A DEAL OF NUCLEAR PROPORTIONS

John Feffer, Foreign Policy in Focus, April 1, 2015

W

hile many have been incredibly critical of President Obama’s desire to strike a nuclear accord with Iran, several of the opposition’s claims are just outright wrong. A deal between between the US and Iran is not appeasement. Iran cannot be compared to Nazi Germany. Iran does not have “control over five Middle Eastern capitals.” This deal does not “allow Iran to become a nuclear power.” More than just a nuclear agreement, the accord sought in Switzerland is a means of ushering Iran back into the international community, and it is a foundation for peace and stability in the region. The debate of deal or no deal is between one side favoring diplomatic negotiations, however difficult they may be, and the other, in favor of rollback, conflict, and even war. We’ve seen how the war route works in Iraq; the results are hardly ideal, and yet this is what Israel, several congressional representatives, and more seem to fancy. While the accord we are seeing is not yet a final agreement, and there a few factors that have yet to be decided on, others have already been settled. Two big sticking points are centrifuges and stockpiles.

Iran has agreed to decrease its active nuclear centrifuges from 10,000 to 6,000, as well as reduce its 17,000 pounds of material, relocating much of it outside of the country. Still being debated are the exact ceiling of uranium enrichment, as well as the break-out time for Iran. Weapons grade uranium requires around 90% enrichment, and the ceiling would probably be set to about 5%. Break-out time refers to the amount of time it would take Iran to make one bomb. Negotiators have been discussing a one year period, but Iran has expressed willingness to consider an agreement for 15 years. In return for freezing or rolling back its program, as well as increased levels of scrutiny, Iran is asking for all sanctions to be lifted rapidly, if not immediately. While opponents of the deal like to paint Iran as an untrustworthy actor, it is important to note that US intelligence believes that Iran actually abandoned pursuance of a nuclear weapon as far back as 2007, as well as having abided by the 2013 interim nuclear agreement. If Iran wanted to pursue a nuclear weapons program, they would have already done so; and if they really had some extermination agenda for the Jews, they would almost certainly start with the approximately 10,000 Jews living inside Iran, rather than with Israel. While it is unrealistic to expect that any final accord reached would trigger some immediate transformation in Iran, a nuclear agreement will certainly strengthen the role of reformers in the country. The stakes are high and the choice is clear: we talk this out, so we do not have to war it out.

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A DEAL OF NUCLEAR PROPORTIONS

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