Sunday, November 24, 2013

Iran and the Nuclear Agreement!

After several recent hits the Obama team is hungry for a win. The Iran nuclear negotiations that have finely ended in an agreement will be spun to constitute such a victory. With Kerry saying things like "no deal is better then a bad deal" six world powers reached an interim agreement with Iran on its disputed nuclear program after days of talks in Geneva. American officials said it was the first time in nearly a decade that an international agreement had been reached to halt much of Iran’s nuclear program and ratchet back some elements of it. The goal of the accord, which is to last six months, is to give international negotiators time to pursue a more comprehensive pact and ensure that Iran’s nuclear program could be used only for peaceful purposes.

Shortly after the agreement was signed in the Palace of Nations in Geneva, President Obama, speaking from the State Dining Room in the White House, hailed it as the most “significant and tangible” progress of a diplomatic campaign that began when he took office. In the six-month interim deal, Iran agreed to limit nuclear activities in return for relief  from economic sanctions. The United States agreed to provide up to $7 billion in relief with roughly $4.2 billion coming from oil revenue that has been frozen in foreign banks. President Obama called the agreement "an important first step" but said sanctions can be reapplied if the Iranians violate it. Financially this is a "big deal" for Iran that is desperate for hard currency.

The sanction relief can be accomplished by executive order, allowing the Obama administration to make the deal without Congress where there is strong criticism of any agreement that does not fully dismantle Iran’s nuclear program. Critics point out the fact that the accord would only pause the Iranian program and say it will reward Iran for institutionalizing the status quo. Several U.S. senators, both Democrat and Republican have voiced displeasure with the parameters of the agreement, arguing that the U.S. and its partners are offering too much for something short of a full freeze on uranium enrichment. Those who are skeptical and view this as a weak agreement say Obama has again backed down again.

Mr. Obama attempted to address those concerns insisting that the easing of sanctions could be reversed if Iran failed to reach a final agreement or reneged on the terms of this one. “Nothing will be agreed to unless everything is agreed to,” he said noting the qualms of Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf allies of the United States by saying they “had good reason to be skeptical of Iran’s intentions.” Obama insisted he had a “profound responsibility” to test the possibilities of a diplomatic solution. Administration officials said the deal addresses several of Israel's most serious concerns about Iran's nuclear program including Iran's  growing supply of 20% uranium and the Arak reactor coming online. Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said there is no reason for celebration insisting the deal is based on "Iranian deception and self-delusion."

Some experts, including a former official who has worked on the Iranian issue for the White House, said it was unlikely that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, would ever close the door on the option to develop nuclear weapons. Only last Wednesday in a speech Iran's supreme leader underlined the position of the old guard and muddied the water with saber rattling rhetoric saying that Iran would never compromise on "red lines." Since then Tehran has publicly reverted to its original stance that the six powers must recognize uranium enrichment as Iran's right, despite strong opposition by Israel and within the U.S. Congress.

This initial six-month agreement is likely to be followed by a series of partial agreements that constrain Iran’s nuclear activities but do not definitively solve the nuclear issues.We must understand that a freeze may not really be a freeze. On the contentious issue of the heavy water reactor Iran is building near Arak, which could produce plutonium and therefore another path to a bomb, Iran agreed not to produce fuel for the plant, install additional reactor components there or put the plant into operation. However Iran is not required to dismantle the facility. To guard against cheating, international monitors would be allowed to visit the Natanz enrichment facility and the underground nuclear enrichment plant at Fordo daily to check film from cameras installed on site.

Iran has insisted on certain sovereign rights to pursue programs within their borders throughout almost a decade of  fruitless negotiations. Last weekend Iran indicated that it was ready to sign a deal that does not expressly rule out that right. Iranian hard-liners are suspicious of talk of nuclear compromise since moderate President Hassan Rouhani took office in September, fearing his team will give not get enough in terms of sanctions relief over the six-months of any first-stage agreement. For the world the bottom-line remains that if  Iran does not halt and reverse its course any agreement means nothing. Iran can ramp up its plans to develop a nuclear bomb at off site locations. In the long-run Iran wins. If current trends continues in the future Iran looks to face a defanged and economically weakened America with less power in the region.

 Footnote; As always your comments are welcome and encouraged. In a separate post I chronicle the 10 most pressing and important problems facing our world, these are increasingly more menacing in that we live in a rapidly changing world that gives us little time and less room to react and set straight the mistakes of our past. As you might expect weapons of mass destruction rates fairly high on the list that can be found below,

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