Iran Nuclear Negotiations Raise Concerns
On Thursday, April 2, a framework agreement completed by Iran and six other nations in regards to Iran’s nuclear capabilities was announced that, despite its cooperative nature, has sparked controversy across several nations. The agreement is the product of almost two years of negotiations, finalized over the course of eight days.
The agreement’s terms would dramatically shrink Iran’s nuclear program, decreasing its number of centrifuges by over half, reducing its uranium enrichment capabilities and forcing the nation to give up 97 percent of its current enriched uranium stockpile. Additionally, known nuclear facilities will be scaled back or made into research centers, and will be monitored regularly by International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.
In return, many United Nations Security Council economic sanctions will be lifted. American sanctions related to non-nuclear matters, such as Iran’s state sponsored terrorism, however, will remain.
The deal was announced amidst a recently combative climate surrounding the negotiations. Earlier this March, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was invited to speak at a joint session of Congress, in what some interpreted as a Republican attempt at undermining the presidents negotiation efforts. The Prime Minister stated concerns that the deal at the time would not truly stop Iran in its attempts to build a nuclear weapon.
Just weeks after the session, 47 Republican senators signed a letter to Iran’s leaders, asserting that any agreement reached could be undone by future administrations or Congress. Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the letter for being, as he claimed, of a calculated and unprecedented nature. He stated, “During my 29 years here in the Senate, I have never heard of—nor even heard of it being proposed—anything comparable to this.” (Mediaite, “John Kerry’s Reaction to GOP’s Iran Letter: ‘Utter Disbelief,’” 03.11.15)
The current proposal, while it has been granted significant praise in both countries, has also generated significant controversy. To some Iranian constituents, there is uncertainty as to the fairness of a gradual lifting of the existing sanctions, as opposed to doing so immediately.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has continued to insist that a better deal could be reached, one that forces Iran to accept more compromises in return for lifted sanctions. House Speaker John Boehner remarked, “It would be naive to suggest the Iranian regime will not continue to use its nuclear programme, and any economic relief, to further destabilise the region.” (Al Jazeera, “Obama hails ‘historic’ Iran nuclear deal,” 04.03.15)
President Obama has come out in strong defense of the preliminary agreement, declaring it a unique significantly scale back the Iranian nuclear program. “This is our best bet by far to make sure Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon,” he said in a recent New York Times interview. (The New York Times, “President Obama Calls Preliminary Iran Nuclear Deal ‘Our Best Bet,’” 04.05.15) In Tehran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani emphasized Iran’s desire to fully adhere to the plans guidelines. “Cooperation and interaction would be in the interest of everyone,” he commented.
While the framework has been widely lauded as a sign of significant achievement in American-Iranian relations, it will not be finalized until June 30, and many details have yet to be worked out. Currently many questions about the plan remain unanswered, and some details are even contested. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif commented, “We have taken a major step but are still some way away from where we want to be.” (The Daily Mail, “‘We will not cheat’: Iran’s president vows to abide by nuclear pact, as thousands take to streets of country to celebrate ‘historic’ deal,” 04.03.15)
The future of the deal is still uncertain, though few have refuted the framework’s historical significance.
– Matt Kolbert, Guest Reporter