Arms Control Wonk ArmsControlWonk

 

A “free” vote on Capitol Hill is one without negative consequences. Republicans and Democrats can line up with party activists and showboat without risk because they will be unsuccessful. Hard decisions can be sidestepped and political posturing is easy when negative consequences are blocked by the U.S. Constitution’s separation of powers.

Republicans have proven to the party faithful their sincere opposition to Obamacare by voting against it over fifty times. They were free votes because opponents couldn’t override a Presidential veto. When conservative activists turned to the Courts, Chief Justice John Roberts bailed out Republicans from earning the wrath of millions of Americans left without coverage, facing steep and sudden rate increases. By voting against Obamacare and failing to kill it, Republicans can blame rate increases and public dissatisfaction with health care on the Democrats.

Democrats on Capitol Hill demonstrated their sincere opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact by voting against fast-tracking it, to the satisfaction of the energized, populist wing of their party. These votes didn’t entail the loss of export-related jobs to high hourly-wage countries because the White House was subsequently (and predictably) able to cobble together enough pro-trade Democrats to join most Republicans in reversing course.

Partisan divides on Capitol Hill have become the norm. The rest of the world can look on with bemusement at divisions over Obamacare and other domestic policy issues. But when partisan divides occur on national security issues, America’s friends are not amused and adversaries look for ways to take advantage. The debate on the Iran deal now taking shape is emblematic of what ails Washington. Opposition to the Iran deal, mostly along partisan lines, is sincerely held, but the issue here isn’t sincerity; it’s the herd instinct and the absence of better alternatives.

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After months of negotiations, the EU3+3 and Iran have signed a nuclear agreement. Jeffrey was so excited he got up at 3:30 in the morning California time to get a jump on reading the 159 page document. Meanwhile, Europe based Aaron read it over coffee at a cafe outside. All in all, the JCPOA looks a lot like the US fact sheet after Lausanne – and that is a good thing!

In today’s episode, Aaron and Jeffrey talk about the merits of the deal, why we should have cared more about Cyprus, and Iran’s Fordow compromise. The discussions also touches on the missile issue, as well Russia’s cornering of the Iranian conventional weapons market. On it merits, the agreement is good for nonproliferation, but will do little to help solve the region’s security problems. But based on the deal’s original intent – sanctions relief for greater access to Iranian nuclear sites – the agreement achieves what it set out to do.

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This assessment of the core monitoring provisions of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is necessarily hurried and preliminary. I invite ACW readers to weigh in with their comments. The text of key provisions follows my first-cut assessment.

The agreement’s provisions are extremely complex and detailed. Reading the fine print brings flashbacks of the most detailed nuclear arms reduction provisions negotiated between the Kremlin and the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. All of this is new. At the outset of these negotiations, no one expected constraints this deep or this long.

Detail, complexity and novelty lend themselves to hiccups, even if everyone is acting in good faith. If opponents of this deal decide to legislate their interpretations and preferences of agreed provisions, there will be endless grounds for alleging violations. Even if they do not, there will be repeated charges of Iranian noncompliance, whether warranted or not. Sorting through these issues behind closed doors will not produce prompt rebuttals. If Tehran does not go the extra mile to clarify that concerns over noncompliance are unwarranted, there will be choppy passages ahead. Tehran’s willingness to go the extra mile will depend, in turn, on whether the United States is carrying out the deal’s terms in good faith.

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I’ve got a new column up at Foreign Policy on the Iran deal. Sadly, while we made this nice graphic, we couldn’t use it. So, I am sharing it with you here, dear readers.

I also think you should read Michael Krepon’s series on the deal: 1, 2.

 
 

The text of the nuclear limitation agreement with Iran (AKA “The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action”) has been released and can be found here [link fixed]. Several key provisions are reprinted below. I’ll post key verification provisions separately, with my assessment of their utility.

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I am getting punchy waiting for an Iran deal.  In case you are confused/annoyed/amused by the interchangeable use of E3/EU+3 and P5+1.

 
 

Now that the negotiating endgame for a nuclear limitation agreement with Iran has been extended to July 7th, critics and kibitzers have had an extra seven days to push, prod and excoriate the Obama administration. It’s far easier to criticize an agreement-in-progress for not being good enough than to defend it – even when the outlines of the deal negotiated in early June were surprisingly good.

Critics and kibitzers fall into various camps. There are “friendlies,” “wary-ies,” and “hostiles.” The Washington Institute issued a public statement by an influential group of “friendlies” and “wary-ies” itemizing details where the Obama administration needed to be bucked up. One friendly, Bob Einhorn, subsequently amplified that none of these benchmarks were “poison pills.” But if they aren’t met, Bob could be wrong.

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After a four week absence, Aaron returns to the show to discuss the current state of the Middle East and related nonproliferation challenges/concerns. The wide ranging conversation touches on the prevailing stability-instability paradox, the Saudi Air War in Yemen, Scud hunting difficulties, the proliferation of ballistic missiles in the Gulf, and why the Saudis can probably build a Bomb – but won’t because most states don’t choose build nuclear weapons.

It also wades into the mess in Syria and sorts through the concerns about the Islamic State’s overrunning of Syrian nuclear sites, and whether or not Bashar al Assad stashed fuel rods in Hezbollahstan

Sorry, Fareed: Saudi Arabia Can Build a Bomb Any Damn Time It Wants To | Foreign Policy by Jeffrey

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CNS made some beautiful 3D models of Iran’s IR-1, IR-2M, and IR-4 centrifuges for the NTI website. These weren’t easy to make. Fortunately, we have some smart, innovative, hardworking students. Bo Kim’s just finished her first year as a Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies student at MIIS and is dividing her summer on campus between a CNS and a Cyber internship. Watch out future employers, she’s fluent in Korean too! Without further ado, Bo will explain how she took the measurements to make the IR-1.

Author: Bo Kim

Centrifuges, like the rest of us aspiring Instagram models, suffer from bad photo angles.

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Aspiring Wonks: Time once again to whet your appetite by dipping into a classic text waiting for you online or at the library – one that applies to the P-5+ 1 negotiations with Iran. These passages are from the first chapter of Nobel Laureate Thomas C. Schelling’s Arms and Influence (Yale University Press, 1966).

“Diplomacy is bargaining; it seeks outcomes that, though not ideal for either party, are better for both than some of the alternatives. In diplomacy each somewhat controls what the other wants, and can get more by compromise, exchange, or collaboration than by taking things in his own hands and ignoring the other’s wishes… Whether or not there is a basis for trust and goodwill, there must be some common interest, if only in the avoidance of mutual damage, and an awareness of the need to make the other party prefer an outcome acceptable to oneself.”

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