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9 Reasons to Support the Iran Deal

Graham AllisonGraham Allison, Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, writes in The Atlantic that despite criticism, the current nuclear deal with Iran is the best option facing the United States for trying to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon. He argues that there is a very little possibility of other countries returning to the bargaining table if the US stops the agreement, and states that despite the continued destabilizing actions of Iran in the region, the agreement presents the best chance of foreclosing the pathways to an Iranian nuclear weapon.

The Iran Nuclear Deal: A Definitive Guide

The Iran Nuclear Deal: A Definitive GuideThe Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School has produced this briefing book on the Iran deal in the interest of contributing to informed Congres­sional review and public discourse on the agreement. First, we have provided a concise description of the complex agreement and the accompanying UN Security Council Resolution 2231, including areas that appear ambiguous. Second, we have tried to provide a balanced assessment of the agreement’s strengths and weaknesses with respect to its central objective to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Iran Edition: Hardliners Criticize Nuclear, Missile Limits

Iran EditionShirin Lotfi describes reactions in the Iranian press to the nuclear deal signed with the P5+1. Specifically, Iranian hardliners have criticized the deal in editorial comments, critiquing it for sections relating to Iran's ballistic missile program, the process of sanctions relief, and the potential for the United States to impose further sanctions for nonnuclear activities.

The Iran-North Korea Strategic Alliance

James WalshJames Walsh, Research Associate at the Security Studies Program at MIT and former Research Fellow at the Belfer Center, gave testimony to members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee concerning the diplomatic and strategic ties between Iran and North Korea. He argued that while it is still possible for North Korea to assist Iran on cheating on its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, he argued that the combination of existing safeguards and deterrents and incentives and verification measures put in place under the JCPOA make this outcome unlikely.

Statement by 60 National Security Leaders on the Announcement of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

Nick BurnsMichele FlournoyJoseph NyeJim WalshNicholas Burns, Professor of Practice at the Harvard Kennedy School,  Michele Flournoy, Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center and CEO of the Center for a New American Security, Joseph Nye, Professor and Former Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School and James Walsh, Research Associate with the MIT Security Studies program were among a group of 60 former national security officials and analysts who signed a statement in favor of the nuclear agreement with Iran. The statement, while acknowledging faults with the agreement, supported it and urged the Administration and Congress to work closely to implement the deal.

A Good Deal for Israel

Chuck FreilichChuck Freilich, Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center and former Israeli Deputy National Security Adviser writes in the New York Times and in Israeli media that the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1, despite flaws, is in fact good for Israel. He argues that critics of the current agreement have not offered feasible alternative plans, and that the deal will buy Israel time to address immediate threats in its region, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, without worrying about the potential for an Iranian nuclear weapon. He concludes that the intransigence of Prime Minister Netanyahu is a dangerous course, as it is most likely either going to fail or seriously endanger the close relationship between Israel and the United States.

Elements of the Iranian Nuclear Deal

Gary SamoreGary Samore, Director of Research at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, describes the main elements of the JCPOA. The July 14, 2015 comprehensive nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 (known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) consists of the agreement itself and five technical annexes: Annex I – Nuclear-related measures; Annex 2 – Sanctions-related commitments; Annex III- Civil Nuclear Cooperation; Annex IV – Joint Commission; and Annex V – Implementation Plan. The version issued by the EU is used here because pages and paragraphs are numbered in proper order.  In coming days, the Belfer Center plans to publish a more detailed description and assessment of the agreement.

Clearing Hurdles to Iran Nuclear Deal With Standoffs, Shouts and Compromise

David SangerDavid Sanger, Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center and the National Security Correspondent for the New York Times, writes in the New York Times on the shifting course of American diplomacy with Iran during the negotiations on Iran's nuclear program. From the earliest meetings facilitated by the Sultan of Oman with Iranian officials, to the final hours of the tense negotiations in Vienna, he describes the shifting priorities and views of the American and Iranian diplomatic teams, and how compromises on sanctions and centrifuges allowed the deal to come together.

The deal is historic, but the US must now act to contain Iran

Nick BurnsNicholas Burns, Professor of Practice at the Harvard Kennedy School and former Undersecretary of State for Policy, argues in the Financial Times that the nuclear agreement with Iran is the best option available for the West currently. He argues that in the absence of an agreement, international sanctions and pressure would have collapsed while monitoring the Iranian program would have been significantly weakened. He counters arguments that this will lead to a broader rapprochement with due to the competition in Iran between the pragmatists who are interested in discussion with the West, and the hardliners, who prefer continued confrontation. He also suggests that Iran's influence in the Sunni world will force the United States to confront Iran in the region in the future, further precluding a drastic improvement of relations.

The Iranian Nuclear-Inspection Charade

William TobeyWilliam Tobey, Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, writes in the Wall Street Journal that the nuclear agreement with Iran does not provide stringent enough verification measures to ensure that Iran is abiding by the agreement. Specifically, he notes that in some cases, as many as twenty four days may elapse before inspectors arrive at a site to investigate, which will give Iran time to hide evidence of wrongdoing. He also argues that the deal fails by not requiring Iran to submit a full declaration of the past military dimensions of the program, meaning any actions that could have been carried out in the explicit pursuit of a nuclear weapon. Without this declaration, he argues, the agreement does not set a baseline for inspections, making it much harder for the deal to be enforced.

Implications of a Nuclear Agreement with Iran

Nicholas BurnsNicholas Burns, Professor of Practice at the Harvard Kennedy School, testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the implications of the nuclear agreement with Iran. He stated that both the Bush and Obama Administrations had pursued complementary policies that have helped the United States reach the final stage of negotiations, and suggested that a deal that sets stringent controls on the Iranian nuclear program in line with the standards laid out in the Lausanne Framework would be worth congressional support. He argued that the interim agreement with Iran froze the Iranian program, gave the US and its allies verification tools to monitor compliance, and a mechanism to reimpose sanctions on Iran if it violates the accord. Finally, he argued that unilaterally walking away from the table would hurt American global standing, and would foreclose the possibility of coming to a negotiated agreement, which he suggested was still the best option for ensuring that Iran does not produce a nuclear weapon.

Analyzing the Iran Nuclear Deal

Matt BunnMatthew Bunn, Co-Principal Investigator of the Project on Managing the Atom, discusses his perspective towards the Iranian nuclear agreement. He describes how the deal restricts Iran's nuclear program, giving the world time to continue to respond to the Iranian challenge, and how the agreement, while not perfect, is a significant step in rolling back aspects of the Iranian program. He suggests that while mutual hostility handicapped talks, the presence of technical experts alongside political officials was crucial in having the final agreement come together. he suggests that while the deal may not solve all problems in US-Iran relations, it does leave the door open to future cooperation on issues of mutual concern.

Iran Edition: Iran’s press coverage and newspaper headlines after the deal

Foreign Ministers
German Foreign Minister Steinmeier, EU High Representative Mogherini, and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif in Vienna after the conclusion of the nuclear talks (US Department of State)

By Shirin Lotfi

Not all Iranian newspapers have shown interest in covering the nuclear talks throughout the past 20 months, but today virtually all newspapers dedicated a part of their front page to the announcement of the nuclear deal. Iranian newspapers took creative approaches to herald the nuclear deal. Below is a brief roundup of reaction. 

Explainer: Arms embargoes against Iran

July Talks
Secretary of State John Kerry and members of the U.S. delegation speak with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the Iranian delegation in Vienna on July 11, 2015. (U.S. Department of State)

Nuclear negotiations with Iran have apparently reached an impasse over the future of United Nations arms restrictions against Iran. What are these embargoes, and why is there controversy?

4 Myths about the Iran Sanctions

Graham AllisonGary SamoreGraham Allison, Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and Gary Samore, Director of Research at the Belfer Center, identify in The National Interest four myths about the sanctions structure on Iran due to its nuclear program. Specifically, they argue that not all sanctions on Iran will be removed after a nuclear deal, that the sanctions are not clearly delineated between "nuclear" and "non-nuclear" related sanctions, that some sanctions on Iran such as a conventional arms embargo and targeting the Iranian ballistic missile program are not closely linked to the nuclear program but are addressing areas of continuing concern for the United States, and that in a final agreement many sanctions may be lifted, but will not be permanently removed, as they are codified in Congressional legislation.

Nietzsche and the Nuclear Era

Graham AllisonGraham Allison, Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, writes in The Atlantic that the most important fact to remember when approaching the Iranian nuclear talks is to remember what American objectives are: to stop Iran verifiably and interruptidly short of a nuclear bomb. He also uses history to make the case against claims against negotiating with Iran, arguing that arms control agreements are a part of the American diplomatic, military, and political toolbox to address national security threats, that negotiating with "evil" regimes can still help preserve American security, that strict verification measures can mitigate the risk of cheating on agreements, that the United States is perfectly capable of negotiating arms control with states it is also engaged in proxy conflicts with, and that the United States can still negotiate with a regime that it seeks to undermine. 

Assessing an Iran Deal: 5 Big Lessons from History

Graham AllisonGraham Allison, Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, writes in The National Interest that past American arms control agreements can help illuminate important lessons to consider when assessing the potential nuclear agreement with Iran. Specifically, he argues that arms control agreements can accomplish American national security objectives without resorting to war, no deal can result without compromise, arms control agreements lower the overall possibility of nuclear war, future agreements should not be scuttled by the past difficulty in negotiating with North Korea, and an agreement that meets the conditions necessary for maintaining American objectives is the most responsible option for maintaining American national security.

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