Aiming to Agree on an Iranian Nuclear Deal
Six states, including the United States are continuing their negotiations with Iran over their nuclear program. The deadline for the talks is today (Tuesday). There are a number of important points that will need to be agreed upon in order to resolve Iran’s nuclear program. Oren Dorell, in the USA Today, published an article entitled “5 Hurdles to an Iran Nuclear Deal,” in which Dorell discusses key points that need to be resolved. They are:
Iran has said it wants most international financial sanctions, which have strangled its economy, lifted right away once a deal is struck, with the rest lifted within 10 years. The United States wanted sanctions lifted more gradually, over 20 years or more, to ensure Iran abides by terms of the deal. Both sides agree that lifting sanctions will be tied to Iran’s implementation of various requirements in the agreement. Negotiators appear to be settling on a compromise 15-year time frame, with some sanctions lifted earlier, according to media reports.
Nuclear fuel stockpiles
Iran has large stockpiles of low-grade uranium fuel that could be processed further for use in a bomb. World powers have sought to have that fuel shipped to Russia for processing, but Iran has rejected that option. One possible compromise: diluting or converting the fuel to forms that cannot be used in weapons, although that process could be reversed.
Iran is operating roughly half of its 19,000 centrifuge machines to produce uranium fuel that can be used for peaceful reactors or for bombs. It has said it needs nearly 200,000 centrifuges to keep all of its planned reactors running. Such a large number would allow it to produce enough fuel for bombs quickly. The United States has agreed to a limit of just 6,500 operating centrifuges, according to media reports.
Bunkered nuclear sites
The United States has pressed for Iran to dismantle its fuel-processing research facility under a mountain at Fordow, which may be invulnerable to a military attack. Negotiators have discussed allowing Iran to continue developing advanced centrifuges there, but not to process uranium.
How Iranian facilities will be monitored to make sure Iran doesn’t cheat is still in question. The U.S. has said monitoring should include snap inspections of all sites, including military facilities, but Iran has refused. U.S. negotiators have said Iran will face the most stringent inspections ever implemented. Critics, such as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, say Iran has so far refused to divulge information about its past weapons work and can still hide a secret program
All of these points are important, since these have been the points of disagreement for years. But despite the different challenges that do exist here, the possibility of a diplomatic agreement is still quite feasible. It will take flexibility and compromise by the different international actors, but the benefits are significant, particularly given the alternatives that some suggest, such as war or military strikes.