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What The Experts Are Saying

UANI Advisory Board members are regularly featured in the media for their expertise on Iran's nuclear program.

Dec 06 2013
Gary Samore

"I am leaving Israel more concerned than when I arrived. Based on two days of intense discussions with current and former Israeli officials, the level of Israeli distrust and anxiety over the Iran deal is worse than I expected. Part of the Israeli complaint is procedural. They resent being kept in the dark about the secret U.S.-Iranian meetings in Oman (even though Israeli intelligence learned about the meetings) and fear that the U.S. and Iran may have already reached secret agreements on the terms of a final deal. They are shocked at how quickly the interim deal came together and complain that a tougher U.S. posture that extended the negotiations for several more rounds could have produced a more favorable interim agreement. They don’t accept the argument that President Obama decided to seize the opportunity rather than run the risk that it would slip away because of opposition in Tehran and Washington... Most of my Israeli friends hope to avoid a political confrontation with Washington. Indeed, they are looking for ways to resume cooperation against the common threat of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The upcoming meeting between the new Israeli National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen and U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice in Washington could be a positive turning point. First, Washington will explain its demands for the upcoming negotiations with Iran for a final deal. Most of these demands, as conveyed to Ignatius (such as closure of the Fordow facility and elimination of the Arak heavy water research reactor), would serve President Obama’s expressed intent that a final deal should make it 'impossible' for Iran to develop nuclear weapons. The crucial issue will be the scope and scale of enrichment in Iran that the U.S. is prepared to accept in a final deal. The Israelis are unlikely to come off their demand for zero enrichment for fear that the U.S. will pocket any concessions, but the U.S. also has an interest in ensuring that 'break out' time is extended beyond a few months. Second, both the U.S. and Israel have a common interest in developing a strategy to ensure that the remaining sanctions remain in force during the negotiations of a final agreement. Without this leverage, US hopes to negotiate a favorable end state will evaporate. Whatever progress is made, however, the suspicion and mistrust will linger. And, as one Israeli said to me, 'Bibi thinks he can play the Congressional card.' That’s a dangerous game to play."

Dec 06 2013
Walter Russell Mead

"Could the Saudis and Israelis be cooking up a little diplomatic revolution of their own to offset the shift in American policy toward Iran? The temporary nuclear agreement between Iran and the world's major powers has this pair of America's oldest and closest Middle East allies deeply worried. With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a bevy of Saudi officials attacking the deal, Jerusalem and Riyadh are torn between rage and fear. The question is whether this matters. The U.S. is the world's only superpower, and its security guarantees have been the pillar of Israeli and Saudi defense thinking for a very long time. As long as U.S. domestic politics give President Obama the leeway he needs in the Middle East, U.S. officials and commentators appear to believe that the Saudis and Israelis will have to live with whatever Washington does. Perhaps. The Saudis and Israelis are status-quo, stability-seeking powers. Maybe they will stand by and watch while a U.S. president they neither trust nor respect remakes the region. But maybe not. The two countries could instead forge an entente, informal or formal. Just as Saudi support for the coup in Egypt thwarted two years of painstaking if farcical American efforts to promote 'a transition to democracy' in the land of the Nile, so the Saudis and Israelis could throw some serious wrenches in the Obama administration's Iran strategy. Riyadh and Jerusalem have common interests that are not limited to preventing Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The Saudis believe Iran is leading Shiites in a religious conflict with Sunnis now engulfing the Fertile Crescent. They fear that the Islamic Republic, nuclear or not, poses an existential threat to their security as the Shiite tide rises... Yet necessity has made stranger diplomatic bedfellows. From the Saudi point of view, times are grim. The Sunni Arab world is in a fight for survival against the Shiites, but without Israeli help the weak and divided Sunnis may not stand. There has already been some discussion, public and private, about a relatively weak form of Saudi-Israeli collaboration against Iran. In this scenario, Israeli jets would overfly Saudi territory as part of an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. Saudi sources hint that the Israeli air force would encounter no Saudi resistance. The obstacles against a successful attack on Iran may be too great even using Saudi airspace. But an agreement that let Israel use Saudi bases for takeoff and refueling could tip the military balance enough to make a difference... Those who think the Israelis and Saudis will have to accept whatever treatment the Americans dish out may be right. But if access to Saudi facilities changes the calculations about what Israeli strikes against Iran can accomplish, the two countries have some careful thinking to do. It would be an error for American policy makers to assume that allies who feel jilted will sit quietly."

Nov 24 2013
Gary Samore

"For more on the deal and its implications, I spoke to Gary Samore who served as the White House coördinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction during President Obama’s first term. Samore, who has worked on non-proliferation issues for the U.S. government for more than two decades, was extensively involved in negotiations with Iran and North Korea, as well as the New Start treaty with Russia. He now serves as the executive director for research at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and is president of United Against Nuclear Iran, an advocacy group that supports tougher sanctions against Iran to halt its development of nuclear weapons.

Can you lay out the basic terms of this deal? What are the restrictions that will be placed on Iranian nuclear enrichment? What degree of sanctions relief will be granted in exchange for these restrictions?

Basically, Iran has agreed, for six months, to suspend activities to expand its existing enrichment program and complete the Arak heavy water research reactor, to suspend production of twenty-per-cent-enriched uranium and dispose of its existing stockpile of twenty-per-cent-enriched uranium, and to accept additional monitoring of its nuclear program.

 

In exchange, the U.S. and its P5-plus-1 partners have agreed, also for six months, to suspend efforts to increase sanctions; they will ease sanctions in a number of areas, estimated by the White House to be worth seven billion dollars. The actions on both sides are limited and reversible. Iran will continue to produce low enriched uranium (less than five per cent) at its current rate of production and retain its current stockpile of low enriched uranium, while the P5-plus-1 will continue to enforce the remaining sanctions."

Nov 24 2013
Gary Samore

"So the question appears to be not whether Iran will be allowed to continue enriching uranium, but rather what constraints the United States and its negotiating partners will insist on in return, and how large an enrichment program they are willing to tolerate. The interim accord makes clear that it must be consistent with 'practical needs.' Iran and the United States are likely to have very different ideas of what those needs are. 'This, of course, will be one of the central issues in the negotiations for a comprehensive agreement,' said Gary Samore, who served as senior aide on nonproliferation issues on the National Security Council during the Obama administration and is now president of United Against Nuclear Iran, an organization that urges that strong sanctions be imposed on Iran until it further restricts its nuclear efforts. 'We will want very small and limited,' Mr. Samore said, referring to Iran’s enrichment efforts. 'They want industrial scale.'"

Nov 24 2013
Ambassador Mark Wallace

"The agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1 “provides disproportionate sanctions relief to Iran,” a former US ambassador and CEO of the United Against Nuclear Iran advocacy organization complained early Sunday morning. Mark D. Wallace, who served in the past as the US representative for UN management and reform, warned in a lengthy statement that 'by not agreeing to dismantle a single centrifuge, Iran has not rolled back its nuclear infrastructure and with the many centrifuges that it is currently operating, Iran retains the ability to breakout and produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a nuclear weapon in as little as 2 months.'"