Senate Briefing: Experts Discuss Blocking Iran’s Pathways to the Bomb, Stress Need for Congressional Scrutiny to Ensure Enforcement

 

Washington, DC, July 22 – Nuclear and national security experts joined former U.S. Government officials at a U.S. Senate briefing to discuss implications and next steps related to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The briefing focused on concepts for blocking the Iranian regime’s pathways to the bomb in the wake of the JCPOA agreed upon between the P5 + 1 countries and Iran earlier this month.

 

The discussion highlighted the flaws and strengths in the JCPOA and underscored the need for a robust verification and enforcement mechanism to prevent the Iranian regime, with a two-decade-long history of denial, deception, and duplicity, from secretly violating the terms of the agreement. The group of distinguished participants included:

 

·         Former U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman

·         R. James Woolsey, former Director of Central Intelligence

·         Amb. Robert Joseph, former Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security

·         Amb. Mitchell Reiss, former Policy Planning Director at the Department of State

·         Olli Heinonen, former Deputy Director General of the IAEA

·         Lawrence J. Haas, senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council

·         Alireza Jafarzadeh, Deputy Director, the U.S. Representative Office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran

 

In recalling the Iranian regime’s lack of transparency, Senator Lieberman said, “At point after point of the last almost three decades, the Islamic Republic of Iran has had a part of their program that we didn’t know about, that the IAEA didn’t know about.  In fact, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the group that Mrs. [Maryam] Rajavi heads, has told us about it.  So, in my opinion this agreement on its facts is too full of risk for the United States of America, and too full of undeserved reward for the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

 

“Iran has not changed its nuclear course,” stressed Dr. Heinonen, who described the JCPOC as a “political agreement, which has very far-reaching nonproliferation or proliferation consequences.” He said the agreement will allow Iran to maintain “all the infrastructure, [and] be a nuclear threshold state for years to come.” Mr. Heinonen also expressed concern that a 24-day delay for IAEA inspection of the sites would allow Iran to cleanup nuclear weaponization sites, which are small and “can actually be modified in a couple of weeks’ time.”

 

Referring to the critical role of Congress to remedy the “fatal” flaws in the JCPOA, Amb. Joseph emphasized, “Congress should tie the relief of Congressionally-mandated sanctions to Iran’s compliance in meeting its obligations under the agreement.  And the burden of proof should be on Iran not on the Security Council or the EU or the P5+1.  It should make clear that any cheating, any failure on Iran’s part to meet all of its obligations will result in the termination of the agreement…  Congress should establish a team B, something it’s done in the past, a team B of nonpartisan, outside experts who can have access to all of the intelligence and who can make an independent assessment of Iranian compliance or noncompliance.”

 

Amb. James Woolsey said the fundamental problem is the effort to deal with the Iranian regime: “It is a theocratic, totalitarian, genocidal group of imperialists.  Theocratic, hard to see how it’s not and has been for over a third of a century;  totalitarian, look at its treatment of the [Mujahedin-e Khalq] MEK.  And look at what has happened in 2009 when a group, hundreds of thousands of young people and other reformers took to the streets in demonstrations in order to try to see to it that elections were fairly conducted.  They were massacred, raped, tortured and massacred.”

 

Ambassador Reiss expressed concern for the lack of strategy to counter the Iranian threat, “I worry because the president himself admitted only a few weeks ago that his administration has no strategy for the Middle East, at least one that is not fully formed and can be shared with the American people and our friends and allies in the region.”  He added, “Certainly the White House has nothing that can compare with Madame Rajavi’s sweeping and positive vision for Iran. [It] has to stand firmly and publicly with the people at Camp Liberty and stand with all Iranians who want a better future for their country and are willing to risk everything to achieve it.”

 

“This agreement is a very unfortunate missed opportunity.  We were on the right path before these negotiations started.  The sanctions were biting so hard that they were having a real impact on this regime.  By some estimates, the Iranian economy through the sanctions and through some potential additional steps we could have taken was close to economic collapse.  And we should have kept driving.  We should have forced action as a condition of economic relief.  We took our foot off the pedal too soon,” Mr. Haas said.

 

In echoing the concern expressed by other speakers about the shortcomings in the JCPOA, Alireza Jafarzadeh added, “I think in overall policy, you need to step up pressure from all aspects, not just on the nuclear side and inspections, but bring in more political pressure, hold them accountable for their nefarious activities and terrorism.” Describing the regime as “weak and domestically vulnerable” he said the greatest fear of the regime is “its own population that seeks a secular, democratic, and non-nuclear republic in Iran.” Jafarzadeh concluded that given Tehran’s desperation, “If you want nuclear compliance with Iran regime, you need to step up pressure. You need to hold them accountable for their rights violations in Iran and all of their rogue behavior in the region,” he concluded.

 

Iranian-American Cultural Association of Missouri, member of the Organization of Iranian American Communities (www.oiacus.org)