Washington, DC, March 25, 2022 – Distinguished policy and national security experts called for maintaining Iran’s IRGC on the list of Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) of the U.S. Department of State, argued for no sanctions relief, and highlighted the prospects for change in Iran, during a conference organized by the U.S. Representative Office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI-US). The speakers included several cabinet members, undersecretaries, assistant secretaries, U.S. military generals, academics and scientists, and experts from various think tanks including the Heritage Foundation, the Atlantic Council, the Stimson Center, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, National Institute for Public Policy, JINSA and INSA.
The NCRI-US conference held on March 25, 2022, coincided with the ancient Iranian new year, Nowruz.
One of the conference speakers was Mr. Jonathan Ruhe who is the JINSA Director of Foreign Policy.
Text of Remarks by Jonathan Ruhe
Thank you, Alireza. First, I want to echo my fellow panelists in saying Happy Nowruz. I’m very pleased to have a chance to address this audience and be part of this esteemed panel. We’ve heard certainly a lot about the nuclear deal. I’ll try to cover a couple of angles that I think haven’t yet been tackled head-on. And then as Alireza mentioned, I’ll discuss the missile and drone program and where this goes from here.
The new nuclear deal, which certainly appears imminent, will be sold by its proponents as a straightforward return to the original JCPOA of 2015, but in reality, I think this deal is something rather different and in fact far worse. Rather than the longer, stronger deal pledged by the Biden administration, this new agreement is actually weaker and shorter.
Assuming that like with the JCPOA, Iran will again be permitted to keep its advanced centrifuges in the country, and because this centrifuge program is much more extensive than it was seven years ago, this means that under the new deal, the regime will be something like six months away from producing enough fissile material for a bomb compared to the stated 12-month breakout timeline under the original JCPOA. Additionally, this breakout time will start shrinking long before the deal officially sunsets. Just four years from now, compared to a decade under the original deal, the Iranian regime is permitted to steadily expand its enrichment capacity using more and more advanced centrifuges.
… compared to the 2015 deal, the regime’s missile and drone capabilities are much more advanced now and it can proliferate these capabilities much more effectively around the Middle East than it could in 2015 … when the original deal was agreed, Iran and its proxies used roughly 100 total projectiles in attacks around the Middle East. Most of these projectiles were simple, relatively rudimentary, unguided short-range rockets. By comparison, just last year that number was up to 750, … and these were mostly advanced, longer-range, and much more pricey drones and ballistic missiles.
Another way this new deal will be different is in terms of the consequences on the ground in the Middle East. Like in the original deal, the Iranian regime will receive something roughly on the order of a hundred billion dollars in various forms of sanction relief, which as we’ve heard from other panelists would be an unmerited lifeline of cash for a weak regime. Just as it did when the original deal came out, the regime can be expected to spend most of this money on fomenting instability abroad, especially around the Middle East, as opposed to spending it at home where the money is desperately needed to reverse and address the regime’s incredible mismanagement of Iran’s economy, natural resources, and its human capital.
What’s worse, compared to the 2015 deal, the regime’s missile and drone capabilities are much more advanced now and it can proliferate these capabilities much more effectively around the Middle East than it could in 2015. My organization closely tracks the regime’s missile and drone attacks around the region. And just to give everyone sort of a brief snapshot, I’ll just note that in 2015 when the original deal was agreed upon, Iran and its proxies used roughly 100 total projectiles in attacks around the Middle East. Most of these projectiles were simple, relatively rudimentary, unguided short-range rockets. By comparison, just last year that number was up to 750, compared to 100 seven years ago, and these were mostly advanced, longer-range, and much more prices drones and ballistic missiles. This represents a major upward trend in Iranian capabilities and it will only get worse with sanctions relief. In fact, that number I quoted of 750, currently, the regime is on pace, including with its proxies, to break that record this year.
So, what this all means is that far from putting Iran in a box, as the Biden administration said last year, the new deal actually paves the way for this regime to build up a large-scale nuclear weapons program in the near future and to further ramp up its already high aggression around the Middle East, and that will begin almost immediately.
But to close, I want to highlight I think an additional underappreciated aspect of this nuclear deal, which is the profoundly undeserved legitimacy it will grant the Iranian regime. Obviously, the hot topic right now which we’ve been discussing is the lifting of the IRGC sanctions, which I would just reiterate have nothing to do with what’s required of the United States to rejoin a nuclear deal and it would be a completely unmerited unilateral gift to the regime. And it would confirm for Iranian negotiators the wisdom of sticking by their red lines, especially red lines that have nothing to do with the deal, and would confirm for them the United States’ willingness to cave on any number of Iranian demands regarding its nuclear program or more generally.
I would just add there’s the issue of the Nonproliferation Treaty or the NPT. Under the treaty, the Iranian people have every right to peaceful nuclear technology for energy and medical purposes. But the regime has consistently violated the NPT through its covert activities on a nuclear weapons program. Many of those activities the NCRI has helped reveal to the world. These illegal actions initially led to UN Security Council sanctions on the regime, which in turn helped form the basis for U.S., EU, and other sanctions. However, just three years from now, under the terms of the nuclear deal, these sanctions will be eliminated as will the legal basis for them, even though the regime has done nothing to come clean about its past work on nuclear weapons. So, in essence, this deal legitimizes the regime’s lies about its so-called peaceful nuclear intentions and its declared but unfounded right to enrich uranium. Again that’s a right the Iranian regime claims with no basis under international law or given its long record of shall we say violating its safeguards agreements.
So, to close, I would just summarize the three overarching negative consequences of this deal. First is it does not prevent a nuclear-armed Iranian regime, but rather does the opposite in a shorter period of time than I think a lot of people appreciate. Secondly, through sanctions relief, it will supercharge the regime’s increasingly dangerous program of military expansion around the Middle East, which is again the opposite of putting Iran in a box. And third, it will give the regime’s nuclear weapons program undeserved legitimacy, which will, in turn, have serious consequences for the broader nonproliferation regime more globally. So, in each of these ways, this nuclear deal will not encourage the regime in Tehran to become more moderate, as the deal’s supporters have long advocated, but it will rather empower, enrich, and entrench this regime. Thank you all for your time today, I really appreciate the chance to speak with you.