Interpreting the New Iran Deal
By John Allen Gay, Asst. Managing Editor, National Interest
Reviewed by James L. Abrahamson, contributing editor
John Gay argues that the deal worked out with the Iranian diplomats “isn’t so bad,” at least based on the details “released by the White House.” It calls for Iran to stop enriching uranium to 20% and either “dilute or convert its entire stockpile,” which means Iran would require more time to build a nuclear weapon. Nor may Iran employ its faster-working centrifuges, install any new ones, or (maybe) activate any not in use. The deal also placed “significant restrictions” on the potential plutonium-producing reactor being constructed at Arak, which gained French support.
Iran also accepted more international monitoring of its nuclear facilities, daily access to Natanz and Fordow, and more access to Arak and the details of its design. Monitors will also ensure that facilities that manufacting Iran’s centrifuges do not divert any of them to some secret site.
To gain the concessions described above, the Western powers had to accept that Fordow would continue operating, Iran would retain its stockpile of 20% uranium, and continue uranium enrichment. The inspectors will not, moreover, soon gain access to Parchin, a facility that might be testing the explosives needed for a nuclear weapon. Nor will Iran likely permit inspectors to “traipse around the entire country” and therefore ensure that hidden sites are not violating the agreement.
The agreement also requires the U.S. to suspend “key sanctions” on Iran’s auto industry, permit its trade in gold and oil, and grant access to some of its overseas money. Iran will also receive more food and medicines and the ability to repair its aircraft.
How will Iran’s hardliners respond to the deal? What will the U.S. Congress do regarding new sanctions? What happens if Iran violates some provisions? Will the President Obama “ratchet up the pressure” as he claimed? Will the Western powers support that step? Who will be blamed for any violations? Will some in Congress or of the other powers “be too ready to toss a deal that isn’t so bad”?