Following up on our inaugural posts last week on the Belfer Center's Iran Matters website, we have again gathered several more “best analyses” that advance the arguments for and against the interim agreement with Iran. The views we cite include perspectives from Iran as well as from the United States.
As the shouting about the interim deal has subsided, the analytical community has begun examining more carefully the details of what was agreed—and what was left out. Because the Iranian nuclear challenge is inherently so complex and involves inescapable technicalities that really matter, translating the sometimes mind-numbing details of SWUs, centrifuge operating efficiencies, and units of UF6 or oxide into criteria that are understandable for policymakers and critics is demanding.
At the risk of tooting Belfer Center horns, we note two recent contributions that make the technical morass more intelligible.
Chart 1 below illustrates the difference between LEU (low-enriched uranium, used to make fuel for power plants) and MEU (medium-enriched uranium that can be used to make fuel for research reactors). On the path to HEU (high-enriched uranium that can become the core of a bomb), 20 percent enriched uranium (MEU) is much closer to bomb-usable material than 5% enriched uranium (LEU).
The debate on the interim nuclear deal continues—indeed, it approaches avalanche. While the majority of the analytical community appears to be giving the deal at least a conditional thumbs up considering the alternatives, a number of contrary voices have continued to advance relevant considerations. This is our selection of the best for and against the interim agreement.
The six-month interim agreement that was signed in early hours of Sunday between Iran and the P5+1 countries is a major achievement, which can pave the way for a permanent solution to the Iran nuclear crisis. The final document points to significant concessions on both sides that should not be underestimated. The sanctions relief that the P5+1 offered in this agreement is substantial and can have a significant positive impact on Iran’s dire economic conditions, despite being temporary. Some experts have claimed that this relief will have only a positive psychological impact on Iran’s economic climate, but a look at the specific components of the relief package point to potentially deeper impacts.
In all the fierce arguments over the pros and cons of the recent nuclear deal with Iran, a key element has mostly gotten lost: what does it actually say? Here’s a quick summary of what each side gets out of the deal. (You can find the official White House summary here, though Iran has asserted that certain parts of it are inaccurate – as discussed further below.) In essence, this deal was never designed to do more than (a) stop each side from getting much worse off while negotiation of a broader deal continued, and (b) send a signal that meaningful agreements are possible, despite the enormous mistrust and hostility on both sides. It does both of those things pretty well – but it leaves a lot of heavy lifting for the future. The deal should be understood in combination with the similarly partial agreement Iran reached with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) earlier in November.
The news of an interim deal regarding the Iranian nuclear dossier, reached between Tehran and the P5+1, has generated reactions from across the board. While some have been busy celebrating a constructive and balanced deal, and great step for the nonproliferation regime and international security, others have been more skeptical, some even denouncing the deal as a great mistake. In Iran, reactions have also covered the entire spectrum. Yet, the general trend seems to be one of optimism and satisfaction with a deal that many consider as a positive step to Iran’s rehabilitation in the community of nations.
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