8 questions on Iran for Secretary Kerry

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Article Highlights

  • Why is terrorism not mentioned in the agreement with Iran?

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  • Is it your view that sanctions against Iran can be lifted in light of Iran’s ongoing support for Assad?

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  • Explain why the American people should take comfort in this sort of hair-splitting.

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The federal government is closed, but today’s House Foreign Affairs Committee Iran hearing with SecState Kerry is ON. It’s a first chance for Congress to publicly question the secretary about the unpopular deal. Unpopular, you ask? Well, yes. Neither Republicans nor Democrats, nor, apparently, the American people think much of it. Why the doubts?  Many suspect the deal is good news for only one party. Today will be Kerry’s chance to change their minds. Here are eight questions he must answer:

  1. Six UN Security Council resolutions demand a suspension of all Iranian enrichment because of doubts about the nature of Iran’s nuclear program and its failure to comply with obligations undertaken under the safeguards agreements of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is party. But the deal struck with Iran last month not only allows Iran to continue to enrich, it also envisions a final agreement in which Iran has “a mutually defined enrichment program with mutually agreed parameters consistent with practical needs.” Iran insists it has a “right” to enrichment; the US insists it does not, and Administration spokesmen claim that one of the virtues of this agreement is that they did not accede to Iran’s insistence that it has such a right. While the agreement may not explicitly “recognize” that Iran has a “right to enrich,” it clearly accepts that Iran is going to enrich, both now and in the future. Explain why the American people should take comfort in this sort of hair-splitting, and what practical difference their claimed success on this issue is going to make for future enrichment in Iran.
  2. Iran has been suspected of doing work on weaponization at its Parchin facility, to which it has refused IAEA access and which it has spent considerable time purging, going so far as to take away a layer of earth to conceal its activities. The word Parchin is not mentioned in the agreement with Iran; presumably this is left to the IAEA. Relief from sanctions is not predicated on IAEA satisfaction with Iranian cooperation. Rather, “The E3+3 and Iran will be responsible for conclusion and implementation of mutual near-term measures and the comprehensive solution in good faith. A Joint Commission of E3/EU+3 and Iran will be established to monitor the implementation of the near-term measures and address issues that may arise, with the IAEA responsible for verification of nuclear-related measures. The Joint Commission will work with the IAEA to facilitate resolution of past and present issues of concern.” Is it your view that failure to open Parchin, provide access to nuclear scientists, and otherwise address fully all open questions regarding Iranian nuclear projects (including many not mentioned in this agreement) will mean no lifting of sanctions?
  3. Earlier this year, the Pentagon expressed concern regarding Iranian work on ICBMs capable of reaching the US. The UN Security Council has voted to require Iran to end this work. It is well known that Iran has broadened the reach of its missiles and has sought to miniaturize nuclear weapons for a missile payload. Yet Iran’s delivery programs are not mentioned in the agreement. Is it your view that Iran can continue work on its ICBM program, notwithstanding binding UN Security Council requirements?
  4. Last weekend, President Obama said that the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program is not achievable. Is it your view that the current Iranian regime has a record of trustworthy behavior such that a nuclear program should be permitted?
  5. Was the US aware of the Natanz enrichment facility, or did it discover it after the fact? Was the US aware of the Fordow enrichment facility, or did it discover it after the fact? Was the US aware of the Arak heavy water reactor, or did it discover it after the fact? Can you today assure the American people and the US Congress that Iran has no secret nuclear facility, either in Iran or on foreign soil?
  6. You have suggested that in 2003, Iran made an offer to “do major things with respect to their [nuclear] program.” The Washington Post awards that claim three pinnocchios, judging it to be largely false. The former National Security Adviser and other senior officials deny the offer was legitimate. Whom do you believe?
  7. Iran is designated by the Department of State as a state sponsor of terrorism. Iran is the founder and continued supporter of Hezbollah, which, until 9/11, was the terrorist group responsible for the deaths of more Americans than any other. Iran also supports Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and a variety of other terrorist groups operating throughout the world. Is it your view that if Iran comes into compliance with IAEA and UN demands on its nuclear program, all sanctions can be lifted notwithstanding Iran’s support for terrorism? Why is terrorism not mentioned in the agreement with Iran?
  8. Iran is funding, arming, and supporting Bashar al Assad’s forces in Syria. Is it your view that sanctions against Iran can be lifted in light of Iran’s ongoing support for Assad, who is responsible for the deaths of more than 100,000 people?
  9. The agreement provides that the final deal will “have a specified long-term duration to be agreed upon.” Obviously that duration is something that remains to be negotiated, but does this mean that the Obama Administration has promised Iran that it can look forward to a time in the future when its ability to enrich uranium and reprocess plutonium will be subject to no international restrictions at all other than ordinary IAEA safeguards? If so, can you assure the American people that Iran will be subject to agreed restrictions on its ability to produce fissile material for at least the next twenty years? For at least the next ten years?
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About the Author



  • As a long-time Senate Committee on Foreign Relation senior professional staff member for the Near East and South Asia, Danielle Pletka was the point person on Middle East, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan issues. As the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at AEI, Pletka writes on national security matters with a focus on Iran and weapons proliferation, the Middle East, Syria, Israel and the Arab Spring. She also studies and writes about South Asia: Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.

    Pletka is the co-editor of “Dissent and Reform in the Arab World: Empowering Democrats” (AEI Press, 2008) and the co-author of “Containing and Deterring a Nuclear Iran” (AEI Press, 2011) and “Iranian influence in the Levant, Egypt, Iraq, and Afghanistan” (AEI Press, 2012). Her most recent study, “America vs. Iran: The competition for the future of the Middle East,” was published in January 2014.


    Follow Danielle Pletka on Twitter.

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    Email: dpletka@aei.org
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