The Pronk Pops Show Podcasts
Story 2: The Scandal of H-1B Visas — The Outsourcing Of American Jobs To Foreign Workers — End The Cheap Labor Racket — Abolish H-1B Visas — Videos
Obama Admin Gives Company H-1B Workers To Replace Its American Workers
ABC10: American Workers Hurt By H-1B Visa Program
U.S. Worker Replaced By Lower-Cost Foreign Worker Makes Impassioned Plea To Senators
Sessions Details Case Of American Tech Workers Being Forced To Train Their Guest-Worker Replacements
Professor Salzman Testifies At Hearing On Protecting High-Skilled American Workers
ITIF Debate: Is There a STEM Worker Shortage?
The issue of high skill immigration is receiving increased attention as Congress considers comprehensive immigration legislation. Underlying this issue is an ongoing debate surrounding the U.S. labor market for high-skill workers, including those in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. The key policy questions being discussed include: is there a shortage of STEM workers in the U.S. economy; is the U.S. education system producing enough STEM graduates with requisite STEM education; and does high-skill immigration negatively affect the domestic supply of STEM talent?
ITIF will host a lively debate on this critical policy issue. Robert Atkinson, President of ITIF, and Jonathan Rothwell, an Associate Fellow at the Brookings Institution, will argue that the United States does face a STEM worker shortage, which is hampering the development of the innovation economy, and high-skill immigration should be used as a tool to address the skills gap. Hal Salzman, Professor of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University and Ron Hira, Associate Professor of Public Policy at Rochester Institute of Technology, will counter that the country is not experiencing a STEM shortage, and increased immigration will simply exacerbate unemployment and hurt U.S. workers. The debate will be moderated by Kevin Finneran, editor of the National Academies’ Issues in Science and Technology.
Sen. Cruz Amendment to Immigration Legislation to Increase H-1B Visas
Sen Ted Cruz Wants to DOUBLE Immigration
Bjorn Billhardt testifies to Senate Judiciary Committee
Experts: Proposed Guest Worker Expansions Would Let Tech Companies Import 100% Of New Hires
Attorney For Displaced Tech Workers: H-1B Increase Would Put Countless More Americans Out Of Work
Professor Hira Testifies At Hearing On Protecting High-Skilled American Workers
Ron Hira – Domestic IT & BPO Sourcing Can Generate Good American Jobs: The Role for Policy
Ron Hira Associate Professor of Public Policy at Rochester Institute of Technology, Research Associate at Economic Policy Institute and co-author of the book, Outsourcing America, giving the opening keynote at Momentum 2013
MidPoint | Ron Hira discusses his column in The Hill calling the H-1B visa the “Outsourcing Visa.”
Ron Hira on H1B Immigration Visas Current Debate – Point of View
The Future of American Jobs – A Discussion about Outsourcing
Reality of H-1B
Bill Gates Asks Senate For Infinite Number Of H 1B Visas
Lou Dobbs on Post Docs & PhDs Being Paid Peanuts & Exploited Through H-1B
Outsourcing America – Sen Byron Jorgan
LOU DOBBS TONIGHT 04.05.07 – H1B Visa Abuse
H-1B Work Visas: Basic Requirements
Silenced workers who lost jobs to H-1B visa abuse (quietly) speak out
The Senate Judiciary Committee recently held a hearing into abuses of the H-1B skilled guest worker visa program. Lawmakers heard experts describe how the use of foreign workers has come to dominate the IT industry, with many tech giants using the program to fire well-paid current workers and replace them with workers from abroad at significantly lower pay.
“The current system to bring in high-skill guest workers … has become primarily a process for supplying lower-cost labor to the IT industry,” two experts who testified at the hearing, Howard University’s Ron Hira and Rutgers’ Hal Salzman, wrote recently. “Although a small number of workers and students are brought in as the ‘best and brightest,’ most high-skill guest workers are here to fill ordinary tech jobs at lower wages.”
Exhibit A in the abuse of H-1Bs was the case of Southern California Edison, which recently got rid of between 400 and 500 IT employees and replaced them with a smaller force of lower-paid workers brought in from overseas through the H-1B program. The original employees were making an average of about $110,000 a year, the committee heard; the replacements were brought to Southern California Edison by outsourcing firms that pay an average of between $65,000 and $75,000.
“Simply put, the H-1B program has become a cheap labor program,” Hira, author of the bookOutsourcing America, testified. “To add insult to injury, Southern California Edison forced its American workers to train their H-1B replacements as a condition of receiving their severance packages.”
It was a powerful presentation, especially in light of the fact that many Republicans and Democrats in Congress do not want to address abuses of the H-1B problem but rather want to greatly increase the number of H-1B visa workers allowed into the United States.
But one voice was missing from the hearing, and that was the voice of laid-off workers. That was no accident. In addition to losing their jobs and being forced to train their foreign replacements, many fired workers are required to sign non-disparagement agreements as a condition of their severance. They are workers with families and bills to pay, and they are told that if they do not agree to remain silent, they will be terminated with cause, meaning they will receive no severance pay or other benefits and will face an even tougher search for a new job and a continued career. So they remain silent.
A longtime feature of the Capitol Hill hearing into this or that unfair practice is to hear from the victims of this or that unfair practice. The IT industry has worked to make sure that does not happen in the case of H-1B visa abuse. Still, the Judiciary Committee managed to receive testimonials from four laid-off workers, three from Southern California Edison and one from another company. So to flesh out the H-1B story with the perspective of those who are actually paying the price when H-1B visas are used to displace American workers, here are their anonymous testimonials:
My former company, a large utility company, replaced 220 American IT workers with H-1Bs…we would have to train them in order to receive our severance packages. This was one of the most humiliating situations that I have ever been in as an IT professional.
The whole IT department was going through the same fate as myself. Those were the longest and hardest five months of my life. Not only did I lose a work family, but I lost my job and my self-esteem. We had constant emails sent by HR that we could not talk about this situation to anyone or make posts to social media. If we did, we would be fired immediately and not get our severance.
We had jobs and there was no shortage of skilled labor that would make it necessary to bring in H-1Bs. We were let go and replaced by foreign workers who certainly weren’t skilled to take our positions.
I am an IT professional and worked for Southern California Edison for over two decades. I was a loyal employee and always received outstanding reviews. A foreign worker with a H-1B visa recently replaced me.
I am the sole provider of my children. Due to a disability, finding employment at the same wage and with a work modification will be very difficult…It is an ominous possibility that in five years or less I may have no assets, suffer from severe pain and will need to go on full disability with a catastrophic decrease in income. The loss of my job may rob me of a secure retirement.
My layoff has made my children fearful of their future and the security of their home. If I stay in the IT field I run a high risk of again being replaced by a foreign worker.
It’s a farce teaching our kids STEM when the government is permitting U.S. companies to abuse the H-1B visa program, which allows foreigners to take these future jobs from them.
I voted for President Obama and was appalled that he implemented a rule change, which allows work permits to H-1B spouses. My future votes will only go to candidates that support reforms to the H-1B visa program that preserve the American worker.
I started working at Southern California Edison several decades ago. SCE was a company that many people started with at a young age, could work there through their lifetimes, and retire with a good pension and benefits. That was my plan. And I would have been able to do exactly that — until an executive announced a couple years ago that my department was going to be outsourced.
We were forced to train the less qualified foreign workers hired to take our jobs.
Over 400 hardworking, intelligent people have lost their jobs due to the H-1B visa program. Many of us, and countless more like us, face enormous hurdles to find new jobs — why would companies want to hire us when they can hire cheaper workers on the H-1B visa to do our jobs for us?
As longtime employees we loved the work we were doing and the people we were working with. We did a great job. Our work mattered. The work we performed was instrumental in building a world-class business unit.
Through no fault of my own my job was just given to someone else with a lot less experience, knowledge and skills, lowering my standard of living and raising theirs so Edison could save a few dollars and reward stockholders with a few more pennies on their dividends.
I and most of my co-workers are completely disgusted that Edison can fire us and replace us with foreign workers, abusing the H1-B program. We cannot understand how the CPUC (California Public Utilities Commission), Governor and Congress, President and media can all ignore this abuse and just pretend it doesn’t matter. It’s as if we no longer matter or have value as human beings or American citizens.
It’s certainly true that other workers in other industries have lost jobs because companies wanted to cut costs. Highly-paid middle-aged workers have been replaced by younger employees working for less. That can be an unhappy fact of life in today’s economy. But in the case of H-1Bs, the federal government is expressly giving a special permit to foreign workers — actually, to large outsourcing firms that use H-1Bs to bring those workers to the U.S. — in order to displace American workers. And now many lawmakers in both parties — their task made simpler by the enforced silence of fired and angry workers — want even more H-1Bs. Is that something the government should do?
As tech giant calls for more foreign workers, Senate hears of displaced Americans
Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, believes passionately that the United States needs more skilled foreign workers. He has long advocated increasing the number of so-called H-1B visas, which allow those workers to come to the U.S. for several years and, in many cases, work for lower wages than current employees. Schmidt is frustrated that Congress hasn’t done as he and other tech moguls want.
“In the long list of stupid policies of the U.S. government, I think our attitude toward immigration has got to be near the top,” Schmidt said during an appearance this week at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. “Everyone actually agrees that there should be more H-1B visas in order to create more tech, more science, more analytical jobs. Everyone agrees, in both parties.”
The Eric Schmidt pleading for more foreign workers is the same Eric Schmidt who boasts of turning away thousands upon thousands of job seekers who apply for a few prized positions at Google. For example, at an appearance in Cleveland last October to promote his book, How Google Works, Schmidt explained that his company receives at least 1,000 applications for every job opening. “The good news is that we have computers to do the initial vetting,” Schmidt explained, according to an account in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Other tech leaders join Schmidt in calling for more foreign workers. Some companies are actually lobbying for more H-1Bs and laying off American staff at the same time. For example, last year Microsoft announced the layoff of 18,000 people at the very moment it was pushing Congress for more guest worker visas.
Given all that, there’s not quite the unanimous agreement on the need for more foreign workers that Schmidt claims. At a hearing this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, a number of experts testified that the H-1B program, so sought-after by CEOs, is being abused to harm American workers.
Ron Hira, a Howard University professor and author of the book Outsourcing America, told the story of Southern California Edison, which recently got rid of 500 IT employees and replaced them with a smaller force of lower-paid workers brought in from overseas through the H-1B program. The original employees were making an average of about $110,000 a year, Hira testified; the replacements were brought to Southern California Edison by outsourcing firms that pay an average of between $65,000 and $75,000.
“To add insult to injury,” Hira said, “SCE forced its American workers to train their H-1B replacements as a condition of receiving their severance packages.”
Hira testified that such situations are not unusual. And on the larger issue of whether there is, as many tech executives claim, a critical shortage of labor in what are called the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math — another professor, Hal Salzman of Rutgers, testified that the shortage simply does not exist.
“The U.S. supply of top-performing graduates is large and far exceeds the hiring needs of the STEM industries, with only one of every two STEM graduates finding a STEM job,” Salzman testified. “The guest worker supply is very large [and] it is highly concentrated in the IT industry, leading to both stagnant wages and job insecurity.”
The hearing also featured Jay Palmer, a former Infosys project manager who blew the whistle on a case in which the big outsourcing firm paid $34 million in fines for worker visa violations. “I watched this on a daily basis,” Palmer told the Judiciary Committee. “I sat in the offices in meetings with companies that displaced American workers only because the Americans who had been there 15 or 20 years were being paid too much money.”
So not everyone agrees with Schmidt on the need for more H-1B workers. Certainly not the laid-off IT employees at Southern California Edison. And not the workers reportedly displaced by similar practices at Disney, Harley Davidson, Cargill, Pfizer and other companies. Who knows? Maybe some of those workers have been among the 1,000-plus who apply for every Google opening.
To hear the witnesses before the Senate Judiciary Committee tell it, Congress needs to act — not to increase the number of H-1Bs but to close the loopholes that allow them to be so badly abused at such a cost to American workers. “Congress and multiple administrations have inadvertently created a highly lucrative business model of bringing in cheaper H-1B workers to substitute for Americans,” Hira told the committee. “Simply put, the H-1B program has become a cheap labor program.”
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa in the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act, section 101(a)(15)(H). It allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. If a foreign worker in H-1B status quits or is dismissed from the sponsoring employer, the worker must either apply for and be granted a change of status to another non-immigrant status, find another employer (subject to application for adjustment of status and/or change of visa), or leave the U.S.
The regulations define a “specialty occupation” as requiring theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge in a field of human endeavor including but not limited to biotechnology, chemistry, architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine and health, education, law, accounting, business specialties, theology, and the arts, and requiring the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent as a minimum (with the exception of fashion models, who must be “of distinguished merit and ability”). Likewise, the foreign worker must possess at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent and state licensure, if required to practice in that field. H-1B work-authorization is strictly limited to employment by the sponsoring employer.
Structure of the program
Duration of stay
The duration of stay is three years, extendable to six years. An exception to maximum length of stay applies in certain circumstances
- If a visa holder has submitted an I-140 immigrant petition or a labor certification prior to their fifth year anniversary of having the H-1B visa, they are entitled to renew their H-1B visa in one-year or three-year increments until a decision has been rendered on their application for permanent residence.
- If the visa holder has an approved I-140 immigrant petition, but is unable to initiate the final step of the green card process due to their priority date not being current, they may be entitled to a three-year extension of their H-1B visa. This exception originated with the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000.
- The maximum duration of the H-1B visa is ten years for exceptional United States Department of Defense project related work.
H-1B holders who want to continue to work in the U.S. after six years, but who have not obtained permanent residency status, must remain outside of the U.S. for one year before reapplying for another H-1B visa. Despite a limit on length of stay, no requirement exists that the individual remain for any period in the job the visa was originally issued for. This is known as H-1B portability or transfer, provided the new employer sponsors another H-1B visa, which may or may not be subjected to the quota. Under current law, H-1B visa has no stipulated grace period in the event the employer-employee relationship ceases to exist.
Congressional yearly numerical cap and exemptions
The current law limits to 65,000 the number of foreign nationals who may be issued a visa or otherwise provided H-1B status each fiscal year (FY). Laws exempt up to 20,000 foreign nationals holding a master’s or higher degree from U.S. universities from the cap on H-1B visas. In addition, excluded from the ceiling are all H-1B non-immigrants who work at (but not necessarily for) universities, non-profit research facilities associated with universities, and government research facilities. Universities can employ an unlimited number of foreign workers as cap-exempt. This also means that contractors working at but not directly employed by the institutions may be exempt from the cap as well. Free Trade Agreements carve out 1,400 H-1B1 visas for Chilean nationals and 5,400 H-1B1 visas for Singapore nationals. However, if these reserved visas are not used, then they are made available in the next fiscal year to applicants from other countries. Due to these unlimited exemptions and roll-overs, the number of H-1B visas issued each year is significantly more than the 65,000 cap, with 117,828 having been issued in FY2010, 129,552 in FY2011, and 135,991 in FY2012.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services starts accepting applications on the first business day of April for visas that count against the fiscal year starting in October. For instance, H-1B visa applications that count against the FY 2013 cap could be submitted starting from Monday, 2012 April 2. USCIS accepts H-1B visa applications no more than 6 months in advance of the requested start date. Beneficiaries not subject to the annual cap are those who currently hold cap-subject H-1B status or have heldcap-subject H-1B status at some point in the past six years.
Tax status of H-1B workers
The taxation of income for H-1B employees depends on whether they are categorized as either non-resident aliens or resident aliens for tax purposes. A non-resident alien for tax purposes is only taxed on income from the United States, while a resident alien for tax purposes is taxed on all income, including income from outside the US.
The classification is determined based on the “substantial presence test“: If the substantial presence test indicates that the H-1B visa holder is a resident, then income taxation is like any other U.S. person and may be filed using Form 1040 and the necessary schedules; otherwise, the visa-holder must file as a non-resident alien using tax form 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ; he or she may claim benefit from tax treaties if they exist between the United States and the visa holder’s country of citizenship.
Persons in their first year in the U.S. may choose to be considered a resident for taxation purposes for the entire year, and must pay taxes on their worldwide income for that year. This “First Year Choice” is described in IRS Publication 519 and can only be made once in a person’s lifetime. A spouse, regardless of visa status, must include a valid Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) or Social Security number (SSN) on a joint tax return with the H-1B holder.
Tax filing rules for H-1B holders may be complex, depending on the individual situation. Besides consulting a professional tax preparer knowledgeable about the rules for foreigners, the IRS Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens, may be consulted. Apart from state and federal taxes, H-1B visa holders pay Medicare and Social Security taxes, and are eligible for Social Security benefits.
H-1B and legal immigration
Even though the H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa, it is one of the few visa categories recognized as dual intent, meaning an H-1B holder can have legal immigration intent (apply for and obtain the green card) while still a holder of the visa. In the past the employment-based green card process used to take only a few years, less than the duration of the H-1B visa itself. However, in recent times the legal employment-based immigration process has backlogged and retrogressed to the extent that it now takes many years for guest-work visa holders from certain countries to obtain green cards. Since the duration of the H-1B visa hasn’t changed, this has meant that many more H-1B visa holders must renew their visas in one or three-year increments for continued legal status while their green card application is in process.
Dependents of H-1B visa holders
H-1B visa holders can bring immediate family members (spouse and children under 21) to the U.S. under the H4 Visa category as dependents. An H4 Visa holder may remain in the U.S. as long as the H-1B visa holder retains legal status. An H4 visa holder is not eligible to work or get a Social Security number (SSN). However, a DHS ruling made on Feb 24, 2015 provides certain H4 visa holders with eligibility to work, starting May 26, 2015. An H4 Visa holder may attend school, get a driver’s license, and open a bank account in the U.S. To claim a dependent on a tax return or file a joint tax return, the dependent must obtain an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN), which is only used for tax filing purposes.
When an H-1B worker goes outside of U.S. for vacation, he or she has to get the visa stamped on his passport unless he has already done so for re-entry in the United States. The interview is taken in U.S. Embassy by a visa officer. In some cases, H-1B workers can be required to undergo “administrative processing”, involving extra, lengthy background checks. Under current rules, these checks are supposed to take ten days or less, but in some cases, have lasted years.
Evolution of the program
Changes in the cap, number of applications received, and numbers of applications approved vs. visas issued
During the early 1990s, the cap was rarely reached. By the mid-1990s, however, the allocation tended fill each year on a first come, first served basis, resulting in frequent denials or delays of H-1Bs because the annual cap had been reached. In 1998, the cap increased to 115,000.
American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000 (Hatch-Abraham-Gramm; PL106-313 sections102 and 103; 114 Stat 1251; enacted 2000-10-03; signed by Bill Clinton 2000-10-17) granted government functionaries amnesty for over-shooting the H-1B limit by 22,500 in FY1999 and by about 30,000 in FY2000; temporarily increased H-1B “cap”/”limit” to 195K for FY2001 through FY2003; exempted all individuals being hired by institutions of higher education, as well as non-profit and government-research organizations, from the cap, and § 105, 114 Stat. 1253 permitted portability, i.e. employer/sponsor change.
The H-1B Visa Reform Act of 2004 mandated that, “…the first 20,000 H-1B petitions filed on behalf of aliens with U.S.-earned masters’ or higher degrees will be exempt from any fiscal year cap…” Additionally, universities, nonprofit research organizations affiliated with universities, and governmental research organizations are exempt from the H-1B cap. For all other new H-1B applicants, the congressionally mandated H-1B visa cap is 65,000 annually.
For FY2007, with applications accepted from 2006 April 1, the entire quota of visas for the year was exhausted within a span of 2 months on May 26, well before the beginning of the financial year concerned. The additional 20,000 Advanced Degree H-1B visas were exhausted on July 26.
For FY2008, the entire quota was exhausted before the end of the first day that applications were accepted, April 2. Under USCIS rules, the 123,480 petitions received on April 2 and April 3 that were subject to the cap were pooled, and then 65,000 of these were selected at random for further processing. The additional 20,000 Advanced Degree H-1B visas for FY2008 was exhausted on April 30.
For FY2009, USCIS announced on 2008 April 8, that the entire quota for visas for the year had been reached, for both 20,000 Advanced and the 65,000 quota. USCIS would complete initial data entry for all filing received during 2008 April 1 to April 7, before running the lottery, while 86,300 new visas were approved.
For FY2010, USCIS announced on 2009 December 21, that enough petitions were received to reach that year’s cap.
For FY2011, USCIS announced on 2011 January 27, that enough petitions were received to reach that year’s cap on January 26.
For FY2015, USCIS announced on 2014 April 10 that received about 172,500 H-1B petitions during the filing period which began April 1, including petitions filed for the advanced degree exemption.
Numbers of applications approved
The applications received are evaluated by USCIS, and some subset are approved each year. It is possible for an individual to file multiple applications, for multiple job opportunities with a single employer/sponsor or with multiple employer/sponsors. It is possible for an individual applicant to have multiple applications approved and to be able to choose which one to take.
In its annual report on H-1B visas, released in 2006 November, USCIS stated that it approved 130,497 H-1B visa applications in FY2004 (while 138,965 new visas were issued through consular offices) and 116,927 in FY2005 (while 124,099 new visas were issued via consular offices).
In FY2008, a total of 276,252 visa applications (109,335 initial, 166,917 renewals and extensions) were approved, and 130,183 new initial visas were issued through consular offices.
In FY2009, 214,271 visas were approved, with 86,300 being for initial employment, and 127,971 being for continued employment) and 110,988 initial H-1B visas were issued from consular offices.
In FY2010, 192,990 new visas were approved, with 76,627 being for initial employment and 116,363 being for continuing employment. 117,828 new visas were issued through consular offices
In FY2011, 269,653 new visas were approved, with 106,445 being for initial employment and 163,208 being for continued employment. 129,552 new visas were issued through consular offices.
In FY2012, 262,569 new visas were approved with 136,890 being for initial employment and 125,679 being for continued employment.
American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000
The American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000 (AC21) and the U.S. Department of Labor’s PERM system for labor certification erased most of the earlier claimed arguments for H-1Bs as indentured servants during the green card process. With PERM, labor certification processing time is now approximately 9 months (as of Mar 2010).
Because of AC21, the H-1B employee is free to change jobs if they have an I-485 application pending for six months and an approved I-140, and if the position they move to is substantially comparable to their current position. In some cases, if those labor certifications are withdrawn and replaced with PERM applications, processing times improve, but the person also loses their favorable priority date. In those cases, employers’ incentive to attempt to lock in H-1B employees to a job by offering a green card is reduced, because the employer bears the high legal costs and fees associated with labor certification and I-140 processing, but the H-1B employee is still free to change jobs.
However, many people are ineligible to file I-485 at the current time due to the widespread retrogression in priority dates. Thus, they may well still be stuck with their sponsoring employer for many years. There are also many old labor certification cases pending under pre-PERM rules.
Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008
The Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008, which, among other issues, federalizes immigration in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, stipulates that during a transition period, numerical limitations do not apply to otherwise qualified workers in the H visa category in the CNMI and Guam.
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
On Feb. 17, 2009, President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (“stimulus bill”), Public Law 111-5. Section 1661 of the ARRA incorporates the Employ American Workers Act (EAWA) by Senators Sanders (I-Vt.) and Grassley (R-Iowa) to limit certain banks and other financial institutions from hiring H-1B workers unless they had offered positions to equally or better-qualified U.S. workers, and to prevent banks from hiring H-1B workers in occupations they had laid off U.S. workers from. These restrictions include:
- The employer must, prior to filing the H-1B petition, take good-faith steps to recruit U.S. workers for the position for which the H-1B worker is sought, offering a wage at least as high as what the law requires for the H-1B worker. The employer must also attest that, in connection with this recruitment, it has offered the job to any U.S. worker who applies who is equally or better qualified for the position.
- The employer must not have laid off, and will not lay off, any U.S. worker in a job essentially equivalent to the H-1B position in the area of intended employment of the H-1B worker within the period beginning 90 days prior to the filing of the H-1B petition and ending 90 days after its filing.
Changes in USCIS policy
After completing a policy review, the USCIS clarified that individuals who spent more than one year outside of U.S. and did not exhaust their entire six-year term can choose to be re-admitted for the “remainder” of initial six-year period without being subject to the H-1B cap.
After completing a policy review, the USCIS clarified that, “Any time spent in H-4 status will not count against the six-year maximum period of admission applicable to H-1B aliens.”
USCIS recently issued a memorandum dated 8 Jan 2010. The memorandum effectively states that there must be a clear “employee employer relationship” between the petitioner (employer) and the beneficiary (prospective visa holder). It simply outlines what the employer must do to be considered in compliance as well as putting forth the documentation requirements to back up the employer’s assertion that a valid relationship exists.
The memorandum gives three clear examples of what is considered a valid “employee employer relationship”:
- a fashion model
- a computer software engineer working off-site/on-site
- a company or a contractor which is working on a co-production product in collaboration with DOD
In the case of the software engineer, the petitioner (employer) must agree to do (some of) the following among others:
- Supervise the beneficiary on and off-site
- Maintain such supervision through calls, reports, or visits
- Have a “right” to control the work on a day-to-day basis if such control is required
- Provide tools for the job
- Hire, pay, and have the ability to fire the beneficiary
- Evaluate work products and perform progress/performance reviews
- Claim them for tax purposes
- Provide (some type of) employee benefits
- Use “proprietary information” to perform work
- Produce an end product related to the business
- Have an “ability to” control the manner and means in which the worker accomplishes tasks
It further states that “common law is flexible” in how to weigh these factors. Though this memorandum cites legal cases and provides examples, such a memorandum in itself is not law and future memoranda could change this.
Protections for U.S. workers
Labor Condition Application
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is responsible for ensuring that foreign workers do not displace or adversely affect wages or working conditions of U.S. workers. For every H-1B petition filed with the USCIS, there must be included a Labor Condition Application (LCA) (not to be confused with the labor certification), certified by the U.S. Department of Labor. The LCA is designed to ensure that the wage offered to the non-immigrant worker meets or exceeds the “prevailing wage” in the area of employment. (“Immigration law has a number of highly technical terms that may not mean the same thing to the average reader.” last updated 2011 March 31, visited 2012 November 5) The LCA also contains an attestation section designed to prevent the program from being used to import foreign workers to break a strike or replace U.S. citizen workers.
While an employer is not required to advertise the position before hiring an H-1B non-immigrant pursuant to the H-1B visa approval, the employer must notify the employee representative about the Labor Condition Application (LCA)—or if there is no such representation, the employer must publish the LCA at the workplace and the employer’s office. Under the regulations, LCAs are a matter of public record. Corporations hiring H-1B workers are required to make these records available to any member of the public who requests to look at them. Copies of the relevant records are also available from various web sites, including the Department of Labor.
History of the Labor Condition Application form
The LCA must be filed electronically using Form ETA 9035E. Over the years, the complexity of the form increased from one page in 1997 to three pages in 2008, to five pages as of August 2012.
By signing the LCA, the employer attests that:
- The employer pays H-1B non-immigrants the same wage level paid to all other individuals with similar experience and qualifications for that specific employment, or the prevailing wage for the occupation in the area of employment, whichever is higher.
- The employment of H-1B non-immigrants does not adversely affect working conditions of workers similarly employed.
- On the date the application is signed and submitted, there is not a strike, lockout, or work stoppage in the course of a labor dispute in the occupation in which H-1B non-immigrants will be employed at the place of employment. If such a strike or lockout occurs after this application is submitted, the employer must notify ETA within three days, and the application is not used to support petition filings with INS for H-1B non-immigrants to work in the same occupation at the place of employment until ETA determines the strike or lockout is over.
- A copy of this application has been, or will be, provided to each H-1B non-immigrant employed pursuant to this application, and, as of the application date, notice of this application has been provided to workers employed in the occupation in which H-1B non-immigrants will be employed:
- Notice of this filing has been provided to bargaining representative of workers in the occupation in which H-1B non-immigrants will be employed; or
- There is no such bargaining representative; therefore, a notice of this filing has been posted and was, or will remain, posted for 10 days in at least two conspicuous locations where H-1B non-immigrants will be employed.
The law requires H-1B workers to be paid the higher of the prevailing wage for the same occupation and geographic location, or the same as the employer pays to similarly situated employees. Other factors, such as age and skill were not permitted to be taken into account for the prevailing wage. Congress changed the program in 2004 to require the Department of Labor to provide four skill-based prevailing wage levels for employers to use. This is the only prevailing wage mechanism the law permits that incorporates factors other than occupation and location.
The approval process for these applications are based on employer attestations and documentary evidence submitted. The employer is advised of their liability if they are replacing a U.S. worker.
Limits on employment
According to the USCIS, “H-1B nonimmigrants may only work for the petitioning U.S. employer and only in the H-1B activities described in the petition. The petitioning U.S. employer may place the H-1B worker on the worksite of another employer if all applicable rules (e.g., Department of Labor rules) are followed. Generally, a nonimmigrant employee may work for more than one employer at the same time. However, each employer must follow the process for initially applying for a nonimmigrant employee.”
H-1B fees earmarked for U.S. worker education and training
In 2007, the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (ETA), reported on two programs, the High Growth Training Initiative and Workforce Innovation Regional Economic Development (WIRED), which have received or will receive $284 million and $260 million, respectively, from H-1B training fees to educate and train U.S. workers.Seattle Times $1 billion from H1-B fees have been distributed by the Labor Department to further train the U.S. workforce since 2001.
According to the
Criticisms of the program
The H-1B program has caused a number of criticisms.
No labor shortages
Paul Donnelly, in a 2002 article in Computerworld, cited Milton Friedman as stating that the H-1B program acts as a subsidy for corporations. Others holding this view include Dr. Norman Matloff, who testified to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Immigration on the H-1B subject. Matloff’s paper for the University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform claims that there has been no shortage of qualified American citizens to fill American computer-related jobs, and that the data offered as evidence of American corporations needing H-1B visas to address labor shortages was erroneous. The United States General Accounting Office found in a report in 2000 that controls on the H-1B program lacked effectiveness. The GAO report’s recommendations were subsequently implemented.
High-tech companies often cite a tech-worker shortage when asking Congress to raise the annual cap on H-1B visas, and have succeeded in getting various exemptions passed. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), described the situation as a crisis, and the situation was reported on by the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek and Washington Post. Employers applied pressure on Congress. Microsoft chairman Bill Gates testified in 2007 on behalf of the expanded visa program on Capitol Hill, “warning of dangers to the U.S. economy if employers can’t import skilled workers to fill job gaps”. Congress considered a bill to address the claims of shortfall but in the end did not revise the program.
According to a study conducted by John Miano and the Center for Immigration Studies, there is no empirical data to support a claim of employee worker shortage. Citing studies from Duke, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Georgetown University and others, critics have also argued that in some years, the number of foreign programmers and engineers imported outnumbered the number of jobs created by the industry. Organizations have also posted hundreds of first hand accounts of H-1B Visa Harm reports directly from individuals negatively impacted by the program, many of whom are willing to speak with the media.
Studies carried out from the 1990s through 2011 by researchers from Columbia U, Computing Research Association (CRA), Duke U, Georgetown U, Harvard U, National Research Council of the NAS, RAND Corporation, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rutgers U, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Stanford U, SUNY Buffalo, UC Davis, UPenn Wharton School, Urban Institute, and U.S. Dept. of Education Office of Education Research & Improvement have reported that the U.S. has been producing sufficient numbers of able and willing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) workers, while several studies from Hal Salzman, B. Lindsay Lowell, Daniel Kuehn, Michael Teitelbaum and others have concluded that the U.S. has been employing only 30% to 50% of its newly degreed able and willing STEM workers to work in STEM fields. A 2012 IEEE announcement of a conference on STEM education funding and job markets stated “only about half of those with under-graduate STEM degrees actually work in the STEM-related fields after college, and after 10 years, only some 8% still do”.
Wage depression is a chronic complaint critics have about the H-1B program: some studies have found that H-1B workers are paid significantly less than U.S. workers. It is claimed that the H-1B program is primarily used as a source of cheap labor. A paper by George J. Borjas for the National Bureau of Economic Research found that “a 10 percent immigration-induced increase in the supply of doctorates lowers the wage of competing workers by about 3 to 4 percent.”
The Labor Condition Application (LCA) included in the H-1B petition is supposed to ensure that H-1B workers are paid the prevailing wage in the labor market, or the employer’s actual average wage (whichever is higher), but evidence exists that some employers do not abide by these provisions and avoid paying the actual prevailing wage despite stiff penalties for abusers.
Theoretically, the LCA process appears to offer protection to both U.S. and H-1B workers. However, according to the U.S. General Accounting Office, enforcement limitations and procedural problems render these protections ineffective. Ultimately, the employer, not the Department of Labor, determines what sources determine the prevailing wage for an offered position, and it may choose among a variety of competing surveys, including its own wage surveys, provided that such surveys follow certain defined rules and regulations.
The law specifically restricts the Department of Labor’s approval process of LCAs to checking for “completeness and obvious inaccuracies”. In FY 2005, only about 800 LCAs were rejected out of over 300,000 submitted. Hire Americans First has posted several hundred first hand accounts of individuals negatively impacted by the program, many of whom are willing to speak with the media.
DOL has split the prevailing wage into four levels, with Level One representing about the 17th percentile of wage average Americans earn. About 80 percent of LCAs are filed at this 17th percentile level and is generally far lower than average wages .
. This four-level prevailing wage can be obtained from the DOL website,
The “prevailing wage” stipulation is allegedly vague and thus easy to manipulate
, resulting in employers underpaying visa workers. According to Ron Hira, assistant professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology, the median wage in 2005 for new H-1B information technology (IT) was just $50,000, which is even lower than starting wages for IT graduates with a B.S. degree. The U.S. government OES office’s data indicates that 90 percent of H-1B IT wages were below the median U.S. wage for the same occupation.
In 2002, the U.S. government began an investigation into Sun Microsystems’ hiring practices after an ex-employee, Guy Santiglia, filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Labor alleging that the Santa Clara firm discriminates against American citizens in favor of foreign workers on H-1B visas. Santiglia accused the company of bias against U.S. citizens when it laid off 3,900 workers in late 2001 and at the same time applied for thousands of visas. In 2002, about 5 percent of Sun’s 39,000 employees had temporary work visas, he said. In 2005, it was decided that Sun violated only minor requirements and that neither of these violations was substantial or willful. Thus, the judge only ordered Sun to change its posting practices.
Risks for employees
Historically, H-1B holders have sometimes been described as indentured servants, and while the comparison is no longer as compelling, it had more validity prior to the passage of American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000. Although immigration generally requires short- and long-term visitors to disavow any ambition to seek the green card (permanent residency), H-1B visa holders are an important exception, in that the H-1B is legally acknowledged as a possible step towards a green card under what is called the doctrine of dual intent.
H-1B visa holders may be sponsored for their green cards by their employers through an Application for Alien Labor Certification, filed with the U.S. Department of Labor.
In the past, the sponsorship process has taken several years, and for much of that time the H-1B visa holder was unable to change jobs without losing their place in line for the green card. This created an element of enforced loyalty to an employer by an H-1B visa holder. Critics alleged that employers benefit from this enforced loyalty because it reduced the risk that the H-1B employee might leave the job and go work for a competitor, and that it put citizen workers at a disadvantage in the job market, since the employer has less assurance that the citizen will stay at the job for an extended period of time, especially if the work conditions are tough, wages are lower or the work is difficult or complex. It has been argued that this makes the H-1B program extremely attractive to employers, and that labor legislation in this regard has been influenced by corporations seeking and benefiting from such advantages.
Some recent news reports suggest that the recession that started in 2008 will exacerbate the H-1B visa situation, both for supporters of the program and for those who oppose it. The process to obtain the green card has become so long that during these recession years it has not been unusual that sponsoring companies fail and disappear, thus forcing the H-1B employee to find another sponsor, and lose their place in line for the green card. An H-1B employee could be just one month from obtaining their green card, but if the employee is laid off, he or she may have to leave the country, or go to the end of the line and start over the process to get the green card, and wait as much as 10 more years, depending on the nationality and visa category.
The American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000 provides some relief for people waiting for a long time for a green card, by allowing H-1B extensions past the normal 6 years, as well as by making it easier to change the sponsoring employer.
The Out-Sourcing/Off-Shoring Visa
In his floor statement on H-1B Visa Reform, Senator Dick Durbin stated “The H-1B job visa lasts for 3 years and can be renewed for 3 years. What happens to those workers after that? Well, they could stay. It is possible. But these new companies have a much better idea for making money. They send the engineers to America to fill spots–and get money to do it—and then after the 3 to 6 years, they bring them back to work for the companies that are competing with American companies. They call it their outsourcing visa. They are sending their talented engineers to learn how Americans do business and then bring them back and compete with those American companies.” Critics of H-1B use for outsourcing have also noted that more H-1B visas are granted to companies headquartered in India than companies headquartered in the United States.
Of all Computer Systems Analysts and programmers on H-1B visas in the U.S., 74 percent were from Asia. This large scale migration of Asian IT professionals to the United States has been cited as a central cause for the quick emergence of the offshore outsourcing industry.
In FY 2009, due to the worldwide recession, applications for H-1B visas by off-shore out-sourcing firms were significantly lower than in previous years, yet 110,367 H-1B visas were issued, and 117,409 were issued in FY2010.
Social Security and Medicare taxes
H-1B employees have to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes as part of their payroll. Like U.S. citizens, they are eligible to receive Social Security benefits even if they leave the United States, provided they have paid Social Security payroll taxes for at least 10 years. Further, the U.S. has bilateral agreements with several countries to ensure that the time paid into the U.S. Social Security system, even if it is less than 10 years, is taken into account in the foreign country’s comparable system and vice versa.
Departure Requirement on Job Loss
If an employer lays off an H-1B worker, the employer is required to pay for the laid-off worker’s transportation outside the United States.
If an H-1B worker is laid off for any reason, the H-1B program technically does not specify a time allowance or grace period to round up one’s affairs irrespective of how long the H-1B worker might have lived in the United States. To round up one’s affairs, filing an application to change to another non-immigrant status may therefore become a necessity.
If an H-1B worker is laid off and attempts to find a new H-1B employer to file a petition for him, the individual is considered out of status if there is even a one-day gap between the last day of employment and the date that the new H-1B petition is filed. While some attorneys claim that there is a grace period of 30 days, 60 days, or sometimes 10 days, that is not true according to the law. In practice, USCIS has accepted H-1B transfer applications even with a gap in employment up to 60 days, but that is by no means guaranteed.
Some of the confusion regarding the alleged grace period arose because there is a 10-day grace period for an H-1B worker to depart the United States at the end of his authorized period of stay (does not apply for laid-off workers). This grace period only applies if the worker works until the H-1B expiration date listed on his I-797 approval notice, or I-94 card. 8 CFR 214.2(h)(13)(i)(A).
American workers are ordered to train their foreign replacements
Although the alleged reason for the H-1B program is to fill jobs that Americans don’t want to work at, there have been cases where employers used the program to replace their American employees with H-1B employees, and in some of those cases, the American employees were even ordered to train their replacements.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services “H-1B Benefit Fraud & Compliance Assessment” of September 2008 concluded 21% of H-1B visas granted originate from fraudulent applications or applications with technical violations. Fraud was defined as a willful misrepresentation, falsification, or omission of a material fact. Technical violations, errors, omissions, and failures to comply that are not within the fraud definition were included in the 21% rate. Subsequently, USCIS has made procedural changes to reduce the number of fraud and technical violations on H-1B applications.
In 2009, federal authorities busted a nationwide H-1B Visa Scam.
In addition to H-1B visas, there are a variety of other visa categories that allow foreign workers to come into the U.S. to work for some period of time.
L-1 visas are issued to foreign employees of a corporation. Under recent rules, the foreign worker must have worked for the corporation for at least one year in the preceding three years prior to getting the visa. An L-1B visa is appropriate for non-immigrant workers who are being temporarily transferred to the United States based on their specialized knowledge of the company’s techniques and methodologies. An L-1A visa is for managers or executives who either manage people or an essential function of the company. There is no requirement to pay prevailing wages for the L-1 visa holders. For Canadian residents, a special L visa category is available.
TN-1 visas are part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and are issued to Canadian and Mexican citizens. TN visas are only available to workers who fall into one of a pre-set list of occupations determined by the NAFTA treaty. There are specific eligibility requirements for the TN Visa.
E-3 visas are issued to citizens of Australia under the Australia free-trade treaty.
H-1B1 visas are a sub-set of H-1B issued to residents of Chile and Singapore under the United States-Chile Free Trade Agreement of 2003; PL108-77 § 402(a)(2)(B), 117 Stat. 909, 940; S1416, HR2738; passed in House 2003-07-24 and the United States-Singapore Free Trade Agreement of 2003; PL108-78 § 402(2), 117 Stat. 948, 970-971; S1417, HR2739; passed in House 2003-07-24, passed in senate 2003-07-31, signed by executive (GWBush) 2003-05-06. According to USCIS, unused H-1B1 visas are added into the next year’s H-1B base quota of 58,200.
One recent trend in work visas is that various countries attempt to get special preference for their nationals as part of treaty negotiations. Another trend is for changes in immigration law to be embedded in large Authorization or Omnibus bills to avoid the controversy that might accompany a separate vote.
H-2B visa: The H-2B non-immigrant program permits employers to hire foreign workers to come to the U.S. and perform temporary nonagricultural work, which may be one-time, seasonal, peak load or intermittent. There is a 66,000 per year limit on the number of foreign workers who may receive H-2B status.
H-1B number issued each year for 2006-2008
Issued H-1Bs by continent
Pie chart showing 25% Indian
H-1B Applications Approved
H-1B Applications Approved by USCIS
H-1B Applications Approved by USCIS for those with less than the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree
||No HS Diploma
||Only HS Diploma
||Less Than 1 year of College
||1+ years of College
||Equivalent of Associate’s
||Total Less Than Equivalent of U.S. Bachelor’s
H-1B visas issued per year
new/initial H-1B visas issued by State Department through consular offices
Top H-1B rankings
Companies receiving H-1Bs
||Tata Consultancy Services
||Teaneck, New Jersey
||HCL Technologies Ltd
||Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India
||Armonk, New York
||Larsen & Toubro Infotech
||New York City,New York
||IGATE (merged withPatni)
||Bridgewater, NJ& Bengaluru,India
||London, United Kingdom
||Ernst & Young LLP
||London, United Kingdom
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Story 1: Part 2 Commentary On: Three Cheers For Netanyahu’s Warning To American People About Islamic Republic of Iran and Islamic State and Three Thumbs Down On Obama’s Bad Deal With The Iranian Republic On Developing Nuclear Weapons And Intercontinental Missiles — “Your Enemy of Your Enemy Is Your Enemy” — Restore Severe Sanctions On Iran Immediately — Take Out The Nuclear Weapons Facilities With Israel Defense Forces – Stop Iran’s Uranium Enrichment Forever Now! — Videos
Iran Nuclear Site: Natanz Uranium Enrichment Site
Inside Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Plan
A Briefing on Iran’s Nuclear Program
Iranium – The Islamic Republic’s Race to Obtain Nuclear Weapons
O’Reilly on Iran Nuclear Deal: ‘Let’s See It’
Sen Rand Paul sounds off on Iran nuclear negotiations latest news today
Kerry says demanding Iran’s ‘capitulation’ is no way to secure nuclear deal
Benjamin Netanyahu speech to congress 2015 – Prime Minister of Israel Address Meeting of Congress
Benjamin Netanyahu speech to congress 2015 – Prime Minister of Israel Address Joint Meeting of Congress benjamin netanyahu speech to congress Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel Address to a Joint Meeting of Congress Netanyahu on Tensions Over Iran Speech to Congress FULL Benjamin Netanyahu Speech To US Congress Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses Congress The quickest of takes are already coming in, but few seem to agree about whether Netanyahu’s speech was a boom or a bust for President Obama and talks with Iran.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel Address to a Joint Meeting of Congress
“This was a speech the American people needed to hear, plain and simple. It addressed the gravity of the threats we face and why we cannot allow a nuclear Iran, or any semblance of a path to a nuclear Iran. It demonstrated why there is such deep-seated – and bipartisan – concern about the deal that is being made. I thank my colleagues, Republicans and Democrats, who took the time to hear the Prime Minister’s address on behalf of their constituents, and I hope all Americans will have the chance to see it for themselves.” – Speaker John Boehner
Kerry says demanding Iran’s ‘capitulation’ is no way to secure nuclear deal
Iran Nuclear Talks Advancing, no Deal Likely Next Week
Negotiations on an agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program have advanced substantially, but difficult issues remain and a senior U.S. official said he did not expect a deal in the coming week. U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will join in talks next week between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Montreux, Switzerland. The United States and five major powers are seeking a deal under which Iran would restrain its nuclear program in exchange for the gradual easing of economic sanctions that have crippled the oil exporter’s economy. Washington and some of its allies believe Iran is seeking to develop an atomic bomb, which they regard as a direct threat to Israel as well as to Arab allies of the United States. Iran says its program is solely for peaceful purposes such as power generation.
Kerry Tries to Ease Gulf Countries’ Concerns On Iran Nuclear Talks
Krauthammer: Sanctions on Iran Are Only Way to Avoid Capitulation or War
Iran rejects US Nuclear Freeze Call
Rubio to Iran: You Can Have An Economy or Nukes Program, Not Both
Graham Discusses Secretary’s Kerry’s Testimony on U.S.-Iran Nuclear Negotiations
DNI James Clapper on Israel, Iran and Nuclear Negotiations (Mar. 2, 2015) | Charlie Rose
James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, talks to Charlie Rose about the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear weapons program, and whether the U.S. and Israeli intelligence services are “on the same page” regarding their assessment of Iran’s capabilities. The full interview airs March 2, 2015 on PBS.
Ambassador John Bolton, American Enterprise Institute CPAC 2015
John Bolton: Obama giving Iran “an open path to nuclear weapons”
“The odds are right now the deal will be signed and that Iran will have an open path to nuclear weapons…there’s no guarantee that the verification mechanisms that are required are going to work. You really think we really know everything about Iran’s nuclear weapons program, like whether some of it’s being conducted in North Korea? I have no faith in our verification capabilities, number one. Number two, to the extent Iran is allowed any continuing uranium enrichment capability at all, and that’s where the administration’s concessions are moving, it has in its hands the long pole in the tent that any aspiring nuclear weapons state wants” he said. Adding that appeasing Iran is “par for the course for the Obama administration. The negotiation with Iran over its nuclear weapons program is a policy of appeasement, and the president is desperate to get this deal done so it doesn’t slip between his fingers.”
Iran Nuclear Talks – Negotiations Continue As Deadline Nears – Special Report All Star
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Israel’s countdown to a Nuclear Iran: Can and will Jerusalem strike?
History of Modern Iran A Nuclear Islamic Republic – BBC Documentary – YouTube
Like Israel, U.S. Arab Allies Fear Obama’s Iran Nuclear Deal
Kerry Visiting Saudi Arabia to assuage concerns
By YAROSLAV TROFIMOV
DUBAI—It isn’t just about Bibi.
The Israeli prime minister’s public confrontation with PresidentBarack Obama over the U.S. administration’s pursuit of a nuclear bargain with Iran may have drawn all the spotlight this week. But America’s other key allies across the Middle East—such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates—are just as distraught, even if they lack the kind of lobbying platform that Benjamin Netanyahu was offered in Congress.
These nations’ ties with Washington have already frayed in recent years, dented by what many officials in the region describe as a nagging sense that America doesn’t care about this part of the world anymore.
Now, with the nuclear talks nearing a deadline, these allies—particularly in the Gulf—fret that America is about to ditch its long-standing friends to win love from their common foe, at the very moment that this foe is on the offensive across the region.
“A lot of the Gulf countries feel they are being thrown under the bus,” said Mishaal al-Gergawi, managing director of the Delma Institute in Abu Dhabi and a prominent Emirati political commentator. “The Gulf thought it was in a monogamous relationship with the West, and now it realizes it’s being cheated on because the U.S. was in an open relationship with it.”
Trying to assuage such concerns, Secretary of State John Kerry flew Wednesday to Saudi Arabia. There, he is slated to discuss with King Salman and foreign ministers of other Gulf nations their worries that the nuclear deal may enable Iran to dominate the region.
In remarks after Mr. Netanyahu’s speech on Tuesday, Mr. Obama acknowledged Iran’s “ambitions when it comes to territory or terrorism”—but argued that “if, in fact, they obtain a nuclear weapon, all those problems would be worse.”
Steven Simon, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute who served as senior director for Middle East and North Africa at the White House in 2011-12, noted that the Gulf countries—while genuinely alarmed by the U.S. outreach—can’t really propose a viable alternative.
“The alternative to what the administration is doing with Iran is war,” he said. “And I don’t think the Saudis and the Emiratis and others are actually prepared for war.”
A joint effort to contain Iran and its proxies after the 1979 Islamic revolution was the key reason for the massive architecture of military, political and economic ties that the U.S. built with its regional allies in recent decades.
Even before the revolution, Iran tried to dominate the Gulf, laying claim to Shiite-majority Bahrain and seizing disputed islands claimed by the U.A.E.
Taking advantage of the Obama administration’s attempt to pivot away from the region, Tehran in recent years asserted its influence in Baghdad and solidified its control in Damascus and Beirut. Last month, pro-Iranian Houthi Shiite militias seized power in Yemen’s capital San’a and ousted that country’s U.S.-backed president.
The Sunni Arab nations led by Saudi Arabia that are engaged in proxy conflicts with Tehran in Yemen, Syria, Bahrain and Lebanon view this confrontation as an existential zero-sum game—and interpret any American opening to Iran, and any relaxation of the economic sanctions that have hobbled Iran’s ability to project power, as succor to the enemy.
That may be true, but this tactical overlap has already created strategic consequences in the crucial battlefields of Syria and Iraq, cementing Iran’s sway in both nations.
The White House decision to focus the U.S. military effort exclusively on Islamic State, sparing the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, has allowed the regime and its Iranian-backed allies to regain ground there.
This means that even the fighters of the U.S.-funded Free Syrian Army, which is supposed to help defeat Islamic State one day, are no longer sure about which side Washington really supports.
“America wants to back whoever is stronger, and the strongest now are Iran and Bashar. This is clear to all people,” said Bakri Kaakeh, a senior FSA officer in Aleppo province.
In Iraq’s war against Islamic State, the U.S. has in fact become a cobelligerent with Iran, which maintains brutal Shiite militias and is directly involved in running major campaigns, such as the current assault on the Sunni city of Tikrit.“Any opportunities that the Arab countries will have to undermine the deal, they will not miss it,” said Riad Kahwaji, CEO of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai. “They will all conclude that the U.S. is no longer a reliable strategic ally, and that the U.S. can sell them out any minute.”
Moeen al-Kadhimi, a senior commander in the largest Iraqi Shiite militia, Badr, which is armed by Iran and staffed with Iranian advisers, said he’s yearning for the day when Tehran and Washington will finally reconcile.
“It’s our wish as Iraqis for this to happen. We will be happy, and the entire Middle East will be stabilized,” he said.
Stability under an Iranian tutelage, of course, isn’t the most desirable outcome for other powers in the region, particularly in the Gulf. The big question is what can these allies do about it.
Not much, said Brian Katulis, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a think tank close to the Obama administration.
“All of the fuss shows how much they need America. Who are they going to turn to? Russia or China?” he wondered. “ No one has the security footprint, capabilities, and network of partnerships across the region.”
But that doesn’t mean the disgruntled allies won’t start looking for ways to torpedo any U.S. opening to Iran—and for alternatives, including a nuclear option of their own, if that fails. Their dismay with the administration’s Iran policy—while not displayed as publicly as Mr. Netanyahu’s—is just as strong.
The complete transcript of Netanyahu’s address to Congress
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is addressing a joint meeting of Congress; here is a complete transcript of his remarks.
NETANYAHU: Thank you.
… Speaker of the House John Boehner, President Pro Tem Senator Orrin Hatch, Senator Minority — Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
I also want to acknowledge Senator, Democratic Leader Harry Reid. Harry, it’s good to see you back on your feet.
I guess it’s true what they say, you can’t keep a good man down.
My friends, I’m deeply humbled by the opportunity to speak for a third time before the most important legislative body in the world, the U.S. Congress.
I want to thank you all for being here today. I know that my speech has been the subject of much controversy. I deeply regret that some perceive my being here as political. That was never my intention.
I want to thank you, Democrats and Republicans, for your common support for Israel, year after year, decade after decade.
I know that no matter on which side of the aisle you sit, you stand with Israel.
[READ: Republicans loved every word of Bibi’s address]
The remarkable alliance between Israel and the United States has always been above politics. It must always remain above politics.
Because America and Israel, we share a common destiny, the destiny of promised lands that cherish freedom and offer hope. Israel is grateful for the support of American — of America’s people and of America’s presidents, from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.
We appreciate all that President Obama has done for Israel.
Now, some of that is widely known.
Some of that is widely known, like strengthening security cooperation and intelligence sharing, opposing anti-Israel resolutions at the U.N.
Some of what the president has done for Israel is less well- known.
I called him in 2010 when we had the Carmel forest fire, and he immediately agreed to respond to my request for urgent aid.
In 2011, we had our embassy in Cairo under siege, and again, he provided vital assistance at the crucial moment.
Or his support for more missile interceptors during our operation last summer when we took on Hamas terrorists.
In each of those moments, I called the president, and he was there.
And some of what the president has done for Israel might never be known, because it touches on some of the most sensitive and strategic issues that arise between an American president and an Israeli prime minister.
But I know it, and I will always be grateful to President Obama for that support.
And Israel is grateful to you, the American Congress, for your support, for supporting us in so many ways, especially in generous military assistance and missile defense, including Iron Dome.
Last summer, millions of Israelis were protected from thousands of Hamas rockets because this capital dome helped build our Iron Dome.
Thank you, America. Thank you for everything you’ve done for Israel.
My friends, I’ve come here today because, as prime minister of Israel, I feel a profound obligation to speak to you about an issue that could well threaten the survival of my country and the future of my people: Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons.
We’re an ancient people. In our nearly 4,000 years of history, many have tried repeatedly to destroy the Jewish people. Tomorrow night, on the Jewish holiday of Purim, we’ll read the Book of Esther. We’ll read of a powerful Persian viceroy named Haman, who plotted to destroy the Jewish people some 2,500 years ago. But a courageous Jewish woman, Queen Esther, exposed the plot and gave for the Jewish people the right to defend themselves against their enemies.
The plot was foiled. Our people were saved.
Today the Jewish people face another attempt by yet another Persian potentate to destroy us. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei spews the oldest hatred, the oldest hatred of anti-Semitism with the newest technology. He tweets that Israel must be annihilated — he tweets. You know, in Iran, there isn’t exactly free Internet. But he tweets in English that Israel must be destroyed.
For those who believe that Iran threatens the Jewish state, but not the Jewish people, listen to Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, Iran’s chief terrorist proxy. He said: If all the Jews gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of chasing them down around the world.
But Iran’s regime is not merely a Jewish problem, any more than the Nazi regime was merely a Jewish problem. The 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis were but a fraction of the 60 million people killed in World War II. So, too, Iran’s regime poses a grave threat, not only to Israel, but also the peace of the entire world. To understand just how dangerous Iran would be with nuclear weapons, we must fully understand the nature of the regime.
The people of Iran are very talented people. They’re heirs to one of the world’s great civilizations. But in 1979, they were hijacked by religious zealots — religious zealots who imposed on them immediately a dark and brutal dictatorship.
That year, the zealots drafted a constitution, a new one for Iran. It directed the revolutionary guards not only to protect Iran’s borders, but also to fulfill the ideological mission of jihad. The regime’s founder, Ayatollah Khomeini, exhorted his followers to “export the revolution throughout the world.”
I’m standing here in Washington, D.C. and the difference is so stark. America’s founding document promises life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Iran’s founding document pledges death, tyranny, and the pursuit of jihad. And as states are collapsing across the Middle East, Iran is charging into the void to do just that.
Iran’s goons in Gaza, its lackeys in Lebanon, its revolutionary guards on the Golan Heights are clutching Israel with three tentacles of terror. Backed by Iran, Assad is slaughtering Syrians. Back by Iran, Shiite militias are rampaging through Iraq. Back by Iran, Houthis are seizing control of Yemen, threatening the strategic straits at the mouth of the Red Sea. Along with the Straits of Hormuz, that would give Iran a second choke-point on the world’s oil supply.
Just last week, near Hormuz, Iran carried out a military exercise blowing up a mock U.S. aircraft carrier. That’s just last week, while they’re having nuclear talks with the United States. But unfortunately, for the last 36 years, Iran’s attacks against the United States have been anything but mock. And the targets have been all too real.
Iran took dozens of Americans hostage in Tehran, murdered hundreds of American soldiers, Marines, in Beirut, and was responsible for killing and maiming thousands of American service men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Beyond the Middle East, Iran attacks America and its allies through its global terror network. It blew up the Jewish community center and the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires. It helped Al Qaida bomb U.S. embassies in Africa. It even attempted to assassinate the Saudi ambassador, right here in Washington, D.C.
In the Middle East, Iran now dominates four Arab capitals, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa. And if Iran’s aggression is left unchecked, more will surely follow.
So, at a time when many hope that Iran will join the community of nations, Iran is busy gobbling up the nations.
We must all stand together to stop Iran’s march of conquest, subjugation and terror.
Now, two years ago, we were told to give President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif a chance to bring change and moderation to Iran. Some change! Some moderation!
Rouhani’s government hangs gays, persecutes Christians, jails journalists and executes even more prisoners than before.
Last year, the same Zarif who charms Western diplomats laid a wreath at the grave of Imad Mughniyeh. Imad Mughniyeh is the terrorist mastermind who spilled more American blood than any other terrorist besides Osama bin Laden. I’d like to see someone ask him a question about that.
Iran’s regime is as radical as ever, its cries of “Death to America,” that same America that it calls the “Great Satan,” as loud as ever.
Now, this shouldn’t be surprising, because the ideology of Iran’s revolutionary regime is deeply rooted in militant Islam, and that’s why this regime will always be an enemy of America.
Don’t be fooled. The battle between Iran and ISIS doesn’t turn Iran into a friend of America.
Iran and ISIS are competing for the crown of militant Islam. One calls itself the Islamic Republic. The other calls itself the Islamic State. Both want to impose a militant Islamic empire first on the region and then on the entire world. They just disagree among themselves who will be the ruler of that empire.
In this deadly game of thrones, there’s no place for America or for Israel, no peace for Christians, Jews or Muslims who don’t share the Islamist medieval creed, no rights for women, no freedom for anyone.
So when it comes to Iran and ISIS, the enemy of your enemy is your enemy.
The difference is that ISIS is armed with butcher knives, captured weapons and YouTube, whereas Iran could soon be armed with intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear bombs. We must always remember — I’ll say it one more time — the greatest dangers facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons. To defeat ISIS and let Iran get nuclear weapons would be to win the battle, but lose the war. We can’t let that happen.
But that, my friends, is exactly what could happen, if the deal now being negotiated is accepted by Iran. That deal will not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. It would all but guarantee that Iran gets those weapons, lots of them.
Let me explain why. While the final deal has not yet been signed, certain elements of any potential deal are now a matter of public record. You don’t need intelligence agencies and secret information to know this. You can Google it.
Absent a dramatic change, we know for sure that any deal with Iran will include two major concessions to Iran.
The first major concession would leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure, providing it with a short break-out time to the bomb. Break-out time is the time it takes to amass enough weapons-grade uranium or plutonium for a nuclear bomb.
According to the deal, not a single nuclear facility would be demolished. Thousands of centrifuges used to enrich uranium would be left spinning. Thousands more would be temporarily disconnected, but not destroyed.
Because Iran’s nuclear program would be left largely intact, Iran’s break-out time would be very short — about a year by U.S. assessment, even shorter by Israel’s.
And if — if Iran’s work on advanced centrifuges, faster and faster centrifuges, is not stopped, that break-out time could still be shorter, a lot shorter.
True, certain restrictions would be imposed on Iran’s nuclear program and Iran’s adherence to those restrictions would be supervised by international inspectors. But here’s the problem. You see, inspectors document violations; they don’t stop them.
Inspectors knew when North Korea broke to the bomb, but that didn’t stop anything. North Korea turned off the cameras, kicked out the inspectors. Within a few years, it got the bomb.
Now, we’re warned that within five years North Korea could have an arsenal of 100 nuclear bombs.
Like North Korea, Iran, too, has defied international inspectors. It’s done that on at least three separate occasions — 2005, 2006, 2010. Like North Korea, Iran broke the locks, shut off the cameras.
Now, I know this is not gonna come a shock — as a shock to any of you, but Iran not only defies inspectors, it also plays a pretty good game of hide-and-cheat with them.
The U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency, the IAEA, said again yesterday that Iran still refuses to come clean about its military nuclear program. Iran was also caught — caught twice, not once, twice — operating secret nuclear facilities in Natanz and Qom, facilities that inspectors didn’t even know existed.
Right now, Iran could be hiding nuclear facilities that we don’t know about, the U.S. and Israel. As the former head of inspections for the IAEA said in 2013, he said, “If there’s no undeclared installation today in Iran, it will be the first time in 20 years that it doesn’t have one.” Iran has proven time and again that it cannot be trusted. And that’s why the first major concession is a source of great concern. It leaves Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure and relies on inspectors to prevent a breakout. That concession creates a real danger that Iran could get to the bomb by violating the deal.
But the second major concession creates an even greater danger that Iran could get to the bomb by keeping the deal. Because virtually all the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program will automatically expire in about a decade.
Now, a decade may seem like a long time in political life, but it’s the blink of an eye in the life of a nation. It’s a blink of an eye in the life of our children. We all have a responsibility to consider what will happen when Iran’s nuclear capabilities are virtually unrestricted and all the sanctions will have been lifted. Iran would then be free to build a huge nuclear capacity that could product many, many nuclear bombs.
Iran’s Supreme Leader says that openly. He says, Iran plans to have 190,000 centrifuges, not 6,000 or even the 19,000 that Iran has today, but 10 times that amount — 190,000 centrifuges enriching uranium. With this massive capacity, Iran could make the fuel for an entire nuclear arsenal and this in a matter of weeks, once it makes that decision.
My long-time friend, John Kerry, Secretary of State, confirmed last week that Iran could legitimately possess that massive centrifuge capacity when the deal expires.
Now I want you to think about that. The foremost sponsor of global terrorism could be weeks away from having enough enriched uranium for an entire arsenal of nuclear weapons and this with full international legitimacy.
And by the way, if Iran’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile program is not part of the deal, and so far, Iran refuses to even put it on the negotiating table. Well, Iran could have the means to deliver that nuclear arsenal to the far-reach corners of the earth, including to every part of the United States.
So you see, my friends, this deal has two major concessions: one, leaving Iran with a vast nuclear program and two, lifting the restrictions on that program in about a decade. That’s why this deal is so bad. It doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb; it paves Iran’s path to the bomb.
So why would anyone make this deal? Because they hope that Iran will change for the better in the coming years, or they believe that the alternative to this deal is worse?
Well, I disagree. I don’t believe that Iran’s radical regime will change for the better after this deal. This regime has been in power for 36 years, and its voracious appetite for aggression grows with each passing year. This deal would wet appetite — would only wet Iran’s appetite for more.
Would Iran be less aggressive when sanctions are removed and its economy is stronger? If Iran is gobbling up four countries right now while it’s under sanctions, how many more countries will Iran devour when sanctions are lifted? Would Iran fund less terrorism when it has mountains of cash with which to fund more terrorism?
Why should Iran’s radical regime change for the better when it can enjoy the best of both world’s: aggression abroad, prosperity at home?
This is a question that everyone asks in our region. Israel’s neighbors — Iran’s neighbors know that Iran will become even more aggressive and sponsor even more terrorism when its economy is unshackled and it’s been given a clear path to the bomb.
And many of these neighbors say they’ll respond by racing to get nuclear weapons of their own. So this deal won’t change Iran for the better; it will only change the Middle East for the worse. A deal that’s supposed to prevent nuclear proliferation would instead spark a nuclear arms race in the most dangerous part of the planet.
This deal won’t be a farewell to arms. It would be a farewell to arms control. And the Middle East would soon be crisscrossed by nuclear tripwires. A region where small skirmishes can trigger big wars would turn into a nuclear tinderbox.
If anyone thinks — if anyone thinks this deal kicks the can down the road, think again. When we get down that road, we’ll face a much more dangerous Iran, a Middle East littered with nuclear bombs and a countdown to a potential nuclear nightmare.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve come here today to tell you we don’t have to bet the security of the world on the hope that Iran will change for the better. We don’t have to gamble with our future and with our children’s future.
We can insist that restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program not be lifted for as long as Iran continues its aggression in the region and in the world.
Before lifting those restrictions, the world should demand that Iran do three things. First, stop its aggression against its neighbors in the Middle East. Second…
Second, stop supporting terrorism around the world.
And third, stop threatening to annihilate my country, Israel, the one and only Jewish state.
If the world powers are not prepared to insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal is signed, at the very least they should insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal expires.
If Iran changes its behavior, the restrictions would be lifted. If Iran doesn’t change its behavior, the restrictions should not be lifted.
If Iran wants to be treated like a normal country, let it act like a normal country.
My friends, what about the argument that there’s no alternative to this deal, that Iran’s nuclear know-how cannot be erased, that its nuclear program is so advanced that the best we can do is delay the inevitable, which is essentially what the proposed deal seeks to do?
Well, nuclear know-how without nuclear infrastructure doesn’t get you very much. A racecar driver without a car can’t drive. A pilot without a plan can’t fly. Without thousands of centrifuges, tons of enriched uranium or heavy water facilities, Iran can’t make nuclear weapons.
Iran’s nuclear program can be rolled back well-beyond the current proposal by insisting on a better deal and keeping up the pressure on a very vulnerable regime, especially given the recent collapse in the price of oil.
Now, if Iran threatens to walk away from the table — and this often happens in a Persian bazaar — call their bluff. They’ll be back, because they need the deal a lot more than you do.
And by maintaining the pressure on Iran and on those who do business with Iran, you have the power to make them need it even more.
My friends, for over a year, we’ve been told that no deal is better than a bad deal. Well, this is a bad deal. It’s a very bad deal. We’re better off without it.
Now we’re being told that the only alternative to this bad deal is war. That’s just not true.
The alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal.
A better deal that doesn’t leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure and such a short break-out time. A better deal that keeps the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in place until Iran’s aggression ends.
A better deal that won’t give Iran an easy path to the bomb. A better deal that Israel and its neighbors may not like, but with which we could live, literally. And no country…
… no country has a greater stake — no country has a greater stake than Israel in a good deal that peacefully removes this threat.
Ladies and gentlemen, history has placed us at a fateful crossroads. We must now choose between two paths. One path leads to a bad deal that will at best curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions for a while, but it will inexorably lead to a nuclear-armed Iran whose unbridled aggression will inevitably lead to war.
The second path, however difficult, could lead to a much better deal, that would prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, a nuclearized Middle East and the horrific consequences of both to all of humanity.
You don’t have to read Robert Frost to know. You have to live life to know that the difficult path is usually the one less traveled, but it will make all the difference for the future of my country, the security of the Middle East and the peace of the world, the peace, we all desire.
My friend, standing up to Iran is not easy. Standing up to dark and murderous regimes never is. With us today is Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel.
Elie, your life and work inspires to give meaning to the words, “never again.”
And I wish I could promise you, Elie, that the lessons of history have been learned. I can only urge the leaders of the world not to repeat the mistakes of the past.
Not to sacrifice the future for the present; not to ignore aggression in the hopes of gaining an illusory peace.
But I can guarantee you this, the days when the Jewish people remained passive in the face of genocidal enemies, those days are over.
We are no longer scattered among the nations, powerless to defend ourselves. We restored our sovereignty in our ancient home. And the soldiers who defend our home have boundless courage. For the first time in 100 generations, we, the Jewish people, can defend ourselves.
This is why — this is why, as a prime minister of Israel, I can promise you one more thing: Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand.
But I know that Israel does not stand alone. I know that America stands with Israel.
I know that you stand with Israel.
You stand with Israel, because you know that the story of Israel is not only the story of the Jewish people but of the human spirit that refuses again and again to succumb to history’s horrors.
Facing me right up there in the gallery, overlooking all of us in this (inaudible) chamber is the image of Moses. Moses led our people from slavery to the gates of the Promised Land.
And before the people of Israel entered the land of Israel, Moses gave us a message that has steeled our resolve for thousands of years. I leave you with his message today, (SPEAKING IN HEBREW), “Be strong and resolute, neither fear nor dread them.”
My friends, may Israel and America always stand together, strong and resolute. May we neither fear nor dread the challenges ahead. May we face the future with confidence, strength and hope.
May God bless the state of Israel and may God bless the United States of America.
Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you all.
Thank you, America. Thank you.
Comprehensive agreement on Iranian nuclear program
The prospective agreement is to be achieved based on the context of the Geneva agreement, officially titled the Joint Plan of Action (JPA). The Geneva agreement was an interim deal forged on November 24, 2013, under which Iran agreed to roll back parts of its nuclear program for relief from some sanctions. The interim agreement went into effect on January 20, 2014. Later the parties agreed to extend their talks. The first extension deadline was set to 24 November 2014and, when it expired, the second extension deadline was set to 1 July 2015.
List of declared nuclear facilities in Iran
- Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) — small 5MWt research reactor
- Esfahan, Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF)
- Natanz, Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) — plant for production of low enriched uranium (LEU), 16,428 installed centrifuges
- Natanz, Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) — LEU production, and research and development facility, 702 installed centrifuges
- Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP) — plant for production of UF6 enriched up to 20% U-235, 2,710 installed centrifuges
- Arak, Iran Nuclear Research Reactor (IR-40 Reactor) — 40MW heavy water reactor (under construction)
- Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP)
Negotiations under the Joint Plan of Action
First round: 18–20 February
Catherine Ashton and Javad Zarif in final news conference; The negotiation was described “Useful”.
The first round of negotiations was held at the UN’s center in Vienna from February 18 to 20, 2014. A timetable and framework for negotiating a comprehensive agreement was achieved, according to Catherine Ashton and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Second round: 17–20 March
Diplomats from the six nations, as well as Ashton and Zarif, met again in Vienna on March 17, 2014. A series of further negotiations were to be held before the July deadline.
Fourth round: 13–16 May
This fourth round of Vienna negotiations ended on May 16. The Iranian and U.S. delegations headed by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman held a bilateral meeting. Both sides intended to begin drafting a final agreement, but made little progress. A senior U.S. official said “We are just at the beginning of the drafting process and we have a significant way to go,” while Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told reporters that “the talks were serious and constructive but no progress has been made” and “we have not reached the point to start drafting the final agreement.” The U.S. official emphasized that negotiations had been “very slow and difficult,” saying talks would resume in June and all parties want to keep the July 20 deadline and adding: “we believe we can still get it done.” Negotiators had made progress on one issue, the future of Iran’s planned Arak reactor, but remained far apart on whether Iran’s capacity to enrich uranium should shrink or expand. The U.S. delegation also raised the issues of Iran’s ballistic missile program and military dimensions of its past nuclear research. EU High Representative Catherine Ashton conducted negotiations with Zarif and Wendy Sherman joined the talks at the end the last meeting.
Fifth round: 16–20 June
The fifth round of talks ended on June 20 “with substantial differences still remaining.” The negotiating parties will meet again in Vienna on July 2. Under Secretary Sherman noted after the talks that it was “still unclear” whether Iran would act “to ensure the world that its nuclear program was strictly meant for peaceful purposes.” Foreign Minister Zarif said the United States was making unreasonable demands of Iran, saying “the United States must take the most difficult decisions.”
Under the Geneva interim agreement Iran agreed to convert some of its up to 5 percent LEU into an oxide powder that is not suitable for further enrichment. According to the monthly IAEA report released during this round the conversion of LEU has not been started yet. This means that Iran’s LEU stockpile “is almost certainly continuing to increase for the time being, simply because its production of the material has not stopped, unlike that of the 20 percent uranium gas.”
Sixth (final) round: 2–20 July
The sixth round of nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group started in Vienna on 2 July 2014. The parties are headed by Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
John Kerry and Mohammad Javad Zarif conduct a bilateral meeting in Vienna, Austria, July 14, 2014
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other Western foreign ministers arrived at Vienna to break a deadlock in the nuclear talks with Iran, but their joint efforts failed to advance the negotiations. “There has been no breakthrough today,” said British Foreign Secretary William Hague on 13 July 2014 after meetings with the foreign ministers of USA, France, Germany and Iran. German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said: “It is now time for Iran to decide whether they want co-operation with the world community or stay in isolation.” The European foreign ministers left Vienna the same day. The Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said that the talks had “made some important headway.”  After three days of talks with the Iranian Foreign Minister Secretary of State Kerry headed back to Washington where he will consult with President Barack Obama and Congress leaders. No decision on an extension of negotiations beyond the July 20 deadline has been taken yet. In order to continue talks a decision of each member of P5+1 is required.
Wrapping-up the sixth round the Foreign Minister Zarif said that the achieved progress convinced the sides to extend their talks and the ultimate deadline would be November 25. He also expressed the hope that the new British foreign secretaryPhilip Hammond “will adopt a constructive diplomacy” towards Iran. Several sources reported that all parties were prepared to extend negotiations but extension faced opposition in the U.S. Congress. Republicans and Democrats in Congress made it clear that they view a prolongation of the talks as allowing Iran to play for time. The Republican chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs Ed Royce said he hoped “the administration will finally engage in robust discussions with Congress about preparing additional sanctions against Iran”.
Before the expiration of the six months imposed by the Joint Plan of Action (JPA) the sides agreed to extend negotiations by four months with a final deadline set for 24 November 2014. Additionally, in exchange for Iranian consent to convert some of its 20% enriched uranium into fuel for a research reactor, United States will unblock $2.8 billion in frozen Iranian funds. Negotiations will resume in September. John Kerry said that tangible progress had been made, but “very real gaps” remained. Ed Royce stated that he did not see “the extension as progress”.
Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman has testified before the U. S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the status of the talks. At her testimony on July 29, 2014 she said: “We made tangible progress in key areas, including Fordow, Arak, and IAEA access. However, critical gaps still exist…” Both Republicans and Democrats have insisted that a final agreement be put to a vote.
Negotiations under the First Extension of JPA
Seventh (first extended) round: New York
Negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran over Iran’s nuclear program were resumed on 19 September 2014. They started on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly and Secretary of State John Kerry and his counterparts were given the opportunity to join the talks. The talks were planned to last until September 26.
Eighth round: Vienna
Negotiating teams of Iran and the P5+1 have held their eighth round of talks in Vienna on 16 October 2014. The meeting was led jointly by Foreign Minister Zarif and High Representative Ashton and the parties made an effort to sort out their differences. Ashton’s spokesman stated: “Diplomatic efforts to find a resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue are now in a critical phase”.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov pointed that the issues of Iran’s enrichment programme, the schedule for sanction lifting and the future of the reactor in Arak were not settled and the subjects of inspection and transparency, duration of the agreement and some others were not completely agreed yet. Ryabkov expressed his opinion that a comprehensive agreement between the P5+1 and Iran will require no ratification. “We are negotiating a binding document, but under a generally recognized doctrine international political liabilities are equated with legal,” he said and admitted that some resolutions of the Security Council on Iran will need to be adjusted.
Ninth round: Muscat
The round of talks took place on November 11 in the Omani capital Muscat and lasted one hour. At the meeting, Iranian deputy foreign ministers Abbas Araqchi and Majid Takht Ravanchi exchanged views with their counterparts from the P5+1. The round, chaired by former EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, was scheduled to brief the P5+1 members on Kerry and Zarif’s talks. Local media reported that some representatives of the parties remained in Muscat to continue the talks.
Tenth round: Vienna
Nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 resumed in Vienna on 18 November 2014 with participation of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif, EU chief negotiator Catherine Ashton, and foreign ministry officials. The talks were supposed to continue until the November 24 deadline.
P5+1 Ministers and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif in Vienna, Austria, November 24, 2014
Secretary of State John Kerry, after meeting British and Omani foreign ministers in London and Saudi and French foreign ministers in Paris, will arrive in Vienna for talks with Zarif and Ashton. Kerry’s meetings with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal were considered critical. After his Paris talks with Kerry Saudi Foreign Minister was due to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.
At IAEA meeting held on 20 November in Vienna the agency’s Director General Yukiya Amano, referring to allegations related to Iran’s engagement in weaponization activities, said that “Iran has not provided any explanations that enable the agency to clarify the outstanding practical measures.” The same day at a press conference in Brussels The International Committee in Search of Justice (ISJ) presented its 100-page investigation report and claimed that Iran was hiding its nuclear military program inside a civil program. The report was endorsed by John Bolton and Robert Joseph and authored by ISJ President Alejo Vidal‐Quadras, a professor in nuclear physics and the former Vice-President of the European Parliament.
The tenth round of nuclear negotiations and the first extension of the Joint Plan of Action between Iran and the P5+1 have ended on November 24. The two sides have failed to cut a deal at this round of talks and agreed to extend the Joint Plan of Action for the second time. The new deadline for a comprehensive deal was set to July 1, 2015. British foreign secretary Philip Hammond said it was not possible to meet the November deadline due to wide gaps on well-known points of contention. He stressed that while July 1 was the new deadline, the expectation was that broad agreement would be in place by March 1. According to Hammond, expert level talks will resume in December and Iran will receive about $700 million per month in frozen assets.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a press conference after the Vienna talks: “Today the Iranian nuclear program is internationally recognized and no one speaks about our enrichment right…” While answering a question about “fundamental gaps over how much enrichment capacity Iran would be allowed to retain”, Secretary of State John Kerry said in a news conference: “I’m not going to confirm whether or not there’s a gap or not a gap or where the gaps are. There obviously are gaps. We’ve said that.”
Negotiations under the Second Extension of JPA
Eleventh round: Geneva
Negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 were resumed on 17 December 2014 in Geneva and lasted one day. No statements were issued after the closed-door talks either by the U.S. negotiating team or by EU spokesmen. Deputy foreign minister Araqchi said that it was agreed to continue the talks “next month” at a venue to be decided. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov said that Arak heavy-water reactor and sanctions against Iran were the two key outstanding issues in the nuclear talks.
Twelfth round: Geneva
The round, held at the level of political directors of Iran and the P5+1, took place on January 18, 2015 following the four-day bilateral talks between the United States and Iran. EU political director Helga Schmid chaired the meetings. After the talks France’s negotiator Nicolas de la Riviere told reporters: “The mood was very good, but I don’t think we made a lot of progress.” “If there is progress it is a very slow one and there are no guarantees that this progress will transform into a decisive shift, breakthrough, into a compromise,” Russian negotiator Sergei Ryabkov told journalists, adding that “major disagreements remain on the majority of disputed issues.” 
Thirteenth round: Geneva
Representatives of Iran and the P5+1 met on February 22 at the EU mission in Geneva. Nicolas de la Riviere said after the meeting: “It was constructive, we will know results later.”
Bilateral and trilateral talks
U.S.-Iran bilateral talks
According to a statement of the U.S. State Department bilateral nuclear consultations between the U.S. and Iranian officials “will take place in the context of the P5+1 nuclear negotiations”. The talks were held August 7 in Geneva and only few details about them were provided. The U.S. delegation was led by Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and included Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Jake Sullivan, national security advisor to Vice President Joe Biden. The Iranian delegation included Deputy Foreign Ministers Abbas Araqchi and Majid Takht-Ravanchi.
Deputy Minister Abbas Araqchi said that the bilateral talks were useful and focused on “the existing differences” in the negotiations. Deputy Minister Majid Takht-Ravanchi made it clear that Iran will not accept a weak enrichment programme, while saying “we will not accept that our uranium enrichment programme becomes something like a toy”.
Mohammad Javad Zarif, John Kerry and Catherine Ashton at a trilateral meeting in New York, September 26, 2014
The second round of the bilateral talks between representatives from the USA and Iran took place in Geneva on September 4–5. The negotiations consisted of 12 hours long political talks and 8 hours long expert talks. The third round of the bilateral talks between the two countries took place in New York on September 18, 2014.
According to The Associated Press, the U.S. has turned negotiations with Iran into a series of bilateral talks between the two countries that “race to seal a deal”. Gary Samore, former White House coordinator for arms control and WMD, participating in a panel, said: “Any deal will have to be struck between Washington and Tehran and then ratified by the P5+1 and ultimately the UN Security Council.”
On October 14 Iranian negotiators headed by the deputy foreign minister held a bilateral meeting with Senior U.S. Officials William Burns and Wendy Sherman in Vienna. Among other issues the negotiators set the stage for the trilateral meeting with Secretary Kerry, Baroness Ashton, and Foreign Minister Zarif that was convened for the next day.
The US and Iranian delegations met on December 15 to 16 in Geneva in preparation for the multilateral talks, led by the US Acting Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi. A member of Tehran’s team told IRNA that uranium enrichment and how to remove sanctions were sticking points in the bilateral talks. 
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif met with Secretary of State John Kerry on January 14 in Geneva and on January 16 in Paris. According to Al-Monitorthe negotiators have worked intensively to try draft a joint document called the Principles of Agreement. The document is supposed to be an element of the framework agreement between Iran and P5+1, which is to be completed by March.
Two rounds of bilateral negotiations between Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif and Secretary of State John Kerry occurred on February 6 and 8 on the sidelines of the Security Conference in Munich. During the conference, Mohammad Zarif gave an interview in which he claimed that IAEA inspected Iran for 10 years or more and found no evidence that Iran’s program wasn’t peaceful. He also claimed that JPA did not imply step-by-step removal of sanctions and the removal of sanctions has been “a condition for an agreement”. Foreign Minister Zarif stated: “I don’t think if we don’t have an agreement, it’ll be the end of the world. I mean, we tried, we failed, fine.” IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, who also took part in the conference, pointed out that Iran must provide urgent clarification on key aspects of its nuclear program. Making this more specific Yukiya Amano said: “Clarification of issues with possible military dimension and implementation of the Additional Protocol and beyond is essential.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif held three bilateral meetings in Geneva on February 22 and 23. The Associated Press reported progress on a deal that would freeze Iran’s nuclear activities for at least 10 years but then “ease restrictions on programs that could be used to make atomic arms.” After the talks Mohammad Zarif spoke about “a better understanding” between the parties and John Kerry said: “We made progress.” The columnist Charles Krauthammer commented on the leaked “sunset clause” that an agreement, containing this and other concessions to Iran, will mean “the end of nonproliferation.”
U.S.-EU-Iran trilateral talks
Iran, EU and U.S. held two trilateral meetings at the foreign minister level in New York in September 2014. The U.S. State Department has argued that there are points when it makes sense for the foreign ministers at the trilateral level to get together to talk. “In part because the majority of the sanctions are EU and U.S., the trilateral makes sense.”
On October 15 Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and Secretary of State John Kerry have met again, this time in Vienna. A senior U.S. Department of State official said at a briefing with reporters that the parties were focused on the November 24 deadline and had not discussed an extension of the talks. The negotiators were working on a full agreement – the understandings and the annexes to them. “This is a situation where unless you have the detail, you do not know that you have the agreement,” explained the official.
Secretary of State John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif and former EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton have held talks on November 9–10 inMuscat seeking to bridge differences on a comprehensive nuclear agreement. Officials from all delegations have abstained from briefing reporters. The talks ended without an imminent breakthrough.
After arriving in Viena on 20 November John Kerry met for more than two hours with Mohammad Zarif and Catherine Ashton. It was not reported whether they made any headway.
Uranium stockpile and enrichment
Diagram of nuclear power and weapons cycle
Iran’s nuclear enrichment capacity is the biggest stumbling block in the negotiations on a comprehensive agreement. The Security Council in its resolution 1929 has required Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment program. For many years the United States held that no enrichment program should be permitted in Iran. In signing the Geneva interim agreement the U.S. and its P5+1 partners shifted away from zero enrichment to limited enrichment objective. Additionally, they have determined that the comprehensive solution will “have a specified long-term duration to be agreed upon” and once it has expired Iran’s nuclear program will not be under special restrictions.
Limited enrichment would mean limits on the numbers and types of centrifuges. Shortly before the comprehensive negotiations began, Iran was estimated to have 19,000 centrifuges installed, mostly first generation IR-1 machines, with about 10,000 of them operating to increase the concentration of uranium-235. The Iranians strive to expand their enrichment capacity by a factor of ten or more while the six powers aim to cut the number of centrifuges to no more than a few thousand.
Olli Heinonen, former deputy director general of the IAEA, said in a radio interview that the agency does not have a complete picture of Iran’s nuclear profile since inspectors have been kept out of some sites. In particular, IAEA has not been able to assess “how much uranium has been produced in Iran over these years” and to verify the completeness of Iran’s declaration about the number of its centrifuges. Heinonen also pointed out that Iran has an “unfortunate history of misleading and not disclosing all its nuclear material.”
Western analysts argued there were two distinct paths to deal with Iran’s nuclear program: complete dismantling or allowing limited activities while preventing Iran from a nuclear “breakout capability”. The measures that would lengthen breakout timelines include “limits on the number, quality and/or output of centrifuges”. The former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs Robert Joseph has argued that attempts to overcome the impasse over centrifuges by using a malleable SWU metric “as a substitute for limiting the number of centrifuges is nothing more than sleight of hand.” He has also quoted former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying “any enrichment will trigger an arms race in the Middle East.”
In order to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes, constraints should be put on its uranium enrichment. This should include the number and quality of centrifuges, research and development of more advanced centrifuges, the size of low-enriched uranium stockpile. The constraints are interrelated with each other – the more centrifuges Iran would have, the less stockpile the U.S. and P5+1 can accept, and vice versa. Colin Kahl, former Deputy Assistant U.S. Secretary of Defense for the Middle East, estimated in May 2014 that Iran’s stockpile was large enough to build 6 nuclear weapons and it had to be reduced.Lengthening breakout timelines requires a substantial reduction in enrichment capacity and many experts talk about an acceptable range of about 2000-6000 first-generation centrifuges. But Iran stated that it wants to extend its capability substantially. In May 2014 Robert J. Einhorn, former Special Advisor on Non-Proliferation and Arms Control at the U.S. State Department, expressed confidence that if Iran will continue to insist on that huge number of centrifuges, there would be no agreement, since this robust enrichment capacity would bring the breakout time down to weeks or days.
Plutonium production and separation
Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, testifying before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said that a good deal will be one that cuts off Iran’s uranium, plutonium and covert pathways to obtain nuclear weapon. Secretary of State John Kerry has testified before the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs and expressed great concerns about the Arak nuclear reactor facility. “Now, we have strong feelings about what will happen in a final comprehensive agreement. From our point of view, Arak is unacceptable. You can’t have a heavy-water reactor,” he said. President Barack Obama, while addressing the House of Representatives and Senate, emphasized that “these negotiations do not rely on trust; any long-term deal we agree to must be based on verifiable action that convinces us and the international community that Iran is not building a nuclear bomb.”
Arak Heavy Water Reactor (IR-40)
Despite these statements, some analysts have feared that Obama administration might accept dangerous concessions to achieve a deal with Iran. For example, Fred Fleitz, a former CIA analyst and Chief of Staff to Undersecretaries of State for Arms, believed that such concessions were being proposed, and, as he explained: “… most dangerous is that we are considering letting Iran keep the Arak heavy water reactor which will be a source of plutonium. Plutonium is the most desired nuclear fuel for a bomb, it has a lower critical mass, you need less of it which is important in building missile warhead.”
The head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi said in an interview that the heavy water reactor of Arak was designed as a research reactor and not for plutonium production. It will produce about 9 kg of plutonium but not weapons-grade plutonium. Dr. Salehi explained that “if you want to use the plutonium of this reactor you need a reprocessing plant”. “We do not have a reprocessing plant, we do not intend, although it is our right, we will not forgo our right, but we do not intend to build a reprocessing plant.” Further in the interview Salehi expressed his opinion that the pressure on Iran has not been genuine, it has been just an excuse to put “political pressure” and the concern about developing nuclear weapons was “fabricated”.
According to information provided by the Federation of American Scientists, a sizable research program involving the production of heavy water might raise concerns about a plutonium-based weapon program, especially if such program was not easily justifiable on other accounts. Gregory S. Jones, a senior researcher and a defense policy analyst, warned that if the heavy-water-production plant at Arak was not dismantled, Iran would be granted a “plutonium option” for acquiring nuclear weapons in addition to the dangerous centrifuge enrichment program.
According to an editorial in the Washington Post, the most troubling part of the Geneva interim agreement has been the “long-term duration” clause. This provision means that when the duration expires, “the Iranian nuclear program will be treated in the same manner as that of any non-nuclear weapon state party” to the NPT. Thus, once the comprehensive agreement expires, Iran will be able to install an unlimited number of centrifuges and produce plutonium without violating any international accord.” Many Western analysts have referred to the comprehensive agreement as a “final” nuclear agreement with Iran “but clearly it will only be a long-term interim agreement”.
Iran wants any agreement to last for at most 5 years while the U.S. prefers 20 years. The twenty years is viewed as a minimum amount of time to develop confidence that Iran can be treated as other non-nuclear weapon states and allow the IAEA enough time to verify that Iran is fully compliant with all its non-proliferation obligations.
The Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said in May 2014: “Battle and jihad are endless because evil and its front continue to exist. … This battle will only end when the society can get rid of the oppressors’ front with America at the head of it, which has expanded its claws on human mind, body and thought.” This and other declarations of jihadist principles by Ayatollah Khamenei leave no doubt about Iran’s adoption of religiously-inspired combat against the U.S. and the West. These principles include aramesh (hudna) and such a truce cannot exceed 10 years.
Some analysts suggested that if a single 20-year duration for all provisions of the agreement is too constraining, it would be possible to agree on different durations for different provisions. Some provisions could have short duration, and others could be longer. A few constraints, like enhanced monitoring at specific facilities, could be permanent.
Possible covert paths to fissile material
Fordow Underground Fuel Enrichment Facility near Qom
Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only. “We have never pursued or sought a nuclear bomb and we are not going to do so,” Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani said, according to a translation of an interview with him. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has pronounced a fatwa forbidding the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons. Some observers, however, have questioned the fatwa’s actual existence.
The Iranian uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz (FEP and PFEP) and Fordow (FFEP) were constructed covertly and designed to operate in a similar manner. The facilities were declared by Iran only after they were revealed by other sources. Thus, only in September 2009, Iran notified the IAEA about constructing the Fordow facility. The 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimateon Iran’s nuclear capabilities and intentions stated among the key judgments : “We assess with high confidence that until fall 2003, Iranian military entities were working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons.” Additionally the Estimate stated that after 2003 Iran has halted the covert enrichment for at least several years.
The Estimate also stated: “We assess with moderate confidence that Iran probably would use covert facilities — rather than its declared nuclear sites — for the production of highly enriched uranium for a weapon.” Despite this assessment some analysts have argued that negotiations between Iran and the P5+1, as well as most public discussions, were focused on Iran’s overt nuclear facilities while there existed alternative paths to obtain fissile material. Graham Allison, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense, and Oren Setter, a research fellow at Belfer Center, compared this approach with Maginot’sfixation on a single threat “that led to fatal neglect of alternatives”. They have pointed out at least three additional paths to obtain such material:
- Covert make
- Covert buy
- Hybrid pathway (a combination of overt and covert paths)
William Tobey, former Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation at the National Nuclear Security Administration, has outlined the possible ways to nuclear weapons as follows:
- Break out of the Nonproliferation Treaty, using declared facilities
- Sneak out of the Treaty, using covert facilities
- Buy a weapon from another nation or rogue faction
Some sources published recommendations for agreement provisions relating to monitoring and verification in order to prevent covert activities and to provide tools to react if needed. One of the sources warned the P5+1 that “if the monitoring elements that we recommend are not pursued now to diminish the risks of deception, it is difficult to envision that Iran would be compliant in the future, post-sanctions environment.” According to the recommendations the agreement with Iran should include:
- A requirement to cooperate with the IAEA inspectors in compliance with the UN Security Council resolutions
- Transparency for centrifuges, mines and mills for uranium ore and yellowcake
- Monitoring of nuclear-related procurement
- Obligation to ratify and implement the Additional Protocol and to provide the IAEA enhanced powers beyond the Protocol
- Adhering to the modified Code 3.1
- Monitoring of nuclear research and development (R&D)
- Defining certain activities as breaches of the agreement that could provide basis for timely intervention
According to multiple resolutions of the United Nations Security Council (resolutions 1737, 1747, 1803, and 1929), enacted under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, Iran is obligated to cooperate fully with the IAEA on “all outstanding issues, particularly those which give rise to concerns about the possible military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear programme, including by providing access without delay to all sites, equipment, persons and documents requested by the IAEA…” On 11 November 2013 the IAEA and Iran signed a Joint Statement on a Framework for Cooperation committing both parties to cooperate and resolve all present and past issues in a step by step manner. As a first step, the Framework identified six practical measures to be completed within three months. The IAEA reported that Iran had implemented those six measures in time. In February and May 2014 the parties agreed to additional sets of measures related to the Framework. In September the IAEA continued to report that Iran was not implementing its Additional Protocol, which is a prerequisite for the IAEA “to provide assurance about both declared and possible undeclared activities.” Under those circumstances, the Agency reported it will not be able to provide “credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran”
The implementation of interim Geneva Accord has involved transparency measures and enhanced monitoring to ensure the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program. It was agreed that the IAEA will be “solely responsible for verifying and confirming all nuclear-related measures, consistent with its ongoing inspection role in Iran”. IAEA inspection has included daily access to Natanz and Fordow and managed access to centrifuge production facilities, uranium mines and mills, and the Arak heavy water reactor. To implement these and other verification steps, Iran committed to “provide increased and unprecedented transparency into its nuclear program, including through more frequent and intrusive inspections as well as expanded provision of information to the IAEA.”
Yukiya Amano and Mohammad Javad Zarif
Thus, there have been two ongoing diplomatic tracks — one by the P5+1 to curb Iran’s nuclear program and a second by the IAEA to resolve questions about the peaceful nature of Iran’s past nuclear activities. Although the IAEA inquiry has been formally separate from JPA negotiations, Washington said a successful IAEA investigation should be part of any final deal and that may be unlikely by the deadline of 24 November 2014.
One expert on Iran’s nuclear program, David Albright, has explained that “It’s very hard if you are an IAEA inspector or analyst to say we can give you confidence that there’s not a weapons program today if you don’t know about the past. Because you don’t know what was done. You don’t know what they accomplished.” Albright argued that this history is important since the “infrastructure that was created could pop back into existence at any point in secret and move forward on nuclear weapons.”
Iranian and IAEA officials met in Tehran on 16 and 17 August 2014 and discussed the five practical measures in the third step of the Framework for Cooperation agreed in May 2014. Yukiya Amano, Director General of the IAEA, made a one-day visit to Tehran on August 17 and held talks with President of Iran Hassan Rouhani and other senior officials. After the visit Iranian media criticized the IAEA while reporting that President Rouhani and the head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Salehi both tried “to make the IAEA chief Mr. Amano understand that there is an endpoint to Iran’s flexibility.” The same week Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan said that Iran will not give IAEA inspectors access to Parchin military base. Yukiya Amano has noted previously that access to the Parchin base was essential for the Agency to be in position to certify Iran’s nuclear programme as peaceful. Tehran was supposed to provide the IAEA with information related to the initiation of high explosives and to neutron transport calculations until August 25, but it failed to address these issues. The two issues are associated with compressed materials that are required to produce a warhead small enough to fit on top of a missile. During its October 7–8 meetings with IAEA in Tehran, Iran failed to propose any new practical measures to resolve the disputable issues.
There are many steps toward nuclear weapons. However, an effective nuclear weapons capability has only three major elements:
- Fissile or nuclear material in sufficient quantity and quality
- Effective means for delivery, such as a ballistic missile
- Design, weaponization, miniaturization, and survivability of the warhead
Evidence presented by the IAEA has shown that Iran has pursued all three of these elements: it has been enriching uranium for more than ten years and is constructing a heavy water reactor to produce plutonium, it has a well-developed ballistic missile program, and it has tested high explosives and compressed materials that can be used for nuclear warheads.
Some analysts believe that Iran’s nuclear program should be negotiated in its entirety — it must include not only fissile material discussions but also ballistic missile development and weaponization issues.
Priorities in monitoring and prevention
Henry Kissinger, former U.S. Secretary of State, has explained in his recent book (2014): “The best—perhaps the only—way to prevent the emergence of a nuclear weapons capability is to inhibit the development of a uranium-enrichment process …”
Joint Plan of Action has not explicitly addressed the future status of Iran’s ballistic missile program. However, having been an interim agreement, it could not take into account all the issues that should be resolved as part of a comprehensive agreement. If a comprehensive agreement with Iran “does not tackle the issue of ballistic missiles, it will fall short of and may undermine … UN Security Council Resolutions.” Moreover, shifting “monitoring and prevention aims onto warheads without addressing Iran’s ballistic missile capacity also ignores U.S. legislation that forms the foundation of the sanctions regime against Iran”.
Additionally, “monitoring warhead production is far more difficult than taking stock” of ballistic missiles and the U.S. government is far less good at detecting advanced centrifuges or covert facilities for manufacturing nuclear warheads.
Anthony Cordesman, a former Pentagon official and a holder of the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), highlighted the view that the U.S. and other members of the P5+1, along with their attempts to limit Iran’s breakout capability and to prevent it from getting even one nuclear device, should mainly focus “on reaching a full an agreement that clearly denies Iran any ability to covertly create an effective nuclear force.”
Ballistic missile program
Iran’s ballistic missiles have been tied to its nuclear-weapons program. Security Council Resolution 1929 “decides that Iran shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” In May–June 2014 a U.N. Panel of Experts submitted a report pointing to Iran’s engagement in ballistic missile activities. The Panel reported that over the last year Iran has conducted a number of ballistic missile test launches, which were a violation of paragraph 9 of the resolution.
Shahab-3 estimated threat range
Director of U.S. National Intelligence James Clapper testified on March 12, 2013, that Iran’s ballistic missiles were capable of delivering WMD. According to some analysts, the liquid-fueled Shahab-3 missile and the solid-fueled Sejjil missile have the ability to carry a nuclear warhead. Iran’s ballistic missile program is controlled by IRGC Air Force (AFAGIR), while Iran’s combat aircraft is under the command of the regular Iranian Air Force (IRIAF).
The United States and its allies view Iran’s ballistic missiles as a subject for the talks on a comprehensive agreement since they regard it as a part of Iran’s potential nuclear threat. Members of Iran’s negotiating team in Vienna insisted the talks won’t focus on this issue.
A few days before May 15, date when the next round of the negotiations was scheduled, Iran’s Supreme Leader AyatollahAli Khamenei told the IRNA news agency that Western expectations on limits to Iran’s missile program were “stupid and idiotic” and called on the country’s Revolutionary Guards to mass-produce missiles.
In his testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Armed Services, Managing Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy Michael Singh argued “that Iran should be required to cease elements of its ballistic-missile and space-launch programs as part of a nuclear accord.” This question was off the table since Iran’s Supreme Leader has insisted that Iran’s missile program is off-limits in the negotiations and P5+1 officials have been ambiguous.
According to Debka.com, U.S. in its direct dialogue with Iran outside the P5+1 framework demanded to restrict Iran’s ICBM, whose 4,000 kilometers range places Europe and the United States at risk. This demand did not apply to ballistic missiles, whose range of 2,100 km covers any point in the Middle East. These medium-range missiles may also be nuclear and are capable of striking Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf.
Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan stated at a press conference on August 2014 that Iran’s missile capability issue was not included in the comprehensive talks with the P5+1 countries and “will by no means be negotiated with anyone”.
In a Senate committee hearing former U.S. Secretary of State George Schultz has expressed believe that Iran’s missile program and its ICBM capability, as well as its support of the terrorism, should also be on the table.
Possible military dimensions
Since 2002, the IAEA has become concerned and noted in its reports that some elements of Iran’s nuclear program could be used for military purposes. More detailed information about suspected weaponization aspects of Iran’s nuclear program – the possible military dimensions (PMD) – has been provided in the IAEA reports issued in May 2008 and November 2011. The file of Iran’s PMD issues included development of detonators, high explosives initiation systems, neutron initiators, nuclear payloads for missiles and other kinds of developments, calculations and tests. The Security Council Resolution 1929 reaffirmed “that Iran shall cooperate fully with the IAEA on all outstanding issues, particularly those which give rise to concerns about the possible military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear program, including by providing access without delay to all sites, equipment, persons and documents requested by the IAEA.”
In November 2013 Iran and the IAEA have signed a Joint Statement on a Framework for Cooperation committing both parties to resolve all present and past issues. In the same month the P5+1 and Iran have signed the Joint Plan of Action, which aimed to develop a long-term comprehensive solution for Iran’s nuclear program. The IAEA continued to investigate PMD issues as a part of the Framework for Cooperation. The P5+1 and Iran have committed to establish a Joint Commission to work with the IAEA to monitor implementation of the Joint Plan and “to facilitate resolution of past and present issues of concern” with respect to Iran’s nuclear program, including PMD of the program and Iran’s activities at Parchin. Some analysts asked what happens if Iran balks and IAEA fails to resolve significant PDM issues. According to the U.S. Department of State, any compliance issues wouldn’t be discussed by the Joint Commission but would be dealt “at the expert level, and then come up to the political directors and up to foreign ministers if needed.” Thus, an unresolved issue might be declared sufficiently addressed as a result of a political decision.
Prior to the signing of an interim nuclear agreement, it was commonly understood in Washington that Iran must “come clean about the possible military dimensions of its nuclear program,” as Undersecretary Wendy Sherman testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2011. The Iranians have refused to acknowledge having a weaponization program. Meanwhile, analysts close to the Obama administration begin to boost so-called limited disclosure option.Nevertheless, 354 members of U.S. Congress were “deeply concerned with Iran’s refusal to fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency.” On October 1, they sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry stating that “Iran’s willingness to fully reveal all aspects of its nuclear program is a fundamental test of Iran’s intention to uphold a comprehensive agreement.”
Some organizations have published lists of suspected nuclear-weaponization facilities in Iran. Below is a partial list of such facilities:
- Institute of Applied Physics (IAP)
- Kimia Maadan Company (KM)
- Parchin Military Complex
- Physics Research Center (PHRC)
- Tehran Nuclear Research Center (TNRC)
In September 2014 the IAEA reported about ongoing reconstructions at Parchin military base. The Agency has anticipated that these activities will further undermine its ability to conduct effective verification if and when this location would be open for inspection. A month later, The New York Times reported that according to a statement by Yukiya Amano, the IAEA Director General, Iran had stopped answering the Agency’s questions about suspected past weaponization issues. Iran has argued that what has been described as evidence is fabricated. In his speech at Brookings Institution Yukiya Amano said that progress has been limited and two important practical measures, which should have been implemented by Iran two months ago, have still not been implemented. Mr. Amano stressed his commitment to work with Iran “to restore international confidence in the peaceful nature of its nuclear programme”. But he also warned: “this is not a never-ending process. It is very important that Iran fully implements the Framework for Cooperation – sooner rather than later.”
Supreme leader’s Fatwa against nuclear weapon
Ali Khamenei, Iranian leader issued a Fatwa (religious edict) denouncing nuclear weapon and calling it as “Haraam” (Forbidden by religion). American officials noticed the topic several times and called it as a point to start discussions. In an interview in Jordan, Kerry said he respect the idea.
Some observers, however, have questioned the fatwa’s actual existence.
Ayatollah Jalal Ganje’i, a ayatollah based in Paris, has given a detailed explanation why it is “more than evident” that there is no fatwa to back up the regime’s officials when they claim that Iran has only peaceful intentions for its nuclear program. Ayatollah Ganje’i has concluded his comments as follows: “President Obama and other Western leaders cannot set policy according to non-binding and easily reversible remarks by Khamenei. Doing so would put the world in great peril on the basis of a fantasy.” The Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has made “a clear-cut distinction between the notion of pure Islam of the Prophet Mohammad and the American-style Islam”, but ‘Paris-style’ Islam has not been declared illegal.
The head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi said in April 2014 that a dispute between world powers and Iran over its heavy water reactor at Arak had been “virtually resolved” and the reactor will be redesigned to produce one-fifth of the plutonium initially planned for it.
In May 2014, after the fourth round closing, Abbas Araqchi announced on Iranian TV that Arak reactor will remain a heavy water facility and would continue its work with 40 megawatts of power.
In June 2014, Salehi announced that Iran was redesigning the Arak reactor to produce less than 1 kg of plutonium per year, compared to 9–10 kg per year with the original design. Princeton University experts had proposed a redesign involving changing the reactor’s fuel and reducing its power level, with a similar effect on plutonium production. However, the concern remained that this redesign could be reversed.
After the sixth round of negotiations Abbas Araqchi had made clear that “any agreement about Arak or Fordo nuclear facilities is denied”.
France’s foreign minister Laurent Fabius said on June 10, 2014 that the biggest point of disagreement in the talks is how many centrifuges Iran will be allowed. The six powers say Iran may keep some hundreds of centrifuges while the Iranians say they require hundreds of thousands of centrifuges. “…what is the purpose of having thousands of centrifuges if we’re not heading towards an atomic bomb? So the question that will be asked in the coming weeks is whether Iran is really ready to accept to give up the atomic bomb or not,” Fabius said.
Islamic Republic of Iran
The U.S. and Iran cut off diplomatic ties in 1979 after the Islamic Revolution and the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, where 52 Americans were held hostage for more than a year. After Barack Obama’s inauguration, he personally authorized talks with Iran in order to reach out to this country.
The FATF has been “particularly and exceptionally concerned” about Iran’s failure to address the risk of terrorist financing. Iran was included in FATF blacklist.In 2014 Iran remained a state of proliferation concern. Despite multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions requiring Iran to suspend its sensitive nuclear proliferation activities, Iran has continued to violate its international obligations regarding its nuclear program.
Iran insists that its nuclear program is “completely peaceful and has always been carrying out under supervision of the IAEA”. Some analysts argue that “Iranian actions, including the evidence of work on weaponization, the development of long-range ballistic missiles, and the placement of the program within the IRGC” indicate that Iran’s arsenal is not virtual.
According to policy documents published by the Obama administration, it believes in the efficacy of traditional Cold War deterrence as the remedy to the challenge of states acquiring nuclear weapons. Another assumption of the administration is that the Iranian regime is “rational” and hence deterrable. Dr. Shmuel Bar, former Director of Studies at the Institute of Policy and Strategy in Herzliya, has argued in his research that the Cold War deterrence doctrine will not be applicable to nuclear Iran. The inherent instability of the Middle East and its regimes, the difficulty in managing multilateral nuclear tensions, the weight of religious, emotional, and internal pressures, and the proclivity of many of the regimes toward military adventurism and brinkmanship give little hope for the future of the region once it enters the nuclear age. By its own admission, the Iranian regime favors revolution and is against the status quo in the region. Shmuel Bar has characterized the regime as follows:
- “Since its inception, it has been committed to ‘propagation of Islam’ (tablighi eslami) and ‘export of revolution’ (sudur inqilab). The former is viewed by the regime as a fundamental Islamic duty and the latter as a prime tenet of the regime’s ideology, enshrined in the constitution and the works of the Imam Khomeini. Together they form a worldview that sees Islamic Iran as a nation with a ‘manifest destiny': to lead the Muslim world and to become a predominant regional ‘superpower’ in the Gulf, the heart of the Arab world, and in Central Asia.” 
A quite different approach to Iran has been proposed by The Economist:
- “The disastrous presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the failed Green revolution—which sought to topple him in 2009—and the chaotic Arab spring have for the moment discredited radical politics and boosted pragmatic centrists. The traditional religious society that the mullahs dreamt of has receded… Although this hardly amounts to democracy, it is a political marketplace and, as Mr Ahmadinejad discovered, policies that tack away from the consensus do not last. That is why last year Iran elected a president, Hassan Rohani, who wants to open up to the world and who has reined in the hardline Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has declared on September 4, 2014 that the way forward for his regime is to ramp up its “eqtedar” (might). Ayatollah Jalal Ganje’i has explained that Iranian regime intended to achieve this by one of two ways: to expand regional influence through the export of terrorism, officially described as “export of revolution” or to develop nuclear weapons.
The fighters from Hezbollah and Quds forces have been publicly operating in several foreign territories. Iran and pro-Iranian proxies have been military involved inSyria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, and other regional nations. Iranian state TV has been showing the pictures of the commander of Quds force in foreign territories and pointing to the Islamic Republic’s indispensable power and influence in the Middle East. Iranian leaders have been attempting to reassert their power and supremacy in the region more publicly and sending the signal to other states that “Iran is in fact the sole regional power to rely on rather than the United States and Western allies.”
Iran has developed a close and cooperative relationship with Cuba and Venezuela against the U.S. Having limited military capabilities and substantial distance from the region, Iran, in case of a conflict with the U.S., would be able to launch an asymmetrical offensive against the U.S. “through surrogate terrorist states and paramilitary organizations.” Iran and Hizbullah also maintain a considerable presence in other countries of Latin America.
On January 4, 2015 President of Iran Hassan Rouhani pointed out that the Iranians cause was not connected to a centrifuge, but to their “heart and willpower”. He added that Iran couldn’t have sustainable growth while it was isolated. So he would like some economic reforms passed by referendum. These words could be considered as willingness to work with international powers. But a few days later Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who makes final and conclusive decisions on all matters of Iranian national security, warned that “Americans are impudently saying that even if Iran backs down on the nuclear issue, all the sanctions will not be lifted at once.” Iran should therefore “take the instrument of sanctions out of enemy’s hands” and develop “economic of resistance.”
Former U.S. Secretary of State George Schultz, testifying in January 2015 before the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services, said about Iranian nuclear ambitions:
- “They’re trying to develop nuclear weapons. There is no sensible explanation for the extent, the money, the talent they’ve devoted to their nuclear thing, other than that they want a nuclear weapon. It can’t be explained any other way.”
- “They give every indication, Mr. Chairman, that they don’t want a nuclear weapon for deterrence, they want a nuclear weapon to use it on Israel. So it’s a very threatening situation.”
In its Nuclear Posture Review in April 2010 the U.S. has stated that in Asia and the Middle East – where there were no military alliances analogous to NATO – it had mainly extended deterrence through bilateral alliances and security relationships and through its forward military presence and security guarantees. According to the Review Report: “The Administration is pursuing strategic dialogues with its allies and partners in East Asia and the Middle East to determine how best to cooperatively strengthen regional security architectures to enhance peace and security, and reassure them that U.S. extended deterrence is credible and effective.” Since 2010 the U.S. position has been less clear and it seems “to be deliberately lowering its profile – either because it might interference with negotiations by the 5+1 or because it has less support within the Obama Administration.”
Two weeks after the Geneva interim deal was achieved, President Barack Obama disclosed in an interview that while taking office, he decided to “reach out to Iran” and open up a diplomatic channel. He emphasized: “the best way for us to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapons is for a comprehensive, verifiable, diplomatic resolution, without taking any other options off the table if we fail to achieve that.” The President also expressed strong belief that an end state can be envisioned, where Iran will not have breakout capacity. Barack Obama, however, added: “If you asked me what is the likelihood that we’re able to arrive at the end state that I was just describing earlier, I wouldn’t say that it’s more than 50/50.”
About fourteen months after the Geneva interim agreement was signed, President Barack Obama reiterated his assessment that the chances to “get a diplomatic deal are probably less than 50/50.” Shortly afterwards, in his State of the Union presented to a joint session of the United States Congress, the President announced: “Our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran, where, for the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material.” The accuracy of this statement has been challenged by some media sources. For example, based on experts’ assessments Glenn Kessler from the Washington Post has come to the conclusion that between 2013 and 2014 the amount of nuclear material, which could be converted by Iran to a bomb, has been increased. Olli Heinonen observed that the interim agreement “is just a step to create negotiation space; nothing more. It is not a viable longer term situation.” Jeffrey Lewis observed that Obama’s statement was an oversimplification, and that while Iran’s stockpiles of the “most dangerous” nuclear materials had declined, overall stocks had increased. Right-wing publications The Federalist and The Washington Free Beacon have said that the Iranians have exploited loopholes in the interim agreement and made significant progress on all areas of their nuclear program. Right-wing commentator Fred Fleitz stated in The National Review Online that the “number of nuclear weapons Iran could make from its enriched uranium has steadily risen throughout Mr. Obama’s presidency”.Both, the mainstream Washington Post and the conservative National Review Online, presented the Center for Security Policy’s chart that illustrates Iran’s build-up of nuclear material since 2009.
United Kingdom is interested in constructive relationship with Iran. For decades Iran has been regarded as a threat to the security of the UK and its regional partners in the Middle East and in the Persian Gulf. The UK believes that negotiations in Vienna are the most appropriate framework for coping with Iranian nuclear intentions. The British Government is satisfied with the convergence of UK and US policy on Iran and with a united front maintained by the P5+1 countries. It also assures that the agreement with Iran does not imply any diminution in the commitments to the alliances in the region and to the struggle against terrorism. Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons expressed opinion that the comprehensive agreement should include the issues of Parchin Military Complex.
Non-negotiating countries’ positions
Saudi Arabia fears that a deal with Iran could come at expense of Sunni Arabs. President Barack Obama paid a visit to Riyadh in March 2014 and assured King Abdullah that he is determined to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and that USA will not accept a bad deal. However, an editorial in Al Riyadh newspaper claimed that the president did not know Iran as the Saudis did, and could not convince them that Iran will be peaceful.
After the meetings between Western foreign ministers and Iranian counterpart on 13 July 2014 Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu in an interview with Fox News warned that “a bad deal is actually worse than no deal.” He explained that allowing Iran to stockpile nuclear material or to preserve the capability of uranium enrichment in return for the presence of international inspectors would lead to a “catastrophic development”. At his meeting with Barack Obama in Washington in October 2014, Benjamin Netanyahu warned U.S. President not to accept any Iran deal that would allow Tehran to become a “threshold nuclear power.” Netanyahu’s remark highlighted the long-standing disagreement between Israel and the Obama administration on the nuclear talks with Iran.
In his speech presented to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on March 3, 2015, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized that the negotiated deal was bad because of its two major concessions: leaving Iran with a vast nuclear program and lifting the restrictions on that program in about a decade. “It doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb; it paves Iran’s path to the bomb,” said the Prime Minister. Netanyahu also urged the leaders of the world “not to repeat the mistakes of the past” and expressed his commitment that “if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand.”
Iran needs oil at $136 a barrel to finance its spending plans. In 2013 it spent $100 billion on consumer subsidies, about 25% of GDP. “Sanctions mean it cannot borrow its way out of trouble”.
Collapse of negotiations]
Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman warned that a failure of the nuclear negotiations with Iran will lead to a dangerous escalation by both Tehran and the West. “That is why I say the stakes are quite high here,” she said on October 23, 2014. “The alternatives are quite terrible.”
Washington Post columnist David Ignatius has supposed that if the parties don’t reach an agreement by the June 30, 2015, the United States may turn on its ability “to use cyberweapons to attack Iranian nuclear facilities” and Iran may turn on its ability “to wage covert war through its proxies in the Middle East.”
Cutting a bad nuclear deal with Iran
A deal “that removes the most important sanctions but does not extend Iran’s breakout scenario to at least six months, that does not address the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear work, that does not allow for rigorous monitoring and transparency, that places only short duration constraints that are easily reversible, and that unravels sanctions against Iran’s support for terrorism and gross human rights violations as well” is a bad deal. This definition has been given by a former senior analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense J. Matthew McInnis at his testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on November 18, 2014.
A bad deal will leave everyone in the region uncertain about Iran’s intentions and potential nuclear weapons capabilities. It will lead other countries to take potentially dangerous decisions, such as acquiring nuclear weapons or making strategic accommodation with Iran. According to McInnis, “In the worst case scenario, we could eventually face a nuclear Iran, for whom classic containment and deterrence approaches are unlikely to be effective.”
Testifying before the Committee David Albright said that in order to avoid a bad nuclear deal with Iran “the P5+1 must hold strong on achieving an agreement that limits Iran’s nuclear program to a reasonable civilian capability, significantly increases the timelines for breakout to nuclear weapons, and introduces enhanced verification that goes beyond the IAEA’s Additional Protocol.”
Albright also highlighted at his testimony that a “sound deal” will require Iran to address IAEA’s concerns about PMD of its nuclear program before a deal is finalized or the economic or financial sanctions are relieved. To achieve a “verifiable solution” Iran will have to significantly reduce the number of its centrifuges and uranium stocks, as well as to limit its centrifuge R&D programs.
U.S. President vs Congress
The president remains in overall control of foreign policy and defence. “Mr Obama would probably veto any bill that tightened sanctions against his wishes.”
According to Jack Goldsmith, Harvard Law School professor and a former Bush administration official, President Obama has the authority to “waive most if not all sanctions against Iran for the remaining two years of his term.” If he does so, the deal with Iran “will be tenuous”. The President believes that Congress will not cooperate on this issue now. “So if he wants a deal with Iran (which he clearly does), Obama must strike the deal on his own.” If President Obama suspends sanctions the entire sanctions regime will probably collapse. “The end result would be a deal that expires when Obama leaves and a sanctions regime in tatters. Iran will then have exactly what it wants — relief from sanctions, a deal that doesn’t block it from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability … and a revived economy,” has argued Jennifer Rubin, a lawyer and a columnist for The Washington Post.”
The lawyer Alan Dershowitz is of the view that if “Congress chooses to assert its constitutional power to participate in foreign policy decisions”, Obama would not have a completely free hand in making a deal with Iran. In case of a constitutional conflict between these branches of government, the Supreme Court may resolve the conflict but it is unclear how the judges would deal with it.
Next Supreme Leader Appointment
The Supreme Leader is the most powerful man in Iran. He has the ultimate say on Iran’s foreign policy and nuclear programme. Iran’s Supreme Leader is appointed by the Assembly of Experts in the event of the death, resignation, or dismissal of the leader. While the Assembly of Experts has the formal role in the appointment, in practice the decision will be influenced by powerful lobbies. The most powerful political organization is Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) that has control over the military, politics, economy, and nuclear program. The IRGC and the office of the current Supreme Leader will be the key selecting players. Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American scholar at Harvard University, has argued that the IRGC will attempt to choose an individual who serves its objectives: “obtaining nuclear capabilities, having a monopoly over economic and political affairs, having power in foreign policy and having the capability to intervene in other countries’ affairs without hurdles from any political figures including the Supreme Leader.”
Clifton W. Sherrill, an assistant professor of international relations at Troy University, has come to the conclusion that with “no consensus successor and with concerns that dividing power among a council may diminish the strength of the regime, the conditions are ripe for an IRGC power grab.” Explaining the role of the IRGC, Sherrill has written (2011): “Today, it has its own air force, navy, and infantry; maintains its own intelligence service; runs strategic think tanks, defense research and development programs, and its own universities; coordinates Iranian support for Islamist terrorist groups abroad; and holds primary responsibility for the regime’s nuclear weapons program.”
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