Can Iran Be Stopped from Getting the Bomb?


Gary Samore: Well, good evening everyone. Thank you so much for coming. Happy Nowruz, happy Purim. Tonight, our guest is Robert Einhorn who is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. During most of his career, Bob has worked in the U.S. government, the primarily in the State Department, working on nuclear weapons, arms control and nonproliferation issues. Bob and I, earlier today, we were reminiscing about when we first met, when Secretary of State Baker was running the State Department under George H.W. Bush. I think Bob has worked on just about every tough nuclear weapons issue that ever existed.

Gary Samore: He started with U.S.-Soviet arms control, he led U.S. efforts to try to negotiate a regional arms control regime in the Middle East, after the first Gulf War in 1991. He was deeply involved in most U.S. diplomatic efforts to prevent a nuclear arms race in South Asia. He has worked on North Korea, leading U.S. efforts to constrain North Korea's missile program during the Clinton administration, and of course, he's worked on Iran. Which will be the subject of tonight's discussion. Both on efforts to persuade countries not to provide nuclear technology to Iran, especially China and Russia, as well as the direct U.S. negotiations with a Iran, that led to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Gary Samore: I want to say about my friend, Bob, that he's a legend in the business. On one hand, he is incredibly persistent, and tenacious, which you have to be when you're dealing with these tough issues that may not be resolvable. On the other hand, he's very thoughtful, creative and intelligent. I think the combination of those two characteristics have made him a very effective diplomat for the United States. Finally, he's a nice guy, he's a good natured person, which is important, even when you're delivering a tough message to an adversary. Very professional, doesn't take it personally. He's doing the job his government has assigned him to do.

Gary Samore: So tonight we're going to talk about Iran, can Iran be stopped from acquiring nuclear weapons? Bob, maybe just as a way to set the table, let's talk about what the current situation is. We know the Trump administration inherited a nuclear agreement that Obama negotiated in 2015. We know that President Trump, derided that agreement and has withdrawn the United States. So let's talk about what the Trump administration strategy is right now, and what's the status of that strategy?

Robert Einhorn: Okay, first, I could go on at greater length talking about Gary, I won't take up all the time to do that, but it's really a pleasure, Gary to be on the same podium with you. We'd spent countless, countless hours together when we were in the government. Gary, often from the White House, me from the State Department. We traveled to China, we traveled to Moscow, we traveled all over the place, and there's no one in the government I've work more closely with over many, many years than Gary, and I know he's very excited to be here at the Crown Center. I want to thank the Crown Center for inviting me, Shai, it's good to see you again, it's been a while. Thank you all for coming. I even have my sister-in-law from Brookline who's made the trip here to attend.

Robert Einhorn: So the subject tonight is Iran. I thought, of course, I thought that the JCPOA, the Iran nuclear deal was a good deal, the best that could be achieved at the time. I'm proud of the role that I played in working on it, but President Trump had a different view, he had a different view from the election campaign. He fulfilled his campaign pledge to get out of a deal he considered the worst deal ever negotiated in history. He reimposed all of the economic sanctions that had been suspended under the Iran nuclear deal.

Robert Einhorn: Now, the intention was to put maximum economic pressure on Iran, and to compel Iran to accept what the Trump administration called a comprehensive new deal. Now, the new deal was going to go well beyond the nuclear deal, it was going to try to have a much stronger, in their view, deal than the Obama nuclear deal, but it was going to go well beyond that. To cover Iran's missile program, its regional activities, Iran's efforts to achieve hegemony in the Middle East. It hoped that the economic pressure generated by these new sanctions was going to compel Iran to go along with some very, very far reaching demands.

Robert Einhorn: What really was it that the Trump administration wanted? Did it really want to negotiate over all of these issues? Over Iran support for proxies and Hezbollah and the Houthis? Did it really want to negotiate Iran's withdrawal from Syria, and so forth? I'm not sure. Most experts doubt that there was any Trump intention to negotiate over these specific elements. Basically, the Trump administration believes that the problem with Iran is not the specific behaviors, the problem is the nature of the regime, the Islamic Republic. To get Iran to stop doing these bad things, he had to get rid of the regime. I think that was the basic intention.

Robert Einhorn: I don't think the Trump administration is going to succeed, it's not going to succeed for a number of reasons. For sure, these economic sanctions are doing a lot of damage. The Iranian economy is in very bad shape, the currency, the rial has lost over 70% of its value, inflation is up, unemployment is up. Its exports of crude oil have dropped from 2.5 million barrels a day to 1 million barrels a day. So it's really facing great economic hardships. But I don't think they're going to succeed, the Trump administration is going to succeed in getting Iran either to capitulate or to collapse for a variety of reasons.

Robert Einhorn: It no longer has international support for its efforts. During the negotiations of the JCPOA. it was almost unanimous international support for a deal with few exceptions in the Middle East, but broad support. You don't have that, even America's closest allies, the Europeans are not with the United States. But also you have an Iranian regime that's very resilient, very resourceful. It's been under harsh sanctions for decades, and it's managed to survive. The Trump administration, uncompromising negotiating position, and it's apparent desire for regime change have convinced the Iranian government that there's nothing to gain from negotiating with the Trump administration. They need to resist and to hang on as long as they can, using various mitigation strategies to survive. Smuggling and other, they want to avoid instability domestically in Iran.

Robert Einhorn: So they are provide heavy subsidies to Iranian people that they believe are fundamental to the security and stability of the regime. So they do everything possible to resist efforts, and I think ultimately, they will succeed. I think we, as a result, we're at an impasse, and we're sooner or later going to need a new strategy.

Gary Samore: So, many people, including myself, were surprised that in response to the U.S. withdraw from the agreement, and reimposition of the sanctions, the Iranians have nonetheless continued to comply with the agreement. It's quite remarkable when you think about it. In a way, we're having it both ways. We still get the benefit of the nuclear agreement, because Iran continues to accept limits on its nuclear program, and at the same time, we are enjoying the pleasure of imposing punishment on Iran's nuclear program. My question is, how do you account for that restraint on the part of Tehran, and how stable is this current status quo? Where we're punishing the hell out of Iran, and yet they're still limiting their nuclear program.

Robert Einhorn: I was very surprised by this, I was predicting that as soon as the U.S. withdrew, Iran would have no choice but to withdraw. In fact, they were saying that, they were making strong statements that if the U.S. got out, they would get out. The Supreme Leader Khamenei said something like, "If the U.S. leave, we will light it afire." Or something like this.

Gary Samore: Burn the agreement.

Robert Einhorn: But they decided when it got right down to it, they weren't going to do it. I think they're prepared to stick it out a while longer, for a variety of reasons. They enjoy the moral high ground, they enjoy the fact that right now, they have isolated the United States, the United States has no support. Whereas, they are getting respect internationally for their responsibility, for their restraint in the face of extreme American provocation. They like that, and they also are waiting to see whether efforts to preserve commercial links to them by the Europeans are succeeding.

Robert Einhorn: The Europeans have established a special financial mechanism, kind of barter arrangement that they hope will preserve a trade with Iran without running afoul of U.S. sanctions. They're hoping that that will succeed. But I think they're realistic on that, and they know that as bad as things are economically for them now, it could get a lot worse. They know that if they followed the United States and withdrew from the deal, then other members of the nuclear deal, the Europeans, would be entitled to snap back prior sanctions, U.N. sanctions, European Union sanctions. Things would get a lot worse than now.

Robert Einhorn: So they're kind of deterred for the time being. So they're waiting and seeing and another factor that's keeping them on board, at least for the time being, the Europeans are saying to them, hang on two more years, help us on the way. We'll get a new U.S. administration, a democratic administration, a successor, that will be more favorably disposed to Iran and to the JCPOA. So, if you could hang on only two more years, things will be better. So they're waiting to see.

Robert Einhorn: They watched the midterm elections, they saw the democrats take control of the House, they may have been confused a little bit to think that, that itself would affect Trump administration policy toward Iran. Of course, it doesn't, but maybe it's a harbinger of what could happen in the 2020 election. So they're holding on for the time being. A key factor, they're going to hang on for another few months at least. The oil sanctions, the exceptions to the oil sanctions, which allow oil importers to continue buying Iran a little while longer, those are up for review in May. If the administration is successful in driving the importers to zero and not giving any exceptions, I think the Iranians will decide, hey, wait a minute, the heat's getting too high. But if the administration is forced to get more exceptions, and there's more exports of oil, more oil revenues, then they may stick it out a little while longer.

Gary Samore: I think you're right, that the key factor to look at in terms of the effectiveness of sanctions is the level of Iranian oil exports. That's the absolutely critical. Right now, it's a little bit more than a million barrels a day, which is about where it was when the Obama administration was able to put in place very effective oil sanctions. As Bob says, the big question mark will be in May, when the administration has to decide whether to extend the current waivers for purchases of Iranian oil. Which have been provided to eight different countries.

Gary Samore: I think, from Iran's standpoint, the turmoil in Venezuela is extremely good news. Because to the extent that that limits surplus oil supply on the world market, it makes it very hard for the U.S. to try to cut Iranian exports to zero without causing a price spike. Which, of course, the U.S. does not want to do, for both economic and domestic political reasons. So, my guess is and I'm just reading today that Japan is negotiating with the administration for an extension of the current oil waivers, and the Indians are as well. So my guess is that Washington will be forced to grant some extension of the waivers. Therefore, it will give the Iranians another six months to survive, to eke out while they wait and hope for a good outturn in the 2020 election.

Robert Einhorn: Absolutely.

Gary Samore: Talk a little bit about the Russians and the Chinese because they are critical to the current situation, and they're more willing than other countries like Japan and South Korea and India to defy the United States and go on and buy oil from Iran anyway, even if we try to sanction them. So how does that broader geopolitical tension between Washington and Beijing and Moscow, how does that affect the Trump administration strategy?

Robert Einhorn: Well, I think, Russians and Chinese, they're a big problem for the Trump administration strategy. The Russians and Chinese, they don't want Iran actually to have nuclear weapons, but they oppose the U.S. withdrawal. They oppose the reimposition of sanctions. Russia has very strong relations with Iran, especially after both of them supporting the Syrian government of Assad. The Chinese have strong commercial ties with Iran, purchase of a lot of Iranian crude oil. I think they're a big problem for the sanctions regime. Russia is not terribly worried about getting sanctioned by the United States. A lot of the institutions that would engage with Iran have no exposure to the United States. They don't care if they're sanctions by the United States.

Gary Samore: And the others are sanctioned anyway, because of Ukraine.

Robert Einhorn: Exactly, and they defy sanctions in general. So I think the Russians are prepared to defy. US-Russian relations are at the low point since the Cold War. And Putin is prepared to do anything to defy the United States, and defying the sanctions regime is just a part of that. So they're a big problem, and we're already reading about various Russian-Iranian arrangements to try to get Iranian oil to market. Somehow kind of laundered through Russia. So they're going to be a problem.

Robert Einhorn: China also, China's critically important, China's the biggest importer of Iranian crude oil. So what they do is critical to where oil revenues are for Iran. But there are indications that China is not prepared to be compliant with the U.S. sanctions. It has a bank, if you remember from our day in government, the Bank of Kunlun, that's already sanctioned up to the teeth. They can continue to carry out Iran oil trade, and we can't do them any more harm, and they have no exposure to the U.S. financial system. I think Russia and China will be big factor, India will be a big factor. India is the second biggest importer of Iranian crude oil, and while they will cut back a bit, I don't think the Indians are going to play ball.

Gary Samore: What's fascinating to me is that the U.S. China negotiation over trade issues, intellectual property rights, and balance of payments and so forth, doesn't seem to be connected to our strategy toward Iran. Because you'd think part of the deal with China on trade and market access and intellectual property would be Chinese agreement to reduce purchases of Iranian oil. That must be something people in Tehran would be terrified. If the U.S. and China had a big bargain that included more pressure on Iran, but as far as I can tell, in the Trump administration, there's no connection between the Iran strategy, and the U.S. China trade strategy.

Robert Einhorn: Well, what is the connection between the Trump administration trade strategy and North Korea?

Gary Samore: Yeah, another good example.

Robert Einhorn: You would think that there's some kind of a strategy here. We're prepared to go easier on trade, if they're more helpful on North Korea, if they're more helpful on Iranian crude oil. But, like, in many areas with Trump administration policy, there's no discernible strategy here.

Gary Samore: So let's, just for the sake of argument, let's say that the current situation is stuck, not going to dramatically change. The Iranians will continue to suffer and defy the United States, and there won't be a popular uprising in Tehran, and we will not be able to impose the kind of sanctions that could coerce Iran to capitulate, and let's say help is on the way. So, if there's a new administration in January 2021, what's your advice for them? What should they be doing once there's a new, presumably democratic administration in office?

Robert Einhorn: I think they have to make some major adjustments in the current approach. If I were advising the Democrats, I would say, don't go right back to the JCPOI. Don't rejoin it right away, because in doing that, you're giving up the leverage that Trump administration has provided in terms of the sanctions. But I would enforce those sanctions in a kind of kinder, gentler way. What we do now is, it's the United States standing alone. We're threatening our allies with sanctions as much as we're threatening the Iranians with sanctions. We have to make more exceptions in order to build broader support for our policy. So, yes, pressure, but exercise more flexibly.

Robert Einhorn: We also have to mend fences with countries we've alienated, the Europeans in particular, but also the Russians and Chinese. We're not going to get the Iranians back to the negotiating table, unless we have the support of these key partner governments. Russia and China will be especially important. The Chinese, because of their commercial ties, but the Russians because of the general influence in Tehran, because they are the principal partners with Iran on the nuclear front. And because the Russians share an interest with us in reducing Iran's enrichment program.

Robert Einhorn: Russia is the country that wants to sell fuel, enriched fuel to Iran forever, and they don't want Iran to build up its enrichment programs. So they have an interest in cooperating, but we have to mend fences with them. With the Europeans, it will be relatively easy, although there's a lot of hard feelings from the Europeans on Iran. Russia and China will be harder because bilateral relations have deteriorated so sharply since the days of the JCPOA negotiations. Putin's basic foreign policy is to defy the United States. So whether we can get them on board, I don't know. Important difference for a new administration, I think is to disavow regime change.

Robert Einhorn: Now, the Trump administration, every senior official says, our policy is not regime change, but no one believes that.

Gary Samore: I don't believe it.

Robert Einhorn: Because these 12 far reaching requirements Secretary Mike Pompeo have laid out, no conceivable Iranian government would be able, politically able or willing to accept these. They signal to the Iranian government that the U.S. wants their total capitulation or preferably, regime change. We have to credibly disavow that, it's hard, because the Iranians are very suspicious of U.S. motivations, but I think a successor administration would be more successful. National Security Advisor John Bolton, he was a kind of supporter and advisor to this cult descent group, the MEK. He would go to their conventions, and he would express, he said, "The only way we can deal with the Irani problem is through the removal of the Iranian regime."

Robert Einhorn: The Iranian celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, and there was some event that Bolton was invited to and he said, "Let me speak directly to the Iranian government, you're not going to be able to enjoy many more anniversaries." Now, he said that, when he was serving National Security Advisor, which is a pretty good indication. So it would be impossible for the Trump administration to convey that we're not interested in regime change. But a successor, perhaps also, a successor would have to convey to the Iranians, but first to the negotiating partners. The Europeans, Russians and Chinese, that we are prepared to adopt much more reasonable negotiating positions on the nuclear issue.

Robert Einhorn: The Trump administration has taken the view, we should completely eliminate Iran's uranium enrichment program. Now, it'd be great if they would completely get rid of that, but we tried for years and years to do that, we didn't have the leverage to do that, we didn't have the leverage when we had the entire international community calling for that. Now, it's virtually impossible, we have to be more realistic about that, and on many other negotiating positions. We need to tell the Iranians, look, we're going to drive a hard bargain, you expect that, but we're prepared to accept an outcome that's consistent with your national interest. I think we can make that credible.

Robert Einhorn: Also, the Trump administration has taken the view all or nothing. We want a comprehensive deal, it's got to change his behavior across the board. Yes, we'd like them to change their behavior across the board, but there are things that the Trump administration is proposing, that they're just not going to do. The idea that we can have a comprehensive deal that covers 12 critical areas, it's not just feasible. What would happen is, we would forfeit the possibility of gaining a new nuclear deal, because we're holding it hostage to all kinds of other U.S. objectives, which may be worthy, but they're not going to be solved in the same timeframe, they're not going to be as easy to negotiate. They don't have the importance to our national security as a nuclear issue.

Robert Einhorn: So, a new administration should say, okay, we're not going to try for a big mega deal, a comprehensive deal. We're going to focus, like, the Obama administration did on the nuclear issue. We'll try to address these other problematic aspects of Iranian policy separately, but we're not going to try to negotiate an agreement that would do all that. Finally, I think a new administration has to tell the Iranians, look, we're not going to rely on pressure alone to deliver what we want from you. We understand, we have to offer you positive incentives. We want more than the JCPOA. We want some better inspection provisions, we want longer lasting arrangements than those that expire after 10 and 15 years.

Robert Einhorn: If we want more, we have to give more. We have to offer sanctions relief, and not just what the JCPOA sanctions relief provided, we have to go beyond that. The United States, since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, adopted a primary embargo on Iran. It prohibited U.S. individuals, U.S. companies from having anything to do with Iran, except in a narrow area of humanitarian trade. I think we have to say, look, we are prepared to put that on the table. We're prepared to relax these primary U.S. sanctions against Iran, but you have to do a lot more on the nuclear issue. I think that's very important.

Gary Samore: The irony is that President Trump is probably in a better position to actually implement your diplomatic strategy than a democratic administration. Because President Trump has a strong Republican base, the democrats will grumble and complain, but at the end of the day, they understand that the current agreement has some important limitations. Especially the expiration dates, and those need to be corrected as we move toward the time when Iran can expand its enrichment program under the current agreement. Of course, the big question mark with Trump is, because he's so unpredictable, and we know he's capable of very dramatic about faces.

Gary Samore: So, two years ago, he called Kim Jong Un little Rocket Man and threatened him with nuclear annihilation, now, he calls him my best friend, and he says they've fallen in love. So, can you imagine that? Looking at the North Korea episode, whatever it's accomplished, there's been a very dramatic shift in U.S. policy. Can you imagine President Trump having such a dramatic about face with President Rouhani? Or are the two situations so different that they're just not comparable?

Robert Einhorn: I can't even imagine it. I can't even imagine it. One big difference is that in the Middle East, the United States has friends, Israel, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Arab Emirates, who are dead set against reconciliation. You don't have that in northeast Asia, with North Korea.

Gary Samore: Just the opposite.

Robert Einhorn: Exactly, especially the current South Korean government wants to reconcile with the North. So I think there are strong inhibitions, also the American public. I don't think the American public has any particular strong feelings against North Koreans. They're kind of a weird hermit kingdom, but Iran is very different. Americans learned about Iran with the taking of the American hostages in 1979, and we've never forgotten that. That still conditions what many Americans see as the Islamic Republic.

Robert Einhorn: On top of that, North Korea, it's a kind of brutal regime internally, but since a few terrorist incidents, but long ago, it's not making that much trouble in its region. There were these terrible episodes with the sinking of the ship and the bombing of the island when Kim Jong Un first took over, but they're not a threat to regional security, at all. They're a problem.

Robert Einhorn: Iran is a metastatic threat to the Middle East, and it's considered a much more serious geopolitical problem than North Korea will ever be, despite the nuclear ambitions of both countries. So I just don't see Trump changing his tune. But I agree with you, it'd be great if he did, because in the next two years, if this impasse continues, things could get a lot hotter. Especially, if Iran decides to leave the JCPOA, and starts ramping up its nuclear program and heading toward a threshold nuclear weapons capability, I think things could get very difficult and the possibility of the use of force could be introduced, once again.

Robert Einhorn: So it'd be good if Trump saw the light and did something also. The Trump administration could clearly command sufficient domestic support as you pointed out, all Republicans seem prepared to fall in line with Trump policies. If he negotiated a reasonable deal with Iran, he'd have virtually all the Republican support, and while democrats would begrudge him, the political victory, they'd have no nowhere to go. They would have to recognize this is a positive development. So Trump could deliver much more than any conceivable democratic could deliver, but unfortunately, he's not going to deliver.

Gary Samore: I get the sense that Trump like your average American does have personal animosity toward Iran, which, he brings that to office. I think that's another factor that stands in the way of him showing the same kind of flexibility as he's shown toward North Korea. Although it is true that early on, as you know, in the first year of the Trump administration, they tried to arrange a meeting in New York, between President Trump and President Rouhani and it was the Iranians who backed out, because for Rouhani meeting with the devil is not a political advantage. But I wonder in hindsight whether some Iranians regret that they missed that opportunity, because who knows if that might have changed the course of history?

Robert Einhorn: Well, you know, after Trump and Kim Jung-un fell in love, and after the Singapore summit, when Trump came back and declared that North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat, and he agreed without telling the South Koreans or the Pentagon that we would suspend all joint military exercises with South Korea, some in Iran must have got the idea that this guy's a soft touch. We did the key here, don't negotiate with Pompeo, do what the North Koreans had done. Go right to the top, see if you can cut a deal with Trump. I'm sure they had that, but it's unlike in North Korea.

Robert Einhorn: If Kim Jong Un wants to do that he can do it, but if Rouhani wanted to sit down with Trump, he would have hardliners saying, this is treason, this is betrayal of the Islamic Republic. So it's much harder for him. But I'm sure, it must be occurred to them, let's try this out.

Gary Samore: So let's just play the scenario forward. Let's say that the democrats win in 2020, your argument is that the next democratic administration should use the leverage that President Trump has created in order to try to improve the agreement. In particular, to extend the expiration period for constraints on Iran's enrichment program. Of course, that's not what we're hearing from the candidates. The candidates are saying, on my first day in office, I'm going to rejoin the agreement.

Gary Samore: So let's talk about Iran's view toward what happens if they succeed in enduring the next two years, and they're confronted or they're presented with a new democratic administration that says, either I'm ready to rejoin the agreement. Let's forget about all the painful things in the past and restore the status quo ante. Or a new administration that plays hardball and says, I'd be happy to lift these new sanctions you've been suffering, but first, you got to agree to amend the agreement, and to strengthen its terms. How will the Iranians behave in that circumstance?

Robert Einhorn: The Iranians will rejoice over any democratic restoration in 2020, but they may be assuming too much. I think, it depends on what kind of a new democratic leadership they have. They may assume that a new Democrat is going to be without constraint and can go rejoin the JCPOA. I think it would be difficult for a Democrat, actually. Whatever the democrats said during the campaign about rejoining on day one, I think it might be difficult to do that. So they may be overestimating. But let's say they weren't, let's say a new Democrat came in and actually decided to bring the U.S. back into the JCPOA and decided to restore all the sanctions relief that Trump administration gave up.

Robert Einhorn: I think they would be really overjoyed with that, because I think it would be a mistake, I think we'd be giving up usable leverage to get a renewed nuclear bargain, a better nuclear bargain. I think it would harden their negotiating position. Look, the Iranians don't want a new nuclear deal, they went through several years of negotiations, they made what they consider to be strong, very important concessions. We complain that the expiration of key nuclear restrictions after 10 and 15 years is a terrible shortcoming. They wanted five years, their first position was, it all expires in three to five years, and then we negotiated them to 10, and 15.

Robert Einhorn: So they think they've already made major concessions, and they're expecting the JCPOA restrictions to expire, so they can build up their nuclear program as they have been planning to do. So if we give up the leverage got rid of all the reimposed sanctions, I think they'd be very happy. They would take a very tough position, and they basically, they'd say, if you want a new deal, if you want more, you're going to have to do a heck of a lot more, and they would probably have a price that we wouldn't be prepared to pay.

Gary Samore: So one more question, and then I'm going to open it up to the audience. The title of our talk is, Can Iran Be Stopped? By my count, Bob, we've worked on this problem for well over two decades, and I think we can take some pride in having slowed down the program and made it more difficult, more costly, we've obstructed, but at the end of the day, I have to say the Iranians have been pretty skillful and persistent. And through all the twists and turns, they've been able to creep closer and closer to a nuclear weapons capability. Both the ability to produce enriched uranium, they've now mastered gas centrifuge technology, and we know they've done very extensive work on the design and fabrication of nuclear weapons.

Gary Samore: For those of you who are not familiar, the archive that the Israeli government was able to steal from Tehran is a real treasure trove of interesting technical information on Iran's nuclear weapons program before it was suspended in 2003. So my question is, are we just buying time? Or do you see some way in which we could actually stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons? Or is this just an inevitable process of holding back the tide, and at the end of the day, we're going to get wet?

Robert Einhorn: I believe that an Iranian nuclear weapons capability is not inevitable. I am convinced as you are convinced that Iran had a dedicated nuclear weapons development program. We have very good intelligence on it, the nuclear archive captured by the Israelis demonstrates persuasively that they had a nuclear weapons development program. Where does that stand today? Well, in 2003, they made an interesting decision. There are three components of nuclear weapons program, one is the actual fabrication of a nuclear weapon device. The other is the production of the nuclear fuel, the highly enriched uranium, plutonium to go into that device and the third is the delivery system and missile delivery capability.

Robert Einhorn: So in 2003, they decided to suspend the weaponization program, the first of those three critical elements. Why did they do that? Well, the MEK had exposed the Natanz and Iraq, previously undeclared facilities, and that put them a bit on the defensive, but also the Bush administration had just invaded Iraq. If you remember in those days, the neoconservatives were saying, real men go to Tehran, Baghdad is not enough, real men go to Tehran.

Robert Einhorn: So, the Iranians may have thought they would be next on the hit parade, and they thought they need to keep a lower profile. So they suspended these weaponization efforts, while continuing with the acquisition of the infrastructure to produce missile material, continuing with their missile program. I think what they did at the time and this was in 2007, there was a famous National Intelligence estimate by our intelligence communities, they say, "We believe that Iran has genuinely suspended the weaponization, but it's kept its options open for the future."

Robert Einhorn: Now, we know that it's kept its options open for the future, it kept all the records if its nuclear weapons development program, stashed them away in secret, and giving them the option to resurrect those records and proceed. So I think what they did in 2003, was to defer a decision on whether to have nuclear weapons. I think that decision has continued to be deferred until this time. Then they have the JCPOA decision still deferred, they still want the capability after 10 and 15 years to ramp up their enrichment program if they need it. So they've kept their option open.

Robert Einhorn: Bibi Netanyahu believes that, they haven't kept their options open, merely, they have simply put this temporarily on the shelf. They've never given up their determination to have nuclear weapons, and only when the coast is clear, then they will go. I don't believe that. I think they've genuinely, not made up their mind yet, and I think their decision will depend on a range of considerations. How hostile is their environment? Do they think they need a nuclear weapon to deter the United States? How successful are they in pursuing their regional ambitions without nuclear weapons?

Robert Einhorn: If they're achieving the hegemony they want without nuclear, why would they go through the risk? I mean, the first time they were caught seeking nuclear weapons, they paid a huge price. Their economy was devastated. There were some prospect of military attacks against them. So, there'd be huge risks in doing that. What are their relations with their neighbors? There are a whole range of considerations. I think an Iranian decision on whether to have nuclear weapons is still to be made in the future. I think we can affect that decision, and I think a positive thing we could do about affecting that decision, is having a renewed nuclear bargain that extends these expiration dates on their nuclear restrictions longer and getting them to put off that decision far in the future.

Gary Samore: Thank you, Bob. Okay, I want to turn out to the audience. So who would like to? Yes, Alex.

Alex: Thank you so much for coming to speak. I was wondering if at one time or another, Iran does manage to develop a nuclear weapon. Do you see any possibility of a response from Israel, Saudi Arabia or the UAE that's non military?

Robert Einhorn: That is non military?

Alex: Yeah.

Robert Einhorn: First, let's go to the military, because that's the most likely. Iran currently has all of its nuclear facilities under IAEA supervision. If they were seen at some... under the JCPOA, after spending 15 years, they could legitimately build those up, but they would still be IAEA supervision. Now, if sometime in the future, they've got a large scale enrichment program so big, that if they decided to break out, they could have nuclear weapons in couple of weeks, that would be a real problem. that's what we're trying to avoid now. But if we detected them breaking out, trying to divert enriched uranium from one of their facilities, if we discovered some covert facility with the centrifuges, with an enrichment program. I have no doubt, if we had clear evidence of a breakout to nuclear weapons, the United States would use military force to stop them.

Robert Einhorn: People thought that Obama would never use military force, but he wasn't going to use military force against a relatively small enrichment program that had a ostensible civil nuclear ambition, and he wasn't close to breaking out to nuclear weapons. I'm convinced that even Obama, if he had seen a genuine nuclear breakout to nuclear weapons, would have used military force. I have no doubt that the Israelis who were interested in using military force, back in the Obama period, if there were unambiguous signals, a breakout to nuclear weapons, the Israelis would go after their nuclear installations.

Robert Einhorn: I don't even think it would get to the point that you're talking about. So how do you use non nuclear? If I saw early evidence that the Iranians were building up, they weren't at the threshold, but let's say they left the JCPOA, and they were moving pretty rapidly to add to their enrichment capability, and we were getting worried about where they were going. I could see the use of very strong economic pressures. Secondary sanctions against any company around the world that had any dealings with Iran. As a warning, you got to stop this now, or we're really going to devastate your economy.

Robert Einhorn: So I think those non nuclear measures might work in that situation, but if they've gotten to the point where they're on the verge of producing enough highly enriched uranium for nuclear bomb, I think all bets are off and military force would be used. I don't know if you disagree, Gary.

Gary Samore: Well, I think that we... my belief is the same as Bob's, that the Iranian decision to stop the nuclear weapons program in 2003, was fundamentally out of fear that the U.S. was going to attack them. Whether true or not, I think they believed that they ran a very high risk of a U.S. attack unless they conceded and accepted constraints on the program. So I think the subtext to the Iranian calculation about their nuclear program has to do a lot with their estimate of how likely it is that the U.S. or Israel will take military action against them. They try to calibrate their nuclear program in order to creep forward, gradually accumulate capability, but without triggering an attack. They make a calculation, and that's why their program has been so cautious.

Gary Samore: The Iranians could have moved forward from a technical standpoint, they could have moved forward much more quickly than they have. The reason they haven't, I think, is because of fear, of triggering an attack. So one question I have is whether the U.S. still has the same kind of implied military threat that we had, well, ever since 1991. When we intervened in the Middle East in a very dramatic way to reverse the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. There was a double effect. On one hand, it made the Iranians much more worried and made the argument for acquiring nuclear weapons much stronger. On the other hand, the fact that the U.S. was in the region in a major way with overwhelming conventional force made the Iranians much more cautious about proceeding in that direction.

Gary Samore: I don't know the extent to which the combination of Iraq and Afghanistan has blunted any implicit credibility of U.S. military force. I think Israel still has a strong, credible military forces, they've done twice already to attack their neighbor's nuclear facilities.

Robert Einhorn: And they've done 200 times or so to attack Syrian supply, missile related and rocket related equipment in Syria. So the credibility that Israel would use force, it doesn't need to be reinforced.

Gary Samore: I mean, the question there is not will, it's capacity. It's one thing for Israel to bomb their near neighbors, Syria, where they have a free hand, but to bomb Iran effectively, that's not so easy for Israel, the U.S. could do it. So I think a problem for the next administration and for Trump, too, because I think there are questions about his willingness to use force in the Middle East. Is that because we Americans are sick and tired of fighting in the Middle East. That is going to weaken our capacity to influence Iran's decisions about its nuclear program? Yes, Nagma.

Nagma: Thank you. I have two questions. One, I'm just curious, because you guys [inaudible 00:50:06] in this process for a while, I was wondering whether you can do a analysis of U.S. assumptions about Iranian behavior, that in the process of negotiating with Iranians, you realized there were fundamental natural misunderstandings within the United States. Were there points in which you were like, that you were surprised that the understanding that the U.S. had of Iranian domestic politics didn't match what you were saying. So I was wondering if you can talk about a couple of those places that you guys were caught, basically, surprised, and needed to kind of do a revision of that.

Nagma: The second question is, you talk about 2020, can you guys talk a little bit about what would happen if there is no change in government in 2020? I do not feel comfortable assuming that it will change.

Gary Samore: No, I don't either. Bob, you go first, let me...

Nagma: [crosstalk 00:51:07] if the Trump administration goes into a second term. Can I just add to that? Part of the reason I'm asking is that, I do think there's a little bit of an assumption here. Which is, as if the motivations for coming to the table for Iran, even if there is a change in government, after having put up with sanctions for three years, which is by the time the changes happen, would have been three years. Hand in hand with the JCPOA not being dead, right? So, this is not the case of before 2015, as we know. There is some kind of deal with the Europeans. So I think in three years, the Iranians could quite reasonably come to the understanding that, we survived it and there's no system for us to continue surviving it and I imagine that if you were to add four more years to those three years, you'll have seven years. So what do things look like at the end?

Robert Einhorn: On 2020, if there's another four years of Trump, but this is going to be very depressing for the Iranians, because they're going to see a continuation of the harsh sanctions in the effort to get rid of the regime with it. At some point, bring them to the point where they have to swallow their opposition to dealing with Trump and to sit down and negotiate. Who knows, I tend to doubt that, I think it would depend on where the Trump administration itself got frustrated with an impasse and felt it had to moderate its position somehow. But I don't feel good about this scenario. I think it could lead to very hard sanctions, instability, maybe even the use of military force. I don't think that's very good.

Robert Einhorn: Excellent question about U.S. government assumptions about Irani behavior, Iranian domestic pressures, and so forth. We've tended to make assumptions, based on conventional wisdom about where Iran is coming from. A lot of it is based on bias about the regime. I've always felt uncomfortable with the assumptions that we've made about Iran and where it's going. I don't know if you recall, Gary, any surprises we had in those assumption? I'll tell you, one surprise I had, one pleasant surprise I had, was in June 2013.

Robert Einhorn: I didn't think a non hardliner was going to be become president of Iran. I thought, actually, I left the U.S. government in the beginning of June 2013, because I was convinced some hardliner was going to become president. The Iran nuclear negotiations had no future, I might as well leave now. Then two weeks later, Rouhani become president and then things really picked up. I don't think we really understood what was going on. It always surprises us, when you have these mass protests over the last year. You've seen tremendous discontent, with the economy and the plight of average citizens and protests all over the country. I don't know that we predict that at all. I don't have a good feeling that we really know what's going on.

Gary Samore: I'm very confident we don't know what's going on. I think the U.S. government record in analyzing and assessing Iran's domestic politics is terrible. As Bob says, everybody in the U.S. government, people who are paid to follow domestic politics, everybody thought Jalili was going to win, and nobody expected Rouhani to win. My personal sort of epiphany is that, I used to think that you had to take what the supreme leader said, seriously. Now, I know that he postures just like other Iranian leaders. So during the nuclear negotiations, he laid down his red lines, remember? And one red line was Iran had to have 50000 SWU, which is a way of measuring enrichment. 50000 SWU, that was the only deal that was acceptable.

Gary Samore: I said, once I saw that official pronouncement from the Supreme Leader, I said, there's never going to be a deal, because I know the U.S. will never agree to that. But it turns out that the Supreme Leader's statements were ignored, and the final deal accepted-

Robert Einhorn: 6,000 SWU, basically 6,000. Another thing I do remember the leader laid down a public edict, we're not going to negotiate bilaterally with Americans, we're not going to do this. While he was saying that, and still saying that, I and some colleagues, under Secretary Bill Burns, and some colleagues met in Muscat, the capital of Oman for secret negotiations with the Irani, bilateral negotiations. They went to him, and they said, "Is this okay?" And he said, "Yes, it's okay." They persuaded him that they needed to do that, and he gave it, but you really can tell what is a irreversible edict, and what and what isn't.

Gary Samore: On the question about Trump, it's hard for me, like Bob, it's hard for me to imagine the Trump administration shifting to a more pragmatic policy that tries to use the leverage to pursue much more realistic objectives. For all the reasons that Bob mentioned. It's also hard for me to imagine the Iranians will continue to endure this punishment without some response. I think sooner or later, there will be a strong argument in Iran that the only way to put pressure on the U.S. and to strengthen their own bargaining position is to slowly unwind the constraints on their nuclear program. They'll do it cautiously, because they don't want to provoke a war, but I can easily imagine them beginning to walk away from those limits.

Speaker 5: The use of the words, it's hard for me to imagine, when it comes to the Trump administration-

Robert Einhorn: Nothing is hard to imagine.

Gary Samore: I just think, yes, it could happen, and also, I think that Iran's calculation about the risk of war, if they walk away from the JCPOA, it may diminish. If Netanyahu is no longer Prime Minister, they may perceive that the new government in Israel is less enthusiastic about going to war. As Trump begins to withdraw the U.S. from the Middle East, Syria and Afghanistan, they may perceive that they have a little bit more latitude for reviving their nuclear program without triggering a conflict with the United States. So my prediction for the second term, if Trump is elected, as that the JCPOA will fall apart.

Speaker 5: Gary, can I just [inaudible 00:58:30], there was never, ever enthusiasm in Israel for going to war with Iran. There was support for taking out some nuclear facilities. One of the debates between the Israeli and the American, was on the slippage to the use of war. The Israeli said, "Well, we did what we did in Iraq, we did what we did in Syria, we didn't end up in war, why do you insist consistently to call it war?

Gary Samore: You're right. When I said war, I meant military action, and the enthusiasm in Jerusalem was mainly for the U.S. to attack Iran. That was the preferred option, which they hope, at least the Prime Minister hope would lead to a true war and the overthrow of the Iranian regime.

Speaker 5: Maybe, although, you can't say [inaudible 00:59:16].

Gary Samore: Yes.

Speaker 6: Thank you so much for coming, thank you [inaudible 00:59:22], and thank you Professor [Sarabi 00:59:25] for asking my question so much better than I could. Aside from that, I have a question about the assumptions that the U.S. government makes about domestic politics in Iran. In the sense of what's going to happen in Iran. Elaborate a little bit more on that. I think the impact that the U.S. withdrawal from the deal has had on domestic politics on Iran is somewhat overlooked. Because, and this is an oversimplification of calling them all the moderates, but the moderates of Rouhani government, their only campaign promise that they did deliver was these negotiations, the JCPOA was the only thing that they have to boast about.

Speaker 6: Now, they have a far less strong argument against the hardliners to basically do whatever they want to do, including campaigning for next elections in Iraq. So in that scenario, what if a hardliner in Iran becomes president? What if you have a majority of the Iranians supporting that because again, another thing that... I was reading some reports saying that one of the reasons that the supreme leader showed some softness about negotiations with the U.S. was the public support for, the Iranian population support for negotiations. The public's frustration with the situation that, non negotiating was bringing about. Now, the public is not as strongly supportive, as they used to be, and this could make the hardliners even stronger in their sense, and also give them a stronger argument.

Robert Einhorn: I agree with your point. I agree with your analysis. There's no question that the U.S. withdraw from the JCPOA has weakened the moderates. Already, the moderates who are on the defensive, because even with the U.S. in the JCPOA, it wasn't delivering the economic benefits that they believed they were entitled to. International banks and businesses were still excessively cautious about dealing with Iran. They were already under siege, because the benefits they promised, and Rouhani did promise these benefit, didn't materialize.

Robert Einhorn: Now, that the U.S. has withdrawn reimposed all the sanctions, and they're still abiding by the nuclear restrictions. The hardliners are saying, "What kind of wimps are you? How can you take this sitting down? Enough is enough." I think one of the only thing that's holding them back is the recognition that if they do leave and begin building up their nuclear program, things could get worse economically. There could be, there's a presidential election coming up, there parliamentary elections coming up, and the hardliners could even strengthen their position in these elections. But they would be confronted with the same reality that, if they acted provocatively, they could be subject to worse economic pressures and potentially even military force. So, we'll see. The moderates may be under greater internal pressure to leave the JCPOA than the hardliners who could withstand pressure from their own colleagues.

Gary Samore: Is there anything a new U.S. administration can do to reassure Iran that this time we're serious, and we're not going to walk away from the agreement? The next election?

Robert Einhorn: So much trust has been destroyed, that it's hard to rebuild that. In a monograph that we're going to be putting out next week at Brookings...

Gary Samore: I hope you all picked up the flier.

Robert Einhorn: ... we suggest that, unlike the JCPOA, a renewed nuclear bargain should try to get congressional approval for a legally binding measure. The JCPOA, it's called the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action. It's a program of action.

Gary Samore: Plan of action.

Robert Einhorn: I'm sorry, a plan of action. It's our plan. It's the Iranian plan, which we happen to agree upon for the time being. We're under no legal obligation to do that, we can walk away without any legal consequence as the Trump administration has done. Now, it would be perhaps more durable and more domestically sustainable, to have an agreement that could win the support of the Congress. It wouldn't guarantee the sustainability. The Trump administration just walked away from the INF Treaty, in 2002, walked away from the ABM Treaty.

Robert Einhorn: So even if you have a treaty, approved by two thirds of the Senate, it doesn't guarantee it. I would try to get, not a treaty, but a congressional executive agreement, it's called, that would be approved by the Congress with simple majorities in both the House and the Senate. Trump, if he prepared to change his stripes, could definitely get support. He'd get all the republicans and more than half the Democrats. A Democrat would have a harder time, a democrat would find it impossible to get two thirds. Whether a democrat could eke out a simple majority in both houses, I don't know, but it might convince the Iranians that this is more durable than the JCPOA. More likely that after a presidential transition, that the deal would be kept. It's worth a try.

Gary Samore: Yes, Marian.

Marian: I was wondering, what do you think this would be about, the effect of the prior situation, the enactment of the prior situation where Iran is kind of deterring a serious military or any other kind of red light staying in the deal by observing the nuclear limitations. But bearing economic sanctions, or [inaudible 01:06:08] there are, we keep a lot of advantage by bypassing "the sanctions." Which are limited, yet destroying the economy, but it's raising a lot of [inaudible 01:06:24] who are arguably connected to the Arab [inaudible 01:06:30]. So, I was wondering if that's actually the thing that's keeping Iran in this seemingly disadvantaged position?

Robert Einhorn: That's one of the factors, I think, during the earlier stage of sanctions, before the JCPOA, it was clear that the RAGC related organizations were reaping the benefits of black market operations. They did pretty well. That's a minority, but it's a very important minority. I don't think it's sufficient to keep Iran in the JCPOA indefinitely. I think at a certain point pressures could build up too much. But I think it's one of the factors, which kind of sustains the fragile status quo for a while.

Marian: [inaudible 01:07:30].

Robert Einhorn: I think, in general, the hardliners believe the Iranians shouldn't sit still for keeping in the nuclear deal, while the Americans have walked away. The Iranians insisted on not, this is back in 2015, not actually ratifying, according to their parliament, their modulus, ratifying it until the U.S. Congress made clear that they were not going to block it, because they didn't want to be bound by the JCPOA if the United States was not. So they promised, if the U.S. leaves, we leave, but they haven't, and the hardliners resent that.

Gary Samore: Shai.

Shai: Go ahead.

Nagma: I was just going to pick up on-

Gary Samore: Yeah, please Nagma, go ahead, let's follow that conversation.

Nagma: I just want to follow that up. I think the issue here is, I think what I want to learn from my last question and Christine's question is, to what did we have the terms of engagement radically shifted, while our analysis is still in a pre JCPOA analysis of the situation. Just to pick up on this point, for example, who are these hardliners as this pay more for school of people, but if this group is benefiting from something that is 2015, to use your example, they have no idea it was going to benefit them. So since 2015, three, four years has passed, if that group has been enriching itself, has its incentives to behave in the ways that we think it's still behaving, not changed.

Nagma: To add on to that in terms of public pressure, I'm wondering to what degree the very smart and hear domestic [inaudible 01:09:32] becomes supremely important, because to what degree has a very smart anti corruption campaign of the Rouhani government made it so that the population does not believe the sanctions are what are causing their situation, but actually government corruption. So, there's no internal pressure to change the sanctions behavior, there is pressure on the government and right now, prisons in Iran are actually full of petty corrupt criminals. So, they're not even going after going after the ones.

Nagma: So, it seems to go kind of at this point that the situation has changed enough so that pressure points that we assumed pre deal to have been pressure points, may have changed so that they are no longer pressure points. So what does that do to deter the analysis of, what's going to bring Iranians to the table?

Robert Einhorn: You clearly have greater insights into Iranian domestic politics and pressures than I do, I found that a very interesting analysis. That it is true that, the government, many in the government are trying to shift the impact of the hardships on the United States, but actually, many people believe that the source is internal and the corruption and the mismanagement and all of that. Whether that changes the dynamics of the pressure, it could, I just don't know. You would, I'm sure, understand this better than I do.

Gary Samore: So, is your point Nagma, that the Iranians may be much more tolerant of the status quo than we anticipate, and perhaps they're even willing to wait another four or five, six years?

Robert Einhorn: Because the problems are their own. They're in their own making.

Gary Samore: Yeah, could be.

Nagma: [crosstalk 01:11:19] we need to not use this time [inaudible 01:11:22] perspective, to wonder, maybe our options are not the same.

Gary Samore: My personal view is, it's going to be very hard to save the JCPOA. For a variety of reasons, including the loss of trust, but also, if the new U.S. administration tries to revive the terms of the agreement. I think that's going to be an awfully difficult diplomatic task unless we get really strong international support. That has to include the Russians, Chinese and Europeans. I think we can get the Europeans on board, but to get the Russians and Chinese on board in the context of overall relations between the U.S. and those countries, that's going to be a real challenge for the next U.S. administration. Or for the Trump administration if they decide to pursue a different approach.

Gary Samore: Shai, did you?

Shai: Yeah. I found this exchange actually quite fascinating, kind of an observer from the side about this, is that, it seems though, that backed with certain assumptions about Iran has been disproven, doesn't deter us to continue [inaudible 01:12:42] of Iran. So that's just kind of an observation. So I wanted to ask you, actually about three questions. Wondering about the history part of it. In terms of the archive, my question is this, we understand that the archive didn't change the fundamental story. They had a weaponization program until 2003, and they more or less stopped the weaponization program. But did we learn something from the archive? In the sense that, did our portrait of how far advanced they were on the eve of 2003 change, and does that have implications for what we can anticipate, in fact, if they do decide to go longer abide by the JCPOA, in terms of how fast they can move to weaponization.

Shai: Has any of this affected our assessment, do you want me to take [crosstalk 01:13:48].

Gary Samore: Yeah, why don't you do that?

Shai: So, the second one actually has to do with the [inaudible 01:13:55] which is JCPOA. We have people supporting the JCPOA, people opposed to JCPOA. I think that the real challenge in terms of defending the JCPOA, is that strata of people that I may associate myself with. Who generally work the [inaudible 01:14:18] of the ideal getting through a JCPOA and generally seeking support of the JCPOA. But looking at the actual terms of the JCPOA, I wonder whether this was not a case where the actual negotiator, by that time, the Obama administration was very, very successful in the effort that Gary and you orchestrated in terms of giving the administration very strong powers.

Shai: There were things about the JCPOA that was surprising, in relation to it's strong power to [inaudible 01:14:51]. Especially, I would say, the last minute concessions on conventional weapons, where did that come from? That wasn't clear to, at least, to somebody like myself. So that's my second question. My third question, what I don't understand is, the situation right now, especially as far as the Iranian access to hard currency based on oil sales. So if it went from two and a half million to 1 million, and yet there isn't a significant drop in India's purchases, we know where the Chinese and the Russians are, where did this a million and a half get lost? Who's no longer buying Iranian oil that bought it during the first two years after the JCPOA was signed?

Robert Einhorn: On the first, did we learn anything from the archive that makes us more concerned about Iranian breakout or less concerned? Now, I'm going to leave that to Gary, who's spoken, a colleague from Belfer Center, Matt Bunn was recently in Israel, I guess, and saw the archive and maybe conveyed some of his conclusions to Gary. Did we leave anything on the table? Your second question, did we have more leverage than we effectively used in the negotiations?

Robert Einhorn: I've often thought about that. I was involved in the concluding phase of the negotiations, but I wouldn't say this in a truly public forum, with a lot of journalists there, but I believe John Kerry was a bit too enthusiastic for a deal, too impatient to get to it. Some of my Republican friends said that they would gladly support the deal, if it had been negotiated by Jim Baker. That he would have rung the very last ounce of leverage out of it. The so-called sunset provisions, the exploration of key nuclear restrictions after eight years, 10 years, 15 years, it was a compromise.

Robert Einhorn: We started out with 15 or 20 years, the Iranian started at three to five years, and we came up with 10 to 15 years. Could the restrictions have been more durable? Perhaps. Could the timelines for AIEA access to suspect facilities been shorter? Perhaps. I don't think John Kerry was terribly concerned with these details at, however, let me say that this much in his defense, I think the improvements from the Kerry agreement to the Baker agreement would have been marginal. I think there was certain basic things that wouldn't have been changed. They are not gonna give up enrichment. They would insist it on a capability, as it was, you know, the reduction of their enrichment capability was quite dramatic. You know, they guide at, you know, 97% of the [inaudible 01:18:22] radium was out from 19,000 to 6,000 centrifuges. I mean, it's quite extraordinary. So I ... most concerned about sunsets, but I think the differences would have been marginal. Where did the 1.5 million barrels go to?

Robert Einhorn: Europe? Cut way back, Japan, South Korea, and the other country? You know, I think China reduce somewhat, probably India reduce somewhat, Turkey reduce somewhat. So it makes you know, it makes up a lot. But I think this, those were the EC barrels, the 1 million, those are going to be really hard barrels to remove from the market.

Gary Samore: So on the question about the archives, of course, they haven't been completely studied. But my understanding from people who've been briefed on them, and who've at least looked at some of the documents is that we now have much more confidence than we did before that Iran had completed a design of a nuclear weapon based in part on more extensive foreign assistance than we had previously realized from individual Russian nuclear weapons scientists. And as it's been described, to me, the Iranians had come up with a pretty intelligent and advanced nuclear weapons design, which they then were planning to build five copies of it and test one. So to me, the implication of that is that it makes limit on Iranian ability to produce or acquire weapons grade uranium, all that more important.

Gary Samore: So the main hurdle to Iran having a nuclear weapon is no longer the design and fabrication of the device itself, it's the prevention of their ability to produce weapons grade uranium, and that's why the sunset clause in the JCPOA is so important, 'cause I think once Iran is free from those constraints, and is able to expand its enrichment program under IAEA safeguards, it creates so many options to either break out or to divert material and build secret facilities. I'm, I mean, Bob says a final decision has been made. I think, with the current crop of leaders, I think the temptation to build nuclear weapons if they think they can get away with it, and if they have the technical capacity is going to be too hard to resist, just given their worldview. So I think we, even if we're just buying time, and maybe buying time until there's new leadership in Iran, it's worth doing it. Because I don't have any confidence the current crowd won't take advantage of the opportunity if it's presented to them.

Gary Samore: Yes, sir.

Speaker 9: Thank you very much for [inaudible 01:21:20] I'm so excited to be here. One quick question [inaudible 01:21:28]

Robert Einhorn: The Iranian certainly say, the U.S. is in violation of that. [inaudible 01:22:14]. Yeah. The dirty little secret is that U.S. administration's don't necessarily see U.N. Security Council resolutions as legally binding on the United States, if it is not been approved by the U.S. Congress. That's the reality. So when Javad Zarif talks about US violations, basically, the administration just ignores it. It doesn't want to come out and say we don't consider a Security Council resolutions to be legally binding because, you know, that wouldn't be a very popular sentiment. But that's the reality. That's the reality.

Speaker 9: Thank you. But [inaudible 01:23:00] have a very interesting article on [inaudible 01:23:04].

Robert Einhorn: I know that.

Speaker 9: But my other question is about the archive which was mentioned over here. Archive, of course, is a treasure trove. [inaudible 01:23:09].[inaudible 01:23:09] what is in your archive that wasn't beyond the responsive and military preventions [inaudible 01:23:29]. [inaudible 01:23:36]

Gary Samore: So when I was in the government, we had very compelling documentation that convinced me that Iran had a comprehensive, dedicated nuclear weapons program and the period from about 1999 until 2003. But I never got a good answer to the question, how far did they get? Because the information we had acquired, and this was during the Bush administration was a bit, it was fragmentary. It wasn't a comprehensive catalog of all the experimentation and work that was being done. I think the archives answer that question about how far were they in a much more compelling way, and as I said, I think we can now say, with confidence that Iran had a relatively sophisticated nuclear design, certainly better than the design they bought from AQ con years earlier, and that they were well on their way to being able to practice the fabrication of the key components for that design. So in my view, there's no longer a roadblock or significant hurdle for Iran to produce nuclear weapons except for access to weapons grade facade material.

Gary Samore: In a second, Christie. Yes.

Speaker 10: How confident are you that the Iranians are not totally currently [inaudible 01:25:15].

Robert Einhorn: I guess I wouldn't, I wouldn't stake my life on it. But the U.S. intelligence community has not, you know, and they have very good access to all sources of information. And they have no indication of that, you know, the Iranians don't have a very good track record of keeping undeclared facilities secret. This dissident cult group, the MEK added the Natanz and Iraq, facilities of plutonium production reactor and an enrichment facility in 2002, Western intelligence agencies discovered this Fordow enrichment facility. So, you know, their track record isn't good, and they have inside Iran, it's not just the MEK, they have other groups that could conceivably be sources of leaked information. And I think they probably have a very healthy respect for Western intelligence, especially U.S. and Israeli intelligence, especially Israeli after they snatching of the archive from downtown Tehran.

Robert Einhorn: So I mean, I think the likelihood is, is low. They had every, I think they had a lot of incentives to abide by the JCPOA, I thought they saw real penalties and real gains to be lost if they were caught in violation of the JCPOA, and the JCPOA provided more intrusive verification that had ever existed before. So they would have had to plan it, you know, plan 15, 20 years ago, some hideaway where they were doing, you know, secret stuff. But we don't see any evidence of that.

Gary Samore: So I agree with what Bob said, but I also think that one of Iran's options in the future is to restart a covert program, if they decide that the risk and penalty of overtly leaving the JCPOA is too high, but they want to prepare themselves and feel they're justified and violating the agreements since the U.S. has already walked away from it. I could imagine them miscalculating and trying to restart once again, a covert program. I think we the U.S. and our allies have extremely good intelligence capability, and we would have a fairly good chance of catching them, especially building covert facilities to produce facade material which are much harder to hide, then, you know weaponization programs. But I wouldn't be terribly surprised if you know, four or five years from now, it becomes public that we've had once again caught Iran cheating. And you can be sure that if the U.S. or Israel or any other country finds them cheating, it's going to become public. This is information that will, you know, have such political value that you'll read about it in the New York Times.

Robert Einhorn: Let me just let me just add to that a covert nuclear weapons program does not involve a single facility. Yes, you probably can build an underground enrichment facility small and keep it hidden successfully. But to have a successful covert program, you have to have undetected sources of uranium or undetected sources of yellowcake a uranium conversion facility. You have to ... there are many pieces to a successful covert program, you have to detect, all you have to do is detect one of them, or the transportation of equipment and materials for one to the other.

Robert Einhorn: So I think it's a challenge to have a successful covert program, especially at a time when the IAEA is, you know, very effectively monitoring all declared facilities, all sources of uranium or you can or uranium gas or anything like that. They are now under safeguards very difficult to hide them away. So it's a challenge. I don't doubt Gary's assessment that they someone's gonna be thinking about it, someones gonna maybe even, you know, recommend it, but I think it's a challenge today.

Gary Samore: Yeah.

Speaker 10: [inaudible 01:29:46] strict access to the military base so [inaudible 01:29:50].

Robert Einhorn: Yeah, it's that's a, I think JCPOA critics have this wrong. The, the inspection arrangements of the JCPOA allow the IAEA to seek access to any facility in the country with a suspected violation is being carried out. There's no restriction. The Iranians like to say, Oh, they, you know, military facilities are off limits, but that's simply not true, and the person who is in charge of doing the inspections, the head of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano says over and over again, there is no restriction. We can go to any kind of facility, military or otherwise, that we believe that we have reason to believe a violation is being carried out.

Robert Einhorn: Yes, Christie.

Christie: So I can't help but notice a lot of gravitation of certain things, in the discussions. One of them is mistrust. One of them is conceptions, whether misconceptions or true assumptions. My question is, assuming that we attempt to get to a point that the world is a safer place, the world is a more peaceful place. How much would you think that a bottom up approach, because we're always talking top down, we're talking about diplomatic negotiations at the highest level, in order to get to that point where the world is a more peaceful place? How much would you think a bottom up approach, regarding cooperation between Iran and the West at large, Iran and the US, in particular, would help this and how much do you think that positive spillovers of cooperation at a, surface level maybe ... could actually contribute to this building the cross this exchange of information, and eventually having a more open negotiation when it gets to the top?

Robert Einhorn: This a deeply philosophical question. But look, I think, bottom up people to people exchanges, cultural exchanges, student exchanges, all of that is very positive, to break out break down barriers of mistrust. The starting point today is two countries with thoroughly antagonistic relationships with one another where, you know, the American public is very, very skeptical about Iran's intentions. You know, Iran used to be next Israel, the most pro-American country, in the Middle East, if you know, public, especially young people, I've seen recent polls, where that popularity has taken a sharp, sharp, decrease, even among young people who are the people who we're most willing to, you know, give the Americans the benefit of the doubt.

Robert Einhorn: So I think from today's starting point, it's very hard. I mean, you still have Iran's elite you know, chanting Death to America, you have the people chanting death to America. It's in today's environment is very hard to see a bottom up approach working. I think they have to have signals from the top. And they're getting the, they're not getting those signals, today. You have a Trump administration, who's a rabidly anti-American...

Robert Einhorn: Rabidly anti-Iran, you know, totally antagonistic toward everything Iranian. So it's really hard to imagine, bottom up today. It's a good idea, but just not the right environment.

Gary Samore: Yes, Ma'am.

Speaker 12: So I'm [inaudible 01:34:00] this section and at one point, the responses to one of the earlier question, is that minus culture, political information that one of [inaudible 01:34:11] let [inaudible 01:34:12] was, can be news to you ,and that suggests that there's some [siloing 01:34:17] of information. We've been talking mostly about the [inaudible 01:34:22] issues, but with the cultural political information is [inaudible 01:34:27]. And what structures require [inaudible 01:34:31] more of the kinds of work? What kinds of structure would help you [inaudible 01:34:37]. Must be somewhere else.

Robert Einhorn: Well, the U.S. bureaucracy has been notoriously, you know, siloed off, you know, one discipline from another, I think they've gotten a lot better at that. I know that when Gary and I were in government, they had an Iran mission manager who tried to integrate all of these sources of information, try to give us an understanding, as imperfect as it was, that what's going on in Iranian society. I'm doubting that that kind of information today is getting transferred across these boundaries. I don't think the White House, for example, I can't imagine it's terribly receptive to information that goes against certain biases about Iran and Iranian societies. I know, you know, President Obama, and Gary's worked very closely with President Obama, he would be receptive to any sources of information, he was just he vacuumed up all information that he could get his hands on. The current incumbent is not the same glutton for for information is as Obama.

Gary Samore: I mean, the only thing I would add is, I think the hostility between the U.S. and the Iranian government, since the revolution in 1979, has really limited our ability to understand Iran. And we don't have diplomats serving there, we don't have the same kind of exchange programs, academic and cultural exchange programs. It's very hard to find specialists in the U.S. government who even speak Farsi, and therefore at least have that insight. So we've ... now I don't know, on the Iranian side, it may be similar, although they have plenty of people who get educated in the United States, and so they may be understand our culture better than we understand theirs, but I think there were a very powerful structural reasons why, you know, we don't understand Iran.

Gary Samore: I also think it's a notoriously opaque political system. It's very complicated and convoluted and mysterious, even for Iranians don't understand what's going on inside their own country. So it's not an easy country to understand. It's not like North Korea, right, which is relatively straightforward. You have one guy who makes the key decisions. Iran is very, very obscure, the decision making process, and I think it lends itself to misunderstanding, maybe, in some ways, it's designed for that purpose.

Robert Einhorn: I think, one of the losses of U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA it eliminated any channels of communication between the United States and Iran? You know, the channels weren't great under the JCPOA, but we had, you know, Secretary Kerry had more contact with his counterpart than with any other foreign minister. When remember, there was this the capture of 10 American Seaman by the IRGC Navy, and John Kerry got on the phone with his counterpart, and he resolved it within 24 hours. I think it's unfortunate that we don't have those channels of communication. It was clearly the hope of the Obama administration that over time, the JCPOA would lead to a moderation in Iranian policies in the region.

Robert Einhorn: I don't know if that was under the current Islamic Republic regime, how much that is possible, but I think there would be opportunities to to explore that. If the Middle East is going to be a more stable place in the future, there's going to have to be some dialogue between the main antagonists between Iran and Saudi Arabia, you know, maybe a modus vivendi has to be established that at some point, you know, even conceivably, between Iran and Israel, that's more hard to, to imagine. But I really regret that these channels have been broken off, because we don't understand, it's better to sit down with the Iranians, and try to see if there is some convergence of interests. And you know, that's gone for, you know, for the foreseeable future.

Gary Samore: First Mansor.

Mansor: Thank you very much for [inaudible 01:39:48]. [inaudible 01:39:48], the increasing of the trade from [inaudible 01:39:48]. [inaudible 01:39:48]that lead Iran in Mediterranean Sea and also another contract that lead [inaudible 01:39:59]. [crosstalk 01:39:59].

Robert Einhorn: He's talking about Iranian Iraqian relations.

Mansor: [inaudible 01:40:02] Iran [inaudible 01:40:08].

Gary Samore: Right, so it's sort of Iran advancement in the major.

Robert Einhorn: Yeah.

Gary Samore: Thank you.

Robert Einhorn: Iran has always, that always I mean, Iran Iraq war, but since then Iran has made an effort to, bring Iraq more under its fear of influence with its Shiite majority population. It made great gains in this regard. When Iranian supported Shia militia played a major role in helping rid Iraq of ISIS. I think the Iraqi government was very grateful for that, and it's solidified Iran's influence in Iraq. It didn't help when President Trump was recently in Iraq, and he spoke to American military forces, and he talked about the importance of keeping this beautiful American base in western Iraq, so is to watch over Iran. That was an incredibly stupid thing to say.

Robert Einhorn: Nothing could have, you know, generated a stronger backlash among Iraqis than the idea that we using Iraqi territory to fight our battles with, you know, the government that has such, you know, important relations with Iraq. So, no, I think it's worse Iran's relationship in Iraq is very worrisome that the Trump administration is trying to compete with that. But especially with the draw down at U.S. forces, I think this 5,000 U.S. troops remaining, and it's kind of a hard part, and hard power influence, whereas Iran soft power, influence in Iraq is so much greater. I think they have inherited advantages in dealing with Iraq, I think it's going to be hard for us to compete.

Gary Samore: I would just add one thing that to the extent that Iran's interest in nuclear weapons was motivated by concern about Iraq, which after all was pursuing a very aggressive nuclear weapons program under Saddam Hussein, and concerned about U.S. military threats. I think the urgency of those security concerns have been diminished. Because a rock no longer faces ... no longer presents a security threat to Iran, in part because the country has been, you know, virtually destroyed after the U.S. invasion and occupation, will be many years before Iraq has a strong central government. And as Bob says, Iran has been able to establish very strong political and economic and, you know, religious presence in Iraq, that will make it difficult for any future Iraqi government to pose a military threat to Iran.

Gary Samore: The U.S. military threat, I would argue has diminished as well be mainly because the public is after two failed wars in the Middle East, there's not much appetite for using military force in the Middle East, at least not in any significant way. So maybe that's part of the reason why the Iranians are comfortable with keeping the program, as Bob says, as keeping an option, but not really pursuing it very quickly. There's no real urgency since Iran has been very successful and expanding its influence in the region, both in Iraq and Syria and Lebanon, the Iranians may feel they have a pretty comfortable position now, and they don't really need to have nuclear weapons at this particular point.

Gary Samore: Yes, sir.

Speaker 14: I'm curious if you believe that the damage that's been done to the U.S. reputation, as an honest negotiator and keeper of agreements has been so permanently damaged by this administration, that in the future it can truly be overcome. I mean, will people really believe that what is happen now might not well, happen again and will ever really be trusted in the way that I think we were trusted in the past.

Robert Einhorn: I think we can recover from the mistrust that Iran has toward the United States, significant. I mean, they always have a certain amount of distrust for the U.S. but heavy damage was done by Trump administration. I think with a successor ... the Iranian government, they're not going to win negotiate with Trump at all. They distrust his intentions, I think there's really no hope. But the Iranians are pretty transactional people. For them, they want to see that what they're going to get out of the deal, how much sanctions really, how much can we count on it, and so forth. I think if a successor administration came up with a transactional deal that they really saw as in their interest, the legacy of the mistrust against Trump wouldn't be such an overhanging feature.

Gary Samore: So I'll just say, and I'm saying this in a non-partisan way, I'm saying this sort of in an analytical way, I think there's a view in Europe that if Trump is defeated in 2020, they'll put it down to the public made a mistake, and they corrected it. But if Trump is reelected, I do think a lot of Europeans will think there's something fundamentally wrong with American society. Again, I'm saying that in an analytical way, not a partisan way.

Speaker 14: Simply that time results come in that there's something fundamentally wrong with Europeans.

Gary Samore: Yeah, that's certainly true. Yes.

Speaker 15: Thank you for coming. So I'm a guess Israeli government point of view, understanding that anY legitimacy with the [inaudible 01:46:18] gas with international revenue or any actual money that get into Iran, and allows it to do military PDP in Syria and Lebanon and leave without any its results. From the Karen government's point of view, that's wrong, from your point of view its a person whose there whose expressing, you know, the concern of United States of the international community. Those concerns where taken seriously and if indeed the U.S. had been patient would not have withdrawn from the agreement with Israel and the United States actually for sure would be safer today.

Robert Einhorn: One of the views of the JCPOA critics is that the sanction relief provided by the JCPOA, where it provided windfall gains to Iran, not just a sanctions relief, which was gonna boost the Iranian economy, but over $4 billion of oil revenues, Iranian oil revenues that were held in restricted accounts overseas, and that the return of these revenues, there's been a huge boost, the RTC was gonna run wild as a result. I think, you know, the U.S. intelligence community looked at that, and they decided that there hasn't been a huge increase in this activity since the JCPOA. Then fact, at the time of maximum economic pressure against Iran, this activity was at a very high level.

Robert Einhorn: And the reality is, it's relatively cheap. If it's a high priority for Iran, as it was a high priority, these regional activities, they were going to do it whether they wondering economic pressure or not, they just directed the necessary resources. So I'm not convinced that the JCPOA has led to these has increased these problems.

Gary Samore: I just want to add to that, I think that, you know, it was a misfortune, that the JCPOA coincided with events in the region that open the door for Iran to dramatically expand its influence in Baghdad, Damascus, and Beirut. And if the situation in the region had been different, and Iran didn't have the same opportunities to expand its influence, I think the perception of the JCPOA would have been very different. But in what I think we're really just unconnected events, led the JCPOA to be associated with Iran expanding its position in the region, but I don't think there's any actual causal connection.

Speaker 15: Yeah, but don't assume that just because there's a window there, the Iranians were bond to walk into the window. I have my doubts about this, I would say that there, I think the Israeli is very defensive official, it's own defense official that actually supporting the JCPOA. But actually, we're sensitive to the arguments and I'm not convinced that they remember the degree of involvement of Iran in Syria is quiet unprecedented [inaudible 01:49:24].

Gary Samore: But what ...

Speaker 15: Is that ... and I don't think that you will find many people with the Iran saying, this was an inexpensive proposition.

Gary Samore: But what created that opening was the U.S. decision not to get involved, and the U.S. decision not to get involved, I don't think it was connected to the JCPOA. I think it was because Obama was not prepared to get lured into another Middle East conflict.

Speaker 15: And neither is Trump.

Gary Samore: And neither is Trump, but again, I'm saying to me, the nuclear deal is separate from those regional dynamics, including the U.S. loss of appetite for military intervention.

Speaker 15: I mean, I agree with you but I don't think that the issue of this [inaudible 01:50:07] is one of the unintended consequences of the JCPOA,which is to say that the military financial resources didn't actually play no role. But I understand that there is an intelligence finding a little at the same line, but I think the reason, my impression is that many people who supported the JCPOA [inaudible 01:50:09] definitely would have developed it [inaudible 01:50:31] particular problem.

Gary Samore: Some, I mean, some critics of the JCPOA have argued that Obama's decision not to get involved in Syria, was to placate the Iranians, and I don't believe that, that's what I was going to say. I've never, never seen any evidence of that. I mean, in my...

Speaker 15: I've never heard with people that are asking these questions argue that.

Gary Samore: Right. We have just a few minutes left. Yes.

Speaker 16: One thing that you said and I don't mean to challenge your understand of the this at all because overall, and I think that you were actually quite correct in your analysis that your own product trust has been destroyed. What can [inaudible 01:51:19] is that from the Iranian perspective, like they've been here before, at least two or three times, once under Carter, once more under Khatami and his [inaudible 01:51:32] at the United States in late 90's and again under Obama with Rouhani. So the idea that Trump came and undid something that can be in the future, that we can work toward if we elected a different president [inaudible 01:51:53] 2020. I feel that, the understanding in your audience is a bit different than the idea that in the American administration [crosstalk 01:52:04] every four years or every eight years.

Speaker 16: Generally in Iran the way that I've seen it living in their country for some time, though its [inaudible 01:52:15] you can only depend so much on the next president, because even if there is an actual difference between each presidency, the next president is going to come and undo it, and this has been the case with every single sort of issue between the two countries, that anytime there's a sort of, an attempt at that, the next administration comes and undoes that and starts another hard policy against Iran or against the United States in the case of Iran as well, between Khatami, [inaudible 01:52:44] Rouhani, and so on and so forth.

Gary Samore: Thank you. Go ahead Bob.

Robert Einhorn: I would agree that under Khatami, who is the most progressive of the Iranian presidents, the U.S. didn't ... it was fascinated with Khatami, and thought maybe things were changing, but it didn't reach out. There was no appetite in the United States to reach out to him. I think the most sincere effort was by Obama, it was actually in his Nowruz message in 2009, when he tried to reach out and put U.S-Iranian relations on a more promising trajectory. And, you know, clearly that was his that was his mission. And I think, you know, it was his hope maybe it was a naive hope, that the JCPOA could be the platform, you know, to change things around.

Robert Einhorn: You know, we don't know I mean, these opportunities that arose for Iran making trouble in the region may have set that back regardless, and perhaps it did, but that was a hope, at least and Trump, I think has killed that off for the foreseeable future, it'll be hard to recover from that.

Gary Samore: So in addition to Bob's many talents inside government since he's left government, he's been the author of a series of really thoughtful, sensible, easy to read policy reports and he, just by good coincidence he has coming out in Brookings in the next couple of days in ...

Robert Einhorn: In one week from today.

Gary Samore: A week from today, he has two reports coming out, one on constraining Iran's nuclear program, one on constraining Iran's missile program, and we have some flyers when you walked in. So if you're interested, I hope that you will look them up when the reports come out and, they'll be on the Crown website as well as soon as they're on Brookings.

Robert Einhorn: Okay.

Gary Samore: We'll wait until Brookings puts them up first. But anyway, in the meantime, I hope you'll join me in thanking our guest tonight.