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Arms Control

John Kerry and Mohammad Javad Zarif conduct a bilateral meeting in Vienna, Austria, 14 July 2014

Now that the September 17 deadline for congressional action on the Iran Nuclear Deal has passed,

Sunday marked the 70th anniversary of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, the last time a nuclear weapon was used as a war tactic against people, almost entirely civilians. The blast left 60,000-80,000 dead within a few days, with tens of thousands injured suffering crippling injuries from radiation and tens of thousands more hurt from radiation poisoning. The anniversary of the bombings provide an opportunity to reflect on the destruction the nuclear weapons caused in the immediate aftermath and over the years, from heart-wrenching photos of survivors in the first days, weeks and months after the bombings, to the scars that will not ever truly fade away – both in Japan and throughout the global community.

Negotiators from the P5+1 and Iran have concluded their 20-month long negotiations process with an agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program, but the agreement still faces major hurdles and a divided country as it moves towards implementation. Chief among these is the 60-day review period mandated by the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (often known as the Corker-Cardin bill), which the Reform Movement supported.

Early this morning, P5+1 and Iran announced an historic agreement aimed at preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, while simultaneously providing Iran with relief from nuclear-related sanctions. The deal, which has been the result of nearly 20 months of negotiations, comes in at a sleek 159 pages, and many top experts, including those in the Reform Movement, are still parsing through the details.

On Thursday, the Senate passed important legislation for the Iran nuclear talks, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (also known as “the Corker bill”), by an overwhelming vote of 98-1. Applauding the vote, Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Director of the RAC, released the following statement:

We applaud the passage of a clean Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. The overwhelming support for this important bill makes clear that stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons is a bipartisan issue of concern to all Americans.  We call on the House of Representatives to quickly pass the Senate’s version of the bill, so that attention can turn to the issue that really matters: negotiating a deal that ensures that Iran cannot obtain nuclear weapons. To that end, we reiterate our call to the Obama administration to remain firm in its commitment to resolve the negotiations successfully on favorable terms.

In an historic press conference Thursday, the countries in the P5+1 (the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China) reached a framework agreement with Iran over Iran’s nuclear program. The agreement will, according to United States’ negotiating team, ensure that Iran’s “breakout capacity,” or the time that it could take Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, is lengthened to more than a year for the length of the agreement.

The framework, and the issues that it raises, is highly technical. Yet, we can say generally that Iran has agreed to place significant curbs on its nuclear program (by dismantling many facilities and making its uranium material less usable for nuclear weapons) and agreed to intrusive inspections of its nuclear facilities in return for sanctions relief from the United States, European Union, and United Nations. To learn more about the framework agreement, check out the White House fact sheet and the Washington Post summary.

In response to yesterday's joint statement of progress announced by the P5+1 and Iran, the leaders of the Reform Jewish Movement issued a statement saying that “a negotiated resolution … will be difficult to reach but all the alternatives to such a resolution are grim.”  Nevertheless, the leaders concluded that “we still have grave concerns about the ability of a potential deal to ensure that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to a joint session of Congress earlier today to oppose a nuclear deal with Iran.

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, will be holding informal talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other negotiating teams on the sidelines of World Economic Forum this week in Davos, Switzerland. Yet the real negotiating is going on around Capitol Hill, where the newly-sworn in 114th Congress is proposing new legislation around the talks. Three different pairs of Senators are proposing new bills:

Last month, I talked about the coming deadline for the nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1, which was on November 24. At the time, it was unclear whether the sides would reach an agreement, whether they would extend the talks, or whether they would walk away. We learned on the 24 that the parties could not reach a comprehensive agreement, but decided on a 7-month extension until June, during which remaining difference would be sorted out.