A breakthrough nuclear deal may result in Iran becoming a formidable threat in the Middle East and the wider world
The deal has been described as an end to the ‘wrong, unfair and inhumane’ sanctions by Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described it as ‘A historic mistake for the world’, so I ask, does this deal signify renewed hope for western relations with Iran or is it just a hopeless compromise?
What was included in the deal?
This was a deal that took 20 months to negotiate and is the biggest breakthrough in negotiations between the western world and Iran for 12 years. The majority of the deal is outlined in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the key features of the deal regard uranium enrichment, Iran’s nuclear facilities, inspectors and sanctions.
Iran’s nuclear facilities:
The Arak reactor has been constructed, but progress was halted since the interim nuclear deal in November 2013. The Arak reactor is being redesigned so that it cannot produce any weapons-grade plutonium. Furthermore, research and development may only take place at Natanz facility. Iran has also agreed to reduce its stockpile of uranium by 98 per cent.
Uranium enrichment facilities, Natanz and Fordo are limited on the number of centrifuges they are allowed. At Natanz these are reduced to 5,060 for a period of 10 years, to construct a nuclear bomb Iran would need tens of thousands of centrifuges, it currently has 19,000.
Iran has agreed to allow the IAEA to monitor its implementation of all newly agreed/ratified measures mentioned in the JCPOA. The main measures are that Iran will provisionally apply the Additional Protocol to its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement. Secondly, Iran will fully implement the ‘Roadmap for Clarification of Past and Present Outstanding Issues’ as agreed with the IAEA.
The IAEA will also be given a long-term presence in Iran, monitoring the uranium ore concentrate that is produced which will last for 25 years. Furthermore the IAEA will survey centrifuge rotors and bellows for 20 years.
The UN Security Council, the EU and the U.S. all agree to the sanction reductions as outlined in JCPOA, simultaneously with confirmation from the IAEA that implementation of JCPOA is ongoing. It is crucial to remember that the U.S. sanctions on Iran for support of terrorism, human rights abuses and missile activities will remain and be enforced.
So is this a good deal?
For President Hassan Rouhani this was a crucial deal, he is seen as a moderate domestically and has promised to lift years of sanctions. For his own personal credibility he needed this deal to help him cement his support and fight off attacks from Iranian hardliners who have opposed concession over what they describe as Iran’s ‘national right’ to nuclear energy. President Rouhani has had even more difficulty with the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani unwilling to support or condemn the deal.
Whatever the political heavyweights in Iran think, it seems so far that the deal has been popular with the people with reports of thousands of Iranians taking to the streets late at night to celebrate the news. The previous sanctions placed on Iran have cost the county dearly, with the oil sales’ losses alone estimated to have cost Iran $50 billion in hard currency revenue. These sanctions have been felt most of all by the least well-off people, therefore it is not surprising there is such a wave of support for the JCPOA agreement.
Verdict: For President Rouhani this is a good deal, and for the people of Iran this is a necessary one.
Israel and the Arab world:
The most vocal opponent of these nuclear talks was Israel. President Netanyahu in particular has led the movement against the talks stating: ‘Iran is going to receive a sure path to nuclear weapons‘. The mood from the rest of his cabinet is the same, with Naftali Bennett supporting Netanyahu in stating: ‘A state that has announced these days its aim to eliminate the State of Israel, stands to receive legitimacy to be a nuclear power’. The people of Israel have shown their opposition to the deal with reported protests against it.
Saudi Arabia and other key players like Qatar, Turkey and Egypt are worried in the short term about the economic aspects of these nuclear deals. The sanctions have weakened Iran in its ability to compete economically, without them Iran will once again be a threat to the region. Saudi Arabia will be desperate to revive the dual structure of regional order (Saudis vs Iran) to counter this threat.
Verdict: A lot of the fears are unfounded regarding the nuclear aspects of this deal. However, the fears regarding the change in social and economic power in the region is well-founded. Don’t expect this to be the last we hear from these nations about this nuclear deal.
The U.S. and the G5+1:
This would not have been the ideal deal for any of them, they would have wanted much longer durations on the periods in which Iran is limited in its enrichment of uranium. Already U.S. presidential candidates have come out stating they would ‘fully rescind this accord’. This comes amidst a wave of Conservatives across the western world who feel that removing these sanctions is appeasement not progress.
However, there is a silent (but sometimes rather vocal) majority who have come out supporting the deal, showing a willingness to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear programme.
Verdict: the deal will be ratified, don’t expect Congress to be successful in stopping this Bill.
It is fair to say that the JCPOA agreement will result in one of the greatest changes in both western tactics towards the Middle East and in terms of the balance of power there. To many this will seem like an abstract agreement regarding nuclear power but to the younger generations living in Iran, who have been driven into poverty and extremism by the sanctions, this deal offers a new lease of life, a new hope for Iran. For younger generations throughout the Western World untarnished by the hatreds of the past, this is a deal that allows the Middle East a future and room for negotiation between various parties.
The real question though: is it fair to let the younger generations, the innocents in countries like Iran, continue to suffer, to starve, to die for the crimes of the past? The Answer can only be a definitive NO therefore leaving a definitive YES to this deal.