SIA professor takes part in recommendations on implementation of Iran agreement

Retired U.S. Ambassador and SIA professor Joseph DeThomas
Retired U.S. Ambassador and SIA professor Joseph DeThomas Credit: Mary Szmolko

Retired U.S. Ambassador and Penn State School of International Affairs professor Joseph DeThomas took part in the Federation of American Scientists Nuclear Verification Capabilities Task Force to create a report making recommendations to the U.S. government on effective implementation of the nonproliferation nuclear agreement with Iran.

DeThomas began work on the MacArthur Foundation funded project as one of 70 experts who consulted on verification. He then transitioned into one of the task force members unveiling the report. The report was released on August 6 in Washington, D.C.

In Six Achievable Steps for Implementing an Effective Verification Regime for a Nuclear Deal with Iran, the task force operated as an impartial party on the question of whether or not to accept the agreement, and instead focused on an implementation plan for the future.

“The key is to recognize that implementation is a challenge,” DeThomas said. “For it to succeed, the government needs to own the agreement and find one person to be politically accountable and organize everything around that point of contact.”

DeThomas explained if the implementation process did not link the bureaucracy to the policy level, it could cause the agreement to unravel in the future. While he can’t predict whether the government will appoint one accountable person, he hopes the advice of the task force will be applied as several of the Task Force’s earlier recommendations found their way into the Iran Agreement.

“The second key component of the recommendations is that the executive and legislative branches of government need to find a mechanism to work together,” he said. “However, because of political partisanship, this is a tough step to achieve over the course of the years of the agreement.”

The non-partisan Nuclear Verification Capabilities Independent Task Force was convened by the Federation of American Scientists to examine the technical and policy requirements to adequately verify a nuclear agreement with Iran. The Task Force published its first report in September 2014, outlining suggested requirements for monitoring and verifying a nuclear agreement. In the new report, the task force has outlined six achievable steps for implementation of an effective verification regime for an Iranian nuclear agreement.

DeThomas was asked to be part of the task force because of his expertise in non-proliferation and proliferation-sensitive countries and eagerly took on the challenges of the task force’s goals.

“It appealed to me not only because I’m interested in the topic, but because the task force wanted to findfind good government solutions to difficult problems. Right now the Iran agreement debate is 95 percent politics and 5 percent policy. Over the next 15 or more years successfully implementing the agreement will be 90 percent policy.”

DeThomas is a former American ambassador and spent 29 years as a member of the U.S. Foreign Service and 32 years in the U.S. State Department. His service abroad included tours in Austria, Ethiopia, Germany, Iran, and Mexico. He was the U.S. Ambassador to Estonia from 2001 to 2004. He also held numerous positions in Washington over the course of three decades. This included two years of service as deputy assistant secretary of state for non-proliferation from 1999 to 2001 as well as a number of other positions that dealt primarily with proliferation sensitive countries including India, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and Pakistan.