Brief for Congress

Understanding P5+1 Negotiations with Iran and the Role Congress Plays

Ambassador William H. Luers

Ambassador William H. Luers discusses implications of additional sanctions against Iran. Photo: Jason Rearick

As the United States, Iran and the P5+1 reach a critical inflection point in the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, we have prepared the following brief to help answer some basic questions that we have encountered over the past week, particularly from members of Congress and their staffs. The full brief can be found here. For follow-up questions, please contact us.

  1. How much time do we have for a negotiated agreement? Is Iran using negotiations as a delaying tactic so that it can get closer to a nuclear weapon? Are they on the edge of breakout?
  2. If sanctions have been successful in getting Iran to the negotiating table thus far, why would we stop this successful strategy now? Wouldn’t more sanctions now enable us to get a better deal?
  3. Wouldn’t additional sanctions serve as an insurance policy to protect against a bad deal or an impasse in the negotiations?
  4. Wouldn’t giving the Iranians some sanctions relief before all necessary restrictions on their nuclear program are in place enable them to harden their position? Even worse, might that cause the whole international sanctions regime to unravel before we have a final deal?
  5. Aren’t sanctions an alternative to war?
  6. Is “Freeze for freeze” (Iran freezing its nuclear program, in exchange for a freeze on new sanctions) a reasonable deal?
  7. Is Iran’s agreement with the IAEA significant? Isn’t it just a vague set of promises?
  8. Iran has been lying for years. What should make us believe them now? What has changed? They still support Hezbollah, threaten Israel, are promoting Assad etc.
  9. Is Iran developing a covert nuclear weapons capacity? How do we know what we do not know?
  10. What was being offered required of Iran in the proposed deal on the table at Geneva? Would that be enough to stop the Iranians from building a nuclear weapon?
  11. What happened at the end of this last round of talks in Geneva? Did Iran walk out, indicating that they are not serious about striking a deal?