Iran nuclear deal may signal diplomatic future
After a seemingly interminable period of last-minute negotiating, the five permanent members of the United Nations (U.N.) Security Council with Germany (P5+1) and Iran finally came to an agreement early on Thursday, April 2.
After months of baseless speculation that Obama was giving the Iranians a blank check to do as they please with the deal, the public details of the framework make it clear that Iran and the P5+1 have achieved a very fair compromise. Iran will roll back significant portions of its nuclear program in exchange for lifting of crippling sanctions that have crushed its economy for nearly 50 years.
Members of the P5+1 are touting this as a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Iranian leadership feels the combination of lifted sanctions and the survival of all of their nuclear facilities was sufficient, and the framework for a deal was created.
The hits to Iran’s nuclear program are massive. The deal includes the uninstallation of nearly 13 thousand of Iran’s 19 thousand centrifuges; only 5 thousand of the remaining centrifuges would be permitted to enrich uranium. The enriched uranium will be limited to 3.67 percent, which is enough for nuclear power but not nearly enough for nuclear bombs. Iran may not build any new enrichment facilities. Iran’s current stockpile of 10 thousand kilograms of enriched uranium will be reduced to 3 hundred kilograms.
Iran’s “breakout time” to build nuclear weapons will be extended from two to three months to one year. Iran’s research and development will make it at least 10 years before they can begin building a weapon, and the breakout time of one year will remain the upper limit of their nuclear research for the duration of the deal. Fordow, Iran’s underground nuclear facility, will be prevented from enriching uranium for at least 15 years.
The U.N. will have the ability to intrusively and aggressively inspect Iran’s nuclear facilities via the International Atomic Energy Agency. This will almost certainly prevent Iran from actually creating a nuclear weapon anytime over the course of the deal. The mere existence of the deal mitigates Iran’s possibly legitimate claim to need nuclear weapons, even if Israel has threatened nuclear action against Iran in the past.
While Israel is openly skeptical of the deal and says it wants to inspect the nuclear facilities themselves, after this accord it seems silly for them to go through on their threats, considering that the international community’s response would now be even more devastating.
The return Iran gets, however, is significantly more impactful. Since 1979, Iranians have suffered from terrible economic conditions, wreaking havoc on everything from food security to health care access to air travel. Iranians have been denied admission into foreign universities both by force (i.e. the University of Massachusetts’ ban on Iranian students in its nuclear engineering program) and by monetary restrictions (sending money out of the country is a nightmare).
Iran has millions of barrels of oil sitting idle rather than getting sold (although that might be a good thing, considering the impact of fossil fuels). Even the anticipation of lifted sanctions is creating a boom in Iran’s stock market. The effects of Iranian sanctions went far beyond making it more difficult for Iran to increase its military capabilities. This deal signifies a light at the end of the tunnel for many Iranian citizens who never supported their government's posturing and rhetoric to begin with, yet still lived with the burden of economic sanctions that made their lives incredibly difficult.
The resistance to the deal from the American Right will claim that Iran will use the economic relief to further destabilize the region, partnering with militant groups in Hezbollah and the Houthis among other threats to democratically elected governments. While there are certainly problems with Iran’s regional affiliations, the nuclear deal will probably not worsen these situations. Iran is already providing support for these groups; the sanctions were not quite stopping them.
Furthermore, this deal creates a level of trust between the United States and Iran that has not existed since Operation TPAJAX installed the shah and the Hostage Crisis. This newfound diplomatic pull could be instrumental in pulling Iran to a more moderate position. Between this and joint airstrikes against ISIS, it feels like Iran might be open to diplomatic relations for the first time in decades. Diplomatic relations will calm radicalism by giving Iran someone to answer to.
We will not know the extent of the provisions until the official text is rolled out in late June. There will also be hurdles in both the American and Iranian legislative bodies. However, this deal is exciting. Relations with Iran are by no means perfect, but this deal allows their people to live safer and better lives without introducing yet another avenue to nuclear conflict. U.S.-Iran relations have been impossibly strained for decades, but this creates a precedent for, if both sides fulfill their obligations, a middle ground and mutual trust. It’s by no means Nixon in China, but it’s a powerful start.