From THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
July 14, 2015
8:45 A.M. EDT
MR. PRICE: Good morning, everyone, and thanks for hopping on today’s call. We wanted to pull this call together to discuss the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action announced in Vienna earlier today.
We are doing this call on background. You can attribute this call to senior administration officials. We have embargoed this call until the conclusion of the call. So we would just ask that you not tweet or post anything as the call is ongoing. But the embargo will end as soon as the call concludes.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’ll just make some brief opening comments here and turn it over to my colleagues in Vienna. As the President announced today, we reached a comprehensive deal between the P5+1 and Iran that meets all of the President’s bottom lines with respect to preventing Iran from being able to develop a nuclear weapon. This is the culmination of a very long process that has had many phases.
You’ll recall, when the President came into office, we pursued diplomacy with the Iranian government. And when that diplomacy did not yield a result in which Iran kept its commitments, we moved to impose very severe sanctions over a period of years, but always made clear our openness and preference for resolving our concerns over Iran’s nuclear program through a diplomatic process.
Over the course of the last two years, we have pursued that diplomacy. During that time, since November of 2013, we’ve benefitted from the successful implementation of the Joint Plan of Action, a program that effectively froze the progress of Iran’s nuclear program and rolled it back in key respects. And again, I might add that throughout this time we made very clear that we would only agree to a deal if it did meet the bottom lines set by the President. And this process took a long time precisely because we were not going to take a deal that did not meet those requirements.
I’d just say, before turning it over to the team here, that President Obama could not be more grateful and prouder of the work that our negotiating team has done throughout these two years. It’s been an extraordinary team that includes experts from across the U.S. government. And, in particular, the leadership of Secretary Kerry, of Secretary Moniz, and Under Secretary Wendy Sherman has been one of the true historic examples of what American diplomacy can accomplish when we stick at it, stick to our principles, but also demonstrate an ability to work together with our partners in pursuit of a peaceful resolution to one of the most important security challenges of our time.
So with that, I’ll kick it out to our colleagues in Vienna to go through the details.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hi. I’m going to start and then turn it over to my colleague to sort of walk you through at least the top lines on the nuclear elements of this.
Just to say, since you all have heard me many times before over these almost two years — more than two years, actually — this has been like a Rubik’s Cube, and we have been waiting for the pieces to click into place. And in the early morning hours of the 14th of July in 2015, the last block of the cube clicked into place. It has been an incredibly arduous, incredibly complex, multilateral effort with partners not only in the P5+1 and the European Union, but throughout the world: Partners who helped enforce sanctions. Partners who urged Iran to come to the negotiating table. Partners who hosted us in the talks. And even partners who criticized what we were doing, who pressed us to think more about what we were doing, be tougher, be more precise, ensure that we were indeed doing what the President of the United States asked us to do, and that was to close down all the pathways to fissile material for a nuclear weapon, which the President said today is indeed what has occurred in this agreement.
In this deal that has been reached, there is a principle of simultaneity in that Iran will take a series of nuclear-related steps to assure the world that its program is exclusively peaceful. We will do our preparations. And at the appropriate time when the IAEA has verified that those steps have been taken, we will begin a sanctions-lifting process that will be phased over time. We have unbelievable and really extraordinary and unprecedented transparency measures to understand what’s happening in Iran’s program, both in terms of its peaceful nature and to ensure there is not a covert process.
We have international nuclear cooperation that will help to ensure that partners will be on the ground and will have increased and additional visibility beyond what the IAEA will do for that transparency.
This a long-term, durable deal. There are many phases to it. Some of the milestones are 10 years, some are 15 years, some are 20, some are 25, and some are forever. Iran will adopt the Additional Protocol early in this process, and there are additional transparency mechanisms beyond that that have been negotiated.
And then the last two points I want to make — we’ll be introducing, probably as soon as next week, a resolution at the Security Council that is supported by the P5, along with our German colleagues who have been part of the P5+1 process. That will establish timelines for all of the issues under the U.N. Security Council resolutions. We are confident that we have kept in place under Article 41 both arms restrictions as well as missile restrictions that will go on for some period of time, as well as a number of other pieces of the puzzle here.
And then the last point I want to make is really to endorse what was said at the beginning of this call. This has been an amazing whole-of-government effort. The team that we’ve had out here in Vienna, some who have been here for over a month — I, myself, have been here for 27 long days and long nights; we’re all very, very tired — is just extraordinary. It comes from across our government. It involves all of our laboratories that work in support of Dr. Moniz and our national security team. The Treasury colleagues, Commerce colleagues, the National Security Council, the Defense Department, the intelligence community. So for every team member that’s here, there are literally dozens and dozens and dozens — hundreds of people who have helped to support and validate everything that we are doing here.
I couldn’t be prouder of the team. I couldn’t be more honored to have been here under the leadership of Secretary Kerry and Secretary Moniz. And I could not be more grateful to the courage that the President of the United States has taken to give us a chance to do this deal.
Negotiating with Iran is tough — very tough. There are decades and decades and decades of mistrust. But through a very, very difficult process, we have come to know each other a little bit better. We have worked hard to reach these agreements. It is not perfect for anyone, but we believe it will be durable. There will be bumps along the way. There will be problems. But we — because this is a very complex deal over many, many years. But we believe we have the mechanisms in place to snap back sanctions, if there is significant non-compliance, to have access beyond the Additional Protocol through an access agreement to ensure that we know what is going on.
So we are confident in the elements of this deal. We will have to see day by day if we can be confident in the durability of this over time. But we will have a way to know what is going on, and a unified P5+1 and international community, bolstered by the U.N. Security Council to take action, and by the support, I hope, of the United States Congress who has been essential, as Secretary Kerry said today and as the President said — essential to getting the sanctions regime that helped get Iran to the negotiating table.
So let me stop here and turn it over to my colleague to talk about some of the highlights of this really extraordinary deal that has been struck.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks. I’ll try to be brief. Let me just first elaborate slightly on what my colleague just said about the various phases of the deal. Just to note that, again, it’s not a deal of any specific duration. But where we start from, given the obvious level of mistrust all around, that we start with extremely tight restrictions on their nuclear program. And over the various time frames, various of those restrictions will go away, assuming that Iran, in fact, has earned the confidence of the international community by adhering to all the terms here.
Secondly, I will turn to the issues of — organize around this idea of blocking various pathways to a weapon might be the easiest the way to organize the discussion. And the President gave us a very clear set — organizing principle around the so-called breakout time as defined as time to accumulate the nuclear material required for a nuclear explosive. I want to emphasize that that is a more descriptive definition than the usual breakout time definition of time to a weapon, which would, of course, add more time. But the President’s directive was that a one-year breakout time for 10 years was the minimum requirement, and I can assure you that that has been met.
So if I just say a little bit about the various pathways. A lot of this is going to be very similar to what came out of Lausanne on April 2nd, and of course, that’s the good news, in a sense, that the Lausanne framework has been preserved, elaborated on, and in fact, expanded.
So, number one, the issue of centrifuges and enrichment, the same fundamental parameters apply as in April: the 5,000 or so IR-1s in Natanz; the ending of enrichment at Fordow — very importantly, the restriction of their stockpile of enriched uranium — enriched first only to 3.67 percent or less, and secondly, only 300 kilograms for 15 years. And to get a scale, they are now roughly at 10,000 kilograms of uranium — enriched uranium — not to mention some additional uranium enriched to 20 percent, all of which must be gone or put into fabricated fuel plates that would not be easily reversed.
So that’s the core of the uranium approach. Plutonium — that is the Arak reactor — they have agreed that we will redesign that reactor to produce an order of magnitude less plutonium, non-weapons-grade plutonium. So here, the breakout time, if you like, actually would be many, many years. So in addition, I should add, we continue to have the obligation on their part to send the plutonium-bearing eradiated fuel out of the country. So they will not reprocess, but they won’t even have the material to reprocess.
Third, of course, is the covert path. And there — of course, because up to now I’ve been discussing their declared nuclear facilities. There’s a lot more color, as you’ll see in the plan. But going to the covert pathway, the issue there, of course, is transparency and monitoring. The Additional Protocol was already mentioned. That’s something that they will implement essentially immediately while — it may take a little more time to have ratification in their parliament, but they will observe it starting immediately. And that is a forever commitment in terms of providing the enhanced transparency relative to normal national safeguards agreements with the IAEA.
However, we add substantially to that as well. For one thing, within the — I should say, for the declared facilities, there is agreement in the deployment of advanced technologies for verification and containment and surveillance. But in terms of covert, the important thing is that we have measures that go well beyond the Additional Protocol in terms of, on the one hand, going back to the Iranian supply chain, back to the Iranian ore concentrate and tracking that, all the way to having surveillance of things like centrifuge manufacturing, loader manufacturing, et cetera. So we will have a significant set of tools for verifying their peaceful process.
Finally, let me talk about R&D. In R&D, their program plan is significantly scaled back for this decade to, for example, what are called complete lead centrifuges of more advanced centrifuges than the IR-1. Those will complete their work and then be taken out entirely. And their plan for moving forward with even more advanced centrifuges — IR-6, IR-8 – those are pushed back so that they can only do single machines and small to intermediate cascades in this decade. And so that’s also a major scale-back of their R&D program.
So I think, again, that’s all in line with Lausanne. I would just add that there have been additional areas covered since Lausanne. One of them is, if I may go back to breakout time, again, as I emphasized, we are counting breakout time as only production of material. However, to actually go to a nuclear explosive, of course, requires other activities, and there, again, we have a declaration that Iran will not pursue a number of activities that would be required to get there. For example, restrictions on doing any kind of metallurgy with uranium or plutonium; restrictions on not developing certain neutron initiators, which you would want for a nuclear weapon; multipoint detonation systems — so a whole set of activities will not be pursued. And of course, this adds to the complexity of any attempt that they might make to go towards a nuclear explosive.
So that’s kind of an overview, I think, of blocking the pathways to nuclear weapons.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Great. My colleague can wrap this up on sanctions. Then we’ll go to questions.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you. I want to briefly speak to the three sanctions issues that received the most attention: First, which sanctions will be relieved as part of this deal and which will not. Second, how the relief will be phased. And third, what we are prepared to do in the event of a breach of the JCPOA.
The first, as Under Secretary Sherman and others have noted, only when international inspectors are able to verify that Iran has taken all of the necessary steps to ensure that it will not develop a nuclear weapon will we and the international community relieve sanctions.
Not all sanctions are to be lifted. On the U.S. side, we’ve agreed to relieve nuclear-related secondary sanctions on Iran. Generally, what this means is the set of sanctions that have been imposed over the last five years that target foreign actors, not American actors, doing business with Iran, such as those transacting with Iran’s central bank or those who purchased Iranian oil.
All of the details are spelled out in Annex 2 of the JCPOA. But let me be clear about what we will not be relieving. We are not removing our trade embargo on Iran. U.S. persons and banks will still be generally prohibited from all dealings with Iranian companies, including investing in Iran, facilitating cleared country trade with Iran. The only adjustment we will make to those sanctions at the implementation date will be to allow the import of food and carpets from Iran and the export of civilian aircraft and parts to Iran, which has one of the worst airline safety records in the world.
In addition, we are not lifting our sanctions that target Iran’s support for terrorist groups like Hezbollah, its regional interventions in Syria or Yemen, or its abuse of human rights back home. Indeed, we have made clear to Iran that we will continue to impose sanctions aggressively to combat these activities. And while Iran can expect to see real relief when nuclear-related secondary sanctions are lifted, some entities, including certain Iranian banks and energy firms will still remain off limits because of their past support for terrorism or because they are owned by groups like the IRGC or the Quds Force.
A few important points on the timing or phasing of relief. For those who are focused on sanctions compliance, what was prohibited yesterday remains prohibited today. All that we have done this morning is to extend the interim measures that have been in place since January 2014. The first adjustments to our core sanctions will only occur in several — on what is being called implementation day. That is, once the IEA confirms that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear steps, we will suspend the nuclear-related secondary measures I was describing. And only many years later, once Iran has demonstrated that it is living up to its commitments for a significant period of time will those suspended sanctions be terminated.
Finally, on snapback, while our focus and expectation in concluding this JCPOA is on successful implementation, we are mindful that Iran may not uphold its side of the deal. In the event that Iran violates its commitments after we have suspended sanctions, we have the legal authority, the will and the leverage to snap them back. Reserving that option isn’t about planning for failure; to the contrary, it’s about maximizing the chances of successful implementation. We know that the range of international and national-level sanctions on Iran cover a whole range of concerns and threats and intersect in complicated ways. As we move forward, we’ll publish clear guidance to ensure that when sanctions relief does come into effect, foreign governments, foreign companies will fully understand the scope of U.S. sanctions, what they prohibit and what they allow.
And with that, I’ll turn it back to the White House spokesperson.
Q Thank you all very much. Can I ask a question about the press’s assertion that this cuts off all avenues or pathways for a nuclear weapon, when, in fact, after 10 years and depending on what happens along the way, there are other pathways? The criticism has been that it does not completely shut down the nuclear program. Whether you feel you can respond to people as — this morning as Netanyahu said this is a historic mistake?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, first of all, on that last comment, I might note that similar comments were made with the JPOA, and that has proved to be quite successful. But to get to your main point, clearly the — first of all, Iran, for the long term, in the NPT and with the Additional Protocol, of course, is obligated to not pursue a weapon. But for now a considerable period of time, we will — we have, with implementation, really blocked all those pathways and rolled back significantly their capabilities for pursuing a weapon.
We have to pursue this, so we have a very rigorous constraints for 10 years, 15 years; additional constraints going to 20 and 25 years. And 25 years from now, they will still have the obligations under the Additional Protocol — but, of course, by that time, we also hope that it will be a different situation in terms of confidence in their program and where they’re going. But if it’s not, we will still have our options available at any time.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’d just quickly add, from the President’s perspective and how he looks at this, the absolute strictest limitations within the deal have a duration of a decade. That puts the program significantly further away from a nuclear — from having enough nuclear material for a weapon. There are additional limitations that go for 15 years; for instance, the limitation on the Iranian stockpile.
So, in any case, as the President said in his remarks today, we are in a much better position 15 years from now than we are today with respect to the Iranian nuclear program. We will also have benefitted from 15 years of an extensive and comprehensive transparency and verification regime that will allow us not only to monitor Iranian compliance, but again, to look across the entire supply chain of the Iranian nuclear program and to have access to suspicious sites as necessary.
Then, beyond that duration, the transparency and verification measures, many of them stay in place, including the Additional Protocol which is permanent — which means that on the back end of this deal there is absolutely no permission slip for Iran, they’re still prohibited from pursuing a nuclear weapon under the NPT, and there is still the transparency and verification to monitor whether or not they are pursuing a program that is consistent with peaceful purposes. And any U.S. President — 15, 20, 25 years from now — will have all the same options that are available to the President of the United States today, but we believe we’re putting that President in a much stronger position from having these 15 years of strict limitations and, frankly, the type of transparency and verification measures that were not in place before this deal and that will endure beyond those 15 years of limitations.
Q Can you guys provide any color on how the President was informed about the deal and also his personal involvement in it in the last few weeks, and give any other tick-tock details along those lines both in Vienna and at the White House? Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me start from the Vienna side, and then I’m sure it will be interesting for me to hear my colleague describe it from the White House side.
Secretary Kerry, Secretary Moniz, Under Secretary Sherman, the whole team felt extraordinarily supported by the President and by the White House. We had in the middle of the last few days a very long SVTC, secure video teleconference, with the President, with the national security team to go over where we were in the deal, get further guidance from him in the deal.
His knowledge of these issues, the depth of his knowledge, the breadth of his knowledge is really quite extraordinary. It is clear he has dug into this. He has spent the time. He knows it well. He’s very clear about the strategy frame in his own mind about what we’re doing here, why we did it, what we’re trying to accomplish. That’s incredibly critical for any negotiation.
The White House and all of its resources have been available to all of us. Secretary Kerry has spoken to him many times during the time he’s been here in Vienna. They spoke again last evening, or early this morning — I don’t remember. There is no sense of time here anymore; the days and nights all have flowed together.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Our morning, their evening. (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Our morning, your evening, I guess. And so he stayed in very close touch with Secretary Kerry, with Secretary Moniz. And we are incredibly grateful for his doing this.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Just to give you the sense of this, the President met with Secretary Kerry before he went out to Vienna. This is in keeping with the pattern of these negotiations. Before critical rounds, we will have a session in the White House Situation Room with Secretary Kerry and the key members of the negotiating team — Secretary Moniz, Wendy Sherman — on the VTC from Vienna, because she’s been there even longer than Secretary Kerry and Moniz, and review essentially our bottom lines. And so the President had that session with Secretary Kerry and the negotiating team before they went out to Vienna. They reviewed the remaining gaps in the negotiations. They discussed what our important bottom line positions are. The President was very focused on needing to meet the framework from Lausanne completely, as our negotiators have done, in terms of the pathways to a weapon and the transparency and verification regime.
After Secretary Kerry and Secretary Moniz went out to Vienna, he was in regular contact with them and he was receiving regular briefings here. I’d say that every morning the President’s daily briefing was largely dedicated to giving the President updates on the Iran talks. And he was also updated throughout the day when there were key developments by Susan Rice.
We also have White House representation on the State-led team out there — Rob Malley, our coordinator for the Middle East. And so we’re in regular contact with all the members of the team, including Rob.
I would say that Secretary Kerry and the President have been in frequent contact over the last couple of weeks. They’ve had phone calls as necessary. They’ve exchanged messages. And Secretary Kerry has kept him updated about the status of the talks. When he needed additional guidance, he was able to reach out to the President. The President’s direction was he would be available any time Secretary Kerry or the negotiated team needed him.
We did have this secure video conference several days ago that we read out to you all. I think it’s fair to say, and our negotiators would say, that we were really entering the end game of the negotiations at that point, and that was a critical time to step back and review what our most important bottom lines were as we closed out remaining issues. So the President was able to give guidance to the team.
I’d say his guidance throughout the last several weeks was to not worry about deadlines. And I know there’s been a lot of focus on extensions — short-term extensions, but the President’s view was, I don’t care about any particular deadline; I care about the quality of the deal. And I know that was the view of Secretary Kerry as well. And the President wanted the negotiating team to make very clear that we were not going to be driven by a June 30th deadline, we were not going to be driven by a July 9th deadline with respect to the reporting requirement to Congress. We needed to take as long as necessary to get the right deal. And if we couldn’t get it, we were prepared to walk away from the table. And so that was guidance, I think, that he relayed throughout this process.
With respect to how he was notified, yesterday we had received reports from the team that the final details were completed late yesterday afternoon here. So a number of the members of the President’s senior national security team here went in to notify him of the fact that the deal was complete. He, however, wanted to hear it directly from Secretary Kerry, and so he immediately called Secretary Kerry. He got the report from Secretary Kerry that he’d reached a final deal. And the President was able to congratulate him. He told Secretary Kerry how proud he was of him and of the whole negotiating team. And then, of course, immediately was focused on preparing his announcement for early this morning.
Q Hey, guys, thanks very much for doing this. I have two questions. One, can you walk through a little bit about what the President is going to be doing over the next couple days in terms of reaching out to Congress and also to the Israelis, the Saudis, and other countries who have been skeptical of the deal? And I also wonder if you expect any progress on any of the issues that came up on the sidelines of these talks, most notably the detained Americans — if you expect any issues on those issues now that you’ve resolved the nuclear deal.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So I’ll start, and then I’ll turn to my colleagues in Vienna on the detained American citizens.
With respect to the President’s involvement, last night he was able to call the leadership of the House and the Senate and to provide them with the update that we expect that the deal to be announced this morning. And he will be doing additional engagements with members of Congress throughout the week.
The President feels very confident in the quality of this deal. Frankly, he has commented that it exceeds what we thought we could get at the beginning of this process. And so he is welcoming a debate here about the quality of this deal.
So again, I’d expect him to be talking to members of Congress very actively. I can also say that senior members of his national security team will also be calling members of Congress to brief them on the contents of the deal.
Beyond that, I’d expect the President to be reaching out to a number of his foreign counterparts as well. We don’t have any specific calls to read out for you yet, but I would certainly anticipate that the President would want to speak to our key European allies who were with us every step of the way in this process. He will certainly speak to the Prime Minister of Israel. They have clear differences about this deal, there is no question about that. But given the nature of our relationship with Israel and our commitment to their security, he will certainly want to have that conversation. And I certainly expect that he would speak to the King of Saudi Arabia.
I would note that the Camp David summit was a very important opportunity for us to brief the Gulf States on the contents of the nuclear deal, because at that point we had the Lausanne framework. I think they left that summit feeling much more assured about the deal itself, but having grave concerns as they always have, and as we do, about other Iranian activity in the region.
And what we committed to do coming out of that summit was to work with them to develop the capabilities necessary to counter any malign Iranian activity in the region, or to counter threats from terrorist organizations like ISIL. And that will be an ongoing process that we discuss of developing those Gulf State capabilities.
And then going forward, I’m sure the President will be speaking to other foreign leaders about this topic, so we’ll be reading out those calls for you. So again, we certainly expect him to be talking to members of Congress. We certainly expect him to be talking to his foreign counterparts. And frankly, he will look for opportunities to make this case directly to the American people — because even as a lot of the attention is on Congress, it’s important for the American people to understand why this is a good deal for our security.
And frankly, there has been a heated debate here in Washington, but I think we’ve seen repeated public opinion surveys that indicate broad support among the American people for a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue. And I think the President is confident in the case that he can put forward before the American people.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: On the detained Americans, as I think most of you know, every time we have a negotiation round with the Iranians we have on the margins of those discussions about the detained Americans in Iran, as well as our concerns about missing American, Robert Levinson. And both Secretary Kerry and myself, both separately and together, have had more than one conversation during the course of this negotiating round.
Secretary Kerry, in fact, had yet another conversation today with Minister Zarif, and there are other people on the delegation that have close ties to other parts of the Iranian government with whom we speak as well.
We believe very strongly that this is an opportunity for Iran to let the Americans come home. We don’t believe they belong in jail in Iran now. We believe that Iran ought to help to find Robert Levinson and bring him home. We certainly want to make sure that the treatment of Americans who are now being detained is the best until they get home, and that should be immediately. And we are doing whatever we possibly can to get Americans home. And we think that this is a moment where Iran has a really important opportunity to make a humanitarian gesture and bring the Americans home.
Q Hi. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the sanctions on conventional weapons and ballistic missiles. Looking at what General Dempsey and Secretary Carter said last week, under no circumstances should we relieve pressure on Iran relative to ballistic missile capabilities and we want to keep them isolated as a military. Can you explain to us how you’re going to tell Congress that this deal meets those concerns? And maybe you could talk a little bit about — since we we’re all repeatedly told that this was very much a last-minute issue — how it was worked out to what appears to be a compromise that was achieved.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, thank you, Karen. We will be introducing a U.N. Security Council resolution perhaps as early as next week in negotiations with all of our other colleagues. Here in Vienna, we have a draft resolution that will be the basis. The U.S. was penholder on that resolution. We had a very extensive negotiation with the Iranians and with all of our partners in the P5 in particular on what UNSCR, what that U.N. Security Council resolution should look like.
In fact, I think many people believed we’d come into these negotiations, we wouldn’t be able to hold on to the arms restrictions, we wouldn’t be able to get any missile restrictions whatsoever. And indeed, we accomplished both. We accomplished both under Article 41, which means that all of the enforcement mechanisms are brought to bear. We had, as Secretary Kerry said today in answering a question, three of our partners believed — two of our partners believed that there should be zero arms restrictions from day one. Other partners had varying interest in this. Our partners had different views about what the missile restriction should be.
In the final analysis, there are five years of arms restrictions, there are eight years of missile restrictions both under Article 41. In addition, the United States has its own unilateral arms restrictions, missile restrictions, further non-proliferation restrictions, asset control restrictions. My colleague can go into some of the details on that, and my State Department colleague is here as well as regards those.
So we think that we have, in fact, come out of this piece of the negotiation which did happen and finalized in the middle of the night, last night here — early this morning — with an agreement on all of the elements of the U.N. Security Council resolution agreed to by all the members of the P5 and Germany as well.
So we feel like we went further than what I think most people expected we would get out of the U.N. Security Council resolution. There will also be a procurement channel that will be established through the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action so that, in fact, there are controls on what is needed for the changes that need to take place in Iran’s nuclear program. There will be the snap-back mechanism if there is any significant non-compliance, as my colleague mentioned a moment ago.
And we will continue to have the process of designation at the U.N., as well as our own unilateral and EU designations and other country designations for those proliferators and those arms agents that we feel are not really keeping international peace and security.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’d just say a couple of words and then hand it over to my colleague on the other multilateral and unilateral sanctions.
First of all, it was always going to be an issue of when these restrictions were lifted, given the fact that the arms embargo and ballistic missile provisions were a part of the nuclear-related U.N. Security Council resolutions. That is a premise that we accepted at the very beginning of this process when we decided to deal with the U.N. Security Council resolutions in the context of the negotiations. And that was necessary, of course, to achieve the very comprehensive deal that we announced today.
I think the President’s guidance — and this is one of the issues that we were discussing — was that it was important to keep those restrictions in place for a substantial period of time, which was the marker we laid down in Lausanne, recognizing that Iran was taking a very firm position that those restrictions should be lifted as soon as other U.N. Security Council resolutions were suspended.
So frankly, the fact that we will maintain eight years of a ballistic missile provision and five years of the arms embargo, we believe does allow us to have a substantial amount of time where we’re keeping those in place within the context of the deal.
But I would note that we’re acting entirely consistent with the comments made by Secretary Carter and Chairman Dempsey in that we are not relaxing our pressure on Iran with respect to its ballistic missile program and its import and export of arms — particularly export of arms to areas of great concern like Syria and Yemen and Libya.
And the fact is, we have a number of unilateral measures that are focused on applying sanctions on Iran for that activity. We have a number of partnerships around the world that are dedicated to interdicting the export of dangerous material, particularly to conflict zones. And we have an initiative that we are pursuing with the Gulf countries that is dedicated to countering Iranian malign activities. So in this period of time as the deal is being implemented, we’re also going to be bolstering the capabilities of our partners to provide for their own security and to counter malign Iranian influence.
So we will be continuing to use a range of tools available to us to address the arms question and Iranian ballistic missile program. That will include the five years in which the arms embargo continues to be in place and the eight years of the ballistic missile provisions. But it also includes a range of other unilateral and multilateral tools.
And I’ll turn it over to my colleague to focus on those sanctions.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Just to briefly fill in some of the tools that my colleague is referencing. There’s a host of, obviously, international, multilateral regimes that restrict the transfer of missile parts, technology. There’s the Missile Technology Control Regime; the Proliferation Security Initiative, which has 100-plus countries around the world signed on to it to help limit the imports and exports into Iran of missile-related items.
On top of that, when you talk about arms transfers, it’s not just the U.N. arms transfers restrictions on Iran, which my colleague was describing. There are also restrictions on the transfer of weapons, as I think many of you know, to Yemen, to Iraq, to Lebanon, Sudan, Libya, North Korea — so that we are not without an international framework that would govern and restrict those transfer if Iran is trying to move weapons to those countries.
On the unilateral side, we have executive orders that allow us to target those who are moving missile technology or other things that present proliferation concerns. Executive Order 12938 and 13382, for example, as well as the Iran, North Korea, Syria Non-Proliferation Act — INKSNA — of 2006 — all of those remain in place.
I will say that in my office we had some pretty extensive discussions both with our Gulf counterparts and with our Israeli counterparts about how to draw on these international and national-level regimes to be able to more effectively combat at the attempt at procurement and attempt at weapons sales. And I think you’re going to see that continue in the months ahead.
Q Thank you so much. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about you had maintained this strong P5-plus-1 consensus on this deal. Now, as you — and obviously Congress — while you weren’t paying attention to the deadlines and all, the response from Congress did loom in the back of your mind on how you were going to sell this. If you’re having problems on getting the deal through Congress, I know you think you probably have enough votes to override a veto, but can you talk a little bit about what you fear the international implications might be if Congress were to reject this deal, if the U.S. was forced to walk away in some way, what that would do to the deal that you have on the table right now?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’ll start there, and then see if my colleagues want to join. As you know, Elise, this is a deal that has the full support of the international community through the P5-plus-1. It will be memorialized in a U.N. Security Council resolution. It achieves the basic objectives that were set out in terms of preventing Iran from being able to obtain a nuclear weapon, ensuring that its program is for peaceful purposes.
I think it’s very important to note one of the comments the President made in his remarks, which is that some people have put forward the notion that we should not pursue this deal, but we should rather simply pursue additional sanctions. In the first instance, we believe that history shows that when we just walk away from the table and impose sanctions, that in no way serves as a check on Iran’s nuclear program. They steadily advanced their nuclear program under sanctions. Ultimately, sanctions helped pressure them back to the table, but keep in mind, before the Joint Plan of Action, they were accumulating more stockpiles; they we’re installing more centrifuges; they were developing more advanced centrifuges. And that was happening while they were being sanctioned.
So sanctions alone did not prevent them from making progress. Sanctions could get them to the table to get this deal. And this is the fundamental point. The purpose of the sanctions was to get this deal. They were imposed for nuclear-related purposes. So, of course, they are going to receive sanctions relief. But the whole purpose was rooted in our strategic decision that it was important to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and that that was our principal priority. Because all the other things that Iran does that concerns us would be far more dangerous if they had a nuclear weapon.
And I say that because if there was a decision taken by Congress to kill this deal, there is not a scenario that anybody could see whereby the rest of the world would sign up for additional sanctions. The world has had to make significant sacrifices, in some cases, to reduce their purchase of Iranian oil. They did that in support of this negotiation. So when we went around to Europe, to China, to India, to South Korea, to Japan, and got them and others to reduce their purchases of Iranian oil, the express purpose of that effort was to get this deal. So if, having gotten this deal, we then kill it, it is hard to see why those countries would then go back along with additional sanctions.
Again, the world signed up for sanctions to get a deal. We have a deal. It’s a good deal. It will be endorsed by the world via the U.N. Security Council resolution. And so the question is a vote to kill this deal could potentially be a vote to kill the sanctions regime because it will make it far more difficult to bring those other countries along. And frankly, sanctions are only effective if we are able to bring the world with us in enforcement.
Q Thanks for doing the call. One of my questions has been answered. But I did want to ask you if you could talk a little bit about the President’s decision to have the Vice President at his side. Was this meant to signal to Israel or to Congress sort of the validity of the deal? And also, is there any chance that the President would consider traveling to Iran before the end of his presidency? Or do you think no matter how well this goes, it will be too soon to contemplate that?
And then finally, you don’t need a majority, you just need enough to provide a veto override. How confident are you that you have that? And what’s your lobbying effort going to be to sustain that? Thanks.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, first of all, the Vice President I think frequently stands with the President for particularly important announcements. The Vice President has also worked on this issue for a long time, including in the Senate. He’s worked on issues related to Iran, Iran sanctions, for decades. And so given his foreign policy experience which focused on this issue and simply for the fact that this is a very significant moment for the administration, the President wanted the Vice President there standing by his side. I think it sends a message about how united our entire administration is in support of this course of action. ]
With respect to the question with respect to Congress, look, we will brief this extensively to Congress. There will be briefings, there will be testimonies. There are exhaustive documentation associated with this deal — the main text and the annexes — which will be submitted to Congress for its review. We believe that it deserves the support of as many members of Congress as we can get.
At the end of the day, as you say, the President made clear that he would veto any legislation that is intended to prevent the successful implementation of this deal. So we’re confident in our ability to get the support necessary to ensure the successful implementation of the deal. But we take nothing for granted and we want to make sure that we’re making the case to these members, many of whom, again, played a critical role in building the sanctions regime to help get us to the table. So we have great respect for how deeply involved members of Congress have been on the Iranian issue over time.
On the travel, I would not — the President has made clear, even as we’re making this important deal, and even as this deal holds out the prospects of the possibility for Iran to take a different path, we continue to have very serious differences with Iran with respect to its support for terrorism, its threat towards Israel and its neighbors, its support for various proxies across the region that are destabilizing. So, no, we are not considering travel. What we’re focused on is a deal that, frankly, prevents Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
But, as the President said in his remarks, he’s consistently laid out two paths that are available to Iran, and there is a path whereby they choose a direction that will allow them to be more integrated with the global economy and international community. It would be good for the United States, for the world, and above all, for the Iranian people if they took that path. But in the meantime, we obviously continue to have very grave concerns with many aspects of Iranian policy.
Q A question — on the list of individuals and entities who are seeing sanctions lifted include Soleimani and the Quds Force. When were their names added to that? And does that mean that all of the sanctions on Soleimani and the Quds Force are lifted? Because as I recall, at least some of them had absolutely nothing to do with the nuclear program. Soleimani was sanctioned in part because of his support of Assad, isn’t that right?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So, Jon, we’d have to get the specific information that — we will continue to have significant sanctions on the Quds Force and their related entities. And we will certainly continue to have sanctions on Qassem Soleimani for — he’s the leader of the IRGC — for a range of reasons, including support for terrorism and activities in Syria. So Qassem Soleimani and the Quds Force will continue to be sanctioned entities.
But if there are other specific designation questions related to U.N. designations, let us know and we can follow up with you on that. But I’m confident on the notion that the Quds Force as an entity and — but there are individual designations at the U.N. that are part of this — and so we can follow up with you on the nature of those individual designations. But that would not take away the sanctions that are on the Quds Force and Qassem Soleimani.
*[Ghasem Soleimani is a different person from – and not to be confused with – IRGC commander Qassem Soleimani. Ghasem Soleimani who will be delisted at Phase 1, was listed at the United Nations for being Director of Uranium Mining Operations at the Saghand Uranium Mine (Saghand Mine). He was listed in an annex to U.N. Security Council resolution 1803 of March 3, 2008, as a person linked to Iran’s proliferation sensitive nuclear activities or development of nuclear weapon delivery systems.
In contrast, the IRGC Commander Qassem Soleimani will not be delisted at the United Nations at Phase 1; he will be delisted at the UN at Phase 2 when the underlying designation authority terminates. To be clear, Qassem Soleimani’s UN delisting at Phase 2 will be a result of the termination of the UN sanctions at that point in time. It is important to note that Phase 2 is the last time at which UN sanctions can be lifted, after 8 years into the deal, so sanctions are not being lifted early on Qassem Soleimani.
Further, given that Qassam Soleimani’s domestic designation is due to his affiliation with the IRGC, among other non-nuclear bases, his designation under U.S. sanctions will in no way be impacted by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action reached today. Since secondary sanctions remain in place on the U.S. side, this means that sanctions on Qassam Soleimani will still have an international effect. Keep in mind, that secondary sanctions targets third-country actors doing business with Iranian persons on the U.S. SDN list.]
Q Thanks for the call. During this recent round of talks, did the President — was he in contact with Khamenei or Rouhani? And does he plan to be in contact today or in the coming days?
And just a quick second question. Your colleague mentioned Article 41 with regard to U.N. Security Council resolutions. Just to be clear, it would be a Chapter 7 resolution but without explicit reference to Article 42, but leaving the military path open in case of a breach — is that right?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: On your first question, the President did not have communications during the course of this latest round with the Supreme Leader or President Rouhani. He has in the past sent letters to both the Supreme Leader and to President Rouhani, including a letter to President Rouhani at the beginning of the negotiation, which was important I think in initiating this effort — and then in occasional moments in the talks where we wanted to lay out our positions clearly, he has used letters to do so. But he did not in recent weeks.
I don’t have any additional plans going forward with respect to outreach to the Iranians. We’d certainly keep you updated were that to take place.
With respect to the U.N. question, it’s under Article 41. If I understood your question correctly, you are also asking about our — were you asking about our own military option? You referenced the military option. I’ll speak to that and then my colleague can speak to the nature of the authority.
Obviously — and again, forgive me if I misunderstood your question. But with respect to the military option, as the President expressed today, our clear preference is to resolve this diplomatically. We believe that this deal accomplishes that objective. Going forward, this or any future U.S. President would have any option available to them, including military action, if they felt that that was necessary. But with respect to the nuclear issue, if Iran is complying with this deal, we certainly believe that that would not be necessary to address the nuclear issue.
In the case of a violation, the immediate consequence would be the snapback that is allowed for in the U.N. Security Council resolution. So the immediate consequence for Iran for a significant amount of time would be a snapback of all the sanctions, including under the U.N. Security Council resolution. And then we reserve other options for consideration.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The only thing I’d add is that U.N. Security Council sanctions restrictions that will remain in place, some of which are going to be basically repackaged from the old U.N. Security Council resolutions and reincorporated simultaneously into a new one, will still be under Chapter 7, Article 41. So they have the full force and are binding on all member states.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Great. Well, thanks, everybody for getting on the call. I’m sure there will be additional questions in the days to come. The documents themselves should be posted so people can review the main text in the annexes. I believe that, given the length of that main text in those annexes, we pulled out some excerpts that address the key issues that have been of focus for all of you. So that will be available as well. And we look forward to continuing to talk to you in the days ahead.
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