Judging Whether the Iran Deal Is Acceptable

(Washington Institute for Near East Policy) Michael Singh - Iran's primary objective in the nuclear talks, as inferred from its actions and negotiating positions, is to free itself from sanctions, diplomatic isolation, and military threat, while maintaining the capabilities necessary to develop a nuclear weapon in the future should it choose to do so. The deal parameters announced in Lausanne on April 2 raise the prospect of significant sanctions relief without clearly denying Iran what is required to maintain a nuclear weapons capability and undertake a future clandestine effort to develop an actual weapon. The deal currently under negotiation leaves Iran with a large, legitimized nuclear fuel fabrication supply chain - mining, milling, converting, and enriching uranium; the manufacture of centrifuges and related technology; and the storage of fuel and centrifuges in various stages of usability - from which Tehran could seek to divert materiel, technology, personnel, and expertise for any parallel clandestine effort. The deal's current parameters would also permit Iran to continue conducting R&D on advanced centrifuges. This work could dramatically reduce the number of centrifuges required to produce high-enriched uranium (HEU), enabling Iran to do the work in a smaller and thus more easily concealed facility. Leaving Tehran unfettered by sanctions or military threat, yet with the option to clandestinely produce a nuclear weapon, reduces the cost to Iran of trying to develop a nuclear weapon when conditions permit, while increasing the possibility that other regional states will seek nuclear weapons capabilities of their own. Denying Iran a nuclear weapons capability - or at least severely constraining it - remains possible even at this late stage of the talks. Doing so would require defending the Lausanne framework's most useful provisions (e.g., relating to long-term inspections of Iran's nuclear supply chain). In addition, any sanctions or financial relief should be phased according to Iranian performance, and sanctions related to matters not addressed by the agreement (e.g., terrorism sponsorship) should remain in place altogether and be zealously enforced. The writer is managing director at The Washington Institute and a former senior director for Middle East affairs at the U.S. National Security Council.

2015-06-19 00:00:00

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