Last night, a historic agreement with Iran was struck to curb the country's suspicious nuclear program. Israel, the country that believes it will be the target of an eventual Iranian nuclear attack, wasn't pleased.
The deal, struck last Saturday evening after marathon talks at the Palace of Nations in Geneva, was the first agreement in nearly a decade to circumvent Iran's suspicious nuclear program. The P5+1 countries — United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia — believe Iran has a clandestine program building a nuclear weapon. Iran maintains its nuclear advancements are merely to provide an alternative energy source to its successful oil industry. And yet, Iranian clerical Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei still approved last night's result.
Not everyone was celebrating the diplomatic acrobatics required to pull something like this deal off. Even Slate conceded this deal was, "a good one." But no, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hated it. What a shocker, right? "This is not a historic agreement, it's a historic mistake," he said shortly after the deal was announced. Every one else was all hugs. Per Reuters:
[European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton] and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hugged each other. Kerry and Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov shook hands. Minutes later, as Iran's delegation posed for photos, Zarif and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius embraced. France had taken the hardest line on Iran in recent talks.
- Iran continues to enrich uranium to five percent, a level at which nuclear power can function but far enough away from weapons grade capability.
- All existing uranium enriched to 20 percent will be converted into oxide.
- No new centrifuges will be installed and progress on the Arak heavy-water facility, which could produce plutonium when finished, another ingredient in an atomic bomb, will be halted.
That's more or less what we learned on Saturday. In exchange, Iran receives roughly $6 or $7 billion in sanction relief. About $4.2 billion in oil revenue held in foreign banks will be unfrozen, and limits on Iran's automotive industry will be reduced.
President Obama applauded the deal from the White House Saturday evening. “Today, that diplomacy opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure,” he said, “a future in which we can verify that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon.” The Iranians agreed: confidence can and will be built with this deal. "This is only a first step," Iranian Foreign Minister and chief negotiator Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters. "We need to start moving in the direction of restoring confidence, a direction which we have managed to move against in the past."
But there are safeguards built in to ensure swift punishment if the terms aren't met. Obama promised to "ratchet up the pressure," if Iran doesn't follow through on its promises.
Not everything in the deal was settled with a nod and a handshake, though. Iran remains at odds with the world powers. As we've always known, this is a stop-gap deal designed to foster new talks. The New York Times explains:
The United States did not accept Iran’s claim that it had a “right to enrich” under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. But American officials signaled last week that they were open to a compromise in which the two sides would essentially agree to disagree on how the proliferation treaty should be interpreted, while Tehran continued to enrich.
So talks will continue in six months when this very-short-term deal expires. Then, the world powers hope to completely eliminate any chance Iran has of building a nuclear bomb.