By Kingston Reif
Published in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Online on January 22, 2013.
Article summary below; read the full text here.
On January 20, the provisions of a historic nuclear agreement between Iran and six powers took effect. Reached last November in Geneva, the deal between the P5+1—the United States, China, Russia, Great Britain, France, and Germany—and the Islamic Republic is intended to be a first step towards a more comprehensive agreement that will ensure Iran cannot develop nuclear weapons.
If successfully implemented, the November deal—which eases sanctions on Tehran to the tune of an estimated $7 billion in relief—would verifiably freeze Iran’s nuclear program and begin to roll back its most proliferation-susceptible features, providing breathing room to negotiate a final settlement. After years of diplomatic stalemate and unconstrained Iranian nuclear progress, many former US government and military officials from both political parties have praised the Geneva deal as an important step in the right direction.
Skeptics in the United States and Israel, though, argue that the current negotiations, set to resume in February, are headed the wrong way. While P5+1 leaders envision a final deal that “would involve a mutually defined [Iranian] enrichment program”—producing material that could be used to make both nuclear energy and weapons—the doubters say that Iran must fully dismantle its ability to enrich.
They put forward two main arguments. Allowing Tehran to retain even a limited ability to make nuclear fuel would leave a rogue regime too close to the bomb, they say. They also argue that any deal that doesn’t prohibit Iranian enrichment would undermine US efforts to stem the practice in other countries, in part by making it harder to negotiate bilateral “gold standard” no-proliferation agreements on civilian nuclear power.
Neither of the critics’ arguments, though, is a good reason to oppose the diplomatic process with Iran.