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

WHO: Anti-Ebola Efforts Should Focus on West Africa

Official says WHO is 'reasonably confident' countries bordering those hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak are not seeing the virus crossing their borders More

South Sudan Crisis Threatens Development

Economic costs and lost development opportunities in South Sudan have erased what little progress the country has made since independence in 2011 More

Ukrainian PM Warns: Russia May Try to Disrupt Sunday Poll

Arseniy Yatsenyuk orders full security mobilization for parliamentary election to prevent ‘terrorist acts’ from being carried out 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid