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Iran and its Nuclear Program

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ASP believes that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a destabilizing threat to U.S. national interests in the Middle East and beyond and that the current diplomatic effort to ensure that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons is the only feasible path forward. This approach fundamentally strengthens our and our allies’ national security.

 

What ASP thinks about the issue and what is ASP doing

ASP supports the original terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal. The JCPOA was reached on July 14, 2015, and was implemented on January 16, 2016, as part of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231.

 

We support a return to the JCPOA for the following reasons:

While there is still considerable hard work to do, we support the framework for a JCPOA for the following reasons:

First, the pre-JCPOA sanctions regime worked.

  • The IMF estimates that Iran needs global oil prices of over $130 per barrel in order to balance its 2015 budget, prompting Iran to leverage its hawkish influence at OPEC for higher prices. The effect of sanctions on Iran’s economy was vast and wide-ranging, contributing to runaway inflation of over 40%, an unemployment rate spiking over 14%, and a persistent budget deficit. These compounded problems meant Iran had more of a need for a negotiated deal than the P5+1.

Second, there is a myth that a so-called “better deal” could be had if only the United States increased sanctions, which President Trump has embarked on via the maximum pressure campaign.

  • Proposals of what a “better deal” would look like risk fundamentally isolating the United States, which has already started to occur after U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA in May 2018.

Third, resorting to a military option would have meant undertaking an invasion far more challenging than both wars against Iraq.

  • Iran, at 637,000 square miles, is roughly twice the size of Texas. At 80 million people, it has a population of more than double that of Iraq. Its diverse geography and long coastline includes the Strait of Hormuz, a major shipping chokepoint. Stating that we can unilaterally eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapon program with an air campaign is incredibly naïve. Logistically, a mobilization to both defend our regional allies and invade Iran would entail the deployment of at least 500,000 currently standing American military personnel and perhaps twice as many additional National Guard, reserve, and new trainees. Added to this would be the cost of transportation, support, and basing, probably costing in total as much as $1 trillion. This level of mobilization would require Congress to potentially double the defense budget, completely obliterating the mandated savings of sequestration.

Finally, the intrusive inspections that have been implemented via the JCPOA provide ample warning time should the Iranians try to cheat the agreement for the purposes of working toward a viable nuclear weapon.

  • The agreement also provided a precedent for successful negotiations with Iran. By reneging on the agreement, the U.S. may have severely damaged its future negotiating leverage.

 

We agree with former U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, a scientist and nuclear expert, who at the time stated, “America’s leading nuclear experts at the Department of Energy and its national labs and sites were involved throughout these negotiations, evaluating and developing technical proposals to help define negotiating positions in support of the U.S. delegation. As a result, I’m pleased to say that we are very confident in the technical underpinnings of this arrangement.”

The agreement to curtail Iran’s nuclear program was and will continue to be both effective and verifiable. It strengthened both U.S. national interests and the defense of our allies. The success of the JCPOA never depended on a change in Iran’s intentions or ideological outlook, and the U.S. should be mindful of what it is most critical to achieving in terms of the threats Iran poses.

Read ASP’s top ten facts regarding the parameters for the JCPOA here.

 

Key Resources

The Iran Nuclear Deal: What You Need to Know About the JCPOA

Statement by President Obama on the Framework to Prevent Iran from Obtaining a Nuclear Weapon (watch here)

White House Fact Sheet on Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program

The President’s Weekly Address: Reaching a Comprehensive and Long-Term Deal on Iran’s Nuclear Program

Press Conference with Secretary Kerry in Lausanne, Switzerland on April 2, 2015

Statement by Secretary Moniz on P5+1 Nuclear Negotiations

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