Iran WMD's


The world is now that much more dangerous.

[“Israel will use all its diplomatic means to try and prevent the confirmation of the agreement,” she said, in an obvious reference to what will now be Israel’s attempts to persuade Congress to vote against the accord.]

Iran negotiations
Omri Ceren: Journalists are being told “early morning” Vienna time. No one’s quite sure if that means 2am or 5am or 7am. It probably means around 6am.

Once analysts get ahold of the text the policy debate – to say nothing of the political firestorm – will be able to proceed. Some parts of that debate have already taken shape, since the Lausanne and post-Lausanne concessions long ago damaged prospects for a good deal: letting Iran get away with not resolving PMD concerns, keeping Fordow open, letting Iran keep an enriched stockpile on its soil, immediate sanctions relief in the form of a signing bonus worth tens of billions, the removal of non-nuclear sanctions, etc. Other analysts will go back even further back to argue that a deal is fundamentally problematic: the sunset clause that emerged out of the Geneva concession regarding Iran’s right to enrich.

But the role of other concessions will become apparent only after the announcement is made in the coming hours. What to watch out for:

(1) Arms embargo – The Iranians and Russians popped the Americans in the middle of Vienna by announcing that, per their interpretation of the Lausanne agreement, the Americans had to agree to lift the United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC) ban on Iran importing and exporting advanced conventional weapons. This was news to just about everybody, but pro-Iran voices in Washington DC went into action and suddenly it seemed like a reasonable thing to lift restrictions on non-nuclear weapons as part of a nuclear agreement. The pace and scope of the phase-out will determine how the Congressional backlash plays out, but there will be – and probably should be – a Congressional backlash.

(2) Anytime-anywhere inspections – There have been a few different rumors in recent days about very specific Iranians requests for modifications to Additional Protocol, either of which would badly undermine the IAEA’s ability to access suspicious Iranian facilities. If the U.S. negotiating team couldn’t secure genuine anytime-anywhere inspections – not “managed access,” which is what had been discussed, but the ability of the IAEA to go where it wants when it wants – the concession will be toxic on political and policy levels. Veteran investigators have testified in front of Congress literally dozens of times that anytime-anywhere access is a minimum prerequisite to a verifiable deal. Administration officials used to acknowledge the same thing, until recently.

(3) Inspection access committee – This is actually a subset of the anytime-anywhere issue, but it’s worth flagging separately because it may become a political issue all on its own. It’s very likely the committee that gets to decide where inspectors go will include Iran itself. Even if the policy wasn’t problematic – and it obviously is – the optics are just brutal.

Now the deal goes to Congress for 60 days, but calendar gets a little bit weird. Congress is August recess until September 8. It takes three days to call up a bill and vote on it. So assuming there’s no quick vote – and there won’t be, because lawmakers will want to figure out what’s in this thing – the first time that the Senate will be able to vote on the deal is September 11. Now assume that the administration files all relevant texts with Congress by July 15 (I’m picking that number a bit randomly – it could be more or less). That leaves Congress with only a few weeks to hold hearings before it goes out for recess, and almost no time for anything but a vote when it gets back.

So you’ll see a range of hearings in the coming weeks, then a continued public debate while Congress is in recess, then a vote.

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