By Steven R. Maher
One of the biggest issues in the upcoming Presidential election will be the July 11, 2015, Iranian nuclear treaty between Iran and the “P5+1” countries (the United States, China, Russia, France, Great Britain and Germany.) While this accord has several controversial aspects to it, the alternatives offered by the pact’s opponents verge from the impractical (reinstituting stricter sanctions in the hope of a better deal, would be blocked by the other P5 nations), to the disastrous (bombing the Iranian nuclear plants would involve America in another war that would further destabilize the Middle East.)
What the U.S. got
Here is what the P-5 countries got out of the compact:
• Iran agreed, for fifteen years, to reduce its weapons grade enriched uranium from 10,000 kilograms to 300 kilograms with a 3.67% enriched purity, a drop of 97%. Iran will not have the enriched uranium to build even one bomb.
• Iran’s centrifuges, necessary to process raw fissile material into weapons grade substance, will be reduced by two thirds. “All of the pipework that connects these centrifuges and allows them to enrich uranium will be dismantled, removed, and kept under continuous surveillance by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency),” says the White House website.
• The core of Iran’s heavy water reactor at Arak was removed and filled with concrete. The plant will be redesigned to so that it will not produce weapons grade plutonium. Arak was a producer of “heavy water”, a key component to manufacture plutonium, an ingredient fueling nuclear bombs. These protocols forbid Iran from building new heavy water plants, accumulating excess heavy water, and conducting reprocessing.
• There will be a 24/7 monitoring of the key nuclear facilities of Natanz, Fordow, and Arak. Iran’s nuclear supply chain, from the receipt of raw materials from uranium mines to the storage of finished goods, will be inspected for the next 25 years.
• The pact specifies that with a maximum twenty four day notice, the P-5 nations can access any sites suspected of violating the nuclear agreement. Opponents point to this as one of the treaty’s greatest flaws. Maintains the White House: “No country in the world today permits ‘anytime, anywhere’ inspections – this is a false standard that the IDEA does not employ in any country.
• “With this deal, Iran’s so-called ‘break out timeline’ – the time it would take Iran to acquire enough fissile material to for one nuclear weapon if Iran breaks its commitments – will be extended from roughly the current 2-3 months to one year during the first decade.” Presumably, the one year period would allow the P5 nations to use diplomacy or military force to prevent Iran from actually manufacturing a bomb.
• “Under this deal as well as the [Nuclear] Nonproliferation Treaty, Iran is never allowed to develop nuclear weapons,” maintains the White House. If the U.N. Security Council determines that Iran has violated the treaty, they can “snapback” the sanctions into place.
What Iran got
This is what Iran received in return:
• All economic sanctions against Iran will be lifted in four to twelve months.
• The European Union will remove all energy and banking sanctions.
• The United States will remove sanctions against foreign and domestic companies doing business with Iran.
• All U.N. resolutions sanctioning or otherwise punishing Iran will be annulled. The main benefit to Iran from this will be in the diplomatic sphere.
• Iranian assets totaling $125 billion will be unfrozen. It should be noted that this us money that belongs to Iran, but were in P-5 bank accounts frozen after American diplomats were taken hostage during the 1979 Iranian revolution.
The lifting of sanctions has benefitted American consumers as well as Iran. Low priced Iranian oil is flooding the energy market, keeping gasoline prices depressed.
Clinton and Trump
It appears that, in one form or another, this treaty is here to stay. As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton negotiated with the P-5 powers to impose the sanctions that led to the treaty, which Clinton has publicly endorsed.
Donald Trump has said the U.S. could have gotten a better deal. But unlike other Republican candidates such as Ted Cruz, Trump won’t tear the treaty up. Trump’s current position is that he will rigorously enforce the agreement. Whatever Trump’s many other character flaws and policy shortcomings, at least Trump is not a bloodthirsty neocon anxious to plunge the U.S. into yet another calamitous Middle Eastern war.