Two foremost experts on Iran expressed support for the interim agreement — the Joint Plan of Action — on Iran and President Obama’s current approach at a meeting on Capitol Hill today sponsored by the Partnership for a Secure America. “The policy is highly bipartisan,” said Nicholas Burns, former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs under President George W. Bush and currently professor at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He agreed with Robert Einhorn, former State Department Special Advisor for nonproliferation and arms control in the Obama administration and currently senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, that Congress should refrain from further sanctions legislation at this time. “It is the President who negotiates, not 535,” said Burns, “and Congress should support him.”
One of the goals is to lengthen the time for Iranian nuclear “breakout.” Einhorn pointed out that without an interim agreement Iran could make significant progress, and substantially shorten the breakout timeline. He believes while each government is stressing the benefits to their country of the interim deal, a final comprehensive agreement will be very tough to achieve.
Both experts agreed that there is concern that the interim deal will open the floodgates to business activity, but stated that there is no evidence of this happening at present. Einhorn said that the sanctions will remain in place, with some benefits available for Iran, but incentives still remain for Iran to negotiate. Einhorn said the IAEA will play a major role in the final deal with Iran, although Iran must go well beyond the additional access by inspectors and information provided by an Additional Protocol. Burns added that verification is a critical issue, noting, “Don’t trust, verify.”
The event was sponsored by the bipartisan nongovernmental organization, the Partnership for a Secure America (https://psaonline.org), which includes a balanced number of Republican and Democratic luminaries such as Madeleine Albright and Howard Baker on its Advisory Board. The video of the entire meeting is available at CSPAN (https://www.c-span.org/video/?317671-1/NuclearDeal
Both former negotiators noted that while the U.S. spent years not talking to Iran and spent much of its time sanctioning, in recent months it has become routine for Iranians and Americans to sit down to talk. The U.S. has not had an official dialogue with Iran for more than three decades. The two experts said that the two sides will have to work in a way in which Iran does not have to admit guilt but still satisfies the West.