There’s a deal in place for a six-month slowdown of the Iranian nuclear program and what looks like a rollback of the elements of that program that could lead to the development of a weapon. There’s going to be a massive amount of complaining about this deal on the part of people who a) don’t know what’s in it, b) don’t care what’s in it and just want a reason to go after Obama, c) don’t care what’s in it and are desperate to see America and/or Israel bomb some Iranians, d) know what’s in it but refuse to wait and see if it gets implemented, and e) belong to more than one of the above groups. The full fact sheet on the deal is all over the internet, for example here. Highlights:
- Iran must stop enriching uranium above the 5% mark, the high end of the scale for uranium used in civilian reactors and must dismantle their infrastructure for enriching uranium beyond this level
- Iran must eliminate its existing stockpile of 20% enriched uranium, which is just a step below weapons-grade, either by diluting it or converting it to oxide
- Iran will stop installing centrifuges and will pledge not to use much of its centrifuge capacity (particularly its more modern centrifuges that can enrich uranium to weapons-grade more easily than older models)
- Iran will freeze its stockpile of low enriched (3.5%-5%) uranium and convert any newly enriched uranium to oxide
- Iran will halt construction of and production of fuel for the heavy-water Arak reactor, which could generate plutonium if it is allowed to come on-line
- Iran will grant the IAEA substantially greater access to all nuclear facilities, and the IAEA will monitor compliance along with the P5+1
- The P5+1 agree to a 6 month hold on any new sanctions as long as Iran abides by the above conditions
- Certain sanctions on precious metals, Iran’s auto industry, and petrochemicals will be lifted
- Iran will be allowed to repatriate some $4.2 billion in oil revenues
- The P5+1 will facilitate Iranian access to humanitarian products (food, medicine, etc.), which are already exempt from sanctions; unclear what “facilitate” means
- The vast majority of the sanctions remain in place
I’m just Some Dude on the Internet, but it looks to me like a long-term deal could be made along the lines of trading an Iranian “right” to enrich uranium to the 3.5%-5% level for a complete abandonment of the Arak reactor and an ongoing Iranian commitment to transparency with respect to monitoring. The P5+1 won’t explicitly acknowledge Iran’s right to enrich, they just won’t stop them from doing it. Nobody explicitly acknowledges that countries like Germany and Japan have a “right” to enrich uranium either; they just do it. Nor do we explicitly acknowledge that Israel has nuclear weapons; they just do and nobody in the West talks about it. This short term deal seems to punt on completely shutting down Iran’s ability to enrich, but it does, significantly, seem to extract a major concession on Arak.
Obviously the details on paper are not nearly as important as what actually happens over the next 6 months, but this actually seems like more than what anybody could have reasonably expected out of this deal; the commitment to eliminate, not just freeze, Iran’s stockpile of 20% enriched uranium, and to shut down any advancement on the Arak reactor, are major concessions.