Best Analysis

Best Analysis on the Iran Nuclear Deal

Graham AllisonGraham Allison, Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, highlights important analysis pieces discussing the recent Iran nuclear deal. Specifically, he focuses on pieces by Richard Haass, Sandy Berger, Efraim Halevy, Amos Yadlin, Shai Feldman, and Ariel Levite which analyze the important pros and cons of the nuclear deal, its repercussions for US and Israeli policy in the region, and how the United States should move forward in responding to the Iranian nuclear challenge.

Iran and the Arab World after the Nuclear Deal

Iran Report ThumbnailThe Iran Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs has completed a report on Iranian relations with the Arab World in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal. The recent nuclear agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1 in Vienna, or the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” (JCPOA), is an historic agreement which is consequential not only for international security and nuclear proliferation but for Iran and the broader Middle East as a whole. In particular, one of the key arenas that the agreement will impact is Iran-Arab world security relations and, at its center, the Iran-Saudi cold war. Spawning regional conflicts and proxy wars from Yemen to Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, the confrontation between these two regional powers serves as the geopolitical and security background upon which the nuclear deal was forged. How this cold war proceeds—whether or not it is effectively managed and resolved, or how it escalates—will largely determine the security dynamics and landscape of the Middle East for years to come.

Given the significant ramifications that these openings may herald for the future of Iran-Arab world ties, it is more important than ever to engage and analyze viewpoints from scholars and analysts based in the region on the future of Iran’s role in the Middle East and Arab security. In this light, this publication brings together a diverse set of voices from Arab world experts to comment on the implications of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 on Iran-Arab security relations. This chapter accordingly begins with a summary and brief analysis of Arab expert opinion in order to elucidate the broader trends and patterns of analytic thought on Iran and the Arab world. Thereafter, the chapter turns to an examination of the implications of the agreement on Iranian politics and the factors shaping the possibility of Iranian foreign policy moderation. It does so because no serious discussion on Iran-Arab security relations can ignore the Iranian decision-making process and domestic Iranian politics.

Iran Deal Keeps Our Military Options Open

Graham AllisonGraham Allison, Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, argues in The Boston Globe that contrary to certain statements, the Iran nuclear agreement actually does not constrain American or Israeli abilities to launch military options against Iran's nuclear facilities if needed in the future. He argues that the intelligence gained from monitoring the Iranian program will help targeting Iranian nuclear sites, and as a result the possibility for a military strike on Iran after the deal would be more likely to be successful than a military strike now.

Deal or No Deal: The Choice Before Congress

Albert CarnesaleAlbert Carnesale, Member of the Board of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, writes in The National Interest that the idea of another deal being negotiated after the current accord under review should Congress reject it is faulty. He argues that there is no diplomatic path to a better deal because American leverage would be significantly weaker if the agreement is rejected, a military solution will fail to set back Iran's program by more than a few years, and Iranian compliance with the deal without the US will tie American hands to influence further nuclear diplomacy with Iran.

How Congress Could Make the Iran Deal Work

William TobeyWilliam Tobey, Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, with Judith Miller, write in Real Clear Politics about steps Congress can take to be confident in the agreement between Iran and the P5+1. They argue that Congress should seek greater clarification on how Iran will comply with its agreements with the IAEA, extend the review period in order to see how Iran responds to some of the early deadlines for compliance under the accord, authorize military force to halt Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons state, establish an independent team of experts to assess Iranian compliance, sell weapons to Israel capable of damaging the fortified Iranian nuclear sites, and increase funding for actions to help counter Iran's regional activities.

Just How Vulnerable is Iran to Sanctions?

Aaron Arnold Aaron Arnold, Associate at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, writes in The National Interest that contrary to what some have argued, the more Iran is connected the to global economy, the more vulnerable it is to the snapback sanctions measures built into the Iranian nuclear deal. He argues that as Iran becomes more connected to the global economy, the American dominance of financial markets and the importance of the dollar as a global currency will mean that in the event of snapback, companies will be deterred from action in Iran. As a result, the more Iran reconnects its economy to the world, the more vulnerable it will be to snapback measures.

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.

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