Monday, January 13, 2014

Iran Nuclear Deal - Implementation

The implementation of the Geneva interim nuclear deal will begin on January 20th. That's welcome news. After all, in recent weeks it seemed like the agreement might fall apart before it even began. On another positive note, Iran will shortly begin to dilute its stockpile of highly enriched uranium. Still, I have a number of concerns.

  • While inspectors will apparently be allowed daily, physical access to the Fordo site, there will only be monthly inspections at the Arak based heavy water reactor. That's far from ideal. If the Iranians are serious about addressing fears that they are pursuing a plutonium-route nuclear weapon, allowing more vigorous inspections at Arak would be the perfect place to start. Instead, the reluctance to afford access to Arak suggests that the Iranians may want to hide what's happening there. It raises questions and it fosters mistrust.

  • The Iranians are crowing. While this is to be expected at some level (and helps Iranian moderates placate their hard-line colleagues), it's worrying that many Iranian officials are so gleeful in their claims that this deal doesn't bind them in any significant way. Again, it suggests an absence of seriousness in the pursuit of trust towards a lasting arrangement. Without hope of a lasting agreement, this deal will be rendered into irrelevance.

  • It's problematic that the negotiators have taken so long to reach implementation. This reality suggests an agenda disconnect. Since 2003, Iran has attempted to evade the international community in its efforts to ensure a non-weaponized nuclear program. Delay has formed the primary strategic gambit on Iran's part. In short, what we're seeing looks like more deliberate time wasting.

While I supported this deal at the time of its creation, it's also abundantly clear to me that Geneva hasn't got off to a good start. The US will have to work exceptionally hard to ensure that Iran fulfills its obligations. At the same time, Congress will have to play a constructive but cautious role in supporting US diplomacy. Still, if this effort fails, the only options left available will be dramatically tightened sanctions alongside the prospect of military force. 

Time is running short.

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