Overcoming a decade of failed nuclear negotiations, Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany) signed an interim nuclear deal, the Joint Plan of Action (JPA), in Geneva on November 24, 2013. The agreement put into motion talks to reach a mutually agreed long-term comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran’s nuclear program would be exclusively peaceful. In a broader sense, the outcome of the nuclear negotiations with Iran will have a profound impact on nuclear non-proliferation. It could be a significant step toward a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone and a Weapons of Mass Destruction-Free Zone in the Middle East.
According to the interim agreement, Tehran “reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons.” The comprehensive solution will build on interim steps and aims to resolve the decades-long nuclear dispute between Iran and world powers. It also paves the way for Iran “to fully enjoy its right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes under the relevant articles of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in conformity with its obligations therein.” To ensure the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program, the comprehensive agreement seeks to define a mutually agreed enrichment program with stringent transparency and verification mechanisms in place. The implementation of the agreement will be based on a mutually reciprocal, step-by-step process, to result ultimately in the comprehensive lifting of all unilateral, multilateral and UN Security Council sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program.
If diplomacy fails and the interim deal reached in November 2013 does not produce a permanent solution, it will ultimately lead to heightened tensions, a possible all-out war, and force Iran to withdraw from the NPT. Now that against all odds, the United States and European Union have made a deal with Iran, skeptics and opponents have started mobilizing again—in both Tehran as well as in many other capitals, including Washington. In Iran, internal opposition to the deal is driven by concerns related to the hostile policies followed during Obama’s first term and by Israel’s continued challenge of Iran’s right to enrich its nuclear stockpile for energy use. In the United States, internal opposition to the deal and concern about Iranian behavior have been reinforced by two of its closest allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia. The deep uneasiness in those countries is tangible and immediate, for both see Iran as a mortal enemy, bent on Israel’s destruction and regional hegemony.
Finalizing a deal will require compromise by all parties. One of the key challenges will be the likely American insistence that Tehran make concessions far beyond the NPT requirements. Such demands to curb Iran’s nuclear program include dismantling a significant portion of existing centrifuges and low-enriched uranium stockpiles; closure of Fordo, Iran’s second enrichment site near the city of Qom; dismantling of the Arak heavy water research reactor; and intrusive inspections and monitoring that go beyond the NPT and the Additional Protocol. As an NPT member state, Iran would not accept targeted discrimination.
“After The Iran Nuclear Deal,” Cairo Review, Hossein Mousavian. Published by the Cairo Review of Global Affairs, July 6 2014.