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 Szubin Op-Ed: Nuclear Deal Should Help Neutralize Threat Of Iran


9/24/2015

WASHINGTON – In an op-ed published in the Thursday edition of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Treasury Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Adam Szubin writes that as the discussion about the Iran agreement continues it should not be clouded by misconceptions about the deal. He writes that  the agreement neutralizes the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran and puts the U.S. in a better position to deal with Iran if it ever tries to build a nuclear weapon.
 
Read the piece online
 
Nuclear deal should help neutralize threat of Iran
By Adam Szubin 
 
A healthy debate about the merits of the Iran agreement has consumed Congress — and the public — for the last two months and is likely to continue well after the deal begins to take effect on Oct. 18. It's important that debate not be clouded by misconceptions about the agreement.
 
When we began negotiations with Iran two years ago, it was building a massive stockpile of enriched uranium and had 19,000 centrifuges — many of them spinning deep underground. It was constructing a dangerous plutonium reactor at Arak. And the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors trying to monitor Iran's program were mired in a stalemate with little-to-no leverage.
 
Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Iran will — up front — lose 98 percent of its uranium stockpile and two-thirds of its centrifuges. The underground facility at Fordow will be emptied of all fissile material. The core of the plutonium reactor at Arak will be pulled out and filled with concrete. And the IAEA will be guaranteed access anywhere it needs to go, including military locations, with hard deadlines and international sanctions consequences if Iran fails to comply.
 
It bears remembering that, in 2013, the threat of Iran building a nuclear weapon was not a decade or two away. Iran was a few months from having enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon and it was steadily advancing. The agreement neutralizes this horrific threat and puts us in a better position to deal with Iran if it ever tries to build a nuclear weapon.
 
For the first time, this deal gives the IAEA teeth when it comes to demanding access. In all other cases around the world, there can be protracted discussion before a host country gives the agency access to a site it wishes to inspect, if it ever allows such access. Under the agreement, there will be a short and finite period of no more than 24 days before the IAEA must be granted access. This is a short time in the world of nuclear inspections and will allow the IAEA to easily detect efforts to clean up nuclear enrichment work.
 
Contrary to what some critics contend, Iran will not receive a $150 billion "signing bonus" as part of the agreement. It gets nothing until it fulfills key commitments, at which point it will regain access to about $50 billion of its own money currently held in restricted accounts outside of Iran (and outside the United States).
 
Iran is struggling under a mountain of debt and needs that are literally 10 times as large as that figure, and Iranian President Rouhani will be under intense pressure to deliver results at home by spending the money he can access to begin rebuilding Iran's crumbling economy.
 
We do not take the release of these funds lightly. We are committed to countering Iran's ongoing illicit conduct and will aggressively enforce sanctions that target Iran's support for terrorist groups, its abuses of human rights or its destabilizing activities in the region. That is why we are intensifying our work alongside Israel to continue to disrupt the front companies, intermediaries and money launderers that enable terrorist organizations such as Hezballah and Iran's IRGC Qods Force.
 
Under the agreement with Iran, more than 200 Iran-linked companies and individuals will remain designated by the United States and subject to direct U.S. and secondary sanctions.
 
Some have worried that, as Iran re-establishes its business connections with the international community, it will become immune from the possible "snap back" of sanctions should it breach the deal. In fact, the opposite would happen. As Iran renews trade with Europe and other parts of the world, it will only increase its economic and financial vulnerabilities in the event of a snap back of sanctions.
 
Remember that the ultimate nightmare scenario we faced in the 2000s was Iran, within reach of a nuclear weapon. This deal makes sure this nightmare doesn't become a reality. We are far better equipped to push back on state sponsorship of terrorism if Iran's access to nuclear weapons capabilities has been closed off. And we will continue to aggressively counter Iran's missile program.
 
The deal is not based on trust, but rather on scrutiny and verification. And we are committed to enforcing the provisions of the deal vigorously as we continue to combat all of Iran's other malign activities outside the agreement.
 
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