Earlier today the world’s leaders announced a historic nuclear agreement with Iran that could block the country’s path to developing nuclear weapons for more than a decade. like any agreement crafted over years and led by a windsurfing diplomat, it’s not perfect.
Just getting to the point of being able to announce a potential deal has been a long and winding road lasting over ten years. If it gets ratified by the U.S. Congress and Iran’s Parliament it will have to be lived up to by both sides and its strength will only be determined by an ongoing track record of adherence and verification.
Here are the pros and cons of the deal as it sits now, based on Foxtrot Alpha’s analysis of the situation:
- Keeps Iran from developing and deploying nuclear weapons for 15 years (limits nuclear production for 10 years and access to equipment and fuel for 15 years) if it is adhered to.
- Drastically lowers the chances of a military conflict between the U.S. and Iran which would have massive international consequences and could lead to a widespread regional conflict, crushing an already fragile world economy.
- Iran’s existing stockpiles of enriched uranium will be cut by 96 percent by shipping outside the borders of Iran.
- Iran will not be allowed to develop any heavy water reactors for 15 years. The Fordow nuclear enrichment site, buried deep within a mountain, will be turned into a physics and technology research center.
- Decreases Iranian centrifuges used in the enrichment process from around 19,000 to 4,000.
- Allows for inspections of Iranian military sites if a case can be made that suspicious nuclear activities are occurring there.
- Allows for gradual lifting of heavy international (US, EU and UN) sanctions that have shattered the Iranian economy.
- The lifting of sanctions will allow European, Russian and other foreign governments to make investments in Iran and trade with the country more freely, including what could be billions of dollars worth of conventional weapons sales.
- Lifting sanctions will let more external influence into Iran and should better the average Iranian’s life. This could help for future negotiations on other issues as well as moderate Iran politically over time.
- The deal could be the first step in a long road of healing past wounds when it comes to the U.S.-Iranian relationship. If the deal is put into place and is successful in achieving its goals, other negotiations and partnerships could be possible between the once bitter enemies. The fight against ISIS and the stability of Iraq are key issues that could benefit from a closer relationship between the U.S. and Iran.
- The deal will now be placed in the hands of the U.S. Congress that will go through each aspect of the deal and debate it. In the end, it must be ratified by Congress in two months in order for it to become valid.
- At any time, Iran could pull away from the deal and begin scaling up its work to achieve nuclear weapons breakout capability.
- Iran will still retain 300kg of enriched uranium to be used for research purposes. This is not the same as fully eliminating Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium, thus leaving Iran without any material to built a nuclear weapon in the future.
- Does not eliminate all of Iran’s centrifuges and it is yet to be known exactly which centrifuges will remain in Iranian hands as newer generations are more efficient than older generations.
- Inspections of military sites are limited. Iran claims it does not want all of its military secrets shown to the world, while the P5+1 negotiators know access for inspectors is key for the verification purposes. With this deal, access would be subject to a fairly elaborate approval process that could last up to 24 days. As such, verification via inspections could turn into a shell game.
- With billions of dollars flushing through the Iranian economy, not to mention frozen government dollars being repatriated to the Iranian Government, Iran will have much more money to fund its proxy wars around the Middle East. These include arming Hezbollah, Hamas and Houthi Rebels in Yemen and backing up the Assad regime in Syria.
- Iran could use its new-found wealth and ability to buy advanced conventional weaponry from Europe, China and Russia to rearm its conventional forces. This includes fortifying its air defense capabilities, which could make it much harder and deadlier for the U.S. or Israel to destroy or even disable its nuclear program down the road should Iran back out of the deal once it has rearmed.
- Once foreign companies are invested in or making money off of Iran it will be harder to get sanctions ‘snapped back’ into place.
- If the deal is seen as too weak by Arab Gulf States and Israel, it could lead to bitter tensions with the U.S., which could unravel long-time strategic partnerships in the region. It could also lead to a conventional arms race on the Arabian Peninsula if Iran begins beefing up its own forces, and even nuclear arms race if Iran were to back out of the deal just to restart its enrichment process once again at a time that is most beneficial to do so.
- At this time, this agreement does not appear to address Iran’s ballistic missile program, human rights record or the release of western prisoners.
- Iran’s parliament will also have to approve the deal and it has no time restraints on doing so, which could drag the process out even further than it already has been.
- Depending on your politics, some see U.S. Congressional approval as a huge hurdle, especially since Congress is controlled by the Republicans at this time. Giving President Obama possibly the biggest foreign policy win of his Administration, while entering into another election cycle, could hamper ratification of the deal greatly.
We have seen other nuclear deals fall apart spectacularly before (North Korea), and detailed inspection regimes fail, leading to war (Iraq). As such, there’s no easy way to judge whether or not the deal tentatively agreed upon today ends up actually worth anything.
At the very least, this has a a better chance of working than what we’ve been doing and the alternative to a deal that stops Iran’s nuclear program is downright terrifying.
AP Photo: This Jan. 15, 2011 file photo shows the heavy water nuclear facility near Arak. Iran and six world powers reached a landmark nuclear deal on Tuesday, July 14, 2015 meant to place long-term verifiable limits on nuclear programs that Tehran could modify to make atomic arms. Sources: NBCnews, FT.com, BBC.com
Contact the author at Tyler@jalopnik.com.