[Senate Hearing 113-152]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
S. Hrg. 113-152
REVERSING IRAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAM
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS
UNITED STATES SENATE
ONE HUNDRED THIRTEENTH CONGRESS
OCTOBER 3, 2013
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COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS
ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey, Chairman
BARBARA BOXER, California BOB CORKER, Tennessee
BENJAMIN L. CARDIN, Maryland JAMES E. RISCH, Idaho
JEANNE SHAHEEN, New Hampshire MARCO RUBIO, Florida
CHRISTOPHER A. COONS, Delaware RON JOHNSON, Wisconsin
RICHARD J. DURBIN, Illinois JEFF FLAKE, Arizona
TOM UDALL, New Mexico JOHN McCAIN, Arizona
CHRISTOPHER MURPHY, Connecticut JOHN BARRASSO, Wyoming
TIM KAINE, Virginia RAND PAUL, Kentucky
EDWARD J. MARKEY, Massachusetts
Daniel E. O'Brien, Staff Director
Lester E. Munson III, Republican Staff Director
C O N T E N T S
Albright, David, president, Institute for Science and
International Security, Washington, DC......................... 34
Prepared statement........................................... 36
Corker, Hon. Bob, U.S. Senator from Tennessee, opening statement. 3
Jeffrey, Hon. James F., Philip Solondz distinguished visiting
fellow, the Washington Institute for New East Policy,
Washington, DC................................................. 43
Prepared statement........................................... 45
Menendez, Hon. Robert, U.S. Senator from New Jersey, opening
Sherman, Hon. Wendy, Under Secretary for Political Affairs, U.S.
Department of State, Washington, DC............................ 4
Prepared statement........................................... 6
Takeyh, Ray, senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on
Foreign Relations, Washington, DC.............................. 46
Prepared statement........................................... 48
REVERSING IRAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAM
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2013
Committee on Foreign Relations,
The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 10 a.m., in room
SD-419, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Hon. Robert Menendez
(chairman of the committee) presiding.
Present: Senators Menendez, Cardin, Shaheen, Coons, Kaine,
Markey, Corker, Risch, Rubio, Johnson, and McCain.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. ROBERT MENENDEZ,
U.S. SENATOR FROM NEW JERSEY
The Chairman. Good morning. This hearing of the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee will come to order.
We are here today under unusual circumstances, but
nevertheless ready to fulfill our constitutional duty to
oversee national security policy, foreign policy, international
economic policy as it relates to safeguarding America's
interests abroad. That is our fundamental duty.
And we have convened today to ensure that the world
understands that a shutdown of Government in the United States
is not a shutdown of American interests and obligations abroad.
Having said that, we are pleased to have with us a familiar
face to the committee, Under Secretary of State for Political
Affairs Wendy Sherman. She is here to help shed light on U.S.
policy toward Iran, given the change in leadership and recent
statements of President Rouhani, and to provide her perspective
on behalf of the Department on the way ahead on the nuclear
On our second panel today, we have three distinguished
experts from the private sector: Dr. David Albright, a
physicist who is the founder and president of the Institute for
Science and International Security and who has written
extensively on secret nuclear weapons programs around the
world; Ambassador Jim Jeffrey, a distinguished visiting fellow
at the Washington Institute, where he is focused on Iran's
efforts to expand its influence in the region; and Dr. Ray
Takeyh, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and
a former senior adviser on Iran at the State Department. We
look forward to all of your testimonies and thoughts on the
status and the future of United States-Iran policy.
Before we hear from our panelists, let me restate concerns
that I have expressed publicly and will express again for the
record. In my view, the sanctions have worked to bring us to
this pivotal point, and the fundamental question is now whether
the Iranians are ready to actually conclude an agreement with
the international community; whether they are prepared to turn
rhetoric into action.
In the lead-up to last week's U.N. General Assembly
meeting, I was cautiously hopeful about what we would hear. But
in my personal view, the new face of Iran looked and sounded
very much like the old face, with a softer tone and a smoother
edge. Although Iran's messenger may have changed in the last
election, the message seems to have remained the same.
The questions are these: Should we be cautiously hopeful
for a diplomatic solution, given the new leadership and
rhetoric coming from Tehran? What are the administration's
near-term diplomatic goals and objectives for the P5+1
negotiations? How do we test Iranian intentions that they are
negotiating in good faith? How do we get Iran to commit to
transparency and to allow full verification that it has
abandoned its pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability?
Until we have the answers to these questions, it is my view
that we must sustain the pressure on Iran and maintain the
credible military threat that has brought Iran to the table.
Now it is clear that while we are talking about Iran, its
centrifuges are still spinning. In the last 2 years, it has
installed thousands of additional centrifuges, and although it
is not enriching in all of them, the vast majority are fully
installed and under vacuum, meaning Iran could quickly double
its enrichment capacity.
The fact is these expanded capabilities are reducing the
time Iran needs to quickly produce a sufficient amount of
weapons-grade uranium. The fear is that Iran will achieve a
breakout capability, defined as the technical capability to
produce sufficient weapon-grade uranium for a nuclear device
without being detected by the international community.
According to the work of one of our panelists, David
Albright of the Institute for Science and International
Security, if Iran continues to expand its centrifuges at its
current pace, it will be able to produce by mid-2014 enough
material for one bomb within a period of several weeks. It is
an open question as to whether the international community
would be able to detect a breakout if it would occur this
Iran is also nearing completion of a heavy water reactor in
Iraq. If that reactor operates, Iran could create a plutonium
pathway to nuclear weapons, enough plutonium each year for one
or two nuclear weapons.
From my perspective, as long as Iran is actively pursuing
its nuclear program, we must actively work to increase the
pressure. This is no less than what is required by multiple
U.N. Security Council resolutions. And while we welcome Iran's
diplomatic overtures, they cannot be used to buy time, avoid
sanctions, and continue the march toward a nuclear weapons
I welcome President Rouhani's announcement at the U.N.
General Assembly, and the Supreme Leader's fatwa that Iran
seeks a peaceful resolution to international concerns about
Iran's nuclear program and is committed to a peaceful nuclear
program. But compliance with the U.N. Security Council
resolutions, in my view, would be the ultimate test of Iran's
Let me conclude by restating my belief that the sanctions
regime in place thus far has been critical in compelling the
Iranian Government back to the negotiating table. If the
sanctions were not hurting, we would not have heard so much
about them in President Rouhani's speech. What is important now
is what Iran does, not what it says. We do not need more words.
What we would like to see is its compliance with the four U.N.
Security Council resolutions and the suspension of uranium
Some of us are moving forward with a new round of sanctions
that will require further reduction in purchases of Iranian
petroleum. But we are also serious about relief from sanctions
if the Iranian Government meets its Security Council
With that, let me turn to Senator Corker for his opening
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. BOB CORKER,
U.S. SENATOR FROM TENNESSEE
Senator Corker. Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I know there was some discussion about whether having a
hearing today or not having a hearing today in light of the
circumstances was the right thing to do. But I do appreciate
very much your focus on Iran and some of the threats that our
And I want to say that we have had, since you have been
chairman, a number of really important issues to deal with, and
I know that this is going to be one of the most important that
we deal with over the next several months. And I do appreciate
the diligence that is being put forth. I also want to thank you
for the efforts that you and Mark Kirk, together, have put
forth relative to sanctions.
And just as in the Syrian debate, you know, where we had
people with differing viewpoints, all of which I thought were
very respectful and thoughtful, I really was proud--regardless
of where people came out, I was really proud of the way the
committee handled itself with humility and soberness.
And so, as we deal with this issue, I want to start by
saying still the greatest threat to our Nation, the greatest
threat still is ourselves. And it is our inability to deal with
our fiscal matters in an appropriate way. And I think today's
meeting in light of a Government shutdown still points to that.
This, on the other hand, is a grave threat to world peace.
And again, I thank you for the way that we are going about
this, and I hope that what we will do together as a committee
after testimony from these two panels--and I know some
potential activities that will take place in the Banking
Committee--is that we will be prudent about how we go forth
I do believe the sanctions that we have put in place have
created this moment, and I do know that the administration, in
fairness, opposed some of those sanctions. And we had to sort
of push the administration to the table, and yet I will say the
administration now is trying to take advantage of those.
So I hope that together, through intelligent testimony and
thoughtfulness, I hope we will move ahead in a fashion that
shows a real strategy, that causes Congress to help push these
negotiations along and push to ensure that what Iran does is
real. It is not just talk.
So I thank you very much for the sentiments. I thank you
for your previous efforts. I look forward to the testimony
today, and I look forward to this committee and the Banking
Committee acting in unison in a way that produces a result
here, which is what all of us want to see.
So thank you very much.
The Chairman. Thank you, Senator Corker, and we appreciate
your work and your leadership as well with us.
With that, we will recognize Secretary Sherman. Your full
statement will be included in the record, without objection,
and the floor is yours.
STATEMENT OF HON. WENDY SHERMAN, UNDER SECRETARY FOR POLITICAL
AFFAIRS, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE, WASHINGTON, DC
Ambassador Sherman. Thank you very much.
Chairman Menendez, Ranking Member Corker, distinguished
members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to be here
today, even during these difficult times. It is always welcome
to return to the Senate and speak with you about an issue we
both agree--we all agree--is one of our country's primary
foreign policy and national security challenges.
Today, I plan to speak about recent talks with the Iranian
Government at the U.N. General Assembly in New York of which I
was a part, the status of our negotiations, our continued
effort to put pressure on the Iranian Government, and a
potential path forward for diplomacy, including the core
actions needed to reach a verifiable agreement with Iran.
Let me start with a very brief survey of our dual-track
policy to show how we arrived at this point. As President Obama
has said many times, the United States remains committed to
preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The strategy
we have pursued--and continue to pursue--to fulfill this
commitment is the dual-track policy of engagement and pressure.
While our preference has always been diplomatic engagement,
we concluded that such engagement would not work absent
meaningful pressure. In response, we and our allies, with the
President's and your very crucial leadership, established one
of the toughest sanctions regimes the world has ever seen. As a
result, 23 economies have united in significantly reducing or
eliminating purchases of Iranian crude oil.
Over the past 24 months, Iran's rial has depreciated by
approximately 60 percent, as Iran's access to the international
financial sector has been largely severed. Indeed, in the runup
to his election this June, President Rouhani made the case that
the failure to pursue a serious agreement on the nuclear file
and the international sanctions that resulted from that failure
was devastating the Iranian economy.
I would emphasize that it was the Iranian Government's
choices that led to these devastating sanctions, and it will be
the Iranian Government's actions in the months ahead that will
be a key factor in determining whether we decide the sanctions
should remain in place or whether we can begin to relieve some
sanction pressure as Iran addresses our concern.
President Rouhani says he has a mandate--both a popular
mandate from the Iranian people and a mandate from Supreme
Leader Khamenei--to pursue an agreement that satisfies the
international community's concerns over Iran's nuclear program.
As the President reaffirmed last week, we are prepared to test
that proposition in a serious way. In doing so, we must remain
mindful of the long history of Iranian deception regarding its
nuclear program and insist that Iran's new tone be met as soon
as possible by new and concrete and verifiable actions.
We must also do our part to ensure the success of this
effort and to avoid any measures that could prematurely inhibit
our ability to secure a diplomatic solution. The process for
testing Iran's intentions began last week in New York. There,
on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly, Secretary Kerry
and I met Foreign Minister Zarif and the Foreign Ministers of
In that meeting, as in all of our exchanges with the
Iranian Government, including the Secretary's bilateral with
Foreign Minister Zarif, we made clear that we seek an agreement
that respects the right of the Iranian people to access
peaceful nuclear energy while ensuring to the world that Iran
meets its responsibilities under the Nuclear Nonproliferation
Treaty and U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Foreign Minister Zarif gave a thoughtful presentation. He
told us that Iran does not seek nuclear weapons and detailed
the reasons why it did not make sense for Iran to possess
We also made clear in return that his words alone, while
welcome, are not enough. So in the coming weeks, we will look
to the Iranian Government to translate its words into
transparent, meaningful, and verifiable actions. We enter this
period with our eyes wide open. As Secretary Kerry has said, no
deal is better than a bad deal.
Now it is time to see if negotiations can begin in earnest.
Let me give you an idea of how we see this moving forward.
Given the scope of Iran's nuclear program and its history
of noncompliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions, as
well as the deep mistrust between our two countries, any
productive path forward must include confidence-building
through meaningful, transparent, and verifiable steps. We will
be looking for specific steps by Iran that address core issues
including, but not limited to, the pace and scope of its
enrichment program, the transparency of its overall nuclear
program, and stockpiles of enriched uranium.
The Iranians, in return, will doubtless be seeking some
relief from the comprehensive international sanctions that are
now in place. We have been clear that only concrete, viable
steps, and verifiable steps can offer a path to sanctions
relief. We look forward to hearing Foreign Minister Zarif's
suggested plan, which he says he will bring to us when the P5+1
meet next with the Iranian delegation in Geneva on October 15
Let me assure you that we will continue to vigorously
enforce the sanctions that are in place as we explore a
negotiated resolution and will be especially focused on
sanctions evasion and efforts by Iranians to relieve the
I must note here, if I may, Mr. Chairman, to take an extra
moment and note, however, our ability to do that--to enforce
sanctions, to stop sanctions invaders--is being hampered
significantly by the shutdown. I think many of you will have
seen an article by Josh Rogan and Eli Lake today that
``Government Shutdown Empties Offices Enforcing Sanctions on
OFAC, which is in the Treasury Department, which really
oversees much of this, along with our own sanctions monitoring
group, has been completely, virtually utterly depleted in this
time. In addition, the intelligence community, which we rely on
for intelligence information to go after sanctions evaders and
sanctions people who are not paying attention to the sanctions,
as the DNI said, General Clapper, the other day, has been
devastated as well--more than 60 percent reduced during the
So we will do our best to enforce these sanctions, to stop
sanctions invaders, but I sincerely hope that the shutdown ends
soon so that we are truly able to do so in the runup and as
these negotiations proceed.
As we move forward, it will be critical that we continue to
move together and take no steps that signal divisions to Iran
that it could and likely would exploit. Further, as the effect
of our sanctions on Iran depends in part on the actions of our
partners, we must ensure that our sanctions do not place an
undue burden on those countries. It is not in our interest to
create fissures within the international coalition facing Iran,
as the impact of our pressure comes from the steps these
We will also continue to raise our other concerns,
including Iran's sponsorship of terrorist organizations, human
rights abuses, and destabilizing activities across the region.
And we will remain absolutely dedicated to the return of U.S.
citizen, Robert Levinson, and United States-Iranian dual
nationals, Saeed Abedini and Amir Hekmati.
Indeed, both the President and the Secretary of State
raised these cases with the Iranians. Every day their families
wait for them to come home.
So, as we do, we will remain in close consultations with
our allies and partners in the region, including Israel, whose
security remains a paramount focus. We will also continue our
close consultation with you and with other Members of the
Congress, as we have in the past, so that any congressional
action is aligned with our negotiating strategy as we move
Thank you again for this opportunity to discuss with this
committee the important developments over the past week in New
York. As always, I look forward to regular engagement with you
in the weeks ahead and to your questions and comments today.
[The prepared statement of Ambassador Sherman follows:]
Prepared Statement of Under Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman
Chairman Menendez, Ranking Member Corker, distinguished members of
the committee, thank you for inviting me to be here today. It is always
a pleasure to return to the Senate and speak with you about an issue we
both agree is one of our country's primary foreign policy challenges.
This hearing comes at a pivotal time for U.S. policy toward Iran.
As requested, I will speak about recent talks with the Iranian
Government at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, the status of our
negotiations, our continued effort to put pressure on the Iranian
Government, and a potential path forward for diplomacy--including the
core actions needed to reach a verifiable agreement with Iran.
DUAL TRACK POLICY AND ROUHANI'S ELECTION
Let me start with a brief survey of our dual track policy to show
how we arrived at this point.
As President Obama has stated many times, the United States remains
committed to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
The strategy we have pursued--and continue to pursue--to fulfill
this commitment and address the international community's concerns with
Iran's nuclear program is the dual track policy of engagement and
pressure. While our preference has always been diplomatic engagement,
we concluded that such engagement would not work absent pressure.
In response, we and our allies, with the President's and your
leadership, have established a robust sanctions regime. I would
emphasize that it was the Iranian Government's choices that led to
these devastating sanctions, and it will be the Iranian Government's
actions in the months ahead that will be a key factor in determining
whether we decide the sanctions should remain in place or whether we
can begin to relieve some sanctions pressure as Iran addresses our
The pressure on Iran has been severe and may lay the groundwork for
a diplomatic outcome that addresses our concerns. However, we remain
clear-eyed about the challenges ahead and the importance of vigilance,
while proceeding in good faith. Through our continued efforts and the
work of the Congress--notably through the leadership of the chairman of
this committee, with the support of the ranking member--we have
leveraged our economic influence effectively to raise the financial
stakes for the Iranian Government.
In aggregate, we have led the international community in
implementing an unprecedented sanctions regime that is having a real
and tangible impact. Twenty-three economies have united in
significantly reducing or eliminating purchases of Iranian crude oil.
In 18 months, Iranian oil exports were cut by more than 1 million
barrels per day. Iran's rial has depreciated by approximately 60
percent over the past 24 months. GDP has contracted by over 5 percent
in the same period. Iran's access to the international financial sector
has been largely severed and its ability to engage in normal economic
activity has been sharply curtailed.
The Iranian Presidential election last June focused on the economy.
Questions of how to engage with the international community on the
nuclear file were front and center as President Rouhani, a former
nuclear negotiator himself, ran against candidates that included then-
current negotiator Saeed Jalili. Rouhani made the case that the failure
to pursue a serious agreement on Iran's nuclear program was devastating
the Iranian economy--and he won the election.
President Rouhani says he has a mandate--both a popular mandate
from the Iranian people and a mandate from Supreme Leader Khamenei--to
secure sanctions relief and improve Iran's economic situation, which
can only be accomplished by pursuing an agreement that satisfies the
international community's concerns over Iran's nuclear program.
As the President reaffirmed last week, we are prepared to test that
proposition in a serious way. But we must do our part to ensure the
success of this effort and to avoid any measures that could prematurely
inhibit our ability to secure a diplomatic solution. Here it will be
important that we--the Executive and U.S. Congress--remain in close
consultation with each other, and that we ensure we can continue to
show the Iranian Government that the international community remains
firmly united as we begin this process.
REVIEW OF LAST WEEK'S P5+1 MEETING
Last week, Secretary Kerry and I met with Foreign Minister Zarif
and the Foreign Ministers of the P5+1 countries in New York on the
margins of the U.N. General Assembly. Although we have indicated we are
open to bilateral dialogue with the Iranians, we have emphasized that a
nuclear deal would be concluded and implemented by the P5+1.
In our New York meeting, we made clear that we seek an agreement
that respects the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful
nuclear energy while ensuring to the world that Iran meets its
responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and U.N.
Security Council resolutions.
Foreign Minister Zarif gave a thoughtful presentation and set forth
some ideas on how to proceed. He told us that Iran does not seek
nuclear weapons and detailed the reasons why it did not make sense for
Iran to possess nuclear weapons. We also made clear in return that his
words alone, while welcome, are not enough. The test will lie in Iran's
actions, to include the development and implementation of specific
confidence-building measures as well as actions that ultimately address
all of our concerns.
So in the coming weeks, we will be looking to the Iranian
Government to translate its words into transparent, meaningful, and
verifiable actions. We enter this period hopeful, but sober. As
Secretary Kerry said, no deal is better than a bad deal. So now it is
time to see if negotiations can begin in earnest and generate a
Let me give you an idea of how we see this process moving forward.
Given the scope of Iran's nuclear program and its history of
noncompliance with IAEA Board of Governors and U.N. Security Council
resolutions, as well as the deep mistrust between our two countries,
any productive path forward must start with mutual confidence building.
Meaningful, transparent, and verifiable steps are necessary. We
will be looking for specific steps by Iran that address core issues;
including but not limited to the pace and scope of its enrichment
program, the transparency of its overall nuclear program, and
stockpiles of enriched uranium. The Iranians, in turn, will doubtless
be seeking some relief from the comprehensive international sanctions
that are now in place. We have been clear that only concrete verifiable
steps can offer a path to sanctions relief. We look forward to hearing
Foreign Minister Zarifs suggested plan when the P5+1 next meet with the
Iranian delegation in Geneva on October 15 and 16.
We need to ensure throughout that the international community
remains united and does not permit sanctions to prematurely unravel.
Let me assure you that we will also continue to vigorously enforce the
sanctions that are in place as we explore a negotiated resolution, and
will be especially focused on sanctions evasion and efforts by the
Iranians to relieve the pressure.
We are mindful of the serious challenges ahead. But we are also
prepared to move expeditiously in pursuit of a diplomatic resolution to
this crisis. If there is indeed a diplomatic outcome available, then it
is one we must test with good faith and due diligence.
As the President said after his phone call with President Rouhani,
``the very fact that this [phone call] was the first communication
between an American and Iranian President since 1979 underscores the
deep mistrust between our countries, but it also indicates the prospect
of moving beyond that difficult history.''
Any path to a meaningful agreement will be difficult. Both sides
have significant concerns that will have to be overcome. Both sides
will also have to demonstrate to one another's satisfaction that any
understanding that is reached will be fully implemented. We are
prepared to pursue this diplomatic track along with our P5+1 partners,
and hope that Iran's actions soon live up to their words.
As we move forward, it will be critical that we continue to move
together and take no steps that signal divisions to Iran that it could
and likely would exploit. Further, as the effect of our sanctions on
Iran depends in part on the actions of our partners, we must ensure
that our sanctions do not place an undue burden on those countries. It
is not in our interest to create fissures within the international
coalition facing Iran, as the impact of our pressure comes from the
steps these countries take.
We will continue to raise our other concerns, including Iran's
sponsorship of terrorist organizations, human rights abuses, and
destabilizing activities across the region. And we will remain
dedicated to the return of U.S. citizen Robert Levinson and U.S.-
Iranian dual nationals Saeed Abedini and Amir Hekmati. Every day their
families wait for them to come home.
And as we do, we will remain in close consultations with our allies
and partners in the region, including Israel, whose security remains a
paramount focus. We also hope to continue our close consultation with
the Congress, as we have in the past, so that any congressional action
is aligned with our negotiating strategy as we move forward.
Thank you again for this opportunity to discuss with this committee
the important developments over the past week in New York. As always, I
look forward to regular engagement with you in the weeks ahead and to
your questions and comments today.
The Chairman. Thank you, Madam Secretary.
Let me start off, and there is so much here. But I heard a
sentence in your statement, and I get a little concerned. And
let me make it very clear from my perspective that when we
start talking about relieving sanctions as the Iranians begin
to alleviate our concerns, you know, I am not sure exactly what
we mean by ``begin to alleviate our concerns.''
You know, there is a real, legitimate concern here that the
Iranians will do a certain amount that ultimately begins to
create some sanction relief. But at the end of the day, that
draws back the international community, that draws back the
forces of keeping the pressure that has brought us to this
moment. And then to gear that back up would be an incredibly
So I listen to the words, but Iran has repeatedly said that
they reject the development and use of nuclear weapons. And
that has been reiterated now. But how believable is that
statement, given what we know about Iran's history that prior
assessments that have been brought before this committee, both
I think in public as well as in private, that Iran has
previously, at the government's direction, sought a nuclear
So they still, as far as I know, have not admitted that
they were pursuing a nuclear weapons program. They still say
they reject that, unless that has happened at the P5+1
negotiations and we have not heard about it. What are we
talking about here in terms of relieving sanctions if they
begin to alleviate our concerns? And how do we reconcile what
the Iranians are saying now with what is a verified history of
moving toward a nuclear weapons program?
So I get concerned about that. And the final element of
this, so that I can package it so you can give me a response,
is President Rouhani has been very clear and proud of the fact,
as is evidenced by his book, that last time he conducted
negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, he was able to use
those negotiations as a stalling tactic while his government
advanced its nuclear program.
I look at all of those realities, and I get concerned. I
understand the need to test the diplomatic possibility. But by
the same token, I get concerned when I hear about easing of
sanctions to satisfy some of our concerns.
Ambassador Sherman. Mr. Chairman, I think this is a very
legitimate concern and one that we have thought through very
carefully as we move ahead to these negotiations. We quite
agree with you.
The fundamental large sanctions that we have in place
should not disappear any time soon unless all of our concerns
are addressed by the Iranians. And with that, we agree with you
because we do not want the sanctions regime to fall apart.
At the same time, the reason we also focus on confidence-
building, some early test, whether that is some degradation of
their current posture, some freeze, some pause--there are many
ways to do this--is because every day their nuclear program
goes forward. And to get to a comprehensive agreement will take
some time because there are highly technical issues here that
take some time to negotiate. It is not like you can do this
over a 48-hour period. It will take more time than that to do
So since we know they are continuing with their nuclear
program and because of the history that you point out when
Rouhani was the chief negotiator 2003 to 2005, we know that
deception is part of the DNA. We want to make sure that we can
put some time on the clock for those comprehensive
So what we are thinking through is what is it that would
give us some confidence today, would put some time on the
clock, stop their nuclear program from moving forward while we
get to that comprehensive agreement that it would allow the
full sanctions relief they are looking for? There may be some
elements that we can do initially if they take verifiable,
concrete action that will put time on the clock that are
reversible or, in fact, do not go to any of the key sanctions
that have brought them to the table. So this is the issue.
The Chairman. Let us talk about the time on the clock.
Ambassador Sherman. Sure.
The Chairman. David Albright, who will follow you on the
second panel, provides some very detailed information about the
status of Iran's nuclear program that is very concerning,
indicating that Iran will soon have the ability to break out in
a time period as short as 2 weeks to several months. Is that an
assessment you concur with?
Ambassador Sherman. What I would say is I can give you in
this setting, and we would be glad to have a classified
briefing with our intelligence community and give you our
detailed assessment. I am not going to do that here publicly
because, quite frankly, I would not want Iran to know what our
assessment is about how much time there is.
The Chairman. So let us assume that Mr. Albright's
assessment is right. I am not saying you will--for argument's
sake, let us assume his assessment is right. If that assessment
is right, then your timeframe for definitive action is
Ambassador Sherman. We believe that we have some time, but
we do not have a lot of time. I would agree with that
I would also say that what we have said publicly is from
the time that the Supreme Leader decides that he truly wants to
go for a nuclear weapon--and we do not believe he has yet made
that fundamental decision but wants to put the pieces in place
that give him that option--it could take as much as a year
before he got there. Now there are many factors here that
change that clock, and I have tremendous regard for Dr.
Albright, and so I would listen carefully to him for sure.
But I think it would probably be best for us to have that
classified briefing with the committee and tell you all of the
elements that change that clock. Let me give you one example.
Last year, the--not at this U.N. General Assembly, but a
year ago--the Prime Minister of Israel put a very key element
on the table, and that is how much quantity stockpile of
enriched uranium Iran might have that they could then easily
convert to 90 percent enriched uranium, which then would give
them the material they needed for a nuclear weapon, if they had
weaponization, if they had a delivery mechanism, all of which
is in the future.
What the Iranians did, however, is they started to convert
their enriched uranium into oxide. And even though it can be
changed back, that takes some time. So the Iranians very
smartly changed the calculus of the clock by converting that
enriched uranium to oxide.
So calculating the time clock here is very complicated,
which is why I would like to do it in a classified session.
What I will say, though, is every single day, our intelligence
community, at least when we have them full time, which we do
not at the moment--but we are still focused on this, even with
the staff we have--look at where the Iranians are on a variety
of factors because all of those factors change the clock.
The Chairman. And I will just move on by saying part of the
equation here is our ability to detect a nuclear breakout by
Iran, and that is not with scientific precision here. And so,
that is part of our challenge as to how close to the line do
you let them go?
Senator Corker. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And Secretary, thank you for your testimony and your job on
behalf of our country.
I do not think there is any question but that the actions
that this committee and others have taken, and Congress in
general, toward Iran have helped put us in the place we are in.
I know that the administration touted the fact that this
committee passed an authorization for the use of military force
as being one of those things that moved Syria into a place
where they were willing to negotiate. And you know, we will see
as history plays out whether that was, in fact, the case and
what the outcome is going to be.
Obviously, there are a lot of questions about what is
happening on the negotiating front. I guess what I would ask
you relative to us is, what is it you would like for us to do
in the interim to support the outcome? I know there have been
discussions about additional sanctions. There have been
discussions about things even more draconian than that at a
date in the future if nothing changes.
What is it that you would like to see us do to support a
successful conclusion here? Would you like for us to move ahead
with additional sanctions?
Ambassador Sherman. Thank you, Senator.
First of all, I do want to thank this committee for the
vote you took on Syria. I know it was very difficult, but I do
believe it was helpful.
I was with the Secretary in the negotiations with Lavrov in
Geneva for the agreement and very much part of all of the
discussions on the U.N. Security Council resolution and OPCW
and looking ahead to the Geneva Conference on Syria. And the
action by this committee to say that there was a credible
threat of force in Syria was absolutely critical to our ability
to move forward on CW.
So I thank you, Mr. Chairman. I thank you, Ranking Member
Mr. Corker, and all of the members of the committee, for the
action that you took. I know it was quite difficult, but it
was--I do want to tell you, having experienced it, it was quite
Secondly, in terms of Iran, I think that your holding this
hearing today is important. I actually told the Iranians on the
margins of the P5+1 meeting that I would testify, and they
would hear from me that we were glad for what the President,
President Rouhani had said, what Foreign Minister Zarif had
said. But that words would not be enough. That they had to come
to Geneva with actions, that Zarif had to present a plan.
So I thank you for this opportunity because it is important
for them to hear the messages you are delivering and the
message I am delivering in public that Secretary Kerry said in
Tokyo. Just today, you saw on the morning news where he said
again a no deal is better than a bad deal, that we are doing
this with our eyes open. So this public discussion is very
important to the negotiation.
Secondly, on your encouraging us to enforce the sanctions,
to get all the assets in place to do so is equally critical,
and the oversight you provide in that regard very helpful. In
terms of legislation that is currently being discussed here on
the Hill, we do believe it would be helpful for you all to at
least allow this meeting to happen on the 15th and 16th of
October before moving forward to consider those new sanctions.
And the reason I say that is because I want to be able to
say to Iran, this is your--and I am saying it here today
because they will listen to all of this. This is your
opportunity. Come on the 15th of October with concrete,
substantive actions that you will take, commitments you will
make in a verifiable way, monitoring and verification that you
will sign up to, to create some faith that there is reality to
this, and our Congress will listen.
But I can assure you if you do not come on the 15th and
16th with that substantive plan that is real and verifiable,
our Congress will take action, and we will support them to do
so. So I would hope that you will allow us the time to begin
these negotiations and see if, in fact, there is anything real
here. With my telling of the Iranians quite directly that if
there is not, that everyone is ready to act.
Senator Corker. Well, that is a pretty clear answer and one
I did not really expect. We have been getting some mixed
signals from others within the administration. So I think what
you have just said is that if Iran does not come to the table
in mid-October in the way that they should, that you would
fully support this committee and the Banking Committee and the
Congress in general adding additional tough sanctions on Iran?
Ambassador Sherman. We would very much look forward to
working with you on figuring out what those sanctions ought to
be and how to proceed forward. So I cannot commit today for the
administration that I agree with every line in legislation that
is currently pending. But we will certainly want to go back to
looking at what pressure needs to be added; yes.
Senator Corker. And in interim, to alleviate any concerns
that any of us might have, we pass laws here, and it is up to
the executive branch to implement those. And I think what I am
hearing you say is that throughout these negotiations, the
administration is absolutely going to continue to put pressure
on and continue to process and do all those things necessary to
keep the existing sanctions working in a better way each day.
Is that correct?
Ambassador Sherman. That is correct, Senator. We will
continue to enforce them with one caveat, that the shutdown
does make it more difficult for us to do so because we do not
have OFAC. We do not have our full intelligence committee. The
State Department is putting restrictions on travel by State
Department employees, and we use our sanctions team to travel
the world, to go after sanctions evaders and folks who are not
So it will limit our ability to do that. So, quite frankly,
where Iran is concerned, the sooner the shutdown is over, the
better we will be able to do the job you are asking us to do
and that we want to do.
Senator Corker. So, Mr. Chairman, if I could just ask one
more question? My time is up, and I appreciate very much your
testimony today. I know that you do not want to talk about
publicly where we think Iran's capabilities are. I think most
of us have a pretty good idea based on the many classified
meetings we have been involved in.
But it has been my sense that the appropriate length of
time to give Iran and the United States to come to a conclusion
is 2 to 3 months. So let us move away from what their
capabilities are, just to give us a sense as far as how we
might be most productive here, would you agree that that is an
appropriate timeframe for us to allow negotiations to come to a
Ambassador Sherman. Senator, to be perfectly frank about
it, I think I will have a better answer to that question after
the meeting in Geneva on the 15th and 16th. It really depends
on how fast they are ready to go.
Now you heard various things from the Iranians in New York.
We heard them say that they could complete an agreement, a
comprehensive agreement, and implement that agreement within a
year. That is what Zarif said to us.
I think they can get to agreement. When we said we wanted
to go faster than that, he said we could get to an agreement
faster than that, we could not implement it in that period of
time. And it probably cannot be implemented in that period of
time because--in 3 to 6 months because there are a lot of
highly technical things that have to be put in place.
But I do think you are correct to say that we will know in
the next short period of time whether there is anything serious
and real here or not.
Senator Corker. Mr. Chairman, thank you.
And Madam Secretary, thank you.
The Chairman. Senator Cardin.
Senator Cardin. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And Secretary Sherman, thank you very much for your public
service. Thank you for being here today and underscoring a
point that this shutdown is really hurting this country in so
many ways; so many ways.
The success of dealing with Iran, and I understand your two
tracks of pressure and diplomacy, very much depends upon our
ability to carry out what we say we are going to do. And we
have to be able to monitor that. We have to be able to get the
intelligence on that. We have to be able to understand what is
happening around the world.
And any diminishment of that capacity could have a major
impact here. So there is many reasons why we should resolve
this issue today about the Government remaining open. Not
tomorrow, today it should be done. And you are just giving us
one additional reason, and I thank you for that.
I want to go, underscore the point that the chairman made.
It is not just what we do, as far as sanctions against Iran and
keeping the pressure going, it is what the international
community does. It is the enforcements. And it is what the
United States position is with the international community.
And I think we all agree that we would like to see
diplomacy work. We would like to see Iran move in the right
direction and be able to monitor and make sure it occurs. But
when we use language such as we are prepared to look at the
sanctions if Iran makes significant progress or does certain
things, it seems to me the international community may
interpret it differently than we do.
Just the fact that we are meeting today has put additional
pressures on international capitals to look at reducing some of
its pressure on Iran. Many of our closest allies could do more
in reducing their oil consumptions from Iran. They could do
It seems to me that if we are to be successful in the
pressure to get Iran to give you not just the offer we are
looking for, but the actions that are needed, that we need to
increase the pressure, not reduce the pressure on Iran at this
point. And that, yes, it means what we do, but what we do in
working with our coalition to say now is the time to reduce
your oil purchases from Iran, not to increase it. And the world
oil market right now is favorable for us to really reduce even
So I guess my point to you is I would hope that our
position is to strengthen the effect of the sanctions today so
that we have the very best chance to make diplomacy work and
that we have an understanding with the international community,
our partners in this, that they will also move to strengthen
the sanctions. And yes, we are prepared to give you additional
tools here in Congress. We would like to do that with you.
And I think Senator Corker's point about that is clear,
Senator Menendez's point. I think you have the support of
Congress. But I would hope that we could have a sense of
urgency with our coalition partners on the sanctions to tighten
the enforcements of these sanctions. How is our coalition
responding to this? Are we making progress?
Ambassador Sherman. Thank you very much, Senator.
I do think we have made enormous progress. In every single
meeting that we had at the U.N. General Assembly, and I think
probably some of you saw the ``60 Minutes'' piece on Secretary
Kerry. He had 59 bilateral meetings last week in the U.N.
General Assembly, and I do not know how many I had on my own as
So in every single one of them where there was a concern
about whether it was financial sanctions or oil sanctions or
evaders, Iran was a topic of conversation. In virtually every
one where it was relevant to that particular country, whether
that was China, whether that was Russia, whether that was
Turkey, whether that was India, whether it was to Indonesia--
anybody that is part of that international coalition. Because
you are quite right, what matters here is not----
Senator Cardin. But China----
Ambassador Sherman [continuing]. Is that international
Senator Cardin. China is still buying a significant amount
of oil from Iran. Some of our closest allies in Asia are buying
oil from Iran. We have a ``Rebalance to Asia.'' It seems to me
that we could be more effective in having greater help from
Ambassador Sherman. I agree. Indeed, as you know, Secretary
Kerry is on his way to APEC and the East Asia summit. He is in
Tokyo today. Iran is a big topic of conversation in Japan.
If the President is able to go to APEC and to the East Asia
summit--he is not going to Malaysia and the Philippines--Iran
will be a big topic of conversation as well. There are talking
points that are part of any bilaterals held there to make sure
we move forward.
Senator Cardin. And those talking points are to strengthen
Ambassador Sherman. It is to ensure the enforcement, to
strengthen the enforcement, to watch what Iran does on the 15th
and 16th. Many of these countries have a relationship with
Iran. We do not. And so, one of our talking points is to say to
them here is a message we want you to deliver to Iran.
This is the opportunity on the 15th and the 16th to put in
front of the international community--not just the United
States--in front of the international community, specific,
concrete, substantive, and verifiable steps that will address
the concerns of the international community. Take this
opportunity, or you will see that pressure continuing to
Senator Cardin. Thank you.
The Chairman. Senator Risch.
Senator Risch. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First of all, Mr. Chairman, let me say that I am glad you
included Pastor Saeed Abedini, who is one of my constituents
who is held in Iran, and the other two individuals. And
frankly, without those people being freed, there is no chance
that Iran is going to convince me that they have any
willingness to participate in the international community and
do what is right here.
Secondly, let me say that I associate myself with the
remarks of the chairman and with Senator Cardin, and we have
had some discussions here about the shutdown, and I think the
world knows that we are having an intramural fight here over
internal policy. But let there be no mistake. When it comes to
these kinds of issues, we stand shoulder to shoulder on them,
and we are not divided on these issues. We will move forward
together on these issues as Americans and will join the
Given that, let me say that I appreciate Senator Cardin's
remarks, and again, I know this gets into the political weeds,
and I cannot speak for all Republicans. But if a bill came to
the floor in moments that relieved our intelligence services,
the State Department enforcing these sanctions, and all the
problems that you have described, I would vote for it in a
heartbeat. And although I cannot speak for any other
Republicans, I can tell you that I think it would probably, if
we had a vote on it, pass the Senate unanimously.
But we are not going to get a vote on it for political
reasons, and it is unfortunate. But I want you to know that I
am there, and I think most every Republican, if not all
Republicans, would be there to back the expenditure of those
funds because we all agree on that. And it is really
unfortunate that those of us that have been elected to govern
and want to govern cannot govern because we cannot get a vote
on these things.
So we are going to continue to work on it. We know what is
right for the country, and this has got to get resolved.
Let me move for a minute to the new President of Iran.
Frankly, I have been really dismayed by the embracement of this
charm offensive that he brought to the United States. When you
look at this man's history, and indeed, when you look at his
abilities, when we all know who is actually running that
country, we ought to just flat ignore him. He has indicated
that he has used this type of tactic in the past to achieve the
policies and the goals that Iran wants to achieve in the
And so, having said that, what can we expect of him now?
What we can expect is the front that he is putting on, the
facade that he is putting on, is to do exactly what he has been
doing all along, including in formal meetings, that he
bamboozled us. And he brags about bamboozling us.
And look, we are smarter than this. We should understand
that this guy, what he is saying now, you cannot put any weight
on whatsoever when you look at what his history is. So I, for
one, have been very disappointed at all of this.
I think what we ought to do is take a step back and say,
look, we do not want to hear this stuff. We do not want to see
smiles. We do not even want handshakes. What we want to see is
some action. And I look forward to October 15. I would like to
say that I had cautious optimism. I have no optimism.
I think what you are going to get is you are going to get
another dog-and-pony show. I think you are going to get another
shuffle, and I think it is going to be business as usual. And
we have seen it day after day, month after month, year after
year, while I have been here, and I think it is just going to
go on until they can achieve what they want to achieve.
So bless you for what you do. Keep it up. You have a very
difficult task, and I think this committee and this Congress is
willing to help and willing to put our foot down firmly to
proceed with the road we have gone down to try to bring these
people to where they need to be.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Chairman. Thank you, Senator.
Senator Shaheen. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you to Secretary Sherman. We very much appreciate
your being here.
You talked a few minutes ago and in your testimony about
meaningful, transparent, and verifiable steps that would
address core issues. I want to ask you, first, if there is
agreement within the administration about what those concrete,
verifiable steps would look like in order for negotiations to
And then, secondly, whether there is agreement with our
international partners about what those steps should look like?
Ambassador Sherman. Thank you very much, Senator.
We have extensive discussions about various scenarios
before we go to a negotiation, both internally and with our
P5+1 partners, because it is being united that really makes any
negotiation effective. And doing a negotiation with six
partners is never an easy undertaking.
And as Senator Cardin and others have pointed out, it is
the international unity of sanctions and the international
unity of negotiations that makes this effective. And if there
are divisions, it makes it much harder. So, yes, we have gotten
clear about where we want to head at the end of the day, what
might be an early test of whether there is anything real here,
and we, in fact, have many mechanisms in advance of the
negotiation to make sure that we are completely united in our
And you know, we may disagree with some of our partners in
the P5+1 on many things. Russia and China do not always agree
with us. Some of my European partners sometimes want to go
further than I want to go. But at the end of the day, we come
to an agreement because we all understand how important it is
to be united in going forward, and I appreciate, as Senator
Risch says, the bipartisanship on this issue.
I did, if I may, Senator, want to make one remark in
response to Senator Risch, which goes to this as well. The
shutdown and putting a piece of legislation on for the
or for OFAC at Treasury would, indeed, be helpful. But it would
not be nearly enough. There are so many parts of this that are
Even in the State Department, indeed, 2014 security
assistance funding for Israel, for instance, will be delayed
until there is a CR or full-year appropriation. Our ability to
protect the Sinai is delayed with that force.
So no one piece of legislation is going to solve what is a
very complex international issue that we face, and we are
beginning to see editorials, which we understand they are
political. So we only take them so far.
But in Sri Lanka, where we have been pressing them very
hard on democracy, governance, and human rights, they wrote a
very critical editorial today, you know, saying health care is
a universal human right, and yet the United States cannot come
to an agreement on it. So who are they to preach to us about
accountability and governance?
So this is very complicated for us, but I very much
appreciate the bipartisan support on Iran and our efforts to
move this forward.
Senator Shaheen. Thank you.
I would just have one disagreement with you, and that is I
think there is one piece of legislation that would deal with
this. And all the Speaker has to do is to call it up, and that
would get us a continuing resolution that would keep the
But let me just go back to your statement because I
understood you to say that there are ongoing negotiations. It
was not clear to me whether you were saying that there is
agreement now on how those negotiations might go forward and
what people are looking for from those.
Ambassador Sherman. We are finalizing what the negotiation
frame will look like. What I will say is that the P5+1 has
agreed that the proposal we put on the table in Almaty stays on
the table, and we will not offer anything new in the first
instance. The onus is on Iran to put their response on the
table to us.
So we are waiting to hear from Foreign Minister Zarif, who
will head the delegation. We will not put new ideas on the
table until we hear from Iran.
Senator Shaheen. Thank you.
I only have a few seconds left, but I was struck by the
news accounts of Rouhani's return to Iran and that there were
demonstrators there in opposition to him and to some of his
statements. And I wonder if you could speak to the internal
situation in Iran and to what extent he continues to have the
support of the religious leaders in the country.
Ambassador Sherman. Well, as many of your colleagues have
pointed out, Rouhani is very much part of the religious cleric
class in Iran. He has been a member of the Expediency
Discernment Council. He has been on the Supreme National
Security Council. So he is very close to the Supreme Leader.
He is very tough. He is very conservative. But he does have
politics, even in Iran. He won as a moderate--moderate in their
system, not moderate in our system. But he won as a moderate in
their system, saying that he would take a different approach to
But he does have to deal with people who are much more
hard-line than he is. Hard-liner that he is, there are people
who are more hard-line.
I would suspect that those protesters were approved by the
regime so that we would see that there was not just support for
what Rouhani was doing, there were also some people who opposed
what Rouhani was doing. And I think the Supreme Leader has
given Rouhani and Zarif enough rope to get this over the line
and perhaps even enough rope for other purposes if they are not
Senator Shaheen. Thank you very much.
The Chairman. Senator Rubio.
Senator Rubio. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you for being here today, Madam Secretary.
This is not a new issue for our country. Back in the 1990s,
I know you were involved with President Clinton in the North
Korean experience. At the time, President Clinton was adamant
that North Korea would not attain a nuclear capability, and of
course, they did.
And I raise that for the following question that I have,
and let me preface it with this. There are five countries in
the world that enrich uranium or reprocess plutonium, but they
do not have a weapon. Those countries are Germany, Japan,
Brazil, Argentina, and the Netherlands.
Then there are two other countries that enrich or
reprocess, but do have a weapon--North Korea and Pakistan.
So my first question is which one of these two types of
countries does Iran look like the most? Do they look more like
North Korea and Pakistan, or do they look more like Germany and
Japan and Brazil and Argentina? Who do they resemble the most?
Ambassador Sherman. Senator, I would make a couple
comments. One, they resemble themselves. They are a sui generis
case, in many ways more dangerous than any country who has the
ability to reprocess, enrich, or has nuclear weapons or seeks
to get nuclear weapons.
Senator Rubio. Okay, but----
Ambassador Sherman [continuing]. So----
Senator Rubio [continuing]. I understand they have a
special case. They are only different in some ways than North
Korea and Pakistan, but I think you would agree they do not
look anything like Germany, Japan, Brazil, Argentina, or the
Ambassador Sherman. Of course not.
Senator Rubio. Okay. Here is why I am asking that. The
President, at the U.N. General Assembly, he said that we
respect the right of the Iranian people to ``access peaceful
nuclear energy.'' And that sounds innocuous enough.
Now the President of Iran has said publicly that Iran's
right to enrichment is nonnegotiable. So here is my question,
what is our position? What is our official position? Does Iran
have a right to enrich plutonium--to enrich uranium or to
Ambassador Sherman. So the President's full comment on the
quote that you gave is, ``I have made clear we respect the
right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy
in the context of Iran meeting its obligations. So the test
will be meaningful, transparent, and verifiable actions which
can also bring relief from the comprehensive international
sanctions that are currently in place.''
So the President has circumscribed what he means by the
Iranian people having access, and that word was, as National
Security Adviser Rice said on Fareed Zakaria, very carefully
chosen. Access, not right. But access to peaceful nuclear
energy in the context of meeting its obligations.
Senator Rubio. So, is it our position that Iran has the
right to have access to uranium or plutonium for peaceful
purposes, but they do not have a right to enrich it or
reprocess it themselves? Is that our position?
Ambassador Sherman. It has always been the United States
position--and I have said to my Iranian interlocutors many
is that article 4 of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty does
not speak about the right of enrichment at all; does not speak
to enrichment, period.
It simply says that you have a right to research and
development, and many countries, including countries like Japan
and Germany, have taken that to be a right. But the United
States does not take that position. We take the position that
we look at each one of these.
And more to the point, the U.N. Security Council resolution
has suspended Iran's enrichment until they meet their
international obligations. They did not say they have suspended
their right to enrichment. They have suspended their
So we do not believe there is an inherent right by anyone
Senator Rubio. Okay, so no one has an inherent right to
enrichment, although you have outlined the case of these
countries, which, by your own admission, they do not resemble
Iran at all.
So, as we enter negotiations with Iran, why is that not our
starting point? Why do we not make that very clear? Because the
President of Iran has made it very clear that in his opinion,
enrichment is nonnegotiable. Why does not our President say, as
he has said on other issues that we are facing now as a
country, that he will not negotiate until a certain condition
He has laid down those markers on some domestic disputes
that we are having now. So why doesn't he enter the negotiation
with Iran by simply saying there is no negotiation until you
give up your enrichment and your reprocessing capability
because of the kind of country that you are, as you have
Ambassador Sherman. It is very interesting, Senator. I
think it was today or yesterday that President Rouhani actually
qualified his own statement. He said we will not give up our
capability to have enrichment, but we can discuss the details.
So, you know, a negotiation begins with everybody having
their maximalist position, and we have ours, too, which is they
have to meet all of their obligations under the NPT and the
U.N. Security Council resolutions. And they have their
maximalist positions, and then you begin a negotiation.
Senator Rubio. Here is my last question then, Will
President Obama ever agree to ease sanctions in any negotiation
that does not require Iran to abandon its enrichment and
Ambassador Sherman. I am not going to negotiate in public,
Senator, with all due respect. All I can do is repeat what the
President of the United States has said, which is we respect
the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear
energy in the context of Iran meeting its obligations. The test
will be meaningful, transparent, and verifiable actions.
Senator Rubio. Okay. So my last question then is you are
not able to say here today that there will never be an
agreement to lower sanctions so long as Iran does not abandon
its enrichment or its reprocessing capabilities?
Ambassador Sherman. What I can say to you today is that
Iran must meet the concerns of the international community,
including the United States, and all of its obligations under
the NPT and the U.N. Security Council resolutions, which have
suspended its enrichment.
The Chairman. Senator Coons.
Senator Coons. Thank you, Chairman Menendez. Thank you for
convening this critically important hearing and ensuring that
this committee continues to fulfill its constitutional duty,
even in the middle of a Government shutdown.
And Madam Secretary, thank you and to all the witnesses who
will appear today. And thank you for the very hard work that
you and the Secretary have been doing to continue to strengthen
and sustain the sanctions regime, which is critical to getting
some chance of some progress in this.
In engagement with Iran, we have to be clear-eyed and
realistic about our goals. And at the end of the day, I think
there is broad agreement here that we must not allow Iran to
acquire nuclear weapons capability and that any negotiations
must demand a verifiable end to their uranium enrichment
I support the President's assertion that all options are on
the table. I appreciate your opening comment about the actions
of this committee and its role in progress with regards to
Syria, and I strongly believe that the credible threat of
military force has to be maintained in order that there be any
progress around the negotiating table.
I am encouraged, frankly, that the sanctions are having
some real impact, both in terms of economic repercussions and,
hopefully, forcing the regime in Iran to change its calculus
with regards to their nuclear program. That has formed, I
think, the basis for negotiations. But I also think it is
unclear whether Hassan Rouhani is genuine in his stated
intentions and is capable of making a deal.
So I might also say at the outset I appreciate your
continuing to press the cases of several Americans or Iranian
Americans. In my case, I have been concerned about and engaged
with the case of Mr. Hekmati. This charm offensive to me is so
far not charming. The release of political dissidents and
prisoners is a beginning and very, very modest step and could
be advanced further by taking real steps to end the oppression
within Iran and ongoing terrorist actions outside of Iran to
kill or take hostage Iranian dissidents.
So let us talk, if we could, first about whether or not
Rouhani is capable of making a deal. Does he have the authority
from the Supreme Leader? Khamenei in a speech in September
talked about heroic flexibility. But I was pleased to hear you
clear-eyed about the fact that deception, as I think you said,
has long been part of the DNA of their negotiating strategy.
Does Rouhani have the authority to make a real deal and see
Ambassador Sherman. I think we do not know, Senator, to be
perfectly honest. He says he has a mandate from the Supreme
Leader to--as does Foreign Minister Zarif, in a derivative
fashion--to, in fact, come to an agreement with the
international community. But as I have said, we are ready to
test that, but we do not know, and he may not know.
It may be that the Supreme Leader has said to President
Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif, ``Go give it a try. See
where you can go, see where you can get.'' And they may not
even know what the limitations are of their ability to
negotiate. But we have to test this, and we have to test it, as
many of your colleagues have said, in a short enough period of
time, in a way to ensure that their nuclear program cannot just
go on and on and on and on and on to a point where we wake up
one day and find out they have the capability we all do not
want them to have.
So we will test this. We will do it in a relatively short
period of time. We will see if there is anything real here, and
we will see whether President Rouhani, Foreign Minister Zarif
can deliver on what they have said to us, which is they not
only have a mandate from the Iranian people, but a mandate from
the Supreme Leader. But we have to test it.
Senator Coons. Well, we have short timelines, I think, both
in terms of their steady progress, their steady advancement
toward a nuclear capability and this shutdown.
This maddening, I think unconstructive, destructive
shutdown of the U.S. Federal Government, as you mentioned at
the outset, is preventing both OFAC and the intelligence
community from effectively enforcing sanctions.
What is the plan forward for dealing with this shutdown,
should it continue for another couple of weeks? And how do we
make sure that the American people understand the very real
risk this is creating for the United States and for our goals
with regards to stopping Iran's work toward a nuclear weapons
Ambassador Sherman. Well, I certainly think, Senator, that
this hearing today, the statements from the members, from the
Senators, helps to convey that message. I think it is critical
that we move forward in the bipartisan way that this committee
has proceeded to deal with Iran, and to do so, we not only need
all of the tools at our disposal to enforce the sanctions. But
we need all of the tools at our disposal for national security
and foreign policy, including the lectures that we give to
countries all over the world about good governance.
I have been in Washington for a very long time and once
worked up here on Capitol Hill. I know that Members on both
sides of the aisle can come to the right decision, and we are
all hopeful--I speak as an American citizen now--that that
happens very quickly.
Senator Coons. Well, last, if I might, you know, Rouhani
has made all these great promises, both at the United Nations,
but also domestically. What, if any, evidence is there that the
human rights situation within Iran has improved or that Iran
has in any way backed off their campaign against Iranian
dissidents outside of Iran?
What more could we be doing to try and advance human
rights, both within Iran or to thwart their efforts outside of
Iran that have taken many lives and have continued to threaten
Ambassador Sherman. Thank you, Senator.
As you said, we welcomed the release of 16 prisoners of
conscience, including human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. But
we hope that Iran will expeditiously free all of the 80
political prisoners whose pardons it recently announced, many
of whom we are still working to confirm as released.
So, indeed, it would be very, very wise of Iran to speak to
the international community by making affirmation of the
release of all of those prisoners.
In addition, as you pointed out, we have three Americans
that we are all quite concerned about--Robert Levinson, Amir
Hekmati, and Saeed Abedini. Both Mr. Hekmati and Mr. Abedini
are in prison. It would be a grand humanitarian gesture, since
they really did nothing wrong, for them to be released, and it
would be very, very important if Robert Levinson, who has not
been known to his family since March 2007, almost 7 years now--
almost 7 years--for Iran to cooperate, help us to find out
where he is and get him released back to his family.
Finally, we have sanctioned more than 30 Iranian
individuals and organizations for their involvement or
complicity in serious human rights abuses and censorship. We
will continue to move in that regard on sanctions enforcement.
We have continued to strongly support the mandate of the U.N.
special rapporteur for human rights in Iran, and we also use
our Virtual Embassy Tehran platform and its associated
USAdarFarsi Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Google+ platforms
to promote freedom of expression, respect for human rights, and
free and fair and transparent electoral processes.
It is very interesting that Alan Eyre, who is a fluent
Farsi speaker and really the voice of our face to Iranians, an
interview with him was put on the front page of an Iranian
paper for the first time, including with a very nice picture of
Alan. He is part of our delegation and our team for
negotiations because he is a fluent Farsi speaker.
He understands Iran quite well. It helps to understand
sometimes what is going on in the room. So he is a great asset
on all of these issues.
The Chairman. Senator Johnson.
Senator Coons. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Johnson. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I would like
to thank the chairman for making the determination that this
hearing was essential to our continuing the government here.
I happen to think that national security is the top
priority of government. I think it is actually an essential
part of government, and so I would also like to thank Secretary
Sherman for coming here today. I am thankful the State
Department has certainly determined that you are essential as
we are moving forward to making sure that we enforce the
sanctions against Iran because that is essential to our
So let me start with that; that question. I appreciate the
fact that in your testimony, you said that the shutdown is
causing concern about our being able to enforce Iran sanctions.
So does not the State Department, does not the Treasury
Department have the ability, just like we have in Congress, of
making a determination in terms of what is essential activity?
Ambassador Sherman. Well, certainly. And the head of OFAC,
I understand, I think is still at work, as well as with a
couple of staff. But OFAC's responsibilities are enormous, and
they have to determine, given what they have in front of them,
who they can keep and who they cannot.
Senator Johnson. But we are here today in this hearing
because we believe the actions of Iran pose a serious national
security threat to this Nation. So why would the State
Department or the Treasury Department not deem the people in
charge of enforcing the sanctions against Iran as an essential
service of the Federal Government? Why would they not do that?
Ambassador Sherman. Well, we only have limited budgets
available to us. So I know that you would believe that there
are many things that Treasury must do to make sure that U.S.
currency, U.S. monetary and fiscal policy is protected. I mean,
they have a whole variety of things that are essential to U.S.
national security and foreign policy and economy----
Senator Johnson. It is a matter of prioritizing spending.
Ambassador Sherman. Well, it is not just a matter of
prioritizing spending. There are bottom lines here, Senator,
with all due respect. And I think the fundamental point here
is, I truly believe every member of this committee wants us to
keep Iran front and center, as we do.
And I know that Secretary Lew, I know that DNI Clapper and
Director Brennan all want to make sure that Iran is front and
center. But there are realities to how much money we have
available to us during the shutdown.
Senator Johnson. Okay. Well----
Ambassador Sherman. And it is limited.
Senator Johnson. Well, Madam Secretary, as I said to you
before the hearing, I really would like to think that we can
have politics end at the water's edge. And I believe this
committee really has shown that capability I think during a
very thoughtful debate on the Syrian issue. So I believe that
But then you come before the committee here, and I think
very appropriately, again, I appreciate the fact that you are
pointing out to us that you are concerned about our ability to
enforce the sanctions against Iran. So I guess the question I
would have is, is it not also appropriate then for you to come
before Congress, maybe before the House and say, listen, if you
do not have the ability to deem those sanction enforcers as
essential, if you need additional funding, to ask the House to
pass a measure quickly, which I believe they would do probably
today if you made the request.
And then ask Senator Harry Reid to bring that up in front
of the Senate. Probably on the basis of unanimous consent, I
think we could get that funding to you in a matter of hours. I
mean, would you be willing to work with Congress to do just
Ambassador Sherman. As I said----
Senator Johnson. Because it is essential.
Ambassador Sherman. As I said, Senator, I believe that
there are many essential pieces to what we do. Many.
Senator Johnson. Have you made the point to the President
how crucial it is to make sure that we maintain the sanctions
can enforce them against Iran? Have you made that point to the
Ambassador Sherman. I think that everyone knows that it is
essential that we enforce things with Iran. I also believe that
it is essential that we make sure that Israel's peace and
security is affirmed through our budget. I also believe that it
is essential that we can, in fact, talk with countries around
the world about good governance and have credibility when we do
so because our own system is working.
Senator Johnson. Okay.
Ambassador Sherman. So this is very complicated, and I
defer to the bipartisanship up here to ultimately solve the
problem. You know how better to get that done than I do.
Senator Johnson. Well, obviously, we are at an impasse
right here, and discussions are not working very well. I
certainly did not want to have a Government shutdown. But now
we are having the House making the attempt to start passing
over--let us call them--mini appropriation bills.
The way the process ought to work, it should have happened
months ago. But again, I am highly concerned about the national
security of this Nation. I would hope the President is equally
So that being the case, we are at this impasse. Why do we
not at least allow the House to pass mini appropriation bills,
mini continuing resolutions, so we can fund the essential parts
of Government so that we are not concerned about the
enforcement of the sanctions against Iran?
Again, I would really encourage you through the
administration, talking to the President, whoever you need to
talk to, to make that request, allow that to come to a vote in
the Senate and have President Obama sign those funding measures
so that we can continue with the essential services of
The Chairman. Senator Kaine.
Senator Kaine. Mr. Chair, I was not going to do this, but I
cannot resist. It is not the Department of State's fault, and
it is not the administration's fault that Congress has not
passed a budget.
It is not the Department of State's fault, and it is not
the administration's fault that the House and some in this body
have repeatedly blocked even a budget conference from starting.
Everyone around this table knows this, but just for folks who
are here. The Senate had not passed a budget in 4 years, and we
passed one on the 23rd of March, the same week that the House
passed a budget.
And we have been making an effort to go into a budget
conference so that we can make these funding decisions since
the 23rd of March and have been blocked in doing it 19 times.
The attitude has been we will not have a budget conference
because we are not interested in talking. We are not interested
in listening. We are not interested in compromise.
Only after pushing the Government to shutdown at midnight
Monday did the House say, well, now let us have a conference.
But not a conference about the budget. Let us have a conference
about whether or not the Government of the United States should
be open or closed.
I mean, we should not be expecting the State Department to
help bail Congress out of the dysfunction of not being willing
to sit down and compromise. I mean, please, do all you can to
stress the critical nature of your work, but we know that, and
so does the President. This is up to Congress to solve, and it
is only going to get solved if we sit down and have a
conference about the budget, which we have been trying to do
Now my question, it is really an observation, and it is
based upon some questions that I have heard Senator Risch ask
before. Ambassador Sherman, in the sanctions regime against
Iran, an area that I continue to be concerned about, is the
nations that continue to purchase Iranian oil in a significant
way. And Senator Risch and I were in a hearing recently with an
Ambassador candidate to India, and we were talking about that
or who is going to deal with India.
And the nations and especially China, which purchases such
a large amount, that continue to purchase Iranian oil, if we
could get them to do more to scale back their energy purchases,
I think it would take the sanctions regime, which are having an
effect, and make them even more effective and, hopefully, help
We had a meeting in early July, and I think Senator McCain
was at this meeting. Senator Reid pulled it together. It was
with the number-two leader of the Chinese Government, and I
asked him this question. You have reduced your oil purchases
from Iran for a variety of reasons, including to help the
sanctions. Could you reduce them dramatically further and then
say, but if you give up your nuclear program, we are going to
buy a lot more from you?
So have a stick, but then have a carrot. And could India do
the same thing? Dramatically reduce oil purchases, but with a
carrot down the road. Or Japan could do the same thing.
And the response of the Chinese official was very adroit
and very quick. He said we would be very willing to consider
cutting our purchases from Iran even further if you would sell
us liquid natural gas.
Now that was the issue we were talking about with our
Ambassador or representatives to India. And I would just kind
of, from a political affairs standpoint, hope that the United
States asset, this significant supply of natural gas, while the
exportation of it has some other domestic economic issues we
ought to balance, I think that is a real resource and asset
that we could have that could even take the nations that we are
currently exempting from the sanctions and could help them
dramatically reduce their purchases in a short-term period as a
way to enhance sanctions.
And I just want to sort of encourage you to think about
that asset in that way.
Ambassador Sherman. Thank you very much, Senator.
Indeed, our energy bureau, headed up by Ambassador Pascual,
has looked very carefully at this and be glad to ask him to
come up and brief the committee on what we are doing in this
regard. LNG works in some countries as a substitute. In others,
it does not.
And as you point out, there are a lot of domestic as well
as international issues involved in deciding whether we are
going to export our gas and the tremendous asset we have now
discovered that we have. But I do think it is something worth
pursuing. We are pursuing it and would be glad to arrange a
briefing for the committee on what works about this and what
does not work about this and how we could move it forward and
what are the considerations for it.
We also agree that we need to keep pressing China. India,
Turkey, South Korea, Japan, and their small amounts of oil that
still go to Taiwan, that we need to keep pressing, and we are,
all of them, for reductions. But all 23 importers of Iranian
oil have either eliminated or significantly reduced purchases
from Iran, and we are left with only 5 major customers of oil.
So, with your help, thank you for the tremendous progress.
Senator Kaine. And Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, if I might
just very quickly?
But you continue to believe, though, that if those five
major purchasers continued to scale back in significant ways,
that could be a very strong additional leverage point to
increase sanctions and help us with our diplomatic discussions
surrounding the Iranian nuclear program?
Ambassador Sherman. Without a doubt. Though I would note,
particularly probably for China and India, it becomes more and
more difficult to do because their demands are growing
exponentially even as they are reducing. And I think I have
used this statistic in front of the committee before.
A given percentage reduction from China, who is currently
the largest purchaser of oil from Iran, would be approximately
equal to a volume reduction twice as large as the same
percentage reduction from India, three times as large as the
same percentage reduction from South Korea, and four times
bigger than the same percentage reduction from Turkey.
So even a 1-percent decline in Chinese purchases is double
what anybody else's reduction is because their volumes are so
The Chairman. Senator McCain.
Senator McCain. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Secretary Sherman. Thank you for being here.
I think there is a question in the minds of many of us
about credibility. Mr. Rouhani is one of the most trusted
figures of the Islamic regime's Supreme Leader. He has been the
Deputy Speaker of Parliament, and as we know, he also served as
And then, on an interview that he gave, which is out there
on the Internet, ``The day that we invited the three European
ministers, only 10 centrifuges were spinning at the Iranian
nuclear facility.'' Rouhani boasted on the tape, ``We could not
produce one gram of U4 or U6. We did not have the heavy water
production. We could not produce yellow cake. Our total
production of centrifuges inside the country was 150.''
But then Rouhani admitted in the video the purpose of
prolonging negotiations. ``We wanted to complete all of these.
needed time.'' He said three European ministers promised to
block U.S. efforts to transfer the Iranian nuclear dossier to
the United Nations using veto power as necessary.
He called Iran's claim that it stopped its nuclear program
in 2003 a statement for the uneducated and admitted that the
program not only continued, but it was significantly expanded
under his tenure. In the interview, Rouhani said that after he
took over the country's nuclear project, the country's 150 grew
to 1,700 by the time he left the project.
Then Rouhani made his boldest statement. ``We did not stop.
We completed the program.''
Now we are supposed to trust this guy? What possible
confidence do you have in this individual?
Ambassador Sherman. Senator, I do not trust the people who
sit across the table from me in these negotiations, and you are
quite right that Rouhani was the chief negotiator from 2003,
2005, and I am well familiar with that interview with his book.
That as Secretary Kerry has said, we must test the proposition
that has been put before us, but not forever and ever, for the
reasons you point out.
Senator McCain. How long should the test take, do you
Ambassador Sherman. Well, I think we will know whether we
are even at the beginning----
Senator McCain. So we do not know how long the test will
Ambassador Sherman. We will know----
Senator McCain. Do you have a date?
Ambassador Sherman. Can I finish my sentence?
Senator McCain. Sure.
Ambassador Sherman. Thank you, Senator.
I think we will know when we meet on the 15th and 16th
whether there is anything real here or not. I think we will
know rather quickly whether we are beginning a serious
negotiation or whether we are moving down one more road that
Senator McCain. Do we have evidence that the Iranian regime
is training their regular forces in the use of chemical weapons
Ambassador Sherman. In this setting, what I can say to you,
Senator, is that we are quite well aware that Iran is very
heavily engaged in Syria, both with advisers, boots on the
ground, the financing of Lebanese Hezbollah, providing all
kinds of strategic advice in ways that are quite destructive
Senator McCain. So you cannot say in public hearing whether
we know whether the Iranians are training Syrians in the use of
chemical weapons or not?
Ambassador Sherman. I will be glad to have our intelligence
community come back to you on that.
Senator McCain. I see. Is Qasem Soleimani playing a role in
the Assad regime's decisionmaking, in your assessment? What
influence does he have over the regime's command and control?
Ambassador Sherman. What I can say, again, in this setting,
and I think we probably should make sure we get a classified
briefing for you on all of this, Qasem Soleimani is very
critical to the IRGC Quds Force. He is engaged, we believe, in
what is going on in Syria in ways that obviously we wish he was
Senator McCain. And the situation, as a result, to the Camp
Ashraf people. We know they were Iranian dissidents. At one
point, they were designated as a terrorist organization. But
the United States of America, is it true, gave them an
assurance that if they moved, that they would be protected?
We know the Iranian influence has dramatically increased in
Iraq. In fact, we know now that al-Qaeda is alive and well and
doing extremely well, moving back and forth across the two
countries. Now, there was a murder of, I believe, 51 people who
were members of this camp, and many of them had in their
possession guarantees from the United States of America that
they would not be harmed.
First of all, are those facts true? And second of all, if
true, what lesson does that send to people who we say will be
under our protection?
Ambassador Sherman. Senator, I share your deep concern
about what happened at Camp Ashraf. This was a vicious attack
on September 1, and many lives were lost. And the United States
continues to press the Government of Iraq at every opportunity
at the most senior levels to ensure the safety and security of
residents at Camp Hurriya, where many of the MEK were moved for
We strongly and swiftly condemned the attack. We, of
course, extend our condolences to the victims' families, and we
are working with the Government of Iraq and the United Nations
Assistance Mission for Iraq, UNAMI, to peacefully and
voluntarily transfer the surviving residents to safety at Camp
Hurriya on September 12. And we are working for the protection
of the people in Camp Hurriya because we do not want a repeat
So, to date, the Government of Iraq has moved in over 700
large T-walls, over 500 bunkers, over 600 small T-walls, and
nearly 50,000 sandbags. U.N. monitors visit the camp daily, in
accordance with the MOU, to assess human rights and
But I must say, Senator, the real answer to this, to the
safety and security of all of the people in the camps--who
wants to live in a camp?--is resettlement to third countries to
get out of Iraq and to get out of harm's way. And I would call
on all of the people who are here today representing the rights
and interests of the MEK and the leaders of the MEK in the
camps and in Paris to allow this resettlement to go forward
because until the resettlement happens, safety and security is
going to be at risk.
We will do everything in our power to keep people safe in
these camps. But as you point out, the al-Qaeda threat is
increasing in Iraq, and it is difficult.
Senator McCain. Unfortunately, we did not keep our word,
despite your good words, and I appreciate those good words. And
I hope that--and I hope that this issue will be raised with the
Iraqi Government, and we in Congress may have to look at the
kind of aid and how we are extending that to Iraq if this kind
of thing is going to be countenanced by the Iraqi Government.
And I do not--I used up all my time. I thank you for your
The Chairman. Before I turn to Senator Markey, let me echo
what Senator McCain has said in this regard, and I have put out
a statement in this regard. I have also talked to our
department. You know, America went to the MEK, and we said
disarm and we will protect you. And then we ultimately left,
and that protection has not been there.
You can put up I do not care how many tons of sandbags, but
when elements of the Iranian--excuse me, of the Iraqi forces
actually may very well be complicit in what took place,
sandbags are not going to take care of the problem. And I agree
with you that resettlement is a critical part. Maybe the United
States could be part of leading the way in saying to a universe
of these individuals that, in fact, you can be resettled to the
United States, and that would get the rest of the world to
offer further resettlement.
But it is unacceptable to lose one more life when American
commanders gave these individuals a written guarantee toward
their safety, and it sends a message to others in the world
that when we say that we are going to do that and we do not,
that they should not trust us.
And for one thing that this committee can do, since it has
jurisdiction over all weapons sales, is that I doubt very much
that we are going to see any approval of any weapons sales to
Iraq until we get this situation in a place in which people's
lives are saved.
Senator McCain. Could I say thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Markey. The sanctions have squeezed the regime of
Iran, but we cannot let the Iranians wriggle out of the impacts
of the sanctions through a mirage of cooperation. We should not
relax the sanctions one inch while Iran's intentions are still
And as you have noted, Madam Under Secretary, we are not in
a trust, but verify situation with Iran here. We do not trust
the Iranian regime, and we should not trust the Iranian regime.
And that is where we are going to be, and I think we all agree
There has been a very high historical prevarication
coefficient coming out of Iran on this program. And by the way,
they are no different than the North Koreans. They are no
different than the Iraqis. They are no different than the
Syrians. They were all using what each of these countries says
is an interest in wattage, electricity wattage, in order to get
access to a civilian nuclear electricity program to compromise
it in order to obtain the uranium and plutonium.
They all lie. They all lie. It is all about the nuclear
weapons. And each country does it, and we keep falling for it.
Not ``we''--in general, the world keeps falling for it. We keep
trusting them, you know, to not compromise it, and all you need
is a slight change in the government, and all of a sudden,
these materials are going into the hands of those that want a
And by the way, that is my concern about saying, well, we
will consider giving a nuclear program to Saudi Arabia or, for
that matter, to the United Arab Emirates. When the government
changes, so can the program as they just boot out all those
people who were inspecting the civilian program.
It is just an ongoing storyline that never changes, and
then we wind up getting deeper and deeper, which is why we have
to be thankful for the Israelis in 1981 when they bombed the
Osirak nuclear power plant in Iraq. It was not truly under
full-scope safeguards. And when they bombed the Syrian nuclear
plant, they did the world a favor because, again, this whole
safeguards regime question is completely dependent upon how
intrusive, how continuous the inspections regime is in
guaranteeing that the program is not compromised.
And I do not think it should take a long time to determine
whether or not they are going to allow the inspectors in to go
to those sites to begin the preliminary work. We all know that
is what happened in Iraq. They let the inspectors in when they
thought there was going to be a war, and we could not find the
nuclear weapon program, okay?
We should have never started the war because we could not
find the program that was the ostensible justification to make
sure the next attack did not come in the form of a mushroom
cloud, and we could not find the program. But we had the
inspectors in, and they were riding all over that country. That
is what Iran has to accept.
There has been a compromise to this program, okay, as other
countries have compromised their nuclear programs. And that is
why we have to be very careful in the Middle East as we talk
about Saudi Arabia having a civilian nuclear program. There are
300 days of sunshine in the Middle East. Whenever we are
talking about selling nuclear power for electricity into
countries that have oil and gas, okay, then we should just cast
an arched eyebrow.
It is very, very likely that 10 years from now, 20, 30, it
will all turn on us again, and we will be talking about
American young men and women being put at risk. So I guess my
question just came in the form of that comment. I would like to
move over, if I could, very briefly over to the cyber issue.
We know that there are Iranian extremists that have been
attacking sites in the United States, in Saudi Arabia, other
places. What role is their capacity to launch cyber attacks on
the West, on other countries in the Middle East, playing in
these negotiations to make sure they know that we want that
shut down as well, and we do not want them playing games in
this ever-increasingly dangerous area of international
Ambassador Sherman. Senator, thank you. Thank you for your
comments, and you have long been a leader and a champion and a
speaker about nuclear energy, nuclear power, nuclear weapons.
You and I have had these conversations for many years.
Where cyber is concerned, we are, of course, concerned
about the capability of Iran. We are concerned about the
capability of many countries in the world to use cyber.
Where Iran is specifically concerned, I think that
discussion would better take place in a classified setting, and
I would be glad to arrange for that briefing to occur.
Senator Markey. Well, again, I just want to say that that
is a big part of this storyline.
Ambassador Sherman. Absolutely.
Senator Markey. Okay. And they use it, again, in a regional
context that then drives these other countries toward their own
sense that they have to increase their own protection. And so,
I think it is absolutely critical that we play the lead role
Stuxnet played a big role right now in buying us more time,
but we know that a counterpart capacity also exists in Iran and
other countries to attack us, to attack the West, to attack
those regional neighbors. And so, I just want to highlight that
issue, thank you for your work on it, and wish you good luck. I
think we are at a critical point.
And I would just say this in summation, Mr. Chairman. Back
in the cold war, Brezhnev died, Chernenko died, Andropov died--
three leaders in 3 years--and Gorbachev took over April of
1985. He said he wanted to end the nuclear arms race. He said
he wanted to reduce nuclear arms. He said he wanted an
We had to test it, but we had a moral responsibility to
test it and to trust, but verify, as Ronald Reagan said. We
have a lot of reason to put Iran in the same category that we
put the former Soviet Union. But Rouhani shows up as a new era
potentially, potentially. And I think it is exactly what you
just said. We do not know how long his leash is that the
Supreme Leader is giving him.
But if it is one, then we can test it quickly because they
can let those inspectors in, and we can get the preliminary
guarantee that those sites are going to be made accessible to
the world. And I think there will be a sigh of relief that will
be breathed, as there was in the mid-1980s when Reagan was able
to extract that same kind of inspection regimes.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Chairman. Thank you.
Madam Secretary, before we let you go, I have two final
questions. One is last week Pakistan's Prime Minister said he
intended to move forward with a natural gas pipeline deal with
Iran that was agreed to by the previous government with
Pakistan. If that were to take place, it would be in clear
violation of our Iran sanctions regime, not to mention that it
would provide a critical revenue stream to Iran, and it would
create challenges globally with our other partners in terms of
saying we are following you on the sanctions, but you cannot
allow somebody to get away with it, and then all of us be
ultimately subject to the sanctions.
Is the administration having discussions with Pakistan on
this issue, and are we ready to proceed with sanctions if they
continue on the deal?
Ambassador Sherman. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
A couple of points, if I may? On Pakistan, we have those
discussions and will continue with the Pakistani Government. My
own assessment is it is not going anywhere anytime soon. But
they certainly understand where we are and what our sanctions
require, should it proceed.
So we will keep vigilant about not only what Pakistan may
do, but any country that is going to have to confront the
sanctions that the United States and the international
community has at its disposal.
If I may, Senator, I would also like to take the
opportunity to comment on what you said about Iraq. And we
quite agree--and what Senator McCain said. We quite agree that
we need to do everything we can to resettle the people, to get
them out of the harm's way, to make good on the word we gave to
I know that there are strong feelings up here, and I
understand why, about arms sales to Iraq. But I do want to put
on the record that U.S. security assistance and foreign
military sales in particular are tools that we use for building
and shaping Iraq's defense capabilities and integrating Iraqi
security forces with our security forces and regional partners.
And I just want to caution that withholding security
assistance may well serve to decrease our influence in Baghdad,
cede relationships and leverage to strategic competitors who
will fill the vacuum and could conceivably damage our long-term
interests. So I just ask that we talk very carefully as we go
The Chairman. Well, let me caution you about the
overflights that Iraq has permitted from Iran into Syria
largely with impunity. And let me also caution that the seven
hostages, which we believe the Iraqi Government knows where
they are, should they die, it would be complicating matters for
all of that.
So I hope that we have both cautioned each other.
Ambassador Sherman. Quite agree. Quite agree. I quite agree
with you on both issues.
The Chairman. Let me close by asking you one final
question. What is it that we will accept less than what the
world has said is necessary through the Security Council
Ambassador Sherman. I am sorry?
The Chairman. What is it that we would accept in these
negotiations with Iran less than what has been established
under the Security Council resolutions?
Ambassador Sherman. We have continued to say to Iran that
we expect them to fulfill all of their obligations under the
NPT and the Security Council resolutions.
The Chairman. All right. Well, thank you for your
testimony. I look forward to what the Department and the State
Department is going to be able to do with Iran as you test
their intentions. I intend to keep the Department's feet to the
Ambassador Sherman. Thank you.
The Chairman [continuing]. On our issue of sanctions as we
move forward. And Senator Corker.
Senator Corker. Mr. Chairman, I will be very brief. I know
we have another panel coming, but I would like to ask the
Secretary. You know, we have talked a lot today about the
nuclear issue and other important issues here today. But if we
negotiate an end to their nuclear program or a significant
rollback, we still have a country that is hostile.
They are a state sponsor of terror. They have a terrible
human rights record. So, you know, I know that you all are
looking at trying to negotiate some relief, if you will,
relative to the sanctions. But the fact is that the way the
sanctions law reads, they have got to not only dismantle their
nuclear program, but they also have to renounce terrorism.
And I just wonder how are those negotiations going
simultaneous to these others and what you are doing to ensure?
Because, again, the way the law reads, these sanctions cannot
be undone unless all of that occurs, and it seems to me we are
only moving on one track, a very good one track. But I am just
wondering how you might be addressing the other?
Ambassador Sherman. We have been clear with the Iranians
that we are talking here about their nuclear program and the
sanctions that relate to their nuclear program and that the
sanctions that exist regarding human rights actions, their
terrorist actions are still on the table because of exactly
what you say, which is that they need to make progress,
considerable progress around human rights. They have to stop
their sponsorship of terrorism.
They have to stop regionally destabilizing that part of the
world and many other parts of the world, quite frankly. So
those are other discussions that we have with Iran, as is the
subject of this today and as the subject of the 15th and 16th
will be on their nuclear program.
Senator Corker. Thank you.
The Chairman. Thank you, Madam Secretary, for your
testimony. We always appreciate your service.
Ambassador Sherman. Thank you for the opportunity.
The Chairman. Let me call up our next panel. I have
introduced them already, but David Albright, founder and
president of the Institute for Science and International
Security; the Honorable James F. Jeffrey, distinguished
visiting fellow of the Washington Institute for Near East
Peace, and Ray Takeyh, senior fellow for Middle East studies on
the Council on Foreign Relations.
The Chairman. And let me apologize to Mr. Takeyh for my
mispronunciation of his name.
We welcome you. Your full testimony will be included in the
record without objection. We ask you to summarize it in about 5
minutes or so, and we will start with Mr. Albright.
STATEMENT OF DAVID ALBRIGHT, PRESIDENT, INSTITUTE FOR SCIENCE
AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY, WASHINGTON, DC
Dr. Albright. Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and
Ranking Member Senator Corker and other members of the
committee, for the opportunity to testify today.
I think it has been made clear that there is certainly hope
that an agreement with Iran can be achieved over its nuclear
program, and I think I certainly share many of the views here
that one should be skeptical and move very quickly to test
whether the Iranians have really changed.
And I think we also have to keep in mind that the goal is
not necessarily specific limitations on their nuclear program,
but it is to provide an agreement that ensures that they will
not seek nuclear weapons. And I think that is a very difficult
thing to do. And what I would like to do is talk through some
of the issues on the nuclear program and then some of the
implications of that kind of objective on what you would like
to see in agreement.
And I think it is clear to everybody, and some have made
this point today, that Iran's nuclear program is large and
growing. And it is also true that there has been no signs of
the reduction in that program since President Rouhani took
office. In fact, some of his comments in New York clearly
implied that he envisions a growing nuclear program.
And as you know, there are two main gas centrifuge sites in
Natanz and Fordow. There is also growing suspicion that they
may be building a new one, and President Rouhani has not
provided answers to that question.
Also Iran has produced very large stocks of enriched
uranium, significant stock that is near 20 percent enriched and
then a very large stock of 3.5 percent enriched uranium. And
then, during the last 2 years, Iran has essentially doubled the
number of its centrifuges at Natanz and Fordow, and it now has
over 19,000 centrifuges installed at these facilities. And
1,000 of them are these advanced centrifuges that we have
worried about for years.
And so, Iran is putting together a considerable nuclear
weapons production capability, if it chose to go that route.
And I think, as I mentioned, in developing a negotiating
position, we have to look at how to constrain that program and
provide the kind of assurance we need that it would not build
nuclear weapons, and in that, we have to consider how long it
would take Iran to make weapon-grade uranium for a nuclear
And I think the chairman has mentioned some of the
estimates, and we have done some looking at today and how much
they could do. And essentially, if Iran made a decision today
to produce weapon-grade uranium, which is, to us, the long pole
in the tent of making a nuclear weapon, it could make enough
weapon-grade uranium for a bomb in about 1 to 1.5 months.
Now there are many things that can happen that would
lengthen that time, but that, to us, is a credible minimal time
for Iran to break out. Now I do not think Iran would do that
now because it would be detected by the inspectors, and it
would have to fear that it would be struck militarily. So I
think what we would call the breakout estimates provide some
assurance that there is still some time to solve this problem.
But unfortunately, Iran continues to add centrifuges to its
program, and we would hope that would stop. But if you look at
the plan trends of its centrifuge program, we think that by
mid-2014, Iran could have so many centrifuges installed and
could also produce more 20 percent enriched uranium that it
could break out before and break out and produce enough weapon-
grade uranium for a bomb before the international inspectors
could detect that.
Now that does not mean they would have a bomb at that time,
and Ambassador Sherman talked about a U.S. estimate of about a
year or up to a year. I mean, there is controversy on that. I
think our estimate is to get an actual first nuclear explosive,
it could take anywhere from 3 months to 12 months. We do not
know their capabilities that well.
But in terms of the long pole in the tent, it is the
weapon-grade uranium. And once they have enough for a bomb or
two, it is going to change things fundamentally, even if it is
going to take them several more months to actually construct a
nuclear explosive. Therefore, negotiations should clearly aim
to limit Iran's ability to reach what we call a critical
capability and what you have called a breakout capability and
to increase the time it takes Iran to build nuclear weapons.
Let me briefly talk about the plutonium side of this that I
think Iran has caused more alarm by saying it is going to soon
start the Iraq heavy water reactor, which, from a technical
point of view, is pretty well designed to make weapon-grade
plutonium and is not so well designed to make medical isotopes.
And so, there is worry that this could open a second
pathway to nuclear weapons for Iran, if they operate it. And
so, I think it is very important in negotiations to get Iran to
first simply say we are not going to start it until 2015 or
later and then to seek the end of this construction project and
just eliminate this as a possibility.
Let me make one last point. For us, it is a very important
one. We have worked on a lot of countries over time. We have
seen countries get nuclear weapons. We have seen them give them
up. One of the more troubling aspects of Iran's statements is
its insistence that it had no nuclear weapons program in the
past, it has none now, despite the overwhelming evidence that
that is simply not true.
Now I understand, and Senator Markey made the point,
countries often lie about their nuclear weapons programs. I
mean, that is nothing new, and sometimes people live with those
lies. But in the case of Iran, if they do not start opening up
and I would say answering the questions of the International
Atomic Energy Agency on this issue, which has well-developed
evidence and a whole set of questions and a negotiating path
with Iran to settle this--and unless they settle this, it is
going to be very hard to believe anything they do on this
And I think if they are not willing to do this, then I am
not sure they would pass the test that is needed to settle this
Let me end there, and I apologize for going over.
[The prepared statement of Dr. Albright follows:]
Prepared Statement of Dr. David Albright
Iran has invested heavily in nuclear industries in the last 30
years. However, its investments, often made in secret and dominated by
black market purchases, have not been consistent with a strictly
peaceful nuclear program.
Despite many setbacks over the last three decades, Iran has found
suppliers to provide the wherewithal to build many nuclear facilities.
One of the most important suppliers was A.Q. Khan and his network of
business associates in Europe, Asia, and Africa. They provided Iran in
the 1980s and 1990s with many key requirements necessary to build and
operate gas centrifuge plants. Without their assistance, Iran would
have likely been unable to develop a successful gas centrifuge program.
Since then, Iran has depended extensively on illicit foreign
procurement of a wide range of nuclear-related dual-use goods to outfit
many of its nuclear efforts. Those efforts continue today.
Iran's current nuclear infrastructure is large. It has two gas
centrifuge sites, the underground Natanz plants and the deeply buried
Fordow enrichment plant. It has stated plans to build a total of 10
enrichment plants and suspicions are growing that it is building
another one in secret. It is operating a large power reactor at Bushehr
and maintains relatively large uranium conversion and fuel fabrication
facilities near Esfahan. It is nearing completion of a heavy water
reactor at Arak that appears better suited to make plutonium for
nuclear weapons than to produce medical isotopes for civilian use.
If Iran decided to produce nuclear explosive materials today, it
could use its gas centrifuge program to produce weapon-grade uranium
(WGU). However, Iran's fear of military strikes likely deters it at
this time from producing WGU or nuclear weapons. However, if its
centrifuge plants expand as currently planned, by the middle of 2014
these plants could have enough centrifuges to allow Iran to break out
so quickly, namely rapidly produce WGU from its stocks of low enriched
uranium, that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would
likely not detect this breakout until after Iran had produced enough
WGU for one or two nuclear weapons. ISIS calls this a ``critical
If the Arak reactor operates, Iran could also create a plutonium
pathway to nuclear weapons. This reactor can produce enough plutonium
each year for one or two nuclear weapons, heightening concerns that
Iran aims to build nuclear weapons. Its operation would needlessly
complicate negotiations and increase the risk of military strikes.
current enrichment status and low enriched uranium (leu) stocks
Iran began enriching uranium in its main enrichment facility, the
Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP), near Natanz in February 2007. Over the
past 6 years, Tehran has increased the number of enriching centrifuges
at Natanz to more than 9,000
IR-1 centrifuges, added a set of tandem IR-1 centrifuge cascades in the
Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) at Natanz, and commenced enrichment
at the fortified, underground Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP) in
two sets of tandem IR-1 cascades. Additionally, Iran has worked to
improve its cascade design and greatly increased its skill in operating
centrifuge cascades. While the IR-1 is not an advanced centrifuge, and
while its performance in Iran has been subpar, Iran's
IR-1 cascades still could be employed effectively to make WGU.
Iran has in the last 2 years installed many thousands of additional
centrifuges at its facilities. Although it has not begun enriching in
these machines, the vast majority are fully installed and under vacuum,
meaning that Iran could quickly begin feeding natural uranium into
these cascades and more than double its enrichment capacity.
As of the August 2013 IAEA ``Safeguards Report on Iran,'' Iran had
installed an additional 6,250 IR-1 centrifuges for a total of 15,416
IR-1 centrifuges at the Natanz FEP. Iran has also begun installing its
advanced centrifuge, the IR-2m, a centrifuge with a capacity three to
five times greater than the IR-1 centrifuge, at the FEP. As of August,
Iran had fully installed 1,008 IR-2m centrifuges there and was
preparing to fully install over 3,000 of these machines at the FEP.
Even if Iran installs no additional IR-2m centrifuges, these installed
IR-2ms are equivalent to 3,000-5,000 IR-1 centrifuges.
Iran has nearly fully outfitted the Fordow facility with IR-1
centrifuges, although it continues to enrich in only 696 centrifuges.
Another 2,014 IR-1 centrifuges are installed, for a total of 2,710 IR-1
centrifuges. If all these centrifuges are devoted to making near 20
percent LEU, Iran could nearly quadruple its output of this material to
over 40 kilograms (kg) per month.
In total, at the Natanz pilot plant, the Natanz FEP, and the Fordow
site, Iran has installed 18,454 IR-1 centrifuges in production-scale
cascade. To this must be added the 1,008 IR-2m centrifuges installed at
the FEP. These results are summarized in Table 1.
During this time, Iran has also enriched and stockpiled a
significant amount of uranium. According to the August 2013 IAEA
safeguards report, it has produced in total 9,704 kilograms of uranium
hexafluoride enriched to 3.5 percent, some 2,877 kg of which has been
further enriched at the Natanz pilot plant and the Fordow enrichment
plant to produce 373 kg of near 20 percent LEU hexafluoride. As of
August, Iran held a net 6,774 kg of 3.5 percent LEU hexafluoride and
186 kg of near 20 percent LEU hexafluoride, having converted a portion
of its near 20 percent fuel to uranium oxide suitable for fuel
assemblies for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR). These stockpiles are
monitored by the IAEA, but if Iran chose to break out from its
obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the stored
LEU in both hexafluoride and oxide form would be available for the
production of WGU. Table 2 summarizes these inventories.
Based on the IAEA August 2013 safeguards report on Iran, Iran had
converted no more than 30 kilograms of near 20 percent LEU, or 45
kilograms of near 20 percent LEU hexafluoride, into fuel assemblies for
the TRR. This represents approximately 12 percent of Iran's total stock
of near 20 percent enriched uranium, or only about 25 percent of the
amount of LEU Iran has sent to Esfahan for conversion.
Unless the near 20 percent LEU oxide is converted to fuel
assemblies and irradiated, it can relatively easily be reconverted to
uranium hexafluoride suitable for further enrichment. Even if Iran
began rapidly producing fuel assemblies for the TRR, due to the small
size of the research reactor, Iran cannot realistically irradiate this
As such, conversion into an oxide form cannot be seen as a
significant confidence-building measure on its own. Even so, Iran
should be commended for taking measures to convert its uranium to
uranium oxide at the Esfahan facility. Although conversion of uranium
hexafluoride into uranium oxide and fabrication into fuel elements does
limit Iran's ability to quickly use this material in a breakout
scenario, the only iron-clad way to prevent its further enrichment is
for an outside country to hold this material in escrow prior to
Iran has been careful to convert sufficient near 20 percent LEU
hexafluoride to keep its total stockpile of this material under the
redline established by Israel of about 240-250 kilograms of near 20
percent LEU hexafluoride. These values are a rough measure of the
amount of this LEU needed for further enrichment to produce about 25
kilograms of WGU, widely recognized as enough for a nuclear weapon.
These data show that Iran has produced far more LEU than it needs,
whether the LEU is near 20 percent enriched or 3.5 percent enriched.
Thus, a halt to enrichment would still leave Iran with a sizeable stock
of LEU that is far in excess of its current needs.
IRAN'S SHORTENING BREAKOUT TIMES
A central consideration in assessing the threat of Iran building
nuclear weapons is the timeline for Iran to acquire them following a
decision to do so. The IAEA has concluded that Iran has the know-how to
build a crude nuclear explosive device that it could detonate
underground or deliver by aircraft or ship. It would take Iran longer
to build a deliverable warhead for its Shahab 3 or Sajiil 2 ballistic
missiles because Iran is believed to require more time to master the
construction of a reliable, miniaturized warhead for these missiles.
Overall, Iran would likely need anywhere from a few months to about
a year to build a crude nuclear explosive device and longer to build a
warhead for a ballistic missile. The ``long pole in the tent'' of such
an effort is Iran's lack of sufficient WGU. It is assessed as not
possessing WGU, and thus its priority would be the production of enough
for a nuclear weapon, or more likely several nuclear weapons.
In that light, Iran may seek to divert its existing stocks of LEU,
enriching this material further up to weapon-grade as fast as it can.
Iran's goal would be to accumulate enough weapon-grade uranium before
it was detected and the United States and other nations responded,
likely militarily destroying the facilities doing the enrichment.
Over the last several years, ISIS in collaboration with U.S.
centrifuge specialists at the University of Virginia have estimated
Iranian breakout times under a variety of circumstances. These
estimates seek to determine a minimum time for Iran to accumulate
enough weapon-grade uranium for a nuclear weapon. In practice, breakout
times may be even longer than predicted. For example, Iran may know in
theory how to enrich to weapon-grade but in practice may encounter
difficulties and unexpected inefficiencies. Iran has found enrichment
very difficult and far more time consuming than expected. Nonetheless,
one central trend in these calculations is that as Iran has further
developed its gas centrifuge capabilities and increased its inventories
of LEU, breakout times have shortened significantly.
How quickly could Iran break out today at the Natanz and Fordow
The two main enrichment sites at Natanz and Fordow contain a total
of 18,454 IR-1 centrifuges (see Table 1). In order to conduct a dash
using safeguarded LEU at Natanz and Fordow, Iran would need to violate
its commitments under the NPT, including diverting the LEU from IAEA
safeguards. In that effort, however, Iran would need to make only minor
modifications in the enrichment plants before starting to enrich to
weapon-grade levels. We assess that these modifications today would
take at least 2 weeks to accomplish.
Recent estimates by the University of Virginia experts and ISIS
incorporate the data from the August 2013 IAEA report on Iran.
According to this estimate, if Iran used some of its existing stock of
3.5 percent LEU, all of its near 20 percent LEU hexafluoride, and all
of its installed IR-1 centrifuges, it could dash to produce one
significant quantity (SQ) of WGU needed for a nuclear weapon, or 25
kilograms of WGU, in 1.0-1.6 months. If it used in addition the
installed IR-2m centrifuges at Natanz and Fordow, it could reduce this
breakout time to 0.9-1.4 months.
If Iran chose to dash at these plants to WGU without using its near
20 percent LEU stockpile, it could produce 25 kg of WGU in 1.9-2.2
months with its IR-1 centrifuges, or in somewhat less time if it also
used its installed IR-2m centrifuges at the FEP. Iran currently has
enough 3.5 percent inventory to produce approximately 100 kg of WGU,
according to this estimate.
These estimated breakout times today are sufficiently long enough
to allow for detection by IAEA inspectors and a military response that
could end further production. However, breakout times are growing
dangerously short as Iran builds up its stock of near 20 percent LEU
hexafluoride and installs more centrifuges.
Although Iran is engaged in nuclear hedging, no evidence has
emerged that the regime has decided to build nuclear weapons. Such a
decision may be unlikely to occur until Iran is first able to augment
its enrichment capability to a point where it would have the ability to
make sufficient WGU quickly and secretly.
ISIS measures Iran's progress through an indicator called critical
capability, shorthand for an Iranian capability to produce one or two
weapons' worth of WGU using a stock of sufficient near 20 percent LEU
while avoiding detection by the IAEA and time for action to be taken to
stop it. Iran would achieve this capability principally by implementing
its existing, firm plans to install thousands more
IR-1 centrifuges, and perhaps a few thousand IR-2m centrifuges, at its
declared Natanz and Fordow centrifuge sites and to learn to start up
WGU production faster than it is judged capable of doing today. ISIS
currently assesses that Iran will reach critical capability in mid-2014
if it continues on its current trajectory.
Iran's critical capability date could be achieved a few months
earlier. For example, it could happen earlier if Iran successfully
deployed and operated several thousand IR-2m centrifuges while
continuing to install and operate more IR-1 centrifuges.
To delay this critical capability date, the most important
condition that could be placed on Iran is achieving a halt to the
installation of more centrifuges of any type. Any future nuclear
agreement must include a limit on the number and type of centrifuges
Iran can install. A numerical limit would need to be well below the
number of centrifuges currently installed at Natanz and Fordow and
below the number of centrifuges actually enriching in the summer of
2013, when the level was around 9,000 IR-1 centrifuges. In determining
this limit, each IR-2m should be treated as equivalent to 3-5 IR-1
centrifuges. Once data are available on the ability of IR-2m cascades
to enrich uranium, this equivalence can be better defined.
NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM
During the last several weeks, Iranian officials, including
President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have
emphasized that Iran has never pursued or sought a nuclear bomb.
Unfortunately, the available evidence provides little reason to believe
them. If Iran wants the world to believe it will not build nuclear
weapons in the future, the Iranian Government should reconsider its
blanket denials of ever seeking nuclear weapons in the past.
The U.S. intelligence community in a ``2007 National Intelligence
Estimate'' (NIE) stated: ``We assess with high confidence that until
fall 2003, Iranian military entities were working under government
direction to develop nuclear weapons.'' It added: ``We assess with
moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons
program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends
to develop nuclear weapons.'' Our European allies, Britain, France, and
Germany, agreed that Iran had a sizeable nuclear weapons program into
2003. However, they differed with the NIE's post-2003 conclusion. They
assessed that Iran's nuclear weaponization program continued after
2003, albeit in a smaller and less structured manner.
A March 31, 2012 New York Times story by James Risen reported that
the 2010 National Intelligence Estimate assessed that ``while Iran had
conducted some basic weapons-related research, it was not believed to
have restarted the actual weapons program halted in 2003.'' In an
earlier article on March 17, 2012, Risen wrote: ``Iran says its nuclear
program is for peaceful civilian purposes, but American intelligence
agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency have picked up
evidence in recent years that some Iranian research activities that may
be weapons-related have continued since 2003, officials said. That
information has not been significant enough for the spy agencies to
alter their view that the weapons program has not been restarted.'' But
Risen reporting shows that U.S. intelligence found evidence that
research on nuclear weapons may have continued after 2003.
These assessments are in line with the IAEA's findings. In its
November 2011 safeguards report, the IAEA provided evidence of Iran's
pre- and post-2003 nuclear weaponization efforts. The IAEA found, ``The
information indicates that prior to the end of 2003 [the activities]
took place under a structured programme. There are also indications
that some activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive
device continued after 2003, and that some may still be ongoing.''
Several years of efforts by the IAEA to resolve these concerns have
proven fruitless. The IAEA is scheduled to meet Iran in late October to
discuss these issues again, where Iran has indicated it wants to make
Thus, these intelligence and IAEA assessments differ markedly with
Iranian blanket denials about seeking nuclear weapons. Moreover, they
share a view that Iran may have continued researching nuclear weapons
in more recent times.
These intelligence agencies also share an assessment that Iran has
not made a decision to build nuclear weapons. So, President Rouhani's
pledge that Iran will not build nuclear weapons can still be realistic.
And his apparent willingness to seek meaningful negotiations offers the
first hope in several years that an agreement solving this nuclear
crisis is possible. However, if Iran is unwilling to detail its past
efforts to build nuclear weapons, or at the very least acknowledge the
existence of a program, it undermines the credibility of statements
about its present-day nuclear intentions.
If Iran truly does not intend to pursue nuclear weapons in the
future, it should heed the experience of states that abandoned nuclear
weapons. Brazil and South Africa described their past nuclear weapons
efforts as part of their successful process to convince the
international community that they had turned their back on nuclear
weapons and would not seek them in the future. Brazil admitted its past
nuclear weapons work at the start of its renunciations of all nuclear
explosives. South Africa mistakenly chose the path of trying to deny
that it ever had nuclear weapons as it limited its nuclear programs to
civil activities and greatly increased transparency over its remaining
nuclear programs. But South Africa's approach did not work; too many
governments knew that it had had a nuclear weapons program and wondered
if the deception meant that it was hiding ongoing nuclear weapons
efforts. The IAEA, which was intensely investigating South Africa's
nuclear activities, shared this skepticism. South Africa's deception
poisoned the well.
In March 1993, President F.W. de Klerk announced to the world that
indeed South Africa did have nuclear weapons but had destroyed them
several years earlier. He invited the IAEA to verify his statements.
The IAEA did so in a half year because of South Africa's remarkable
cooperation with the inspectors. South Africa's pledge that it would
never seek nuclear weapons again suddenly became much more credible.
These transparency measures quickly convinced the world of South
Iran may fear that it will be treated differently. The Iranian
Government may reason that if it comes clean about its past activities,
it will be punished by the international community. But other cases
argue against such a response. The key is admitting these past
activities should be part of a process of placing strategic limitations
on its nuclear programs, instituting far greater transparency, and
adhering to frankness about its past. The IAEA and governments can then
develop confidence that Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons. But if
Iran seeks to continue to hide its past military nuclear efforts, it
may find that no amount of limitations and transparency on its current
programs is enough to reassure the international community. Significant
questions about its motives would likely remain, and thus it would be
less likely to gain the major relief from sanctions it so desperately
Is Iran building a secret gas centrifuge plant?
The question of whether Iran is building a third enrichment plant
in secret has been an open one since then-Iranian nuclear chief, Ali
Akbar Salehi, claimed on August 16, 2010, that ``studies for the
location of 10 other uranium enrichment facilities'' had ended, and
that ``the construction of one of these facilities will begin by the
end of the (current Iranian) year (March 2011) or start of the next
year.'' Succeeding nuclear head, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, said in mid-
2011 that construction on additional enrichment plants was delayed by 2
years. Now, over 2 years later, is Iran building a new centrifuge plant
in addition to the Natanz and Fordow centrifuge plants? Or is the plant
deferred for another year? Iran in the past secretly constructed the
Natanz centrifuge site, the Kalaye Electric centrifuge research and
development plant, and the deeply buried Fordow centrifuge facility.
Since March 2007, Iran has taken the position that it does not have
to notify the IAEA if it begins construction of a nuclear facility, but
the IAEA says that Iran has a legal obligation to do so under its
current safeguards agreement. Iran's provision of information about the
construction of any new enrichment sites is pertinent to instilling
confidence about the peaceful nature of its nuclear activities and that
it will not make weapon-grade uranium in secret.
It remains for Iran to abide by the simple provision of its IAEA
safeguards agreement, modified Code 3.1, to provide the IAEA with
advance information about its construction of additional enrichment
facilities and to explain any current construction of a third
enrichment site. In avoiding its responsibility under its safeguards
agreement, Iran risks that any site subsequently discovered being built
in secret will be viewed as a threat, increasing the risks of military
confrontation and undermining the credibility of President Rouhani and
But an important question is how quickly could a secret site
IR-2m centrifuges produce WGU? Little is known about Iran's manufacture
of these centrifuges or the total number manufactured to date or
planned to be made in the next year. The IAEA is currently unable to
monitor centrifuge manufacturing.
To understand this case better, ISIS and its University of Virginia
collaborators performed two estimates. Each assumes that the covert
plant contains 3,000 IR-2m centrifuges, a size consistent with the
Fordow plant, and the plant design has other similarities to that of
the Fordow plant (in particular that the covert plant is not optimized
for weapon-grade uranium production). The output of each centrifuge is
considered slightly more than about 3-5 times that of the IR-1
\1\ Each IR-2m centrifuge is assumed to have an output of 3-5
separative work units per year.
The first case considers that Iran would divert safeguarded stocks
of LEU to this plant. The IAEA would detect the diversion of the LEU
within a few weeks; however, the centrifuge site would be unknown and
immune from military strikes, complicating enormously any U.S. or
international response. In this case, Iran would use both of its 3.5-
percent and near 20-percent LEU stocks, which are assumed to be at
current levels. In this case, Iran could produce 25 kg of WGU in 1.3-
2.3 months before using up its current stock of near 20 percent LEU
stockpile. Without using its 20-percent stockpile, and using only its
3.5-percent LEU stock, Iran could produce 25 kg of WGU in 2.2-4.5
months with enough 3.5 percent inventory for approximately 100 WGU. If
Iran had sufficient near 20 percent LEU for one nuclear weapon, it
could reduce breakout times to about 1 month.
The second case is that Iran would not use its safeguarded LEU but
a secret stock of natural uranium hexafluoride that it produced at a
secret production plant. In this case, Iran would need 6.4 to 11 months
to produce 25 kg of WGU.
IDENTIFYING AND ASSESSING NECESSARY CONCESSIONS BY IRAN IN NEGOTIATIONS
As part of understanding the proposed negotiating process, it is
useful to discuss the range of concessions that Iran could make in
order to gain confidence that it is not seeking nuclear weapons.
Incentives involving sanctions relief are equally important and are not
considered here but an ISIS report prepared for the U.S. Institute of
Peace includes this analysis. The following list includes a wide range
of Iranian concessions. The final list would of course be decided in a
negotiation and Iran may or may not agree to all of the following:
Resolving outstanding issues with the IAEA over the military dimension
Address cooperatively the IAEA's concerns over its past and
possibly ongoing military nuclear activities. ``Coming clean,''
or detailing past work on nuclear weapons, remains critical.
Limiting breakout times
End production of any more near 20 percent LEU and commit
not to enrich uranium over 5 percent. Dismantle and
decommission the tandem cascades at the Fordow site and the
Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment plant.
Send out under IAEA custody stocks of near 20 percent LEU in
excess of near-term needs of the Tehran Research Reactor.
Decommission the Fordow enrichment site.
Commit not to assemble a production line to reconvert
enriched U3O8 to UF6, whatever its
Freeze the number and type of Iran's installed centrifuges
to below an equivalent of 10,000 IR-1 centrifuges. Limit
enrichment to the Natanz site only.
Send out under IAEA custody excess stocks of LEU enriched
below 5 percent. Stocks could be considered excess if over the
next several years, they are unlikely to be used to fuel a
nuclear reactor. The total stock should be less than the
equivalent of 1 tonne of LEU hexafluoride.
Convert all LEU remaining in Iran first into an oxide form
and then into a solid fuel form.
Halt production of LEU enriched less than 5 percent, unless
there is an economic need for domestically produced LEU fuel in
Halt the construction of centrifuge components and the
assembly of centrifuges, except a limited number to replace
broken centrifuges at existing enrichment sites.
Enhance IAEA monitoring, including:
Implementing early notification of the construction of
nuclear plants (or more formally implement modified code
3.1. of the Subsidiary Arrangements to Iran's Comprehensive
Ratifying the Additional Protocol;
Increasing the monitoring of centrifuge production and
assembly facilities; and
Establishing remote monitoring at key nuclear sites.
Ending a plutonium pathway
Halt the construction and operation of the Arak heavy water
reactor. Initiate studies to determine the feasibility and cost
of converting the reactor to a light water moderator and LEU
Commit not to conduct any plutonium separation or
Halting illicit nuclear trade and proliferation to other countries
Commit not to engage in nuclear smuggling to obtain any
goods for its nuclear or missile programs. Key nuclear- and
missile-related sanctions would become verification mechanisms
to ensure Iran's compliance with its agreements.
Agree not to proliferate nuclear technologies to other
Experts may differ over the relative importance of each concession,
and negotiators may add or subtract concessions. However, most of these
concessions would be expected to be needed in a final agreement that
would establish confidence that Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons and
that would provide confidence that an Iranian effort to do so would be
detected in a timely manner, allowing adequate time for an
international response to prevent Iran from successfully building
nuclear weapons. As such, this list of concessions provides an
indication of the difficult work needed to achieve an agreement that
would lead to a significant reduction of sanctions.
Some would argue that all of these concessions are not possible to
achieve in an agreement with Iran. In that case, it is important to
consider tradeoffs. Some can undoubtedly be weakened or avoided.
Whether the agreement allows 5,000 or 10,000 IR-1 centrifuges may not
matter that much if other conditions are in place. Likewise, the
tonnage of 3.5 percent LEU in Iran is certainly adjustable. Perhaps no
3.5 percent LEU needs to leave Iran. Some may also be startled by a
condition to make the enrichment of LEU dependent on an economic
evaluation of the need for reactor fuel, but such a condition is what
drives most civilian nuclear programs. And if there is a settlement,
Iran would be able to buy reactor fuel abroad at a lower cost than
required to make the fuel itself. The imported fuel would be safer and
more reliable, given that it would come from venders with decades of
experience. Thus, an economic constraint on the enrichment of uranium
is reasonable and would certainly make verification of any agreement
In some cases, dropping a concession could be highly problematic
for the success of an agreement. For example, it is instructive to
consider that Iran is now sticking by its story that it never had a
nuclear weapons program and this would not satisfy the IAEA in its
investigation about past and possibly ongoing nuclear weapons work. In
this case, there would remain significant suspicions about whether Iran
is maintaining a capability to build nuclear weapons. In response, an
agreement would probably need to contain much more stringent
limitations on Iran's enrichment capabilities and its centrifuge
manufacturing facilities. Likely, many would demand that Iran agree to
zero centrifuges or the dismantlement of its centrifuge program, a
condition not included above, or a cap of far fewer centrifuges than
the equivalent of 10,000 IR-1 centrifuges mentioned above. These
concerns are driven by numerous verification uncertainties generated by
an active, relatively large centrifuge program, and the IAEA currently
having little hope of finding secret nuclear sites or verifying their
absence. Iran's ratification of the Additional Protocol would help but
even that may not be sufficient for the IAEA to determine with high
enough confidence the absence of a secret centrifuge site to satisfy
key IAEA member states, particularly when ambiguities arise, as is
inevitable in such a complicated agreement. Moreover, under an
Additional Protocol, or even the current Comprehensive Safeguards
Agreement, the inspectors would be obligated to return over and over
again to these alleged nuclear weapons issues as part of determining on
an ongoing basis the correctness and completeness of Iran's nuclear
declaration and developing confidence that no nuclear material has been
diverted to a nuclear weapons program. The main difference would be
that the Additional Protocol would grant the IAEA more tools to pursue
their completeness investigations, generating more opportunities for
conflict between Iran and the IAEA. Instructing the IAEA not to
determine the completeness of Iran's declaration could damage the
IAEA's credibility and greatly undermine confidence in ability to
verify an agreement.
Thus, some concessions may be obligatory if an agreement is to
succeed. It is imperative to determine the critical concessions and the
risks posed by omitting others as soon as possible.
ADDITIONAL MEASURES TO LIMIT IRAN'S ABILITY TO EXPAND ITS NUCLEAR
The chairman has also asked for additional measures to pressure
Iran and limit its ability to outfit its nuclear programs. ISIS just
released a major report, the ``Future World of Illicit Nuclear Trade:
Mitigating the Threat,'' written in part under a grant from the Project
on Advanced Systems and Concepts for Countering Weapons of Mass
Destruction (PASCC) at the Center on Contemporary Conflict, Naval
Postgraduate School. This report is the result of a 2-year original
research effort and contains a characterization of future threats over
the next 5 to 10 years related to augmented nuclear trafficking
worldwide and more than 100 recommendations aimed at preventing the
emergence of these threats, including many related to better limiting
Iran's nuclear progress.
I would like to mention two key recommendations detailed in our
report that would increase the effectiveness of sanctions against
Iran's nuclear programs. They are:
The U.S. Government would announce it will designate China
and Hong Kong, key persistent trans-shippers of U.S. goods to
Iran's nuclear program despite years of diplomatic overtures,
as destinations of diversion concern under the Comprehensive
Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA)
unless they make concrete changes within a given grace period.
Just the threat of making this designation could inspire action
on the parts of China and Hong Kong, as it did with the United
Arab Emirates in 2007. If made official, such designations
could reduce the supply to Iran of proliferation-sensitive
goods, services, or technologies by: enhancing scrutiny by U.S.
Government licensing agencies of specific proliferation-
sensitive exports from the United States to China and Hong
Kong; increasing pressure on the Chinese and Hong Kong
authorities to crack down on diversion through their
territories to Iranian end-users and Iranian intermediaries;
and helping secure support from other countries which likewise
face challenges in ensuring that sales to China and Hong Kong
do not end up in Iran, allowing it to expand its nuclear
The U.S. Government should increase its use of sting
operations and investigations aimed at stopping Iran's illicit
nuclear procurement networks and launch a major effort to
encourage other governments to initiate their own sting
operations against trafficking in nuclear-related commodities.
Few governments conduct this type of sting operation, and U.S.
sting operations against Iranian smugglers have been
particularly effective. Implementing this recommendation would
help create an additional risk factor for Iran and those
helping Iran outfit its nuclear programs. The United States
should work with global partners to assist them and coordinate
with them on conducting their own or joint sting operations.
TABLE 1.--NUMBER OF CENTRIFUGES ENRICHING AND/OR INSTALLED IN IRAN
IR-1 Centrifuges IR-1 Centrifuges IR-2m Centrifuges IR-2m Centrifuges
LOCATION enriching installed * enriching installed
FEP............................. 9,166............. 15,416............ 0................. 1,008
PFEP **......................... 328............... 328............... 0 **.............. N/A
FFEP............................ 696............... 2,710............. 0................. 0
Total........................... 10,190............ 18,454............ 0................. 1,008
* Number of centrifuges installed includes enriching centrifuges.
** Iran has installed a number of different types of centrifuge in different cascade configurations at the PFEP.
This table disregards centrifuges from which Iran recombines product and tails.
TABLE 2.--CUMULATIVE TOTALS OF NATURAL AND ENRICHED URANIUM FEED AND 3.5 AND 19.75 PERCENT LEU HEXAFLUORIDE
PRODUCT IN IRAN
3.5 percent LEU 3.5 percent LEU 19.75 percent LEU
LOCATION 0.711 percent feed product feed product
FEP............................. 110,590 kg........ 9,704 kg.......... N/A............... N/A
PFEP............................ N/A............... N/A............... 1,455 kg.......... 178 kg
FFEP............................ N/A............... N/A............... 1,422 kg.......... 195 kg
Gross Total..................... 110,590 kg........ 9,704 kg.......... 2,877 kg.......... 373 kg
Net Total....................... 110,590 kg........ 6,774 kg *........ 2,877 kg.......... 186 kg **
* Number is less 3.5 percent enriched uranium hexafluoride used as feedstock at the PFEP and FFEP as well as 53
kg 3.5 percent LEU hexafluoride converted to uranium oxide.
** Number is less 185 kg of 19.75 percent LEU hexafluoride fed into the process at the Esfahan conversion and
fuel fabrication plants and 1.6 kg 19.75 percent LEU hexafluoride down blended.
The Chairman. Ambassador Jeffrey.
STATEMENT OF HON. JAMES F. JEFFREY, PHILIP SOLONDZ
DISTINGUISHED VISITING FELLOW, THE WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR
NEAR EAST POLICY, WASHINGTON, DC
Ambassador Jeffrey. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, Mr.
Ranking Member, for inviting me here today.
First of all, I agree with what Dr. Albright has said, and
that will shorten my comments considerably.
We do have an opportunity through this latest set of
actions associated with Mr. Rouhani to perhaps find a
negotiated outcome. There is a possibility that we will avert
either a military action and possibly war or, what would be
even worse, a nuclear-armed, a nuclear-capable Iran.
The devil is going to be in the details. There have been
various attempts to achieve a breakthrough. At one point in
2009, the Iranians accepted a very broad limitation on their
enrichment, either moving out enriched uranium, or limiting
what they would do, but then they reneged on it. Then, in 2010,
under different circumstances, they accepted a somewhat
So there is some room for maneuver in here, but the details
are going to be very, very difficult, involving the sequencing
of sanctions, which sanctions to withdraw. The question of
enrichment, whether at all? If so, under what conditions? How
You discussed this in very considerable detail with
Secretary Sherman, and she was, as expected, very general on
where the administration was on this because this is going to
be basically much of the core of the negotiations. But what I
would like to do is very quickly give a couple of more broad
contextual aspects of this.
First of all, the reason that we are so concerned about
this nuclear weapon potential, compared to a nuclear-armed
neighbor of Iran's--Pakistan, or even North Korea, and I think
here that Secretary Sherman's comment that Iran is sui generis
is correct--is because Iran is a different kind of animal. It
has a regional claim to power that goes deep into the
population, deep into its history. It presents the kind of
problem we had with Milosevic a decade plus ago, the kind of
problem we had with Saddam Hussein.
The Iranians are going to be very unlikely to give up this
regional quest for power, for hegemony, and the various tools,
nuclear, terrorism, alliances with Syria, Hezbollah, and on and
on. We can get them to push back on one or another thing when
we put enough pressure on them, such as the nuclear issue. But
this is a long-term conflict we are in with Iran. Even if we do
get a breakthrough on the nuclear account, we are not going to
resolve the conflict and we should bear that in mind.
The second thing is what we have that has brought us to
this point is very successful synergy between military threats,
and the sanctions regime that Wendy Sherman went through the
statistics on. They have been verified publicly. It is a very
dramatic drop in oil, almost 60 percent of their exports have
And thirdly, the cooperation of the international community
because it is mainly the international community that has to
carry out these sanctions at the price of being denied access
to the U.S. banking system. So these three elements are very
important to keep in balance.
I am very concerned about the credibility of the U.S.
military threat. The President took a step in the right
direction the other day with Prime Minister Netanyahu, when he
named specifically--among the ``all options are on the table,
nothing is off''--he named specifically military force.
That is important. We have to keep emphasizing that.
Because what I am hearing in the region, I have been out there,
is that people are doubting us. And it is very important that
this military credibility remain intact.
On the other hand, we have to be very watchful of our
allies and our friends in the P5+1 and the people who are
carrying out the sanctions because we need to have as much
international cooperation as possible, both to get a deal, to
continue to put pressure on Iranians, and, if necessary if we
have to go to military action, to support us there.
I will stop there.
[The prepared statement of Ambassador Jeffrey follows:]
Prepared Statement of Ambassador James F. Jeffrey
Mr. Chairman, Mr. Ranking Member, Senators, thank you for the
opportunity to appear before your committee on this critical matter.
The rapid pace of events since IranianPpresident Hassan Rouhani
took office this past summer has significantly increased the
possibility of a successful negotiation on Iran's nuclear program,
thereby forestalling either a military strike on Iran or the emergence
of a nuclear-armed or nuclear-weapon-capable Iran. Either of these
latter eventualities would unleash unknown but likely very serious
consequences on an already stressed international situation. The United
States thus should vigorously engage, with Iran and with our allies and
partners, accepting risks when necessary, to achieve a diplomatic
breakthrough that would meet President Obama's criteria of being
meaningful, transparent, and verifiable.
The technical outlines of any such agreement have been sketched out
many times, by the P5+1 in its September 2009 offer to Iran and in
studies and essays by many analysts, myself included. Iran will have to
largely forgo use of its huge enrichment infrastructure, including
closing the Fordow site, stop work on the Arak heavy water reactor,
agree to much more intrusive IAEA inspections and implementation of a
safeguards agreement, and come clean on its nuclear-related military
research. Iran will insist on enrichment as a principle, but that would
have to be limited in quantity and quality--that is, no more than 5
percent, with all but immediately required enriched uranium stored
``temporarily'' outside Iran and the whole process vigorously
monitored. The P5+1 will have to lift or suspend nonmilitary sanctions,
especially those targeting hydrocarbons trade and banking not tied to
illicit nuclear materials trade, and de facto will have to countenance
a minimal amount of Iranian enrichment.
While the outline of such a ``big for big'' deal can be sketched
out as above, two sets of detail-related issues will be-devil the
negotiations. The first is operational: how to sequence tit-for-tat
concessions and intermediary steps to move toward ``big for big'' in a
low-trust environment. The second involves the two core concessions:
enrichment and sanctions relief. The Iranians have repeatedly demanded
formal international recognition of a ``right to enrichment.'' The P5+1
should resist this demand. The right to enrichment is informally
anchored in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and has been
explicitly annulled by legally binding U.N. Security Council
resolutions. The most the P5+1 should do is void or, better, suspend
the ban on enrichment as a ``quid'' for Iranian accommodation.
The sanctions relief problem cuts two ways: first, difficulty
reinstating international sanctions once lifted or canceled, given
their economic disadvantages and possible noncooperation by Russia and
China, thereby undercutting the ``stick'' component of any deal; and,
second, likely reluctance by many in Congress to lift sanctions for any
inevitably less-than-perfect agreement, thus undercutting the
``carrot'' needed for any deal.
A solution to the two-headed sanctions problem could focus on
temporary ``test'' arrangements. U.N. and EU sanctions could be
suspended for X period, following which they would automatically kick
back in, absent new votes to extend or make permanent the sanctions
relief, based on the degree of verified Iranian compliance. On the key
U.S. sanctions--namely, the highly effective 2012 National Defense
Authorization Act, which imposed bank penalties for funding Iranian oil
purchases--the President in consultation with Congress could exercise
the national security waiver in the act. To avoid a strong
congressional reaction, any agree-
ment would have to be at least minimally acceptable to Israel and a
majority in Congress. Iran in turn would have to accept, at least
initially, temporary, contingent sanctions relief in return for its
concessions and actions (which themselves would be reversible).
But even if these tough issues could be resolved, the opportunity
to reach agreement remains only a possibility. To increase the chances
of it becoming a reality, the following should be kept in mind in
executing our diplomatic strategy.
First, Iran's foreign policy reflects long-term regional ambitions
amounting to de facto hegemony, broadly supported by the population.
With or without an agreement, with or without more mutual trust with
the outside world, these ambitions are unlikely to change, and they are
inimical to the interests of the other states in the region, to the
United States and its world role, and to an international community
based on the U.N. charter. But we should neither demand that Iran give
up these ambitions as the condition for any agreement, nor ``sell'' any
agreement as a gateway to a friendlier Iran. Any agreement must rest on
its own merits as a better alternative to military action or a nuclear
Iran. Any acceptable agreement would perhaps improve understanding and
trust between Iran and the outside world. While this would be a good
thing for crisis management between hostile camps, it should not be an
expectation from, or motivation for, doing a deal. Given this
underlying reality, the United States should absolutely avoid
concessions in return for ``enhanced trust'' or ``good chemistry.''
Second, we are at this hopeful point only because of the threat of
U.S. or Israeli military action, the impact of U.N., EU, and especially
U.S. sanctions on the Iranian economy, population, and political
system, and the willingness of the international community to accept
these sanctions despite their costs. Thus, nothing done inside or
outside the negotiations should weaken these three pillars and their
Third, it would be a mistake in any negotiation to hold
international sanctions relief and other benefits hostage to a change
in Iran's fundamental worldview and ambitions, or abandonment of its
specific activities beyond the nuclear account, from internal
oppression and support of terror to engagement in Syria. Iran's nuclear
effort is a tactical sortie that in the face of sufficient pressure can
be at least temporarily abandoned. Iran, however, is highly unlikely to
yield to pressure on its fundamental interests, as it sees them. And
any effort to compel it to do so will likely strengthen those who argue
that a nuclear agreement is really a Trojan horse for regime change.
Pushing such an agenda would not only scuttle negotiations but likely
mobilize in opposition to the United States much of the international
community needed for continued U.S. sanctions. As Congress considers
new sanctions, it will be important to consider the timeline for their
Finally, the credible threat of military force must overshadow any
effort; not so obvious as to be provocative but present enough to be
credible. Here, American will to act is as critical as American
military capabilities. Frankly, the administration, beginning with its
Afghanistan and Libya decisions and on to the President's May terrorism
speech and punt to Congress on the Syria strike, has called our will
into question. This can be reversed by our military readiness, more
clarity on the administration's redline, a Presidential commitment to
act on his own authority if the line is crossed, and expressions of
congressional support for such action. However, the credibility of any
threat of military force and other sticks is also enhanced if the
United States puts a reasonable and comprehensive offer on the table.
As seen in the runups to U.S. strikes in 1991, 2001, and 2003, the
international community's vital support for military action is only
attainable if the United States demonstrates it has taken every effort
to offer a fair compromise.
Pulling off a diplomatic coup of the present magnitude will require
extraordinary effort, as the administration must deal simultaneously
with the Iranians, our European allies, Russia and China, an Israel and
Arab Gulf deeply skeptical of any compromise with Iran, an American
public generally opposed to the use of force, and a Congress sharing
seemingly the attitudes of both the American people and the regional
skeptics. But the current standoff between Iran and the rest of the
world is inherently unstable, and the alternatives apart from a
negotiated settlement--a nuclear-armed or capable Iran, or a new war--
in the midst of a region already slipping out of control, are far
The Chairman. Thank you, Ambassador.
STATEMENT OF RAY TAKEYH, SENIOR FELLOW FOR MIDDLE EASTERN
STUDIES, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS, WASHINGTON, DC
Dr. Takeyh. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, Senator
Corker, for inviting me, and it is a great pleasure again for
me to be here with Ambassador Jeffrey and my old friend, David
I think the Presidency of Hassan Rouhani has been greeted
with assertions ranging from cautious optimism to euphoric
anticipations of rapprochement. President Rouhani has been
described in various ways as a reformer, a pragmatist, by his
critics as a wolf in sheep's clothing.
Although it is often suggested that President Rouhani is
under significant domestic pressure at home, I think those
claims are grossly exaggerated, if not overstated. The Islamic
Republic has established a consensus on its core security
issues, including the nuclear issue. That consensus may prove
fragile and may be subject to internal censure. But the notion
that he is under political pressure and, therefore, requires
international assistance is, I think, overstated.
Despite the softened rhetoric, we can count on the new
Iranian regime to continue to assert as what it regards as its
nuclear rights and press its advantages in a contested Middle
East. The Islamic Republic will remain an important backer of
the Assad dynasty, a benefactor of Hezbollah, a supporter of
Palestinian rejectionist groups. It will persist its repressive
tactics at home and deny fundamental human rights to its
population. It is a government that will seek a negotiated
settlement to the nuclear issue, but on terms that it will find
Hassan Rouhani's case is not without its contradictions. He
insists that Iran can expand its nuclear program while
reclaiming its commercial contracts, even though the program
today stands in violation of security council resolution tone
and style matter. But what should await President Rouhani is a
hard tradeoff dispensing with critical aspects of the program
in exchange for sanctions relief.
It needs to be stressed that the United States is entering
these negotiations with important advantages. Iran's economy is
faltering. Its population is disaffected. It is distrusted by
its neighbors. This is a time for Washington to negotiate a
maximalist agreement and not settle for Iranian half measures
and half steps.
Although much of the attention recently, for obvious
reasons, has been focused on the President Rouhani and his
Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, certainly an urbane and
intelligent man, I want to draw attention on the Supreme
National Security Council, which will actually make the
fundamental nuclear decisions.
The nuclear file has not been transferred to the foreign
ministry. The negotiations and representation of the nuclear
file has been transferred to the foreign ministry. The Supreme
National Security Council has also had new staff members. Their
names are not in the press, and they do not give interviews.
It is headed today by Adm. Ali Shamkhani, a founding member
of the Revolutionary Guards and an official long involved in
Iran's nuclear program. He has recently appointed as his deputy
a shadowy Revolutionary Guard figure, Ali Hosseini-Tash, who
has been involved in the Iranian program from the very
As Ambassador Jeffrey has suggested, their vision of Iran
is one of a hegemonic Iran, a strong Iran, a preeminent, if not
a pivotal power in the region. Their newly empowered leadership
at the helm at the Supreme National Security Council also has
been very much committed to their nuclear capability and has
been involved in procurement efforts.
Hosseini-Tash in one interview said, ``The nuclear program
is an opportunity for us to make endeavors to acquire a
strategic position and consolidate our national identity.''
They believe in a measure of restraint. As Iran presses its
nuclear strategy, they recognize the importance of offering
some confidence-building measures to a skeptical international
community. All this is not to suggest that Iran is inclined to
suspend its program, relinquish its critical components. But as
I mentioned, they may be open to dialogue.
And they stress the Iranian reasonableness, the idea is
that if Iran presents itself as a more reasonable actor, then
its nuclear program can be sanctioned. Not sanctioned the way
you are thinking of it--accepted, acknowledged.
Hovering over all of this is Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
His instincts are to call for defiance in pursuit of the bomb.
In his role as guardian of the state, of course, he must
consider their nuclear program in context of Iran's larger
In recent months, he has opted for a strategy that takes
into account his competing mandates. On the one hand, he
presses for expansion of the nuclear program. On the other
hand, he has accepted the need for negotiations and perhaps a
measure of restraint.
Khamenei hopes that his new President can somehow square
the many circles that confront him and somehow make the Iranian
program more acceptable to the international community. So as
we go forward, we have to be cautious about some of the changes
that are taking place.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Dr. Takeyh follows:]
Prepared Statement of Dr. Ray Takeyh
the rouhani presidency: a kinder, gentler islamic republic?
The Presidency of Hassan Rouhani has been greeted with assertions
ranging from cautious optimism to euphoric anticipations of an
unfolding rapprochement. President Rouhani has been at times described
as a reformer, a pragmatist, and by his critics as a ``wolf in sheep's
clothing.'' Although it is often suggested that President Rouhani is
under significant pressure from hard-line elements at home, the Islamic
Republic appears to have established a consensus on its core security
concerns. That consensus may prove fragile, and subject to internal
censure, but the notion that Rouhani is under political stress is
Despite its soften rhetoric, we can count on the new Iranian regime
to continue asserting its nuclear ``rights'' and press its advantages
in a contested Middle East. The Islamic Republic will remain an
important backer of the Assad dynasty, a benefactor of Hezbollah, and a
supporter of Palestinian rejectionist groups. It will persist with its
repressive tactics and deny its populace their fundamental human
rights. It is also a government that will seek a negotiated settlement
on the nuclear issue and will strive to test the limits of the great
Who is Hassan Rouhani?
Hassan Rouhani is a long-time regime insider with a deep commitment
to the Islamic Republic and its nuclear aspirations. Unlike many of the
Iran's previous leaders, it is possible to develop an understanding of
Rouhani's thinking through his own published books, most notably his
account of his time as Iran's chief nuclear negotiator.
Historians often suggest that Iran's clerical regime resurrected
the Shah's atomic infrastructure after Iraq invaded the country in
1980. In this telling, deterrence and self-reliance are at the core of
Iranian nuclear calculus. But Rouhani says the revolutionaries'
attraction to nuclear science actually began when they were still
lingering in exile. In 1979, when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his
disciples appeared certain to assume power, an Iranian scientific
delegation journeyed to Paris and implored the aging mullah to scrap
the nuclear program, which was exorbitant and inefficient. The cagy
Khomeini ignored such pleas. A year before Saddam Hussein's armies
attacked Iran, Khomeini had decided to preserve his nuclear
During the initial decade of the Islamic Republic, the regime's
preoccupation with consolidating power and prosecuting its war with
Iraq eclipsed other priorities. Still, Rouhani describes a determined
effort to secure nuclear technologies from abroad and complete the fuel
cycle--an essential precursor to development of nuclear arms. Those
efforts were redoubled during Ali Akbar Rafsanjani's Presidency in the
early 1990s and were sustained by the reformist President Muhammad
Khatami. Indeed, Rouhani is at pains to disentangle nuclear policy from
Iran's contentious politics, insisting that all governments share
credit for the program's progress.
Rouhani spent much of his tenure negotiating with the European
powers--Britain, France and Germany--over what kind of nuclear program
Iran was allowed to have. The signature event of his time as a
negotiator was his country's voluntary suspension of its program in
2004. Those were heady days in the Middle East, with America's shock-
and-awe campaign in Iraq intimidating other recalcitrant regimes, such
as Iran, into accommodation. ``No one thought that Saddam's regime
would fall in 3 weeks,'' Rouhani recalls. ``The military leadership had
anticipated that Saddam would not fall easily and that America would
have to fight the Iraqi army for at least 6 months to a year before
reaching Saddam's palace.'' Yet, the proximity of American guns
behooved the theocracy to act with caution.
Whatever political backing Rouhani has among Iran's reformers, he
is not one
of them; political freedom has rarely been a priority for him. During
1990s, when Khatami and his allies were seeking to expand individual
rights and strengthen Iran's anemic civil society, Rouhani was
indifferent to their efforts. Still, unlike his militant predecessor,
he belongs to the more tempered wing of the theocracy that sees the
nuclear debate in a larger context of Iran's international relations.
In the recent Presidential race, Rouhani stressed the importance of the
economy--in particular Iran's declining standard of living.
Rouhani's case is not without its contradictions. He insists that
Iran can expand its nuclear program while reclaiming its commercial
contracts, even though today Iran stands in violation of numerous U.N.
Security Council resolutions and cannot reenter the global economy
until it meets U.N. demands. Tone and style matter, but what awaits
President Rouhani is the hard tradeoff of dispensing with critical
aspects of the program in exchange for relief from sanctions. It needs
to be stressed that the United States is entering these negotiations
with important advantages. Iran's economy is railing and its population
is disaffected. This is a time for Washington to negotiate a maximalist
deal and not settled for Iranian half-measures and half-steps.
Who is in charge?
Although much of the focus since the Iranian Presidential election
on Rouhani and his thoughtful and urbane Foreign Minister Muhammad
Zarif, the critical decisions will be made in the Supreme National
Security Council (SNSC). The composition of that body and its newly
installed leadership tells us more about the direction that Iran is
going to take then Rouhani and Zarif's speeches, press briefings, and
The SNSC is increasingly being populated by a cohort of
conservatives who spent much of their careers in the security services
and the military. The head of the SNSC today is Ali Shamkhani, a
founding member of the Revolutionary Guards and an official long
involved in Iran's nuclear procurement efforts. Shamkhani has chosen as
his deputy a shadowy Revolutionary Guard officer, Ali Husseini-Tash,
who has long been involved in Iran's nuclear deliberations. The essence
of these new leaders worldview is that since September 2001, Iran has a
unique opportunity to emerge as the preeminent state of the region.
However, over the past 8 years, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's unwise
provocations and his unnecessarily hostile rhetoric has paradoxically
thwarted those ambitions. They argue that the only way for the Islamic
Republic to reach its desired status is to present itself as a more
reasonable actor while increasing its power. Such an Iran would have to
impose some limits on the expressions of its influence, accede to
certain global norms, and be prepared to negotiate mutually acceptable
compacts with its adversaries.
It is important to stress that despite their interest in diplomacy
and embrace of a more tempered language, the new cast of characters in
charge of the SNSC perceive that Iran must claim its hegemonic role.
Given the displacement of Iran's historic enemies in Afghanistan and
Iraq, they sense that it is a propitious time for the Islamic Republic
to claim the mantle of regional leadership. Iran has finally been
offered a rare historical opportunity to emerge as the predominant
power of the Persian Gulf region and a pivotal state in the Middle
East. Whether they are correct in their assessments of regional trends,
the salient point is that such perceptions condition their approach to
The newly empowered conservatives at the helm also believe that to
enhance its influence Iran needs a nuclear capability. As the newly
appointed deputy head of the SNSC, Husseini-Tash once noted, ``The
nuclear program is an opportunity for us to make endeavors to acquire a
strategic position and consolidate our national identity.'' But they
also believe in a measure of restraint. As Iran plots its nuclear
strategy, they recognize the importance of offering confidence-building
measures to a skeptical international community. All this is not to
suggest that Iran is inclined to suspend the program or relinquish its
critical components, but they are more open to dialogue. Moreover, they
stress that a reasonable Iran can assuage U.S. concerns about its
nuclear development without having to abandon the program.
At the core, all disarmament agreements call upon a state to forgo
a certain degree of sovereignty in exchange for enhanced security. Once
a state renounces its weapons of mass destruction program it can be
assured of support from the international community should it be
threatened by another state possessing such arms. This implied tradeoff
has no value for Iran's rulers. The prolonged war with Iraq conditions
their worldview and behavior. Iraq's use of chemical weapons against
Iran has reinforced Iran's suspicions of the international community.
For many of the Islamic Republic's leaders, the only way to safeguard
Iran's interests is to develop an independent nuclear deterrent.
Hovering over all this is Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The
Supreme Leader's instincts would be to support the reactionary elements
in their call for defiance and pursuit of the bomb. But in his role as
the guardian of state, he must consider the nuclear program in the
context of Iran's larger concerns. In the recent months, he has opted
for an approach that takes into account his competing mandates. On the
one hand, he has pressed for acceleration of Iran's program and
construction of an advanced nuclear infrastructure. Yet, he has also
conceded the need for negotiations and pressed the state toward a
degree of restraint. Khamenei hopes that his new President can somehow
square the many circles that confront him, and somehow make the Iranian
nuclear program more acceptable to the international community. He will
be cautiously assessing Rouhani's diplomacy, ready to impose the
necessary restrains should the new team be prone to compromise Iran's
In assessing a state's nuclear path, it is important to note that
its motivations cannot be exclusively examined within the context of
its national interests and security considerations. Whatever strategic
benefits such weapons offer a state, they are certainly a source of
national prestige and parochial benefits to various bureaucracies and
politicians. As such constituencies emerge, a state can cross the
nuclear threshold even if the initial strategic factors that provoked
the program are no longer salient. The emergence of bureaucracies can
generate its own proliferation momentum, empowering those seeking a
nuclear breakout. As time passes, the pragmatic voices calling for
hedging are likely to be marginalized and lose their influence within
The Chairman. Thank you all for your testimony.
And Mr. Takeyh, I want to take off where you just finished.
Is it that the Iranians have come to a conclusion domestically,
maybe because of the sanctions, maybe because of other events,
that they will have to, in essence, dramatically change their
nuclear program? Or is it that they want to see if they can
preserve the greatest amount of their nuclear program but
relieve the sanctions?
Dr. Takeyh. I think it is the latter. I think the intent is
to preserve the program, at least what is there, the
infrastructure that has already been created, the plutonium
route, the two enrichment facilities, as well as the
introduction of new generation of centrifuges which can operate
with efficiency at high velocity.
I think the intention is to preserve all that, but perhaps
as an interim measure, negotiate over expansion of the program
in exchange for sanctions relief. And they are not talking
about waivers. They are talking about fundamental sanctions
The Chairman. And let me turn to you, Dr. Albright. What is
the consequence of that? If we accept that, what is the
consequence? What is the risk?
I have the concern that we create sanctions relief for less
than what the Security Council has established, which means the
world, not just the United States. The world has established
through four Security Council resolutions what it believes is
the standard of what Iran needs to do. And if you accept less,
do you run the risk that you are in a position in which Iran,
if it changes the course of events after all of these
agreements are had, a year or two from now, that we are largely
back to where we are at?
Dr. Albright. Certainly, excuse me, the risk is that they
would continue developing this capability, and it would, in
essence, reduce breakout times, perhaps give a greater
capability to build covert centrifuge plants. And so, I think
the Iranian goal is probably not much different than it was in
2005 when the negotiations broke down is, they are willing to
pause, but they are not willing to commit not to grow their
And that was an essential roadblock back then was it is not
good enough that they for a couple years do not make it--do not
install more centrifuges, a few transparency measures, and then
after those few years, they will just grow again. And then
maybe they will pause again. But it is still their proposals
have tended to be that the program will grow, and they will not
And I think that this test is going to be very hard for
Iran to meet. The way we have discussed today I think is a very
hard issue for Iran. And then if you add in that there is
mistrust that they have had a nuclear weapons development
program in the past that the IAEA wants them to come clean on,
then it may just be a bridge too far.
The Chairman. What is their ability with the time that has
passed in the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy
Administration--that reviews countries throughout the world--
and their concerns or views that Iran was pursuing a nuclear
weapons program. What is the ability of Iran to now undermine
the facts as to what they had been doing as----
Dr. Albright. Well, the IAEA has had, I do not know what it
is, 10 meetings with Iran on this issue in the last several--2,
3 years--and their argument is pretty clear. The documentation
is fabricated. People are lying. You know, there is no evidence
that is worth talking about. If something is substantially
proven, they will say it is nothing to do with nuclear weapons.
They tell the IAEA you cannot talk to the people you want
to talk to. The IAEA has asked to go to several sites, not just
the Parchin site. They are not allowed to go to those sites.
And recently, in the last year or so, the IAEA was told you
cannot ask about procurement information anymore, and yet that
is a large part of the evidence on some aspects of the military
So, and in a meeting that just happened last week, I think
the IAEA tried to say it was constructive, but they also issued
a statement saying there was no progress. But we hope there
will be progress in the next meeting, which is in late October.
The Chairman. Finally, what I call breakout capacity, you
have a somewhat different definition of it, but it is the same.
We are talking about the same thing. Just give the committee a
sense of how you come to the calculus in which you have come
to, the timeframe that you developed.
Dr. Albright. Yes, the calculation is based on a set of
work that we do with centrifuge specialists at University of
Virginia, one of whom used to head what is called the physics
program or the U.S. centrifuge program in the United States. It
was the theoretical program for centrifuges.
And we look at the calculations. We then look at how many
centrifuges Iran is installing and what rate that is projected
over the next year or so. We then assumed that the time we are
worried about is when they would have enough 20 percent
enriched uranium that would allow for the fastest breakout, and
then we assume that they could make the switchover from low-
enriched uranium production to weapon-grade uranium production
faster than they can today.
And then we came up with this estimate of mid-2014. And I
must say the criticism we are hearing is that it is sooner,
particularly if they can deploy large numbers of these advanced
centrifuges. We still think it is mid-2014 is a solid date. I
would be very interested to knowing how the administration
thinks about this and its calculations.
Our specialists at UVA came out of the enrichment program
of the United States and is aware of how the U.S. Government
does its calculations, and we do not see major differences. One
difference that I will point out is we look at minimum times.
And we have heard this in previous hearings.
We look at minimum times. The U.S. Government tends to look
at more likely times. And so, I know we can--because from a
policy point of view or the implications of our work, we think
the minimum time is the one to know, where the likely time,
which certainly would be longer, has less policy relevance but
still is an important number.
The Chairman. So mid-2014 is 8 months from now--8 or 9
months from now. And you say to the extent that there is
criticism of your institute's work is that it might be on the
shorter time, not the----
Dr. Albright. Yes, that is right.
The Chairman. Senator Corker.
Senator Corker. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank each of you for being here. It is obviously a
great privilege for us to have three very knowledgeable folks
in this area to help us as we think through this. So thank you
for making yourselves available and being here today.
And I would ask Mr. Albright and Jeffrey, Mr. Takeyh sort
of gave an internal assessment of sort of the politics inside
Iran and where the files exist and all of those kind of things,
and I would just like to ask first, do you all generally agree
with his assessment of the internal situation in Iran itself?
Dr. Albright. Yes, I cannot speak--I depend on Ray for
these kinds of things. So I do not have independent judgment on
the internal politics in Iran.
Senator Corker. Yes?
Ambassador Jeffrey. Yes, and I think most experts also
would agree with him.
Senator Corker. And just I know, Mr. Albright, you talked a
little bit about the things that we know. I guess, based on
especially some of the things Mr. Takeyh said, and our general
sense of the way Iran as a country is, I guess you would assume
there are also a lot of activities that are occurring that we
do not know about. Is that correct?
Dr. Albright. I think that is well known. I mean, you can
just look at what the inspectors can do. They cannot look at
where centrifuges are made. They do not have any idea how many
have been made.
They do not get a good picture of the research and
development of advanced centrifuges. So there is many things
that are not known. We do not know if they are building a third
centrifuge plant, and that assessment is based on them saying
they would and that the last public statement was we will start
building one summer of 2013. And that statement has not been
corrected or changed by the Iranians.
So there is a lot of things we do not know. Where there is
hope with Iran is that they will be more transparent. I mean,
in these discussions, Iranians have said they are willing to be
more transparent and perhaps answer these kind of questions.
Where there is problems is when they say that is pretty much
all they are going to do in terms of really limiting and
avoiding real limits on their nuclear program.
Senator Corker. So we have, you know, really bright and
knowledgeable people like you come in to share with us the way
things are. And then, at the end of the day, I guess our role
is to take some kind of action. I mean, that is what we do
here. Should we do something in addition to what has occurred?
And sometimes I think, you know, we have to be the bad cop
to push along the good cop, if you will, the people who are
actually involved in the negotiations. And then, on the other
hand, sometimes we can do things unbeknownst--not necessarily
in this area, I think we have been very productive--but we can
do things that actually hamper.
And so, I would ask you this, all three of you, based on
the way you see things evolving, what is it that the United
States Congress should do relative to what is happening right
now to support, to enhance, or not do to try to get to the end
that we all believe has a very small chance of being
successful? But what would you advise us to be involved in
right now, all three of you?
Dr. Albright. Yes, I think, let me first, on the hamper, I
think I would agree with Ambassador Sherman that it is better
to delay passage of new sanctions laws until Iran is tested. I
mean, she gave the date of October 15. So it is actually not
much of a wait, although I would expect the meeting in mid-
October could be complicated, and the message that testing may
not be clear.
So I think there may be a need to hold off a little longer.
Where I think the Congress is very helpful is that you do these
sanctions laws. I think they have been critically important in
creating the pressure on Iran and that if Iran continues to
increase its nuclear program, which will be clear in November
in the next IAEA report whether that is true or not, then I
think increased nuclear work should be met with increased
And the other thing is that the U.S. Government is clearly
not trying to reveal its negotiating position, and I think that
is good. But I think that it is important that there be
mechanisms set up, and Congress, I think, can play an important
role of what is a good negotiating position and what is not.
And it can be done on a technical level, where it does not have
to become that politicized of what are the steps that are
needed in order to reach the point where the United States
would have assurance that Iran is not going to build nuclear
And anyone can come up with 20 conditions, but how do you
then take the subset of that and, in a sense, how do you
optimize it and decide that it is enough? And I think there
needs to be quite a bit of discussion about that involving, I
would hope, the U.S. Government. But I think Ambassador Sherman
made it pretty clear that they are not going to participate on
an unclassified level, but I think the American public needs to
There is a lot of confusion about what is necessary to
accomplish. And particularly if you add in war weariness, there
may be a lot of pressure to accept a deal that is really not
going to solve this problem.
Senator Corker. Thank you.
Ambassador Jeffrey. I thought that the position that
Secretary Sherman laid out is reasonable from the standpoint of
someone who has been in the administration, this one and ones
in the past. You always want the maximum flexibility.
On the other hand, you cannot let that dangle out forever.
As we have heard, you have a mid-2014 time period. Other
experts I know--Olli Heinonen, formerly of the IAEA, and others
at the Washington Institute--would agree with these kind of
timelines. So we do not have a lot of time.
It is very important that Iran understand that the charm
offensive means nothing. What is important is what it does. If
it does not take action, there will be more sanctions.
Now I cannot talk to exactly what the sanctions would be.
That is something that you folks are working on up here and
will be back and forth in the administration, as Wendy Sherman
said, because there are some that are more effective than
others. What we do know is the sanctions that you folks have
put in place are extremely effective, both in harming the
Iranian economy and in bringing the Iranians to at least
consider some kind of deal.
In order to avoid sanctions which were put in place by the
United Nations in 2010, they accepted a somewhat flawed deal
from the Turks and the Brazilians just before. So they do
respond to pressure. That is a good thing.
So my recommendation would be give the administration the
flexibility to see where Iran is going. We will know pretty
soon the basic outlines. It may take more time, just like the
agreement between Secretary Kerry and Lavrov over a month ago
on the Syrian chemical situation was in place, and then it took
a good number of weeks before the final resolution could be
hammered out. But it was going in the right direction.
If this goes in the right direction, you can hold off. If
it is going in the wrong direction, you need to consider what
further action would be appropriate.
Senator Corker. Mr. Takeyh.
Dr. Takeyh. So thank you.
I think, looking at the Islamic Republic for quite a long
time as I have, unfortunately, I would say that Islamic
Republic responds to pressure, and that has been sort of
validated by their response to the sanctions measures that have
So I guess the argument for pause in terms of passing of
the legislation that is in front of you do not make all that
much sense to me because I actually think that its expeditious
passage could help the administration in their negotiations.
While I am not quite sure if the pause, October 14 or whatever
it is, past that date.
I certainly anticipate that given that how heightened
expectations are, the parties are going to emerge from the mid-
October meetings suggesting they had frank, good discussions,
and they will proceed along those lines. I do not think, given
how high the expectations have been, unfortunately, inflated,
they can say otherwise.
The second thing that I would suggest is along the lines of
a rather poignant series of questions that Senator Rubio asked.
We kind of understand the parameters of a deal that the
international community is seeking to negotiate with Iran. We
understand the Iranian position that they require an indigenous
enrichment capability, even though they do not have natural
So they want domestic enrichment. The Russians, the
Chinese, and the Europeans have largely conceded that. The
position of the executive branch, as Senator Rubio
demonstrated, was evolving.
The United States Congress, Senate or the House, should
actually have their own say, as a collective body, not as
individual Senators, about whether they think a final status
agreement would entail domestic enrichment on Iranian soil and,
if so, under which modalities and so on.
Everybody has expressed their point of view about this
issue as a collective body except the United States legislative
branch. Individual Senators have a position. At times, those
positions are congregated in a letter and so on, but maybe you
want to consider some sort of a resolution to that effect.
And if the position--if the United States Congress wants to
join the prevailing consensus that the Islamic Republic should
have enrichment rights, then that is fine. But you should
express a collective position.
Senator Corker. Thank you all very much. Thank you.
The Chairman. Thank you.
Senator Rubio. I will just take it from there and tell you
why I feel so strongly about that. I think in any negotiation
the first thing we have to understand is who are you dealing
with? Because that tells you a lot about the parameters of a
negotiation and where it can head.
So here is who I think we are dealing with. First, I think
we are dealing with a country run by a bunch of liars because
this is a country that has gone around saying--that their
program is peaceful and that they will never develop nuclear
weapons. And yet there are reams of open source reporting about
the fact that at multiple times in the past, they have had an
aggressive nuclear program. And I do not think anyone in the
world now looks at what they are doing and concludes that they
are not trying to build the capacity for weaponized nuclear
Here is another piece of evidence as to the belief that
they are liars. They say that they do not have any intent to
develop nuclear weapons, but they are investing a lot of time
and energy on long-range missiles. Now what do you put on a
long-range missile? You put a weapon. You put a nuclear weapon.
It is the only reason to have one.
So they are developing all of these ICBMs for one of two
reasons. They are either planning one heck of a fireworks show,
or they intend to put a nuclear warhead on a rocket and to be
able to threaten the world with it.
And the third reason why they are liars is because they
admit to it. This is interesting. This is from Prime Minister
Netanyahu's speech at the United Nations, and I am going to
quote from it.
He talks about a 2011 book where Rouhani basically writes,
and he quotes, ``While we were talking to the Europeans in
Tehran, we were installing equipment in Isfahan.'' Now for
those who do not know, the Isfahan facility is an indispensable
part of Iran's nuclear weapons program. That is where uranium
ore, called yellow cake, is converted into an enrichable form.
Rouhani boasted, and he quotes, ``By creating a calm
environment, we were able to complete the work in Isfahan.''
Basically, he fooled the world once and now thinks he can fool
So, number one, we are dealing with a bunch of liars. The
second thing we are dealing with is a bunch of really evil
people. I know that is a term that gets thrown around loosely,
but here is the evidence.
They actively participate in the slaughter of innocent
people in Syria and in other parts of the world. They actively
destabilize their neighbors in Bahrain, in Lebanon, now in
Iraq, and in other places. They provide support to Hezbollah so
they can fire rockets into civilian areas of Israel.
Two years ago, they tried to assassinate the Ambassador of
Saudi Arabia in this very city, okay? This is who we are
negotiating with. We are not negotiating with Belgium. We are
not negotiating with Luxembourg. We are negotiating with a
government, a country run by evil liars.
And when you negotiate with evil liars, everything that
you--all of your lines have to be clearly marked out, and the
verifications have to be stronger. I mean, we are dealing with
some very dangerous people here. And so, that is why I feel so
passionately about being very clear about what our position is.
And I believe that our--and you can--I am open to the
comments of the folks who are here today because certainly you
spend a lot of time on this. But I, for the life of me, do not
understand why the official policy of the United States is not
Number one, you stop enrichment of uranium. Number two, you
allow the existing stockpiles to be transferred and removed
from your country. Number three, take down all of those
facilities you have that only serve the purpose of enriching to
weapons grade, places like the underground secret facilities
that they have in Qom or the centrifuges in Natanz. And number
four, stop working on these heavy water reactors that are going
to be used to produce plutonium.
This should be our offer. Our offer should be you do these
four things, and then maybe the sanctions start to get
lessened. But this notion that somewhere in between that there
is the capability of leaving in place the infrastructure and
the enrichment capabilities so that 5 years from now, 8 years
from now, when they have now fully developed their ICBMs. They
have now fully developed the ability to turn that into a
warhead, 5 or 6 years from now they can decide, you know what,
we are going to get a weapon because fill in the blank. They
can make up any excuse they want.
This is who we are dealing with here, and there is
precedent for this. This is what North Korea did. This is what
Pakistan did, and this is what they are going to do. These guys
are going to get a weapon because they view it as security for
the regime. They view it as a way to become the dominant power
in the region.
And by the way, we should be scared of it not just because
of Iran. A nuclear Iran means we will see a nuclear Saudi
Arabia. We will see potentially a nuclear Turkey, and even
potentially one day, a nuclear Egypt.
And so, I just do not understand all the silliness about we
are dealing with these guys. We are going to sit down. We are
going to--they are buying for time. That is all they are doing.
They are trying to--this is the bottom-line mandate that they
What can we do to lessen these sanctions in the short term
while continuing the slow, steady progression? Maybe we will
slow down the progression, but they will get there nonetheless.
Because ultimately if they reach a point where they can
break out, they do not have to break out. Just the ability to
break out gives them a tremendous amount of leverage on the
world while they continue to develop their ICBMs for this
fireworks show that they are apparently planning or for the
ability to threaten the east coast of the United States.
So I just hope that as policymakers, we start to take
this--well, I know that the committee does--take this very
seriously for what it is. Stop playing games. This is a very
serious issue, and we are dealing with very dangerous people
who while they say all these nice things out there, their
actions are clear.
They are assassinating, destabilizing, you know, all the
things that they are doing. These are evil liars that we are
The Chairman. All right. I think you should be more
passionate about how you feel on this issue. [Laughter.]
But it is a very serious issue, and I appreciate your
Let me just do one final thing because my colleague Senator
Corker, in his very thoughtful way as always, has asked what
should the Congress do or not do? And several of you responded
that the Congress should not necessarily proceed with any
additional sanctions at this time until we see what happens on
the 15th and 16th.
And let me ask you this question. So the 15th and 16th
comes. We have what will diplomatically be referred to as we
have some substantive discussions. We believe that it is worthy
of continuing forward, and these negotiations never turn into a
few days after that. They turn into weeks after that, if not
And so, the time clicks by. In the interim, nothing stops
in the process itself as it exists today. And so, what is so
wrong, when Dr. Albright says that mid-2014--so giving the
whole month of October, November, December, and then through
June, that is 9 months. And to the extent that he says the
institute has received criticism is that it may be shorter, not
So 9 months, what is wrong with the Congress of the United
States pursuing a perfecting sanctions regime that would seek
greater reductions in petroleum that would look at some
critical issues that the Iranians are still using even with the
regimes that exist now, such as the use of steel in their
automotive sector and shipping sector and what not.
And which never get enforced until way beyond those 9
months but gives the administration, as they are sitting there,
the reality to look what is coming around the corner from the
Congress if we cannot have now some real significant movement
None of the sanctions--and I have been the author of all of
them, along with Senator Kirk and others--none of the sanctions
have ever gone into effect immediately. They have a timeframe
for implementation. They give an opportunity for countries to
join us in the effort and to prepare, for example, in the
reductions of petroleum.
So it seems to me that--and some of us are contemplating in
this new round of sanctions for the first time saying, but if
the Iranians meet the responsibilities that have been laid out
by the Security Council, then these new round of sanctions can
cease, which gives a message to them that they are concerned. I
often hear they are concerned that even if they struck an
agreement that they ultimately are not sure that the Congress
would remove the sanctions that exist.
So if we created both a carrot and a stick whose
implementation would not take place beyond the timeframe of the
breakout period if nothing goes unabated, how is that not a
positive for the administration versus it being a negative?
Dr. Takeyh. I think the argument for pause makes sense if
there is corresponding pause. Namely, if the Iranians also
pause their activities. They are required by six U.N. Security
Council resolutions, perhaps seven, to suspend their nuclear
activities. They have not done so. They continue--if they pause
spending $500 million a month in Syria to prop up the Assad
But there is no corresponding pause on their side. Their
activities continue to go on on the nuclear front, on the
proliferation front, on the terrorism front, and so on. So the
argument of pause does not make much sense to me.
I would make pitch for one additional idea that you may
want to consider, which I have done so elsewhere. Namely,
establishing an Iran human rights commission similar to the
Helsinki Commission that was established or the China
Commission, which essentially focuses on Iran's human rights
abuses and can prescribe measures to deal with that.
It is a conversation that can bring Democrats and
Republicans together, and then also the executive branch would
have observation status in that. And that would essentially
focus the issue.
Iran today is not just a proliferator, is not just a
sponsor of terrorism. It leads the globe in execution of
minors. It is second in executions per capita to China. There
is grotesque and important human rights abuses that I think
requires greater degree of accentuation and perhaps some
similar legislative remedy as well.
The Chairman. Ambassador Jeffrey.
Ambassador Jeffrey. It is hard ever to argue against more
sanctions on a perpetual aggressor and war criminal state like
Iran. As I said earlier, this is a long-term conflict. But
rather than say yes or no to even general sanctions, I would
just give you one perspective.
To my left, I have a guy who knows Iran far better than I.
To my right, I have someone who knows the nuclear account far
better than I. So what can I contribute to this thing?
What I would suggest is, first, I know a little bit about
dealing with foreign governments because I have spent about 40
years doing it, and last, I know a lot about wars and military
engagements because I have been involved in a lot of them. So
what I would say is in figuring out your position, remember
that there are many other actors besides the United States and
Iran in this thing.
We rely on other countries to accommodate us by carrying
out these sanctions. They are the ones who cut imports of oil,
not we. We put penalties on them if they do, but they have to
decide that going along with us and avoiding the penalties is
more important than bringing in the oil and such.
And under certain circumstances, depending on what the
sanctions are, they may or may not at some point go along with
us. So that is the devil in the details. We do need this
international coalition not only for the sanctions, but also--
and it is not at the back, but at the front of my mind with
everything we do with Iran on this issue--if we have to go to
Because I think that is an extremely important threat, and
I think it is our last possibility. And I have spent 4 years in
Iraq and Vietnam. I know what it is like sending our troops
into combat when they do not have the support of the
international community, and it is very important that whatever
the administration does and whatever the Congress does, we
ensure that we are not so out of synch with the rest of the
international community that we are isolated because that is
going to be a bad place to be if this gets really serious.
The Chairman. I appreciate that, and the fact is, is that
in our--sometimes in the sanction regime effort, you have to
lead and you get others to follow or to join. I should not say
``follow,'' but to join. And that has actually been our
And then at some points, others led, and we followed. The
European Union was on its way to a total oil embargo before we
moved in a certain direction--or asked for further reduction.
So there has been to some degree in this respect a concert of
And I agree with you we need to maintain that, but it just
seems to me that the simple threat of a new round without that
taking its bite well within a certain period of time beyond the
breakout period is--I do not understand what the cause for
Dr. Albright, we will give you the final word.
Dr. Albright. Yes, I do not think it is cause for alarm,
but I think they have to be justified carefully. Because it is
going to be asking allies to do things and even adversaries, if
I can characterize China that way. So I think it has to be
demonstrated that they are needed and justified.
The Chairman. Well, I agree with that, and we can
definitely do that because we can show where Iran, even under
the present sanctions regimes, has efforts to circumvent.
But I would simply say the world watches the slaughter in
Syria and did not seem to want to act. And so, if we want to
avoid the use of military force, which I believe needs to be a
credible threat on the table as part of the equation, our best
way to achieve that with the international community is to have
Iran feel the domestic internal pressure that has, as you
suggested, Mr. Takeyh, the Ayatollah and his dual portfolio
come to a decision that the one not only has to be abated but
maybe given up.
Dr. Albright. Yes, I would add, though, that it should be
motivated by what happens in October. I mean, and if they
increase their program.
The Chairman. And if October comes and we hear that we have
had some positive, substantive negotiations, but nothing has
ceased. Let us say if October came and they said we are going
to stop right now all enrichment. So let us stop another round
of new sanctions.
I do not know. Maybe that might be something.
Dr. Albright. Yes.
The Chairman. And then work from there. But if October
comes and all we hear, which is what every P5+1 process has
largely led to, is that we have had discussions and, you know,
there has been some good environment, but nothing substantive
has come. How many times of the October 15s do we have?
Dr. Albright. I would argue--I guess I would take
Ambassador Sherman at her word. I mean, this is the test, and
if they do not pass it in October, then more action would
occur, particularly in Congress.
The Chairman. Senator Corker.
Senator Corker. Thank you.
I like that line of questioning very much, and I want to
follow on to that. And again, thank you as witnesses for being
Mr. Takeyh, speaking of October, and we will know soon,
obviously, but what is it that you think Iran's Foreign
Minister is going to say to Secretary Kerry and Secretary
Dr. Takeyh. Well, my guess is they are going to try to
suggest a greater degree of cooperation with the IAEA, which
follows up on the promise of transparency. I think they have
been for a long time interested in selling 20 percent
enrichment, and to some extent, Prime Minister Netanyahu was
remiss in emphasizing 20 percent when the problem has always
been enrichment at 3.5 percent, and that is taking place at
industrial scale in their towns.
The Iranians have been trying to sell the 20 percent for a
long time. So I suspect they might table something about 20
percent in exchange for sanctions relief such as that may not
directly involve the United States Congress, such as SWIFT
accounts and so on and so forth. There are some aspects of the
And I think so you kind of come out of that meeting by
suggesting some agreements have been made that deal at least
with the outer parameters of the nuclear issue. That would be,
my guess would be on the upscale of what they could offer.
Senator Corker. So back to what Senator Menendez was asking
a minute ago or talking about the coalition. I guess one of the
important elements, and I know that you all are, two of you are
taking a slightly more cautious approach to sanctions. Takeyh
may be a little bit more aggressive.
But an important part of what we are doing is keeping our
coalition together. In other words, without the international
coalition we have, the sanctions that we put in place generally
do not have the impact that they otherwise would have. And I
would just ask each of you to, from your perspective, tell us
where you think that coalition is today relative to what is
And just add to that, in the event, for instance, these
talks are not successful, and I think most people here are
pretty skeptical about where this is going to go. Let us say
there isn't something that comes out tangibly very soon. How is
the coalition hanging together well, and can it go on for a
long period of time as it is today?
Dr. Albright. Yes, I would say my experience would be that
it is under stress. I mean, Europeans are being asked to do
more and more, and there is some pushback now that was not
there a year ago. So I think it is under stress, and that is
why I think any new congressional sanctions should be motivated
by what Iran does or does not do.
And I do share your concerns about mid-October because I
just thought of this. In listening carefully to Ambassador
Sherman, it appears that what could happen is Iran is being
asked to respond to the Almaty proposal that was made, not to
come up with a comprehensive framework agreement.
And so, you could end up in a situation where Iran responds
to that proposal, which is very limited, and the proposal is
public now. So we all know what is in it, and even if Iran said
yes to that, it does not get anywhere near what is necessary.
So I think the administration needs to be pushed much more
firmly about, is Iran going to provide in a sense a bottom line
in October? And again, this would have to be nonpublic
discussions, obviously, but I think we do need to know what
exactly is going to happen in October, and is it the test that
we think it will be?
And I think the world is going to be watching very
carefully, and I think what happened in Syria is something to
pay attention to, that military strikes are not that easy to
get support for right now. And I think the sanctions could be
the most important pressure that is brought to bear to get Iran
to take the steps necessary to solve this.
And so, I would argue that after October that it really may
be necessary to apply those sanctions or pass those sanctions
in order to then get a deal.
Senator Corker. Mr. Jeffrey.
Ambassador Jeffrey. First of all, David is right about the
Almaty deal and the going-in position. I think there may be
some hope for offline, direct United States-Iranian talks,
which the door does seem to be open to. And the President also
in his statement the other day did refer to the sort of
sanctions relief that the Iranians, I think, want. They would
have to do very significant, verifiable, transparent, and
So I think that he, at least, is thinking about going
beyond the Almaty proposals and try to find out what their
bottom line is. They, of course, will also want to know what
the international community's bottom line is in terms of
sanctions. So that will be the play.
But in terms of your question specifically of the
coalition, I am a little bit worried because I think the
coalition, more than the United States, is being wooed a bit by
Rouhani's performance at the United Nations, his various
writings, and the rest of this stuff, and they are hoping that
this era of good feelings will move forward. So we have to
really educate them a bit that it is actions and not words, and
the President has done a good job in this, and the more support
he can get from Congress, the better on that.
In terms of China and purchasing oil, that is something
that I think you have to look at the intelligence on, on what
their options are and where they are. In terms of Russia, they
have been very unhelpful on the Syrian thing in some respects,
and I think they will exact a high price for further
cooperation with us.
So there is some maneuvering back and forth. But I think
that we are at a point where within the next few weeks, we can
see whether the signs are going in that direction. Then the
administration will have to convince allies, have to convince
you, have to convince the American public, that it is worth
either pursuing a negotiated track or return to the sanctions
with the military option if the Iranians start crossing our
Dr. Takeyh. I think on the strength of the coalition, the
coalition has to be viewed as a large collection of countries
with varying degrees of compliance records. The Russians and
the Chinese have always been skeptical of sanctions, and they
have tried to use their participation in these international
meetings to negotiate their commerce and protect their
commerce, particularly in terms of the Chinese and purchasing
of Iranian oil.
I do not see a clamor in Europe for sanctions relief. I
think the European Union has, in some ways, moved even beyond
and ahead of the United States on these issues. So I do not see
this notion of the European Union seeking to resume its
relations, commercial relations with Iran. Even in absence of
the sanctions, I think that would be difficult, given the high
risk of Iranian commerce.
There are some Asian countries that continue to purchase
Iranian oil, and here I think the Japanese or South Koreans
have proven the most wobbly members of the sanctions committee,
particularly in terms of the Japanese, which have even
established their own insurance mechanism for transportation of
the Iranian oil.
So the Asian trade I think continues, but I think the
European trade at this point has been severed, and I am not
quite sure if the Europeans are clamoring to come into it. And
the categories of concerns that Europeans have tend to increase
beyond those of the United States. They are much more focused
on human rights issues, for instance, as more so than we have
been. We have more of a proliferation-centric policy.
So I am not quite sure if the last couple of weeks in New
York have changed the fundamentals of the coalition. Those who
were weak continue to be weak. Those who were wobbly continue
to be wobbly. And those who are resolute continue to be
Senator Corker. Mr. Chairman, if I could, one last
question? And you know, the chairman and I talked a great deal
during the Syrian issue, you know, how we responded to that was
very much going to impact the negotiations that we are talking
about right now and Iran's response to us. And without giving
any editorial comments, just wondering if you could share with
us sort of the environment that we are in as far as the
neighborhood as they watched the United States response in
There were a lot of episodes, and you know, how the
neighborhood has responded to our response to Syria, but
especially Iran. If you could just share with me what kind of
environment it has created within those countries?
Ambassador Jeffrey. I would separate out the two. I think
that the United States has a pretty convincing record of taking
a tough position on Iran. I think that people generally believe
that we are very serious about it. There are the sanctions that
you have worked so hard on, and there are a lot of tough
statements, most recently from the President a couple of days
ago. But I think that people also look at what we have been
The withdrawal from Iraq, which I was involved in; the
impending withdrawal of all or most of our forces from
Afghanistan; the talk of a pivot to Asia, even though I suspect
90 percent of the work of the foreign policy community still is
in the Middle East; the way we not only led from behind on
Libya--that may have been a pretty good idea--but the way we
talked about and sort of praised ourselves for leading from
behind; and most recently, the Syrian example has made, have
all made our friends in the region question whether we are
willing to use military force if things come to that.
And that is a very dangerous situation. That is how we got
into the Korean war. We had not put South Korea inside our
defense perimeter. We explicitly excluded it by Dean Acheson.
The North Koreans invaded, with Russian encouragement, and we
We do not want to stumble into a wall like that. We have to
be very, very clear that we will use military force. Under the
circumstances post Syria, this requires Presidential
commitments and Presidential action and supporting action from
the Congress to restore the belief, that is fundamental to
everything that I have experienced in the last 40 years all
around the world, that the United States and its friends and
allies, as part of an international coalition, will act to
preserve threats to the international order.
That is being questioned now, sir.
Dr. Albright. One thing I would like to add to that is--
well, two things. One is certainly the Gulf States are very
I mean, they have made that pretty apparent--in what the United
States is going to do.
Now question I would have is, is based on if we think about
deterring Iran from breaking out. I mean, even now we think
they could do it relatively quickly. I mean, a month, month and
a half. I mean, the inspection can detect that and give timely
warning that it is taking place. But that does not leave a lot
of time for a military response.
As breakout times shrink, it is pretty clear that the
military--whichever one is going to do it, whether it is Israel
or the United States--is going to have to be striking within a
few days. And has the Syrian situation confused whether the
President has the authority to do that.
And again, this is not a case where there is clear evidence
of someone violating a major international agreement, namely
the Nonproliferation Treaty. So it is not a preemptive strike.
It is an action has been taken that is judged as trying to
build nuclear weapons. Can the United States--does the Obama
administration feel it has the authority to act within a few
days with a military response?
The Chairman. Mr. Takeyh, you are going to have the last
word of this hearing.
Dr. Takeyh. Sure, in terms of regional situation, the
Middle East is a region that continuously divides against
itself, and it has divided against itself today. There is an
interregional cold war on the one hand led by Saudi Arabia, on
the other hand by Iran. And this is a cold war that is playing
itself out in the gulf, in Bahrain, even though I think the
Saudis' claims are overstated. It is playing itself out in
Iraq, playing itself out in Lebanon, and certainly playing
itself out in Syria.
So that is the sort of a division we see in the region. It
is a cold war that is likely to be more protracted because it
is predicated on sectarian identities, Shia versus Sunnis and
that sort of a thing. So the Middle East is in a particularly
unstable and dangerous period.
The United States, obviously, has a role in terms of
reassuring its allies and deterring its adversaries. It is a
role that it chooses to play however maladroitly or
successfully it may want to.
The Chairman. Well, thank you all. It has been a very
interesting and helpful panel. I appreciate it.
With the thanks of the committee, the hearing's record will
remain open until the close of business tomorrow for members'
And with that, this hearing is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 12:47 p.m., the hearing was adjourned.]
Additional Material Submitted for the Record
Responses of Under Secretary Wendy Sherman to Questions
Submitted by Senator Robert Corker
Question. Is the administration considering including Iran in
upcoming negotiations to achieve a political settlement to the conflict
in Syria? If so, why? What constructive role do you feel Iran can play
in those negotiations? How will their participation affect the Syrian
Answer. We believe that whoever attends the Geneva Conference on
Syria must accept and publicly support the Geneva Communique, including
the key point of establishing by mutual consent a new transition
governing body with full executive authorities. We have been clear that
Iran has played a destructive role in this crisis by sending Quds
Forces into Syria, by helping Hezbollah fight in Syria, and by
organizing the dispatch of Iraqi Shia militiamen to fight in Syria, all
directly contributing to the Assad regime's brutality against the
Syrian people. If Iran were to endorse and embrace full implementation
of the Geneva Communique publicly, we would view the possibility of
their participation more openly. So far it has not done so.
Question. We have established that Iran is already dangerously
close to achieving critical breakout capability. If we give you 3
months to test diplomacy they will be closer. What is our strategy to
move Iran back from breakout in the event diplomacy fails?
Answer. We believe there is a window for diplomacy, but time is not
unlimited, and the President has consistently said that all options are
on the table. We are confident that the international community would
have sufficient time to respond to any Iranian breakout effort. We
continue to closely monitor Iran's nuclear program for any signs that
the regime has made an explicit decision to develop a nuclear weapon or
is operating secret facilities for covert production of enriched
Question. President Obama has repeatedly emphasized the fact, both
at the United Nations and in his statement after the phone call with
Rouhani, that Ayatollah Khamenei has issued a fatwa against nuclear
weapons. Are you using the fatwa as a serious factor in assessing
Answer. On September 26 in New York, at a speech at the Council on
Foreign Relations, President Rouhani paraphrased Ayatollah Khamenei and
stated, ``The development, production, stockpiling and use of nuclear
weapons are contrary to the Islamic norms.'' As President Obama has
stated many times, we remain committed to ensuring Iran does not obtain
a nuclear weapon--and as a result, we were heartened to learn about the
fatwa against nuclear weapons.
But the fatwa itself is not the basis for assessing Iranian
intentions. Iran must match its rhetoric with meaningful, transparent,
and verifiable actions. This has always been our stance.
Question. What is your current assessment of the amount Iran has in
its foreign exchange reserves? Under current conditions, when will Iran
run out of money?
Answer. Independent experts estimate that Iran's foreign currency
reserves were valued around 70-80 billion USD in 2012. In theory, if
Iran used only its foreign currency reserves instead of earnings
derived from trade surpluses with other countries, the Iranian
Government would have about 8 months before running out of money to pay
for imports. However, because most of Iran's foreign reserves are
extremely difficult to access, the period is less than 3 months under
Most of Iran's reserves are partially or completely inaccessible
largely due to the administration implementing key provisions of the
Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (TRA) on
February 6, 2013. In addition to putting restrictions on Iran's foreign
currency reserve holdings, provisions in the TRA restrict Iran's
ability to use oil revenue held in foreign financial institutions. Due
to the success of the TRA, the Iranian Government can only use the vast
majority of its overseas holdings to facilitate bilateral trade with
countries that import Iranian oil, or to facilitate humanitarian trade.