At this crucial juncture in Western diplomacy with Iran’s Islamic regime, a timely new HJS briefing shows that it is misleading to speak of a single framework that came out of the P5+1 nuclear negotiations concluded on 2 April. Since a preliminary deal was ostensibly reached, a number of conflicting versions of this framework have come to light. Factsheets from the Iranian and French governments contradict both each other and the detailed parameters published by the United States.
In its new briefing The Iran Nuclear Framework Proposals, The Henry Jackson Society examines the disparities in these various versions before outlining the grave concerns about the inherent ramifications that will surface in the event of a final deal on the basis of the agreed outlines, regardless of such fundamental disparities in interpretation.
The briefing raises a number of concerns, in particular:
- The one-year ‘breakout’ period does not factor in the time taken before a breach of the agreement might be detected, reducing such a timeframe in which the United States and others could respond to a matter of months. Past experience shows sanctions will take far longer to put back in place.
- Even under the terms set out by the more robust version of the framework the matters of verification and enforcement leave ambiguities that could mean the IAEA fails to detect steps towards weaponisation.
- While Washington insists Iran agreed to more stringent inspections, Tehran claims to only have submitted to inspections on a voluntary and temporary basis.
- The IAEA, in charge of overseeing and verifying Iran’s transition to civilian nuclear capabilities, is unlikely to have the manpower needed to monitor all nuclear sites, all of which have been allowed to continue operating under the framework agreement.
- The maximum number of centrifuges awarded to Iran under the framework agreement, 6,000, has frequently been shown to be in excess of what a civilian programme requires. Former Deputy Director of the IAEA, Dr Olli Heinonen, made this clear in his report Iranian Nuclear Programme: Practical Parameters for a Credible Long-Term Agreement.
- The weaknesses in the proposed framework threaten to have serious ramifications for the wider region. Implementation of the current framework could trigger a nuclear arms race across the Middle East, a scenario that would have a destabilising impact globally.
Dr Alan Mendoza, Director of The Henry Jackson Society, commented:
“From what we have seen so far of the proposed framework agreement there is cause to be extremely concerned. The consensus in the international community is that Iran must not be allowed to produce nuclear weapons. And yet under these proposals it is not at all clear that breakout capabilities would be set sufficiently far enough beyond Tehran’s reach. Under the present framework Iran will be kept as a nuclear threshold state for the next ten years, but after that Iran may be even closer to the bomb than it is today. It is essential that political leaders act now to tighten the joint plan of action so as to ensure we don’t see further nuclear proliferation in what is already an incredibly volatile region.”