By Blake Ingram, Contributing Writer
On July 14, 2015 Iran signed an international agreement that limited its pursuit of nuclear technology. Iran, who has repeatedly claimed its nuclear program is for energy purposes only, has drawn the ire and concern of much of the international community for its blatant attempts to acquiring nuclear weapons.
A nuclear weapon in the hands of the predominantly Shia Muslim nation would not bode well for an increasingly unstable Sunni dominated Middle East. The United States and Israel, affectionately referred to by the Iranian government as “The Great Satan” and “The Little Satan” respectively, also have reason to fear a nuclear-capable Iran.
Most national governments with the notable exceptions of Israel and many Republicans in the U.S. Congress have lauded the nuclear agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). They both see the deal as being too lenient and, ironically, paving the way for Iran to eventually get a nuclear weapon. Although the deal is not perfect, it is infinitely better than the constant looming potential of another war in the Middle East. While the 159-page document can’t be fully analyzed in this article, its main points can be highlighted.
1. Iran’s nuclear program will not be completely dismantled. Uranium, the main chemical element used for nuclear energy and weapons, is allowed to be enriched to 3.67 percent. This enables the uranium to be used in power plants but not in the use of producing nuclear weapons, which require uranium to be enriched to 90 percent. Uranium stockpiles must also be reduced from 10,000 kilograms to 300 kilograms.
2. The construction of new uranium enrichment facilities is prohibited and facilities capable of producing nuclear weapons must be renovated in such a way that they can no longer produce nuclear weapons.
3. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has access to nuclear facilities to ensure no weapons-related research is occurring.
4. Many, but not all, economic sanctions will be lifted. The UN, USA, EU, and other nations have imposed a host of sanctions on Iran in response to its nuclear pursuits. These sanctions have crippled the Iranian economy and contributed heavily to inflation. If Iran violates the agreement in any way, all sanctions will be restored.
The agreement is set to last for fifteen years, after which the situation can be reassessed and appropriate action will be taken. In order for the agreement to take effect it must be ratified by the U.S. Congress, which it undoubtedly will.
As mentioned above, not everyone supports the deal. However, they have failed to offer a better, peaceful alternative. Opponents of the deal are driven by paranoia and fear. While these are legitimate concerns, they cloud judgment. Without this deal Iran will develop a nuclear weapon. A nuclear-weapon-capable Iran would be good for almost no one. With this deal Iran most likely won’t develop a nuclear weapon. No, the deal is not foolproof. Iran could still develop a nuclear weapon. It would be extremely difficult, yet not impossible. Yes, it requires compromise. No side got everything they wanted out of the deal. Both sides had to make sacrifices.
For those who are skeptical of Iran’s fidelity (a valid skepticism to have), it is in Iran’s best interests to adhere to the deal. It would allow them to integrate into the global economy, give them more influence and gain them the respect of the international community that they are currently lacking. Even if the deal is violated there are enough checks in place to insure foreknowledge of any attempts at developing a nuclear weapon. Iran will then have to deal with the repercussions and contempt of most of the world. Be assured, the United States will not allow Iran to become a nuclear power. Israel will not allow it. Saudi Arabia will not allow it. If military action is eventually required to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon, so be it. But for now the nuclear deal is the best peaceful option available.