Verification Requirements For Nuclear Agreement With Iran*
Saturday, September 20th, 2014 @ 6:06PM
Nuclear Verification Capabilities: Independent Task Force Of Federation Of American Scientists.
The preamble of the Joint Plan of Action (JPA)1 announced in November 2013 by Iran and the P5+12 states that the goal of the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program “is to reach a mutually-agreed long-term comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran’s nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful.” This comprehensive solution “would involve a mutually defined enrichment programme with practical limits and transparency measures to ensure the peaceful nature of the programme.” The JPA also states that “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons.”
As part of the JPA, which is not legally binding, both sides had committed to take various “first steps,” with a “duration of 6 months, and renewable by mutual consent.” The JPA was subsequently renewed by mutual consent on July 18, 2014 for an additional four months and is now set to expire on November 24, 2014. Iran’s listed steps include limiting uranium enrichment, refraining from reprocessing, and facilitating enhanced monitoring. The JPA also states that “the final step of a comprehensive solution, which the parties aim to conclude negotiating and commence implementing no more than one year after the adoption of this document, would include ratification and implementation of the Additional Protocol, consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Majlis (Iranian parliament).”
These negotiations now create a question for the U.S. policy community: What monitoring and verification measures and tools will the U.S., its allies, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) require, in relation to a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran, in order to “ensure Iran’s nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful?” In light of Iran’s previous history of noncompliance with its nuclear agreements, including noncooperation with the IAEA, there is reason for concern that Iran may push the envelope on the letter of the agreement, fail to cooperate with inspectors, or undertake illicit activities in covert facilities. The goal of this report is to address such concerns by mapping out a sufficiently rigorous monitoring architecture to “ensure Iran’s nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful.”
In relationship to a nuclear agreement with Iran, the goal of monitoring is often described as the ability to detect in a timely manner a “break out” dash by Iran at its declared facilities to produce enough weapons-grade uranium or separated plutonium for a nuclear weapon. In comparison with a break out scenario, in which Iran were to produce weapons grade uranium at overt facilities, it may be more likely that Tehran would engage in a “sneak-out” scenario, in which “Iran could seek to build covert enrichment facilities in order to build nuclear weapons in secret.”3 The 2007 National Intelligence Estimate assessed with “moderate confidence that Iran probably would use covert facilities – rather than its declared nuclear sites – for the production of highly enriched uranium for a weapon.”4 If a monitoring architecture – including both the negotiated measures and national intelligence means – is to “ensure the peaceful nature” of Iran’s nuclear program, it must in a timely manner detect both “break outs” and “sneak outs.”
The Task Force has determined that to evaluate the logic and efficacy of any nuclear deal, it is essential to assess the amount of risk that would be assumed by the parties. We have agreed that nine elements are critical to assessing and mitigating the spectrum of risk — six of these are potential elements of an effective agreement; the other three recommendations are U.S. government implementation steps that would facilitate effective verification of the agreement.
We recognize that not all recommended measures will be easily negotiable or ready for rapid implementation. An agreement may not therefore include all of the six potential agreement elements, with a resulting increased risk of undetected noncompliance. The risk-benefit assessment, as well as the question of how long each of these measures should remain in place, are ultimately political judgments for the executive branch and Congress to decide. Those engaged in monitoring will do their best to inform such judgments.
The key to monitoring measures working effectively to reduce risk is the synergy created among them. For example, data declarations can help define the locations and objects of inspections, routine inspections can audit the declarations, national and international unilateral monitoring and intelligence means can detect anomalies, and challenge inspections and the work of consultative bodies can gather more information relevant to the resolution of those anomalies.
With Iran, we suggest that risk reduction can be achieved through a layered approach to monitoring. Some or all of the monitoring activities provided for under the agreement with Iran will fall to the IAEA. In addition, the U.S. and other P-5+1 governments will undoubtedly wish to use their national means to also monitor Iran’s nuclear program. The Administration and Congress can play a positive and strong role in insisting on effective verification, providing the necessary resources for monitoring tasks, and bringing attention to potentially emergent compliance issues.
The current set of sanctions has helped bring Iran to the bargaining table, and the international community’s bargaining power is strong. In short, if the monitoring elements that we recommend are not pursued now to diminish the risks of deception, it is difficult to envision that Iran would be compliant in the future, post-sanctions environment. Hence, we believe a bad deal is worse than no deal. Our hope is that this paper helps to define the monitoring elements that should be part of a good deal and effectively implemented agreement.
Summary of Recommendations
Six Elements of an Effective Agreement
- The agreement should require Iran to provide, prior to the next phase of sanctions relief, a comprehensive declaration that is correct and complete concerning all aspects of its nuclear program both current and
- The agreement should provide the IAEA, for the duration of the agreement, access without delay to all sites, equipment, persons and documents requested by the IAEA, as currently required by UN Security Council Resolution 1929.
- The agreement should provide that any material acts of non-cooperation with inspectors are a violation of the
- The agreement should provide for the establishment of a consultative commission, which should be designed and operate in ways to maximize its effectiveness in addressing disputes and, if possible, building a culture of compliance within
- The agreement should provide that all Iranian acquisition of sensitive items for its post-agreement licit nuclear program, and all acquisition of sensitive items that could be used in a post-agreement illicit nuclear program, must take place through a designated transparent
- The agreement should include provisions designed to preclude Iran from outsourcing key parts of its nuclear weapons program to a foreign country such as North
Three Proposed U.S. Government Actions to Facilitate Effective Implementation of an Agreement
- The S. Government should enhance its relevant monitoring capabilities, invest resources in monitoring the Iran agreement, and structure its assessment and reporting of any Iranian noncompliance so as to maximize the chances that significant anomalies will come to the fore and not be overlooked or considered de minimis.
- The S. Government and its allies should maintain the current sanctions regime architecture so that it can be ratcheted up incrementally in order to deter and respond commensurately to any Iranian non-compliance with the agreement.
- The S. Government should establish a joint congressional/executive branch commission to monitor compliance with the agreement, similar to Congress having created the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe to monitor the implementation of the 1975 Helsinki Accords.
What follows are discussions in greater detail of each element and proposed action listed above.
The full report (pdf) can be accessed here.