Don’t Get Suckered by Iran

Fix the Problems With the Interim Accord

Iranian President Hassan Rouhanni in New York in September 2013 (Courtesy Reuters)

Passionate supporters of the interim accord recently negotiated between Iran and the P5+1 countries (the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany) see the agreement as a landmark event paving the way for a full-scale resolution of one of the world’s most dangerous problems. Harsh critics take the opposite view, seeing it as a modern-day Munich paving the way for an eventual nuclear Iran. Both positions are overblown. On the plus side, the Joint Plan of Action does place some temporary constraints on Iran's nuclear activities. But these short-term palliative measures are embedded in a framework of principles that may define the final agreement to Iran's definite advantage. As negotiations proceed over what should follow the current accord, Washington should try to revisit some of interim agreement’s provisions and broaden the scope of negotiations to include Iran's sponsorship of terrorism and its systemic violation of human rights. It would be a grave error to allow the Islamic Republic to emerge from the negotiations with its nuclear ambitions intact, its terrorist activities undiminished, and its people denied their basic rights.

The new Iranian leadership led by President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is made up of seasoned and cagey negotiators who have handled Iran's nuclear portfolio for decades. Their strategy has always been to concede to interim demands in order to secure principles that will favorably define a final, comprehensive agreement. In the Geneva talks this fall, Iran secured a major goal -- the ability to continue to enrich uranium. After decades of wrangling, the international community has finally conceded Iran's claim that its nuclear program must have an indigenous enrichment capability. The Iranians extracted another concession as well -- that the final agreement will itself be an interim one. The Joint Plan of Action stipulates that the comprehensive accord will "have a specific long-term duration to be agreed upon," after which the "Iranian nuclear program will be treated in the same manner as that of any other non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty)." This means that at some point in the future, Iran may be able to construct an industrial-size nuclear infrastructure that will provide it with a nuclear breakout capacity. 

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