The little deal that could
Published: Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, December 3, 2013 21:12
Over Thanksgiving break, in addition to the plentiful amounts of food, family and football, there was a significant development in the international community. Iran reached a deal with the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China with regards to their nuclear weapons program. I am Iranian so take that as bias if you want, but I honestly believe this deal is an important and effective step for all parties involved.
Under the terms of the deal as detailed by the White House, Iran cannot enrich uranium above 5 percent and must neutralize all highly enriched materials, some as high as 20 percent, through dilution or conversion to a form not usable for weaponry. Iran is also not allowed to install any additional centrifuges and must make about half of installed centrifuges at Natanz and three-quarters of installed centrifuges at Fordow inoperable. During the six-month period, Iran will not be allowed to stockpile centrifuges or construct new enrichment facilities. As part of the concessions, Iran will also be required to halt progress on its plutonium efforts at its Arak reactor. The country will provide the IAEA, who will verify that Iran holds up its end of the bargain, with access to facilities and design information for the Arak reactor. In return, the international community will lift some sanctions and unfreeze some of Iran’s overseas assets.
In short, this interim deal hinders Iran’s ability to acquire nuclear weapons and will hopefully lead to a deal larger in scope that will ensure Iran does not develop nuclear weapons and also brings Iran back into the international community. Critics of the deal point to the agreement as nothing more than a six-month pass for Iran to continue developing a bomb, but this fails to take in the context of the situation.
I personally believe that Iran would like to have nuclear weapons, but not so it can blow up Israel upon acquisition, as some fear. Rather, it is because nuclear weapons give countries leverage on the international stage. As facetious of an analogy as it may seem, the international community is a lot like an elementary school playground where instead of earning respect through kickball skills, one does so through a nuclear arsenal. However, in Iran’s case, pursuit of a nuclear weapon has come at a cost in the form of sanctions which have been detrimental to their economy, particularly in the midst of a weak global economy. At some point, the benefit of acquiring nuclear weapons gets outweighed by the toll of its cost on a country, which may be what brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place.
What happens at the end of this interim deal will be crucial as it will effectively dictate our future relationship with Iran. Given that an isolationist path à la North Korea is not desirable for Iran, there is strong incentive to get integrated back into the international community. And with plenty of sanctions and frozen assets remaining, there is still economic pressure to reach a larger deal. However, we need to be wary in what we do during these negotiation periods. Congress is proposing new sanctions on Iran, and if they should pass, it could hurt negotiations. Not only does it undermine the interim deal, but it also could have political ramifications in Iran.
When Hassan Rouhani won Iran’s presidential election back in June, he was considered a moderate and represented a shift from the more hard line stance of Ahmadinejad, as shown by the fact that a deal even took place and that a dialogue has been opened between the U.S. and Iran for the first time in decades. Sanctions and economic woes discredited hard line positions to the Iranian public, which put favor on Rouhani’s more moderate stance. However, if more sanctions are passed before a larger deal is reached it will only work to discredit Rouhani’s methods and possibly empower hard liners.
There is still a long way to go, but this deal is progress that would be considered unthinkable only a few years ago. And more importantly, it puts the ball in Iran’s court. Should they falter in their obligations during this interim period, it will only increase international support for putting pressure on Iran. However, should they comply, it opens the door to restoring international ties with Iran and limiting their nuclear capabilities, a desirable end goal for all parties involved.