New Einhorn Report on Final Iran Deal Focuses Debate

by Jim Lobe

Robert Einhorn, who served as the State Department’s special advisor on non-proliferation and arms control under President Barack Obama until less than a year ago, has issued an important report, “Preventing a Nuclear-Armed Iran: Requirements for a Comprehensive Nuclear Agreement,” which no doubt reflects much of the thinking of the administration’s main negotiators. It was presented at the Brookings Institution, Einhorn’s current employer, Monday morning with reactions from Dennis Ross of the Washington Institute for Near Policy (WINEP) and Frank N. von Hippel of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend but I just noticed that an audio recording of the session is available here

For the short version — the report is some 56 pages long — you should read the Introduction and Summary (pp. 4-10), but Barbara Slavin also published an article about the report on Al-Jazeera America if you want to read an even shorter account that summarizes the main points, highlighting what are likely to be the more contentious provisions. Hopefully, we will be able to offer a real expert’s analysis of the report’s recommendations on the blog by the weekend. Laura Rozen also wrote up a summary on her blog for Al-Monitor.

While, as Einhorn acknowledges, his recommendations could prove problematic to the Iranians, the fact that the ongoing negotiations appear to be proceeding smoothly clearly suggests that the basic elements that he lays out as part of an eventual agreement are not deal-breakers. Indeed, I’m pretty certain the U.S. negotiating team has already put much of this on the table, and the Iranians clearly haven’t rejected any of it.

That said, I find one recommendation particularly objectionable; specifically, one related to actions designed to “convey clearly to Iran’s leaders that any attempt to abandon constraints and pursue nuclear weapons would be met with a firm international response that would be highly damaging to Iran’s interests” in the event that a comprehensive agreement is reached.

The Congress should take legislative action to give the president prior authorization to use military force in the even t of clear evidence that Iran has taken steps to abandon the agreement and move toward producing nuclear weapons.

In other words, as part of the process of sealing a comprehensive accord that would also see Congress lifting nuclear-related sanctions against Iran, Einhorn is calling for an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) to be given to the president — any president, presumably, for the life of the accord. While this may help undermine opposition to lifting sanctions as part of a final agreement, I have serious questions about its wisdom under any circumstances. Not only would the Iranians consider this a highly aggressive gesture comparable to putting a “gun to [their] head,” but anyone — especially Democrats — who remembers the uses to which the October 2002 AUMF were eventually put by George W. Bush must surely find this a rather frightening prospect.

Imagine if Jeb or Marco or Ted is sitting in the Oval Office. Besides, look what happened to the proposed AUMF on Syria. Will an AUMF really be politically necessary to get enough support to lift nuclear-related sanctions if a comprehensive agreement along Einhorn’s thinking is reached? And think of all the potential provocateurs — Israel’s right-wing leadership and its backers here, Saudi Arabia, the MEK — who would be lining up to try to blow up an agreement by, among other things, offering doctored evidence of non-compliance to a nervous or complicit White House. While most of Einhorn’s proposals recommendations appear on their face (at least to a non-technical person) to be reasonable, an AUMF just seems irresponsible.

Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.



  1. more problematic is the notion of any “permanent” obligation by Iran. The current government in Iran can’t and has no right to give make any permanent agreement to limit Iran natural right.

  2. They just wont give up. Calling for military action, whether by Congress or the “O”. Perhaps if the U.S. Government wasn’t so strung out on the money for play, or should I call a spade a spade and say corrupt, we wouldn’t be discussing this. Why the think tanks believe they have the right to dictate to others how they proceed in the world, especially in the conduct mentioned, needs to be restructured away from warmongering and directed to a real peace with dignity for all, with no exceptions. Otherwise, we will continue to create chaos, as we have today. Might just as well give every country 10 Nuclear bombs and let them blow their neighbor back to the stone age, then perhaps the human race can rebuild to a different tune.

  3. I totally agree with the author. The AUMF is not only dangerous and counterproductive, it misses the point. The use of military force is not an option. It will in the long run inevitably lead to a nuclear armed Iran.
    What is worse, it may torpedo the whole deal. The Iranians are at the negotiating table to remove the sanctions and normalize relations with the west. This can only happen if the threatening language of war is taken off the table. If the Iranians ever attempt to reverse all their policies and strategic thinking in this regard and attempt to pull out of the deal. The western sanctions can be reinstated and the whole process started again.
    This however is unlikely to happen as the Iranian establishment is committed to making this deal work. They are however very suspicious of the western intentions. There are at least two plans in position in case the west does not reach a deal with them. Neither involves the development of WMDs and neither involves the use of military force.
    However they have made it clear that if Iran is attacked all considerations are null and void and their plans for that eventuality are far less palatable for the west than most realize.
    They are well capable of carrying these out and a war with Iran should be the last thing any sane person in the west should want.
    Therefore it is imperative that the threat of use of force is taken off the table. The Iranians are aware of west’s military capabilities and weaknesses and re not under any illusions in this regard.
    Threatening them with it in any form only plays into the hands of the hardliners, this is not in the western intrest.

  4. “I totally agree with the author. The AUMF is not only dangerous and counterproductive, it misses the point. The use of military force is not an option. It will in the long run inevitably lead to a nuclear armed Iran.”

    Precisely, Se1.

    In addition to it being a sovereignty-destroying poison pill designed to kill the negotiations with the proud and ancient Persian people, or at minimum to distort or impede them, it was written by an American. The U.S. has no interest in distorting, impeding or killing these talks. Or in driving Americans into war with Iran. Who does? Is it anti-Semitic to evaluate this document and its author for signs of conflict of interest? If it is we have permitted the definition to be destroyed.

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