Supreme Leader’s cold shoulder to nuke framework shows need for Congressional action

By: Alireza Jafarzadeh, The HILL, April 14, 2015

As the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is preparing to debate and vote on the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, the pro-Tehran lobby inside the Beltway has been attacking Congress, arguing that such a bill would undermine the framework agreement reached in Lausanne.

Ironically, it was the Supreme Leader of the Iranian regime, Ali Khamenei, who on April 9, undermined the Lausanne accord, describing it as “nothing” worth taking a position about. “Everything done so far neither guarantees an agreement in principle nor its contents, nor does it guarantee that the negotiations will continue to the end,” he said. He rejected gradual sanctions relief and intrusive inspections, two of the key elements of the framework agreement.

Sanctions “should be lifted all together on the same day of the agreement, not six months or one year later,” Khamenei said.

Khamenei repeated the Iranian regime’s long-standing position that all military sites are off limits to inspectors, “country’s military officials are not permitted at all to allow the foreigners to cross these boundaries or stop the country’s defensive development under the pretext of supervision and inspection.”

Khamenei’s remarks sharply contrast with what President Obama declared at the Rose Garden that “Iran has also agreed to the most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated for any nuclear program in history.” It The Supreme Leader also disputed the U.S. version of the framework agreement, that says “Iran will be required to grant access to the IAEA to investigate suspicious sites or allegations of a covert enrichment facility, conversion facility, centrifuge production facility, or yellowcake production facility anywhere in the country.”

Three conclusions can be drawn out of Khamenei’s remarks, which were in large part echoed by the regime’s president, Hassan Rouhani.

First, given the crippling impact of the sanctions, the Supreme Leader is far more desperate to get the sanctions lifted than when the talks started. The Supreme Leader feels threatened by his own population. This shows that under no circumstances should the United States abandon the leverage of sanctions.

Second, the Supreme Leader has no intension of giving up the nuclear weapons program, because he does not feel he has to. He came to the negotiation table primarily as a result of international sanctions and for the purpose of lifting them.

Khamenei’s decision not to oppose the framework of understanding was prompted by operation “Decisive Storm” against Tehran’s proxies in Yemen, the crippling impact of the sanctions, the explosive state of Iranian society, and the pending legislations by Congress.

The Supreme Leader remains intent to buy time, seek more concessions, and keep the pathway to the Bomb wide open. His comment that “if the sanctions removal depends on other processes, then why did we start the negotiations?” means he wants the sanctions lifted without complying with what it takes to do so.

By passing additional language, Congress has an extremely important role to play in giving President Obama the additional leverage he now lacks.

Third, the only way for the United States and its international partners to block Iran’s pathway to a nuclear bomb is to force it to comply with all UN Security Council resolutions. If the P 5+1 chooses to pursue the talks, it should insist on the following in the final comprehensive agreement:

a) Given Tehran’s three-decade history denial, deception and duplicity, the cost for smallest incremental violations should be significant and quickly enforceable. Otherwise, the mere signing of the agreement, if it ever happens, will only ensure that Tehran will engage in another round of nuclear shell game. The standard for inspections should be snap-inspections, without the ability for Iran to veto or drag on the process. The litmus test is to give immediate access, in the first stage, to Parchin, SPND headquarters, and Lavizan-3 sites, and allow the IAEA to interview the nuclear scientists, including Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

b) Iran’s satisfactory and full response to a dozen outstanding questions related to Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) should become a central element of any compliance regime. Failure to do so should trigger additional punitive measurements.

c) The stockpile of enriched uranium can be significantly reduced if it is shipped out of the country. Other options would leave the path open for cheating and denying the intended outcome.

d) No research and development on advanced centrifuges should be allowed as it would enable Tehran to race toward the bomb at the time of its choosing.

Jafarzadeh is the deputy director of the Washington office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which is credited with exposing Iranian nuclear sites in Natanz and Arak in 2002, triggering International Atomic Energy Agency inspections. He is the author of “The Iran Threat” (Palgrave MacMillan: 2008). His email is