Saturday night, the international delegation known as the P5+1 (five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany) concluded a temporary deal with the Iranian government concerning its nuclear program. The deal calls on Iran to scale back its uranium enrichment program, downgrade or eliminate its more highly enriched uranium stockpile, not activate any more centrifuges, and submit to a very through regime of inspections. In exchange, some (but not all sanctions) would be lifted on certain Iranian industries. The deal is expected to last 6 months and during that time, the Iranians and the P5+1 are supposed to negotiate a final agreement to prevent Iran from developing the bomb.
Many members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are opposed to the deal. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the deal a historic mistake. However, I think we should give this deal a chance for three reasons.
1) The deal includes a strong inspections regime
Under the deal reached,inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency will conduct daily inspections of Iranian nuclear sites to verify Iranian compliance with the deal. If Iran tries to build the bomb or otherwise doesn’t comply with the deal, it will be detected. This, along with the limited sanctions relief, will ensure Iranian compliance with the deal.
2) The Iranians have to dilute their existing uranium stockpile
Under the deal, the Iranians must dilute half of their stockpile of 20% enriched uranium down to 5%. This lengthens the amount of time needed to develop enough material to build one nuclear bomb from two weeks to two months. This may not seem to be a big deal, but combine this with the through IAEA inspections process and this will present a logistical hurdle for Iran to develop the bomb.
3) Iran is not North Korea
Many critics point out that North Korea made agreements to not develop the bomb, but they ultimately broke them and developed the bomb anyway. However there is a major difference between Iran and North Korea. Iran is a major oil producer that must export that oil whereas North Korea chooses to try to be aseconomically isolated from the rest of the world as possible. That’s why sanctions work with Iran but don’t with North Korea.
This is only a temporary deal. If Iran does not comply sanctions can be reimposed and strengthened and the military option remains on the table. Let’s hope this is the beginning of the peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear crisis instead of merely postponing an inevitable war for six months.