Don’t Get Suckered by Policy Wonks

Sorry for the radio silence lately. The holidays, including a nasty stomach virus and a car accident (no one hurt, fortunately) got in the way.  And now I’m freezing my neutrons off in Ottawa, Canada where I’m teaching a short course for a couple of weeks. Very nice people and a good international law faculty here, though.

I just saw this piece at Foreign Affairs by Mitchell Reiss and Ray Takeyh, entitled “Don’t Get Suckered by Iran: Fix the Problems with the Interim Accord.” I won’t bother to go through their analysis and recommendations point by point.  I basically disagree with them on everything.

I thought I would, though, draw attention to the misunderstanding of international law demonstrated by this piece – illustrative of the misunderstandings of law so often present in the writings of arms control policy wonks.

At one point the authors say:

Any verification agreement should include the so-called additional protocol, which gives international inspectors the right to examine any facility they deem suspect, and to do so on short notice, so that proscribed activities or equipment cannot be moved or hidden.

That’s not a simplified version of what the AP provides for, it’s just plain incorrect.

Under the AP, IAEA inspectors absolutely cannot just examine any facility they “deem suspect.”  They can visit any facility on a declared site, but for non-declared sites they can only visit for the purpose of limited environmental sampling.

The AP doesn’t automatically give the IAEA access to the entirety of an NNWS party’s territory and all facilities thereon. It really only expands IAEA inspectors’ ability to verify the non-diversion of fissile material from peaceful uses to military uses through an expanded declaration by the safeguarded state, and through shortened notice windows. Required notice under the AP is typically 24 hours, down from the one week notice window under the INFCIRC/153 CSR.

And it should also be noted that the AP does not in any way expand the IAEA’s inspection or assessment mandate with regard to possible military dimensions of a safeguarded state’s nuclear program.  PMD issues are just as far outside the mandate of the IAEA with regard to a state with an AP, as they are with regard to a state with just a CSA.

Now, I do think that Iran will need to (and I think is perfectly willing to) accept the AP as part of a final deal on its nuclear program. But no one should be under any misapprehension of the AP as some panacea to the limits of IAEA authority to verify Iran’s compliance with its safeguards obligations.


3 Comments on “Don’t Get Suckered by Policy Wonks”

  1. yousaf says:

    The rest of the article is rather asinine also.


    “to succeed in nuclear negotiations with Iran, the Western powers should be mindful of some basic realities. Iran needs an agreement more than the United States does. Its battered economy and disaffected populace constitute important leverage for its negotiating partners. There is no reason for Washington to seem more eager than Tehran to reach an agreement…”

    Not eager for resolution, huh?

    So we can take our sweet time and not urgently resolve the alleged problem — apparently, the alleged Iranian nuclear weapons capability issue is not a serious concern worthy of sanctions’ removal?

    I actually agree — it is a fake issue. (US DNI says no extant nuke weapons work in Iran now). But then the problem is: why the sanctions?

    Dear Wonks, Is the alleged Iranian nuclear weapons capability a serious and urgent issue or not?

  2. Don Bacon says:

    It’s necessary to read the “Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013” to understand how radical and terrible it is.


    (1) The Government of Iran continues to expand the nuclear and missile programs of Iran in violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions.
    (2) The Government of Iran has a decades-long track record of violating commitments regarding the nuclear program of Iran and has used diplomatic negotiations as a subterfuge to advance its nuclear weapons program.
    (3) Iran remains the world’s foremost state
    sponsor of terrorism, having directed, supported, and financed acts of terrorism against the United States and its allies that have resulted in the thousands of deaths, including the deaths of United States citizens and members of the Armed Forces of the United States. . .

    The President may suspend the application of sanctions imposed under this Act or amendments made by this Act for a 180-day period . . .–Following the 180-day period described in paragraph (1), the President may renew a suspension of sanctions under that paragraph for 2 additional periods of not more than 30 days . . .

    the President may suspend the application of sanctions imposed under this Act or amendments made by this Act for a one-year period if the President certifies to the appropriate congressional committees that the United States and its allies have reached a final and verifiable agreement or arrangement with Iran that will–
    (A) dismantle Iran’s illicit nuclear infrastructure, including enrichment and reprocessing capabilities and facilities, (pdf)

  3. Don Bacon says:

    Mitchell Reiss is a supporter of anti-Iran MEK. Reiss, a former State Department official, on April 6, 2012 appeared alongside other former U.S. officials like former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and Attorney General Michael Mukasey at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington D.C. to support removing the People’s Muhajedin Organization of Iran, or MEK, from the U.S. list of designated terrorist organizations.

    In the Spring of 2010 Ray Takeyh co-authored an article in Foreign Affairs which began: The Islamic Republic of Iran is determined to become the world’s tenth nuclear power. It is defying its international obligations and resisting concerted diplomatic pressure to stop it from enriching uranium. It has flouted several UN Security Council resolutions directing it to suspend enrichment and has refused to fully explain its nuclear activities to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

    Two losers, in other words. Two prominent symbols of America’s downward course.

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