Former Obama Officials Call For Stronger Nuke Deal, Tougher Action Against Iran’s Aggression

An open letter to the White House signed by a bipartisan group of experts, including five former Obama administration officials, called on the United States to strengthen the emerging nuclear agreement with Iran, The New York Times reported Wednesday. The letter enumerated five elements that need to be strengthened to prevent Iran from remaining a nuclear threshold state.

The letter, referring to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, said inspections “must include military (including I.R.G.C.) and other sensitive facilities. Iran must not be able to deny or delay timely access to any site anywhere in the country.” …

The inspectors, they write, must be able “to take samples, to interview scientists and government officials, to inspect sites, and to review and copy documents as required for their investigation of Iran’s past and any ongoing nuclear weaponization activities.” The letter adds, “This work needs to be accomplished before any significant sanctions relief.”

On another delicate issue in the talks, the letter calls for “strict limits on advanced centrifuge R&D, testing, and deployment in the first 10 years,” and for measures to prevent “rapid technical upgrade” when those limits expire.

The statement which was produced by a working group sponsored by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, notes the importance of enhancing the monitoring and verification provision of the emerging deal, addressing the possible military dimensions of Iran’s past nuclear work, and limiting Iran’s development of advanced centrifuges. It also says that sanctions relief should not take place unless the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirms Iran’s compliance with the terms of the deal. Violating the deal, such as by impeding IAEA access to suspected nuclear facilities, must be dealt with via “a timely and effective mechanism to re-impose sanctions automatically.”

The statement also called for the United States to bolster its demands by making clear that it would use any method, including military force, to prevent Iran from acquiring sufficient fissile material for a nuclear weapon. “Without these features, many of us will find it difficult to support a nuclear agreement with Iran,” the statement noted.

In addition to addressing perceived omissions in the emerging nuclear deal, the statement also urges the administration to do “more in the region to check Iran and support our traditional friends and allies.” These steps include supporting Iraqi government forces, the Kurdish Peshmerga, Shiite militias not backed by Iran, and vetted Sunni forces; creating a “safe haven” for refugees in Syria and bolstering vetted rebel groups; supporting the Saudi-led effort to bring the parties in Yemen to negotiations, seeking “to split the Houthi elements away from Iran,” and preventing Iranian arms from reaching terror groups in the region.

The statement argues that the steps outlined would also weaken the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and thus “help reassure friends and allies of America’s continued commitment.” Specifically the statement calls on the administration to engage in “a discreet, high-level” contacts with the Israeli government to ensure that Jerusalem’s concerns are being addressed.

The former Obama administration officials who signed the statement are Dennis Ross, who was in charge of Iran policy during President Barack Obama’s first term in office; David Petraeus, who served as Director of Central Intelligence; Robert Einhorn, a former State Department nonproliferation expert; Gary Samore, Obama’s former chief nuclear policy expert; and Gen. James Cartwright, who served as vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Other signatories on the statement include former deputy director-general of the IAEA Olli Heinonen and former Bush administration national security advisor Stephen Hadley.

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