Nuclear negotiations between Iran and the so-called P5 + 1 reached a long-anticipated breakthrough on April 2nd as negotiators emerged weary-eyed from all-night talks to announce a framework for a final deal.
Under the agreed framework, the United States and its allies will block every path Iran has to nuclear weapons through an unprecedentedly intrusive regime of restrictions and monitoring. For Iran, the crippling nuclear-related sanctions imposed by the US, EU, and UN will be lifted incrementally upon verification that compliance is met for all requirements within the deal. All indications show this is a good deal, and the P5+1 negotiators should be commended for their efforts.
The framework agreement places considerable restrictions on Iran’s ability to obtain a nuclear weapon using either plutonium or highly-enriched uranium (HEU). Iran’s plutonium-producing reactor at Arak will be dismantled and redesigned, eliminating Iran’s capability to develop weapon-grade plutonium. Any spent fuel produced from this reactor will be exported from Iran, effectively closing off any chance at developing a plutonium weapon.
Iran’s uranium capabilities are also dramatically handcuffed; under the proposed framework, Iran will forfeit 2/3rd of all installed centrifuges, 97% of its uranium stockpile, and the capability to enrich uranium above low-fuel levels for at least 15 years.
Opponents of an agreement between the U.S and its international partners and Iran protest that no such agreement should be agreed to, based on mistrust for Iran and its authoritarian regime. With this concern in mind, the agreement includes the most intrusive and robust monitoring system ever negotiated. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will have unrestricted access to Iran’s centrifuges for 20 years and Iran’s uranium supply chain for 25 years. And, as Secretary Kerry emphasized during his April 2nd press conference, there is “no sunset clause” on the agreement. When the current terms of the Iran deal are fulfilled, Iran will still be required to maintain compliance with both the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the IAEA’s intrusive inspections and monitoring protocols, which include implementation of the Additional Protocol and Modified Code 3.1.
President Obama, in his address from the White House Rose Garden, declared this diplomatic progress as the far superior choice to military intervention or increased pressure:
“I have always insisted that I will do what is necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and I will. But I also know that a diplomatic solution is the best way to get this done, and offers a more comprehensive and lasting solution. It is our best option, by far.”
As Iran and the P5+1 work to finalize this framework before the June 30 deadline, President Obama will be busy selling the benefits of the deal to Congress. While it is the responsibility of the negotiators to ensure this framework is realized as a final agreement by the self-imposed deadline, it is Congress’s responsibility to recognize a good thing and support the international community’s consensus to use diplomacy to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.