In Vienna, after years of difficult negotiation, a complex agreement has been reached which limits Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the end of economic sanctions. President Obama supports the deal and Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States have expressed doubts about it.
The deal calls for a comprehensive inspections routine. According to the White House, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would be given “extraordinary and robust” access to Iranian facilities. This is not the same as immediate and unannounced inspections. Mr. Obama said that while the deal is far from ideal, it slows Iran’s “breakout time” to develop a nuclear bomb from the current two to three months to a year or more.
There are problems with the deal, but the negotiation process that produced it was superior to military action. The fact that the deal is imperfect does not mean that it cannot become a sufficient solution that permits Iran to develop a peaceful nuclear program. When the sanctions are lifted, Iran will be given over $800 billion in frozen funds to do with what they choose. There is no doubt that, no matter what, the deal will provoke an arms race in the Middle East.
Since Iran remains a major supporter of terrorism and espouses hatred towards Israel and the United States, House Speaker John Boehner and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticize the deal because it doesn’t call for the entire elimination of Iran’s nuclear program. Mr. Netanyahu has reserved the right of Israel to take unilateral military action, but realistically a logistical strike will not stop the program and such action may justify international economic sanctions against Israel.
The deal should limit Iran’s nuclear programs if Iran lives up to the promises in the deal. It calls for the underground Fordow nuclear site, where experts suspect Iran was enriching uranium, to be turned into a research facility. If world scientists can work there, they will report suspicious activity that will spark IAEA inspections.
The deal allows Iran to rebuild its Arak heavy-water reactor, the only known site in Iran capable of starting production on weapons-grade plutonium, in a way so production of weapons-grade plutonium would be impossible. The deal calls for Iran to reduce its stockpile of uranium by 98 percent.
The deal calls for reduction of the 20,000 centrifuges required to enrich plutonium to 6,104 over 10 years. The deal allows Iran to enrich uranium to no more than 3.67 percent, good for civilian purposes, but too low for a weapon.
If Iran fails to comply with the deal, economic sanctions can be re-imposed. The Obama administration has called for a “snap back” provision, which would re-impose the United Nations’ sanctions on Iran if it doesn’t meet its obligations. In the end, if Iran honors the deal, it would not be able to produce the fissile material needed for a nuclear bomb, but at the same time it is given international approval for a peaceful nuclear energy program.
The real solution lays in what the U.S. and the West will do after the ink has dried on the proposed deal. Without a doubt, Iran will continue to develop the military programs for nuclear weapons and secretly evade the restrictions in the deal. The proposed deal is too weak and too full of loopholes for the world to consider a nuclear Iran no threat to world peace.
However, after Iran is caught violating the deal, the responsible nations in the world community must be prepared to drag the mullahs back to the table and appropriately adjust the terms of the deal. Military action must remain an option since Iran may not respond responsibly to any other form of communication.
The nuclear “club” is already too large and should not grow larger. There should be an international group of nuclear scientists and technicians designated to develop and operate peaceful nuclear power plants around the world for nations that say they want nuclear power but not nuclear weapons. It should include technocrats from legitimate nations with nuclear power operations.
These teams, unlike IAEA inspectors, would operate the systems, which would guarantee neutral international control of peaceful nuclear power production around the world. In that way, political leaders would not be in a position to operate or direct nuclear programs even within their own nation. It would divorce economic energy production from nationalism.
This may not palatable to nationalistic demagogues around the world but does anyone believe leaders like that should be in control of nuclear power?