By: Ali Safavi
On Sunday, major global powers, including the United States, signed a nuclear deal with Iran that would suspend aspects of its nuclear program in return for a temporary easing of the sanctions. The six-month agreement would ostensibly allow more time for negotiations in hopes of reaching a more sweeping arrangement with Tehran.
According to the interim deal, Iran would only be required to freeze uranium enrichment at current levels, halt some activities at a reactor which produces plutonium, and cease further work on centrifuges. In return, some of the U.S. and EU economic sanctions will be suspended while new ones will not be considered for the six month duration of the deal.
The temporary deal does not ask Iran to do much, but it offers it billions of dollars in sanctions relief. For example, the agreement does not ask Iran to shut down its plutonium reactor in Arak. This site is clearly used for weapons development, despite Iranian claims to the contrary. The deal, moreover, does not require Iran to dismantle uranium enrichment, or to ratify additional nuclear protocols or to grant monitors from the International Atomic Energy Agency free and unhindered access to suspicious sites.
The Iranian regime conceded to tactical draw backs in order to stunt sanctions which were gaining in momentum and avert social unrest, which could lead to the regime’s downfall.
For years, the Iranian regime has sought nuclear weapons as a strategic tool and guarantee for survival. It has allocated billions of dollars and vast political and diplomatic resources to the program for precisely this reason. It will not back down easily. It hid its nuclear sites and programs for many years until they were finally exposed in 2002 by the main Iranian opposition movement, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). Even after the revelations, the regime scurried to hide and bulldoze its sites and get rid of the evidence. So, the ruling regime in Iran is not trustworthy.
Over 40 rounds of negotiations spanning 10 years failed to produce material results. They bought time for the regime to advance its program. If the world had stood firm immediately after the NCRI revelations in 2002, the situation would be a lot more different today.
The lack of international firmness was even evident last month in the first round of negotiations in Geneva. This is despite the fact that the regime is extremely weakened by growing social protests and discontent, internal fissures among its factions, and economically devastating sanctions. If world powers had the political resolve, they could have obtained many more concessions from the regime, as the latter was not in a position to impose its will.
Now that Tehran is at more of an impasse, global powers must not allow it to breach the agreement. They must not blink or turn a blind eye. Intent on surviving at any cost in an unfavorable domestic and international environment, the regime is waiting for an opportunity to continue its nuclear weapons program and obtain the bomb as a strategic survival guarantee.
It is important to remember that nothing has changed until the regime implements all UN Security Council resolutions, fully stops its nuclear enrichment, accepts the NPT additional protocols, shuts down Arak and other suspicious sites, and grants full and unhindered access to international nuclear inspectors.
This would be the first necessary step to dismantle its nuclear program, and to avoid a regional war. The world must stand firm on these demands lest the regime senses weakness and becomes emboldened to manufacture the bomb with impunity. The Iranian regime will only retreat as much as the international side adopts firmness. This is a formula that must be appreciated and adhere to. The risk of falling prey to Tehran’s deceptions is too great to comprehend. International leaders have a massive responsibility to avoid such consequences.