The U.S. is at a turning point in global leadership with the successful implementation of a successful Iran nuclear deal. This achievement will obviously be contingent on a nuclear pact that keeps Iran from developing a nuclear bomb and protects the United States and its allies in the Middle East, specifically Israel. This pact’s success could also be a legacy accomplishment for the Obama administration.
At the heart of this plan’s potential success is the pivotal issue of Iran’s cooperation and honest commitment to honoring the points of the pact. For decades, the United States and western powers have agreed that Iranian nuclear development is contrary to Middle East peace and security. Iran’s militant influence in this region and its active support of terror activities make the prevention issue even more explicit. U.S. administrations from both parties over the past two decades have even threatened military intervention to prevent nuclear proliferation in Iran.
With a war-weary public, the United States has a lot more to lose in military intervention the Iranian mullahs. There is concern that this reluctance to use force as prevention contaminates U.S. resolve and gives the negotiation advantage to Iran. This is a fallacy and ignores the blood and treasure that have been expended in this region that remains plagued by pervasive violence and terror. There is value in learning from the history of the failed democratization that is routinely interpreted as occupation (or worse colonization) by the very people this country intends to aid.
The much touted accord framework achieved in Geneva is certainly preliminary but it does give a good indication of the finer points of what the P5+1 powers hope to achieve in a final pact. The P5 includes the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council: America, France, Britain, China and Russia. The “+1” portion of this diplomacy includes Germany, part of previous EU3 negotiations.
If preventing Iran from getting a nuclear bomb is the ultimate goal of this negotiation, then the best-case scenario of outcomes unfortunately still falls short of this point. The proposed agreement will at best minimally extend breakout capacity – in other words the amount of time it would take the country to produce enough material to create a nuclear weapon. Current estimates say that the country is literally two months from having enough fissile material to create a bomb. The agreement would stretch this “breakout capacity” to at least one year.
To achieve this minimization of capacity, Iran would be required to dismantle many of its uranium enrichment facilities. It would have to submit to rigorous inspection by representatives of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Historically, Iran has cheated and continued clandestine enrichment even in the face of sanctions. Its leadership maintains its enriched materials are purposed for energy and medicinal applications. However, in a country that is rich with fossil fuels, purported energy application has a rather dubious context and does nothing to convince western powers.
In exchange for proposed enrichment reduction and compliance, Iran gains the lifting of crippling economic sanctions that prevent the country from exploiting its energy resources. Restrictions would be gradually removed from oil and gas exports, the import of technology that would be used to improve their energy infrastructure, as well as the relaxing of restrictions on the country’s world banking relationship.
Spearheading a pact that successfully accomplishes these basic treatises would be a momentous break through point for an Obama administration that has been plagued by foreign policy disasters. Furthermore, a diplomatic solution to the threat of nuclear proliferation in the region would be an enduring legacy for any presidential administration. Opponents of the deal accuse the administration of being willing to “give away the farm” in exchange for any deal but the promise of peace without military intervention is a worthy objective.
The key to any successful treaty is found in the Ronald Reagan credo of “trust but verify.” If Iran will submit to verification protocols and adhere to the terms of reduction, this pact is worth pursuing. The U.S. must insure its protection as well as the protection of allies and interests in the region. Achievement of these goals in an Iranian nuclear deal will indeed be a positive turning point in U.S. global leadership.
Opinion by Chris Marion
Photo by IAEA Imagebank – Flickr License