August 26, 2015 | Press Release

New Report Outlines Achievable Amendments to Iran Nuclear Deal

FDD Press Release

Washington, DC –  In the final weeks before a congressional vote on the nuclear agreement with Iran, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) has released a new report analyzing ways to strengthen the agreement. The report, “Improving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” also provides a historical perspective detailing examples in recent history in which Congress required amendments to international agreements prior to their approval.

The report—co-authored by Mark Dubowitz, executive director of FDD and head of its Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance (CSIF), and Annie Fixler, policy analyst at CSIF—outlines the likely scenarios if Congress disapproves of the agreement in its current form. The authors note that there are three likely scenarios, and that “While each presents challenges, these can be managed with robust U.S. leadership, active engagement with U.S. allies, and close coordination with the international business community.”

Dubowitz and Fixler provide eight suggested “reasonable modifications” to the agreement in order to address some of the most problematic terms. The authors note that because of the “sunset clauses” which lift nuclear, arms, and ballistic missile restrictions over five to 15 years, the deal in its current form does not permanently block Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon—indeed the deal gives Iran a “patient” pathway—and permits Iran to acquire more sophisticated heavy weaponry and an ICBM program when UN embargoes are lifted.

The authors recommend that an amendment be made to the JCPOA to “require limitations to remain in place until the U.N. Security Council votes that they should sunset.” In this way, restrictions would not automatically sunset but rather lapse once the U.N. Security Council (where the U.S. retains a veto) deems Iran’s nuclear program no longer a threat to global security.

In a foreword, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, former Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN), and former Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) state, “We believe that if Congress were to require these amendments, the U.S. government could convince its allies to re-open specific terms of the deal to renegotiation.” These former government officials affirm, “We have opposed this deal, and Congress has every reason to reject it.”

They further note, “Thoughtful analysis of the nuclear agreement reveals both its strengths and weaknesses. A robust debate on the merits and feasibility of every term of the current agreement and every possible adjustment will serve our national security. This report and the recommendations it includes contribute to this conversation and are worthy of serious consideration.”

The other amendments the report suggests include: 

  • Permanently require excess uranium to be shipped out of Iran. 
  • Limit Iran’s enrichment to IR-1 centrifuges and prohibit advanced centrifuge R&D.
  • Amend the JCPOA to eliminate the Iranian nuclear snapback.
  • Tie sanctions relief to changes in the Iranian conduct that prompted sanctions.
  • Require an invasive inspections regime that allows anywhere, anytime access to places, personnel, and paperwork including IAEA physical access to all suspicious sites including military facilities.
  • Require up-front ratification of the Additional Protocol.
  • Require complete resolution of PMD issues prior to the provision of sanctions relief.

The authors explain that improving the agreement now when the United States and the international community still retain economic leverage will “decrease the likelihood of a nuclear-armed Iran and diminish the possibility of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.”

They assess that congressional disapproval of the agreement, even without a veto override, will have a chilling effect on the markets. Already “major international banks have indicated that they will take a wait-and-see approach before doing business with Iran,” explain the authors. If Congress votes to disapprove of the deal, the United States can “use diplomatic persuasion and American financial sanctions” to convince even firms that want to get back into Iran to wait. “The power of U.S. financial sanctions always depended on the private sector’s appetite for risk. In the event of a congressional disapproval, or a vote in which a simple majority of senators rejects the deal, major European companies will likely hold off investment until a new president comes into office in 2017.” Regarding the financial section, the authors explain, “Few European banks will risk penalties or their ability to transact in dollars by re-entering the Iranian market” if U.S. sanctions remain on the books.

Dubowitz also authored a recent op-ed in Foreign Policy (available here) in which he provides an overview of some of the analysis in the report. In that article, he concludes, “The aim should not be to torpedo diplomacy. Rather, it is to defuse that ticking time bomb by making critical amendments to this Iran deal that lower the risk of a future war.”

Download the full report here.

About the Foundation for Defense of Democracies:

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) is a non-profit, non-partisan 501(c)3 policy institute focusing on foreign policy and national security. Founded in 2001, FDD combines policy research, democracy and counterterrorism education, strategic communications and investigative journalism in support of its mission to promote pluralism, defend democratic values and fight the ideologies that drive terrorism. Visit our website at and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

About FDD’s Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance (CSIF):

FDD’s Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance is a project designed to illuminate the critical intersection between illicit finance and national security. The Center relies on regional and sanctions expertise within FDD, including a core cadre of financial, economic, and area experts and analysts, to promote a greater understanding of illicit financing and economic threats. The Center also designs creative and effective strategies, doctrines, and uses of financial and economic power to attack and protect against priority threats and vulnerabilities. More information on CSIF is available at

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