Iran will not immediately be more tolerant at home and less troublesome abroadby Mark Fitzpatrick / July 14, 2015 / Leave a comment
The agreement reached in Vienna on 14th July is not a great deal for either Iran or the world powers with whom it was negotiating. But it is good enough and far better than the alternative of the status quo ante.
Less than two years ago, Iran was locked in an increasingly worrisome confrontation with the Western nations, adding more centrifuges as they added more sanctions. In the race between centrifuges and sanctions, the centrifuges were winning as Iran got perilously close to being able to dash to produce nuclear weapons while inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) were hampered with outdated inspection rights. There was good reason to think—and I did—that Iran was heading toward a war with the United States and/or Israel.
The November 2013 interim agreement temporarily stopped the race, and rolled back Iran’s capabilities in some respects. Now, after breaking six deadlines, negotiators have agreed on a 159-page text that sharply reduces Iran’s capabilities in ways I once thought it would never accept. Cutting the centrifuge number by two-thirds and limiting those to the old-fashioned, crash-prone first-generation models for ten years was a significant plus. So too, the agreement to thoroughly revise the Arak reactor so it cannot produce weapons-grade plutonium. The most eye-catching number though was the reduction in the stockpile of low-enriched uranium, to be limited to a mere two per cent of its current size. This is far better than previous attempts to reduce the stockpile size: the October 2009 failed fuel swap and the April 2010 failed attempt by Brazil and Turkey to broker a deal.
Iran has also accepted all the verification provisions of the IAEA Additional Protocol, which allows inspector access anywhere needed, when needed. Fulminations by Iran’s Supreme Leader that inspectors would not be allowed on military bases or to interview nuclear scientists did not prove to be the final word.
With those reductions and with the intrusive IAEA inspections Iran has accepted, the E3+3 powers negotiating with Iran (France, Germany and UK plus China, Russia and US) have met their goal of blocking all of Iran’s potential paths to a nuclear…