Mixed Feelings about the Iran Nuclear Deal
April 5, 2015
Last Thursday the Group 5 + 1 and Iran agreed a policy framework intended to reach a diplomatic solution for the controversial Iranian nuclear program. The established parameters, which must be concreted in a final agreement by June 30, limit the ability of Iran to enrich uranium during a period of 10 years. As a counterpart, the deal would mean the end of international sanctions that have affected for years the Iranian economy and its foreign trade.
The great powers seek to delay as much as possible the time required for Iran to obtain sufficient weapons-grade uranium to manufacture an atomic bomb. To that end, the deal sets an environment in which Iran, in the best of cases, would last one year to get such material. This timeframe is seen as a big advance versus the current situation with an estimate of three months for Iran to reach its breakout capability.
Consequently, the agreement would also lead to improve the efficiency of controls by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Although Tehran has always declared the peaceful intentions of its nuclear program, there have been over the years many violations to its international safeguards commitments as a State Party of the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The IAEA’s inspections that the country must accept were affected more than once by evident lack of cooperation, in addition the Fordow enrichment facility was illegally kept in the dark and only declared once it was discovered by the foreign intelligence. Moreover, the nuclear Agency alerted about the possible "military dimensions" of the Iranian nuclear program.
The pre-agreement has divided the waters in the international community. It was received with relief by the negotiating powers and with joy in Iran where it is perceived as a clear diplomatic success. However, many voices around the world have stated their concerns.
The difference in both approaches is clear: while the most severe positions claim that Iran must fully surrender uranium enrichment activities (and spent fuel reprocessing that also enables the production of plutonium for nuclear weapons), the actual negotiation has been focused on reductions in numbers of centrifuges and in enrichment levels, for a limited time, and also on enhanced international controls of the nuclear program. It implies for the Islamic Republic to keep its capabilities to develop sensitive technologies as well as its facilities which is seen as an unacceptable concession to the Iranian persistence and therefore as a sign of unprecedented weakness by the P5+1.
Such controversy has also dominated the political arena in the United States where significant differences about the strategy and content of the negotiation have emergedbetween the Obama administration and the opposition.
Last March three relevant facts served to highlight those disagreements: a. The Republicans gave space to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a plenary of both Chambers in the US Congress on Israel’s objections about the deal. b. After that, 47 Republican Senators signed a letter to the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani where they emphasized the required approval by the US Congress of any international commitment taken by the White House. This unusual letter was read as a way to thwart Obama’s strategy during the negotiations. c. Finally, a bi-partisan statement by 80% of the members of the House of Representatives raised concern about the progress of the negotiations and alerted about the need of a lasting settlement able to restrict Iran’s nuclear infrastructure as well as its pathways to a bomb.
Countries that are regionally affected by a possible Iran with nuclear weapons, such as Saudi Arabia and the monarchies of the Gulf, as well as Israel, have also raised their voices of dissatisfaction with the deal. Netanyahu for example called for a solution better than either the bad agreement or the war, and he proposed to firmly keep the sanctions until getting a more favorable attitude from Tehran. Once again the main concern is that the agreement would let Iran keep the majority of its enrichment infrastructure in place.
Given the narrow margin of action that the international community currently has to stop horizontal proliferation and also to give a categorical resolution to the dilemma posed by the Iran’s nuclear program, the deal seems to be the least worst option.
Today it is materially impossible any use of force to halt a nuclear program which has been firmly stated as "peaceful" and which, at the same time, it is carefully protected. Not less important, Iran is now a key element of containment of the ISIS, in both Iraq and Syria and therefore, and shares strong interests with the Western powers.
It is clear that there are many questions to answer and challenges to overcome until the end of June when the final deal should be closed. There are many things on the table, not only in terms of its complex technical issues but also of its effectiveness to prevent a nuclear armed Iran. The coming three months will be very difficult. Meanwhile, both sides seek to gain time. And time in this case, clearly plays on the side of the Islamic Republic.
NPSGlobal Foundation, 17 Apr 2014.
A United Nations report Thursday said that Iran has reduced its stockpiles of sensitive uranium by 75% as part of a deal with six world powers seeking assurances of the peaceful nature of the country’s nuclear program, Reuters news agency reported.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Iran had diluted half of its reserves of uranium with 20% enrichment.
Under the terms of the agreement, the other half of the country’s sensitive uranium reserves were to be converted to oxide. Reuters said that the U.N. agency reported that this process was halfway completed.
Global Security Newswire, 16 Apr 2014.
A terminated U.S. Army facility worker faces charges for holding what was thought to be a deadly form of uranium, the Newark Star-Ledger reports.Police detained 44-year-old Joseph Gibeau on Saturday after allegedly finding radioactive substances inside several lead-shielded containers at his home while responding to a domestic call, the newspaper reported on Tuesday. Two containers reportedly held a substance tentatively identified by authorities as uranium sulfate, a potentially lethal chemical.
NPSGlobal Foundation, 14 Abr 2014.
The leader of the global monitoring group that is helping oversee the eradication of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal said Monday President Bashar al-Assad’s government has no more margin for delays if it is to meet the June deadline for destruction of its arsenal.
Ahmet Üzümcü, director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said the removal of the chemicals had fallen behind a revised schedule that called for the delivery process to be completed by April 27.
Global Security Newswire, 17 Apr 2014.
North Korea reportedly has deployed a mobile rocket launcher to its east coast in a possible sign that a threatened missile test is imminent.
A transporter-erector-launcher was detected moving toward the North's coast, an anonymous senior South Korean government official told the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper for a Tuesday report.
The mobile launcher was earlier fielded at the North's "central front," the official said. "North Korea made similar moves before the launch of its short-range FROG rockets and KN-09 ballistic missiles in late February and early March."
NPSGlobal Foundation, 13 May 2014.
A high-level U.N. official today opened a four-day conference on lethal autonomous weapons encouraging delegates to take bold action to assure that the ultimate decision to take life remain under human control.
NPSGlobal Foundation, 21 may 2014.
A study by security experts of a British university said that a Chinese businessman, who has been accused of supplying prohibited technology to Iran, may have begun manufacturing a key component of guidance systems for ballistic missiles, seriously threatening international peace and security.
NPSGlobal Foundation, 18 Apr 2014
The operator of the Fukushima nuclear power plant accidentally directed 200 tons of highly radioactive water to a building within the plant site that was not supposed to receive the contaminated water, the Japan Daily Press reported Thursday.
Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) told the Japan Daily Press that Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) ordered the company to monitor for leakage even though TEPCO assured that the facility was watertight.
TEPCO reported that the highly contaminated water, which is used for cooling the disabled reactors, had been mistakenly routed to a group of buildings that house the central waste processing facilities for the plant.
NPSGlobal Foundation, Apr 14, 2014.
A Japanese columnist today said Washington may soon force Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government to accept traditional safeguards on its nuclear materials unless it backs down from its confrontational stance with neighboring countries.
Norihiro Kato, a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times and literary professor at Waseda University, said in an Op-Ed piece in the newspaper that if Abe “continues on his confrontational agenda, his government may lose Washington’s support.”
By Godfrey Marawanyika & Kevin Crowley, Bloomberg, 10 Aug 2013.
Zimbabwe hasn’t signed an agreement allowing uranium exports to Iran, Deputy Mining Minister Gift Chimanikire said, after a media report the country entered into a deal to export the material used to build nuclear weapons.
NPSGlobal Foundation, 20 May 2014.
The state of New Mexico in the southwestern region of the United States has given the Los Alamos National Laboratory a deadline for securing 57 nuclear-waste barrels that were linked to a radiation leak in February, according to news reports.
New Mexico Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn said the nuclear-waste drums may pose an “imminent” and “substantial” danger to health or the environment, NBC News reported. He said the laboratory had until Wednesday to propose how to secure the barrels to prevent further leaks.
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