I still don’t know what to make of the incipient agreement among Iran, the United States, and remainder of the so-called “P5+1”. It seems me that the reactions, especially the exaggerated reactions in either direction, depend strongly on your assumptions and notions of risk and reward.
As I understand the agreement, Iran has agreed to suspend enriching uranium beyond 5%, LEU, and grant additional access to international inspector in exchange, in effect, for a relatively small amount of money, something like $16 billion dollars. One way I’ve heard the deal described is that the Iranians have agreed to delay their “breakout” capability by about a month in exchange for about five weeks of oil revenues.
The Iranians have not agreed to comply with any of the many United Nations Security Council resolutions respecting their nuclear development or long-range missile programs, they have not agreed to grant inspectors complete unrestricted access, and, judging by the statements from the Iranian regime since the agreement was announced, it’s not the first step towards any sort of detente. We have not agreed to lift sanctions against them.
This is where the assumptions come in. If you assume that the Iranians are completely forthcoming, have no intention of producing a nuclear weapon, and even if they had one don’t threaten us, it’s a good deal. They’re giving not much, we’re giving not much, it kicks the can down the road a bit, and it might be better there.
If you assume that the Iranians are lying, are actively producing a nuclear weapon, we don’t know where all of their nuclear weapons development facilities are, and possession of a nuclear weapon by the present Iranian regime would be very, very bad, it’s a bad deal. They’ll keep right on developing and be that much closer to having their nuclear weapon and we’ve taken the heat off them for a while.
I try not to make assumptions but I do draw conclusions. There is no reason for the Iranian regime to have the very large number of centrifuges in their possession other than to make highly-enriched uranium. There are no peaceful uses of highly-enriched uranium. The most benign explanation I can think of for the Iranians’ actions is that they want us and the Iranian people to believe that they’re developing nuclear weapons, somewhat as Saddam Hussein wanted us to believe that he had large stockpiles of chemical and bacteriological weapons.
I also think the present Iranian regime’s possession of nuclear weapons would not be a good thing. On this I’m in pretty good company since the last three American presidential administrations have all believed the same thing. I consider that a conclusion rather than an assumption. At the very least it would lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and, honestly, I don’t believe all of the regimes there are stable enough or have the civil infrastructure necessary to secure whatever nuclear weapons they might come to possess.
What do I make, then, of the statements by the Iranian regime that they would never produce nuclear weapons? I can only come up with three explanations. Either they’re engaging in gamesmanship along the lines of the “benign explanation” above, they’re equivocating, or not everybody in the Iranian regime is in agreement on the issue. None of those strike me as particularly cheering.
So, as I say, I don’t know what to make of the agreement.
This analysis, at The National Interest, strikes me as pretty fair.