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. Read more about Thumbs up or thumbs down? Round 2
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.
Iran Matters provides a one-stop shop for best analysis, and best facts about the core issues of the Iranian nuclear challenge. Harvard’s Belfer Center’s panel of experts, co-chaired by Graham Allison and Gary Samore, will provide regular updates identifying what the panel judges best analyses for competing answers to core questions. The question for today: how to assess the interim agreement, signed on Sunday with Iran? Thumbs up or thumbs down? In this post, we identify some of the best analyses for both sides.
The Geneva interim agreement is intended to create political time and space to negotiate a final agreement within six months. However, the P5+1 and Iran remain far apart on the central issue of the negotiations – whether Iran can possess the physical capacity to produce fissile materials for nuclear weapons as part of its “peaceful” nuclear program. Since this issue is so divisive and intractable, a final settlement in six months is unlikely. Instead – in the interests of keeping the process alive and avoiding the consequences of diplomatic stalemate or collapse – the P5+1 and Iran are likely to conclude another interim deal, which extends negotiations for a final agreement and hopefully includes additional nuclear constraints in exchange for additional sanctions relief. This is probably the best outcome that diplomacy can offer.
The Israeli writer Ari Shavit had a piece in the November 20 New York Times that asserted that the proposed first-stage deal with Iran “would guarantee” that Iran would eventually build a nuclear bomb. I think he’s completely wrong, for reasons I explained in an op-ed of my own in the Christian Science Monitor.
Imagine that you are an Iranian, trying to make the case that Iran should go ahead and build a nuclear bomb. If the parties fail to reach a first-stage agreement, you will be able to make the case that there’s no real hope of accommodation with the West, that the United States and European countries will never accept the very existence of the Islamic Republic, and that Iran needs a nuclear bomb to defend its regime. The advocates of compromise, your opponents, would be discredited. While building a bomb would require violating Iran’s obligations under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), there would be nothing stopping Iran from getting much closer to the bomb before it pulled out of the NPT.