Today's Headlines and Commentary

Staley Smith, Quinta Jurecic
Tuesday, July 14, 2015, 1:42 PM

Following 20 months of stop-and-start negotiations and a final 18-day sprint of intense talks in Vienna, the United States and five other world powers announced a comprehensive deal with Iran intended to curb the country’s nuclear program in exchange for a structured lifting of sanctions and international embargos.

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Following 20 months of stop-and-start negotiations and a final 18-day sprint of intense talks in Vienna, the United States and five other world powers announced a comprehensive deal with Iran intended to curb the country’s nuclear program in exchange for a structured lifting of sanctions and international embargos.

This morning, U.S. President Barack Obama delivered an address on the accord reached with Iran, saying “this deal offers an opportunity to move in a new direction.” The Associated Press tells us that in Tehran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also signalled hope in light of the agreement, saying that “a new chapter” has begun between Iran and the world. New York Times reporter Thomas Erdbrink livetweeted Rouhani’s speech, which has conveniently been aggregated on Storify. The White House also released a fact sheet explaining the comprehensive deal and how it builds on the November 2013 and April 2015 provisional agreements.

You can find the full text of the 159-page agreement here on Lawfare.

Helpfully, the New York Times provides a list of the main provisions of the accord:

  • Iran will reduce its current stockpile of low-enriched uranium, which can be processed into bomb-grade fuel, by 98 percent to 300 kilograms (about 660 pounds) for 15 years.

  • Iran will reduce by two-thirds, to 5,060, the number of centrifuges operating to enrich uranium at its primary processing center in Natanz. Remaining centrifuges get moved to a continuously monitored storage site. Taken together, the limits on fuel and centrifuges would extend, to one year, the amount of time necessary for Iran to produce enough weapons-grade material for a single bomb if it should abandon the accord.

  • International sanctions against Iran will be lifted, allowing it to start selling oil again on international markets and using the global financial system for trade.

  • An international arms embargo on Iran would be eased gradually, with the pace determined in part by whether the International Atomic Energy Agency judges the Iranian nuclear program to be entirely peaceful.

  • Should Iran be judged by an international panel not to be living up to the accord, the sanctions could “snap back” under an unusual mechanism. The panel would consist of the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany, the European Union, Russia and Iran itself, with a majority vote of the eight members sufficient to restore the sanctions.

  • New restrictions prevent Iran, for a set period of time, from experimenting with designing warheads and conducting experiments on “multipoint detonations” and other nuclear weapons-related triggers and technologies.

Haaretz has a convenient roundup of various leaders’ addresses in response to the deal, including Secretary Kerry, President Obama, President Rouhani, and Prime Minister Netanyahu. Some were more cheerful than others: President Rouhani stated that “implementing the agreement is the beginning of trust” while Prime Minister Netanyahu described the agreement as a “mistake of historic proportions,” a sentiment echoed by many Israeli politicians.

Brookings scholar and former Iran negotiator Robert Einhorn said that “we know enough already to know the deal will be a significant constraint on Iran’s nuclear program and effectively block Iran from getting a nuclear weapon for at least 10 to 15 years.” Even so, after that initial time period, American officials have acknowledged that the breakout time would begin to shrink. President Obama told NPR in April that by year 13 or 14, the breakout time might shrink “almost down to zero.” However, Secretary of State John Kerry was quick to point out that verification measures will “stay in place permanently.”

The U.N. arms embargo on conventional weapons was one of the last sticking points in negotiations, Foreign Policy tells us. Ultimately, the deal was signed after U.S. negotiators agreed to a framework that will ease the embargo after five years and lift international restrictions on ballistic missiles in eight years.

The windfall for Iran has the potential to be massive, with the Islamic Republic set to receive more than $100 billion in assets frozen overseas. Oil prices were already falling leading up to the final agreement, CNN Money notes. According to Yahoo, “Brent crude fell as much as 2 percent to hit $56.67 a barrel early on Tuesday in response, but pared losses to trade down around 1.3 percent at $57.11 a barrel. Analysts said the knee-jerk reaction was due to the realization that Iran's oil won't be back on the market any time soon.” Reuters quotes a london-based consultant as saying Iranian oil “will take time to return, and will not be before next year, most likely the second half of 2016.”

The New York Times provides a ticker-tape of the latest reactions and commentary on the nuclear agreement.

Now that negotiations have been concluded, the ball is in Congress’s court. Under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, both houses of Congress now have 60 days to debate and vote on the deal---but Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), the Act’s author, stated that Congress will likely not vote until September, after the August recess. President Obama has already announced that he will veto any legislation attempting the block the deal, the Hill reports. The Times has more on the coming congressional debates.

One concern already on their minds: a worry that a lack of funding may limit the effectiveness of the IAEA’s scrutiny. The Guardian examines the implications of agency’s $378 million budget.

More Reactions

With the ink on the Iran deal drying, many hope the countries can now turn to the common enemy of ISIS. And that's where we go next.

The campaign continues to drive ISIS from its stronghold in Iraq’s Anbar Province. The Times reports on the joint efforts of the Iraqi military and various Shiite militia groups, supported by U.S. airstrikes. Lawfare readers should also take a look at the Times’ “visual guide” to the fight against ISIS, newly updated to include the Anbar offensive.

Elsewhere in the battle, two ISIS leaders were killed by U.S.-led airstrikes in northeastern Syria yesterday, Reuters writes on the basis of a report from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Observatory identified the leaders as Abu Osama al Iraqi and Amer al Rafdan.

According a United Nations report released yesterday, 15,000 civilians have now been killed in Iraq over the past 16 months. 2.8 million were displaced from their homes by fighting during the same time period. The AP has the story.

Displacement is also a growing problem within Afghanistan: last year, 180,000 Afghans fled their homes, and U.N. officials suggest that the number will likely be higher this year. The Post writes that displacement, historically a problem within the south and east of Afghanistan, is now growing in the northeast as the front lines of conflict shift.

A bomb exploded yesterday in a mosque north of Kabul, wounding 29 people. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the blast.

Last week, the Afghan media reported that the armed group Hizb i Islami, led by Gulbuddin Hekmetyar, had pledged support to ISIS in a move that seemingly strengthened ISIS’s growing power in the region as a rival to the Taliban. Now, Reuters, tells us that Hekmetyar has denied the reports and declared that the statement circulated by the media was fake. No word on who might be responsible for the false statement.

Another possible case of mistaken identity: CNBC reports that the group “Cyber Caliphate,” which hacked into the Twitter accounts of the U.S. Central Command and various U.S. news organizations to post messages sympathetic to ISIS, may not actually be affiliated with ISIS at all. A cybersecurity firm suggests that the group is actually run by Russian hackers, who may be running a false flag operation in an effort to attack Western governments and test out new hacking techniques.

The Times has more on Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s dismissal of all Nigerian top military leaders yesterday. The military’s efforts against the Boko Haram insurgency, the Times writes, are widely perceived within Nigeria as “dismal.” “The surprise for me,” the story quotes a Nigerian political scientist as saying, “is that it didn’t happen much earlier” in Buhari’s presidency.

Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, the commander of U.S. forces in Europe, stated that the United States may expand its efforts to train Ukrainian forces. The United States is currently involved in training Ukrainian national guard, but may begin working with regular army and special operations troops as well, Reuters says. General Hodges emphasized that this would not necessarily commit the United States to sending weaponry to Ukraine as well.

The New York Times notified us that the son of a Boston police captain was arrested on July 4th in connection with an ISIS-inspired terrorist plot. In secretly recorded conversations, suspect Alexander Ciccolo said “the attack would be concentrated in the college dorms and cafeteria, to include executions of students which would be broadcast live via the Internet.”

The Washington Post reveals that the Pentagon will allow transgender members of the military to serve openly beginning next year. In a statement released yesterday, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said, “We must ensure that everyone who’s able and willing to serve has the full and equal opportunity to do so, and we must treat all our people with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. authorities were aware of significant evidence suggesting that Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, Mexico’s most notorious drug kingpin, was planning to escape from prison. His latest jailbreak undermines the Mexican government’s progress on combating drug cartels. It has also spurred internal discussion among American officials about potentially pressuring Mexico to extradite El Chapo---if he is ever caught---as well as other cartel leaders, to the U.S. to face charges.

Citizenfour filmmaker Laura Poitras is suing the U.S. government over years of harassment at airports in America and overseas. Poitras claims she was held over 50 times at airports in America and overseas from 2006 to 2012. Sometimes, she alleges, officials told her she was on a “no-fly” list and her electronic equipment was subsequently confiscated for up to 40 days. The Guardian has the story.

Parting shot: Tired of all the hot-takes on Iran? Add a little humor to the discussion with @IranDealUpdate --- a “plenary expert” and “poised anticipator.”

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Alex Whiting considered how Israel should address the International Criminal Court’s likely reliance on the U.N. report on the 2014 Gaza War.

Aaron Zelin posted a translation of ISIS leader Hafiz Saeed Khan’s audio message released this weekend, which has caused officials to reconsider reports of his death last Friday.

Stephanie Leutert began writing the “Kyiv Dispatch,” reporting on “what’s happening within this country that has become a flash-point in Russia’s relationship with the West.”

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Staley Smith previously was a National Security Intern at the Brookings Institution. She spent the past year studying in Jordan and Israel and will graduate from Johns Hopkins University in 2016 with a major in political science.
Quinta Jurecic is a fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and a senior editor at Lawfare. She previously served as Lawfare's managing editor and as an editorial writer for the Washington Post.

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