Atlantic Council

Can the IAEA Effectively Verify an Agreement Between Iran and the P5+1?

William Green Miller,
Senior Advisor, US-Iran Program,
Search for Common Ground

Thomas Shea,
Former Safeguards Official,
International Atomic Energy Agency

Jon Wolfsthal,
Senior Director for Nonproliferation and Arms Control,
National Security Council

Jim Walsh,
Research Associate, Security Studies Program,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

John Limbert,
Class of 1955 Professor of Middle Eastern Studies,
U.S. Naval Academy

Barbara Slavin,
Senior Fellow, South Asia Center,
Atlantic Council

Location: Atlantic Council, Washington, D.C.

Time: 9:30 a.m. EDT
Date: Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Transcript By
Superior Transcriptions LLC

BARBARA SLAVIN: OK. Welcome to the Atlantic Council.

Well, we’ve done it again. We have timed a program to follow by one day a historic agreement with Iran. And I’d like to say that I planned it this way, but I think in this case it’s just dumb luck. But as we all know, there’s a lot to digest in this 159-page document that was announced yesterday, and we’re going to welcome your questions about any aspect of the agreement. But our focus today is on one of the most important issues, if not the most important issue, certainly that Congress will be looking at, other critics of the agreement will be looking at, and that’s verification.

Will we know if Iran cheats? What will we do? How will we handle it? Is the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is the organization tasked with doing this verification, is it up to the task of monitoring the deal? And if not, what more might need to be done to augment its capabilities?

To discuss these issues we have a very distinguished panel, including the author of a new study on this very subject, former IAEA official Tom Shea. But first, let me thank the Ploughshares Fund for generously supporting our program. Also the chairman of our task force, Stu Eizenstat. Unfortunately he could not be with us today.

And let me say how absolutely delighted I am that we are co-hosting this event with Search for Common Ground, which, for those of you who don’t know it, is the pioneer in U.S.-Iran track II and people-to-people diplomacy. They took the wrestlers to Iran in 1998. They have done many, many things over the years that have really helped bring us to this day. And I’m going to – before I introduce our other speakers, I’m going to ask Ambassador Bill Miller of Search to say a few words.

I have known Bill for about as long as I’ve been focusing on Iran, which is about 20 years, and at times I have questioned his optimism, his perennial optimism – (chuckles) – about U.S.-Iran relations. But once again, he has proven that he is more farsighted than the rest of us. So, Ambassador Miller, if you would come up and say a few words, and then we’ll get to the rest of our program.

WILLIAM GREEN MILLER: Thank you, Barbara. You’re a stalwart friend and a source of optimism.

MS. SLAVIN: (Off mic.) (Laughter.)

MR. MILLER: (Laughs.)

I want to thank the Atlantic Council for having this event today and being our gracious host.

When we scheduled this event, we did not know the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action would be issued just yesterday. And this is an historic agreement by any standard, even by standards of decades. We are pleased that this is so well-timed and the Atlantic Council has been able to mobilize the talent that’s going to speak today.

My interest in Iran began as a Foreign Service officer well before the revolution. This was in 1959. As it happened, this was the beginning of the Iranian nuclear program. The Iranian nuclear program owes almost everything to the United States. Its physicists and engineers were trained in the United States. And as a part of the Atoms for Peace program of Eisenhower, we even sent David Lilienthal to Iran to work out an energy program – a comprehensive energy program: water/hydro, gas and oil, nuclear. People have forgotten that in 1959 Lilienthal recommended that Iran have 22 nuclear power reactors and use its gas and oil for infrastructure. This legacy extends to this day. Iran has a program that stems from that.

From that time when I served in Iran, I’ve maintained my interest. And I want to quote from a letter that I carried with Ramsey Clark on November 6th, 1979, a letter from Jimmy Carter to Ayatollah Khomeini. And I want to read one paragraph: “I have asked both men to meet with you and to hear from you your perspective on events in Iran and problems that have arisen between our two countries. The people of the United States desire to have relations with Iran based on equality, mutual respect and friendship.” It’s taken 36 years to carry that out. And John Limbert experienced part of those 36 years in prison, and he’s one of the optimists who believes that relations with Iran make sense.

Now I have the job as senior advisor for Search for Common Ground’s Iran program. For 10 years, Iran and Search have worked together to carry out the fragments, the beginnings, the baseline for civilized relations between our countries. We’ve tried everything: movies, poetry, art, astronauts, wrestlers, soccer players, basketball players, scholars, politicians. Most important: scientists and people who understand the Middle East.

I want to describe the beginnings of the Tom Shea paper, which is of direct relevance here today. It was clear to many of us that any agreement with Iran would depend on the ability of the terms of the agreement being verified – monitored fully, carefully, effectively. And it was the suggestion of senior members from the Senate who anticipated that an agreement was pending that the key issue before the Congress would be whether the terms of an agreement with Iran could be monitored effectively, so that if there was any direction away from peaceful uses it would be detected in time to take effective action. That was the baseline problem. The question then immediately arose: Was IAEA good enough to fulfill that task? And for the past year we have been engaged in efforts to make that determination.

Over a year ago I asked Tom Shea, after meeting with him and hearing high praise for his work over a quarter of a century in the IAEA and as a scientist in American institutions, to undertake a study of the efficacy of the IAEA, how it works, how it might in fact undertake the task of monitoring an expected agreement. He has done this job and he’s done it very well, and I suggest that you pick up copies of the summary outside this room.

I want to thank Ploughshares – and particularly Joe Cirincione, the president of Ploughshares, for his continued efforts to bring about a rational solution to one of the great questions of arms control. We owe much to his support over the years.

I want to thank, in particular, Barbara Slavin, a dear friend who brings the best of journalism and scholarship to her job. And she continues to lead the way on the best approaches to Iran.

Jim Walsh is a close friend, and we have struggled together in the task of bringing sense and rationality to our national leadership through the Iran project.

John Limbert, of course, is a dear friend. I’m sorry that we weren’t able to extract you forthwith, but we have made up for it.

Thank you, Barbara. And thank you, Tom, for your good work.

MS. SLAVIN: Thank you, Bill.

I neglected, when we began this, to tell you a little bit more about Bill Miller. He told you that he was in Iran before the revolution as a Foreign Service officer, but he was also U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, where he helped negotiate the elimination of Ukraine’s nuclear weapons arsenal. He also served for 14 years on Capitol Hill. He was staff director for three Senate committees, including the Select Committee on Intelligence. So this is a man who knows from – of what he speaks.

I’m now going to introduce Tom Shea. Tom served for 24 years in the IAEA Department of Safeguards. He helped to design the safeguard system, develop implementation arrangements for enrichment plants and research isotope production reactors, reactor fuel manufacturing plants, reprocessing plants, and power reactors employing plutonium fuels. He supervised inspections in facilities in Japan, China, India and other countries. After he retired from the IAEA, he served as sector head, defense nuclear nonproliferation programs at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. He received his Ph.D. in nuclear science and engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic, and he was awarded the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management Distinguished Service Award.

I’m going to have Tom Shea come up and talk a little bit about his new paper, which is available in its entirety online, and then I will introduce our other speakers. Dr. Shea.

THOMAS SHEA: Thank you very much.

And is there anyone here who hasn’t read the new agreement? (Laughter.) If so, I would start off with “shame on you” and “get to it.”

So this activity having just produced a document – was it only yesterday? I’ve sort of lost track of time. The article that I’ve been working on for Search for Common Ground is in a state of now trying to cope with the reality of the specific agreement, and so it’ll take a few days before the final issue is ready.

So starting off, then, 25 years ago the IAEA system was overhauled after it was discovered that there were clandestine nuclear weapon programs in Iraq and in North Korea in particular. And while those set a strong precedent for today, in effect they compelled the international community to overhaul that system and make it relevant to the threats of today. And so the efforts that took place, the technologies that have been applied, the authorities that have been given, the size of the organization and its reach, all of those things have essentially been reinvented since 1990.

So today, with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the steps that are agreed are relatively straightforward and, in my sense of having been in this business for 45 years, a remarkable departure from the laissez faire kind of attitude which more often than not prevailed when there was no possibility for a consensus, especially among the P5. So with that, this new agreement, which is extraordinarily detailed and in depth, will need to be studied, and what the conditions are will need to be analyzed in terms of obligations and commitments, resources and things of that sort.

So the IAEA in its application of verification measures will have five challenges that it will now have to confront. First is to discover any additional hidden facilities which may not have come to light – whether there are any or not I certainly don’t know – or whether there’s any new construction from now on. And the next is to verify that the known facilities are not misused as part of an ongoing nuclear weapons or a resurgent nuclear weapons program. The third is to verify that the declared nuclear materials in the country remain accounted for and used exclusively for peaceful purposes. Fourth is to track imports into the country which may include banned materials, dual-use materials/equipment, and make certain that those things that are permitted under the provisions of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action are used for the purposes indicated, and that other activities do not take place. The IAEA will have to seek to verify the limitations that are included in the Joint Plan of Action and to verify that those are not exceeded during the time that this goes on.

For today, given the time constraints, I’m going to concentrate on this question of the hidden facilities, which – you may prefer the term “clandestine” or “undeclared.” All three terms are essentially synonymous now.

I’d like you to remember to note that Iran is more than twice the size of Texas, so we’re dealing with a very large landmass filled with mountainous terrain and complicating arrangements.

So to succeed at this verification objective in relation to these clandestine facilities, the IAEA would first need to identify a suspicious location. It would then need to seek corroborative information that confirms, before it makes any forward advances, whether or not there’s any reason that that suspicion is warranted. It would then define a location and specification in sufficient detail to request access. This is sort of like getting a warrant for someone’s arrest, the same kind of a process of building a case and then going forward with it. It would then define how an inspection visit would attempt to clarify the characteristics of this particular site, whether there’s reason for suspicion or reason for determining that it is innocent. Then they would define their inspection team and secure the resources that the team would require, arrange for the analytical services that would be necessary. Depending upon the findings, that may go forward.

Now, Iran is – one of its commitments is to implement an Additional Protocol, which is an extension to a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement that grew out of the situation in DPRK and in Iraq in the early ’90s, as I mentioned. This instrument requires ratification. It is currently in force in 126 countries. So the effort to gain acceptance has been long and arduous. I’d say none of these 126 countries are really hot-button problem countries, so it’s mostly a case of building this common base, the foundation for application. Iran will be different. Iran has agreed to provisionally implement its Additional Protocol and eight years later to seek its ratification in the parliament.

The information that will be available to the IAEA will be varied and – (sound of emergency sirens) – thank you. And in terms of the 1990s with Iraq and North Korea, the information that’s used by the IAEA now is – includes the following.

First, anything that comes from safeguards and its practice – information that’s gathered through inspections in the field, through verification of design information for declared facilities, any activities that it takes in acquiring samples or knowledge that come to its attention.

It has a program of going through open-source data mining. This is a practice which has come about in the ’90s already and continues to be refined where – it’s not like the National Security Agency looking through email or anything of that sort, but it scans through all publications, scholarly publications and the like, for related subjects, and that information is sometimes revealing.

It looks at export information on unknown activities. There are connections to several suppliers, particularly as grew out of the situation in Iraq, where companies that made such things as vacuum pumps that are essential for an enrichment plant were – some people went to prison because of selling equipment for purposes that were clearly not consistent with the laws of the nations involved. So some of those companies now have direct links to the IAEA and inform them when they have suspicious requests for 200 vacuum pumps for a hospital or something that would be equally crazy.

One of the – we should also remember that earlier in Iran one of the sources of information were dissidents, political dissidents which broke the news about the Natanz enrichment plant. And presumably this – the political union of – unification of Iran is not 100 percent, and so that would be a risk if Iran were to take a step in that direction that its own people might once again decide to reveal that.

With the development of these – both of those countries – Iraq and North Korea – the provision of intelligence information to the IAEA began – became a common – not completely common, but a practice which was carried out with some degree of uniformity. There is a stipulation in the IAEA statute – if anybody is interested, it’s Article A – VIII.A – and it’s one sentence, one that says if a state has information which it believes would be helpful to the IAEA in carrying out its activities, it should make that information available. So now this – according to the director-general’s reports to the board, more than 10 countries have provided information on Iran. That is a part of the safeguards fabric at this point. So the statutory permission would – will hopefully be interpreted more of an encouragement. Eventually maybe it even becomes something more of an expectation, and maybe even there’s some latent culpability for states that fail to provide information.

Then the last thing I’ll mention are environmental samples, which is a science which grew out of the Cold War, during which time the laboratories, like the Pacific Northwest Lab in particular, were monitoring fallout samples from China and the Soviet Union to track the development of their nuclear weapons as they advanced in stages with various more modern features being incorporated. The technology has been now used by the IAEA. Initially it was a technology which was made available to them by, in particular, Americans laboratories, but also others. And today is it a capability that the IAEA has established its own laboratory, paid for in part by the United States, but with German and Canadian equipment and various other countries participating.

This sounds like something that’s very science-fictiony, but – or more like crime-scene investigation kind of a thing, where you take a – you can – in a – in a facility anywhere, you take a swipe of something, and with this swipe you can then put this – whatever comes off onto a piece of plastic, put it into a nuclear reactor, and individual particles, which weigh on the order of a picogram, which is a million-millionth of a gram, will show damage, fission damage. And once you can identify these particles and you can pick them out, put them into an instrument that will tell what the chemical composition is, what the elements are that are involved, what their isotopic composition is, what the morphology of the particle is, so that you get a tremendous amount of information from this kind of activity. You have to know where to look and you have to be careful that you don’t cross-contaminate, and you have to be very cautious about leaping to conclusions. So, again, you want very, very careful attention to the collection and analysis problem.

But this is one the mainstays. The other is the access to satellite imagery, which, in the time of North Korea in particular, U.S. intelligence forces provided satellite imagery on North Korea which was very revealing during the Board of Governors discussion of what was going on in Yongbyon. Today they have commercial companies which provide capabilities which are better than the intelligence capabilities back then. And the IAEA has its own contracts and it has an intelligence – excuse me, intelligence – a satellite imagery analysis group that buys these images and looks at them, et cetera. Sometimes they have their own justification for wanting to know what’s going on. Sometimes they may receive information from a country that would suggest that a particular location is something that they might want to pay attention to.

So this first investigation with satellite imagery costs relatively little. It’s not intrusive. It doesn’t require the permission of anybody. And it gives you information which may be very helpful, may be completely revealing. And if you have a suspicion, then one of the things you would want to do is to continue to look at this site as you go forward with further inquiries to determine whether or not anything would happen.

So with the – with the Additional Protocol coming into force, one of its provisions is what’s called an Arrangement for Complimentary Access. These are not inspections, but they are access which is complimentary to inspections. And so they still require a process where a request is made and the request is then reviewed by the government of Iran, and hopefully they grant access and so on. And that long chain of events that I told you about, preparations, then gets put into place and the inspectors go off and do their work.

The agency has established channels for making these, of course, and the findings – if they’re innocent, then the report is – becomes part of the database on all things known about Iran and its verification. And if the findings are inconclusive, additional measures may be necessary. Maybe you want to expand the scope of activities. Maybe you wish to arrange for additional visits. Maybe there were suggestions that this might be connected to something else. And so there’s a lot of information which is analyzed on an ongoing basis to determine how best to steer this process.

If the findings are suspicious, then you start to ramp up with political inquiries leading to the – perhaps the director general being in a conversation with a resident representative or with a visit to the country to get information on what’s happening. And at some point, a discussion may advance to the Board of Governors, and at this point this – the commission that’s to be created is somehow informed. I’m not 100 percent clear yet as to exactly what that process will be. But in any case, then the opportunities for further inquiry and intervention will become clear.

So for the IAEA to succeed, it needs clear authority for these tasks. And again, if we go back to the time of Iraq and North Korea, there is a provision in the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement that all parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty have to have, and it’s all – these are all identical. They’re all according to a model. And one of the provisions is for a special inspection, and it is not limited in any sense to any place or any activity at all. The problem is that it requires consultation and, in effect, an approval. And the one time that it was really important, it was attempted, was in North Korea, and the North Koreans refused to allow it, and to this day have refused. So the information that was charged – in particular, the question of a hidden waste facility that would be used to hide the fact that their reprocessing activity operated extensively, more than declarations – would be revealed.

So whether this is a mechanism that is viable or not, it’s been lying in a ditch since then. Whether it ever gets resurrected or not isn’t clear.

So the Additional Protocol, as I mentioned. And then what’s coming now is a U.N. Security Council resolution. And watch this space. That’ll be a very important document to observe to see how it addresses this – the tasking, to what extent the agency is given additional authority. In particular, things like verification of centrifuge manufacturing, the actual devices, are not at all within the scope of safeguards, and so there would be some extensions of authority that are appropriate as part of this agreement.

The IAEA will require continued financial support. The process for financing agency activities is to get approval. I should wind back again. The IAEA is a member of the United Nations family of organizations. As such, it has its own membership and it has its own budget. And it has a formula for assessing members in accordance with an approved budget to carry out its programs. To change that requires, today, the approval of the 35 governors, which is very difficult under any circumstance. And so whether all 35 would be enough or whether it – forcing it to a vote is usually not the way that the agency would operate. So I would hope that part of the American perspective on how it can make this effort succeed is to consider a contingency grant to the agency of something on the order of ($)50 million, which sounds like a nice, round number. It’s much smaller than the – I have to say I don’t know exactly – in relation to the police force for Washington, D.C., I think it’s very modest, OK?

In addition, technological support has continued – must be continued. There are today member states voluntary support programs that do research and development for the IAEA. Those exist in 20 countries and in the European Atomic Energy – Euratom – organization. The American program is still the largest. I think current funding is above ($)15 million a year or so. Without that, there’s no hope that you can solve continuing problems. There are any number of new ideas that are always – you know, the scientists and engineers are really smart guys, and they come up with a lot of ideas, and some percentage of them actually pan out. A lot of them are wacky and go nowhere. But in any case, the questions of finding a facility in a place twice the size of Texas will require every bit of attention that we can get. So that, financial support.

The political support that is so amazing to me – the most amazing thing about this agreement to me so far is that the coalition of the P5 had held together, with Germany, throughout these several years of negotiation. And I can only hope that that will continue to be the case.

So with that, I will stop my prepared remarks and respond to any questions in the course of the discussion. Thank you. (Applause.)

MS. SLAVIN: Thank you very much.

I’m going to introduce our other speakers now. We are very lucky that we have a representative of the administration who’s just joined us. Jon Wolfsthal is the senior director for nonproliferation and arms control at the National Security Council. He has served previously as senior adviser to Vice President Joe Biden for nuclear security, and he’s worked at the Monterey Institute, Carnegie Endowment, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He’s the co-author of “Deadly Arsenals; Tracking Weapons of Mass Destruction.”

And then let me introduce the other two members of our panel, who will come up to – after Jon speaks.

Jim Walsh is an expert in international security and a research associate at MIT in their Security Studies Program. His research and writings focus on international security and topics involving nuclear weapons and the Middle East. He’s testified before the Senate on nuclear terrorism and on Iran’s nuclear program, and he’s one of a handful of Americans – actually, I’m one of them, too – who has traveled to both Iran and North Korea – and Jon, OK – for talks with – we like the rogues, what can I tell you? – for talks with officials about nuclear issues. And he’s served as executive director of Managing the Atom Project at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and as a visiting scholar at the Center for Global Security Research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. And he’s taught at both Harvard and MIT, and like many of the negotiators he received his Ph.D. from MIT.

And then last, but definitely not least, John Limbert is the Class of 1955 Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the U.S. Naval Academy. He’s had a 34-year career in the U.S. Foreign Service, mostly in the Middle East and Islamic Africa. He was ambassador to Mauritania. In 2009-2010 he came out of retirement to serve as deputy assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, focused on Iran, and he helped craft some of the language that President Obama has used in his Nowruz messages, has taught the U.S. government how to speak to Iran. And he should know: he served in Iran before the revolution. He was a guest of the ayatollah for 444 days. He holds a Ph.D. from Harvard in history and Middle Eastern studies. He has also authored many books on Iran, including “Shiraz in the Age of Hafez” and “Negotiating with Iran.”

So first I’m going to ask Jon to come up, talk about verification. Is this deal as foolproof as we can make it? And any other comments you’d like to make about this agreement that was reached yesterday. And then we’ll have a panel discussion and take your questions.

JON WOLFSTHAL: Good morning.

Thank you, Barbara. On the one hand I want to congratulate Barbara for being so farsighted that she scheduled this event on this day. Either that or she has a very good source inside the U.S. government, or both. (Laughter.) She was obviously not – she didn’t need higher brain function to assemble the people that are going to be on this panel today, and I’m honored to be grouped with Tom and Jim and the ambassador.

What I’ll do for a few minutes is just talk about the deal that we have negotiated and why we believe it is very much a good deal and in our security interests.

And then I’m sure we’ll have a chance to talk about the support for the IAEA and the role that plays, because we recognize that that is a critical component. This deal works if the inspections and the verification provisions work. We have high confidence that the verification provision of this deal will work because we are committed to them and because of the agency’s capabilities that are proven, demonstrated. And in fact, the agency is the only organization on the planet today that has the track record and the capability to be able to do this job. And we’re very thankful that they’re there, and that’s one of the reasons that we support them so consistently.

So just very basically and very briefly, this is a good deal. This is a very good deal. If you had told us coming out of Lausanne that we would have not only met but exceeded all of the benchmarks that we’d laid out in Lausanne, we’d have been skeptical. But we’ve been able to achieve that.

It is built, as I said, on verification, not just for the interim period but over the long term. Iran’s responsibility to abide by the Additional Protocol is in perpetuity. It is not sunset. It is not limited. Their requirement to abide by the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and not to seek or acquire or pursue or develop nuclear weapons is permanent, and we have the ability to verify that under this agreement.

Sanctions relief, which a lot of criticism has already been focused on, does not take place until Iran comes back into full compliance. There is no signing bonus. There is no big pot of money that Iran gets the day they all, you know, get home and open up their suitcases and we all do our laundry, right? Iran has to do a lot of very difficult things that they have been unwilling to do for many decades in order to get sanctions relief. And then, once that is achieved, we have a significant period of time where sanctions can snap back into place on our authority. It’s a remarkable conclusion, but if you read through the documentation the United States – obviously, the president can rescind his waiver of sanctions with the stroke of a pen. We have the authority under this agreement, as does any member of the U.N. Security Council permanent body – the veto-wielding members of the P5 – can call for a U.N. Security Council resolution, and through its exercise of its veto can snap the U.N. sanctions back into place. We don’t need Russia. We don’t need China. And they cannot use their veto to block the reimposition of sanctions over this period.

There are a lot of people who say, well, you know, Iran’s getting all these rewards, they’re getting let off the hook. I don’t know – I haven’t been to Iran since 2006. Were you there ‘(0)5, ‘(0)6? When was your –

MR. : Yeah.

MR. WOLFSTHAL: So, you know, over the last 10 years, Iran has paid a significant penalty. Billions and billions and billions of dollars of scrutiny, of tension, of conflict in the region. This is a price that Iran has had to pay because they violated their legal commitments. This agreement gives them a pathway to come back into compliance, and therefore once they come back into compliance can do what other states in compliance with their Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations can do. But in the case of Iran, it will be limited for a significant period of time – in some cases 10 years, in other cases 15, 20 or 25 years – in a way that other Non-Proliferation Treaty members are not limited. So they are paying a price for their behavior, and it’s one that I think is very significant.

We’ve talked a lot about the four potential pathways that Iran has to a nuclear weapon. All four pathways for Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon are cut off under this agreement, effectively and verifiably.

Their uranium enrichment facility at Natanz will be strictly limited, will be under 24/7/365 monitoring, both in human presence or in remote access monitoring, live camera feeds, radio identification tamper seals. We will know everything that goes on in that facility. If a rat takes up residence, we will be there and we will know about it.

Fordow will not be a uranium enrichment facility. They will have some centrifuges there. They can do stable isotope separation. Once that happens, they will no longer be usable for uranium enrichment. No uranium is permitted in the – no nuclear material is permitted in Fordow for a significant period of time. And even once that long period of time takes place, the IAEA will have permanent access to that facility.

The plutonium reactor, or the reactor at Arak that can produce weapons-grade plutonium, the heart of that reactor will be ripped out and treated so that it can never again be used in a reactor, and will be redesigned so that it cannot produce weapons-usable plutonium. How do we know that? Because we get to help design the fuel, we get to help manage the reactor, we get to verify and inspect it 24/7.

So, again, the declared facilities, if Iran even attempts to try and misuse those, we will know within days. More likely we will know within hours. And then they will still be a year away from their ability to acquire enough material to build their first nuclear weapon. So the international alarm system will be functioning.

What’s very important here – because the breakout scenario is one that some people think is really less likely – it’s the sneak out scenario. We believe, given the inspection capabilities and given the knowledge that this agreement will give us into Iran’s nuclear activities, that our ability to detect an undeclared nuclear facility or undeclared nuclear activity is greatly increased as a result. Given the IAEA’s ability and rights under the Additional Protocol, given the modern technology, equipment that we’ll be able to use under the Additional Protocol and under the JCPOA, it is extremely unlikely that Iran could build anything of significance and begin to operate it without being detected.

Now, we’re being asked already, well, could they have a small facility where some guy is drawing pictures of a nuclear weapon? We do not suggest that this verification plan will prevent any and all minor activity that could be related to a possible nuclear interest. What we can say is that nothing that Iran could achieve under this verification provision gets them any closer to building a nuclear bomb, and that anything of significance – trying to build a reprocessing facility, which they’re not allowed to have for at least 15 years; trying to enrich uranium at another site – they don’t have access to other sources of uranium, they’re not allowed to have centrifuges at any other facility. But if they tried it, we’d be able to detect that facility either through satellite or intelligence means. The IAEA would have the right to go there. And if Iran refused access, they would be by definition in violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and again the United States could unilaterally reimpose Security Council and domestic sanctions.

So we don’t claim that, as Barbara said, you know, is this verification plan foolproof? Iran can’t get any closer to a nuclear weapon under this verification plan without us knowing about it. That is the standard that we are trying to achieve. And it’s one that, quite frankly, while we will be pushing the IAEA and giving them additional capabilities, is well within their ability to implement.

This was the organization that got it right in Iraq. Iraq had no ongoing nuclear weapons program. The IAEA said so. They were right. Not only that, the IAEA, when it was alleged that Iraq was seeking sources of uranium in Africa, within 36 hours the IAEA knew that document was a forgery, right? This is the organization that we know can do this job. But to ensure that they will be able to do this job effectively and efficiently, the United States and the P5 partners will be working with other member states to ensure that they have the technology, the resources, and, as Tom said, the people needed to do this job without draining resources from other important responsibilities.

That will take money, but quite frankly, it is a bargain, as the IAEA has always been. It is a bargain compared to what it takes to try and surveil Iran’s nuclear program on our own. It is a bargain compared to the military preparations that we would have to take in order to head off a nuclear weapons program in Iran. And it is a bargain in terms of what the IAEA does for international peace and security. So we will ensure, as will our partners, that the IAEA has the resources it needs to carry out this job. And it’s only because of the work by people like Tom and the inspectors, who often spend many weeks if not months away from their homes, on location, doing this job in the most professional manner possible, that we’ll be able to have an agreement like this that we believe will stand the test of time.

So with that, I’m happy to turn things over. (Applause.)


MS. SLAVIN: Thank you so much. Very, very useful remarks.

I’m actually going to start with a question to John Limbert, who unfortunately has to leave us a little bit early this morning, and then we’ll get back into the technical discussion.

So, John, I just wanted to ask for your reflections on this agreement as somebody who has a unique experience in Iran, shall we say. You’ve written an excellent piece for the Cairo Review that I read recently about the ghosts of history. To what extent are we exorcising these ghosts? And what is your personal sense – do you – knowing Iran as you do, and having suffered really the worst of Iran, do you think they will implement this deal faithfully? And do you think it does represent some kind of turning point for the regime?

JOHN LIMBERT: Well, thank you, Barbara.

And let me also thank Ambassador Miller, who really undertook a humanitarian – both humanitarian and political mission back in 1979. And what we’re seeing now is essentially President Carter’s letter getting a response after 36 years. And we’re also seeing, of course, President Obama’s outreach efforts, which he began, in fact, as Senator Obama back in 2007 – with the opposition, I should say, ironically of then-Senator Hillary Clinton – those efforts also bearing fruit.

But really it comes down – it comes down to the word that you hear so much is trust and mistrust. And what you hear from the opponents in both – in both capitals is very similar. You hear “we cannot trust them.” And you can interchange the “we” and the “them” according to where you – where you are. And this is a real issue.

Just give you one quick – one quick example of this. A few years ago the Iranians announced that they were ready to switch on their power station, their nuclear power station at Bushehr, this old project going back to the ’70s which I believe – people tell me at the time they bought it was obsolete German equipment to build this thing in the – in the – in the mid-’70s. Well, in, you know, 2010-2011, they were ready to switch it on. And someone asked then-Secretary of State Clinton, what do you think about this? And she said, oh, we’re not worried about it. We know what it is. We know the technology. We know the safeguards. We’re well aware – we’re well aware it’s not something that we – you know, that we’re concerned about. Then they went back – the reporters then asked an Iranian official – and I don’t remember who it was – they asked him, well, what do you think about this? You know, what do you think about the secretary’s statement? And her answer – the answer was, well, I don’t know what it is, but I know there’s a trick somewhere. (Laughter.) You know, the Americans just don’t say that – don’t say that.

And what we’ve seen, the phenomenon – we’ve seen variations of this phenomenon in both places. In the U.S., we’ve seen what I call the rise of the geneticists. (Laughter.) We’ve heard things like – from a senior official, we’ve heard things like deception is in Iranian DNA. Well, you know, geneticists talk about DNA. We’ve also heard this – something similar from a very distinguished retired military officer who’s now the president of a – one of the great universities in this country, who talked about imperialism, Persian imperialism, is in Iranian DNA. Where does this stuff come from? You know, what – where do – you know, where do the – where do people start being geneticists? I mean, I’m about – they’re about as equally qualified if I were talking about nuclear physics than to talk about – than to talk about genetics.

Well, to quote Lyndon Johnson – or to paraphrase Lyndon Johnson, because I’m not going to quote him in this G-rated presentation – (laughter) – he once said, you know, I don’t know much, but I know the difference between chicken soup and chicken salad. (Laughter.) Now, he didn’t say – he used an earthier expression. (Laughter.) But you know, when I hear the – when I hear people pretending to be geneticists, you know that you – you know what – (inaudible).

But the issue does come down to trust. And we – you know, again, you hear it again: we can’t trust them. And if you go to Iran events in this town – to Iran events in this town, and there is – you know, this is the – these are some of the outstanding ones – but you will – you know, you will hear things like, well, we know the Iranians are working for a nuclear bomb. And the question is, well, how do you know? And the answer is, because they are bad people, and variations of – variations of that.

But I would – and I would answer your question, you know, at the end – sort of long answer – get back to the answer this way. This issue of trust – you know, people say – ask me, do you trust the Iranians? Do you trust the Iranians? And what I say is no, because to quote the president, the president said you don’t make agreements like this with your friends. You know, you don’t spend two years and, you know, a hundred and some pages of all of this detail with a country that you have immediate trust with.

But I – you know, as someone who practiced diplomacy for 30-some years, not always very successfully, but I’ve – when I hear these comments, here’s what I – where I come out. I say, diplomacy, what is it? Basically, it’s making imperfect agreements with people you neither like nor trust – imperfect agreements with dubious – perhaps with dubious people. And if you think about the history of the Cold – that, essentially, is what kept us safe in the Cold War for 40 or 50 – for 40 or 50 years. And that’s what this agreement is about. It’s not about – it is – it is not about trust. It is about, as we are saying here, verification.

MS. SLAVIN: OK. Thanks, John.

I’m going to ask all three of our other speakers to look specifically at the verification issue and the nature of the Iranian nuclear program. As Ambassador Miller pointed out, it began in 1959 and the United States is largely responsible. We gave Iran all of this technology at the beginning and even supported the idea of 22 civilian power reactors for Iran.

There’s been a certain momentum to the program, with fits and starts. Ayatollah Khomeini stopped it for a while. Is started again during the Iran-Iraq War. Are you all confident that Iran is satisfied with the level that it has reached for now, that it’s satisfied with the agreement and will carry it out faithfully for the next 10 years or so, and that its object really isn’t a weapon, that it’s satisfied with being at this you can call it a threshold state, however you want to describe it? And I’ll start with you, Jon.

MR. WOLFSTHAL: Well, I want to be very clear that we believe that Iran, having signed the agreement, has the authority and they have determined that this agreement is in their interest, as have we and other members of the P5+1. Our expectation is that Iran is going to faithfully implement this agreement, but we are not leaving that to trust. The verification provisions will give us a ready ability to determine whether or not Iran is going to comply with that agreement, and that’s true in day 20 as it is in day 2,020.

In terms of Iran’s satisfaction, I can’t tell. Satisfaction is an emotion. What Iran is required to do is to lay out a detailed research and development plan, and to declare to the IAEA what its prospective plans are. Those plans have to be consistent with both the spirt and the letter of the Joint Comprehensive Plan in (sic; of) Action. And it is then for the United States and other members of the P5+1 to determine whether their proposed plan is consistent.

Because of the details of the plan, both that we have and that will be provided the IAEA, we have very high confidence that the predictability and transparency of that plan well out into the future, well past year 10 – where some of the restrictions expire but many of them remain in place, particularly a cap on enrichment level at 3.67 percent, a strictly defined progression in terms of their uranium centrifuge research and development – that they are satisfied. What they – where they will go in the future in terms of nuclear power plant development, which is their right as a nuclear – a non-nuclear member of the NPT, is for them to decide, as long as it is in conformity with their obligations.

And in some ways this – obviously, all of this is very complicated. But in some ways it comes down to a basic principle, which is under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, they are obligated not to seek or pursue in any way nuclear weapons. If we believe, either through intelligence information or through the conduct of their nuclear affairs, that they are out of compliance with that, we can find ourselves right back in the situation that we inherited when we took office in 2009 and that led to this negotiation that culminated with this agreement. But in terms of their – how they feel internally about it, that’s for them to choose.

MS. SLAVIN: Before my other two speakers, let me just ask you about the PMD question, which has also come up – the possible military dimensions. They have to satisfy the IAEA by December 15th?

MR. WOLFSTHAL: They actually have to satisfy the IAEA by October, and the IAEA must provide a report to the Board of Governors in December. So –

MS. SLAVIN: And there is no sanctions relief without that?


MS. SLAVIN: Is there a date in October?

MR. WOLFSTHAL: I’ll have to take a look. It may be the 15th, it may – but essentially this issue, which has been lingering well before – well, for many years as they conducted a nuclear weapons program prior to 2003, has been lingering because the Iranians felt that they would admit or they would have to give access, that the IAEA would write a report, and that we would use that to impose further sanctions on them. We have found a formula which says if you abide by the principles of access – the IAEA is satisfied that it gets to the people, places and things that it needs to to do its work, both so they can complete their investigation and so that five years from now Iran can’t say, well, you didn’t need to go into the facility back then, why do you need to go into the facility now – then we are prepared to move forward with this. But without that commitment and follow-through to access, there will be no sanctions relief and we won’t have a deal.


Jim, your thoughts on the Iranian program and whether this – they will implement it.

JIM WALSH: Yeah. Well, let’s – I think it’s important to step back and put this in some sort of context when we think about verification. This is not our first rodeo. This is not the first time we’ve wrestled with the problems of verification and potential cheating. We have done this for decades. We have had agreements with bad actors, be they the Soviet Union or Moammar Gadhafi. And we find ourselves now with that decades of experience in a situation where, like with every arms control and every nonproliferation agreement, you’re trying to sort of identify how risky this is and what is our level of confidence.

It seems to me the first place to start is where the director of national intelligence, the U.S. top intel official, begins. And he says Iran had a nuclear weapons program, which it ended in 2003. It has a basic nuclear capability. You can’t bomb the knowledge of how to build a centrifuge out of their heads. But that they have not made a decision to pursue nuclear weapons. So every time you hear in the media that says Iran is racing to the bomb, that is in direct violation of what the U.S. intelligence community has come to conclude at high confidence.

And so they’re at this fork in the road. They’re not going for the bomb. They’re at a fork in the road, and this is a chance to lock them into their nuclear future. So I think it’s actually quite – when you compare the other verification challenges we’ve had, and with which we have had success, this is a pretty good situation to be dealing with. It’s the most-watched country in the world. I assure you that Israel, Saudi Arabia and opposition groups in Iran are going to look for the slightest hint of noncompliance in addition to everything else that we’ll be doing and the IAEA is doing. So I feel pretty good about it. I feel good at least about the near term.

It would be odd for Iran to negotiate an agreement in which there was more intrusive inspection, where there were more inspectors on the ground with greater mandate, and then cheat. That would be a pretty dumb thing to do, right? If you’re going to cheat or do stuff, you wouldn’t open it up and then cheat.

Now, they may change, right? The regime may change. Some point in the future things may be different. They may try to reverse that. But what we’re doing now is locking them into a situation before they’ve made a decision to pursue that nuclear weapon. So I think that’s a favorable verification environment.

I don’t want to go on for too long. Your remarks were right on course. But I think part of what we face here is, understandably, the American public and members of Congress have the – an idea about verification frozen in their minds that goes to the early 1990s.

MS. SLAVIN: Anywhere, anytime.

MR. WALSH: You know, to Iraq and North Korea. And you know, obviously the Iraq situation’s very different. That was, you know, imposing against their will a verification regime. Setting that aside. And so that’s the way people think about it.

Well, as you’ve suggested, this is not your father’s IAEA anymore, right? We’ve entered the digital age. I remember what my first computer was like in the early 1990s, you know? And it was a lot of putting disks in and out and things like that. We have tools, science and technologies available to us that the agency could not have imagined then, including open source, digital, all the rest of it. And we have a strengthened mandate. The way the regime has – it hasn’t been fixed. It’s been dynamic. There have been crises, and then the international community respond to that crisis by writing new rules that are stronger. So the Additional Protocol, where did that come from? That came directly from the problems with Iraq. So crisis, iteration, improvement. Crisis, iteration, improvement. That has been the story of IAEA.

And I will say they’ll continue to be helped. I think onsite inspection will be critical, but they will be supplemented by so-called national technical means, all the intel agencies in the world. And I think one of the things the Snowden revelations would suggest is the U.S. has robust intelligence capabilities. (Laughter.)

And I’ll conclude with this one quick story. It sort of points to the fact there are lots of ways to do verification. It’s not one thing; there are lots of ways. You might have heard the story of the overanxious lawyer who was defending a client of having been accused of biting off the finger of a man in a bar fight. And the witness for the prosecution is on the stand, and the defense lawyer gets up, defending this guy, and he says, well, were you in the room when this happened? Yes, sir, I was. And did you see my client bite the finger off Mr. Jones? And he says, no, I didn’t. He says, no, you didn’t? You didn’t see my client bite off his finger, and yet you’re up here? You know, why are you so confident that he did that? And the person replies, well, I saw him spit it out. (Laughter.) And that’s another way of illustrating there are lots of ways – (laughter) – to find things out – the most powerful of which will be the IAEA, but it’s not the only, by far.

MS. SLAVIN: That’s wonderful.

Dr. Shea, I would like you to talk a little bit about how verification measures have improved. I remember when they were actually physical seals on facilities in North Korea. They physically broke the seals with a hammer – (laughs) – and that’s how you knew they were going to cheat. What are – what are the methods now used like compared to then?

MR. SHEA: I’ll address that, but I want to come back to the PMDs for a moment.


MR. SHEA: So in 2011 one of the papers that were sent to the Board of Governors contained an annex with a list of 10 or 11 or 12 – I don’t remember right now – areas which Iran had allegedly investigated aspects of developing nuclear weapons. They included weapon design work, high explosives for triggering, et cetera, fusing and firing systems. And the – now the director general has traveled to Tehran a week ago and has come back with an agreement that will allow the IAEA to enter into this activity and reach a conclusion I think it’s 90 days after the implementation of the Security Council resolution. So that date is still sliding somewhat, but it’s not a long time. And none of us knows what’s in this agreement.

And to my mind, there’s questions of, if you are given an explanation that this was a peaceful activity and even if it’s plausible, it doesn’t mean that the activity was also carried out for other purposes and that the only thing you’re being told about is this one dimension. So how the director general will formulate his report will be a question of artistry and diplomacy, as far as I’m concerned.

And this – and also the question is, so what about these activities? In the one sense, if you assume that these activities were carried out and that they were successful, it means that Iran has more knowledge than anybody would like it to have about the nuts and bolts of putting weapons together. And if it does have this, it would mean that the time between, if there were to be a breakout – which I find very unrealistic – that the – that the time to actually build the first one would be shorter than it would otherwise be. And that’s an important consideration, but it’s already factored into the fact that the agency will be doing inspections and gather information on critical things on a daily basis, essentially in real time. So it doesn’t really affect what could it do other than that. That’s one aspect which I’m OK with.

The other aspect is, supposing it finds something downstream, now, that is going on, and how can it determine that this was something new versus something which predated the report that’ll be coming in December? That will be a thorny issue along the way.

So, no, as far as the technology, it all depends upon what kind of facility that you’re looking at, what the materials are and so on. And the IAEA today has over 100 different verification systems that it maintains and procures, et cetera, and that are approved for use in the field. And to get there, there’s now a much more demanding process. It’s sort of like MILSPEC, in effect, that you go through a specification, bid, accept your evaluation and prototypes and so on, until you ultimately get to equipment that can be relied upon. And the reliability and the efficacy is – somebody talked about your grandfather’s IAEA. There’s still some of these old seals that are in place because they use 10,000 of them a year, so they’re cheap, et cetera, compared to –

MS. SLAVIN: Digital?

MR. SHEA: Compared to – exactly – digital ones that have fiber-optic connectors, et cetera, that can be reviewed automatically. The surveillance cameras of old were the movie cameras that were used then that were engineered so that they would start and then stop and then – and stretch this out so that you could get a period of surveillance of maybe three months, so that inspectors could come back at a reasonable time.

MS. SLAVIN: And take the shot. That’s right, yeah.

MR. SHEA: Now you have – you have large-scale digital storage, all solid state, and so the equipment is nothing like what it was. And the reliability is phenomenal and the performance and the information given, and the fact that it incorporates protective features so that you simply can’t diddle with it and expect that you can defeat this equipment so that it will give you false results. You can kill it. You could heat it up. You could put the wrong voltage into it, et cetera. But that would be a separate matter, and how it would – the agency would resolve itself would depend – very much depends on – an enrichment plant, there’s certain equipment that’s appropriate, and in an isotope production reactor, it’s very different, et cetera; and so it’s all designed according to those.

Looking in the field, obviously, you’re more concerned with eyeballs. There’s nothing like an expression “boots on the ground.” An intelligent inspector who is trained to know what to look for is worth any number of items of equipment.


We’re going to open up to your questions now. Please wait for the microphone, say your name, ask a question, and say whether it’s directed to one or the other of the panelists. So I’ll start with Greg Thielmann back there. Wait for the mic.

Q: Greg Thielmann, Arms Control Association.

This is a question, I guess, for Tom. The Iranians in the past have demonstrated great sensitivity to the nationality of the inspectors. And I wondered if you could tell us how much of a concern that is for the future, both in maintaining the integrity of the inspections of Iran, but also the precedent set for other countries around the world vetoing inspectors.

MR. SHEA: May I?


MR. SHEA: So there are today 176 member states of the IAEA, which means inspectors can come from any one of these countries. Any country under the Non-Proliferation Treaty safeguards arrangement can say yes or no to any individual inspector that’s proposed and any other reason that it doesn’t really have to cite why. Iran does not accept American inspectors today. And whether it will in the future, I’m as hopeful as Bill Miller that at some point this rapprochement will produce a circumstance in which Iran may change its attitude in this regard, and that would be a very helpful thing.

I do think that there’s a need for more Americans on the staff. At present time, the IAEA budget, one-quarter of it is paid by the United States. That’s the U.N. formula. And in almost every other agency of the U.N., a budgetary contribution was reduced a few years ago to 22 percent. But in the IAEA, it’s kept the full support of the U.S. government at 25 (percent). Not only that, the U.S. government donates about ($)50 million a year in extra budgetary voluntary contributions that allow the agency to do things that it couldn’t otherwise do.

But with this quarter, in effect, it entitles the United States to have one out of every four staff being an American. Some years back, the U.S. gave up 5 percent for developing countries because otherwise they would be dramatically underrepresented. So that means 20 percent. And the last time I checked – and it may not be the most current data – the numbers were running around 12 percent were Americans. So part of the problem that we face is we don’t send enough people, good people over there, and this is in part due to the fact that the experts would come from national laboratories, from the federal government – there are some wonderfully qualified people there – from academia, and from the industry, and we don’t have a mechanism which makes it in the U.S. interest for people to go. And I’m hopeful that part of this legislative review will be to address the questions of what things can be done to assist in this regard.

MS. SLAVIN: Can I just ask a follow up? Are there any other nationalities that are barred? I would assume, obviously, Israelis. But beyond Israelis and Americans, is –

MR. SHEA: If you had asked, I wouldn’t have even remembered the Israelis because it’s – I just don’t know the answer to that.

MS. SLAVIN: I don’t know if anybody else knows. I know that most of – a lot of the inspectors have been from Scandinavia, have been from Latin America, Italy.

MR. SHEA: China also.

MS. SLAVIN: China, OK.

Yes, over here. And wait for the mic.

Q: Jim Cunningham. I’m a senior fellow here at the Council and a former ambassador to the U.N., among other things, so I had some experience – very painful experience – in dealing with Iraq.

The criticism has already been made that the verification regime takes too long, has too many steps and dispute resolution mechanisms built into it. And we’ve seen with Iraq how easy it is to play cat and mouse with the inspectors. And by the way, I want to say I found your presentation by all of you very reassuring in that regard. But how would you answer the criticism that there’s so much time lag built into this, giving Iran numerous opportunities to prevaricate, obstruct, obfuscate, whatever, that the purpose of the inspection ultimately could be diluted or mitigated by that?

MR. WOLFSTHAL: You’re right that this is a criticism that’s being levied. I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve talked very consistently about read the agreement and then let’s talk about it. I’m sure you’ve read it, but the fact is that under the Additional Protocol the IAEA can request access to a site and under normal circumstances – doesn’t matter whether that’s a military site, sensitive site, you know, shish kebab site – they can get access within two hours, normal operation. There is an inspector in the country. They’re properly equipped. They already have their visa. They’re able to go in a short period of time.

However, the state being inspected – in this case, Iran – does have the ability to say, you know what, what you’re really looking for are the blueprints; let me give them to you. Or, what you’re really looking for are, you know, the alarm system codes so you can – or the electricity side. They have an opportunity, as does any state, to say, would you – will this satisfy your response? If the agency says no – sorry – if the agency says no and the state then says, well, you can’t get in, immediately the red flag goes up. There’s no – there’s no cat and mouse, right? Everybody – (chuckles) – CNN, Fox, us, ODNI, DIA, the Russians, the Chinese, I mean, are going to be watching this one piece of desert, right?

In the agreement, there is a time-bound process that no more than 24 days can pass. That means within less than four weeks the IAEA gets in or they are in violation of the agreement. And in that time period, if we see anything going out the back door, Iran is in violation of the agreement because they are not complying with the Additional Protocol, which is to facilitate access.

Now, that’s the broad scope. Let’s talk specifics.

What are we worried about, right? Are we worried Iran is going to build an underground enrichment or reprocessing facility? If they are, you can’t get rid of it in 24 days. They’re still worried about Parchin, they’ve paved over three times, because it turns out uranium – which has a half-life of about 4 billion years – is kind of a pesky element – it doesn’t go away very easily. And we still have facilities in Kansas City you can’t go in the building, right? I mean, radiation and nuclear materials last a long time. Or, if we go in and there are no nuclear materials but it’s shaped like a reprocessing facility, you can’t say that it’s a baby milk factory. We’re going to know what it is. And again, it’s for us to decide are they in compliance or not. And because we have the ability to snap back sanctions, there is no scenario that I can – that we can envision where Iran will say, oh, you know, we’re going to take the chance; it’s OK, you know, it’s a really small reprocessing facility. We’re not going to play that game.

So I think – you know, I don’t want to be reassuring because, you know, when I talk to a nuclear engineer and they tell me, oh, don’t worry, that nuclear plant is perfectly safe, I get nervous, right? There are things that can go wrong. There are things that Iran could try. But we have spent years negotiating this agreement to make sure that if they try it, we will catch them.

And just by comparison, you know – Jim and people here know this very well – the Agreed Framework in North Korea was four pages long. The agreement that George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld and John Bolton negotiated with the North Koreans in 2005 for their denuclearization, which contained no verification provisions at all, was five pages long. The Treaty of Moscow, which was between George Bush and Vladimir Putin, was three pages long, had no verification provisions, right, and got 71 votes in the Senate, right? This is over a hundred pages long. It is like no other nonproliferation agreement that’s ever been negotiated and signed. It pales only in comparison to the most detailed nuclear arms control agreements with the Soviet Union and with Russia.

So the details are here. And Jim says, you know, we’ve done our homework. If we have done something that isn’t – doesn’t quite capture it, we’re very open to understanding what that is. We’re open to the constructive criticism. But I think we’re going to be giving a full-throated defense of what we believe is a very effective verification provision which makes sure not that Iran won’t try to cheat – right, we’re not assuming that they’re going to comply; we’re assuming that they’re going to try to cheat, and we know that we can catch them. That’s what will keep them from trying to cheat.

MS. SLAVIN: Richard Sawaya right there, in the middle of the – OK.

Q: Richard Sawaya with the National Foreign Trade Council and a member of Barbara’s Iran Project here at the Atlantic Council.

While we’re on the subject of criticism of the deal, I think that everything that’s been said in terms of the strength of the agreement in the nuclear space is accurate, is a good deal, is a win-win in terms of diplomacy, as John Limbert has defined diplomacy. The criticism that I worry about over the next 60 days within the body politic is you’re giving Iran over time – over time – all this money with which to conduct the activities in the region that we put them on the state sponsor of terrorism list year after year after year. So I would be appreciative of your comment about that space.

MR. WALSH: I’m sure you want to respond. I would like to talk about that for a second.

Q: Good.

MR. WALSH: So I’m confused by this argument. I’m deeply confused, for a couple of reasons.

So it seems to me if you don’t like Iran – they’re terrorists, they oppress minorities, la-la-la – then you don’t want them to have a nuclear weapon. So what’s worse than Iran involved in terrorism? Iran involved in terrorism with a nuclear weapon. I’m not getting this.

The other thing that doesn’t work for me is – so the argument goes, so we can’t give them any of their own money back. We can’t have any sanctions relief because they’ll take a dollar of that and spend it on terrorism. Well, what does that mean, then? What that means is those people are saying we can’t have any nuclear agreement because they’re imaging that there’s going to be a nuclear agreement where Iran does everything we want them to do on the nuclear and they get zero in return. They don’t get any relief. I’m not aware of any agreement in the history of humankind that would work like that.

So if you’re saying we can’t give any sanctions relief because they’ll use it for terrorism, you’re essentially saying no nuclear agreement, leave Iran unconstrained to pursue a nuclear weapon. I mean, that’s my reading of it, but you may have a different view.

MS. SLAVIN: Jon, do you have anything to –

MR. WOLFSTHAL: Far be it for me to put words in Jim’s mouth. (Laughter.)

You know, I think people are right to be concerned about Iran’s behavior because Iran is not a state that does things that we like. Iran threatens our neighbors. They threaten Americans. They’re holding American citizens. They are engaged in activities in countries that lead to real regional instability and insecurity. So we’re not blind to that. This isn’t as if – you know, Barbara started with a question about, you know, is this sort of turning a page. We’re not assuming that Iran changes its stripes. We’re assuming that they won’t. We don’t want them to have access to a nuclear weapon. We don’t want them to have the ability to get there quickly. And we intend to increase our capability to challenge Iran throughout the region because we do expect that some of this money may enhance their activities.

But the point I would make – please, go ahead. I don’t want to hold you.

MR. LIMBERT: Excuse me, sorry. Thanks.

MR. WOLFSTHAL: No, thank you very much.

MS. SLAVIN: Thanks, John.

MR. WOLFSTHAL: The thing I would point out, that we – Iran is under the most crippling sanctions system that’s ever been imposed on them. They’re still conducting these activities, right? It is not a shortage of money that is preventing them from terrorism or sending arms to the Houthis or supporting Assad, right? They’re doing that anyway.

So is there an incremental risk? Yes, there’s an incremental risk. Are we going to be taking steps with our allies to match that? You bet. But we’re going to be much more effective at doing that when they’re not hiding behind a nuclear shield.

And so there’s also a very interesting set of stats that are coming out. So if you look at a recent article talking about the defense spending in the region, right, by how much does Saudi Arabia outspend Iran?

MR. WALSH: Three times.

MR. WOLFSTHAL: Right? UAE. UAE is 50 percent higher than Iran military spending, right? So this is not just purely a money scheme, right? It’s a capability scheme. It’s an investment – it’s a sharing scheme, right? That’s why Secretary Carter’s going to the region. It’s why we had the Gulf leaders here for the Camp David summit. It wasn’t to say, hey, we got this great deal, you’re going to love it. It was to say how are we going to work together on missile defense, how are we going to work together on maritime interdiction, right, how are we going to work together on counterterrorism operations, because we’re expecting the neighborhood is going to be bad because the neighborhood is bad. But it gets worse if they’ve got a nuclear program.

MS. SLAVIN: Over here. Wait for the microphone.

Q: Thank you very much for the great discussion. This is Fay Moghtader from West Asia Council.

I have a question for the panelists. Of all the joys and jubilations that we are getting, clips of it from the streets of Tehran and it all – it’s all young people out there, impatiently waiting for these sanctions to be lifted, and with all these strong measures that have been put into this agreement to stop Iran from making a nuclear bomb, it seems to me that this regime will be on a suicide mission if they do not comply with this agreement. They have a lot of answering to do to their own domestic population and also to the world. So I need your input on this. Thank you.

MS. SLAVIN: Yeah, I might grab that one, if I may, as somebody who’s been to Iran a number of times.

You know, people say, oh, it’s the regime, and the regime makes all the decisions. It’s Ayatollah Khamenei. It’s the supreme leader; that public opinion has nothing to do with it. This is not North Korea. Public opinion actually does have something to do with the policies undertaken by the government. Yeah, they do a lot of things in the region that, frankly, most Iranians do not support. They don’t like to see their money going to Syria and to Lebanon and to Iraq. They’d like it spent at home.

But in 2009, there was an earthquake in Iran called the Green Revolution. The government stole an election to reelect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and millions of people came out on the streets and said, where is my vote? And this – even though the regime crushed the protests, it shook them to the core. And so they made sure that in 2013, when there was another presidential election, there was actually a reasonable choice of candidates, and in fact the most pragmatic individual – Hassan Rouhani – won. And it’s Hassan Rouhani and his team that have been able to negotiate this nuclear agreement.

This is their second bite at the apple. They tried before, when the president was Mohammad Khatami, and they failed, largely because of the lack of foresight of the Bush administration I would argue, back when Iran had no centrifuges spinning. But this is their second time around, and they have succeeded. And they are well aware of popular sentiment. They know what sanctions have done. Youth unemployment is extremely high. Brain drain is extremely high. And Hassan Rouhani talks about giving hope to the youth. He talks about economic development.

So will some of the billions of dollars that Iran will receive from this deal wind up in the pocket of Hezbollah or the popular mobilization units in Iraq or Bashar al-Assad? Yes, of course it will. But I would argue that if this government wants to retain legitimacy – and remember what the supreme leader here is doing. He is making a pact with the Great Satan, with the font of global arrogance, and everyone knows this. If this system wants to continue beyond Ayatollah Khamenei, it will have to meet some of the aspirations of its people, I would argue.

Yes, ma’am. Wait for the microphone, please, and identify yourself.

Q: Hello. Thank you for a fascinating panel, and so timely. I’m Barbara Opall-Rome, Israel bureau chief for Defense News. And a few questions.

First of all, in parallel to the inspection regime that will be led by the IAEA, is there any provision unilaterally for the administration to collect the best minds – I know you mentioned the labs and all that for the IAEA, but in parallel to have experts seconded from the Pentagon, State Department and the arms control community to alleviate a lot of this inherent suspicion of the –

And on another issue, the president gave an interview about a month ago to Israel’s Channel 2 TV where he essentially conceded that at year 13 or 14 of such a deal that the breakout time could be reduced to nearly zero. I know that there’s an explanation, but I’d love to hear from your experts and from the NSC official. How can that be ameliorated and reinforced so that, at year 13 or 14 –

MS. SLAVIN: Yeah. We’ll start with Jon and then we’ll move down.


Well, I think – if I understand your first question, it’s, you know, how are we going to make sure that the best people are working on this problem and that the IAEA and the government have what they need. That’s why we’re here. I mean, that’s how we got to this stage. The IAEA receives a tremendous amount of support from the United States, including through people like Tom Shea and other experts that are provided. They get great doohickeys from the national laboratories, which we help develop. We have the safeguards training course. We help train their people. I used to work at the Monterey Institute; we send people to go and intern and become staff members. So in terms of the technical capabilities and the leadership, the IAEA I believe already has that, and we are working closely with them to understand what more they would like, what more they will need.

A great example is the new types of cameras or the online enrichment flow monitors that will be installed in each cascade that will instantaneously be checking the enrichment level, and – sort of like a thermostat. You could set it, when it – you know, when it hits 3.67 (percent), you’re good; when it hits 3.68 (percent), it sends a little alarm out and we know immediately that they’ve gone above the enrichment level.

So I think that part we’ll continue to work through, and we expect that there will be more resources.

In terms of the U.S. government, we’re also looking at our own organization. We believe right now that our military and our intelligence capabilities are properly resourced. That may change over time. We’re constantly evaluating those things. We are looking at how we will organize ourselves for the implementation of the JCPOA. There’s still some decisions that have to be made. But we’re also – just as we learned lessons from trying to implement both Iraq and North Korean agreements, we’re learning the lessons bureaucratically of what we’ll need to do to organize ourselves effectively and who will staff the joint commission and so forth.

In terms of the breakout timelines, what we have been able to achieve in Lausanne and in the JCPOA is a predictability to Iran’s enrichment capacity, and that extends through the research and development plan that the IAEA will receive from Iran. Some of those documents are laid out very clearly in the JCPOA. There are 10 years of restrictions on the number of centrifuges. There are very strict limits on the types of R&D that can be done. There’s a strict cap on both enrichment level, and more importantly, the amount of enriched material Iran may have. They can’t go over 300 kilograms of U-235 enriched to 3.67 percent for 15 years.

Beyond that, there is a research and development plan that Iran must provide to the International Atomic Energy Agency that provides predictability and is consistent with their energy needs and with their development. So if, in year 14 – or let me rephrase this. Right now we have a plan through year 13. They will have to continually update that based on their development. So let’s say in year 10 they update their 15-year plan and it says, OK, we’re going to have 5,000 SWU, 5,000 SWU, 5,000 SWU, 9 million SWU, right? (Laughter.) That appears inconsistent with their obligations under the JCPOA. We will still, under the JCPOA provisions, have the right to say that appears inconsistent with us. We can work to impose sanctions. We can work to get our allies equally concerned, as they have been at 19,000 installed centrifuges.

So the predictability is what we have been able to achieve, and the IAEA will get access to that R&D plan. So Iran has an incentive to have what we – what we’ve described as sort of a soft R&D landing. That’s part of really what Dr. Moniz – who’s now been knighted by the Portuguese it turns out –

MR. WALSH: Oh, really?

MR. WOLFSTHAL: – to Sir Dr. Moniz, and I’m sure he’ll be getting some other accolades once he gets back – has been working out. And so there are some provisions that will be coming out that we expect will be investigated during the review period, but we don’t – the agreement does not provide for this exponential increase in enrichment capacity or a drop-off in terms of a breakout timeline.


MR. WALSH: Let me – can I follow up on that for a second? Because –

MR. SHEA: I also.

MR. WALSH: You know, I testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month, and they asked, what are the criteria we should use for evaluating any new agreement, and I offered several of them. One of them is, you know, assessment is not about imagining all the bad things that could go wrong and listing them all. That’s not assessment, all right? Assessment is you try to put parameters, measure the risks involved, and weigh these risks and have – and calculate tradeoffs.

So how do you do that? Well, you compare one thing to another. And we’ve talked about this being an exceedingly strong agreement compared to – arguably the most robust multilaterally negotiated nonproliferation agreement in history. So, you know, if it looks good compared to the others, that should give you some confidence going forward.

A second and separate, it seems to me, evaluation criterion is how does it compare to the alternatives? And so I hear a lot of folks saying, well, 15 years isn’t long enough. You know, part of me really has to fight hard and resist going down the road of I’ve heard this song before; it’s called moving the goalposts. I remember, on breakout time, Prime Minister Netanyahu in that famous speech before the U.N., I think it was 2012, said we need at least a few weeks’ or months’ notice before Iran does something – a few weeks or months. And then John Kerry comes and testifies before Senate Foreign Relations and he says, we’re going to have six months of breakout time, which is more than a few weeks or months. But then he was told six months isn’t enough. And then they come back with an agreement that says a year, doubling that. And then suddenly we hear, well, actually, we need two years. I don’t know if there’s any number that we could choose for breakout time that would satisfy people, and it seems to me 15 years is a really, really long time in nuclear years, years for a nuclear program. But that’s my judgment.

Let’s compare it with the alternatives. Let’s say we use military force to decimate that program. I was part of a study that looked at the costs and benefits of military action against Iran’s program and was the estimate of 40 retired military and defense officials, including former national security advisers, that after doing that Iran would be able to reconstitute its program in roughly four years, right? We wipe it out, they rebuild it in four years. You know, what do we do? We wipe it out again, I guess. I don’t know. But that’s – you know, we’re talking about an agreement that’s going to go for 15 years compared to the four years that they would take to reconstitute it if we used military force as the option.

So, again, all these debates about the details are important. But how do you judge things? You compare them to other things. You compare them to other agreements and you compare them to your alternatives. And that gives you a greater sense of the sorts of risks you’re taking.

MS. SLAVIN: Dr. Shea.

MR. SHEA: So we have the IAEA being involved, which is an international organization which grew out of President Eisenhower’s proposal at the end of 1953. And it is, as an international organization, responsible to its member states, of which there are 176, and one of its obligations is to respect the sovereignty of each of these states. And so it cannot act in a – in an impromptu or a whiplash effect; it has to proceed with due caution so as to avoid false allegations on the one hand, while being mindful that if there is something going on that it must act in sufficient time to allow an adequate response. And that will be, I think, a problem if – depending upon what goes forward.

And so these questions of the 24 days, et cetera, to my mind that’s a sort of – a period during which the degree of certainty would continue to build up. Maybe it’s denied or not yet permitted to go to a particular location, but there are a lot of other things that will be going on in a circumstance like that.

So my own perception is maybe clouded by the fact that I’m an optimist and I want this to succeed. But I think that this is a new era, and that I’m hopeful that Iran will seize upon this as a chance to demonstrate its commitment to the obligations that it’s entering into, because if it doesn’t we’re going to know about it. And things that – interference with activities or just the color of how much cooperation is there – is it something which is demonstrated on a daily basis by the providing assistance so that the inspectors can actually do their work? Or are there things that get in the way? So that’ll be known soon.

MS. SLAVIN: And I think we know that the Iranians have abided by the interim agreement that was reached back in 2013 quite faithfully for the last couple of years, and that’s a good precedent.

OK. Gentleman right there. Wait for the microphone.

Q: My name is Mike Sponder (ph).

I accept that everybody here agrees that the agreement is a good agreement. My curiosity is, since there’s no longer any state secrets, when you use the word “tough negotiations,” what didn’t they agree to? Because at this particular point, only what they didn’t want to do is relevant. What did the United States want that Iran did not want? There should be no secrets on this. I was once the director of innovations at the Office of Naval Research. We knew what was going on. If somebody asked us a question, we either said I don’t want to tell you or I’m going to tell you. Tell us what they didn’t agree to.

MR. WOLFSTHAL: Um, no. (Laughter.) I’m not going to tell you. I mean, what – we will have lots of discussions over the next several months about, well, you know, the Iranians won or they get all these things they wanted. It –

Q: That wasn’t my question.

MR. WOLFSTHAL: I understand. But –

Q: My question was, what did you want that they did not agree to? It’s very simple. You can say I don’t want to tell you, but you can’t tell me we’ll find out.

MR. WOLFSTHAL: OK. I’m not sure I understand the second part of the question, but I’m happy to talk about the verification and why we think the deal is a good one. I’m not –

Q: That wasn’t my question.


Q: My question was what did you want –

MS. SLAVIN: And it’s his prerogative not to answer. (Laughs.)

Q: – that they did not agree to.

MR. WOLFSTHAL: And I’m sorry, I can’t provide you with an answer to that question.

MS. SLAVIN: All right. Well, I’m afraid we have – we have run out of time. Those of you who have more questions, please, if the – if our folks here have time they will be happy to answer them. And check out the report of Tom Shea. It should be available on our website and on the Search for Common Ground website in a couple days. Thank you so much for coming. (Applause.)