News / Middle East

Column: Nuclear Deal a Win-Win for US, Iran and Even Israel

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the United Nations Palais in Geneva, Nov. 24, 2013.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the United Nations Palais in Geneva, Nov. 24, 2013.
The ink was not dry on the historic Geneva nuclear accord with Iran before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced it as a “historic mistake”  that would allow Iran to cheat and get closer to nuclear weapons.
 
Netanyahu may have been doing Iran a favor. By criticizing the deal so harshly, he will make it easier for Iranian officials to assert to their hardliners that the agreement, which pauses Iran’s nuclear advances and rolls back some of the program in return for modest sanctions relief, was a victory for the Islamic Republic.
 
In the zero-sum politics of the Middle East, what’s good for your enemy is invariably considered bad for you. Yet the deal announced early Sunday European time has much that is useful for Iran, the United States, the international community writ large and yes, Israel too.
 
If implemented, it will push Iran farther from the ability to “break out” quickly from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Even though low-level uranium enrichment will continue, Iran has pledged not to stockpile it and to stop refining uranium to 20 percent U-235 – very close to weapons grade. Iran will convert the 200 kilograms of 20 percent uranium it has amassed to a form that cannot be easily enriched further. The deal will also freeze most work at a heavy water reactor called Arak that if completed, could yield plutonium, another potential bomb fuel. And it will provide the International Atomic Energy Agency with unprecedented daily access to Iranian enrichment plants as well as potential answers to questions about alleged past weapons research at military sites. All of this has long been sought by the international community in vain.
 
In return, the Iranians will get about $7 billion in sanctions relief – most of it their own oil earnings which have been frozen abroad -- the right to continue to export oil at a current reduced level to Asian clients and facilitated humanitarian transactions including imports of food and medicine and a means to support Iranian students abroad, including 8,000 in the US. The United States, European Union and UN Security Council also pledge not to pass new nuclear-related sanctions against Iran for the six-month duration of the interim deal. During this time, Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (the P5+1) are to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that will cap the Iranian nuclear program in return for recognition of Iran’s right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy and the lifting of all nuclear-related sanctions.
 
Iran will still remain under US sanctions for the foreseeable future for its support of groups such as Hezbollah which the US regards as terrorist and for abusing the human rights of the Iranian people.  European sanctions related to those areas will also remain in place. But the nuclear agreement is an entry point into further discussions that could lead to a more constructive Iran externally and a less authoritarian regime at home.
 
As I wrote in August the election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was a bright spot in an otherwise bloody Middle East and presented President Barack Obama with the potential for a positive foreign policy legacy. Rouhani, who marks his 100th day in office on Nov. 26 – he counts from the day his cabinet was seated – desperately needed a nuclear deal to fulfill his campaign promises to ease the burden of sanctions on the Iranian people. But to sign a deal, Rouhani had to be able to say that Iran’s rights had been respected and that Iran had not given too much away too soon. For Obama, the same equation applied.
 
It is easy for Israeli, Arab and congressional critics to complain that the agreement does not “dismantle” Iran’s nuclear infrastructure but the maximalist deal that would have satisfied these hardliners was simply not obtainable in a first phase. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave Rouhani and his talented negotiating team “heroic flexibility” to reach an agreement, not carte blanche. Rouhani was not going to be able to stop all uranium enrichment because he was heavily criticized by Iranian hardliners for suspending parts of the program from 2003-2005 – when the George W. Bush administration sat on the sidelines and Europeans negotiated with Iran – and getting very little in return. (It is not true, as critics have charged, that Rouhani “cheated” so Iran could continue other nuclear work; his agreement with the Europeans suspended only the enrichment program.)
 
The next few months will show whether Iran – and the United States and its partners – can fulfill their promises – which will require that domestic opposition hold its fire. If the deal works, the prospect for another Middle East war and all the horror that entails will recede, the US and Iran can begin to repair a breach of 34 years and there could be benefits for tamping down the conflict in Syria as well. Indeed on Monday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon announced via Twitter that a long-sought Geneva conference on Syria will be held Jan. 22.
 
Rather than try to sabotage the nuclear agreement, detractors should test Iran’s compliance. Netanyahu and other critics may find it psychologically uncomfortable to reappraise a long-time enemy, but the upside could be tremendous – and not just for the Israeli stock market which hit a record high on Sunday.

Barbara Slavin

Barbara Slavin is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center and a correspondent for Al-Monitor.com, a website specializing in the Middle East. She is the author of a 2007 book, Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the US and the Twisted Path to Confrontation, and is a regular commentator on U.S. foreign policy and Iran on NPR, PBS, C-SPAN and the Voice of America.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Farhang Jahanpour from: UK
November 26, 2013 9:51 AM
How correct you are in your assessment. Only yesterday Resalat, a rightwing newspaper close to the Revolutionary Guards, ended its lead article on the Interim Accord with the following sentence:

"The very fact that Netanyahu has described the Geneva Accord as a bad deal and has said that 'the Iranian nation has gained everything from the talks that it wanted' shows that the achievements of Geneva-3 have been positive and must be applauded."

by: Tony Bellchambers from: London
November 25, 2013 7:29 PM
This deal in Geneva that brings one of the world's major nations/economies back into the international community of nations, is hugely important not least because it shifts the spotlight onto the one state in the Middle East that is already armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons and cruise missile carrying submarines.

The United Kingdom government, and many others around the world with the exception of the United States congress, (not President Obama), wants the Middle East to be declared a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone.

This is in all our interests and that of the future stability and peace of the world. The UNGA should now push for such a resolution as early as possible.

by: Dave J from: New Jersey
November 25, 2013 12:43 PM
Ms Slavin seems to have been taken in by the charm of Iran's smiling leader, and takes at face value all that "heroic flexibility" to negotiate a deal. How exciting! We gave away our key bargaining chip (sanctions), the military threat never deemed serious by anyone, and the precious commodity of time, in return for a questionably verifiable agreement to enrich up to 5%. What happens at month 5, when P5+1 realizes that Iran had concealed a few sites from the inspectors, and pushed the bomb program to completion? Iran very likely has already determined it has no need for a "comprehensive" and "final" agreement; Iranian membership would at that point be a fait accompli. Contrary to rose-colored view of this writer, the West (and the local Arab states) should be very worried.

by: milenkovic milan from: fairfax, va 22030
November 25, 2013 10:20 AM
REAL progress with Iran about nuclear deal is always welcome, except that I do NOT trust to this Iranian Gov. at all ! Iran could stay quite during next 6 months, trying to recover their economy. If you cancel ALL sanctions after that, it will take a long period to put a same sanctions back, but Iran could continue their nuclear program after 1 mo or so… Also, what happened to Iranian nuclear program of PLUTONIMU in IRAQ??? History will show who was wise and who NAÏVE ( in this case)…
In Response

by: Aryana from: Persia
November 25, 2013 5:29 PM
The plutonium site is in Arak, a city south of Tehran about 200 miles, Not Iraq as you have said.
And all this crisis seems nonsense to me, because there are tens of other sites scattered around the country working day and night to do what they're supposed to do. The only point is that "no one knows yet!"

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs