPOA’s Adoption Day, to carry out its obligations concerning changing the function of the nuclear reactor at Arak and shipping out most of its stockpile of enriched uranium. Contrary to this, Khamenei is changing the timetable of the JCPOA, stating that Iran will not carry out these actions until after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) declares that it is closing its dossier on Iran’s “past and future issues (including the so-called Possible Military Dimensions or PMD of Iran’s nuclear program).”
Implications: This demand to change the timetable creates a situation in which Iran will not take action as stipulated in the JCPOA, and will not meet its obligations, before the sanctions are eased, also according to the JCPOA, but instead dictates that the sanctions must first be lifted completely and states that only then will Iran meet its obligations. Khamenei here is creating a situation in which the IAEA will not be able to report on Iran’s meeting of its obligations regarding the Arak reactor and regarding the shipping out of its enriched uranium by the target date of December 15, 2015, because Iran is not going to do so by then thus the execution of the agreement is thwarted from the beginning.
Fourth condition: Iran will meet its obligations to “renovate” and change the purpose of the Arak reactor only after there is a signed agreement on an “alternative plan” for changes to the reactor, and after there is “sufficient guarantee” that this alternative plan will be implemented.
Implications: Iran’s fulfillment of its obligations regarding the Arak reactor, as stipulated by the JCPOA, will be postponed until some unknown future date.
Fifth condition: Iran will carry out its obligation to ship out its enriched uranium to another country in exchange for yellowcake “on a gradual basis and on numerous occasions,” and only after “a secure agreement has been clinched to that effect, along with sufficient guarantees” that this exchange will be implemented.
Implications: The date for Iran to ship out its enriched uranium as stipulated by the JCPOA is postponed until some unknown future date. Khamenei is demanding that Iran receive in exchange for the enriched uranium not raw uranium as per the JCPOA, but instead uranium that has been enriched, albeit to a lower level than the uranium it ships out. This is yet another change to the JCPOA as concluded on July 14, 2015.
Sixth condition: Khamenei instructs President Rohani to begin, along with reducing Iran’s ability to enrich uranium under the JCPOA, immediately to expand Iran’s ability to enrich uranium with a 15-year long-term plan for 190,000 centrifuge SWU (Separative Work Units). “This plan,” he says, “must allay any concern stemming from some points entailed in the JCPOA appendices.”
Implications: This article nullifies the declared goal of the JCPOA, which is to reduce Iran’s nuclear enrichment capabilities.
Seventh condition: The Iranian Atomic Energy Organization must ensure continued nuclear research and development, in its various dimensions, such that in eight years’ time, Iran will not be lacking in enrichment technology. This, he says, is all in accordance with the JCPOA.
Eighth condition: In the event of doubt or ambiguity regarding the content of the JCPOA, the source of authority for removing this doubt or ambiguity will be the content of the talks i.e. it will also include the statements by the Iranian side, not just the “interpretation provided by the opposite party,” that is, the P5+1.
Implications: Any doubt or ambiguity regarding the content of the JCPOA will become the source of unending dispute and will paralyze any possibility of executing the agreement.
Ninth condition: Due to apprehensions that the other side, particularly the U.S., will break its promises or cheat, President Rohani must establish a “well-informed and smart panel” to monitor the execution of the agreement.
Implications: Khamenei is creating an administrative framework for perpetual delays in the execution of the agreement.
Khamenei adds also a 10th condition, directed at Iran, not the P5+1, demanding that Rohani take seriously his instructions in the matter of the “resistance economy,” the main thrust of which is self-reliance instead of basing Iran’s economy on external sources. He also demands that after the sanctions are lifted, there will be no “unbridled imports,” and no imports whatsoever from the U.S.
Political Ramifications In Iran
In February 2016, elections for the Majlis and the Assembly of Experts are set to take place in Iran. The pragmatic camp, headed by Hashemi Rafsanjani and President Rohani, had hoped that a quick execution of the agreement would allow the sanctions to be eased and funds to be released immediately, which in turn would allow the pragmatic camp to present these achievements and triumph in the elections. By setting these conditions, however, Khamenei has thwarted any speedy execution of the agreement, and thus has thwarted the pragmatic camp’s hope for electoral success.
*Y. Carmon is President of MEMRI; A. Savyon is Director of the MEMRI Iran Project.
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Khamenei haggles over the price of American surrender
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Actionbetter known as the Iran nuclear deal was officially adopted Sunday, Oct. 18. Thats nine days ago. Its already a dead letter.
Not that you would have noticed by reading the news or tuning in to State Department or White House briefings. Its too embarrassing to an administration that has invested all of its diplomatic capital in the deal. Also, too inconvenient to the commodity investors, second-tier banks, European multinationals and everyone else who wants a piece of the Iranian market and couldnt care less whether Tehran honors its nuclear bargain.
Yet here we are. Iran is testing the agreement, reinterpreting it, tearing it up line by line. For the U.S.or at least our next presidentthe lesson should be clear: When you sign a garbage agreement, you get a garbage outcome.
Earlier this month Iran test-fired a new-generation ballistic missile, called Emad, with an estimated 1,000-mile range and a 1,600-pound payload. Its only practical military use is to deliver a nuclear warhead. The test was a bald violation of the Security Councils Resolution 2231, adopted unanimously in July, in which Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons for at least eight years.
Then Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei weighed in on the nuclear deal by way of a public letter to President Hassan Rouhani. The behavior and words of the U.S. government in the nuclear issue and its prolonged and boring negotiations, he wrote, showed that [the nuclear issue] was also another link in their chain of hostile enmity with the Islamic Republic.
The Supreme Leaders comments on the nuclear deal have been billed by some reporters as a cautious endorsement of the agreement. Not exactly. They are a unilateral renegotiation of the entire deal, stipulating that the U.S. and everyone else must accept his rewriteor else.
The best analysis of Mr. Khameneis demands comes from Yigal Carmon and Ayelet Savyon of the Middle East Media Research Institute. Demand One: The U.S. and Europe must completely lift, rather than temporarily suspend, their economic sanctions, putting an end to any possibility that penalties could snap back in the event of Irans noncompliance. Demand Two: Sanctions against Iran for its support of terrorism and its human-rights abuses must also go, never mind the Obama administrations insistence that it will continue to punish Iran for its behavior.
Next Mr. Khamenei changes the timetable for Iran to ship out its enriched uranium and modify its plutonium reactor in Arak until the International Atomic Energy Agency gives Iran a pass on all past and future issues (including the so-called Possible Military Dimensions or PMD of Irans nuclear program). So much for the U.N. nuclear watchdog even pretending to monitor Irans compliance with the deal. He also reiterates his call for a huge R&D effort so that Iran will have at least 190,000 centrifuges when the nuclear deal expires.
The set of conditions laid out by Khamenei, Mr. Carmon and Ms. Savyon note in their analysis, creates a situation in which not only does the Iranian side refrain from approving the JCPOA, but, with nearly every point, creates a separate obstacle, such that executing the agreement is not possible.
Thats right, though it doesnt mean Mr. Khamenei intends to stop negotiating. Instead, like in some diplomatic version of Lord Beaverbrooks indecent proposalMadam, we have established what you are; now were just haggling over the priceMr. Khamenei has discovered what the administration is. Now he wants to pocket the concessions he has already gained and wheedle for a bit more.
Little wonder that Iran has upped the contempt factor since the agreement was signed. A day after the missile test, Iran convicted Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. On Monday came reports that Iran may have arrested an Iranian-American businessman in Tehran. Expect similarly brutish insults in the months ahead, all to underline how little Mr. Khamenei thinks of the American president and his outstretched hand.
As for the administration, it would be nice to imagine that it is starting to sense the Ayatollahs disdain. But it isnt. The missile test was met by a wan effort to take appropriate action at the U.N., whatever that might be. Mr. Khameneis letter has been met with almost complete silence, as if ignoring it will make it go away.
Perhaps none of this matters. For all the promises and warnings about the Iran deal, it is nothing more than surrender dressed up as diplomacy. The correlation of forces in the Middle East has shifted in the past year, and Mr. Obama will not lift a finger to restore the balance. Mr. Khamenei knows this, and he is not about to give the U.S. a dignified surrender. Then maybe Mr. Obama knows it, too. He doesnt seem to mind the ignominy.
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Wall Street Journal “Think Tank”, Oct. 20
The notion that the Iranian nuclear agreement might lead Iran to moderate was always a long-term bet. And the Obama Administrations argument that even without that moderation an Iran with a nuclear weapon (or close to one) was far more dangerous than a Tehran without one is a logical and rational conclusion.
But what is clear now is that Islamic Republic regime is not moderating its repressive and authoritarian character but consolidating it. Heres why.
Iran is now more involved in supporting the Assad regime than ever before. Qasem Soleimani, head of the Revolutionary Guards al-Quds force is personally directing a coordinated effort with Russia, the regime, Hezbollah and pro-Iranian Iraqi Shia militias, to take back Aleppo. The Iran, Russia, Assad alliance is a new and likely enduring Middle East reality.
Last week, even as Iran began to take steps to implement the nuclear accord, Tehran tested a new guided long range ballistic missile. The new system is an upgrade in Irans Shihab-3 missiles, in that it can be directed toward its target and may have the capacity to carry nuclear warheads.
The test may have already violated the terms of the nuclear agreement and UN Security Council resolutions, but the reality is that Iran remains determined to upgrade its military capacity and increase its ability to throw its weight around the regime hardly an encouraging sign of moderate predispositions.
If there was hope that the fate of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian would be shaped positively by the nuclear accord, his conviction for spying last week and the political tick-tock in Iranian politics that followed suggests otherwise.
Some kind of deal for free him may yet materialize, but the accusations of an influential Iranian parliamentarian that the reporter was actively spying and cooperating with Iranian reformers, including President Hassan Rouhani, seemed designed to complicate a prisoner swap.
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and other Iranian hardliners want to make it almost impossible to improve U.S.-Iranian relations, and preventing a deal for the Americans Tehran is holding will do precisely that.
The length of the nuclear accord is anywhere from 10 to 25 years depending on the sunset provisions, and we certainly cant rule out changes in Irans behavior at home and abroad. Id simply suggest a few things that argue against a steady, let alone quick, evolution in the character of this regime.
First, the Supreme Leader agreed to this deal because he wanted to consolidate the revolution not weaken it. He is aware of the popular discontent over the countrys economic malaise, international isolation, and repressive social structure. Seeking economic relief from sanctions and improving the economy so that the Iranian public benefits is smart and will ensure regime longevity.
Second, its impossible to separate Irans quest for a weapon or its desire to be a screwdrivers turn away from one from the way the regime perceives itself and its regional ambitions. A nuclear weapon isnt merely a discretionary foreign policy add-on, but is basic to a regime that sees itself as threatened, desires a hedge against regime change, and wants to enhance its power in the region.
If Iran doesnt moderate, its desire to remain a putative nuclear weapons state will remain an important part of its national security agenda. Based on what we know now, prospects of such fundamental change are scan indeed.
If the past is any guide, highly ideological regimes see China, Vietnam, the former Soviet Union and Cuba have proven adept at opening up economically but still retaining authoritarian and repressive control.
Anyone who thinks Iran is on a linear course to moderation ought to lay down until the feeling passes.
Aaron David Miller is a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars and most recently the author of The End of Greatness: Why America Cant Have (and Doesnt Want) Another Great President. He is on Twitter: @AaronDMiller2.