Save the Iran Deal

Frequently Asked Questions

Below, we answer some of the questions we frequently get from supporters and clarify some of the most common misconceptions about the deal. If you have a question that isn’t answered here, please feel free to email us at info@jstreet.org.

Is Iran complying with the nuclear agreement? How do we know?

Iran has taken all the steps that they were required to take in order to block all pathways to developing a nuclear weapon. The core of the Arak plutonium reactor has been removed and filled with concrete. 25,000 pounds of enriched uranium have been shipped out of the country. ⅔ of installed centrifuges have been physically removed, and the equipment that enables them to enrich uranium has also been dismantled and removed. Iran has provided inspectors access to its nuclear facilities and supply chain.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is tasked with monitoring and inspecting Iran’s nuclear facilities to ensure that they are complying with the deal – utilizing the unprecedentedly thorough and sophisticated inspections mechanisms and technology that the deal put into place. So far, the IAEA has repeatedly certified that Iran is compliant.

That assessment has been backed up by the US national security establishment. The Trump administration itself has already officially certified to Congress on two occasions that Iran is in compliance. No facts have changed since then. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dunford, told a Senate committee in late September that “Iran is adhering to its JCPOA obligations.” The commander of US Strategic Command, General Hyten, a few days before that stated: “The facts are that Iran is operating under the agreements that we signed up for under the JCPOA.”

Did President Trump have any legitimate grounds to decertify Iran’s compliance with the deal?

No. None. Iran IS compliant, as our senior military commanders have stated. By announcing that the agreement is “no longer in the national security interest of the United States” as his justification for de-certification, Trump ignored the basic facts and his own advisers. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on October 3rd that he believes it is in US national security interest to remain in the Iran nuclear agreement – directly contradicting the president’s claim.

So why did Trump decertify?

It seems clear that the president is acting based on his own personal political agenda, distaste for diplomacy and contempt for his predecessor. He spent months on the campaign trail attacking the “bad deal,” and during his first few months in office has reportedly been embarrassed to have to admit repeatedly to Congress and the world that the agreement is actually working. By decertifying, he hopes to placate his own far-right base and some of the powerful, well-funded far-right groups that are pushing for the US to withdraw from the agreement. He seems to believe that with this decision, he has shifted the responsibility for deciding the fate of the agreement from himself onto Congress.

Now that he has decertified, what happens next?

From the time of decertification, Congress has 60 days to reimpose nuclear sanctions via a simple majority vote in each chamber using a “fast track” process. If such a bill is voted on and becomes law, it would violate our commitments under the deal – isolating the US and shattering our credibility, empowering Iran and potentially putting us on the path to another unnecessary and destructive war in the Middle East.

While this is an option that that deal opponents could pursue, it now seems clear that they’ll opt for a different path to try to kill the deal. They’re proposing legislation that they claim will “fix” the JCPOA. But in reality, that legislation unilaterally imposes new conditions on Iran that were never part of the nuclear agreement and which they never agreed to. Ignoring the scope and goals of the original deal – and ignoring the wishes of our allies and the other nations who also negotiated and committed to the agreement – it would violate the deal, fully re-imposing nuclear sanctions in the very near future.

Is it possible to stop this kind of insidious, deal-killing legislation?

Here’s the good news: yes. Unlike the “fast-track” sanctions re-imposition, this kind of legislation would require 60 votes in the Senate to pass. That means Republican opponents of the deal would need to convince their entire caucus, plus eight Democrats, to vote with them – including some who have supported the Iran deal in the past. If we flood senators’ offices with calls and emails and help convince them not to support this type of dangerous bill, we can keep it from passing – and keep the deal intact.

Can the deal be good for Israel if Prime Minister Netanyahu opposes it? What does Israel’s security establishment think?

By cutting off every pathway to an Iranian nuclear weapon, the deal has made Israel safer – which is why so many within the top echelons of Israel’s security establishment believe that the US should maintain it, and that Prime Minister Netanyahu is wrong to oppose it.

Former Shin Bet director Carmi Gillon writes that the agreement is “a clear success” that “has had a positive impact on Israel’s security and must be fully maintained by the United States and the other signatory nations.” Uzi Eilam, former director of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission, has been unequivocal: “With all due respect to Prime Minister Netanyahu, he was flat out wrong — and my colleagues and I were right. This was and remains a good agreement. It’s made Israel and the world safer.” Netanyahu’s own former National Security Advisor, Uzi Arad, says that “Iran has indeed done away with those things that it committed itself to do away with … It stopped the advance toward nuclear weapons. That is tangible, and that is good.” And according to a recent Haaretz report, “Netanyahu’s position is at odds with most Israeli experts in Military Intelligence and in the IDF’s Planning Directorate, the Mossad, Foreign Ministry and the Atomic Energy Committee.”

The prime minister has a right to push his own views – but those who know Israeli security best are saying that the deal is working and good for Israel. Their opinions need to be heard.

Does the deal prevent the US from confronting and sanctioning Iran’s dangerous non-nuclear behaviors?

No. The deal is designed to prevent Iran from obtaining from a nuclear weapon. Non-nuclear behaviors are separate – which is why the US has and can continue to use a wide range of tactics and sanctions to confront and penalize Iran over its support for terror, human rights violations and missile development. In fact, Congress passed new non-nuclear sanctions on Iran earlier this year.

It is important to note, however, that some proposed pieces of legislation have aimed to violate or undermine the JCPOA by reimposing key nuclear sanctions under the guise of confronting non-nuclear behavior. That’s a dangerous tactic that we have to watch out for.

What happens after the deal expires or sunsets? Can’t Iran just go back to trying to build a nuclear weapon then?

The agreement never expires or sunsets. The agreement contains some time-limited restrictions on certain Iranian nuclear activity, but its prohibition on Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon and its submission to an aggressive inspections and monitoring regime are permanent.

Specifically, the agreement establishes strict limits on advanced centrifuge R&D, testing and deployment in the first 10 years and, after the initial 10 year period, Iran must continue to limit enrichment to a level that is consistent with a peaceful nuclear program. Certain transparency measures will last for 15 years, others for 20 to 25 years and some will last forever, namely its obligations under the IAEA Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol.

This deal in no way authorizes, allows or encourages future Iranian nuclear weapons activity, which will always be prohibited under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). If Iran ever acts to pursue a nuclear weapon in violation of the agreement, the United States and its allies retain their ability to respond with any number of diplomatic and military options. And thanks to the agreement, America and its partners are now in a better position to thwart any break-out attempt, given the unparalleled understanding and awareness of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure that the deal has already provided.

Can we trust Iran when it has violated many past agreements?

We don’t trust Iran – and this agreement leaves nothing to trust. It is based on unprecedented verification, with the strictest inspections in history. It includes 24/7 monitoring of Iran’s declared nuclear facilities, including Natanz, Fordow and Arak. International inspectors have access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain – its uranium mines and mills; its conversion facility; its centrifuge manufacturing and storage facilities; and its other declared nuclear sites. As a result, Iran would need to construct an entire covert supply chain to pursue a covert nuclear weapons program. The IAEA can also request access to any undeclared sites within 24 days, and don’t worry – Iran, Russia and China do not have a veto over that right, or over moves to punish Iran if it refuses.

Why doesn’t the deal impose “anytime, anywhere inspections”?

There is no such thing – it is a semantic debate about a term that does not exist in arms control circles or at the IAEA. There are currently no countries who grant “anytime, anywhere” inspections to the IAEA nor has any country ever agreed to such a condition. What is important and undeniable is that inspectors have the access they need, when and where they need it. Iran’s nuclear facilities are monitored 24/7. Without a deal, international inspectors would be granted little or no access to any sites, while Iran’s nuclear program proceeds unmonitored and unrestricted.