Robert Einhorn, former Admin. official & Iran expert, speaks to IPF
January 16, 2014
11:00 am ET
Robert Goodkind: Thank you very much. Welcome everybody. On behalf of the Israel Policy Forum, I'm Bob Goodkind and serve on the executive committee of IPF. We're all looking forward this morning to the discussion of - with Steve Spiegel and Robert Einhorn. Mr. Einhorn will discuss the administration's approach to the P5+1 negotiations with Iran and the six-month interim accord addressing the Iranian nuclear program to be implemented early next week.
Bob Einhorn is a senior fellow with the Arms Control and Non-proliferation Initiative and the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, both housed within the Foreign Policy program at Bookings. During his career at the U.S. Department of State, Bob served as assistant secretary for non-proliferation during the Clinton administration and as the Secretary of State Special Advisor for non-proliferation and arms control during the Obama administration. At Brookings, Bob concentrates presently on arms control, non-proliferation, and regional security issues including Iran, the greater Middle East, South Asia, and Northeast Asia, and the U.S. nuclear weapons policies.
Bob - the format for today will be basically a - initially a discussion between Bob and Steve Spiegel and then there will be questions for the listening audience. Steve is IPF's national scholar. He's a professor of political science at UCLA and is the director of UCLA's Center for Middle East Development. Steve, it's my pleasure to turn the discussion over to you.
Steve Spiegel: Thank you Bob. And let's turn to the other Bob and welcome aboard Bob Einhorn. Good morning to you all.
Robert Einhorn: Thank you, Steve.
Steve Spiegel: The issue of the moment is the possibility of a Congressional vote, which would add sanctions and intensify the sanction effort of the moment where - into agreement suggests that the sanctions - there will be some alleviation for the Iranians. And the Iranians have said if that vote occurs they will leave the talks. What is your perspective on that vote and its advisability?
Robert Einhorn: I don't think it's advisable; I don't think it's necessary to vote a new sanctions bill at this time. The Iranians already have plenty of incentive to negotiate seriously on a final deal. There's some, you know, modest sanctions relief in the six month interim agreement, but it's - again, it's minor relatively; about $7 billion of relief. The ongoing sanctions will be multiples of that. The - if the Iranians want to get their economy on the right track, they need to get sanctions lifted and never going to get sanctions lifted until there's a final deal that's acceptable to us.
So I don't think it's necessary to provide the necessary leverage for a good deal and I think it really could be counterproductive. And I'm not talking about sparing Iran's tender sensibilities; offending them or anything like that. I mean, they're engaged in all kinds of offensive activities, you know, throughout the Middle East. I'm talking about not doing anything that could be counterproductive in terms of maintaining a strong sanctions regime.
If the Congress adopts this bill, some of the partners in our international sanctions coalition will develop doubts about whether the U.S. is really serious about a negotiated deal and we could begin to see the sanctions fray. And so I don't think it's in the best interest of maintaining pressures on Iran.
Also, you need to look at the particulars of this sanctions bill. I don't know if - how many of the sponsors of the sanctions bill really understand all of its particulars. They claim -- for example -- that nothing in the sanctions bill would require us to impose sanctions during the six-month interim agreement. Of course, we're obliged -- under the interim agreement -- not to impose new sanctions during the six months. But if you read the bill, it says the President has to certify every 30 days that Iran has not tested a long range missile and it has not assisted -- directly or indirectly -- acts of terrorism against American interests.
So we'd be saying that we can ignore our commitment under the six month agreement not to impose new sanctions if Iran engaged in actions that we don't like, admittedly. We don’t - you know, we don't like those actions. But they're not covered by the agreement. And it would be seen as our reneging on the deal. So in fact, the new bill does require -- could impose sanctions -- within the six months.
But even worse than that -- I mean, I call that a poison bill -- but there's an even worse poison pill. The bill says that sanctions cannot be suspended after six months if a deal is not reached that does not meet certain specific requirements. The President -- in order to get sanctions suspended -- the President has to certify after six months that a deal has been reached or is about to be reached that totally eliminates Iran's nuclear infrastructure, that totally eliminates Iran's enrichment facilities, and another number of other requirements.
Now, we'd like to see a ban on enrichment in Iran, but I think most people agree that's simply not going to happen. The administration has basically agreed that we're prepared to accept a very limited enrichment program that prevents Iran from having a breakout capability; that that would be acceptable to us.
The - if a sanctions bill were adopted that says that eliminating all enrichment was an essential requirement from removing sanctions, then it's hard to imagine that the Iranians would have any incentive to sit down and talk to us about a deal when the principle objective -- from their perspective of the negotiations, which is the removal of sanctions -- is simply not possible unless they agreed to an outcome that they've said time and again they're not prepared to accept and for which President Rouhani would not have any domestic political support.
So I think there are a number of poison pills in this bill. I'm not even sure to what extent all of the sponsors of this legislation know that those poison pills are there, but I think it could have a very counterproductive effect on the negotiations. It could end the negotiations. And I think sponsors of the bill should ask themselves, "What happens if the bill ends up scuttling the negotiations? What are the options then? You know, what are the alternatives?"
I don't happen to agree with some of the administration's, you know, rhetoric, you know, that if you vote for this bill you're voting for war and so forth. I think that goes overboard. But still, one really has to ask a serious question. If negotiations don't succeed, what are our alternatives? And I don’t think we would have very good alternatives. I mean, you know, use of military force is one of them. Another -- I'm sure we would turn to before using force -- is to try to ratchet up the sanctions further.
But I'm afraid that if we had adopted this bill and taken, you know, a very tough position on its only conceivable outcome, that we would have a very tough time getting international support for ratcheting up the sanctions. So I think it's a real - it's very important for members of Congress, you know, to look clearly at the alternatives here and ask themselves whether it's worth the risk of scuttling the negotiations by going forward with this bill.
In my view the best outcome is simply not to bring it to a vote. You know, the 59 co-sponsors -- or however many there are now -- they've made a statement. They've put down a marker. Iran knows that if they don't negotiate seriously or if they don't accept reasonable terms, then there's going to be much harsher sanctions. They know that. The deterrent is already there. They don't have to take it the additional step of voting this into law. And the hope -- of course -- is that they will have a veto-proof majority, and so even if the White House vetoes the bill -- as I'm sure it would -- that, you know, the sponsors would hope the veto would be overridden.
But I think the best outcome at this point -- because you can't expect the members of Congress to withdraw their bill -- is simply not to vote it. Let it sit there indefinitely.
Steve Spiegel: I'm - you know, I think you've made several important points that we really are not in the public view such as the issue of enrichment and long range missiles, etcetera. Which -- as you say -- even some of the people preparing to vote do not understand. Why is it that they don't understand? Isn't it the administration's responsibility to get the word out? Why wouldn't the administration make these points?
Robert Einhorn: I think they are making these points, but there have been a lot of private discussions with members of Congress; there have been a lot of briefings. I think they're making these points. I think a number of members of Congress feel themselves under, you know, strong political pressure to do something on Iran. They fear that if they don't join this bill they'll be seen as soft on Iran. They tell themselves -- and they're told by the, you know, principle movers of the bill -- that Iran is bluffing. That they're not really going to walk out of the negotiations. They're just going to have to accept this.
You know, I was with a very prominent Senator yesterday and I explained this business of, you know, the President having to certify after 30 days that they haven't, you know, engaged in acts of terrorism directly or indirectly. I said, "Is it fair to condition our compliance with the agreement on Iranian actions that are not even covered, you know, by the agreement? You know, that we don't like but they're not covered by the agreement." And he said, "Well, do we really want them to support terrorism? Do we really want them to conduct...?"
I said, "Of course we don't want them to do that. But this is not the vehicle to get them not to do those things. And, you know, put the shoe on the other foot. What if, you know, Iran said it's compliance with the six month deal is conditional upon, you know, a variety of U.S. actions that - you know, conditional for, you know, not condemning Israel for its settlements policy. Conditional on the U.S. not doing a bunch of things that the Iranians don't like. How would we react to that?" And I think, you know, when Congressmen think about that they realize we would be outraged if we did - if the Iranians did that kind of thing.
Steve Spiegel: The heart of the argument of those who are proponents of this bill is that - is -- as you say -- that the Iranians are bluffing. But the - but as you have described and added information to the bill, it seems inconceivable that they would stay in the talks if this bill actually passed and a veto was overcome. Why would they stay? And wouldn't they be in the stronger position because other countries would be less likely to support sanctions under these issues? Wouldn't we actually be weakening our sanctions if this bill passed?
Robert Einhorn: I'm convinced that we would weaken international support for sanctions. We - you know, we - one of the things I did when I was in State Department was I was the coordinator for Iran sanctions policy and I went all around the world trying to get countries like China and India and South Korea, Japan to join us in sanctions. And the best argument I had on - you know, I my favor was that Iran was the intransigent party. That we needed to, you know, to reduce purchases of crude oil, we needed to, you know, stop purchasing ((inaudible)) chemicals. We needed to do all these things to send the signal to Iran that it's got to negotiate seriously.
And that was a pretty effective argument. That and having ((inaudible)) make these outrageous statements. But it helped us build broad support. But if the perception shifts and it looks like the United States is the intransigent and over-reaching party, I think support for sanctions will diminish. And I think this sanctions bill will convince a lot of countries that the United States is not really serious about negotiations; that at the end of the day -- even if President Obama's serious -- he's not going to be able to deliver his Congress.
And so the - you know, the U.S. has in effect become the principle obstacle and why should they support the sanctions as a result? So I think it's a real - I think it's a real problem. You know, U.S. - you know is it a bluff? You know, there are some very reasonable Iranians surrounding President Rouhani who really believe that their future requires them to cut a deal -- a nuclear deal -- to try to reintegrate themselves with the world. I think they believe that. And they might even argue internally to ignore this miserable law and continue with the negotiations. At the end of the day, even if there's no ban on enrichment, the President may be able to persuade the public that it's a good enough deal.
I'm sure there will be those who would argue for that. But they are facing their own hardliners. They - you know, the domestic political climate in Tehran is at least as bad as it is in Washington. I think Rouhani is going to have a very difficult time selling any deal. I mean, you see it in the reaction of their parliament. When this new sanctions bill was introduced in the U.S. Congress, the Majles -- the Iranian parliament -- immediately retaliated by introducing a bill that would require Iran to begin enriching uranium up to the 60% level, which would be a highly, highly provocative action. But it was a kind of tit for tat reaction to the sanctions bill. So we should be under no illusion.
But this is going to be a very hard sell for Iran. And even if there were some in Iran who would be prepared to swallow their pride and swallow this new sanctions bill, there are others that would use the adoption of a sanctions bill as a pretext for what they wanted all along, which is to end these negotiations and end any engagement with the great sate.
Steve Spiegel: So this sanctions bill designed to toughen our policy actually would weaken it and would help Iranian hardliners. How ironic. Let me ask one more question before we turn to the group. And let's take a step back. What are the advantages of the interim accord and the process that the administration is engaged in? What are we getting out of this? So many people feel that this is sort of a cave-in. We've had criticism from Middle East countries - from Israel to Saudi Arabia. If this is such a good deal, why is there - why are there so many questions being asked and why are we on the right track?
Robert Einhorn: Yeah. I think it's a pretty good deal. You know, I confess I'm biased, you know, I was a part of this administration till June. I worked on, you know, this approach. So, you know, you can discount some of what I say. But I do think it's a good deal. It's in fact better than I expected it would be
It very comprehensively freezes any forward movement in Iran's nuclear program during six months. And in fact it's better than that because the key steps that would be frozen -- the key activities that would be frozen -- have in fact been frozen since August. So the six-month deal would end kind of late July. That would be about a year of no forward movement on key elements of their program. And you can just imagine what they could do in that year and that would move them much closer to the nuclear threshold.
This will freeze that. You know, if worst comes to worst and no deal is reached in - after six months, we would be no worse off than -- in terms of Iran's nuclear program -- than we would otherwise be. So I - you know, in terms of constraining the program, I think this is very important. It's been criticized that it hasn't rolled back the program; that no centrifuges have been dismantled. That's true.
But that was never its intention. The intention was to stop the clock; prevent them from making progress while negotiations are underway on a final deal. I think it stops the clock very, very well and puts us in a good position to go beyond the freeze to a very substantial rollback in a comprehensive agreement.
Now, it's been - the deal has been criticized also on the grounds that it gave away too much in terms of sanctions relief. Frankly, I've been surprised at how little the Iranians were prepared to insist upon in terms of sanctions relief. I mean, they get - you know, they have, you know, about $100 billion worth of oil revenues that have been frozen and restricted accounts in places like China, Japan, and South Korea and India and so forth. This deal releases only $4.2 billion worth of those frozen assets that they can now use.
It suspends sanctions on petro-chemical exports, on the import of auto parts for their auto industry, on the sale and purchase of gold and other precious metals. You know, this will give some relief to Iran's economy, but very little. It - you know, are we of a sanctions law that requires purchasers of Iranian crude oil to significantly reduce their purchases every six months. And, you know, this has been a very effective policy. It's lead to - a close to 60% reduction in volumes of crude oil and 60% reduction in oil revenues for Iran.
Under this deal we say, "Okay, purchasers -- there are about six purchasers of Iranian crude -- you can freeze your purchases at current reduced levels. You can't increase, but you no longer have to keep reducing in order to get a waiver of sanctions." So that's of some benefit. But remember, this is already at a level of, you know, of reduction at 50 to 60% below. It gets, you know, a channel - kind of a green channel to make humanitarian purchases. It's never been our intention to sanction the sale of medicines and foods and other humanitarian goods to Iran. But a lot of banks have been overly cautious and have not wanted to conduct those transactions.
Under this deal we'll make it very, very clear that certain financial channels are safe. You can go ahead and make those transactions in food and fuel. You know, $400 million -- I think -- in tuitions for Iranian students studying abroad will be unfrozen. So, you know, there are a variety of things like that. The great fear is that this will create a big psychological shift and that businesses and governments around the world that have been very cautious about their dealings with Iran will become less cautious and will be very eager to enter or to get back into the Iranian market.
Now, it's clearly true. There are a lot of companies around the world that are very anxious to get back and do business with Iran. But what we've seen is that while they're prepared to talk to the Iranians and talk about deals and so forth that they're not going to commit themselves. They remain very, very cautious about doing business with Iran over the next six months because they don't know whether this six month interim agreement is going to result in a final agreement or whether it's just going to fall apart and the sanctions will be back.
They also know in that in the most consequential areas -- the energy sector, the financial banking sectors -- sanctions remain in place. So companies that want to deal with Iran still have to worry about the many Iranian banks that remain under sanctions, the oil companies aren't going to get near Iran. They're going to talk to Iran when we have plenty of evidence -- E & I and other companies have talked to Iran -- but basically they're going to hold off until they see whether there's a final deal. So even though there's a lot of concern that the floodgates are going to open, I don't think the floodgates are open - going to open until the world sees whether a final deal can be worked out.
Steve Spiegel: Alright. We're going to open up to everyone. You push star one to get on the line to ask a question. And meanwhile -- while people are doing that -- Bob Goodkind -- our chair for the day -- will give you the first question.
Robert Goodkind: Sir, thank you for your remarks so far. Basic question; how can the U.S. really trust the Iranians? They are, you know, financers of worldwide terrorism; they're intervening in Yemen and Syria and Lebanon. They - the supreme leader only in the past week has condemned Jews in the worst possible way. Is this a government that can be trusted?
Robert Einhorn: The short answer is no. They're a kind of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. You have Rouhani and his team who are quite Westernized. Many of them educated in America; spent much of their professional lives in America. Who I believe, you know, genuinely want, you know, this deal to work. Their job is to get sanctions removed. You know, can you trust them? You can trust them to want to get the sanctions removed.
But then you have the other part -- you know, the IRGC, the QUDS force -- they're the ones who are engaged in destabilizing action throughout the Middle East. You mentioned a number of those areas. And, you know, I assume they're going to continue to do those things. But - and we have to be - we have to be open minded about these other activities and we have to work separately from the nuclear negotiations to counter those actions as best that we can.
But on the nuclear deal, I think they genuinely want to get rid of the sanctions. I think there - it is their intention to comply, but we can't count on that intention. We have to be able to verify it from the International Atomic Energy Agency -- is arriving by the way, Saturday -- to develop a baseline for this negotiation that would take first affect - this agreement that would take first effect on Monday. And every element that was agreed in this November 24th Interim agreement can be effectively verified by this IAEA.
So we can't trust them; we shouldn't trust them. But I think we can be highly confident that we will know on a daily basis -- and inspections have been accelerated to a daily basis -- whether Iran is complying with this deal. But I agree, we can have no confidence about the broader Iranian objectives, especially with the respect of the Middle East region.
Robert Goodkind: Thank you.
Steve Spiegel: Thank you very much, Bob. Operator, next question please?
Operator: Our first question comes from Trudy Rubin. Please go ahead.
Trudy Rubin: To ask - hi. If you could elaborate a little on this question of their research on the next generation of centrifuges. Do we know whether -- as they claimed at one point -- that they will be able to install more advanced centrifuges? How much of a problem is this in the next period? And it seems that some of the provisions in the agreement really will take a year to implement but this agreement's only for six months. Could you talk about that? And also, what do you think is in the fine print of this unpublished part of the accord?
Robert Einhorn: I know there's been a lot of public speculation about an Iranian desire to install a new model of centrifuges and test it during the six months. My understanding is that Iran indeed wanted to install and operate and test at this pilot enrichment facility a new centrifuge. They did not succeed. I think, frankly, the administration is being a bit reluctant to rub Iran's noses in it and they haven't been as explicit as they could be in making it clear.
Because the Iranians have made some public statements that have given the impression that they are installing new centrifuges and testing them during the six months. That is not the case. The deal is that the centrifuge models that the IAEA in November reported were already in place at this pilot facility - can continue to undergo testing. They can't enrich 5%. And they can't - you can't even accumulate any enriched uranium at those test centrifuges. Because they take the product and they recombine them with the residues from enrichment. And they recycle them. So there's no net increase in enriched uranium.
So the Iranians fail to achieve the objective of testing a new model centrifuge. But I think the administration has been sensitive to not embarrassing the Iranians by making that clear. Because the Iranians have made public comments - which perhaps not technically wrong - have created the impression that they have succeeded.
They've said things like their RND activities will continue - would not be unaffected. Well, in a way that's true. They can continue doing what they were doing before. But they're not allowed to install a new centrifuge. And, you know, on the - on the public release, you know, I've actually seen the paper. And, you know, there's nothing - there's nothing startling in it.
You know, there are no big news stories or revelations in it. I think most of the sensitivity has to do with IAEA. It's basically - this paper is an instruction to the IAEA. It tells them what they need to inspect - how they need to inspect it - and so forth.
And just the way the IAEA operates - you know, this is not the normal kind of thing that it wishes to be made public. I think there's, you know, much less concern on the part of the admiration with making this public then it's a concern both of the Iranians and the IAEA. The Iranians because it makes clear that they have not achieved some things - that they have created the public impression that they have, in fact, achieved.
I think this document is likely to be shared in an appropriate fashion with members of congress. But the intention - at least at present - is not to make it public.
Robert Goodkind: Okay, I'm told we have a large number of questions so will ask - we want to move along as quickly as possible - operator, next question.
Operator: Our next question comes from Farah Stockman. Please go ahead.
Farah Stockman: Hi, thanks for doing this call today. I'm wondering how comprehensive you think the final deal will be. Will it in encompass sanctions going back to U.S. sections from the '70's? And how - what will happen if that deal does not take place? I think that's a main concern from folks in Israel - is that the temporary deal will just, you know, be the only deal we get.
Robert Einhorn: Couple of things - one, there's an agreement already that in the event of an acceptable final deal - all U.N. and all U.S. National and all E.U. nuclear related sanctions will be eliminated. Now there have been sanctions for decades that have been imposed for human rights abuses - for supporting acts of terrorism. Those will be unaffected.
But it'll be the nuclear related sanctions that will be lifted. The nuclear related ones are the most consequential ones - having to do with energy and finance and so forth. So the Iranians fully - fully understand that. So tell me again, your second question.
Farah Stockman: There's a big fear that this interim deal will just be the only deal that we ever get, right...
Robert Einhorn: Look this could be a very hard negotiation. The expectations for an acceptable outcome are very different in Washington and Tehran. You know, the president gave it a 50/50 possibility. I think, frankly, that maybe a bit on the optimistic on side. It's going to be very hard, you know, slog to get a final deal.
But if there is no final deal - look, you know, if there's no deal after six months, then the negotiators can agree to an extension - by mutual, you know, consent. But if they're not very close, they may decide just to call it quits. In that case, then all bets are off. Then of course, you know, the sanctions that have been suspended can be restored.
There would be no - nothing to prevent the U.S. to work with the U.S. Congress and adopt harsher sanctions. There would be nothing to stop the Iranians from ramping up the nuclear program that had been frozen over the last six months.
So, you know, the issue is not, you know, whether this interim deal is going to, you know, last forever. Both sides have made it clear that, you know, they're looking at a 6 month to 12 month period. You know, the interim agreement is six month extendable. But both sides have said that kind of, you know, one year that's it. Within one year, they have to do a final deal or they're not going to have a deal.
Robert Goodkind: Okay, operator next question.
Operator: Our next question comes from Michael Adler. Please go ahead.
Michael Adler: Yes it's the things that aren't really out there. Will you comment on how Israel is directly put in the sanction resolution with military action by Israel? If it's in its legitimate self-interest for defense requiring the president to stand with Israel with diplomatic and military and economic aid. How does this impact this legislation influencing the relationship directly with Israel?
Robert Einhorn: Well Michael, I don't have the text - the bill right in front of you. But a decisions said, we would - you know, the U.S. would stand with Israel if Israel decided to carry out a military attack. You know, clearly it was designed to stop short of indicating that we would engage directly in an attack.
The supporters of the resolution knew that this would prevent lots of co-sponsors from signing on. I think it was an intention - the intention was to show Israel our commitment, you know, to their security without, you know, an ironclad commitment that we would get directly engaged in any military operation.
Robert Goodkind: Okay operator, next question.
Operator: Our next question is from Robert Lifton. Please go ahead.
Robert Lifton: For those people who are thinking ultimately that the only solution is a military solution. Wouldn't this - if this bill created a failure of negations with the Iranians - you talked about it backfiring, in terms of these sanctions. But wouldn't it might backfire in terms of support for any military option particular among the American people who might see that this whole effort created the result of forcing a military action.
Robert Einhorn: You think the bill could reduce support for military action?
Robert Lifton: If it forced - well, if it forced - if it broke up the relationship with the Iranians, and then we were left with either sanctions or military action. And those people who are pushing - who have been pushing for military action for some time - would be pushing for that.
And it would seem to me that one of the results of this failure might be to blame the same people who pushed this bill. And say, that the American people would not want to get involved in any military action, as a result.
Steve Spiegel: I think that's a very important question. Because - and I completely agree with the thrust of it - that Bob Lifton has given us. Because in the administration of many have not - or its spokespeople have not, I think, done enough with this argument.
That if we are seen to be at fault - not only America but worldwide - if our congress has shut down the negotiating process, how are we going to get support for sanctions - and if necessary, military action.
Robert Einhorn: I would agree with that. I mean, I think, you know, administration spokesmen, I think have - you know, they believe that too. But, you know, when they say that - when they basically equate support for the sanctions bill with support for a military solution. Many members of congress really take umbrage at that.
I think, you know, the sponsors of this bill - it's a mixed bag - I think, you know, there's a group that really doesn't trust negotiations - doesn't want negotiations to succeed. And is, you know, would be quite happy if this bill ended up scudding negotiations.
I think they're a minority. I think the majority of sponsors believe, I think, incorrectly that what the bill does is to give the administration additional leverage to achieve an acceptable outcome. And I think they underestimate the extent to which the bill would undercut the negotiations and undercut broad support for the sanctions regime.
And as a result, would narrow our options to basically two - - use of military force. And trying I think now in a very futile way to ratchet it up to sanctions further. I think - I think the bill would make it difficult for us to ratchet it up to sanctions further. Whether they would backlash - yes, sorry....
Steve Spiegel: You know, whether there would be a backlash against sponsors of the bill for leaving us with few options. But the military option I just don't know. When you present the case that you're presenting here with the various congressional figures, do you find them convinced?
Robert Einhorn: It's a mixed bag. Some of the people I've spoken to seem not to have known that some - but I call poison pills - were in the bill. And, you know, some - you know, go back to the basic argument that, look we're trying to help the administration. The only thing the Iranian's understand is pressure. We need to heighten the pressure.
We don't think, you know, they're going to be over - the Iranian's are going to be over sensitive. We don't think they're going to pull out of the negotiations just because of this. But I think that's a risky bet. And I don't think that they are looking ahead to the possible consequences if in fact their actions led to the scudding of the negotiations. Because, you know, we wouldn't be left with good options, at that point.
Steve Spiegel: Isn't the offer - aren't the proponents of the bill basically arguing a contradictory argument. You can't trust the Iranian's except to understand that our bill isn't that serious. So the Iranian's are moderate in response to our bill. But otherwise they're real super bad guys that we can't trust and can't deal with. How do they overcome this contradiction?
Robert Einhorn: You know, members of congress, you know, are very good at overcoming contradictions. I wouldn't pretend to understand how they do that.
Robert Goodkind: Very good, operator, next question.
Operator: Our next question comes from Natasha Mozgovaya. Please go ahead.
Natasha Mozgovaya: I was wondering. You said the progress from the Iranian and nuclear problem negations that might have an impact from the Syrian negotiations track especially on the side of the American administration. Will they see Iran as a more constructive party ahead of the talks, for example, because of if the infamy agreement implementation with Iran?
Robert Einhorn: That's a good question. I think - I think a positive outcome in the nuclear issue - at the end of six months the Iranians were complying with the interim agreement obligations and negotiating seriously and flexibly on a final deal. I think it would have a positive impact on Syria in the sense that the administration and the U.S. people would be more inclined to see Iran as willing to play a constructive role on Syria.
On the other hand, if a failure to reach a deal on the nuclear issue - and especially, if it looked as if the Iranians were being unreasonable - and, you know, maybe even not complying with their obligations, I think this would have a very negative impact on the way we looked at Iran's possible role in dealing with the Syria crisis.
Robert Goodkind: Okay, operator, next question.
Operator: As a reminder, that it's Star 1 to ask a question. And we'll move on to our question. Avner Porat, please go ahead.
Avner Porat: Thanks. I'm going back to the IAEA ability to actually monitor, you know, any activities in the six months and was there any that allows them to go to every facility. And does the IAEA have enough resources to actually do the work?
Robert Einhorn: Well the interim agreement does not permit them to go to every single facility. In a final deal, the U.S. and its partners would try to greatly expand Iran's - expanse the IAEA's access to facilities in Iran. But in the interim agreement, even though it substantially increases the level of access that you have say, today. It doesn't permit access everywhere.
You know, for example, the interim deal allows inspectors to go to the most sensitive facilities - - the enrichment facilities - - every day. Previously, every couple of weeks, inspectors would go and they would download the cameras at the site. And review the film to see if anything untoward that happened in that two week interval.
Now inspectors can go every day. Inspectors can also go to the workshops where Iran produces the rotors for centrifuges where it assembles centrifuges. This is very important. Because that way the IAEA can count production and make sure they're not producing a lot of centrifuges and storing them away for a potential installation at covert facilities.
Also the interim agreement has a provision that says, Iran can only produce a new centrifuge to replace a broken centrifuge. But to monitor that it has to be present at these centrifuge production workshops to be able to count. And to insure that not more centrifuges are being produced then are allowed.
There are also - the IA can also go to uranium mines and process facilities. This is very important because you want to keep track of how much uranium and uranium feedstocks for enrichment Iran is actually acquiring because you don't want them to have a secret store of such material which they could use eventually in a covert program.
So there are unprecedented verification arrangements in this interim deal. But you don't yet have the more comprehensive and intrusive inspection arrangements that the U.S. hopes to achieve in a final deal.
Robert Goodkind: Okay, let's go on to the next question.
Operator: Our next question comes from Arshad Mohammed. Please go ahead.
Arshad Mohammed: Bob can you hazard a guess at what might be a post comprehensive agreement acceptable in state for the Iranian Nuclear Program and in particular for any uranium enrichment aspects of it that would also be acceptable to - it would be acceptable both to the administration and to the Iran.
Robert Goodkind: Arshad that's a very - that's a hard question. And it's going to be, in my view, the single hardest issue in reaching a final deal. The U.S. objective and the objective of the U.S. partners will be to limit Iran's, so called breakout capability to lengthen what's called the breakout timeline. That's the period from time Iran would decide to break out of constraints - - existing constraints. And produce enough material for nuclear weapons.
Obviously the U.S. wants to lengthen that timeline as much as possible. But lengthen that time line means reducing Iran's enrichment capacity. It means reducing the amount of enriched uranium stocks located in Iran. And you can make these calculations of, you know, how low you have to constrain this enrichment capacity in order to lengthen this timeline that it would take.
Now you can be sure that the U.S. will insist on a very limited enrichment capacity in Iran. And you can also be sure that the Iranians are going to want to preserve as much of what they already have installed. And perhaps they'll even want to expand that capability.
But I think the key thing is language that's contained in the interim agreement itself. It talks about a mutually defined enrichment program based on practical needs. And, you know, key element of that is practical needs. What are Iran's practical needs for enrichment?
After all the Russians are providing the enriched fuel for its one power reactor the Busier Power Reactor. Their discussions of further reactors supplied by Russia. And I'm sure Russia would be happy to provide fuel for that reactor. Iran already has enough fuel for the small research reactor in Tiran actually supplied the days that atom, you know, atoms were peace by the United States this terrain research reactor.
It has enough fuel to fuel this reactor for many years. So what are its practical needs? In fact, Iran's practical needs for enrichment are very limited. And I'm sure the U.S. and its partners, will make the case that, you know, your practical needs are very small. And you can accept a very limited enrichment capacity.
Iran will say well they may be limited now. But we have aspirations to produce, you know, many nuclear power plants and rely heavily on nuclear power for electricity. And we need the enrichment capacity to support those ambitious nuclear power plants.
So I think they're going to start this negotiation very far apart. And it's hard to speculate, Arshad, on what the instates going to be. But I think to be acceptable to the United States, Iran for a substantial period of time and for the duration of this final agreement is going to have to live with a very limited enrichment capacity.
Steve Spiegel: We have time for just two more questions. So let's take them, operator, both at once. And then our distinguished guest will answer them both at once. Operator.
Operator: Ben Armbruster, your line is open.
Ben Armbruster: Hi thanks, yes. One of the arguments that Senator Menendez makes in favor of this bill is that, he says, that's it's better to have sanctions - new sanction regime ready on hand in case the deal falls apart. And I'm wondering if there's a difference in the time of implementation of the new sanctions whether, you know, it's past six months - if the bill's past six months from now or today. I'm wondering if, you know, if there's a difference in time of when - at the sanctions that are past will be implemented.
Steve Spiegel: And before Bob Einhorn answers, let's go to the last question, operator.
Operator: Herb Blecker, your line is open.
Herb Blecker: Thank you. My question is, what can IPF and others do to persuade the senators not to vote on the bill. And not even introduce the bill. What actual things can we do? And what are the position of the New York Senators on this bill?
Steve Spiegel: Two important question - you have the floor by the Bob Einhorn.
Robert Einhorn: Yes on Menendez charge that you got to get, you know, going now. You can't wait because it will take too long to pass, you know, implementing regulations and so forth. I don't really credit that. First of all, you know, the congress can put off a vote on a bill, you know, for a substantial period of time.
The bill is there. It can just, you know, suspend any action to bring it to a vote. And then wait and see. And, you know, I don't know exactly how regulation drafting works in the government. But, you know, and I'm just speaking off the top of my head here.
But if the administration wanted the co-sponsors to put off a vote, maybe it should agree that it will get working. And it's usually the treasury department that does this. You know, get working on the regulations now on a theatrical basis. So that if and when, you know, sanctions would have to be imposed later, you know, the regulations would be ready.
But, you know, the one fly in that ointment is that the administration would not want to concede now. That the specific provisions of the current bill will be, you know, the provisions of the bill it could support later. So it's hard to draft implementing regulations if you haven't actually, you know, reached substantive agreement on the nature of the sanctions that are being posed.
So what I'm saying is, it may be hard to do in advance. But I think, you know, certainly administration - people who draft regulations can be thinking of that. And so it's to minimize the time it would take to implement the sanctions later.
And by the way, the main impact of this - and Menendez recognizes this - is its deterrent effect. And I think simply having the sanctions bill there introduced but not voted, makes it very big - very clear to Iran. That if it doesn't negotiate seriously or if it reneges on its obligations, harsh sanctions will come. On the - I'm sorry I didn't take a note on the second.
Robert Einhorn: I think you should, you know, you should contact, you know, congressional delegations and, you know, the key for New Yorkers - the key guy is Schumer. Schumer is a, you know, he's in leadership of the senate democrats. He's been a traditional supporter of the Obama Administration who has to some extent broken ranks with the administration on this Sanction's Bill.
He was an early co-sponsor of it. There are news reports that he was rounding up additional co-sponsors for it. And I think it's, you know, important to - especially, to, you know, to be in touch with Senator Schumer. And, you know, voice concerns if you have concerns about it. I think, you know, to a large extent he's driven by his own personal judgment about what it will take, you know, to get a good agreement.
But to some extent he obviously listens to he's constituents. It would be interesting to know what they have in mind. But he, you know, he's concerned. He believes, you know, if existing sanctions have brought them to the table then more sanctions are going to be necessary to get them to accept a sound agreement.
And I think he incorrectly minimizes some of the risks involved in voting this legislation. But I think it's worthwhile, you know, getting in touch with him. He's the key. He's the key democrat at this point.
Steve Spiegel: Even more key than Menendez?
Robert Einhorn: I think Menendez is beyond persuasion on this. I think, you know, I think for a variety of reasons he is, you know, totally committed. And I don't think he has an open mind on this, frankly. You know, its worth, you know, if you could hear from a lot of New Jersey constituents that, you know, they're people who really doubt that he's on the right course. It may, you know, make him think twice.
But I think Schumer is more persuadable then Menendez. That's at least my assessment.
Steve Spiegel: All right. Well, we come to the end of a fascinating hour - and important hour. And we wish that more people could hear what Bob Einhorn has to say. Because it does give a perspective that really hasn't gotten out in the press. So we want to think Bob Einhorn for spending the time with us.
I know how busy his schedule is and particularly these weeks of controversy. And we want to thank all of you for being on the call. So wherever you are, good day and good luck and thank you everyone. And then let us say, bye, bye.
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A conference call discussion with Ilan
Maj. Gen. (res.) Amnon Reshef is the organizer