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04/04/15

Iran nuclear deal: They've done it!

By Farhang Jahanpour (first published by TFF Associates & Themes Blog)


Representative of five-plus-one countries (US, Russia. China, Britain, France and Germany) and Iran announcing the framework of the nuclear agreement in Lausanne, Switzerland on April 2nd, 2015.


At last they have done it! After 36 years of hostility between Iran and the West, 12 years of nuclear negotiations initially between Iran and the European Troika (Britain, France and Germany), followed by talks between Iran and the P5+1, finally the two sides have agreed on a framework for a final, comprehensive agreement before the end of June.

It is clear that this agreement falls short of both side’s maximum expectations. It will be strongly opposed by the hardliners in Iran who believe that, as an NPT member, Iran is entitled to the full range of nuclear activities and, therefore, they will accuse the Iranian negotiators of a sell out.

On the other hand, the Israeli Prime Minister and his supporters in the US Congress, who are not satisfied with any agreement with Iran short of the cessation of all forms of nuclear enrichment in Iran, even at the cost of a war, will blame the Obama Administration of appeasement.

It is also clear that both sides have achieved their minimum demands. The West can be sure that Iran will not be able to produce nuclear weapons, not only for the next ten or fifteen years, but even long after that, because she will be under constant IAEA supervision for decades to come. All paths to the production of the necessary amount of enriched uranium or plutonium for the production of a single bomb have been blocked. The “breakout period” that at the moment is allegedly only between two or three months will be extended to at least a year.

However, this is quite misleading, because even if Iran had been allowed to accumulate enough enriched uranium for a single bomb within a year, this would not mean that Iran could actually produce a bomb. Making a bomb requires weaponization, miniaturization and above all testing. Any of those activities would be easily detected. Furthermore, what use would a single bomb be for Iran when faced with hundreds of nuclear bombs by Israel and thousands of nuclear bombs by the United States? The whole concept of a “breakout period” was a red herring introduced by Israel and her friends in the United States with the single aim of scaremongering and preventing a nuclear agreement.

Clearly, Iran has had to give much more than she has received. As an NPT signatory she should have been able to have access to the full range of nuclear activities for peaceful purposes. As President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Kerry have pointed out in their speeches, Iran has accepted the most stringent regime of inspection, more than any applied to any other NPT member.

On the other hand, Iran has achieved its main demand of being able to have limited enrichment on her soil and to be able to continue engaging in research and development in the field of nuclear technology. By agreeing to the unreasonable conditions, she has also succeeded to get the unjust crippling sanctions that had been imposed on her by the Security Council, the EU and the United States to be lifted, although it is not yet clear to what extent and according to what time frame. It is reasonable to assume that all the sanctions imposed by the US Congress will not be lifted in a hurry.

The truth of the matter is that both sides have made some concessions and sacrifices, with Iran making the greatest concessions in return for as yet uncertain rewards. However, under the present circumstances and in the current highly charged climate this was the best outcome that one could hope for.

This agreement should be welcomed as the first sign of rapprochement between Iran and the West. It has shown that the two sides can negotiate with each other instead of constantly using the language of force. The main task now is to make sure that it can be translated into a comprehensive agreement by the end of June.

It will ease some of the sanctions, and will open the door to more commercial activities between Iran and the outside world, and as a result, will bring about some improvement in the lives of hard-pressed Iranians.

It enables Iran to play a more active role in regional politics, which may resolve some of the complicated problems, especially the curse of terrorism that has gripped the entire region. It may lead to greater collaboration between Iran and other Middle Eastern countries with the aim of averting a disastrous Shia-Sunni conflict.

Above all, it has prevented the alternative, namely a disastrous war that would have endangered Iran and the entire world. Certainly, some warmongers may still try to sabotage this deal and prevent a final agreement, but now the momentum is with those who wish to resolve this conflict through diplomacy.

It has also shown that for the first time a major dispute on proliferation has been resolved not by the threat or the use of force, but through talks and negotiations and by each side making some concessions for reaching an agreement.

For all these reasons, all those involved in the negotiations, above all Iranian leaders who have had to swallow a bitter pill and to make the bigger concessions for the sake of peace should be congratulated.

All those in Iran and the West who in the teeth of opposition by warmongers and naysayers have supported a deal should also be congratulated.

It should encourage them to push for peace, diplomacy and negotiations in future occasions too and to remain confident that their voices count, even in the face of enormous opposition by vested interests.

Important links


Farhang Jahanpour, a TFF Associate and Board member and Fellow of The Royal Asiatic Society, is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Isfahan and a former Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University. He is a tutor in the Department of Continuing Education and a member of Kellogg College, University of Oxford.

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