Media Call on Framework Agreement to Limit Iran's Nuclear Program

Friday, April 3, 2015
Brendan Smialowski/Courtesy Reuters

Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies

Michael Levi

David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment and Director of the Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies

David E. Sanger

National Security Correspondent, New York Times

Ray Takeyh, CFR senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies, and Michael A. Levi, CFR director of the Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies, join the New York Times' David E. Sanger to discuss the framework agreement to limit Iran's nuclear program. 

SANGER: Thanks very much. This is David Sanger. I'm still in Lausanne. The hotel has suddenly been emptied of six countries' worth of—really seven countries' worth of—of people. But we're left with lots of interesting questions and analysis here.

And lucky to have Ray Takeyh and Michael Levi joining us.

Ray, as you know, is the senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies; Michael, the director of the Maurice Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies.

And so the theory here is I'm just going to start off with a couple of questions based on my coverage. I've been here now for eight or nine days. And we'll get a couple of answers going from Ray and Michael, and then open this up to—to everybody.

So we'll start with you, Ray. So as you...


SANGER: ... look at the agreement as it was announced yesterday, in slightly different versions, by the U.S. and the P5+1 and then, of course, by Minister Zarif, what strikes you as what's workable and what strikes you as what's vulnerable?

TAKEYH: They seemed to have made progress on the notions of enrichment capacity and dealing with Iraq plans.

I mean, if you look at the two versions that were produced, one by the White House fact sheet and the other one by the Iranians themselves, they do have some differences. The Iranians are much more insistent that the sunset clause is 10 years. There's no place in the Iranian fact sheet, if you would, that suggests 15 years or anything beyond that.

They suggest, particularly on sanctions relief, that all U.S., U.N., and EU sanctions will essentially be listed immediately. And they go through the list of all of the sanctions—insurance, oil, banking, and all that.

And they seem to suggest that they have a right to, within that 10-year period, to do research and development of entire spectrum of centrifuges, including IRAs, which move at 14 times higher than their current centrifuge machines.

And there is no mention in the Iranian account of downblending or reducing their stock of low-enriched uranium down to 300 kilograms, or whatever it is.

So there are some omissions on the Iranian side. And in that sense there's some differences. Now at this early stage, for the two countries to have different interpretations of the commitments they just undertaken is a bit puzzling, but they don't seem to be singing from the same song sheet.

But, you know, the agreement has...

SANGER: They're also not contradicting each other, Ray, is that right? I mean, most of the things you described were errors of—either errors of or deliberate omissions from the Persian version as a result, rather than a contradiction of what's in the U.S. version.

TAKEYH: Well, I think the contradictions—there is one area of contradiction, that's on sanctions relief. Which leads me to believe that that issue has not been resolved yet.

SANGER: And they said as much yesterday.

TAKEYH: Yeah. And on that one they seem...


SANGER: Secretary (ph) Kerry said it.

TAKEYH: Yeah. On that one they seem to be in assertedly (ph) different places.

And also, at the end of the day, in September of—July of 2013, Ali Khamenei laid down his red lines. His red lines were that no facilities will be closed. There'll be no suspension of the activities. And that Iran would have a right to an industrial-sized nuclear program to meet its domestic energy needs. This agreement kind of fits those broad parameters that he laid out.

And that's been another aspect of the Iranian talking points at home, is that we essentially conformed to the red lines that we established in the aftermath of President Rouhani's election and the important speech—the—the famous 190,000 SWU speech that Ali Khamenei gave to the Atomic Energy Organization members in I believe it was July of 2013.  


Michael, when you look at this, one element of it I wanted to ask you about just with your energy hat on, the Iranians basically agree to spend the next 10 years using 1970s-style or only operating 1970s-style IR-1s, which are basically derived from the old Pakistani P-1.

So they'll be running inefficiently, and Minister Zarif left the possibility at the press conference yesterday that they would take their excess stock and actually sell them on the open markets. So talk to us a little bit about the implications of those two things.

LEVI: Continuing to use the IR-1s is obviously inefficient, but it's also inefficient for Iran to have a fully domestic nuclear power program. So I think assessing this on the basis of economic efficiency leads us into—into the wrong direction. They want to maintain an enrichment complex so that they have the option to try and grow in the future. They want to maintain it because it would be humiliating to get rid of it. And I think that's a better way to understand why it's acceptable to stick with these IR-1s for the next decade.

When it comes to selling this internationally, that is as much a matter—at least as much a matter of domestic politics as anything else. If you think about what's going to happen if this deal is finalized, Iran's increased oil sales on the global market will bring it far more money than whatever it can get by selling this stockpile of low-enriched uranium, which is not in particularly high demand globally.


Ray, tell us a little bit about other elements of this that you believe could either be welcomed by the Iranian people or you think could raise the ire of the hardliners.

TAKEYH: Well, I think almost every aspect of this would be welcomed by the population that's been hard-pressed by the economic measures that have taken against it. I do think some of the reports that have already come out is that there is—there is a measure of excitement about this agreement for a country—for a population that has been sort of isolated from the international community and under economic stress.

And also, as Mike was suggesting, you know, their essential element of national pride was preserved. They maintained their facilities and capabilities and, you know, and in terms of the narrative, there is—after billions of dollars spent on this and after billions of dollars lost in economic opportunities because of this, they do have a national narrative that, you know, in face of this concerted and significant international pressure, you know, we maintain our essential red lines.

So in terms of the hardliners, you know, I—I think the notion of—in terms of real hardliners, they obviously would not want any restrictions on the program. People like—people like, say, Jerry Lee (ph) and the former head of the Atomic Energy Organization, they—they would want to—and the scientific cadre that has been behind this and as an emerging constituency of atomic research.

I think the notion for the members of the Revolutionary Guards and stuff, the notion of inspections is going to be difficult, and that's why I don't think you'll get access to military installations and so on. Other countries, I mean, Mike can speak about this more authoritatively, that have gone through a process of inspection in aftermath of nuclear violations, whether it's South Africa or what have you, even Brazil, for that matter, have made available their national institutions, military installations, for—for inspection.

I don't think that's going to be in the cards. I—I do think this agreement will provide more visibility into the life-cycle of the nuclear cycle, you know, from mining and milling. But in terms of access to facilities that are, like, Parchin-type facilities, I'm not sure if that will be permitted.


Michael, Ray mentioned briefly the entry of Iranian oil on the marketplace here. We've got a marketplace right now that's been down near pretty remarkably oil prices. The Russians can't be thrilled that Iran will be back on the market. Tell us a little bit about the implications.

LEVI: I mean, most analysts looking at this are highly skeptical that you will see Iranian oil back on the market in any meaningful way this year. And I think a lot of them are skeptical you'll even see a meaningful addition in the first half of next year.

And there are a couple of reasons for that. The first is it's going to take a while to finalize a deal if a deal does get finalized. There's obviously a June 30th deadline, but things could drag beyond that.

Second, we have no clarity, and Ray pointed to this earlier, we have no clarity about how sanctions will be removed, when they will be removed. The Iranians talking about sanctions being removed immediately, the U.S. talking alternately about them being removed once every condition is satisfied or progressively over the course of Iran meeting its obligations.

And we have no idea what order those sanctions would be removed in because we don't only have energy sanctions, we have financial sanctions, we have travel sanctions, we have technology sanctions. So we have a whole host of these.

And on top of all of that, once you do allow Iran back onto the market, it's not a matter of simply flipping a switch and having Iranian oil production kick up a million barrels a day and returning to its previous pace. Some of this takes time, particularly if you don't want to damage the field. And that, again, further delays the re-entry onto the market.

I want to pick up really quickly on this point that Ray made about inspections, as well, because I think one of the most striking things about the agreement is not the set of restrictions on the known facility, particularly Natanz and Fordo, which—which are not all that different from what's been in place under the interim agreement, but the set of restrictions and monitoring measures surrounding the supply chain.

So both—that's for both on the uranium mining and milling, but also on things like centrifuge production and storage, even going so far as to set up a dedicated procurement channel so that—so that it's clear that anything going outside of it is illegitimate.

Those are—those address some of the worries that have, I think, really bedeviled U.S. negotiators and U.S. national security planners for a long time. And to me, that is—that's a particularly important and to a lot of people I think surprising part of what the framework that's being out there.

SANGER: Good. Well, we've gotten a good couple of observations going. Let's open this up to our callers.

And Operator, do you have a listing there to begin to call on folks?

OPERATOR: Yes, certainly. At this time we will open the floor for questions. If anyone would like to ask a question, please press the star key followed by the one key on your touchtone phones 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 questioning queue, just press star-two.

Again, to ask a question, please press star-one.

And our first question comes from Garrett Mitchell (ph) from Metro Report (ph).

QUESTION: Thanks very much for doing this, by the way.

I think that the—the question I'm most interested in at this point, which you made reference to, but I wonder if we could flesh it out just a bit more, is whether the—whether the P5+1 strategy took into account the elements in the potential agreement that would leave Iranian national pride, self-respect, et cetera, in—in relatively good shape.

And whether that augurs well for the likelihood that Khamenei will—will allow this to continue through the end of June. And part of what I'm asking is, are there any—are there any matters that you can think of at this point that could simply derail the process by the Iranians between now and the end of June?

TAKEYH: I just—no, I don't think so. I—I—I don't think the—the supreme leader was unaware of what was happening. And that's what Ali Soulahi (ph) is supposed to do. That—that—that was really his guy at these particular negotiations.

So he was there. Once he's there, you know that Ali Khamenei's equities are protected.

QUESTION: And do you—is it fair to say that—that the—that Iran comes out of this with a relatively strong quotient of sort of national pride and—and an uninjured ego so that—so that the general populace will continue to be supportive as this moves along?

TAKEYH: Yeah, that certainly has been the narrative, that they withstood the pressure, they negotiated on equal footing with the great powers, and they managed to preserve the essentials of their program and are reclaiming their commerce in fast order.

Now whether all that, the latter, happens, I don't know.

OPERATOR: Thank you.

Our next...

SANGER: OK, we'll move onto the next question.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Alan Neuhauser from US News and World Report.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks for doing this.

In the energy and environment sphere, what bargaining chips do you think are on the table as the Obama administration is now faced with lobbying Congress to get lawmakers onboard with this potential deal?

LEVI: I would be very surprised if there were trades between the broader energy and environment sphere and this deal. I think this deal is being considered on its national security merits. And I know I've heard—I've heard people in the energy world float things like is Keystone on the table? But I don't think that's how this works. I think this is a—a very distinct discussion about national security where people aren't going to be making those sorts of trades.

OPERATOR: Thank you.

Our next question comes from Anni Karni from POLITICO.

QUESTION: Hi there, thanks so much for your time.

I wanted to know if you could just explain a little bit, I'm trying to understand, how much of the groundwork for this is Hilary Clinton responsible for? Can you talk a little bit about what she can rightly claim as her legacy for her time in the State Department and—and what her role is, in your opinion?

TAKEYH: Well, I think David can answer that.

SANGER: Oh, I'm sorry, I was on mute there for a minute. It's an interesting question and the—certainly the early days of the secret diplomacy where Jake Sullivan and Bill Burns went off to begin to set this up happened in the last six months of her time in office.

And Mr. Sullivan then continued on as one of the two big interlocutors until probably end of last year or early this year, even after he left the administration, though he's not been involved in these last few rounds, nor was Bill Burns out here.

But I think you can certainly say that she was part of the—the early strategy on having, you know, debated with President Obama on the wisdom of engaging Iran during the campaign, and then moving forward to try to—to make some of those appeals.

QUESTION: And in terms of her, like this is kind of a political question, but do you think it's—will be good for her to take some credit of being part of this or tricky for her to do that? In terms of because we don't know, you know, kind of how this ends up.

SANGER: Yeah. Ray, what's your thought there?

TAKEYH: This is the most controversial arms control agreement that I have seen. And if you grew up—if you grew up in 1980s, like I did, went to school, you can actually major in arms control. This—this—I haven't seen anything this controversial.

The Republican Party has rejected it. I think all its presidential candidates, all 35, 40 of them, have already—have already come out against it. And there's a lot of disquiet among the Democratic legislatures on the Hill. I don't think they'll obstruct (ph) what the president wants to do.

So this is a highly contentious and controversial arms control agreement. And I don't know how you can maneuver all aspects of this politically. I think there's a way around them. You can be supportive and skeptical. I suspect that's the direction (inaudible).

QUESTION: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you.

Our next question comes from Jonathan Landay from McClatchy Newspapers.

QUESTION: Hi, gentlemen. A lot of this—the final outcome seems to be hinged now on the agreement—an agreement on the sanctions, how those be lifted, the—the order in which they will be lifted. Did the sides, as well as one thing that hasn't received a lot of attention is how the issue of the—the PMDs, military aspects of this, are going to be resolved.

Were those basically punted, those issues punted down the road in order to get the agreement that was announced yesterday so that both sides could reap political advantage at home in order—and get sort of the—get momentum behind them rather than risk—than—than risk, you know, a total failure?

TAKEYH: It seems to me that the PMD issue has been kicked down the road. And that is one of the problems with this agreement because you're trying to build a verification regime without historical memory. You don't have—you don't have full accounting of Iran's clandestine activities.

That—that's a problem for any verification measure. But I think that both sides have agreed that that issue is going to be neglected. I don't think that both sides have agreed on this—on the nature and timing of the sanctions relief. The Iranian anticipation—they're certainly saying that to the public today, the sanctions relief, I think President Rouhani's speaking as—as we are, an international broadcast at home.

The Iranian anticipate that sanctions relief will be quick. And they're talking about very specific things—central bank, all designations because of nuclear (ph) infractions, and so on. I don't know—I mean, throughout this process, as David and Mike can say, both sides have been creative when there's an obstacle that seems insurmountable. But they seem to be at very different places on the nature of sanctions relief at this point.

Now you put a bunch of lawyers in the room, I suspect you can work something out, but they seem to have heightened popular expectations about sanctions relief, which is immediate and categorical.

LEVI: Let me reinforce something here. First, so there's this distinction between the PMDs, which seem to—sort of seems to have been permanently kicked down the road. There will be some (inaudible), but it'll be difficult to imagine some—a sort of blasting (ph) moment of clarity coming out of this negotiation.

Whereas with the sanctions they have to sort something out. But it appears that they haven't yet.

And one thing worth emphasizing is that when it comes to financial sanctions, you could be creative up to a point, but part of the—part of the way financial sanctions work is by hitting the confidence of any bank or other institution that would do business with Iran. So you can be clever and sort of try and finesse things, but often that finesse doesn't play through into the compliance operations of the major banks, where if they—where you see an elegant solution, they see enormous uncertainty about whether they're on the right side of a line and they then decide not to engage.

And the ultimate test for the Iranians is not going to be whether the sanctions are legally shifted, it's whether the entities that they need to work with to be part of international commerce are actually willing to do—to do business with them.

And so that might actually work against the possibility of having an elegant (ph) compromise there.

QUESTION: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you.

Our next question comes from Alex Mallin from ABC News.

QUESTION: Hi, yeah, thanks again for doing this, guys.

And just kind of going back to the political side of this, considering what Robert Menendez, what's going to happen with him and I just kind of wanted to see what the—what the expected fate of the Corker-Menendez Bill. And we've already seen a lot of Republicans come out and kind of vow to—to kill this.

What kind of sway does Congress really have over the progress of this framework as it's kind of nailed down? And, I mean, can they kill this on—on its own?

TAKEYH: On the, actually Corker-Menendez-Graham, as—as would suggest, I—I—that—that particular piece of legislation, which actually calls for Congress to review the deal, I think it's 90 days review where if both houses pass a resolution of disapproval then there's send (ph) no sanctions relief.

My impression is, and I don't claim to have a (inaudible) or understand how U.S. Senate works, but my understanding is that there's momentum behind that particular—that particular bill as a legislative vehicle. Kirk-Menendez sanctions bill, I think, has stalled and is—even though that bill has already passed the Banking Committee and a number of Democrats suggested that they would bring it to the floor, my guess is the legislative vehicle is likely to be Corker-Menendez-Graham.

And just two days ago, very quietly, Chuck Schumer cosponsored it. Which leads me to believe that Chuck Schumer doesn't want to vote for Kirk-Menendez sanctions bill, and he has to vote for something. And this something seems to be something that people can gravitate on.

Also it's because institutional prerogatives. I mean, the case that the White House tries to make, namely that it's OK for the Chinese and the Russians to have a say on this deal but not the U.S. Congress is a kind of a weak case. They—they may have a stronger footing on the notion of introducing new sanctions, but the notion that the great democracies like Vladimir Putin's Russia have a say and a vote, but not the U.S. Congress, I think it's a question of how equal, co-equal branches of government deal with these issues.

You know, I think there will be more momentum behind that. But I'm not sure how all that translates into legislative calendar and so on and so forth.

QUESTION: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you.

Our next question comes from Ralph Vartabedian from LA Times.

QUESTION: Hi. I'm just wondering if you could talk for a minute about what you know about how much enriched uranium, low-enriched uranium and medical isotopes Iran would use on an annual basis?

LEVI: So I can—I can speak directly to this. I don't have offhand the numbers of what they'll use on an annual basis. The number that strikes me as important, or the two numbers, are that they're supposed to be restricted to 300 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, enriched up to 3.67 percent. And the amount they will be able to produce with this facility they can keep in place is actually close to that.

So they are going to continuously have to limit the amount of low-enriched uranium they have on hand as the produce it. It's not going to be continuously put into the reactor. That's not how these reactors work.

So they're either going to have to swap it for manufactured fuel from abroad or again try to sell it somehow onto—onto the global market. So that's going to be a sort of tricky act to—to play.

And I'm sure the provisions will have to be written in a way that doesn't allow them to abuse them in some big (ph) way, but also accommodates some of the hiccups that will be involved in that sort of operation.

QUESTION: So as of now, they—they import—they import fuel rods, or manufacture fuel rods? Or do they import...

LEVI: They don't have the capacity to do this themselves. One of the things they were supposed to do under the interim agreement that was put in place while this was all being negotiated was convert their low-enriched uranium, which is in hexafluoride form, into uranium oxide, which can be used to manufacture fuel.

And they have not been successful in that manufacturing. We don't quite know why. It's not supposed to be a hugely difficult process, but they haven't been successful in that.

QUESTION: Interesting. Maybe we could talk about this a little more later. Thank you very much.

OPERATOR: Thank you.

Again, if you would like to ask a question, please press star-one on your phones now.

And our next question comes from Hooman Bakhtiar from Voice of America.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you, gentlemen, for doing this. I appreciate that very much.

There was a news story yesterday suggesting—I mean, quoting a diplomat, an anonymous diplomat saying that parts of this agreement are going to be kept—are not going to be fully disclosed, are going to be under wraps. Do you know anything about that?

TAKEYH: David can speak about this. My understanding is some of the technical annexes are going to be—to be kept private, briefed to members of the Hill and national government, but not publicly released. But I don't know if that's still in play, David?

SANGER: My understanding is that it's still under discussion. They had a hard enough time trying to figure out what they were going to publish out of this because there's no single agreed statement. There are individual statements. But I don't think anybody knows yet or certainly I don't know what they're going to end up doing and publicizing the—the technical agreements.

I think if you've gone through—if you're the Obama administration and you've gone through the past six years of WikiLeaks and Snowden and all that, your confidence level that it would stay out of public view would probably have to be pretty low, right?

TAKEYH: Yeah, when you brief five of the 35 members of Congress, you know.

SANGER: All kinds of—all kinds of things can happen then, yeah.


TAKEYH: There will be five of the 35 versions.

LEVI: I suspect what they don't want to do is put out something public that is essentially a user's guide to creating a broad nuclear program with all sorts of potentially clandestine elements.

Btu at the same time, when you keep an agreement secret, it's a lot tougher to then go and put sanctions back on Iran or punish them in other ways if Iran begins to violate that agreement. So there's a pretty significant tension there.

SANGER: Next question?

OPERATOR: Thank you.

Our next question comes from Lloyd Grove from Daily Beast.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks for doing this.

I have a non-nuclear question. I'm wondering whether Iran's imprisonment of I believe it's four Americans, including the Washington Post Tehran Bureau Chief, Jason Rezaian, might be part of an ultimate agreement. Does anyone have thoughts on whether these—this element could be a part of an agreement?

TAKEYH: As far as I know, this is strictly a nuclear agreement and doesn't affect a range of other disagreements between the two countries. So my instinct is to say no. Now I imagine the American delegation has pressed the Iranians and pressed them often regarding the release of these—these particular prisoners. But I—I don't know if that's a formal part of this. I don't think so, but I don't know.

SANGER: Well, if you go back to the transcript from Secretary Kerry's news conference last night here, he was asked something about this and my memory is, and you should check this wording, was that he said they raise the imprisonment of the Americans every time they meet Iranians, but they have been very careful to keep all kinds of other issues out of this agreement for fear that the Iranians or others would begin trading off non-nuclear issues for nuclear issues. So they haven't dealt with work on ISIS, they haven't dealt with a huge bunch of—range of other issues in this agreement.

QUESTION: All right, thanks a lot.

OPERATOR: Thank you.

Our next question comes from KT McFarland from Fox News.

QUESTION: Hi, (inaudible). I've got a couple of questions on what happens if the agreement does get agreed to. President Obama invoked Reagan and Nixon saying that they had these breakthrough agreements. Well, I worked for both of those guys and when we did our breakthrough agreements, there was always a major incentive for the other side to carry out.

Now what happens down the road if Iran, sanctions having been lifted, you know, U.S. companies, foreign companies doing business with Iran, having contracts with Iran, what incentive does Iran have to keep to the terms of the agreement three or four or five years down the road?

TAKEYH: I'll just say, this—if I were a member of the Iranian national security establishment, I would adhere to this agreement because under it you can develop your advanced centrifuges, you can make sure your IR-8s are ready to go. And after expiration of the sunset clause you can essentially introduce machines that can enrich uranium with efficiency and velocity.

And if you want to then move to a weapons capacity, you can do so, and meantime you have your commerce and your trade, which gives you great ability to project your power abroad and satisfy necessary constituencies at home. It kind of makes sense from their perspective to adhere to it.

But, you know, the—the fact that this agreement may be violated is not—is not unusual from the Iranian side. As Wendy Sherman once said, lying is in their genetic makeup.

So I can see some violation taking place. But the dirty little secret about arms control agreements is their incremental violations are actually not enforceable. I mean, if they violate something, there's not much the international community is likely to do. So you may get away with some weaponization research here and there, and—but the smart move for them is to—is to actually adhere to an agreement, which does have some advantages for them.

LEVI: Just to add one technical point. You talked about U.S.—KT, you talked about U.S. companies going back in and doing a lot of business. That's not what is going to happen under this.

It's important to distinguish the sanctions that have been put in place pursuant to the nuclear activity, and all of the other sanctions that were in place for other reasons. And this deal doesn't address that other set of sanctions, which is what has kept most U.S. companies out of doing business with Iran for a very long time.

TAKEYH: Well, this is actually—let me just pick up on that because I don't know how that works actually. The Iranian government says central bank sanctions that were imposed by the United States on the central bank have to be lifted. The U.S. Congress's position that central bank sanctions are not nuclear sanctions but they have to do with terrorism and illicit financing and so forth.

Now I don't know how that works. Also, the United States government has usually dealt with Iranian aggression or aggressiveness not by employing force against Iran, but by imposing sanctions on them, on issues of terrorism and so on.

This agreement commits the United States statutorily and legally to unwind its sanctions regime in important ways. And so the next president of the United States is going to have a limited menu of coercive means to deal and discipline Iran's behavior on terrorism and human rights. It's the administration talking point that human rights and terrorism sanctions will remain. I don't know how that works because they're so—they're so—they're so entangled with one another if you read the Congressional legislation.

So if we are committed to, for instance, de-designating (ph) Iranian banks, including central bank, you know, how to—can you reimpose that sanction if you want to punish Iran for terrorism in downtown Washington?

So it's not easy to say nuclear sanctions will be lifted but important human rights and terrorism sanctions will remain. For all practical purposes, the sanctions regime is being unwind. And therefore using economic sanctions to discipline Iran's misbehavior in other area is going to be difficult if not improbable.

OPERATOR: Thank you.

Our next question comes from Tony Cavin from CBS News.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you for doing this.

I actually sort of want to follow up with that. You haven't mentioned—I think the points you've made about differing interpretations of the lift of the sanctions are interesting, but nobody's mentioned the EU approach to this. And is there any light (ph) between the U.S. and the EU on lifting sanctions, and the timeline for that?

And is that something that the Iranians may be playing off of?

TAKEYH: Well, the EU sanctions, the European Union sanctions were imposed in 2010 in the aftermath of the passage of U.N. security resolution 1929.

And they—they—that's a more clear-cut nuclear infraction. So I suspect those sanctions will be lifted and you'll see, if the European oil companies want to purchase Iranian oil, they could. Lloyd's of London and other can proceed with insuring Iranian cargo ships. They could. SWIFT, which is a means of transferring finances, is likely to go as well. Because that's not—there's a Congressional aspect of this that may make it difficult.

But the Europeans are committed to—it's a more clear-cut case of sanctions relief in the European case because they don't have national measures. They have this EU sanctions umbrella.

OPERATOR: Thank you.

Our next question comes from Claudia Rosett from (ph).

QUESTION: Thank you very much. A further question about increment—potential incremental violations and sanctions. The administration is talking about snapback sanctions if there are violations detected.

But can you tell us anything about how that would work in practice? In other words, what, the entire sanctions regime, would the designations of old companies and individuals be resurrected? Because it's been—we have now an SDM (ph) list that has hundreds of entities on it.

So in practice, how would this actually work?

LEVI: The way it's been laid out, and the agreement as it's announced is that the—so the basic legal architecture would remain in place. These would be suspended, but that the suspension could be—could be reversed.

I suspect that Congress, to the extent that it goes along with this sort of agreement, would like something where the president certifies every so often that Iran is complying, and if he doesn't make that certification, then these sanctions automatically come—come back into place.

In practice, any—any violation of this agreement is going to turn into a diplomatic discussion. And U.S. policymakers are going to have to calculate how big the violation is. Is it something they want to put sanctions back into place over? What sanctions will they want to put back into place? And that makes it ultimately difficult to imagine some sort of massive snapping back. I know they've been using this phrase "snapback" a lot.

But it's difficult to imagine something that's quite so automatic as that phrasing suggests.

TAKEYH: I will say...


SANGER: Claudia, David Sanger, and just a quick observation. The hardest of the snapback debates, or at least of what we were briefed here, actually has to do with the U.N. sanctions, which got to (ph) a Russian sensitivity about how this is done.

Ray, you probably know more about this than I do.

TAKEYH: No, I think that's right. The Russians don't want snapback U.N. sanctions because that essentially dilutes their veto power. And that's—and—and that's a big problem. But overall I tend to agree with the notion that it's difficult to reconstitute a sanctions regime in aftermath of this agreement. It's difficult to maintain the sanctions regime in absence of that agreement.

The basic point is what the Stu Levy legacy is likely to be crumbling now in terms of the sanctions architecture that he laid down. No matter how this issue works out.

OPERATOR: Thank you.

Again, to ask a question, please press star-one on your phones now. Again, that is star-one to ask a question.

Our next question comes from Simon Marks from Feature Story News.

QUESTION: Thanks very much. And thanks very much, guys, for doing this. Very helpful.

I want to go back to the inspection arrangements. The president described them yesterday as the most intrusive ever. Is there justification for making that claim? Do we have any sense of how these inspection arrangements are going to stack up, for example, when compared to those that were in place in Iraq or elsewhere?

And does the framework suggest that there will not be, as the Wall Street Journal suggests this morning, any pursuit of anywhere, anytime provisions in the inspection regime, as we move towards the final agreement?

TAKEYH: I'll say this—as you mentioned, the UNSCOM sanctions on Iraq imposed in the aftermath of the First Gulf War are the most intrusive sanctions. They were anytime, any place, and essentially they were written in a manner that United States had a right to punish Iraq if it saw violation of those without recourse back to the Security Council.

But that was essentially sanctions that were imposed once Iraq had been defeated in the war and was signing an armistice agreement.

In case of South Africa, they (AUDIO GAP) submit to kind of any time, any place sanctions, but that was a country that was determined to essentially come back to international fold after its—its nuclear issue. And Brazil, the additional protocol has involved access to military facilities.

I don't know. This has to be kind of explicated about what kind of an inspection regime you have. As I understand it, this inspection regime falls within the additional protocol. People think additional protocol is something that everybody agrees on. Additional protocol is negotiated specifically and individually for each country. So that's going to be something that's got to be negotiated over the next several months, next three, four months.

But I—I'm very doubtful that we'll have access to Iranian military facilities.

LEVI: Just to say, I mean, I agree with Ray. It was a strange comment to make that this would be a sort of unprecedented—particularly when you compare it to the inspections regime that was in place in Iraq. There are elements of it that are unprecedented. Again, particularly ones focusing on the supply chain and on continuous monitoring, or something close to that there.

But there—there are clearly other elements that have been in place in other—in other transparency and oversight arrangements in the past as part of agreements like this or that—that are not—that are not here.

QUESTION: Thanks very much.

OPERATOR: Thank you everyone for your participation. At this time we have no further questions. I'd like to turn the call back over to David Sanger for any closing remarks.

SANGER: Great. Thank you to both Ray and to Mike for their insights here. This is just the beginning of a conversation that's going to take place in many places, Washington and Congress, for sure, but Tehran, for sure, as well. And so we look forward to returning to this very soon.

Thanks very much, everybody.

TAKEYH: Thanks.

LEVI: Thanks.

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


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