Iran, Nukes and Deals

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November 13,  2013

So, I guess we’re on speaking terms again with Iran. It’s been a while – since 1979 when the Iranian Revolution ousted the US-backed Shah and 52 Americans were taken hostage when the US Embassy was overrun by revolutionaries. The Americans were kept captive for 444 days until Ronald Reagan became president.

Since those days, we haven’t spoken much. Not even in the hallways of life. No Christmas or birthday cards exchanged. Nothing. But things started to change in September and now Secretary of State John Kerry has been in Geneva with five other UN powers trying to hammer out a deal with Iran regarding their nuclear program. Iran’s nuclear ambitions have been the cause of no small amount of concern among the international community. The US and Israel in particular. So, where do we stand now?

The Current Deal

There really is no deal at this point from the delegation that met in Geneva. (The five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany)  But Iran will allow inspectors from the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) to have access to its nuclear sites. Some of its sites. OK, two sites. The agreement does not give UN inspectors access to some of the more sensitive sites – and that includes military facilities where Iranian scientists are suspected to have carried out nuclear-weapons research and activities in the past 10 years.  Enrichment of uranium will be limited to no more than 5%  – for six months – in hopes of lessening the economic sanctions that have been placed on Iran for years.

What’s good about it?

Some think it’s good that there is dialogue – at least we’re talking. Not all agree, but for those who do, they believe that more diplomacy can be achieved through conversation than through silence. The idea is that diplomacy must start somewhere.

The limiting of the enrichment program means that Iran won’t be able to build a nuclear weapon – for at least six months. And of course Iran continues to say they are not pursuing nuclear weapons – that their program is and always has been for peaceful purposes.

What’s not good about it?

Well, there’s really no “deal” to speak of. Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, promised his people that he’d get some relief from the economic sanctions. So, he had to do something. While the media reports that Rouhani is a moderate, he has done little to change Iran’s nuclear policies in his first months in office. Yukiya Amano, director general of the IAEA reports, “I can say that enrichment activities are ongoing…no radical change is reported to me.”

In reality the deal with the IAEA is only a six-month delay on Iran’s nuclear weapons goals. Israeli president Netanyahu and House majority leader Eric Cantor believe that nothing short of a full halting of the Iranian nuclear program in needed before economic sanctions should be removed – in any form. The Israeli president, the strongest voice against Iran’s nuclear program, believes that the wrong agreement with Iran could result in war, not peace.

What’s the future hold? 

Talks between the Western powers and Iran will resume on November 20th. One thing is sure: the current US administration does not want another war. They do not want a future nuclear confrontation. They definitely do not want Israel to make a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities like they did with Iraq in the 1980’s and in Syria in 2007. But it seems that the US wants a deal more than the Iranians do. In fact, it appears that the US would be willing to accept almost any deal. (It was the French, reportedly,  who threw a monkey wrench into the deal causing the Iranians to draw a red line and then subsequently broker a meaningless, short-term arrangement with the IAEA.)

So what’s next? Iran will probably get some relief from economic sanctions. During coming months, I don’t believe much will be revealed to the UN inspectors. There will be the appearance of openness, but little else. Iran will continue pursing nuclear weapons – either now, covertly, or in a few more months when everyone has refocused on another issue. Iran will eventually become the possessor of nuclear weapons. The region will eventually become more destabilized. Will Israel attempt to take out Iran’s nuclear capability? When dealing with the threat of Iraq and then Syria, Israel didn’t talk about it. They just did it. It’s my thought that the more Israel talks about it, the less likely they are to do anything. And it’s probably too late anyway.

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