Best Analysis

How to Save the Iran Deal

Dennis RossDennis Ross, International Council Member at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, argues in Politico that the key to a successful nuclear agreement with Iran is not the physical rollback of the Iranian program, but the transparency measures that allow the P5+1 to assess Iranian behavior. Specifically, he suggests that Iran is probably maneuvering to maintain the diplomatic "red lines" stated by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei regarding sanctions relief and enrichment, and so to both allow Iran to stay within most of their public limits while still assuaging American concerns, extremely robust verification measures are required.

"Three Myths about the Iran Sanctions"

Aaron ArnoldAaron Arnold, Associate with the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, writes in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that several myths continue to be referenced in discussion of the framework agreement between the P5+1 on Iran's nuclear program. Specifically, he critiques the ideas that international partners will continue to support America's efforts to sanction Iran in the absence of an agreement, that snap-back sanctions will not be effective in pressuring Iran, and that the United States can continue to control the financial system to the degree necessary to pressure Iran.

Belfer Iran Brief – Corker bill Passes Committee, Sanctions and Inspections Emerge as Main Disputes, and Other News

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved a revised Corker-Menendez bill that requires Congressional review over a nuclear deal with Iran, a senior IRGC commander denied that inspectors would have access to military facilities, and more in this week’s Belfer Iran Brief, covering April 13-20, 2015.

Visualizing the Iranian Nuclear Deal

Iran Locations

To complement the publication of the policy brief “Decoding the Nuclear Deal,” the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs is releasing a package of original graphics that explain different facets of the Iranian nuclear deal.

The charts, graphs and map below track the history of diplomatic engagement with Iran, including successive red lines made and ignored; present Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon, including its accumulation of low-enriched and medium-enriched uranium; and detail the recent framework accord announced on April 2.

Best Analysis on Iran Nuclear Framework

Graham AllisonGary SamoreGraham Allison, Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and Gary Samore, Director of Research at the Belfer Center, highlight the best analysis pieces on the recent framework agreement with Iran over its nuclear program. Specifically, they break down analysis pieces that focus on the agreement itself, its regional implications, and the domestic political response to it. 

Iranian Parliament Hardliner Releases Own “Fact Sheet” on Nuclear Accord

Chairman of the Majles Nuclear Committee
Ebrahim Karkhaneyee, Chairman of the Iranian Parliament's (Majles) Nuclear Committee. He released his own fact sheet about the nuclear negotiations this week. (Fars News Agency).

Ebrahim Karkhaneyee, the hardline chairman of the Iranian parliament’s Nuclear Committee released, his own “fact sheet” about the framework nuclear accord, outlining proposed revisions to the framework agreement.

The fact sheet was published unilaterally by Ebrahim Karkhaneyee, a representative from Hamedan province who ran for elections under the joint list of the United Principalist Front and the more hard-line Steadfastness Front. The document makes a number of suggestions, including limiting the term of the agreement to five years and not reducing the number of active centrifuges.

The article from Fars News announcing the fact sheet, in addition to the text itself, is included below.

Presidential Candidates on the Iran Deal Framework: The Republicans

Sam RatnerSam Ratner, research assistant at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, writes an assessment of the positions of Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential election. Specifically, he notes a general divide between candidates who have rejected the framework agreement outright, and those who are opposed to it if it attempts to go circumvent Congressional authority. Both groups have serious reservations about the agreement.

Hezbollah ‘Delivers’ Assad: Implications of Iran’s Involvement in Syrian Crisis

Daniel SobelmanDaniel Sobelman, Research Fellow with the International Security Program at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, writes that Iran's and Hezbollah's involvement in the ongoing conflict in Syria has major potential strategic implications for Israel and the region. He notes that Iranian military and economic aid have been crucial in saving the Syrian regime, and argues that this has put Iran in the dominant position to determine Syria's strategic directory for some time to come. He goes on to state that the disintegration of state authority near the Golan Heights and the ongoing fighting there between the regime and its allies and the rebel forces has created the potential for another "border" between Israel and Iran, in addition to the positions held by Hezbollah in South Lebanon, complicating Israel's regional security posture.

Corker-Menendez approved unanimously; Congressional review time reduced, terror provision removed

Senator Bob Corker
Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a key mover of legislation related to Iran. (Wikimedia)

By Henry Rome

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved a revised version of the Corker-Menendez bill this week, and the White House confirmed that President Obama would not veto the measure. The revised version differs from its predecessor in two main ways: the length of time for Congressional review is reduced and the terrorism certification provision is removed.

Decoding the Iran Nuclear Deal

Iran Deal PrimerOn April 2, 2015, the EU (on behalf of the P5+1 countries) and Iran announced agreement on “key parameters” for a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran. The EU-Iran Joint Statement is buttressed by unilateral fact sheets issued by the U.S. and Iran, which provide further details of the framework accord.  Not surprisingly, differences have emerged between the U.S. and Iranian versions of the deal. These differences reflect both political spin and remaining issues that have not been resolved.  In the next phase of this process, the negotiators will seek to finalize a comprehensive agreement by June 30, 2015.

To assist Members of Congress and others to evaluate the emerging deal, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School has prepared this Policy Brief summarizing key facts, core concepts, and major arguments for and against the emerging deal. Amidst the sound and fury of claim and counter-claim, the purpose of this Policy Brief is not to advocate support for or opposition to the deal, but rather to provide an objective, nonpartisan summary to inform Members of Congress and others in coming to their own conclusions. The team of experts who prepared this report includes Democrats, Republicans, independents, and internationals, who have many disagreements among themselves, but who agree that this Brief presents the essentials objectively. Since the negotiations are ongoing and the debate is intensifying, we invite readers who disagree with our presentation or who have additional questions or points to send their comments to us at If suitable, we will post these contributions with attribution on our website Iran Matters.

Testimony of William Tobey Before the House Foreign Affairs Committee

William TobeyWilliam Tobey, Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, gave testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee regarding Iran's compliance with its nuclear-related obligations. Specifically, he raised concerns about prior failures of Iran to meet its commitments, especially the potential military dimensions of its program, and suggested that a history of noncompliance raises concerns about Iran's future behavior in relation to any new commitments undertaken in a comprehensive nuclear deal.

Give the Nuclear Framework a Chance

Rolf Mowatt LarssenRolf Mowatt-Larssen, Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, writes in Just Security that the framework for a nuclear agreement with Iran is a positive step, and is worth pursuing to address the Iranian nuclear challenge. Specifically, he argues that military strikes do not have a strong chance of doing more than temporary damage to the nuclear program, and that the United States will not be able to keep the sanctions coalition together if American domestic politics scuttles the agreement. He concludes by noting that while we cannot eliminate risk of an Iranian breakout attempt, the deal is a better alternative to another war in the Middle East at this time.

Belfer Experts Comment on the Framework Iran Agreement

Lausanne Negotiations
Representatives of the P5+1 and Iran stand at a press conference announcing the agreement on a framework of a deal on Iran's nuclear program. (AP Images).

The recently announced framework agreement between the P5+1 and Iran regarding the Iranian nuclear program may herald a potential breakthrough in the difficult nuclear negotiations, but it remains only a framework, with key details still to be filled in. Five members of the Belfer Center's Iran Working Group--Graham Allison, Chuck Freilich, Martin Malin, Payam Mohseni, and William Tobey comment on some of the aspects of the agreement, and its potential regional and international impact.

The P5+1 Nuclear Agreement With Iran: A Net-Plus for Nonproliferation

Matthew BunnMatthew Bunn, Professor of Practice and Co-Principle Investigator of the Project on Managing the Atom at the Belfer Center, is a signatory on the Arms Control Association's statement on the framework agreement between the P5+1 and Iran. The statement argues the framework released so far is a positive step for nonproliferation, and that it will help put in place the necessary verification and monitoring measures to prevent Iran from racing towards a bomb without detection, and urges support for the finalizing of the agreement.

The Iran Project Statement on the Announcement of a Framework for a Comprehensive Nuclear Agreement with Iran

Graham AllisonGraham Allison, Douglas Dillon Professor of Government and Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Nicholas Burns, Professor of Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations at the Harvard Kennedy School, Michele Flournoy, Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center and CEO of the Center for New American Security, James Cartwright, Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center, Joseph Nye, Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor, and Gary Samore, Executive Director for Research at the Belfer Center are all signatories of the Iran Project statement on the recently released framework agreement between Iran and the P5+1 regarding its nuclear program. The statement recognizes both the successes of the negotiations thus far, while also noting specific areas that require further progress.

An Incomplete Framework

William TobeyWilliam Tobey, Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, writes in Foreign Policy that the framework agreement between Iran and the P5+1 remains incomplete. He highlights issues such as the fact that the American and Iranian fact sheets diverge on key details, a lack of specificity on measures to prevent an Iranian breakout attempt through undeclared nuclear sites, and the statements by both Secretary of State John Kerry and others that points of disagreement remain, and suggests that support for the agreement should not be proffered before the final terms of the deal are made public.

Comparing US and Iranian Positions on Nuclear Framework

US-Iran Talks
American and Iranian negotiators face each other across a conference table in Lausanne, Switzerland (State Department).

Iran Matters has compiled comparisons of US and Iranian positions regarding key elements of last week’s framework accord. The comparisons are drawn from the Joint EU/P5+1-Iran statement, the US fact sheet and the Iranian “summary” of the accord, in addition to public statements. Compiled by Henry Rome.

The Iran Deal-Hopes and Loopholes

Ephraim AsculaiEphraim Asculai writes that while the framework agreement between Iran and the P5+1 has many notable achievements, several key issues and loopholes remain unresolved. Specifically, he notes that issues remain regarding the final number of Iranian centrifuges maintained, the construction of further reactors, and possible military dimensions to prior nuclear activities. He also raises concerns about the verification mechanisms in the agreement, and the lack of discussion of Iran's ballistic missile program in the final agreement, and urges that the final agreement shore up these loopholes.

Imperfect Deal will Help an Uneasy Peace

Nick BurnsNicholas Burns, Professor of Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations at the Harvard Kennedy School, writes in The Financial Times that the pursuit of finalizing an agreement with Iran based on the recently released framework is work undertaking. Specifically, he argues that while the current agreement does not meet prior demands of a negotiated solution with Iran, it is unrealistic for the United States and its allies to return to old demands, and that the current agreement meets American objectives of drastically pushing back any Iranian actions to build a nuclear weapon. He cautions, however, against seeing the agreement as a harbinger of major rapprochement with Iran, and notes that American and Iranian interests still do not align on crucial issues of regional security.  

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