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PANEL 5 - RED LINES AND DEADLINES: THE THREAT OF A NUCLEAR IRAN


Speakers:

  • Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
  • Mark Dubowitz, Executive Director, Foundation for Defense of Democracies
  • Reuel Marc Gerecht, Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies
  • Jeffrey Goldberg, National Correspondent, The Atlantic

GERECHT:

I'm Reuel Marc Gerecht, you've seen me earlier in the day, we have Jeffrey Goldberg from the Atlantic, Elliott Abrams from the Council on Foreign Relations, and our own Mark Dubowitz. And this panel is basically on Iran, Iran, and Iran. So, I'm going to start right off here and since I'm actually somewhat schizophrenic on the Iranian nuclear negotiations, I don't particularly like them, but at the same time, I can see many reasons why I think could support it. Just because the nuclear negotiations are going so poorly, and also, I actually don't think there probably is going to be a deal. So, I'm all messed up on this and because of that, because of my schizophrenia, I'm going to first turn to Jeffrey, who I think may be equal -- be equal to me ) in his own internal deep conflicts and profound schizophrenia.). So...

GOLDBERG:

Diagnose yourself. Don't... I don't need your amateur psychoanalysis here.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

GERECHT:

So, I'm going to ask Jeffrey to give us, in his own mind, the sort of plusses and minuses of the nuclear negotiations as he sees them and whether at the end of that, you know, addition and subtraction, that accounting, he is still in favor of the nuclear negotiations. So, if you'd just give me your give me your version of the plusses and minuses as you see in the nuclear negotiations developed.

GOLDBERG:

Thank you Reuel.

GERECHT:

You're welcome.

GOLDBERG:

Appreciate it very much. You know, the main plus for me has always been, or "bean," as they say in Canada.

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDBERG:

translate for Dubowitz.

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDBERG:

The main plus for me, has always been is that I can't see a better alternative. And we can, I'm sure, we'll go into that, what the (efficacy of the military strike would be, how long it would last, what its second order of consequences would be). I mean, the goal is the same, to keep this particular regime, from in a position of...

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDBERG:

The -- and so, it's, you know, it's the worst choice acceptfor all of the others within the -- within the -- within what they've -- first of all, there's no -- there's no agreement right now. There's -- they call it a framework agreement, but it's much more framework than agreement. What you have is sort of competing fact sheets that are going to be discussed over the next two and a half months.. There are -- there are items that have been reported that -- that seem fairly straightforwardly good. What they're doing to the Arak reactor seems like a pretty useful thing to do. We can go (inaudible) of this. It's problematic. I'm not worried -- do you want me to get down to the specifics of what...

(CROSSTALK)

GERECHT:

I mean if you think the specifics are important...

(CROSSTALK)

GOLDBERG:

I mean, I do think the specifics are important. I've seen a lot of commentaries that say specifics are not important, but within the reality that's been created, specifics do become important. I mean, there are a set of issues that I'm worried about, and again, we're still in the prologuebecause we have two and a half months to go. I'm worried about the pace of sanctions relief. I'm worried particularly about the R&D provisions. In other words, what would be -- what we seem to be facing now is the possibility that Iran might come out of the back end of its period of contstraint, whether it's 10 years or 12 years, whatever, with a more advanced nuclear program than it goes in. Ideally, this -- any kind of agreement between the great powers, and Iran would set back the Iran nuclear infrastructure. Less ideally, but still within the realm of acceptable is total freeze. In other words, they emerge in a dozen years with what they have today. But if these R&D proposals are what people seem to think they might be. Then Iran, especially toward the last years of this deal gets to do all kinds of great experiments with much more advanced centrifuges.

So that's problematic. But the thing -- the thing that I'm worried about -- the thing that I'm worried about, and I guess this is -- this doesn't have to do with it, and I'll end here, but it doesn't have to do with the particulars of -- of the -- of the specific provisions. The science, what they keep referring to as the science of. I'm worried what happens when Iran suddenly gets billions and billions and billions of dollars that it's going to get when sanctions gradually come off. I assume that much of that money will be used for reasonable purposes, building an economy, subsidizing food, infrastructure, and all the sorts of things that you would like a government to spend on. I also assume that billions of dollars will flow to the Revolutionary Guard Corps and to Hezbollah and to the Assad Regime, and that's particularly worrisome. So there's nothing, I mean, I guess to -- to echo your point, there's nothing particularly to be happy about, here, but the question -- your question is -- your question is does -- does this serve the immediate limited purpose of making sure that this bad regime has to wait a bit longer before it can move toward a nuclear breakout. And that's -- that's -- that's--

GERECHT:

So, you wouldn't -- you don't really buy the transformative arguments that are occasionally...

GOLDBERG:

I would like to buy them, but I don't see any proof that. This has been a -- I'm worried about the opposite. I'm worried about that once -- once -- once the regime starts getting the extra billions -- look, even under the constraints of sanctions, they'd been able to afford billions and billions of dollars into the Assad regime. They've been obviously, you know, be able to fund Hezbollah and they've been able to do all kinds of nefarious things. So, I don't know why anyone would think that this isn't going to empower Iran. And this does empower Iran, it legitimizes their -- their possession of a nuclear infrastructure and their so-called "right" to enrich. I don't know why that would lead to moderation. I'm open to that argument, but I haven't seen any kind -- I haven't -- I haven't heard a compelling argument that this is going open the door to -- to more moderation. If it happens, wonderful. But I wouldn't count on it.

GERECHT:

Elliott, if you -- if I asked the same question to you, if you add up the plusses and minuses, do you see -- do you plusses, do you see minuses, and which one comes out on the negative territory and the positive territory?

ABRAMS:

Thank you. I think the analysis is pretty much what Jeffrey said. I would -- I would say that the best we're going to get out of this is a delay of a few years and the date at which this regime gets nuclear weapons. With the downside, first of all the legitimization of that pursuit and I guess a lot of emphasis on regional question because I really do believe, you know, from the Israeli point of view there's one issue here, and that's the nuclear weapon. For the Arab point of view, by far the larger issue is subversion, aggression, terrorism by Iran. It's -- Iran is the hegemonic power in the region, and it's the failure so far of the United States to come up with a way of addressing the problem that I agree with Jeff, logic suggests will go. What have the Iranians been doing of doing, let's say, for the past 10 years? They've been developing a nuclear weapons program. They've been growing their investment in Hamas and Hezbollah. They now have IRGC troops on the ground, fighting in three Arab countries, Iraq, Syria, Yemen. That's (inaudible) so, what is -- what -- what happened to them because of this? Nothing. What punishment because of this? Nothing. Now the legitimization in a way of their -- of their nuclear programs. So I think one has to expect there will be more of it, and I think what -- what particularly the Arabs are asking is, is there an American policy to deal with this?

There's going to be a GCC summit with the president in a few weeks, I guess. It'll be very interesting to see what he's going to offer. Do we want to put more bases in the region? Does he want to send another carrier task force? Do we want to have the famous nuclear umbrella over the GCC? If it's a treaty, would the congress actually, would the Senate go for that? Do we want a mutual defense pact with every member of the GCC? None of these strike me as great ideas. The absence of any of them strikes me as, you know, as an even worse idea because then we're really saying to them in the face of this Iranian behavior, good luck.

GERECHT:

Well, let's take a scenario which is (inaudible) scenario. Well, let's take a scenario where there isn't a deal.What do you think happens, whatrealistically could -- would president Obama do in that -- in that scenario that would change that equation or maybe maintain it in the Middle East? Basically without the deal, with the deal, we're in the same situation. It doesn't really matter?

ABRAMS:

If there were no deal, the deal falls through, everyone walks away from the -- from the table, I do not believe that Iran would make a greatleap forward towards nuclear weapons, because I think they'd be worried that they would corner either the president or the Israelis into a military strike that they feel not now is not going to happen. So, I think they would continue their progress for nuclear weapons, but I don't think they would -- certainly -- certainly not visibly increase it in any way. I would assume that congress would pass sanctions, increase sanctions, and the administration would not veto them. So, you'd be in a situation where you have to -- the constraints that exist under the JPOA would go away. It'd fall away. And you'd need to see, I think, how much damage can you do to the Iranian economy through increased sanctions, and what are the ways in which you could try to prevent them from making faster progress than they would under the JPOA? Or that they're likely to try to undertake themselves out of fear of us? How much constraint could you put up?

GERECHT:

Well to play on that? Mark, let's -- let's suppose there is a deal. Is it by definition, if there's a deal, realistically, the sanctions regime that's we've known is dead? And then, play the other way. And so -- so let's assume there isn't a deal. What -- what realistically could we do with sanctions, and how optimistic are you that they could produce a result that is, in fact, better than the one we have now?

DUBOWITZ:

I think in the first scenario, I have been a big fan, an advocate of sanctions and...

GERECHT:

None of us in this room knew that.

DUBOWITZ:

Nobody knows that.

(LAUGHTER)

DUBOWITZ:

And actually, I mean, I think all those people who help put the sanctions in place should be taking a victory lap, right? Sanctions brought Iran to the table, they've -- they've facilitated these negotiations. They gave the president leverage to negotiate this non-agreed, agreed framework. And potentially they will help force Khamenei to make that ultimate decision to do a comprehensive agreement. So, we should be taking a victory lap. But we're not. Or some of us are not, because I think fundamentally, there have been a few fundamental mistakes with respect to sanctions. Now, if there is a deal, we're going to make another fundamental mistake, which we're going to -- we're going to rely on snap back sanctions. The snap back sanction at the core of the administration's economic argument.

We're going to provide phased sanctions relief, hopefully we get the Iranians to agree to that. And if the Iranians cheat at some point, and of course the Iranians cheat incrementally, they don't cheat egregiously, even though the sum total of their incremental cheating is always egregious. But if they cheat, there will be a process where we will detect the cheating, we will make an assessment, and a determination, and then ultimately through the U.N. and through our EU and U.S. systems, we will snap back the sanctions, put them back in place. I think it's a delusion. I think it's a complete delusion. I think it's going to run up against Russian intransigence at the U.N. Security Council, and it's going to run up against human greed in the marketplace.

It took years to put the sanctions in place. It took a crowbar to get Total out of Iran. It took the Treasury Department and the U.S. Congress at least seven, eight years to convince financial institutions to stop doing business finally with Iranian banks. It took an act of God to convince European regulators to de-SWIFT Iranian banks. It took an enormous effort, U.S., E.U., a multilateral effort to get all these sanctions put in place. And I think that if you start to unwind those sanctions, and I think that regardless of how you try to phase them, the sanctions will begin to unwind precipitously. The notion you could snap them back in the face of Iranian non-compliance, again, I think that's highly dubious. And so we end up in a situation where our only peaceful mechanism of coercive enforcement against Iranian cheating, is being diminished. And so then a future president faces a scenario that I would be loathed to see, which is either in response to Iranian cheating, we surrender orr we have to bomb. And I don't think any U.S. president is going to bomb on the basis of incremental cheating. 8o'clock, the U.S. president says "my fellow Americans, we received reports from the intelligence community that the Iranians have fed UF-6 gases into an IR-8 centrifuge. This is in violation of the agreed framework. I ordered the U.S. Air force to initiate military strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities." Never going to happen. Totally fanciful.

It's going to rely on that snap back mechanism and economic sanctions to enforce it. And Iranians are not stupid. So the first few years, they're going to comply with this deal. Or if they cheat, they'll cheat very incrementally. They'll exploit ambiguities, and we'll litigate with them over the next couple of years. But as the sanctions relief kicks in, as their economy hardens, as they build up resilience, what they're doing is they're building up pressure against future snap back sanctions. And they know that the longer the sanctions relief takes to actually phase in, the greater opportunity they have to build out their resilience.

GERECHT:

But let's, I mean, let's take -- let's take the opposite. Let's say there isn't a deal, all right? We go into that sort of ambiguous world, what happens? Now, doesn't the president have some -- isn't -- isn't there some legitimacy in the argument to say, "listen, the escalating sanctioned regime, granted it's not what we would ideally want, perhaps, but the escalating sanctions regime hasn't stopped them from creating an infrastructure of roughly 20,000centrifuges. They've got the ICBM program, we do not know how far they've gotten with implosion devices, and warhead design, et cetera, et cetera. So, use a timeline here, what makes you think if we were actually to -- there is no deal, wehit them full force with sanctions, that they can't make the extra 10%, 15%, whatever the distance is for them to travel for them to become a nuclear power?

DUBOWITZ:

Because I agree with Elliott. First of all, I think the U.S. retains escalation dominance over Iran and I think the Iranians are unlikely to engage in nuclear escalation to that extent because I think they will will fear U.S. or Israeli strikes. And the Iranians never engaged in massive escalation on the nuclear physics side.

GERECHT:

But they could they have gradual escalation?

DUBOWITZ:

Well, this is the point. I -- I actually think you're going to see gradual escalation on the Iranian side. And I actually have always suggested that on the sanction side, we'll engage in massive sanctions escalation. We don't cripple their economy in three months, but there are ways to squeeze the Iranians economically where you can calibrate the sanction pressure. And you can respond to nuclear calibration on the Iranian side. So they start installing and operating more centrifuges, you can start restricting more of their oil revenues. If they go a little bit further, you can cut off their access to the full use of the Euro. They go a little bit further, you can blacklist the construction sector. I mean, there are ways to actually design a phased, calibrated sanctions escalation program that allows you to then respond to Iranian escalation on the nuclear physics side without basically engaging in massive escalation. And forcing Iranians to respond through nuclear escalation.

GERECHT:

But aren't you -- aren't you still engaging in the stepping stone to military conflict?

DUBOWITZ:

No, I think you're -- I think what you're engaged in, because I don't believe negotiations are going to break down. I don't believe everyone's going to walk away from the table. I mean the P5+1 formal structure may be frozen, but we're going to maintain our bilateral negotiation with the Iranians. We had a year of bilateral negotiations before the P5+1 process. I think there will be a -- likely to be theatrics involved with this, but ultimately we're going to engage in a bilateral channel and negotiations will continue. The goal here is to increase our negotiating leverage. It's to come to a better deal.

ABRAMS:

There's one -- there's one point I disagree, and that is, how do you think it's perfectly logical to assume that they will cheat? They need to test the system. They need to find out what happens. I don't mean this massive, you know, gigantic violation. But they need to see what happens when they're clearly crossing the line. Does the administration talk about it, hide it, excuse it? Count on it, punish it. Let me ask you, what happens? I think they would actually be foolish not to test it and I think they will -- they will.

GERECHT:

Do you agree with that?

GOLDBERG:

Well, Elliott just said something that spurred this thought. He referred to the administration. This administration has a shelf life of 20 months, 19 months.

DUBOWITZ:

Seven months, six days, and four hours.

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDBERG:

Well, I don't...

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDBERG:

The -- and so do me, the interesting question is. I'm with Elliott, I think there might be incremental testing of tolerances of cheating. I'm not sure they would do it while Obama is in -- they don't have to do it while Obama is in office. They might want to test -- they might want to get people used to the idea of a little bit of cheating on the margins. But to me, the big question -- one of the biggest questions that you have to ask yourself, if you're concerned long-term about Iran, getting to the nuclear threshold or past it is who's -- not to be -- it's not even a question of who's the next president, I mean, who's the next president after that? I mean, the ultimate snap back is a president who has much less tolerance for Iranian shenanigans than, let's say, some other people might have for -- for Iranian shenanigans. And so -- and so that, I'm just sort of casting this out long term, I'm going to assume that the biggest single predictor of what Iran does and how far it goes is the identity of the next president. So I think and this is not to absolve Obama of responsibility in this next period, it's simply to say that his term is coming to an end and this is going to be the next president's problem.

DUBOWITZ:

That's actually a great campaign ad.

GOLDBERG:

What?

(CROSSTALK)

DUBOWITZ:

-- I'm Marco Rubio and I'm the ultimate Iranian snap back.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

GERECHT:

I knew -- and -- and -- well, I mean, take that. If you look at the current political, you know, calculations in Washington alignments.I mean, is there, in your mind, any particular, like, detail in the negotiations.Let's assume the -- that there is -- is a deal. Or let's assume that the negotiations continue in as the State Department says "in good faith." Is there any particular concession that the -- if the president were to make it, in the negotiations, that he could lose the 67 senators and if so, what would that concession be?

GOLDBERG:

I don't -- I can't predict what the concession would be. I would say that at this point, it's highly unlikely to me or somewhat unlikely would be that he will not have, at the end of the day, most of the democrats with him. This is the moment. This is the foreign policy signature moment for a democratic president. The -- the sales job, and pressure job that -- that -- that will be -- that will be launched against any democratic senator who -- who veers too wildly from the -- from the one true path is -- is going to be incredibly large.

I don't know if anybody can withstand it,I think outside of a few outliers, Menendez obviously. But -- but I -- I -- I don't see very many circumstances in which he's not going to get the deal approved, majority right now. Unless -- unless there's something -- there's some sort of egregious and easily-explainable collapse, and I don't know if that -- those R&D provisions provide that. I don't know if sort of a -- a comically short sanctions relief schedule is a thing that -- that does it--

GERECHT:

I'm just -- let's -- let's assume that it becomes apparent that verification at least as the president has described it and that the State Department talking sheets have described it is really impossible. And that is under no circumstances as the supreme leader recently said will they allow any inspections of military facilities, and the best that you can possibly hope for is managed access, as the IAEA describes...

GOLDBERG:

Maybe I'm wrong about 14 democratic senators on that one. I -- I just -- I just think that it's -- it's -- we're headed into a momentous political moment -- when -- when the democrats are going to have to rally around their president, or the possible fallout for -- for the democrats who defy the president on this most important issue could be -- could potentially be enormous short term. But maybe -- maybe that's the one. Like I -- I don't want to predict which is the -- the straw that breaks the camel's back issue. All of these issues have their strengths. All of them have their weaknesses. That's - yours is as plausible as the next. GERECHT: Elliott, do you -- do you agree with that?

ABRAMS:

Yeah, if you look at the terms as we understand them, there were a few things that one might have predicted a year ago that would break the camel's back. Completely abandoning the IAEA and its efforts to understand what are called possible military dimensions in other words previous warhead work.

GOLDBERG:

Well, it's not a complete abandonment.

ABRAMS:

They're not going to have to account for that. They're not going to explain --

GOLDBERG:

We don't know how it's going to be built in.

ABRAMS:

It's not going to be built in.

GOLDBERG:

Okay.

ABRAMS:

I -- I just...

(CROSSTALK)

GOLDBERG:

I can't see the future, so I don't know thatfor sure.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:

Sure. (inaudible). They don't want to do it. The thing, you know, the Ayatollah's red lines have all been met. The Ayatollah has not crossed one of these red lines. One of the red lines is they're not going to explain to the IAEA all of the warhead work they did. They don't want to. So they won't. And in the end, we're going to say, okay, that's a bridge too far. Because every time he sets a red line, we say, okay that's a bridge too far. You know, they won't -- what about closing Fordow? Well, no. You know, you can go down the list.

GERECHT:

So you -- you then agree with Jeffrey.

ABRAMS:

I think we've already, we are alreadythere and we can see that none of these things have lost -- has lost the votes. The only possible- nor, by the way, it's interesting because as we're doing this, we're negotiating this, it' late 2014, now 2015, negotiating with Iran, what is the impact on our behavior and Iran's behavior? It's quite interesting. I mean, we worry about what we're doing in Syria over Iraq, because everything is related toeverything else and we need this negotiation, we want it to succeed, that's the administration's position.

It's interesting that Iran doesn't do anything like that. I mean, think of Iran nine months ago and Iran today in Yemen. And they do this while the negotiations are on the way. And they do it while negotiations are on the way because they've correctly read the Americans. Nothing will prevent the signing of the signing of this document except an Iranian refusal to sign it. Which we may yet see. The only thing I can think of is some act on the part of Iran that leads to a political calculation by Hillary Clinton.. And moves her away from Obama on this. I do not believe that really is possible for all the reasons Jeff suggests. It -- it, you know, he's looking to destroys the Obama Administrationand ruins his last two years. But if she wanted to do it for her own political reasons looking forward, then I think that's a license to (inaudible)

GOLDBERG:

But she would have to have a very strong...

ABRAMS:

Very strong. Very strong.

(CROSSTALK)

GOLDBERG:

Yep.

GERECHT:

Well, I mean, Mark, you spend a lot of time looking at congress. Do you see any conceivable way the president loses on the hill and you look at recent congressional efforts, is there really anything that would make you optimistic that congress can, if it so chooses, check the president?

DUBOWITZ:

Certainly not optimistic. I would say this, and I don't think you need 67 senators, I think you need 60. I think you need 60 to defeat the filibuster and you need 60 for the joint resolution of disapproval. You're not going to get the 67 to overturn the veto but for joint resolution of disapproval, so you're not going to get the mandated trigger, which essentially would block the president from providing statutory sanctions relief. So I don't think there's...

GOLDBERG:

He really is speaking Canadian now.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

DUBOWITZ:

So what -- so what I -- so -- so the...The 60 is the political number, it's not the legal number.

GOLDBERG:

Right.

DUBOWITZ:

60 means that you've gotten six democrats joining with 54 republicans so that there's now at least you can say politically that 60 members of the U.S. Senate on a bipartisan basis have rejected the president's deal. And then the question becomes what does that do? It doesn't do anything legally at the time. Does itlay the predicate for Congress to move on defending the sanctions architecture against its precipitous unraveling so that we don't depend snap back sanctions? Does it position the next president in 2017, the new congress to -- no one's going to rip up this they don't believe in it.

So the question is, does it actually position the next president to mitigate the damage? And you can mitigate the damage on both sanctions and nuclear physics side, particularly in the face of Iranian incremental cheating. It does allow you to start to do other things. GOLDBERG: Just a point of clarification, can you right now name -- you don't have to name them by name, I mean, but can you identify seven democratic senators, right now, do you think are in the "I ain't going for this" camp?

DUBOWITZ:

Jeffrey, that's a great question. And I have to say I'm not going to name them, but--

GOLDBERG:

But you -- you -- you know them.

DUBOWITZ:

Well...

(CROSSTALK)

GERECHT:

Write them on this piece of paper.

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDBERG:

And we'll bury them in a time capsule and see if you were right...

(LAUGHTER)

DUBOWITZ:

Actually, I'll -- I'll engage with you in this exercise after this panel. I think it's a possibility. I think it also depends on the Supreme Leader's red lines and how we accommodate them. Everybody says that we -- that the supreme leader hasn't moved on his red lines, well the truth is he actually has. But the supreme leader's red lines are -- are a negotiating tactic. I mean, if you take just one example, the supreme leader said that he wanted 190,000 SWUs which basically amounts to 200,000 IR-1 centrifuges. And now everybody's saying, did you see the supreme didn't get 200,000 centrifuges. In fact, all that's left is essentially 6,000 centrifuges, of which 5,000 will operateso, look how well we -- we did. We brought the number of centrifuges down, at least operating centrifuges down by about half. And the supreme leader didn't get what he -- he wanted. Well, the truth is, he did. Right, because it was a negotiating tactic, because what he did is he got a sunset provision. So he got a provision that essentially means at a certain period of time, it's going to be ten years, and then it'll be phased an additional five years. He's going to get advance centrifuge R&D. He's going to be able to install an unlimited number of advanced centrifuges. He doesn't want first generation centrifuges. He never wanted first generation centrifuges. They're crap. They don't work. He got them from Pakistan. At least the original design.

What he wants is IR-6s and IR-8s sitting in Fordow, sitting in Natanz in about a decade, where he can then have not only a very quick breakout capacity, near-zero as President Obama described it, but he can have a much easier clandestine sneak-out capacity, because he needs fewer centrifuges to produce the same amount of weapons-grade uranium, which makes it easier to hide and makes it easy to bury, which gives him that clandestine routeSo he used the 190,000 SWU red line to negotiate us down and basically provided a pathway for an advanced Iranian nuclear program in a short period of time. So now when he says you can't get into my military bases. The response is, well, there's no deal. There's no deal. And I think what's going to happen is -- is that there's going to be some formula where that allows the Americans to say we can get in anywhere at any time, but the Iranians know that it's not anywhere and it isn't any time. They will be in a position to declare what is a military base, what is a former military base. We are currently former military bases. Fordow is a former IRGC base, so the supreme leader could be -- have a absolute discretion to say no current military bases, but you can get into former military bases, and I will make the determination of what a former military base is. And the Americans could say, well, good, we're getting into military bases and we've got this whole elaborate mechanism. And at the end of the day, we are going to get the access that we want. So you can see how there is aformulation that allows the -- Obama to accept that deal. If he doesn't get that formulation, it's so transparently delusional that I, Jeffrey, I think you can get 60.

GERECHT:

So if I just summarize, I think that means you have three democrats you can write down on this piece of paper.

(LAUGHTER)

GERECHT:

I'm going to go to questions now. Please, I need to detect within 30 seconds a question and if I detect within 15 seconds anything I'm toward, I will cut you off mercilessly. And please identify yourself when you ask the question, and I'm, of course, blinded by these lights, so I may miss individuals, but I'll go to that young man over there.

FEIT:

My name is Noah Feit. My question is there's been a lot of discussion in the United States as of Tom Cotton's prospect of how a future American leadership might accept or change a deal if one were to be signed. There's been less discussion about that in Iran. There's talk of whether or not the supreme leader is sick and if he might die in the next few years. My question is, if there is a change of leadership in Iran, one of the first questions will be -- one of the tests for a supreme leader will be whether or not he reneges on a deal that's signed. My question is what does it look like on the Iranian side, the deal side, and would a future supreme leader renege on a deal?

GERECHT:

I think it's an entirely fluid situation. I suspect that if they, if the supreme leader views the deal as good and he is probably the toughest critic in the country. And if he accepts it, then I think the odds of any other supreme leader, assuming theinstitution continues, and I think it will, I think the odds of him maintaining that agreement, and when I say maintaining, that means they're allow to cheat as much as they want. It's pretty high.

ABRAMS:

Can I just add I agree with that completely, and I think, you know, that system under your scenario, there have been in two previous supreme leaders, but only one case of a guy looking back that is Khamenei at Khomeini. You don't sustain that system by saying the guy before me was a jerk, and I'm going to undo the many errors he made. And then... (CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:

Exactly. And it's not, you know, you're -- you're -- it's more -- it's a lot more like infallibility of the pope. So, the system collapses if a supreme leader comes alongand says, my predecessor's a dope. That's not going to happen, I think.

GERECHT:

I would give anything for a supreme leader to act like pope (inaudible).

(LAUGHTER)

DUBOWITZ:

I mean, I imagine the Iranians will treat this as atreaty and the Iranian parliament will actually provide advice and consent (inaudible) and -- so I think it'll be honored.

(CROSSTALK)

GERECHT:

I'll take another question. I can't see right over there in the back.

(UNKNOWN)

Hello. My name is Clemson Wergin. I'm a correspondent with a German paper Die Welt, here in Washington. The president said something very interesting in the interview with Tom Friedman. He said that I'm going to (inaudible) that Iran cannot be deterred (inaudible) so clear what he was referring to, deterrents against eventual nuclear arms in Iran or deterrents in the sense of deterring hegemonies instincts in Iran. I don't see much of that now, deterring Iran from engaging in problematic activities (inaudible) with bomb or with the deal that gives Iran more leeway in the region to engage in the activities it is engaging in today.

GOLDBERG:

So two -- two quick points on that. And this is one of the data points I always go back to when I think about the way the president thinks about the Iranians as opposed to the way he thinks about some of the Sunni non-state organizations and states. When I -- I interviewed him, I guess, 13 months ago, and I asked him, I said, "what do you -- what do you fear more in the world, the Shia extremism or Sunni extremism?" and his answer was very revealing. In part for what he did not say - he did not address the Sunni side at all. He immediately jumped in and I'm paraphrasing, because I don't remember the exact quote, immediately jumped in with the answer by saying, "you know, my analysis of the government in Tehran," he went right to Tehran when I asked him the question. "My analysis is that they respond to incentives. They -- they respond to deterrents.

They -- they are -- they are of this world. They're not North Korean. They -- they respond" -- and I think -- I think in part that was -- he didn't address the Sunni, which was his own kind of answer. But I think that -- that -- that analysis came about in part from various recent experiences in (inaudible). Remember there was a moment, I don't remember the exact date, when the Iranian's issued some kind of bellicose warning about American naval presence in the Gulf and then the Obama administration to some people might uncharacteristically immediately sent aircraft carrier through the straight. And of course, Iran immediately backed down.

So he -- his analysis is -- is -- is that they do respond to incentive, they do respond to threat, and so therefore they can be managed in a way that certain other players in the Middle East cannot be managed. Now this would be (inaudible) wrote something about this, this would be (inaudible) think that what an interesting moment this would be for him to test that proposition further. Further, now that he has this framework agreement, to put more pressure on Iran in Yemen. Put more pressure on Iran in Syria. In Lebanon. And -- and -- and test the theory that, you know, a lot -- two can play this game. I don't -- I think he's, from what I understand, contemplating that. I haven't seen proof that he's going forward with that. But he's certainly -- it's very easy to analyze the situation and say, "he also can put them over a barrel" right now. And they're committed to this framework agreement, not only with the United States, but with all of the world powers. And so a little bit of pressure on the Iranians in their proxy wars could only serve to help. And it would also test the thesis that they do respond to deterrent and to pressure.

DUBOWITZ:

But Jeffrey, it does raisethe question why the administration does -- doesn't really -- didn't believe that they could (inaudible) Iran over a barrel during these negotiations?

GOLDBERG:

I don't know the answer to that question. I think they're on the (inaudible) track. I think the Oman track. There was more evidence of -- of that. And I think they -- they came to Oman in part because of certain pressures. But I can't answer -- I don't know the answer. It's one of the mysteries I'm trying to -- I'm trying to unravel at least for myself. You know, why there has been so much -- or some -- or at least some level of how (inaudible) let's say in dealing with this. If you believe as they say they believe that Iran needs this deal more than the west needs the deal in order to get sanctions relief then it follows that you can use pressure to provide further incentive.

GERECHT:

We'll have to wait for Jake Sullivan's best-selling autobiography.

(LAUGHTER)

GERECHT:

Let me see. Back there. (inaudible).

(LAUGHTER)

HENDERSON:

Simon Henderson with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Given that nuclear proliferation was one of the signature messages in candidate Obama's original stumps, how does the panel think what is emerging now is compatible with that? I suppose it comes down to basic question of does the president have a particular view or is his view in motion?

GERECHT:

(inaudible).

ABRAMS:

Well, I don't think it works. It is correct that the president made a point of supporting a goal of nuclear nonproliferation. The question is not whether we think Iran deal is a good deal in proliferation terms. The question is whether other countries get the (inaudible) potential -- prudent (inaudible). and they don't -- now that wouldn't mean that, you know, tomorrow, that the day after the deal was signed, if it ever is, we'll see, that that Turkey and Saudi Arabia and the Emirates go out and get a nuclear weapon, but one would have to bet on proliferation. I do not believe that the Arab states are going to permit a world to come into existence where the growing Iranian power with growing hegemonic activity bolstered by possession of a nuclear weapon will not be countervailed by Arab -- I can't -- I cannot see that happening.

GERECHT:

Does anyone disagree with that?

DUBOWITZ:

Oh, actually I had one other thing because everyone focuses on the Middle East for obvious reasons that, you know, look at northeast Asia. We're currently negotiating with the South Koreans. Have been negotiating what's called the 1-2-3 agreement, which has sort of been our gold standard in terms of these nuclear agreements where we're going to provide civilian nuclear assistance in exchange for a commitment from South Korea, we've gotten a commitment from the UAE a little while ago that basically they won't have the domestic enrichment on their soil. Now the South Koreans have been digging into these negotiations and you can imagine that after the Iran deal, if the South Korean negotiating position becomes much stronger, because now South Koreans can say, well, hang on a second. So, I understand how this works. We have to first become a state sponsor of terrorism in order to get domestic enrichment. I mean, I am being facetious, but Iran gets it. South Korea as an ally, they -- they -- they've got it (inaudible) one, two, three agreement and not have domestic enrichment. And if you're South Korea, and by the way, we're already hearing signs of this from the South Korean parliament, and we -- we don't know whether it's shared by leadership. But these noises are starting. And that is that you are very dangerous region yourself. You've got North Korea with a nuclear weapon. Chinese with a nuclear weapon. And Japanese who area turn of a screw to having a nuclear weapon. That's a threshold nuclear power.And you're South Korea in that dangerous region with all of the conflicts taking place in northeast Asia. And you're going to give up on domestic enrichment when Iran has been granted it? I think it puts our diplomats in a very tough negotiating position. Globally. Never mind just in the Middle East.

GOLDBERG:

It's -- to me, it's a simple formula. If we enter the summer with Iran having an internationally validated nuclear infrastructure, I can't imagine why its rivals in the region would not demand the same level of nuclear infrastructure. And -- and -- and after -- and -- and tell the international community, look this is what we're -- this is -- we won't go further than that, but we're going to go here.

DUBOWITZ:

Right.

GOLDBERG:

Makes sense.

(CROSSTALK)

GOLDBERG:

But that -- that -- but to answer that question directly, the president has -- has been religious in his devotion to the idea that this will -- this will prevent proliferation. And he certainly doesn't want to spend the summer and fall trying to convince the Saudi's not to go down this path. That would be a -- that would be a failure of thisprocess.

DUBOWITZ:

Well, the administration says an interesting thing. Tony Blinken was was testifying before the Senate Banking Committee a little while ago, and he was asked this question very specifically. And the administration line on this is, look, no country is going to want to go through painful economic sanctions that Iran went through in order to get domestic enrichment. Which is an interesting answer. No country's going to want to have sanctions against their central bank, their oil exports, and have all their banks kicked off SWIFT to begin with. And that was an interesting answer, except less imagine a scenario when Saudi's begin to move in that direction. So, imagine a sanctions regime and we're going to have a lot of fun constructing this, where we sanction the Saudi central bank, we cut off Saudi oil exports, and we...

(LAUGHTER)

DUBOWITZ:

And we de-SWIFT all Saudi banks.

(APPLAUSE)

DUBOWITZ:

I mean, FDD is going to be in business for many years-- after (inaudible) we're be into this...

(LAUGHTER)

GERECHT:

I actually like that scenario. But anyway, it sound like nonproliferation is toast. (inaudible).

UNKNOWN:

(inaudible) something to (inaudible). In 1992, I attended a national (inaudible) and a question was asked what is the most dangerous area in the Middle East, is it Iraq or Iran? And he hit the nail on the head and said Iran is going And he said that. I wonder, why do you think Iran wants to build an ICBM, are they such a peaceful nation, what are they going to use the ICBMfor?

GERECHT:

Well, I that answer is fairly easy and self- explanatory. I mean, there is no instance of any country that has a ICBM that does not put a nuclear weapon on top of it. So, that was -- that was pretty straightforward, and I think the administration I think knows that (inaudible) remove themselves (inaudible).

DUBOWITZ:

Well, I have said it but just, sorry (inaudible).

GERECHT:

Yeah.

DUBOWITZ:

(inaudible) but the administration, I mean, (inaudible) U.N. Security Council Resolution of 1929 that basically calls on Iran to cease development of its long-range ballistic missiles capable of carrying a warhead. All right, so that -- there's explicitprohibition against that. Everybody knows that these nuclear negotiations are not about ballistic missiles because the Iranians laugh when the U.S. negotiators brought it up. They declared it non-negotiable. It became non-negotiable, like many other non- negotiable things. And now, this is the conundrum we have. So the Iranians will be able to develop along with (inaudible) missile program.

Now I see the (inaudible) some sanctions, U.N. sanctions, U.S. sanctions prohibiting the procurement of parts and components that (inaudible) ballistic missiles, including ICBMs, and financing them. But essentially, I think that as the sanctions unwind, (inaudible) sanctions that have been given is going to be so difficult to crack down on Iranian ballistic missile procurement and financing. I'd be (inaudible) dual use of the (inaudible) allowed and it will be very, very difficult, particularly because the will to enforce the sanctions will, I think, diminish. It has already diminished. And so Iran'slong range ballistic missile program (inaudible) program, I think it will become easier for the Iranians to develop.

GERECHT :

I don't think Mark fully appreciates the theater of all of this, (inaudible) administrations to talk warheads, not missiles. (inaudible).

UNKNOWN:

(inaudible) you talked about the difficulty of (inaudible) going away (inaudible). In fact, we've seen cheating on sanctions already. The Turkey/Iranian gas-for-gold and once you snap, I mean, isn't -- isn't this (inaudible) called snap back sanctions completely disingenuous? Once they're gone, and especially if people are buying Iranian oil, and you know, 20 years ago, The E.U. and the Germans and others were not on the same page with us with sanctions. How will (inaudible) is there a snap back sanction? If we get this deal, the next president is -- is he or she going to be forced with just two options, just living with a nuclear Iran or going to a war?

GERECHT:

Mark, could you play devil's advocate here with yourself?

DUBOWITZ:

Right.

GERECHT:

And try to answer that question as best -- in the way the administration would.

DUBOWITZ:

No, I'm glad you asked that way actually, because I think what the administration is going to say is look, there's not going to be a gold rush. And not all these European companies and banks are going to go flooding back into Iran, because they're still such a complicated sanctions architecture that even with some sanctions relief, even with some de-designations, we have put the fear of God into international financial institutions. And they're not going to go back in very quickly. I think there's some real merit to that argument. It's going to take a lot of de-designations of OFAC (inaudible) licenses.

It's going to take the Europeans giving equivalent deal guarantees to their institutions before we start to see the sanctions relief kick in in terms of the infrastructure sanctions. (inaudible) Where the big sanctions relief I think is going to come quickly, I think is our of these oil escrow accounts were there is somewhere is the neighborhood of about 80 to 100 billion dollars, maybe more, sitting in escrow funds in six countries. So, this is what the administration has been using to pay Iran about $700 million a month during (inaudible) the JPOA period. I would imagine that that's what they're going to use to kind of (inaudible) sanctions relief. And you may see the EU oil embargo go, you may see the Europeans moving first. But the administration is going to be cautious for lots of reasons. So I think it's going to take a while for the sanctions relief to hit.

But when it hits, and when it hits and begins to really hit hard, it's going to be very tough for them to snap it back.

GOLDBERG:

But Mark, why is it so hard to snap back unilateral U.S. sanctions that could be very effective -- let's say all sanctions are off, Iran cheats, and the U.S. congress and president, whoever the president is, (inaudible) said, you know what? We are -- I'm, today, cutting off Iran and any companies that do business in Iran, from the U.S. banking system. That is a -- that's a -- that's a very heavy -- I understand that the -- the immediate effects won't be felt because you know, they've been making money for a certain period of time, but that is the -- that isn't (inaudible) sanction the fear the most.

DUBOWITZ:

Right. No, it's a great point. And again, legally speaking, absolutely. The U.S. government will be able to snap back sanctions overnight. I mean...

GOLDBERG:

And companies will flee because if they had a choice of dealing with Iran or dealing with the U.S. banking system, they choose the U.S. banking system.

DUBOWITZ:

Well, that -- that's -- that's where I -- I -- I'm not sure. Because remember, it took -- It took years to get them out in the first place. And that was with the -- the Iranians that they (inaudible) with an illicit nuclear program under six U.N. Security Council (inaudible) of all those prohibitions and the full force of an administration and a congress and by the way, with strong international cooperation behind it, to get those companies to flee. I'm -- I'm trying -- when it took to get Total out. There was a chairman of Total, (inaudible) he's passed away. And he was a tough, tough guy. And (inaudible) was in Iran and he was there, and he was like (inaudible) billions of dollars. It took, again, an act of God (inaudible) out of Iran. The idea now (inaudible) snap this back (inaudible)

GOLDBERG:

I'm sorry, but if you go to the president of (inaudible) and you say to him, hey you've got three months to get out of Iran or you're not doing business in the United States of America, I don't know, it doesn't seem that hard of a choice.

(CROSSTALK)

DUBOWITZ:

...right. And I just -- just to give you a sense of this-- German/Iranian trade has increased 30% in the past 10 months.

GOLDBERG:

Iran's not the United States of America. And it certainly doesn't have the banking system (inaudible).

DUBOWITZ:

No, my point is that even with all the sanctions in place, right, the Germans are still doing billions of euros worth of trade today with Iran, which has increased 30% in the past 10 months. So the problem is fast forward two, three, four, five years, right, and it's taken time, but now billions of dollars flowing back in (inaudible) international banks are backing (inaudible) Iran cheating. (inaudible) IR 8 in violation of the agreement. Now what do we do? And the point is, can you then mobilize the same kind of international support...

GERECHT:

(inaudible).

DUBOWITZ:

I'm sorry.

GERECHT:

(inaudible)

DUBOWITZ:

And you are -- well, E.U. oil embargo was done. And Iranian banks are backing global financial system. You now (inaudible) able to go back out and make the same argument. I -- I'm just -- I'm...

GOLDBERG:

I'm not saying you're starting off on the back foot, I'm saying the United States maintains in its arsenal of sanctions some pretty heavy weapons that -- that the Iranians and more to the point the international business community would have to pay attention to.

DUBOWITZ:

Except what happens is, is that the (inaudible) sanctions neutralizes U.S. (inaudible) sanctions. But what it means now is ultimately we're going to end up in the situation we were in in 1996, where we're going to have to sanction European companies and European banks. And I -- I'm just skeptical that that's...

GOLDBERG:

It depends on the level of cheating.

DUBOWITZ:

It's going to depend on the level of cheating. The cheating will have to be so egregious that we'll be able to make the case to the Europeans they are in such flagrant violation of this agreement that we are going to have to snap back these sanctions, all of your banks and industrial companies are going to have to come back out. And I get -- I don't think the Iranians are going to cheat that way. I think they're going to cheat incrementally and not provide a predicate for that kind of snap back.

GERECHT:

Folks, I (inaudible) surprise anyone, but I'm actually going to end this discussion on sanctions. And I'm going to have to disappoint everyone else out there (inaudible) the many questions that I see. But our time is up. And I'd just like to thank...

(APPLAUSE)