The Iran Deal Does Exactly What It Intends

After all the attention we’ve given of late to the P5+1/Iran negotiations over the latter’s nuclear program, it seems only fitting to offer something in the way of an assessment in the aftermath of Sunday’s historic deal.

Instead I’ll just direct you to Jeff Goldberg’s column at Bloomberg View; after all, he’s a professional. And he covers all the main reasons why, for the time being, this deal is a better outcome than the available alternatives.

What is worth diving into with a little more depth is the specific content of the deal. In our last post on the subject, we suggested that the agreement’s details would be a good indication of Iran’s ultimate intent. That’s still true, but unfortunately all the details tell us is that Iran’s ultimate intent remains unclear.*

The deal doesn’t commit Iran to downsizing its centrifuge capacity, so in the long run it looks like they can tell the international community to jog on and pick up where they left off if subsequent negotiations fall apart. On the other hand, in the short run, the deal prevents Iran from expanding its current enrichment capabilities, and commits the country to neutralizing its near-20% uranium and halting enrichment above 5%. It also imposes a rigorous inspection regime to ensure compliance, and crucially, it halts further work on the Arak heavy water reactor.

There are plenty of moving parts, so it’s not out of the question that the agreement collapses before the six months are up. But all told, the deal looks to do a pretty good job of what it is intended to do: freeze the Iranian nuclear program at its current level in order to give negotiators time to work out a long term solution.** If it all falls apart in six months, Iran is unlikely then to be any closer to producing a nuclear weapon than it is today, the foundation of the current sanctions regime will still be in place, and by halting work on Arak the option of a military strike (should it ever come to that) remains viable.

*Also mentioned previously; I still think it’s entirely plausible that Iran doesn’t know precisely what it wants out of these negotiations. At the very least I’d suggest its negotiating stance is highly contingent
**The importance of this deal in simply proving the two sides can agree on anything substantial should also not be underestimated