MIT's Role in the Iran Nuclear Negotiations
One of the major issues before Congress this fall is whether or not to approve the agreement negotiated among the P5+1 nations (U.S., China, Russia, France, UK, and Germany) and Iran, with respect to non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Prof. Chomsky’s article makes the case for supporting the negotiated agreements.
MIT has a deep connection to the process with numerous colleagues and past graduates playing critical roles in the Iran negotiations, discussions in the media, and working with Congress (see news.mit.edu/2015/us-iran-nuclear-deal-0724).
Our colleague, Ernest J. Moniz, was the lead technical negotiator and has played a major, constructive role in the P5+1 negotiations with Iran with regard to its nuclear facilities (see, e.g., nyti.ms/1Mv87eK). Prof. Moniz is currently the United States Secretary of Energy and the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems, Emeritus. He has served on the faculty since 1973 and has had a long and distinguished career at the Institute (see https://esd.mit.edu/Faculty_Pages/moniz/moniz.htm).
Prof. Moniz is also playing a key role in explanations to Congress. Even members of Congress who oppose the deal have praise for his authoritative testimony.
“Thus far, he’s by far been the best witness, the best person to talk to,” Sen. Bob Corker, the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters shortly after the deal had been announced (www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2015/07/28/ernest_moniz_obamas_mvp_on_iran_deal_127576.html).
An important reason for the success of the Iran negotiations was Moniz’s ability to work well and connect personally with Ali Akbar Salehi, a 1977 MIT PhD in Nuclear Engineering and the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran since 2013 (No. 2 Negotiators in Iran Talks Argue Physics Behind Politics, David E. Sanger, The New York Times, March 28, 2015). Dr. Salehi served as Iran’s foreign minister from 2010 to 2013, and has been a professor and chancellor of the Sharif University of Technology.
Dr. Jim Walsh is a Research Associate at MIT’s Security Studies Program (SSP) and has been playing a major role in the congressional and public discussion of the Iran negotiations and agreement. An expert in international security, Dr. Walsh is a major player in the Iran Project, a non-profit group dedicated to the understanding and improvement of U.S.-Iran relations (iranprojectfcsny.org). He is one of a handful of Americans who has traveled to both Iran and North Korea for talks with officials about nuclear issues. He has testified many times about the Iran negotiations in Congress and is a regular commentator on NPR and many other news organizations. (See web.mit.edu/ssp/people/walsh/faculty_walsh.html for more information.)
R. Scott Kemp is Assistant Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering and has significantly contributed to the technical and policy discussion about Iran. He was previously the Science Advisor for Nonproliferation and Arms Control, where he participated in early P5+1 talk and laid the basis internally for much of the current agreement with Iran. He has also been a regular participant in the track-II diplomacy effort that met several times a year with Salehi, Foreign Minister Zarif, or P5+1 ambassadors to help sort out technical questions about how negotiations might play out. These discussions produced the solutions now adopted for the Fordow centrifuges and for the plutonium program. His research combines physics with engineering to understand the limits and policy options for achieving international security under technical constraints. He is an expert on nuclear centrifuges and has pointed out that this changes the international security framework in new and difficult ways (see web.mit.edu/nse/people/faculty/kemp.html).
As this issue goes to press, the outcome of the Congressional vote remains uncertain. We continue to believe that diplomacy is the preferred course in defusing international tensions.