Best Analysis

The Iran Deal's Problematic Construct of Sanctions Relief And What To Do About It

Sahand MoarefySahand Moarefy describes how the American structure of sanctions against Iran creates challenges for lifting nuclear-related sanctions while maintaining non-nuclear sanctions. He notes that because of years of placing sanctions on Iran for both nuclear and non-nuclear activities, it is tremendously difficult to untangle them and lift only a discrete set of sanctions, creating complex problems in the process of providing Iran with sanctions relief as described in the JCPOA. He suggests this problem can be addressed and the JCPOA preserved by emphasizing the unstable nature of the Iranian financial sector as a reason for foreign concern about investment, and offering Iranian banks a structure where they can engage in international business after an inspection process determines that they are not violating standing US sanctions. In the long term, he suggests policymakers shift how they apply sanctions in order to disentangle nuclear related sanctions from non-nuclear actions. To read an extended version of the report, please click here.

The Real Threat to the Iran Deal: Tehran's Banking System

Aaron ArnoldAaron Arnold, Associate of the Project on Managing the Atom at the Belfer Center, writes in The Diplomat that a key threat to the ongoing implementation of the Iran nuclear deal is the risky nature of the Iranian financial sector. While Iran is banking on receiving greater foreign investment, continued problems with the Iranian financial sector, including lack of sufficient regulatory controls and the potential ties to terrorist financing, have made companies cautious about investing in Iran. He suggests that the United States work with Iran to bring its banking system up to the same standard as the global economy, and to consider closer integration of Iran into the world economy in order to preserve the effects of the nuclear agreement.

Translation: Six “Historical Acts of Sabotage” between Iran and US

One year ago today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress with the goal of derailing late-stage nuclear negotiations with Iran. His campaign failed, but the anniversary provides an opportunity to reflect on how efforts to sabotage rapprochement between Iran and the US have succeeded in the past.

The Iran-Saudi Conflict

The heightening of tensions between Riyadh and Tehran has become a significant factor in the regional politics of the Middle East.  While the cold war between Iran and Saudi Arabia is certainly not a new phenomenon, the recent execution of Sheikh Nimr by the Kingdom, the storming of the Saudi Embassy in Iran, and the end to formal diplomatic ties between the two countries signals a more dangerous chapter in the regional conflict. What are the perspectives from Iran and Saudi Arabia on the rising tensions? How do they view each other’s regional intentions and foreign policies? And, what steps can be taken to mitigate the conflict? To answer these questions, the Iran Project, led by Payam Mohseni, has solicited two pieces to provide us with vantage points representing how Iran and Saudi Arabia respectively view each other. Below, we are delighted to highlight HRH Abdulmajeed AlSaud’s article on behalf of the Saudi perspective, and Ambassador Seyed Hossein Mousavian and Mehrdad Saberi’s article on the Iranian perspective.

53 National Security Leaders Welcome Implementation of the Iran Nuclear Agreement

Graham AllisonJoseph NyeJim WalshGraham Allison, Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Joseph Nye, Harvard University Distinguished Service Professorand James Walsh, Research Associate with the Security Studies Program at MIT were among a group of 53 national security leaders and analysts who signed a statement supporting the implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement. The statement highlights the progress made by the agreement in limiting Iran's nuclear program and reaffirms, despite continued differences between the United States and Iran, the value of diplomacy in resolving international disputes.

Iran Nuclear Deal Implementation Day: A Belfer Center Expert Round-Up

The Iran nuclear deal was officially implemented on Saturday, as Iran successfully fulfilled its initial key nuclear commitments and the international community relieved major sanctions, including unfreezing about $100 billion of Iranian money. Implementation Day was met with applause from deal supporters in the U.S. and Iran, while critics have raised questions about whether Iran will adhere to its requirements and how it will flex its newfound economic power. Also in recent days, the U.S. and Iran agreed to a prisoner swap that led to the freedom of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and others, and negotiated the release of American sailors detained in Iran. What does the arrival of Implementation Day mean for Iran’s nuclear program and nuclear nonproliferation, and how does it bode for the future of U.S.-Iran relations? We asked Belfer Center experts to weigh in on these and related questions.

What about the integrity of Iran’s financial system?

Aaron ArnoldAaron Arnold, Associate with the Project on Managing the Atom at the Belfer Center, writes in The Hill that while Iran will soon be getting sanctions relief as the nuclear accord with the P5+1 is enacted, it has not yet taken steps to update its banking system and bring it up to international money laundering and counter-terror financing. He also suggests that in order to balance the competing political and financial concerns at play with sanctions, the international community led by the United States should make clear conditions for both exclusion and rejoining of the international financial system.

Reading the IAEA’s Report on Possible Military Dimensions in Iran’s Nuclear Program

Olli HeinonenOlli Heinonen, Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, writes that despite the general lack of cooperation from Iran, the IAEA has produced a successful comprehensive report detailing Iran's nuclear activities. However he notes that Iran's noncompliance has hampered the final determinations, and so further investigation and intelligence operations should be conducted to determine the extent of Iranian nuclear activity.

Belfer Experts Comment on New IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear program

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano briefs members of the media at a press conference held during the 1412th Board of Governors meeting on Iran. IAEA Headquarters, Vienna, Austria, 25 August 2015. (IAEA)

The International Atomic Energy Agency released its “final assessment” yesterday of the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program. Seven members of the Belfer Center’s Iran Working Group -- Graham Allison, Matthew Bunn, Martin Malin, Richard Nephew, Gary Samore, Will Tobey, and Trevor Findlay  -- commented on their reactions to the IAEA report and how it will impact the nuclear deal with Iran.

Predicting When New Iranian Oil Will Begin to Flow

Richard NephewRichard NephewProgram Director, Economic Statecraft, Sanctions and Energy Markets, Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, writes for the Columbia Center on Global Energy Policy that while Iran has taken steps to fulfill its commitments under the JCPOA, internal Iranian politics, especially as all sides in the Iranian factional system consider the February elections for the Majles, will probably slow down adoption of the agreement. He notes, however, that for the United States, delays in implementation are ultimately less important so long as the final measures of the agreement are all completed.

Translation of Iranian legislation approving nuclear deal

Members of the Iranian Parliament Discussing the Nuclear Agreement with the West (AP Images)

By Henry Rome

Members of the Iranian parliament (Majles) passed legislation on Oct. 13 approving the implementation of the nuclear deal reached between Iran and the West, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The legislation passed with 161 lawmakers in support, 59 opposed, and 13 abstentions. It was subsequently ratified by the Guardian Council, which vets all Majles legislation, and approved by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The bill was published only in Farsi; Iran Matters’ original English translation is below.

The author thanks Payam Mohseni for editing of translation.

Proliferation Alert! The IAEA and Non-Compliance Reporting

Trevor FindlayTrevor Findlay, Associate with the Project on Managing the Atom at the Belfer Center, provides the first comprehensive study of the International Atomic Energy Agency's handling of states that are not complying with their non-proliferation obligations.

The report finds that none of the cases—which include North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Libya, and Syria, among others—have followed the non-compliance process outlined in the Agency's Statute and safeguards agreements. Rather, each case has posed unique challenges to the non-proliferation regime. The report concludes that creativity and deft statecraft rather than a rigid, formulaic approach are key to the handling of complex non-compliance cases.

In addition to flexibility, the report emphasizes the importance of protecting the impartiality and enhancing the technical capabilities of the Agency's Secretariat and the need for the Board of Governors to assume full responsibility for making non-compliance judgments. It also calls for greater transparency from the Agency and its member states about compliance with safeguards.

The international community would do well to heed the lessons of past cases in dealing with any potential or actual Iranian non-compliance, while Iran should draw the lesson that proactive cooperation and transparency will smooth the compliance path considerably.

The Iran Deal Ship Has Sailed. It is Time to Send Reinforcement

Avner GolovAvner Golov, Researcher at the Center for a New American Security and Research Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, argues that now that the Iran nuclear deal has begun to be implemented, the United States should take measures to fill in the gaps in the agreement. Specifically, he advocates that the US develop additional snapback provisions to deter an Iranian attempt to build a bomb later in the agreement while increasing intelligence cooperation in the region to monitor Iran's program, revitalize partnerships with Arab Sunni states through military support and cooperation to help them check Iran's regional advances, and reinvigorate high level cooperation with Israel.

Cardin introduces Iran Policy Oversight Act of 2015

Cardin
Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD)

Henry Rome reviews the latest version of the Iran oversight legislation drafted by Sen. Ben Cardin (D, Maryland). Since publishing a “discussion draft” last month, Cardin removed language related to Iranian production of highly enriched uranium (HEU) but retained sections permitting new terrorism sanctions and increasing defense assistance to Israel.

What Happened to the Military Option Against Iran?

Gary SamoreEphraim KamGary Samore, Director of Research at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairsand Ephraim Kam, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, examine the fate of the military option in the process of the Iranian nuclear talks. They discuss how from the beginning, American and Israeli understandings of the use and effectiveness of the military option against the Iranian program, and that while the United States sought to diminish the likelihood of a military attack during the negotiations, Israeli officials accused the US of diminishing the credibility of a potential military attack. While they recommend that the military option be strengthened going forward, considering the continued possibility that Iran will renege on its commitments and potentially try to construct a nuclear weapon, they recognize that many factors will influence whether or not the military option is employed against the Iranian nuclear program going into the future.

Banks Will Help Ensure Iran Keeps Promises On Nukes

Aaron ArnoldNikos PassasAaron Arnold, Associate with the Project on Managing the Atom at the Belfer Center, and Nikos Passas, Professor of Criminal Justice at Northeastern University, argue in The Conversation that Iran's reintegration into the global financial system may in fact make it easier, not more difficult, to monitor Iranian financial activities for illicit transactions. They point to the fact that banks can monitor transactions for entities designated as involved in terrorist or weapons of mass destruction activities by the U.S. Treasury. They also suggest that Iran may adopt stricter money laundering standards in order to increase economic integration. While challenges remain, they suggest that building a public-private partnership between banks and regulators will ensure that Iran will be caught in any illicit financial actions after the nuclear deal.

The Details of the Iran Deal Matter, Now More Than Ever

Ephraim AsculaiEmily LandauEphraim Asculai, Senior Research Fellow at the the Institute for National Security Studies, and Emily Landau, Senior Research Associate at INSS, argue that while the Iran nuclear agreement is being implemented, there are still significant flaws that need to be remedied in the implementation phase to ensure the agreement functions. They suggest meticulous verification mechanisms to monitor Iranian compliance, transparency in the verification regime, professional oversight and analysis of the IAEA's verification techniques, timely reporting, and verifying and checking information provided by member states to the IAEA as ways to ensure that Iran does not cheat on the agreement and is held to its commitments. 

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