Vail Daily column: Treaty’s critics circling |

Vail Daily column: Treaty’s critics circling

Matthew Kennedy

Last Tuesday’s announcement by the E3/EU+3 and Iran (China, France, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom, U.S., and European Union) of a final agreement over Tehran’s nuclear program was the culmination of talks beginning in 2006. The agreement has strategic ramifications for the Middle East, Europe, East Asia and the United States. It will serve as a precedent for future arms control agreements. The treaty also has many domestic and foreign opponents determined to see its demise, including many within the U.S. Congress. The Senate and House recently started debating a resolution surrounding the treaty. Both have 60 days to vote for or against a resolution surrounding the accord. Several questions arise consequently: Who opposes the agreement? What are their grievances? And does the accord address their concerns?

The agreement faces opposition from various parties and for similar reasons:

• The treaty’s principle opponents include different Republican and Democratic U.S. senators and congressmen.

• Many question Iran’s trustworthiness.

• The robustness of the International Atomic Energy Agency inspection protocols is another concern.

• The accord doesn’t dismantle Iran’s nuclear program as different senators and congressmen prefer.

• Those same lawmakers argue the accord fails to curtail Tehran’s terrorism activities.

The final treaty — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — is a 159-page document. The agreement addresses how Iran can utilizes its nuclear energy infrastructure; the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspection parameters, how and when sanctions are lifted, plus an arbitration mechanism for ascertaining whether Iran is violating the accord and punitive measures.

Several U.S. senators and congressmen oppose the arrangement for different reasons. Iran’s trustworthiness — and the robustness of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s mechanisms for confirming Iran’s compliance — are mutual concerns in both legislative bodies. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action allows the Vienna-based organization to verify Iran’s adherence of the accord’s nuclear elements via unhindered access and stationing of inspectors, plus surveillance and verification equipment. A key problem may arise when and if the International Atomic Energy Agency’s discovers related undisclosed sites, information and/or activities not covered by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but that falls under other documents signed by both parties. These include the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty’s Additional Protocol, most notably. A strong possibility is congressional leaders are especially worried about Iran’s integrity when and if the previous circumstances occur. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action permits the International Atomic Energy Agency to request information surrounding the above. Iran must provide a subsequent explanation. The Vienna-based organization may then seek access to the suspected site, activities or information, if Tehran’s response is unsatisfactory. Iran may offer an alternative solution, if it doesn’t furnish the requested data or access. The International Atomic Energy Agency may then seek adjudication from the treaty’s Joint Commission if displeased. The commission will then recommend a solution if mediation is unsuccessful — a recommendation requiring approval from five of its eight members. The final verdict will be implemented within three days of a rendered decision. Whether Iran complies with the commission’s decision is debatable. Iran has arguably violated various International Atomic Energy Agency accords including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its Additional Protocol. What remains unknown is whether Tehran will attempt a similar manipulation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Time will confirm or refute the treaty’s Senate and House skeptics.

Congressional critics’ contention that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action does not compel Iran to abandon its nuclear activities is correct. Iran is allowed to sustain a nuclear program for peaceful purposes under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The treaty precludes any signatory from using nuclear energy for military purposes — a point Iran possibly, yet unverifiably, violated. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action addresses the concern. The agreement limits Iran’s uranium enrichment activities to 3.67 percent, which is well-below the percentage needed for nuclear weapons. Iran additionally agrees to end any research and development plus activities necessary for a nuclear weapons program.

Lastly, many senators and representatives argue the treaty doesn’t address Iran’s support of terrorism. The accord did not focus on Iran’s terrorism activities and/or support of terrorism groups such as Hamas or Hezbollah. The issue mandates separate negotiations for the issue.

Placating the treaties’ critics will not be easy. The U.S. diplomatic, intelligence, energy and other national security elements will scrutinize Iran’s compliance. The administration will keep Congressional leaders appraised. Tehran will probably adhere to the treaty’s tenets, especially since Iran’s government has more to lose/gain. The accord will gradually ease crippling financial sanctions — and improve Iran’s economy. The sanctions might be re-instituted if Iran violates the treaties’ terms. Domestic opponents may challenge Iran’s theocratic regime on a nationwide scale if the scenario occurs. The event maybe more sustained than the last related challenge Iran experienced in 2009. The scenario can’t be discounted if the nation’s financial climate improves — and is suddenly reversed.

In conclusion, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’s ink is barely dry; Congressional opponents are already circling. What the treaty’s rivals need to realize is the chances of its success, and Iran’s compliance, are high. Tehran’s leaders have more to lose by violating the accord than by complying.

Matthew Kennedy has a master’s degree in diplomatic studies from the University of Westminster in London. He’s lived in Europe, Asia and Russia. Comments or questions can be directed to

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