This is what Diplomacy looks like

Yesterday evening, the State Department announced that Iran had met the conditions required by last summer’s nuclear proliferation agreement and that sanctions would be lifted.

Here are the details, from Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz:

Iran has shipped 25,000 pounds of enriched uranium out of the country and has removed and placed in monitored storage two-thirds of its centrifuges and associated infrastructure. The core of Iran’s Arak Heavy Water Research Reactor was removed and filled with concrete, eliminating Iran’s potential source of weapons-grade plutonium. To block possible covert pathways, Iran has allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) unprecedented access to its nuclear facilities and supply chain. And for the first time, the IAEA will be using modern safeguards technologies in its monitoring and verification efforts in Iran. Earlier today, the IAEA reported that Iran has completed all the necessary nuclear steps required to reach Implementation Day under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

In addition, Americans held prisoner in Iran were released including a Washington Post reporter.

Secretary John Kerry:

This evening, we are really reminded once again of diplomacy’s power to tackle significant challenges. And thanks to years of hard work and committed dialogue, we have made vital breakthroughs related to both the nuclear negotiation and a separate long-term diplomatic effort. I’m very happy to say that as we speak, we have received confirmation that five Americans who had been unjustly detained in Iran have been released from custody. And they should be on their way home to their families before long – shortly. […]

Today, more than four years after I first traveled to Oman at the request of President Obama to discreetly explore whether the kind of nuclear talks that we ultimately entered into with Iran were even possible, after more than two and a half years of intense multilateral negotiations, the International Atomic Energy Agency has now verified that Iran has honored its commitments to alter – and in fact, dismantle – much of its nuclear program in compliance with the agreement that we reached last July. […]

The hard work will continue, no question. And the tough politics surrounding this issue in many countries, including the United States and Iran – that’s obviously not going to get easier overnight. But the fact is that today marks the first day of a safer world, one where we believe it is possible to remain safer for years to come, and particularly with the compliance of this agreement.

I think we have also proven once again why diplomacy has to always be our first choice, and war our last resort.

Full transcript of text below.

UPDATED with the president’s letter to Congress revoking the previous executive actions related to Iran’s nuclear program and issuing the new executive action.

UPDATED – President Obama’s remarks Sunday, 1/17:

This is a good day, because, once again, we’re seeing what’s possible with strong American diplomacy. […]

… from Presidents Franklin Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan, the United States has never been afraid to pursue diplomacy with our adversaries. And as President, I decided that a strong, confident America could advance our national security by engaging directly with the Iranian government.

Transcript: Statement by the President on Iran

From Secretary Kerry: Remarks on Implementation Day

John Kerry, Secretary of State
Vienna, Austria, January 16, 2016

SECRETARY KERRY: Good evening, everybody. Thank you very much for your patience. And I apologize for the fact that I can’t stay to take questions, which I would like to do. But we are operating under some very tight constraints on the rest period the law allows for our pilots, because of some of the delays. So as a result, I need to get to the airport and get on the plane. But I will make a statement before doing so, and I hope it will cover much of what you’re concerned about.

This evening, we are really reminded once again of diplomacy’s power to tackle significant challenges. And thanks to years of hard work and committed dialogue, we have made vital breakthroughs related to both the nuclear negotiation and a separate long-term diplomatic effort. I’m very happy to say that as we speak, we have received confirmation that five Americans who had been unjustly detained in Iran have been released from custody. And they should be on their way home to their families before long – shortly.

The President will have more to say about their release later. But I can tell you one thing: While the two tracks of negotiations were not directly related – and they were not – there is no question that the pace and the progress of the humanitarian talks accelerated in light of the relationships forged and the diplomatic channels unlocked over the course of the nuclear talks. And certainly in the time since we reached an agreement last July, there was a significant pickup in that dialogue.

We have also reached a critical and auspicious milestone on the nuclear issue as well. Today, more than four years after I first traveled to Oman at the request of President Obama to discreetly explore whether the kind of nuclear talks that we ultimately entered into with Iran were even possible, after more than two and a half years of intense multilateral negotiations, the International Atomic Energy Agency has now verified that Iran has honored its commitments to alter – and in fact, dismantle – much of its nuclear program in compliance with the agreement that we reached last July.

I want to thank the IAEA and Director Amano for their significant efforts in this regard, and I know that he will go tomorrow to Tehran to begin the process of the full implementation.

To get to this point, ladies and gentlemen, Iran has undertaken significant steps that many – and I do mean many – people doubted would ever come to pass. And that should be recognized, even though the full measure of this achievement can only be realized by assuring continued full compliance in the coming years. In return for the steps that Iran has taken, the United States and the EU will immediately lift nuclear-related sanctions, expanding the horizon of opportunity for the Iranian people. And I have even tonight, before coming over here, signed a number of documents over those sanctions that the State Department has jurisdiction over in order to effect that lifting.

In the words of the agreement itself, today – January 16th, 2016 – we have reached implementation day. Today marks the moment that the Iran nuclear agreement transitions from an ambitious set of promises on paper to measurable action in progress. Today, as a result of the actions taken since last July, the United States, our friends and allies in the Middle East, and the entire world are safer because the threat of a nuclear weapon has been reduced. Today we can confidently say that each of the pathways that Iran had toward enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon has been verifiably closed down.

That begins with the uranium path. Before the negotiations began, Iran was adding rapidly and without constraint to its stockpile of enriched uranium. As it committed to do back in July, Iran has now reduced that stockpile to less than 300 kilograms, sending the rest of it out on a ship which has gone to Russia to be processed there. That means that their current level of enriched uranium is 2 percent of what it was before we completed the agreement, and the rest is shipped out of the country.

Iran has also removed a full two thirds of its centrifuges from nuclear facilities, along with the infrastructure that supported them. They’ve literally taken it out, dismantled, stored. That includes nearly all of its advanced centrifuges. And the removed hardware is sealed up under around-the-clock monitoring by the IAEA. Iran has now ended all uranium enrichment at its Fordow facility, disconnected all related centrifuges, and removed all fissile material from the site.

The second path open to Iran was the plutonium path. Before we sat down at the negotiating table, Iran’s heavy water reactor at Arak had the potential – when and if it became operational – to produce enough weapons-grade plutonium annually to fuel two nuclear weapons. Iran has now begun the process of modifying the entire Arak reactor so that it will only be used for peaceful purposes. It has removed the reactor’s core and filled it with cement, ensuring that it can be never used again.

Finally, the third path – the most troubling path, in many respects – was the potential for Iran to pursue enough fissile material for a weapon covertly, using a facility not publicly declared. Now, before the talks started the IAEA did not have assured access to investigate locations at which undeclared nuclear activities might be carried out. It also lacked the ability to track uranium as it was mined, milled, and then turned into yellowcake. Today, the IAEA has put in place every one of the extensive transparency and verification measures called for in the agreement. That means in addition to the 24/7 monitoring of all of Iran’s declared facilities, the IAEA now has visibility and accountability of the entire supply chain that supports Iran’s nuclear program, from start to finish – from uranium mines and mills to centrifuge manufacturing and operation.

So today, Iran would need far more than one covert facility in order to try to break out. It would need to develop an entire covert supply chain, from start to finish – which experts around the world agree is not possible without early detection.

As I said, the steps that Iran has taken to fully implement the nuclear agreement have fundamentally altered the country’s nuclear program. Two years ago we assessed that Iran’s breakout time, the amount of time it took to go from producing fissile – enriched uranium to have enough for one bomb – that amount of time has gone from two to three months, where it was; now, today we are confident that – based on the reductions in its stockpile, reductions in its centrifuges – it would take Iran at least a year to try to break out of the agreement, kick out the inspectors, accumulate the amount of fissile material needed for a single bomb.

And if Iran ever did decide to do that, because of the steps that are in this agreement, we would know it almost immediately, and we would have enough time to respond accordingly.

Let me underscore: Verification remains, as it always has been, the backbone of this agreement. We welcome that Iran has followed through on the promises that it made. It has kept its word. And we will continue to do the same. But we will also remain vigilant in verifying Iran’s compliance every hour of every day in the years ahead.

Now, I emphasize: Today’s announcement gives us even more hope, more confidence in the possibilities about this effort going forward. Thus far, Iran has taken every step that it committed to take, dating back two full years – not just back to July, but dating back to the interim agreement that we announced in Geneva, in Switzerland. And we have now two years of compliance already under our belt with another 13, and then another 15, and then another 20, and another 25, and then the lifetime of this agreement under the Additional Protocol and the Modified Code 3.1.

Now, obviously past performance does not guarantee future results. We know that. Furthermore, while we welcome implementation day, we understand that this marker alone does not wipe away all of the concerns that the international community has rightly expressed about Iran’s policies and actions and choices in the region. But we also know without doubt there is not a challenge in the entire region that wouldn’t become much more complicated, much worse, if Iran had a nuclear weapon. And that is why this agreement is so important. With the agreement fully implemented, the international community can finally work to address the other regional challenges without the looming threat of a nuclear-armed Iran – including the crisis in Syria, on which we have made important progress in recent months.

Before I close, I want to thank a few important people who brought us here to this day, who have been critical to this process throughout the negotiations. And that starts with the person I work for, President Obama, who has been resolute in insisting that Iran must never have a nuclear weapon, and equally strong and courageous in asserting that diplomacy should be given a fair chance to achieve that goal. His courage to pursue a path that many people deemed impossible and some people deemed inadvisable is the reason we are where we are, marking implementation day – not alone, not bilaterally, but with France, Germany, Britain, China, Russia, all of us joined together in an effort to create this accountability.

I also want to thank the delegations representing all of our P5 partners. All of them have worked unbelievably hard and have set a standard for international cooperation, and I particularly want to thank Dame Cathy Ashton for helping to lead this process for two and a half years, and her successor, Federica Mogherini, for expertly coordinating international efforts during the final stage and helping in these last two days to bring us to this announcement.

I also want to express my gratitude for the superb efforts of my own delegation, led by Steve Mull and previously by Wendy Sherman, all of whom from the State Department, from the White House, and throughout the interagency system that we work with in the United States, all of them – the Justice Department, the Energy Department, Ernie Moniz and others have done an extraordinary job and they richly deserve the gratitude of our nation, and I believe other nations who benefit from this.

Let me also thank the government of Austria, Switzerland, and Oman for their continued and enormously generous hospitality at times, for their assistance all the time, and for the international work that they have helped to make possible here. And I’m particularly grateful to the Government of Switzerland, to Didier Burkhalter and all those who have worked in the last days as our representative in Tehran in helping us with the mission regarding the release of the Americans, which you will hear more about from President Obama later.

Finally, I want to again express my deep respect for the serious and constructive approach that Iran’s delegation brought to this effort. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and his team from day one demonstrated their deep commitment and seriousness of purpose, and Dr. Ali Salehi has worked diligently with Secretary Moniz to find creative solutions to difficult technical challenges. And we’ve been able to approach every step of this process with professionalism and mutual respect.

The hard work will continue, no question. And the tough politics surrounding this issue in many countries, including the United States and Iran – that’s obviously not going to get easier overnight. But the fact is that today marks the first day of a safer world, one where we believe it is possible to remain safer for years to come, and particularly with the compliance of this agreement.

I think we have also proven once again why diplomacy has to always be our first choice, and war our last resort. And that is a very important lesson to reinforce. We have approached this challenge that the – with the firm belief that exhausting diplomacy before choosing war is an imperative. And we believe that today marks the benefits of that choice.

Thank you. (Applause.)

~

The president’s letter to Congress
Text of a Letter from the President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

Pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) (IEEPA), I hereby report that I have issued an Executive Order (the “order”) revoking Executive Orders 13574, 13590, 13622, and 13645 with respect to Iran and amending Executive Order 13628 with respect to Iran in order to give effect to the United States commitments with respect to sanctions described in section 4 of Annex II and section 17.4 of Annex V of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action of July 14, 2015 (JCPOA) between the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States), the European Union (EU), and Iran. In addition, the order takes steps to provide implementation authorities for aspects of certain statutory sanctions that are outside the scope of the U.S. commitments to lift nuclear-related sanctions under the JCPOA.

In Executive Order 12957 of March 15, 1995, the President found that the actions and policies of the Government of Iran threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States. To deal with that threat, the President declared a national emergency and imposed prohibitions on certain transactions with respect to the development of Iranian petroleum resources. To further respond to that threat and to provide implementing authority for Iran-related sanctions legislation including the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-172) (50 U.S.C. 1701 note); certain statutory requirements of the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-195) (22 U.S.C. 8501 et seq.); section 1245(c) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (Public Law 112 81) (22 U.S.C. 8513a); certain statutory requirements of the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (Public Law 112-158) (22 U.S.C. 8701 et seq.); and certain statutory requirements of the Iran Freedom and Counter Proliferation Act of 2012 (subtitle D of title XII of Public Law 112-239) (22 U.S.C. 8801 et seq.) (IFCA) the President issued Executive Order 12959 of May 6, 1995, Executive Order 13059 of August 19, 1997, Executive Order 13553 of September 28, 2010, Executive Order 13574 of May 23, 2011, Executive Order 13590 of November 20, 2011, Executive Order 13599 of February 5, 2012, Executive Order 13606 of April 22, 2012, Executive Order 13608 of May 1, 2012, Executive Order 13622 of July 30, 2012, Executive Order 13628 of October 9, 2012, and Executive Order 13645 of June 3, 2013.

On July 14, 2015, the P5+1, the EU, and Iran announced the JCPOA, which will verifiably prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and ensure that Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful. The JCPOA provides for the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions on Iran in exchange for Iran’s completion of specified nuclear-related steps, as verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

I have determined that Iran’s implementation of the nuclear related measures specified in sections 15.1-15.11 of Annex V of the JCPOA, as verified by the IAEA, marks a fundamental shift in circumstances with respect to Iran’s nuclear program. In order to give effect to the United States commitments with respect to sanctions described in section 4 of Annex II and section 17.4 of Annex V of the JCPOA, section 1 of the order revokes Executive Orders 13574, 13590, 13622, and 13645 in their entirety. Section 2 of the order amends Executive Order 13628 by revoking sections 5 through 7 and section 15 of that order, revising cross references in the remaining sections of that order to the revoked sections, and renumbering the remaining sections of that order.

Section 3(a) of the order provides implementation authority for aspects of section 1244(c)(1)(A) of IFCA; this provision only applies to the extent sanctions are imposed with respect to transactions or activities that are outside the scope of the JCPOA, specifically, providing significant financial, material, technological, or other support to, or goods and services in support of, any activity or transaction on behalf of or for the benefit of persons described in section 1244(c)(2)(C)(iii) of IFCA (i.e., Iranian persons on the list of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN List)).

Section 3(b) of the order provides implementation authority for aspects of sections 1244(d)(1)(A), 1245(a)(1), and 1246(a)(1) of IFCA; this provision only applies to the extent sanctions are imposed with respect to transactions or activities that are outside the scope of the JCPOA, as reflected in waiver determinations as to sections 1244(d)(1)(A), 1245(a)(1), and 1246(a)(1) of IFCA issued by the Secretary of State to give effect to sanctions commitments described in sections 17.1-17.3 and 17.5 of Annex V of the JCPOA (including any transactions or activities involving persons on the SDN List), and any renewals thereof.

Section 3(c) of the order provides implementation authority for section 1249 of IFCA, which is outside the scope of the JCPOA.

I have delegated to the Secretary of the Treasury the authority, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to take such actions, including the promulgation of rules and regulations, and to employ all powers granted to the President by IEEPA, as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of the order, other than the purposes described in section 6 of the order. All agencies of the United States Government are directed to take all appropriate measures within their authority to carry out the provisions of the order.

I am enclosing a copy of the Executive Order I have issued.

Sincerely,

BARACK OBAMA

Executive Order — Revocation of Executive Orders 13574, 13590, 13622, and 13645 with Respect to Iran, Amendment of Executive Order 13628 with Respect to Iran, and Provision of Implementation Authorities for Aspects of Certain Statutory Sanctions

  10 comments for “This is what Diplomacy looks like

  1. JanF
    January 17, 2016 at 5:57 am

    ” … diplomacy has to always be our first choice, and war our last resort.”

    Amen.

  2. JanF
    January 17, 2016 at 6:00 am

    From Secretary Moniz:

  3. JanF
    January 17, 2016 at 6:24 am

    As you can imagine, the Bomb Bomb Iran crowd, and Treasonous Tom Cotton are livid. A sampling from the good guys on the Twitters:

    igorvolsky ‏@igorvolsky 13h 13 hours ago

    Iran shipped out 98% of nuclear fuel Destroyed plutonium reactor
    Dismantled 13k centrifuges

    And GOP is arguing that Obama made us weaker

    Judd Legum ‏@JuddLegum 13h 13 hours ago

    Without Iran deal

    1. Jason Rezaian and other Americans would still be in Iranian jail

    2. Iran would be closer to developing a nuclear bomb

    ~

    Judd Legum ‏@JuddLegum 13h 13 hours ago

    Triumphant day for American diplomacy:

    1. American prisoners released

    2. UN confirms dismantling of Iranian nuclear program

    (1/2)

    Compare what was accomplished diplomatically today to hundreds of billions we’ve spent on wars in recent years (2/2)

    LOLGOP ‏@LOLGOP 13h 13 hours ago

    The GOP just prefers George W. Bush’s Iran deal where we punish Iran for going nuclear by giving it most of Iraq.

    John Fugelsang ‏@JohnFugelsang 14h 14 hours ago

    Thanks to diplomacy Iran releases Jason Rezalan & 4 other prisoners but now I need Trump to instruct me why this is weakness.

  4. JanF
    January 17, 2016 at 6:29 am

    Republican reaction: On A Triumphant Day For American Diplomacy, Republicans Criticize Obama

    Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, former Marine Amir Hekmati and pastor Saeed Abidini were reportedly among the group to be flown from Tehran to Switzerland, and from there to the U.S. military base in Landstuhl, Germany to receive medical care, according to the AP. Separately, Iran also agreed to release American student Matthew Trevithick, who had recently been detained. The seven Iranians would be offered clemency over charges of violating sanctions on their country.

    This breakthrough elicited praise from many around the globe, including press freedom groups like the Committee to Protect Journalists.

    Prominent Republicans, however, reacted with statements of outrage and frustration, directed at the Obama administration.

    Quotes are in the article.

    • JanF
      January 17, 2016 at 6:39 am

      More on the prisoners who were released:

      Jason Rezaian, a reporter with The Washington Post, has been detained since July 2014 when Iranian security forces raided his home and seized him and his wife. …

      Former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati of Flint, Michigan, was detained in August 2011 on espionage charges. …

      Pastor Saeed Abedini of Boise, Idaho, was detained for compromising national security, presumably because of Christian proselytizing, in September 2012. He was sentenced in 2013 to eight years in prison. ..

      A fifth American, student Matthew Trevithick, was released separately by Iran.

  5. JanF
    January 17, 2016 at 6:34 am

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi:

    “The White House has announced that the parties to the historic Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action have declared today Implementation Day. This follows the IAEA certification that Iran has implemented measures specified in the agreement that cripple Iran’s nuclear weapons capabilities, including moving nuclear material out of the country and disabling and dismantling its nuclear reactors and centrifuges.

    “We harbor no illusions about the Iranian regime. The JCPOA is not founded on trust. It is founded on verification, vigilance and enforcement. As we proceed to full implementation of the agreement, we must remain vigilant.

    “A nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable to the United States and unacceptable to the world. Thanks to the strong strategic leadership of President Obama and his Administration, including Secretary Kerry and Secretary Moniz, we have reached today’s milestone, and are on track for full implementation of this historic agreement and greater security and stability in the Middle East and around the globe.”

  6. JanF
    January 17, 2016 at 8:06 am

    Bloomberg Business: Iran Sheds Economic Sanctions Yoke as Nuclear Deal Ratified

    Iran has complied with the terms of an international agreement to curb its nuclear development program, allowing it to move out from under the yoke of crippling economic sanctions, the United Nations’ nuclear agency announced Saturday. […]

    As holder of the world’s fourth-largest reserves of crude and largest of natural gas, Iran gains immediate access to about $50 billion in frozen accounts overseas, funds the government says it will use to rebuild industries and infrastructure. It also opens the door to foreign investors who are keen to enter a relatively untapped market of 77 million people.

    Most U.S. companies will be on the sidelines because the deal lifts only those sanctions imposed on Iran to punish it for its nuclear program. It doesn’t touch the sweeping ban on U.S. trade and investment with Iran put in place by the Clinton administration in 1995.

    The Obama administration has pledged to continue enforcing sanctions against Iran related to its ballistic-missile program, support for terrorism and human-rights violations. Republicans and some Democrats in the U.S. Congress opposed the nuclear agreement and have vowed to press for fresh sanctions.

    • JanF
      January 17, 2016 at 8:09 am

      More on the sanctions being lifted:

      The most significant effect of the executive order is to free up Iranian assets held in the international financial system, estimated to be worth between $50 billion and $150 billion. Obama administration officials have said they believe the value is on the lower end of that spectrum, because of Iran’s international debts and the amount of currency it needs to keep in foreign reserves.

      Most of the sanctions relief applies to what are known as secondary sanctions — those against non-U.S. citizens doing business with Iran. Primary sanctions — those against U.S. citizens — remain in place.

      But there are narrow exceptions. The Treasury Department grant waivers for Americans to import food, carpets and other floor coverings from Iran. And on Friday, Obama signed a presidential memorandum allowing the export of commercial passenger aircraft to Iran on a case by case basis.

      The Treasury Department also removed about 400 Iranians from its blocked persons list Saturday, unfreezing their assets and allowing them to do business with Americans.

  7. princesspat
    January 17, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    An interesting article re the role of responsible journalism and diplomacy…..

    Here’s Why We Held The Story On The U.S.-Iranian Prisoner Exchange

    In early fall, HuffPost foreign affairs reporter Jessica Schulberg landed a hell of a scoop: A State Department official was willing to talk on the record about the most sensitive of diplomatic operations — secret negotiations between the U.S. and Iranian governments over exchanging prisoners.

    ~snip~

    For years, a journalistic convention has held, more or less, that hostage and prisoner swap talks ought not to be reported on if doing so risks upending the negotiations. When a member of the media is involved, especially a well-respected one like Rezaian, the pressure to stay quiet becomes much greater. The convention can extend dangerously beyond prisoner talks, with the government pressuring the press to withhold any sensitive information it claims could harm national security — a vague concept defined by motivated minds. For a generation, national security reporting has largely been dominated by The New York Times and The Washington Post, and both have at times come under valid and withering criticism for spiking stories of public interest under pressure from the government.

    Thanks for covering this Jan.

  8. JanF
    January 18, 2016 at 6:13 am

    On Sunday, the administration imposed new sanctions on Iran related to their launch of a missile. The sanctions had been delayed so as to not interfere with the separate nuclear weapon agreement:

    The United States on Sunday imposed sanctions on 11 companies and individuals for supplying Iran’s ballistic missile program, the U.S. Treasury Department said.

    The new sanctions come after the Obama administration delayed the action for more than two weeks during tense negotiations to free five American prisoners, according to people familiar with the matter.

    The U.S. Treasury Department blacklisted the UAE-based Mabrooka Trading, and its owner Hossein Pournaghshband for helping Iran produce carbon fiber for its ballistic missile program. Financial institutions and companies are barred from dealing with those on the U.S. blacklist.

    “Iran’s ballistic missile program poses a significant threat to regional and global security, and it will continue to be subject to international sanctions,” acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Adam Szubin said.

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