I subscribe to the mailing list of The Arms Control Association and received this today. t answers or or gives their opinion on several pertinent questions regarding the proposed agreement on nuclear development by Iran. I cannot find a direct link so I am posting it here in full.
A Critical Week in Lausanne
Nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) are entering the final days before the end-of-March target date for reaching a framework agreement.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with Iranian Foreign Minster Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday, March 15 in Lusanne, Switzerland. The following day, Zarif will meet with EU foreign policy chief Frederica Mogherini in Brussels. Also present at that meeting will be British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Political directors for the P5+1 and Iran are expected to remain in Switzerland for the week to continue closing the gaps on a framework agreement. On Nov. 24, when the parties agreed to extend negotiations, they set the goal of reaching a framework agreement within four months (March) and a full deal by June 30.
The French foreign ministry spokesperson said March 11 that the parties are 7-10 days away from a deal and the Russian deputy foreign minister said March 12 that there is momentum toward a deal and the final solutions may be found "next week." All parties have ruled out the possibility of an additional extension.
The Arms Control Association will be on the ground in Lusanne next week to follow the negotiations.
--KELSEY DAVENPORT, director for nonproliferation policy, and DARYL G. KIMBALL, executive director
Politically-Binding? Legally-Binding? Or Both?
One misconception about the nature of the P5+1 agreement with Iran is whether and how it binds the two sides to follow through with their commitments and who must endorse it.
From the U.S. perspective, the deal will be an executive agreement. The president has the authority to negotiate an executive agreement with a foreign government without congressional involvement. Studies indicate that since the 1930s, 94 percent of all agreements with foreign countries have been executive agreements.
Unlike a treaty, which requires the advice and consent of two thirds of the U.S. Senate and is legally binding, the executive agreement between the P5+1 and Iran will not require congressional advice and consent, though Congress will have to, at the appropriate stage, take legislative action to lift certain nuclear-related sanctions on Iran in order to fulfill the terms of the agreement.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated in testimony before a March 11 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that the Iran nuclear deal would be a "nonbinding" executive agreement among the parties, which include the five permanent members of the Security Council.
But as Richard Nephew, former deputy coordinator of sanctions policy at the State Department told The Washington Post, "At the end of the day, it's still politically binding," he said. "Commitments are made. What's the real consequence to Iran? If it were a treaty or legally binding and they violate it, that has significance. But the bigger impact is sanctions will be reimposed. If we don't fulfill our part, Iran's nuclear program will expand. That's still a consequence, just more practical than legal."
If concluded, the UN Security Council will also endorse the agreement. Multiple sources, including U.S. and Iranian government officials, have indicated that they will seek endorsement of the deal by a Security Council resolution.
However, Bernadette Meehan, spokesperson for the National Security Council, said in an email statement to reporters on March 12 that "any new resolution would not take U.S. commitments under the deal--particularly with respect to sanctions relief--and make them legally binding. We have been and will continue to be extremely careful to avoid any such provisions in future [UN Security Council resolutions]."
The 2013 deal reached by the United States and Russia to remove and destroy chemical weapons from Syria followed a similar pattern--an executive agreement followed by a UN Security Council resolution endorsing and mandating the implementation of the arrangement.
A congressionally-mandated requirement for delaying the implementation of the agreement pending a congressional review and an "up-or-down" vote, as called for by the Corker-Menendez legislation (S. 615), or a requirement that Iran meet further commitments before sanctions are relieved (which is also an element of that bill), would put the United States at odds with its obligations under the P5+1 and Iran deal.
For more on discussion, see Tyler Cullis's oped in The New York Times, "Ford and Helsinki, Obama and Iran" and Jack Goldsmith's blog, "How a U.N. Security Council Resolution Transforms a Non-Binding Agreement with Iran into a Binding Obligation Under International Law."
47 Senators Letter Controversy Awakens awakens public conscience
The controversy over the March 9 "open letter" to the Iranian leadership written by freshman Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and signed by 46 of his Republican Senate colleagues, and several Republican presidential contenders, rages on.
As it does, opinion--expert, public, and political--is running overwhelmingly against the signatories.
On Thursday, Washington's P5+1 allies criticized the letter. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said March 12 during a visit to Washington that the letter was not helpful to negotiations during this "delicate phase" of the talks.
In the past decade of off-and-on negotiations with Iran, Steinmeier speaking in Washington said the "advantage we [the West] had was to be found in the fact that we said we were credible" and the onus had been on Tehran to prove its ability to live up to its promises. Now, "all of a sudden, Iran is in a position to turn to us and ask 'Are you credible?'"
Over 40 U.S. newspaper editorials from all across the country strongly criticized the letter as a reckless political stunt that is harmful to U.S. efforts to secure an effective nuclear deal, and a stunning breach of protocol.
The New York Times editorial board called the letter a "blatant, dangerous effort to undercut the president on a grave national security issue."
The New Jersey Star Ledger called it a "shallow effort to derail the negotiation."
Even The Wall Street Journal editorial board, which disagrees with the contours of the nuclear deal, said that "Republicans need to keep focused on a critique of the deal's substance" and that the letter distracts from that debate.
Several Republicans also spoke out against the letter. Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said it "inappropriate" and while he is not "bullish" on the chances of getting a good agreement, Congress "out to give it every opportunity to succeed."
Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) said it is "more appropriate" for the Senate to "give advice to the president, Secretary Kerry and to the negotiators."
Prospects for Corker-Menendez Bill for Vote on Deal Uncertain
Senate Foreign Relations Chairmain Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who was not one of the Republicans that signed the Cotton letter, acknowledged it has undercut momentum for his proposal (S. 615) to delay implementation of any P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran until Congress reviews and can vote to approve or block the deal.
One of the bill sponsors, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), said in a March 11 interview that the 47 Senators' Iran letter is making him think twice about the legislation.
"If I'm not convinced that this issue can be handled on the merits and not on a partisan basis," he said, "then I'm going to change my mind."
Corker tried to jumpstart his initiative today with his own letter to President Barack Obama. Though he knows the nuclear deal is not a treaty and has been a UN Security Council concern since 2006, he argued: "going straight to U.N. on Iran nuclear deal would be a direct affront to the American people."
In the wake of the Cotton letter, the question for Senator Corker and the Democratic sponsors of S. 651, which has drawn a veto threat from Obama, is why they think the Senate can discuss and consider the deal on its merits and whether those interested in blocking a diplomatic solution should be given an opportunity to do so?
Refresher: What Might the P5+1 and Iran Deal Look Like?
An effective agreement will constrain Iran's nuclear program and establish an intrusive inspections regime to ensure that Iran's program remains heavily monitored and exclusively peaceful.
For the United States and its negotiating partners, an effective comprehensive agreement should
establish verifiable limits on Iran's program that, taken together, increase the time it would take for Iran to produce weapons-usable nuclear material to at least 12 months;
increase the ability of the international community to promptly detect and effectively disrupt any attempt to deviate from the agreed upon limits and to detect any secret nuclear sites; and
decrease Iran's incentives to pursue nuclear weapons in the future.
Blocking the Highly-Enriched Uranium Path
Reducing Iran's uranium enrichment capacity is about much more than counting centrifuges. The agreement would limit Iran's overall capacity to enrich uranium to weapons grade in a number of ways. Key elements include:
A cap on enrichment of uranium to <5% uranium-235;
Limits on the number/capacity/type of operating centrifuges;
Disablement of centrifuge machines that are installed but not yet operating;
Limits on research and development of more-advanced centrifuges;
Reduction of the size of Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium and conversion to more proliferation-resistant oxide form.
The P5+1 are pressing Iran to significantly reduce its overall uranium-enrichment capacity for at least ten years in order to increase the time Iran would theoretically require to produce enough weapons-grade material for one bomb to at least twelve months.
With enhanced international monitoring capabilities, one year is more than enough time to detect and disrupt any effort by Iran to pursue nuclear weapons in the future.
Blocking the Plutonium Path
A comprehensive agreement will significantly reduce the proliferation risk posed by Iran's unfinished 40-MWt, heavy-water reactor project at Arak by changing the fuel content and configuration and reducing the power level. These steps would drastically cut its annual weapons grade plutonium output far below what is required for a nuclear weapon. The agreement will also prohibit Iran from building a reprocessing facility, which would be needed to separate the plutonium from spent reactor fuel.
Enhanced Inspections and Monitoring
The comprehensive agreement would put in place additional, intrusive transparency measures necessary to promptly detect and disrupt any effort to pursue nuclear weapons in the future, even through a potential clandestine program. The agreement will require the implementation and ratification of the Additional Protocol to the International Atomic Energy Agency's safeguards agreement.
These measures would allow the UN nuclear watchdog the authority to inspect, on very short notice, any site that it suspects is being used for nuclear weapons work, whether or not it had been declared as part of Iran's nuclear program. Once ratified, these arrangements would last in perpetuity. Additional inspection measures will also likely be part of the agreement.
Any agreement that is struck between the P5+1 and Iran should not be evaluated on the basis of how it addresses any single aspect of Iran's nuclear program, such as the number of centrifuges Iran will have.
Instead, it should be judged on its overall impact on reducing Iran's nuclear capacity and
improving existing capabilities to detect and deter any ongoing or future Iranian weapons
program-and it must be compared to the alternative-no constraints on Iran's nuclear potential.
For more details, see: "What Would An Effective Comprehensive Nuclear Deal With Iran Look Like?" Issue Brief, February 9, 2015.
Looking Ahead ...
Week of March 15 - Resumption of political level talks between Iran and the P5+1, Lausanne, Switzerland.
End of March 2015 - Target date for Iran and the P5+1 to reach a political framework agreement.
June 30, 2015 - Deadline for Iran and the P5+1 to complete the technical annexes for a Comprehensive Joint Plan of Action.