Persian Parley

Still Optimistic About U.S.-Iranian Relations

Courtesy Reuters

The interim nuclear agreement signed by Iran and the P5+1 world powers (China, France, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States) is a momentous first step toward a final resolution of the Iranian nuclear impasse. It is not a perfect deal -- and the parties involved can reverse its every provision. Yet it is probably the best that anyone could hope for at this point in history, and it should be seen as a victory for all its signatories.

The agreement’s opponents don’t see it that way. They argue that Iran is the real winner because it achieved its goals without offering any major concessions (it is suspending its nuclear program for now but has made no promise to abandon it permanently). With Tehran’s history of deception, moreover, they say that there will be no way of knowing whether even its small assurances are genuine.

In truth, Iran has made significant concessions that would freeze some major components of its nuclear program. It has agreed to halt uranium enrichment at 20 percent. (Uranium at that level could be further enriched to 90 percent, which is weapons grade.) Iran has also agreed to convert half of its stockpile of enriched uranium to fuel rods for the Tehran Research Reactor and the other half to five percent purity. After Iran completes those steps, it would take a long time for the country to remanufacture enough uranium to build a bomb. The challenge would be made even more difficult by Iran’s promise to stop construction on its heavy-water reactor at Arak.

It is true that Iran has not been entirely transparent about its nuclear program in the past. But the country has now agreed to the most intrusive inspection and monitoring regime ever imposed on a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Tehran will allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect daily its facilities in Natanz and Fardow, which is fortified to withstand aerial bombardment. For the first time,

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