Iran: Understanding the P5+1 Agreement
For five years, President Obama has worked to head off the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. This weekend's announcement in Geneva shows he is on the right path: a first-step agreement that will freeze and begin to roll back Iran's nuclear enrichment for six months while a permanent agreement is being hammered out.
While other organizations supported additional sanctions that could have derailed this agreement, J Street urged caution and supported negotiations, knowing that new sanctions now would undermine talks and set us back on the road to war. This has been a bruising fight, and it's not over. Below, get the resources you need to understand why this initial, six-month step is the best path to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
About the Deal
This is a first but very important step which gets Iran and the international community on a path that could prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon without resorting to military force. The alternatives to diplomacy were more sanctions and/or military action which would only have delayed, but not destroyed the Iranian program, but which would have plunged the Middle East into turmoil and possibly dragged the United States and Israel into a costly and bloody war.
The agreement is only a first step and Israel and the rest of the world are correct to relate to it with considerable skepticism in light of Iran's record of concealing and lying about its program. Constant vigilance is necessary over the weeks and months ahead. But the agreement includes unprecedented monitoring provisions, including daily inspections by UN experts of Iran's two enrichment plants -- Fordo and Natanz -- which offers the first real chance for years to subject Iran to realistic international supervision.
The agreement freezes the most important aspects of the Iranian program for six month and thus extends the timeline during which the Iranians could develop a bomb. Iran's most dangerous stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium will be diluted or converted into a form which cannot be weaponized. Work on the Iranian plutonium facility will be halted. This means Israel and the region are safer today than last week.
The economic relief Iran will get totals only around $6 to $7 billion while Iran will continue to lose $30 billion in oil revenues over the next six months, The key sanctions remain in place and the relief can easily be reversed if Iran does not live up to the terms of the agreement. In other words, in exchange for a freeze and modest roll-back of its program, Iran is getting a comparatively small amount of economic relief.
Any Iranian non-compliance could and should be met with additional sanctions which would be easier to achieve since the deal also keeps international solidarity intact against Iran. Existing sanctions remain a powerful inducement to encouraging Iran towards a final agreement while limited economic relief shows that there are great rewards for achieving a final agreement.
This is not the time for Congress to impose new sanctions on Iran. It would be an act of bad faith which could sabotage the agreement by empowering Iranian hardliners and fracturing the unity of the P5+1 negotiations team. There will be plenty of time for new sanctions if Iran tries to cheat or fails to live up to the agreement -- or if it proves impossible to reach a permanent solution in six month. The Senate should consider if it wants to take responsibility for undermining an agreement that offers a peaceful way out of a very dangerous crisis.
What the Experts Say
- “It's better than the alternative of no agreement, and obligates us to make every effort to ensure that the agreement six months from now rolls back the Iranian nuclear program… It is possible that had there been no agreement, [Iran] would have decided to make the breakthrough to a bomb.” [Former Israeli Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin, 11/24/2013]
- “From now on there will be day-to-day inspectors visiting the Iranian facilities.” [Former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy, 11/24/2013]
- “The new agreement does not allow the Iranians to further develop their nuclear facilities… The Iranians will be forced to dismantle their cascades of centrifuges and will have to make do with the old ones in their possession. Taking into account the knowledge the Iranians have amassed and the rate of their progress until now, there is no reason to mourn the agreement.” [Israeli analyst Ehud Yaari Ehud Yaari, 11/24/2013]
Israeli Political Leaders
- Obama promised he would not accept a nuclear Iran, and, indeed, the agreement distances Iran from nuclearization [Labor MK Merav Michaeli, 11/25/2013]
- "This is not just an American achievement, but also an Israeli achievement.” [Meretz Leader MK Zehava Galon, 11/24/2013]
- "It is clear that the agreement reached is far superior." [Labor MK Omer Bar-Lev , 11/24/2013]
- "Although no diplomatic agreement is perfect, the one reached in Geneva is pretty darn good." [Former Assistant Deputy Secretary of Defense Colin Kahl , 11/25/2013]
- “No matter what you think of it, this is a historic deal." [ Dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies Vali Nasr, 11/24/2013]
- “The interim agreement that is on the table provides a real promise for resolving this issue diplomatically. It must be given time.” [Statement on Iran by 13 Former Foreign Ministers, 11/21/2013]
- "Let’s go forward with the negotiation with our eyes wide open, but with inspectors on the ground we’ll be able to tell whether they’re in fact doing what they say they’re going to do." [Senator Dick Durbin, 11/29/2013]
- "When a possibility for peace presents itself, no matter how distant or unlikely, we have an obligation to pursue it." [Senator Joe Manchin, 11/28/2013]
- "This [deal] is a very significant step. It's filled with risk but I think it's always important to try diplomatic solutions as best you can." [Congressman Jeff Fortenberry , 11/26/2013]
- “I am deeply disappointed by the negative reactions we have been hearing from some of my colleagues to the preliminary agreement. No one should underestimate the enormity of this breakthrough, which provides for daily inspections at Iranian nuclear facilities. The administration has left every option on the table should this agreement falter, but we should work as hard as possible across party lines to support a diplomatic solution.” [Senator Barbara Boxer, 11/26/2013]
- “The agreement reached on Iran’s nuclear program is an important first step toward preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, which is critical to the security of the U.S. and its allies. This agreement was possible because the powerful sanctions that we put in place, designed to force Iran to the negotiating table, have done precisely that. I urge all of my colleagues to come together in support of the agreement." [Senator Jay Rockefeller, 11/26/2013]
- “The interim agreement reached over the weekend is an important first step toward a comprehensive and verifiable deal to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." [Congressman David Price, 11/26/2013]
- "We all have to acknowledge that it’s an important first step." [Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid , 11/25/2013]
- "The agreement reached today between the world powers and Iran is a positive step forward in the diplomatic effort to roll back Iran's nuclear program. " [Congressman Adam Schiff, 11/25/2013]
- "The agreement reached today is a positive first step to limit Iran's nuclear program. The United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, China, and the European Union have all worked to negotiate strict oversight, enforcement mechanisms, and daily inspections that are critical to overseeing this agreement." [Senator Martin Heinrich , 11/24/2013]
- "This deal could bring us closer to a world less threatened by weapons of mass destruction. We should now press forward to do even more in pursuit of peace." [Senator Tim Kaine, 11/24/2013]
- "The deal struck this morning between the United States, our allies, and Iran is a wise and necessary first step toward resolving the decades-long standoff over Iran's nuclear program." [Senator Chris Murphy, 11/24/2013]
- "This could mark an historic turning point toward a more peaceful world." [Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, 11/24/2013]
- "I support the interim deal with Iran. It is a realistic, practical way to freeze Iran's nuclear program for six months while we seek a long-range diplomatic end to Iran's nuclear weapon ambition." [Senator Carl Levin, 11/24/2013]
- "It is a choice between a pause or imminent war. I choose a verifiable pause." [Senator Bill Nelson, 11/24/2013]
- "President Obama, Secretary Kerry, their team, and our allies are to be commended for their successful efforts to hash out a deal that advances national, regional, and global security." [House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, 11/24/2013]
- "This is a very important first step toward the goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon." [Congressman Chris Van Hollen, 11/24/2013]
- The "deal is an important step toward preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons capability, and a major win for US national security." [Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, 11/24/2013]
- The deal is a "positive step in the right direction.” [Congressman Adam Smith, 11/24/2013]
- "This tentative agreement with Iran, reached in Geneva, is a positive step towards halting Iran's nuclear program." [Congressman David Cicilline, 11/24/2013]
- The interim framework agreement reached between the P5+1 and Iran is a critical first step toward a comprehensive deal to address Iran's nuclear program. I am encouraged by this progress after a decade of impasse."" [Congressman Gregory Meeks, 11/24/2013]
- "By any standard, this agreement is a giant step forward and should not be undermined by additional sanctions at this time." [Senator Dianne Feinstein, 11/23/2013]
- "Congratulations to President Obama, Secretary Kerry and everyone involved in the successful Iranian nuclear negotiations." [Congressman Raul Grijalva, 11/23/2013]
- "This is indeed a triumph for diplomacy, and I’m pleased that President Obama reasserted Congress’ role in these negotiations. It is my hope that this deal is a step towards a more peaceful and secure world." [Congresswoman Barbara Lee, 11/23/2013]
- "Today’s agreement with Iran regarding its nuclear program, albeit short-term, is potential progress." [Congressman Dan Kildee , 11/23/2013]
- "The deal in the short run accomplishes a tremendous amount. In the long run, a lot of work has to be done and a lot of issues have to be settled." [President of the Institute for Science and International Security David Albright, 11/25/2013]
- "A major achievement that deserves enthusiastic applause." [Paul Pillar, 11/25/2013]
- “The new agreement offers more hope than ever before that the United States and Iran can find common ground.” [The New York Times editorial board, 11/25/2013]
- “This is the best deal that could be had.” [Columnist Roger Cohen , 11/25/2013]
- "The world is safer from the Iranian nuclear threat today than it was a week ago." [Columnist David Ignatius, 11/25/2013]
- “All in all, the interim agreement is a good deal.” [Nonproliferation expert Jeffrey Lewis, 11/25/2013]
- "The Geneva nuclear deal... is the first real positive development in the Iranian nuclear crisis in at least 10 years." [RAND analyst Alireza Nader, 11/25/2013]
- “The signing of the agreement between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers is worthy of the title ‘historic event.’” [Haaretz editorial board, 11/25/2013]
- “For now, the prudent course is to give diplomacy its chance.” [Washington Post editorial board, 11/24/2013]
- "The potential benefits of this preliminary deal overwhelm the relatively small concessions that negotiations required." [USA Today editorial board, 11/24/2013]
- “The Iranian nuclear deal struck Saturday night is a triumph.” [Council on Foreign Relations Fellow Fred Kaplan , 11/24/2013]
- “The terms of the interim deal between the P5+1 and Iran appear to be significantly better from the Israeli perspective than the terms floating around just two weeks ago. In fact, most of Israel’s main previous concerns have been addressed.” [Brookings Institution Fellow Natan Sachs, 11/24/2013]
- “The Geneva deal is a genuine diplomatic step forward.” [Carnegie Scholar David Kothkopf, 11/24/2013]
- “The odds are greater that it will lead to a historic breakthrough – confirmation that patient diplomacy backed up by economic punishment is the more successful alternative to military threats, even when dealing with one of the world’s most dangerous regimes.” [Forward editorial board, 11/24/2013]
62 Organizations Warn Senate Against Passing New Sanctions