The Iran Nuclear Issue: Capitalize and Close the Deal

At a multilateral meeting on the Iran nuclear issue, a deal toward a “framework” has been reached. The deal represents meaningful progress toward curtailing Iran’s nuclear program. In order to stabilize the Middle East, Iran and the West must work together toward a final agreement.

Foreign ministers from Iran and six other nations – the five permanent member nations of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany – met repeatedly in Switzerland for discussions. According to the framework of the agreement, Iran would be limited in its nuclear development for the next 10 to 15 years. Iran would further have to reduce the number of centrifuges that can produce enriched uranium by one-third and limit its enrichment facilities to one. Its remaining two nuclear facilities would be modified for other uses. Iran must also allow officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency to periodically inspect any nuclear-related facilities.

The United States and the European Union have agreed to lift sanctions if Iran fulfills all parts of the agreement. On the other hand, if Iran were to violate the agreement, a mechanism would be in place to immediately restart the sanctions. If Iran executes the agreement faithfully, a nuclear crisis would be dodged from the U.S.-Europe perspective by the large-scale delay in Iran’s nuclear development. Russia and China have shown cooperation in the greater international community by being lockstep with the United States during the so-called “marathon negotiations.”

In order to revive its economy through oil and gas resources, limiting its nuclear development was a necessity for Iran to work toward the lifting of sanctions. It was reported recently that Iranians are anticipating greatly improved economic conditions. The deadline for a final agreement is June 30, but there are still difficult hurdles to overcome, such as the amount of inspection authority granted to the IAEA.

Despite these setbacks, this is the best chance the world has seen to resolve this issue. The United States chose a diplomatic solution over a military one. Iran’s President Rouhani has turned to a policy of dialogue over confrontation with the United States. Unlike the case of North Korea, this agreement was formed by the international community under the umbrella of the U.N. Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. We hope that Iran and the West can smoothly reach a final agreement.

The West first demanded a complete halt to Iran’s nuclear program, but switched to a policy allowing for the peaceful use of energy. However, there are still deep-seated, hardliner arguments from the U.S. Congress, where Republicans currently hold a majority, that the United States should continue pursuing the complete abandonment of a nuclear program by Iran.

In this framework agreement, there is no demand for Iran to shut down its nuclear facilities. Israel strongly opposes the deal, so the threat of military conflict is still real. The important issue facing the Obama administration now is convincing the U.S. Congress and international allies on the merits of the deal.

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