On July 14, President Obama announced that the United States, and numerous international partners, had finally reached an agreement with Iran regarding their nuclear research and weaponry. This deal was vital as Iran had a breakout time of 2-3 months to having a nuclear weapon. However, it will not happen if Congress does not approve it. Due to America’s close relationship with Israel and other national security concerns, the deal has garnered major pushback from Congress. While this may or may not have been this best deal, it is the only option for the international community to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon.
What does the agreement entail?
Before discussing the deal at all, it is important to understand what it actually means, though this is a very broad outline. Iran has agreed to cut down on the enrichment of uranium. As the New York Times reports, “Iran has also agreed to limit enrichment to 3.7 percent and to cap its stockpile of low-enriched uranium at 300 kilograms, or 660 pounds, for 15 years. That is considered insufficient for a bomb rush.”
Iran has also promised to stop producing weapons-grade plutonium and to give up all spent fuel from the reactor. What does all of this mean? Well enriched uranium and plutonium are key ingredients for making nuclear weapons and Iran has agreed to cease all weapons-grade enrichment.
The deal also has numerous safeguards to ensure that Iran cannot cheat on any portion of the deal. Iran agreed to let the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have greater access and information regarding its nuclear program, and to allow the agency to investigate suspicious sites or allegations of covert facilities related to uranium enrichment anywhere in the country. Inspectors will also have access to the supply chain that supports Iran’s nuclear program, including uranium mines and mills, and to continuous surveillance of centrifuge manufacturing and storage facilities (NYT).
There will be ongoing surveillance at enrichment sites, centrifuge sites, and production sites. The IAEA has the right to visit suspicious sites, but Iran has 24 days to comply with a request. Many of these provisions are permanent. Iran will also have to limit any research and development for the next 15 years (NYT).
What does Iran get out of this?
Numerous sanctions will be dropped as Iran continues to meet the guidelines of the deals, but none of the sanctions will be dropped automatically. As Obama said in his speech, “Over the course of the next decade, Iran must abide by the deal before additional sanctions are lifted, including five years for restrictions related to arms, and eight years for restrictions related to ballistic missiles.”
What are the concerns?
Why isn’t everyone super thrilled about a nuclear deal? There are numerous concerns including national security and the alliance with Israel. Iran has a history of state-sponsored terrorism and animosity towards Israel, a major American ally. There are also a couple provisions in the deal that could undermine its effectiveness.
In the recent past, Iran is known for sponsoring Hezbollah and fighters supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Wall Street Journal described a 2014 U.S. Department of State report on global terrorism: “Of particular concern, the report said, was Iran’s continued support of the powerful Hezbollah militia and political party in Lebanon; and its assistance to fighters supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Iran also hasn’t identified or initiated judicial proceedings against senior al Qaeda leaders it has in custody.”
Iran having relations with terrorist organizations is a major problem if the United States wishes to lift the sanctions. The Atlantic reports that $150 billion could end up reaching Tehran as trade reoccurs. However, the sanctions could unravel with or without the deal. The strength of the sanctions relies on the cooperation of other countries who have agreed to stand with the United States. Yet, some of these countries are truly desperate to take advantage of Iran’s cheap oil.
As the deal has been made, countries have stopped supporting the sanctions in exchange for the deal and solely U.S. sanctions would not have a big impact on Iran’s economy. Moreover, vetoing the deal would also forfeit America’s ability to have oversight in Iran. Without the deal, Iran will still have an economic windfall and the U.S. will have limited oversight.
Many people are also concerned about the wait time between the call for inspections and the actual inspections. Yes, there is a gap. But it is important to remember what it would be that Iran is trying to hide. Nuclear facilities and enriched chemicals are not that easy to hide. They would all leave traces which IAEA could find upon inspections. The wait times are truly not a cause for concern.
There are also large amounts of concern from Israel. President Netanyahu has repeatedly condemned the deal and some Presidential candidates (Huckabee) have equated it to the Holocaust. Israel and Iran do not get along—to put it lightly—because Iran supports Palestine and the Hezbollah terrorist organization. Many Congressmen believe the deal is abandoning Israel. However, putting of Iran’s nuclear capability is very much in Israeli interests. That brings us back to Iran’s funding and the increase of money after the sanctions drop.
Is it worth it?
The deal is far from ideal. It is not everything America or the international community wanted. However, it is the only deterrent to preventing Iran from continuing with a nuclear weapon. The choices before America’s Congress are not between this deal and some better alternative. It is between a deal that will guarantee lengthening Iran’s breakout time and will give America oversight. It is the only option.
All of the above concerns are valid. Yes, Iran funds terrorists and yes, the deal could increase that funding. However, vetoing the deal would not placate these concerns. It would just make the matter worse. If the United States wants to continue being the leader of the free world, then it must be engaged with the world and the rest of the international community. It’s time for our leaders to stand and engage Iran in order to protect our interests of national security and international peace.