No Iran Deal, No Problem

While I’m writing about Yousaf, I wanted to recommend highly to readers Yousaf’s most recent article in The National Interest, entitled “No Iran Deal, No Problem” (that title has kind of a Bob Marley ring to it, doesn’t it?).  In this new piece, Yousaf tackles and clarifies a number of common misconceptions about the Iran nuclear issue, including that the US is currently faced with a choice of either negotiated settlement or war. He also provides what I think is a very evenhanded prescription for moving diplomacy forward towards a meaningful resolution. Quoting from the piece:

To reach a comprehensive deal both sides should now own up to past mistakes and make amends. For instance, Iran should consider ratifying the Additional Protocol, which would provide more confidence that it would continue to abide by its safeguards agreement and minimize chances of future safeguards violations. Iran should also consider converting the Arak heavy-water reactor to a more—but still not perfectly—proliferation-resistant light-water reactor, or removing the spent fuel for disposition by a third country to prevent it from becoming a plutonium source. And Iran should be open to a frank discussion about whether it undertook weaponization research during the times of tension with Iraq in the 1980s and 1990s. Other countries, like Sweden and Switzerland, that had clandestine nuclear weapons programs—which continued to some extent even after their signing the NPT—are now in good standing with the world powers, so a resolution should not prove impossible.

In the spirit of reconciliation, the P5+1 states and the IAEA could admit to having used unorthodox procedures, partly motivated by political considerations, in handling Iran’s case. They should now support passage of a new Security Council resolution that annuls the past UN nuclear sanctions, and better captures the current reality of what a realistic end-state of Iran’s nuclear program would look like. Reforming the IAEA’s management structure and funding streams should also be seriously considered to improve the professionalism of the Agency. Bringing in a new IAEA chief who is seen as more apolitical than the current one could also be very helpful. Given its historical misuse, the IAEA should also revisit whether it will continue to accept intelligence from third parties, especially non-NPT member states.

I also want to highlight his prescription of the passage of a new UN Security Council resolution, which would effectively supersede and satisfy previous UNSC resolutions demanding that Iran cease uranium enrichment, and send Iran’s case back to the IAEA exclusively. As he says:

Fortunately, there is a simple way out of this byzantine and dangerous bureaucratic mess. The UN Security Council should now adopt a new resolution verifying that Iran is now technically in compliance with its safeguards agreement. Such a resolution would annul the previous UN resolutions calling for sanctions, and return Iran’s file to the IAEA. Individual countries that wanted to maintain unilateral sanctions would, of course, still be free to do so.

Another reason that the current set of UN nuclear sanctions on Iran should be annulled is because their prescription of zero enrichment will not be met. The negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran center on limits to enrichment—not on outright suspension. The 2006-era UN Security Council demand that “Iran shall suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities” is outdated. As written, the old UN sanctions resolutions are essentially irremovable because their demands will not be met. A new UN resolution superseding the older ones would better capture the current reality while returning Iran’s file to the IAEA, the proper technical agency responsible for nuclear safeguards verification.

This article is really a first rate piece of analysis and writing, in my view. I agree with its analysis and prescriptions 100% and would urge readers to spread it far and wide through listserves, etc. Hopefully it will get in front of the right eyes.


38 Comments on “No Iran Deal, No Problem”

  1. Fiorangela says:

    Gareth Porter’s new book, “Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare,” provides a body of evidence about the issues Yousaf raises.

    The proposed UN Resolution with its annulment possibility is sheer genius.

    All that is needed is the will.

    The American people have got to take control of a power mad congress and demand honesty and integrity of them and of the diplomats who represent the USA throughout the world.

    • yousaf says:

      Yes, the substantial CSA issues that led to that were resolved in 2008. At that point the file should have been withdrawn from the UNSC.

      There is no legal basis for ongoing Chapter 7 sanctions that I can find. Especially after the DNI confirmed that there is no restart to any weaponization _research_ that may have taken place pre-2003.

  2. Cyrus says:

    Key fact regarding the Arak reactor: it runs on UNenriched uranium, which is why Iran started working on it, as a hedge against US sanctions preventing its enrichment program from being successful.

    Iran has no reprocessing facility and has already told the IAEA that it has no interest in reprocessing. The fuel rods from that or any other reactor cannot therefore be used as a plutonium source. The whole reason why Iran started up Arak was because US sanctions prevented Iran from acquiring the fuel from the TRR (which has also reached the end of its operational life) so this was another case of sanctions-blowback. In fact Iran has been making extra-legal compromise offers which have included limiting enrichment for years now, all of which were snubbed by the US deliberately because this dispute with Iran was never about proliferation of weapons but was about justifying a policy of regime change.

    • yousaf says:

      Cyrus, thanks — yes, there are limits to the wonkiness allowed in such pieces.

      Yes, there is trade-off between Pu-useability and U-enrichment that the P5+1 have to understand: HWR like Arak runs on natU. If converted to LWR (a less efficient Pu prod) then it will need to be run on enriched U.

      So, in the optics of the P5+1, one can get less eff. of Pu at ‘cost’ of more U enrichment.

      Do P5+1 hate Pu more or enriched U more? I’m sure Iran can accommodate them either way.

      • Cyrus says:

        Indeed there is a limit to wonkiness but when the media casually refer to Arak as a “plutonium reactor” and go on and on about plutonium, nevermind the minor details such as that every reactor produces plutonium not just Arak but also Bushehr and TRR and furthermore, none of it can be used for nukes without reprocessing, then we have to take steps to clear up that bit of fact to correct such very deliberate misrepresentations.

        Everyone freely speculates about what Arak can do, no one asks why it came into existence in the first place which is a good indicator of the intention/reasons for it. Just as US sanctions on the sale of fuel for the TRR Iran actually resulted in Iran INCREASING enrichment levels, whilst serving NO nonproliferation threat (since the TRR is far too small for nukes and is monitored by the IAEA) thus now placing the US in a position to have to negotiate down the level of enrichment, the Arak reactor was also a blowback from the same policy — blowback of the years of manipulating the nuclear issue and deliberately exaggerating the “threat” in order to use it as a justification for an entirely different policy of imposing regime-change in Iran.

        THis is something the media and wonks absolutely do not want to acknowledge and instead they buy into and promote this frame or narrative according to which Iran was rushing along to make nukes at Arak or Parchin or whatever and is being forced to negotiate and slow down by the force of sanctions. Nonsense.

        And so really, the broader question over Arak and Fordo and Parchin and PMD claims etc not whether Iran will compromise on these particular indiivdual points, as the media frame it, but whether these talk show that the US has really come to terms with Iran or is merely making a tactical retreat from the “zero enrichment” policy whilst maintaining the pretense about Arak/Parchin/PMD in the hopes of regime change still but with new material.

      • Cyrus says:

        “whilst serving NO nonproliferation threat” should be “whilst serving NO nonproliferation goal” – sorry

      • yousaf says:

        I think this speaks to the history — also seems like IRI press office is saying Arak will not be converted:

    • yousaf says:

      Cyrus, agree w/ you. Both these were self created issues. And if Arak is turned into LWR it will need enriched fuel. So P5+1 may yet be setting themselves up for another “issue”.

      On that note you will like the logic used in the article below — this is an excerpt of my email to the authors: (feel free to write the authors yourself)

      In your Bloomberg piece:

      You correctly state:

      “A civilian program to enrich uranium for nuclear power must, by its nature, be many times larger than a bomb program. That is the opposite of what most people think. In fact, a small-scale enrichment program for nuclear power doesn’t really exist. ”

      You then go on to state Iran’s program is too small to be explained by peaceful purposes.

      Of course, Iran would like its centrifuge program to be much larger than it is, but is stopped from doing so by the “international community”.

      Would you be happier with a much larger Iranian centrifuge program that was for fueling nuclear power reactors?

      Basically, the argument is that Iran should not have a small enrichment program because that means it is for weapons, and it should not have a big one because that means…it’s for even more potential weapons!


      What you imply is that Iran should be treated differently than other non-NPT states that enrich, like Brazil and Argentina. The Joint Plan of Action says the opposite, following any final deal, “the Iranian nuclear programme will be treated in the same manner as that of any non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT.”

      Your article is disingenuous at best and misleading to the lay public. I’m distressed that the editors would not catch such basic errors of logic.


  3. Don Bacon says:

    Supposedly there is a side paper that has been agreed to by the US and Iran. It is known variously as: secret deal, nonpaper, and implementing agreement. While it is unclassified, it is kept at the Senate security office, and while they say it is available for visitors to see, nobody has reported on its contents.

    • Don Bacon says:

      This is the last news I can find (from other than the Free Beacon which Cyrus doesn’t like) on the secret agreement, from USN&WR, Feb 4.

      …The full texts of the agreement and its implementation protocols have not been released. The administration says that it is up to the European Union and International Atomic Energy Administration to make the deal public, since they are the lead agencies in its negotiation and enforcement. But it is strange that the United States could be party to a multinational agreement being kept from public view at the whim of foreign governments.

      House Foreign Affairs Committee member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said even members of Congress must go to extraordinary lengths to see what the U.S. government has agreed to do. “Why is it that members of Congress have to go to a super secret location,” she asked a panel of nuclear experts, and enter “a cone of silence … to look at the deal?” She said that if it is “such a great deal and so good for peace and diplomacy in our time” then the administration should not keep it a secret. . .Uncertainties regarding the status of the agreement and its implementation have energized the push for new sanctions.

      • Cyrus says:

        Framing a deal under negotiations as a “secret deal” by the NeoCon outlet like Washington Free Beacon and friends like Ros-Lehtinen,should be understood within the contemporary domestic US poltiical context: the idea they’re pushing is that Obama has secretly “sold out” the US in making “secret deals” with those nasty Iranians which Congress, ever the defender of US interests, has not seen. This is just Teabaggery.

  4. yousaf says:

    I can see many possible reasons to keep details secret including maybe protecting Iranian negotiating team from criticism domestically. Also possibly protecting P5+1 negotiating team from similar criticism. Also perhaps some admission that some of PMD issues are fabrications and/or unimportant.

    Many PMD issues have proven to be such: Polonium, EBWs, AP graphs, neutron initiators.

    On EBWs see new article:

    • Don Bacon says:

      According to reports the (confusing) sequence is:
      –Iran’s chief negotiator reports a 30-page secret “nonpaper” with “key elements” of the agreement
      –Iran FM Zarif denies there is a secret deal
      –The White House confirms the secret deal and says it will be released.
      –The State Dept denies there is a secret deal
      –The secret deal is in Senate chambers (see above)

  5. Don Bacon says:

    I don’t get the sanctions relief timing. I thought that some sanctions would cease as a result of Iran’s actions, but I guess not.

    In return, the E3/EU+3 would undertake the following voluntary measures:

    • Suspend U.S. sanctions on Iran’s auto industry, as well as sanctions on associated services.

    But from reports on the Hollande visit to Washington:

    The United States and France are among the countries who signed an interim nuclear agreement that halts progress on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for easing international sanctions. Talks on a final deal begin next week in Vienna.

    “Businesses may be exploring — are there some possibilities to get in sooner rather than later if and when there is an actual agreement to be had?” Obama said.

    “But I can tell you that they do so at their own peril right now. Because we will come down on them like a ton of bricks.”

    Hollande, meanwhile, said that he did not control French corporations but had made clear sanctions on Iran would not be dismantled until a final deal on Iran’s nuclear program had been reached.

    “Sanctions will only be lifted if and when there is definite agreement,” Hollande said. “During this period of the interim agreement, they remain in force.”

    The 116-strong French delegation, with representatives from major companies like Total, Lafarge and Peugeot, was the largest of its kind from Europe since a landmark nuclear deal reached with the major powers in November gave Iran limited relief from crippling US and EU sanctions.

    • Don Bacon says:

      Also there is this:
      Defense capacity off-limits in talks: Iran MP

      A senior Iranian lawmaker has rejected US claims that Iran’s defense capabilities would be part of the nuclear negotiations, saying the nation’s missile program is not a threat to the region.

      “Negotiations on the country (Iran)’s defense capabilities in the upcoming talks between Iran and the 5+1 group is our red line,” said Ismail Kowsari, who chairs the Defense Committee of Iran’s Majlis.

  6. yousaf says:

    Glad to see Jacques Hymans arrive at a similar conclusion I did, but from a more political science perspective:

    • Nick says:

      He says IRI spent 100 billion dollars on its nuclear program, that is a shear nonsense. A lie that has been repeated by the media and experts without any evidence. I guess a professor of IR at SC is not good with numbers and how things may cost, or just what he heard from others become facts.

      • yousaf says:

        Yes, some of us have been wondering abt that — think it is conflated with losses suffered by IRI due to nuclear sanctions,

  7. Don Bacon says:

    The concocted Iran ‘nuclear issue’ is a red herring, the real issue being ME hegemony. Iran has it and the US wants it. Therefore all the other concocted charges such as world leading state sponsor of terrorism, and therefore US support for Islamic radicals fighting to overthrow the government of Iran’s ally Syria.

    So of course the U.S., which has been dragged into this unwanted negotiation, will fight tooth and nail against any final resolution.

    Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said the United States “wouldn’t hesitate” to overthrow the Iranian government if it could, adding that Washington had a “controlling and meddlesome” attitude towards the Islamic Republic.

    “American officials publicly say they do not seek regime change in Iran. That’s a lie. They wouldn’t hesitate a moment if they could do it,” said Ayatollah Khamenei in a speech to mark the 35th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution. “Our stance toward the United States is due to its controlling and meddlesome attitude.” Khamenei added that the U.S. is the “archenemy” of the Islamic Republic.

  8. yousaf says:

    Michel Makinsky, who was with the French trade delegation to Iran last week, writes for EA:

    • Don Bacon says:

      It’s curious — this agreement term isn’t mentioned.


      In return, the E3/EU+3 would undertake the following voluntary measures:

      Suspend U.S. sanctions on Iran’s auto industry, as well as sanctions on associated services.

      This was supposed to be in return for Iran taking its steps, which Iran has done.
      What am I missing? Why are those US sanctions still in place?

      • Don Bacon says:

        from Orrick–

        4. Auto Industry and Associated Services

        Pursuant to the Agreement, the United States is to suspend “sanctions on Iran’s auto industry” and “associated services.”

        United States measures ordinarily provide for sanctions against non-U.S. companies that, in some circumstances, supply goods or services for use in connection with the Iranian automotive sector

        The United States has generally suspended enforcement of these measures, including to the extent that they would ordinarily reach “associated services” relating to trade in the automotive sector. Iranian depository institutions on the SDN List solely pursuant to EO 13599 may participate in these transactions.

        Besides the “ton of bricks” threat by Obama, I’m guessing that Peugeot et al are not moving faster because it’s only a six months deal (with a possible six month extension) and therefore not sufficient for a full-on re-entry into Iran.

        This sanctions-as-diplomacy routine is new to everybody, and caution rules.

        We may see progress. Renault may be moving faster than Peugeot. Renault is 15% owned by France; Peugeot is privately owned but because of financial problems there is a move afoot for a takeover by a China company. France is fighting it.

        There’s enough going on to keep a Philadelphia lawyer busy!
        (I just made that up.)

      • yousaf says:

        Some analysis of what’s in the deal:

        Click to access R43333.pdf

  9. Don Bacon says:

    Under the 24 November Geneva agreement, in force for six months, Iran has stopped construction activities to complete its Arak reactor and has agreed not to replace the older IR-1 centrifuges with the advanced machines.

    But Iran will not give up the future use of advanced IR-2M centrifuges and its heavy water Arak reactor as part of any long-term comprehensive agreement with the world powers, said Hamid Baeedinejad, a member of Iran’s nuclear negotiating team. (IRNA, 16 February)

  10. Don Bacon says:

    news report:
    Iran is rolling back parts of its nuclear program and getting relief from sanctions in return as an interim agreement aimed at gauging Tehran’s willingness to curb its nuclear ambitions appears to be working with global powers gearing up for talks on Tuesday to forge a long-term pact.

    “So far everyone, both Iran and all of the rest of us who provided some very limited, targeted sanctions relief have kept their commitments,” Wendy Sherman, a senior State Department official and lead negotiator for the United States on the Iran deal, told Wolf Blitzer on Monday in an interview on CNN’s “The Situation Room.”

    Sherman, the under secretary for political fairs, spoke from Vienna where talks on a comprehensive accord between Iran, the United States, Germany and other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are due to begin on Tuesday.

  11. yousaf says:

    And: GSN —

    Iran could export up to 500,000 barrels of petroleum to Russia on a daily basis under a possible oil-for-goods deal, undercutting Western measures aimed at isolating the Persian Gulf power’s economy, the news service said.

    “Iran could use some of the proceeds (to pay for) the construction by Russia companies of a second unit at the nuclear power plant in Bushehr,” Iranian Ambassador to Russia Mehdi Sanaei told the Russian newspaper Kommersant in comments published on Monday.

    U.S. Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman earlier this month expressed doubt that Tehran and Moscow would finalize any barter arrangement. Washington has cautioned both parties that such a deal would make a long-term accord on Iran’s disputed atomic activities “more difficult, if not impossible” to reach, according to Sherman, the Obama administration’s senior negotiator with Iran.

  12. Don Bacon says:

    Some (incorrect) press reports claim Iran had a huge increase in oil exports in January, but I doubt that’s the case. I believe it was about 1.2 mbd (million barrels per day) which is about what Iran exported per month all last year. Oil is holding at about $110 per barrel or over three billion dollars per month for Iran. That ain’t hay. Iran’s GDP is about fifty billion per month.

    Under the interim deal the U.S. agreed to unfreeze in eight installments some $4.2 billion in frozen Iranian oil revenues held overseas, or roughly equal to five weeks of current Iran oil exports.

  13. Johnboy says:

    Interesting article by Jeffrey Goldberg interviewing Gary Samore here:

    Basically, that interview is a classic illustration of the principle that “if all you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail”.

    Samore is described by Goldberg as a “nuclear WEAPONS expert” and, as such, apparently can not see Iran’s nuclear program as anything other than a “nuclear WEAPONS program”.

    Heaven forbid that Iran might have something like, you know, sovereign rights or anything……

    Perish the thought that the USA might not, you know, actually have the authority to tell Iran what it can or cannot do….

    As I say, an interesting read regarding the overweening arrogance of Empire.

    • Don Bacon says:


      We all know that Iran’s nuclear program is nothing but a disguise for their effort to acquire a nuclear weapons capability, and as part of the deal we should allow them to have some fig leaf, a cosmetic program. The truth is they don’t need any centrifuges; they don’t need a heavy water research reactor. These are all part of an effort to acquire a nuclear weapons capability.

      What “we all know” is the problem on Iran, unlike on Israel and others where what we all know is true.

      • Johnboy says:


        It is faith-based “certainty” that Samore regards as a self-evident truth, and presented as such.

        The only problem, of course, is that this self-evident truth is anything but self-evidently true.

        Samore needs evidence to back up his assertion and, apparently, he has none.


        Bad enough, I suppose, but compounded by Goldberg never once challenging Samore to back up his accusation.

      • Don Bacon says:

        Jeffrey Goldberg is a Zionist Iran-hater who prates about “Mad Mullahs” so he’s not about to call Samore to account. Goldberg used to write such articles on The Atlantic site, and when I took him to account for his specious unfounded charges against Iran, and countered with facts, I was banned from commenting on The Atlantic. BANNED. So much for a free press on the web. At least Goldberg got tossed from The Atlantic.

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