Earlier today the P5+1 and Iran announced that after nearly two months of talks, they have reached agreement to begin implementing the first step nuclear deal (i.e. the Joint Plan of Action) later this January. You can read the President’s announcement on the implementation of the deal here.A detailed State Department background briefing with more details on the implementation plan is available here.
As we noted at the time, the first step deal verifiably puts the brakes on Iran’s nuclear progress, begins to roll back the most proliferation sensitive aspects of the nuclear program, and provides much needed time and space to try to negotiate more comprehensive accord that ensures Iran’s activities remain exclusively peaceful. Success is far from guaranteed (about 50-50 according to the President Obama). But we have no choice but to try to give the talks the best chance to succeed since the alternatives (more sanctions, war, regime change, containment, etc.) are unlikely to stop Iran’s advancement toward breakout capacity – at least not at an acceptable cost.
Despite the recent progress, however, Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) have introduced a new sanctions bill (“The Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act”) sponsored by 57 other Senators that unnecessarily risks undermining diplomacy.
Former Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senate Select Committee on Intelligence staffer (and Center National Advisory Board Member) Edward Levine has written and short yet devastating critique of the faults in the bill (hint: there are many). According to Levine, the bill shifts the goalposts on the first step deal and sets unrealistic demands for a final deal.
“Taken as a whole,” he writes
these requirements, however desirable in theory, build a bridge too far for the E3+3 to reach. If they are enacted, all parties to the negotiations will interpret them as barring the United States from implementing the sanctions relief proposed in any feasible agreement. Rather than buttressing the U.S. position in the negotiations, therefore, they will bring an end to those negotiations. Worse yet, they will create large fissures in the E3+3 coalition that has imposed international sanctions on Iran. Thus, even though the bill purports to support sanctions, it may well result in the collapse of many of them.
You can read the whole thing at the Center website here.