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Media Call with Ray Takeyh on Iran Nuclear Deal

Speaker: Ray Takeyh, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
Presider: Robert McMahon, Editor
November 25, 2013
Council on Foreign Relations

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OPERATOR: Excuse me, everyone. We now have all of our speakers in conference. Please be aware that each of your lines is in a listen-only mode. At the conclusion of today's presentation, we will open the floor for questions. At that time, instructions will be given as to the procedure to follow if you would like to ask a question. I would now like to turn the conference over to Mr. Robert McMahon. Mr. McMahon, you may begin.

MCMAHON: Thank you, Operator, and good morning, everyone. Welcome to this Council on Foreign Relations on-the-record media call on the just-announced Iran nuclear deal. Our featured guest is Ray Takeyh, a CFR senior fellow and former State Department senior adviser on Iran. I am Robert McMahon, editor of CFR.org.

And without further ado, I wanted to get right into questions before opening the call to you all.

So, Ray, I'd like to just start out very general and say, was it a good deal?

TAKEYH: Thanks, Bob. I think it was a complicated deal with some quite advantageous things in it. It does constitute sort of a curb on Iranian nuclear program and the nuclear trajectory. Those curbs are, of course, interim measures, you know, cessation of production of 20 percent, greater transparency measures, in some ways addressing the 5 percent enrichment issue, although in an imperfect way, and the plutonium plant, as well.

The measure of sanctions relief is modest. I would say both parties made modest concessions, and they're sort of taking their chances in. The deal is not just about the interim measures that are being discussed. I would say probably the more important part of the deal is the agreement on principles about the final agreement.

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON: ... joint plan of action?

TAKEYH: Well, right, right, the joint plan of action has both interim measures and also some agreement on principles about what the final deal should look like or what they call the comprehensive deal, because it appears that the final deal itself is an interim deal that will have an expiration date.

I suspect -- that expiration date may be 5 years, may be 10 years, I don't know. But afterwards, presumably, Iran will get to expand its nuclear program for production of energy purposes, as they say, to a more of industrialized size capacity. So that's the part of it that's going to be challenging, because it essentially assumes that the short-term interim deal that lasts six months will be used to negotiate a longer-term interim deal of five years or whatever, or maybe quite longer, but that's the part that's, I think, going to jump out at some people about.

It hasn't been much of a focus, but I think the principles about the final agreement are probably even more important than the details and intricacies of the short-term measures, how much sanctions relief and how much LEU production and so on.

MCMAHON: Got it. And one of the areas of contention that had played out along the lines of this deal was referred to Iran's right of enrichment, and it got caught up in the French insistence on halting construction of the Arak reactor. It seems like what some have called a classic diplomatic fudge is being used now that it doesn't explicitly refer to the right. It seems to fudge whether or not Iran has a right to enrich.

Can you talk a little bit about that aspect and whether that's going to reverberate?

TAKEYH: Well, as a matter of longstanding policy, the United States does not interpret Article 4 of the NPT as giving anybody the right to enrich. This goes back, I think, to Carter administration where there was a concern about expansion of fissile material. So the way -- so in a sense, we don't recognize Brazil's right to enrich, and so on.

But I think in this particular agreement, as in other cases, other states may not recognize the right to enrich, but it respects that in practice. And the fact that this deal does not require suspension at least at this stage essentially makes the acknowledgement even more probable, right? So I do think that there is an enrichment acknowledgement in this particular agreement. And it's actually stated in this first page.

MCMAHON: Yeah, it's a -- it's using sort of conditional language, but...

TAKEYH: Well, the Iranian position has always been that that right has to be respected or recognized in the first phase. The American position seems to be it'll be recognized, respected in the final phase...

(CROSSTALK)

TAKEYH: ... continues, it persists.

MCMAHON: So, Ray, one line of criticism is that Iran -- or criticism of this deal is that Iran is essentially being paid in terms of the billions in sanctions relief it gets to not develop nuclear arms, and at the price for a six-month pause of its program -- or key parts of its program was too high, given the tradeoffs, such as weakening the sanctions regime that had become so effective.

What do you say to that kind of response?

TAKEYH: Well, I think the agreement has to be considered for what it is. It's an interim agreement of modest steps by both sides. I wouldn't characterize it in these grandiose historical terms, nor would I castigate it in sort of terms of being unwise or capitulationist and so on. What I would say is just -- it's quite a modest agreement where both sides do little.

The sanctions relief part of it, there are some aspects of it that are actually not reversible. If I give you $3 billion, you're not going to give it back to me. But, you know, I'm not seeing this in the sort of stratospheric terms as being described. It's a fairly modest arms control agreement with a specific expiration date and some measures whereby both sides sort of take a breather from their practices the past couple of years.

MCMAHON: So -- and that has also -- that modest aspect has cast more light on what -- what, in fact, is going on inside Iran, in terms of is there some sort of sustainable -- can they be a sustainable negotiating partner to -- to really end this -- to talk their way out of this nuclear crisis?

And can you speak a little bit about what is going on inside Iran? Is Rouhani, Hassan Rouhani consolidating any kind of a base or strengthening -- let's say strengthening lines to the supreme leader in ways in which he can achieve meaningful reforms? Is he, in fact, a genuine reformer?

TAKEYH: Well, I wouldn't say he's a reformer in the sense that he's concerned about expansion of democratic rights and strengthening civil society, adhering to human rights conventions, and so on. It's not that kind of a -- he's not that kind of a politician.

I think at this point, there is some degree of consensus among Iran's factions that they want to move forward to see what they can get and how much they can preserve, what they can get in terms of sanctions relief and how much they can preserve in terms of their nuclear program.

And I suspect the supreme leader has issued some broad red lines, as he mentioned, and the negotiations have to take place in the context of those red lines. And his red lines are that Iran will not suspend, Iran will not ship out any of its nuclear resources, and it will not shutter any of its facilities.

And I think you saw the interim deal largely conforms to that. Iran is not suspending its activities. It's not really closing any facilities. And it's not shipping out any sort of enriched uranium. It's agreeing to transform some of its enriched uranium into a chemical compound that's less accessible to it, but so I think Rouhani has to exist within those red lines, and he's managed to do so somewhat at least in terms of the interim agreement.

Now, a number of -- excuse me, a number of observers have noted that given the flurry of diplomacy in the last couple of weeks that U.S.-Iranian relations may have been more intense in terms of direct ties -- direct talks in the last few weeks than they had been in the previous 34 years. Could you talk about to what extent this round of diplomacy could lead to more regular contacts and a regularization of this relationship, albeit one that would continue to be antagonistic?

TAKEYH: Well, there has been sporadic activity -- diplomatic activities between the two powers, that was the case in 1979-'80 around the hostage crisis, even secret diplomacy, at that time, I think, in Paris. Obviously, Iran-Contra affair was a diplomatic activity, you know, even a transactional one. Then you had, of course, all the surrounding 9/11 diplomacy, post-9/11.

This is the most sustained probably negotiations between the two powers over the nuclear issue, when they're trying to sort of hammer something out, and with back channels, front channels, and all that. There's been a lot of discussion between the two sides. And the product of that discussion is a relatively modest agreement, so you can see the challenges that lie ahead.

Whether they could lead to a more systematic dialogue between the two to deal with regional problems, I suspect there could be more of a systematic dialogue, but the two parties are on differing sides in the regional context. They're on different sides in Syria. They're on different sides in the Gulf. They're on different sides in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. They're on different sides on issues of terrorism. And they're on different sides on issues of Iraq.

So I'm not quite sure if an arms control agreement, this one or perhaps a successor one, can provoke that kind of a moving of the chess pieces along in the Middle East as has been suggested.

This is an antagonistic relationship. It can be managed better, and perhaps with a greater degree of cohesion, but to kind of jump the leap and suggest a strategic reformulation of the Middle East, I think, is a step too far.

MCMAHON: Well, thanks, Ray. Thanks for those framing comments.

TAKEYH: Sure.

MCMAHON: I'd like to actually open up the call to those on the line. And, Operator, do you have anyone with a question at this point?

OPERATOR: Yes, sir. Let me give the directions real quick. At this time, we will open the floor for questions. If you would like to ask a question, please press the star key, followed by the one key on your touch-tone phone now. Questions will be taken in the order in which they are received. If at any time you would like to remove yourself from the question in queue, just press star, two. Please limit your questions to one at a time. Again, to ask a question, please press star, one.

Our first question comes from William Murray (ph) with EIG (ph).

QUESTION: Yeah, hi. Thanks for this call, Ray. It's interesting, as you were delineating some of the major differences -- strategic differences between the U.S. and Iran, when there's talk of a rapprochement or even a whole new security paradigm, I mean, it's interesting that such criticism from regional allies, like Israel and Saudi Arabia, are coming at a time when you just listed all the major gaps between the two governments and societies.

Which -- so I'm trying to square the circle of the unhappiness that is emanating so aggressively from Saudi Arabia and Israel, when there's no history in American diplomacy of the U.S. jettisoning strategic allies in a manner that they think is going to happen. I just -- I just...

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON: So is the question -- is the question why such a strong reaction, then, from those allies?

QUESTION: What is it about -- why such a -- no. Not why such a strong reaction, but why would -- why would they choose to view American diplomatic history in a way that's inaccurate?

TAKEYH: I think the concerns of Saudis and Israelis are a bit different here. The Saudis do have concerns about improved relations between the United States and Iran, in addition to their concern about the fact that upon conclusion of a prospective deal, Iran will maintain a lot of nuclear resources and, therefore -- and can move rather rapidly in terms of developing its unconventional capability. They certainly are in conflict with Iran in a spectrum of issues on the Middle East, not the least of which is the Sunni-Shia divide, the concern about Iran's subversive activities, and so on and so forth. Some of those, I think, are overstated, particularly a Saudi claim of Iranian subversion of Bahrain.

The Israeli concerns are altogether different. Israelis, I don't think, would object to a better improved relations between United States and Iran. They are concerned about sort of the practicalities of this deal, namely that there will be an interim deal, and the interim deal will be just prolonged and protracted and so on. There are concerns about erosion of solidarity over the sanctions regime in terms of enforcement and so forth, and their concern about the fact that Iranians may retain substantial capabilities and, therefore, can assemble a weapon at the time and place of their choosing, with a more sustained economic position.

So the Israelis are more closely concerned about the nuclear diplomacy, while the Saudis are concerned about U.S.-Iran diplomacy, in addition to the nuclear issue. So in that sense, you can see some of the alarm that has taken place in those particular capitals.

QUESTION: But I guess as a follow-up, just quickly, this has -- you're talking about the legitimacy of their positions and their insecurity vis-a-vis the United States, so this goes back to the Obama administration, which -- to what degree is the Obama administration and Obama himself responsible for simply a lack of communication, a lack of proper handholding of allies on the front lines in this region? There's an insecurity there that is surprising and, I guess, can only point to back to the White House. Is that -- is that a way to look at it?

TAKEYH: I mean, the negotiations with an adversarial regime and a provocative regime like Iranian state will require a great deal of alliance management. There has to be a lot of communication between the allies and so forth, so that's -- there's no question about that.

QUESTION: Has the administration proven itself to be adept at that in the last five years?

TAKEYH: Well, I think there has been very sustained discussions with Israelis. There has been a lot of U.S.-Israeli strategic dialogue. There's a lot of communication between the two. Perhaps there should be more done on that front with the Saudis, some sort of a Saudi-American strategic dialogue, and perhaps some greater cooperation with Saudis on the various concerns that they may have. One of the concerns is Yemen, and so on.

But that's not unusual to have this degree of friction between allies at times of sensitive diplomacy. And I suspect you're going to see more alliance management moving forward.

MCMAHON: Thanks for that question. Operator, do you have another question, please?

OPERATOR: Yes, sir. Our next question comes from John Fahey with the Associated Press.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks, Ray. I'm wondering if you can put the size and importance of the sanctions relief in context of the broader Iranian economy and the sanctions that remain. How much does this really help? And in what ways?

TAKEYH: Well, the cause of the Iranian economic problems are as -- as you implied, are not strictly American sanctions. They have to do with the sort of mismanagement that has taken place, and particularly taken place in the past eight years, during sort of a populist government that sort of abhorred budgetary planning and so forth. So some of the problems have to do with poor management. Some of it has to do with corruption, which is quite pervasive in that system.

The sanctions relief that has come about is -- does give some breathing room in some respects. You know, the six, seven countries that continue to purchase Iranian oil were previously required to reduce their purchases. Now I think that requirement is kind of waived, at least for a period. They were -- they were required to reduce it by some 10 percent or what have you. I'm not sure about the statistic.

The notion of insurance and reinsurance, which had made difficult in terms of transporting Iranian oil cargo, that (inaudible) has put aside. There's some measure of access to funds abroad and so on. So, you know, I don't know exactly how much that comes to, but it's some kind of an injection in the economy.

And also, you know, a lot of markets operate on psychological basis, not just tangible ones, so psychology of Iranian commerce has changed, and maybe there will be more attractions to re-examining trade with Iran. I don't think this will cause all the companies to return to Iran, because all the problems that continue to deal -- in terms of actually dealing with Iranians and in terms of actually all the surrounding issues. So -- but, you know, it is some kind of a measure of relief for them, which is, you know, modest, but from their perspective perhaps not -- not unhelpful.

MCMAHON: Thanks for that question, John. Operator, is there another question, please?

OPERATOR: Yes, sir. Our next question comes from Peter Kenyon with NPR.

QUESTION: Hi. I'd like to just follow up, a very similar question, actually, but if you could just focus a little bit more on whether you see the possibility of unintended consequences. You sort of touched on it with the psychological basis. Could there be companies eager to get back in, even though this is only a six-month deal?

And on that insurance, on the tankers, does that raise the risk of smuggling, simply because more tankers will be available? Or does that not really apply here? Anything along the lines of other ways that this may turn out to be more valuable that hadn't been thought of.

TAKEYH: Well, I think to the extent that, you know, there's going to be some degree of enthusiasm for Iranian market, you may see that more from Asian consumers than Europeans. The E.U. has its own set of sanctions, and European compliance is regulated. There might be some discussions between Iranians and European companies, oil companies and so forth, but it's unlikely that they'll move -- even if they go to that stage, beyond memorandums of agreement into actual practical investment.

Now, if you're a small bank in Malaysia that, you know, has very limited commerce with the United States, if any at all, and so you might be more attracted to the Iranian market at this stage, if -- you know, as I said, Chinese and others are not really required to reduce their purchases of Iranian oil now, so there is to be some maintenance of the status quo.

I don't know if they'll increase beyond that. But if there's any sort of an activity taking place along that lines, it's likely to come from the Asian markets and it's likely to come from more peripheral than established institutions. I mean, Deutsche Bank isn't going to return to Iran in a substantial way under the current system. They may at a later date when things begin to loosen up, if they do, but I suspect the level of engagement in Iran from that sort of an activity is likely to be marginal.

MCMAHON: Thanks for that question, Peter. This is a reminder to the call that this is a Council on Foreign Relations on-the-record media call on the Iran nuclear deal, and our featured speaker is Ray Takeyh, a CFR senior fellow.

Operator, do we have another question, please?

OPERATOR: Yes, sir. Our next question comes from Christopher Isham with CBS News.

QUESTION: Hi, Ray, thanks. Just wondered if you could address a little bit the question of the inspection regime, how much more access does this interim agreement grant the IAEA in terms of inspections? How much more does it promise to grant? I see the language is a little vague in the joint plan of action about the additional protocol. Where do you think we are in terms of -- overall in terms of -- of getting a better visibility of this program and some of the aspects of it that were not visible?

TAKEYH: Well, I think you're going to have more of a systematic inspection of the Iranian facilities, although I should say that, you know, the Iranian facilities, at least those that are known, are fairly safeguarded. This kind of expands it to sort of workshops and places where centrifuges are manufactured, so sort of inspection measure goes -- kind of goes down the line a little bit more.

In terms of additional protocol, I suspect that if there is a comprehensive deal, that will be rolled into that, in terms of not just additional protocol, but, you know, Code 3.1 and so on.

But one of the things that has been insisted on is that the Iranian program has to be more transparent. Now, there is still a problem between Iran and the IAEA. The structured agreement that was negotiated with the IAEA goes back many years. It remains unfulfilled. There were some 11 meetings between Iran and IAEA officials this year, and they have simply failed to address structured document which deals with previous issues of weaponization, access to scientist data, and so forth. So there's a lot of things that IAEA still requires to do in terms of getting the full picture of Iranian nuclear program.

But in terms of actual installations and facilities, you probably have more visibility to it than before. And down the line, as I said, if there is a comprehensive agreement, then all these issues have to be squared away with the IAEA, not in terms of the current activities, previous activities, and what future activities Iran intends to undertake.

QUESTION: I don't see any mention of the Parchin or any of the weaponization efforts.

TAKEYH: Right. I think those are being -- those are being on a separate track pursued with the IAEA itself. I mean, I think that's more of Amano's brief. And as he was recently in Iran -- and I think there will be another meeting between IAEA officials and Iranians in December -- I mean, I think those are moving on separate, but presumably complementary tracks.

QUESTION: Got it. Thanks.

MCMAHON: Thanks for that call. Operator, is there another question, please?

OPERATOR: Yes, sir. Our next question comes from Jeff Morley with Arms Control Today.

QUESTION: Hi, Ray. I'd like a follow-up on the IAEA question. Does the IAEA process as it has unfolded so far give the Western powers more confidence about preventing weaponization? And related to that, is there anything in the interim agreement that preserves or enhances Iran's ability to weaponize in the future? That's obviously going to be a big point of political debate, and I'm wondering what you make of the implications of the interim agreement for that possibility.

TAKEYH: As mentioned, I think that Iran does have very significant and serious issues to discuss with the IAEA. They have to do not just with previous activities, but in previous reports, Director General Amano has suggested that he cannot be certain there are no weaponization activities taking place, given his access. And, therefore, the dossier that he'll require is a far more substantial one.

At this point, Iran remains in violation and breach of the NPT, because of its previous and ongoing lack of response to the IAEA requests. That may change as moving forward. I think this agreement -- the viability of this agreement, this and successor comprehensive agreements, should there be one, rests on the ability of IAEA to discharge its obligations.

So at this point, at some point, the two tracks that are running separate have to intersect. At some point, Amano will have to get into the negotiations and actually have his requirements met by the Iranians for him to certify that Iran is complying with its obligations and, therefore, allow the comprehensive deal to move forward.

In terms of weaponization activities, you know, there is an argument that so long as Iran has sort of a sizable depository of enriched uranium and has ability to master centrifuge technology, there's always a risk. And what you are trying to do is inject some obstacles in the process to make the risk of weaponization higher and the possibility of detections correspondingly higher. I think that's what you're trying to do here.

And this agreement does put -- at least at an interim level does put some caps on Iran's program. But as I said, they're interim agreements, so we'll see how things work out down the line.

MCMAHON: So, Ray, it puts some time back on the clock, so to speak, but that doesn't really...

(CROSSTALK)

TAKEYH: You know, I -- I think, though -- to time and all that stuff is a bit exaggerated. I always thought there was more time into the Iranian nuclear issue, because a lot of these time projections are essentially suggesting that Iran will use nuclear resources from safeguarded facilities to break out. And should they do so, they would be detected by the IAEA, and presumably there will be some sort of an action.

So I always -- I always thought there was time on the Iranian nuclear clock, so the arguments about how much is being added or subtracted are not entirely germane.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Got it, thanks. Operator, do we have another question on the line, please?

OPERATOR: Yes, sir. Our next question comes from Jessica Stone with CCTV News.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks for doing the call, Ray. I wanted to -- I missed the top, and you may have spoken a little bit about the impact on Chinese oil purchases. I just wanted to have you explain a little bit more of what you think the impact will be on even Asian oil purchases writ large.

And then if you could just clarify, do you have any more specifics on what you talked about earlier on that there is -- there is an enrichment acknowledgement in the first page of the agreement?

TAKEYH: In terms of purchases of Iranian oil, as was discussed, I think there are six, seven countries that continue to purchase Iranian oil. They're obligated to reduce that production as a result of the sanction bill that was passed, I think, two years ago or a year ago. It is -- I think that provision has at this point been waived or suspended, so the purchases are likely to remain constant and not decline as mandated by legislation.

Now, whether the Chinese want to go above and beyond that, I mean, you know, it's hard to tell. But it's likely to -- to Iran's -- the purchase of Iran oil is likely to hold constant. They may even be some kind of an -- some kind of an increase -- I wouldn't say spike -- in terms of Asian markets, the Europeans not so much, because of the E.U. regulations.

I think it's very difficult to read this document and suggest that the processes of diplomacy are now leading to an acknowledgement of Iran's enrichment capability, in practice, if not in principle. So I suspect -- I think that's just sort of the objective reading of the document.

QUESTION: A right to enrich, specifically?

TAKEYH: Well, I don't -- the United States government is not going to acknowledge Iran's right to enrich. That's not what we have done for the past 30 years. That's the standard American practice. We don't recognize, as mentioned, Brazil's right to enrich, but we don't object to it in practice.

MCMAHON: Thank you for the question. Operator, do we have another question, please?

OPERATOR: Yes, sir. Our next question comes from Jonathan Broder with the Congressional Quarterly.

QUESTION: Yes, hi, Ray. I was wondering if we could go back to something you mentioned earlier about the different ways in which Israel and Saudi Arabia view this agreement. What are the -- if you could just give your thoughts about the -- let's say the American-Israeli relationship going forward, what are Israel's options now? Is military strike during the next six months a likely option? Is its only a real weapon against the agreement the use of friendly congresspeople? And also, what would be the options for Saudi Arabia over the next six months?

TAKEYH: My suspicion is that, you know, both parties are going to register their complaints, and I suspect there will be much more dialogue between United States and Israel and United States and the gulf countries, the GCC countries writ large. There will be much more of a accelerated consultation level.

You know, I think Prime Minister Netanyahu has concerns that are legitimate and they have to be taken into consideration, and they're likely to be part of a lot of discussion between the two parties. But I'm not expecting a great sort of movement by either party for the next six months, whether it's Saudis, in terms of oil policies, or Israelis, in terms of a military action of any sort.

I think they're both going to try to figure out how this process unfolds and try to inject some of their concerns into the 5-plus-one negotiating platforms. Whether all these red lines can be squared away, I'm not sure.

Now, after the six months, Israelis probably want to see what happens immediately then. The agreement has a provision in it that says if the two parties don't come to term after six months, they can by mutual agreement extend these negotiations for another six months. I think you'll begin to see more complaints by Israelis at that time, if they're -- because they're concerned that a provisional agreement can become a permanent one and the process can drag out.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MCMAHON: Ray, the question also included a reference to U.S. Congress. Do you see Congress injecting any sort of wild card in the next six months or not necessarily?

TAKEYH: Oh, I suspect you'll see some legislation coming from the Hill, but they're likely to give the executive branch some sort of a leeway in terms of how it wants to do things. That's another thing that the executive branch has to do, is have more of a sustained dialogue with the Hill and try to work out some sort of a cooperative means of moving forward.

You know, I suspect that will work out, even though there might be some sort of concerns between the two sides that are difficult to reconcile at this point. I suspect the Hill will give the administration the room it wants, and the administration has to give the Hill the deference that it requires.

MCMAHON: Thank you. Operator, do we have another call on the line, please?

OPERATOR: Yes, sir. Our next question comes from Chandrakant Pancholi with Overseas India Weekly.

QUESTION: Hi. I have a few questions. Let me start with the first one, that -- can you guess, what are the reasons, political or social, that is forcing Iran to come to the negotiating table or why they came to the negotiating table and if the sanctions worked? Because it didn't work against Cuba.

And, secondly, about enrichment of uranium, do you think that they have enough uranium to make atom bombs and they can test them? Or if not, how much time -- how much more time do you think that they have? And about inspections, now, they have played games with -- with United Nations agency for long, long time, and if we have a provision in the agreement to extend this agreement further again, will -- it will keep going on, because Iran is expert at playing games, right? Keep extending, keep extending, and keep talking, as they used to do with IAEA.

And about Saudi Arabia, do you think that is partly -- it is a Shia-Sunni problem that the Shias will be increasing their influence now because Saudi Arabia is like strongest nation in the Middle East? And...

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON: OK, we're going to -- we're going to -- we've got a lot of questions lined up there, so thank you. I think we heard about what brought Iran back to the table, first of all, as well as questions about its capacity for weaponizing and -- why don't we start with those two, Ray, please?

QUESTION: OK.

TAKEYH: My guess is that sanctions had an important role in bringing them back to the table. That doesn't mean they're going to abandon all the red lines, but nevertheless they had to make some adjustments in terms of their diplomatic posture.

In terms of previous violations with IAEA, that's always a concern. And that's why I think you're going to see a much more insistence on inspection regimes, which are intrusive and so forth. So, you know, I think all those things are taken into account as this moves forward.

The inspection regime is likely to be rigorous. No inspection regime is likely to be perfect. And so I don't think the agreement can rest on the intrusiveness of inspection regime, but I think in the final agreement, if there is going to be one, the United States, at least, and I'm sure French and others, as well, will insist on restrictions on the size of the Iranian program. That's going to be big next fight, because presumably Iranians would want flexibility in terms of how they can grow their program and the 5-plus-one would want to retard that flexibility.

So they may insist on things like, you know, you can't have advanced centrifuges and so on, and the Iranians may say, well, that's what we require for modernization of our program. These issues are down the line.

MCMAHON: Got it, thank you. Operator, do we have another question on the line, please?

OPERATOR: Yes, sir. Our next question comes from Garrett Mitchell with the Mitchell Report.

QUESTION: Thanks very much, Ray, for doing this. You made reference to this earlier in the discussion, but I want to just come back to it, if I could, and that is, when we were in the midst of the war in Iraq and trying to anticipate what it would be like when things were over -- you know, the saying was it's not going to be Switzerland, but maybe it's Turkey. And my question is, if one -- if, for the sake of discussion only, we assume that this agreement leads to a second and leads to a third and -- and there is a relatively positive arc that develops over some period of time.

Is it possible to -- in your mind -- imagine under -- I won't say the best of circumstances, but the best of circumstances with Iran, what -- what kind of relationship that the United States and the West generally might have? I mean, what -- what other relationships in global politics today or in the recent past might it mimic?

TAKEYH: Well, I suspect the best you can do is have some sort of a managed conflict. The tensions are too deep. They're not just historical; they're ideological. The two parties are on different sides of a lot of issues in the Middle East, and they're likely to continue to be.

People tend to forget that the relationship with the shah was a very complicated, prickly one. I mean, shah was there in terms of increasing oil prices in '73, and shah also did not want United States to have substantial presence in the Persian Gulf, because he viewed that as his own sort of a periphery. So there's some continuities between the two -- obviously, Islamic Republic has a whole layer of ideological animosities to West and its values and so forth.

So I'm not quite sure if there is sort of an analogy here that works. Perhaps something is Soviet-American relations, when you get to there from the cold Cold War of the 1940s to sort of a better Cold War of the 1960s, but I don't see the detente of the 1970s and the cooperation of the 1980s.

MCMAHON: Thank you for the question. Operator, do we have another question on the line, please?

OPERATOR: Yes, sir. Our last question comes from Martin Klingst with Die Zeit.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you. Die Zeit, German newspaper. Do you see the danger that the sanction regime could unravel after six months because there will be a fight about the question whether Iran has complied to the interim agreement and there might be no different interpretations and, as a consequence, the sanction regime might unravel? Thank you.

TAKEYH: I suspect, at least on the European front, the sanctions regime is going to hold, because -- because of E.U. regulations and because of the legal nation of the European states. There might be some shifts on the margins on the Asian markets, not so much on South Korea, Japan, but China, Malaysia, and some of those countries.

But overall, I suspect that it will require effort and it will require some degree of playing both confidence-building measures and sanctions maintained -- made in the -- there's going to be some tension between the two, but I'm not sure if for the next six months that's insolvable tensions, unresolvable tension. I think it can be managed.

But, you know, Iran is going to make some economic gains during this period, both in terms of relief and the psychological substance that comes with it, so its economy is going to be improved. That's why they're at the table, to gain improvement of their economy. That's not unusual.

MCMAHON: Do you think, Ray, the reversible aspect of those sanctions might be exaggerated in that they might be more difficult to reverse than...

(CROSSTALK)

TAKEYH: No, I think you can always impose the insurance ban back on. I mean, the access they get, whatever it is, $3 billion, $5 billion, that's not coming back, but that's not substantial for a national economy of a country with 75 million people. And in terms of purchases of oil that are static, as opposed to declining, that might be difficult to reverse, but, you know, it's not improbable.

So, you know, the overall sanctions system is going to -- is going to get some battering, but I suspect in its essentials and its fundamentals, it may hold.

MCMAHON: Well, and I think we're going to end on that note, actually. This has been a Council on Foreign Relations on-the-record media conference call with Ray Takeyh, CFR senior fellow, on the issue of the Iran nuclear deal. I want to thank all of you for taking part in this call, and especially to Ray Takeyh for giving us his time. It's been an excellent assessment of the issues now facing the world on this important question.

Ray, thank you, and thanks, all, for being on the call.

TAKEYH: Sure, thanks.

OPERATOR: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. This concludes today's teleconference. You may now disconnect.

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Op-Ed

Playing Small on Iran

Author: Ray Takeyh
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The United States must stop underestimating its power in order to reach a negotiated nuclear settlement with Iran, according to Ray Takeyh.