The “key parameters” for an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program released Thursday fall well short of the goals originally set by the Obama administration. None of Iran’s nuclear facilities — including the Fordow center buried under a mountain — will be closed. Not one of the country’s 19,000 centrifuges will be dismantled. Tehran’s existing stockpile of enriched uranium will be “reduced” but not necessarily shipped out of the country. In effect, Iran’s nuclear infrastructure will remain intact, though some of it will be mothballed for 10 years. When the accord lapses, the Islamic republic will instantly become a threshold nuclear state.
That’s a long way from the standard set by President Obama in 2012 when he declared that “the deal we’ll accept” with Iran “is that they end their nuclear program” and “abide by the U.N. resolutions that have been in place.” Those resolutions call for Iran to suspend the enrichment of uranium. Instead, under the agreement announced Thursday, enrichment will continue with 5,000 centrifuges for a decade, and all restraints on it will end in 15 years.
Obama argued forcefully — and sometimes combatively — Thursday that the United States and its partners had obtained “a good deal” and that it was preferable to the alternatives, which he described as a nearly inevitable slide toward war. He also said he welcomed a “robust debate.” We hope that, as that debate goes forward, the president and his aides will respond substantively to legitimate questions, rather than claim, as Obama did, that the “inevitable critics” who “sound off” prefer “the risk of another war in the Middle East.”
Both Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized that many details need to be worked out in talks with Iran between now and the end of June. During that time, the administration will have much other work to do: It must convince Mideast allies that Iran is not being empowered to become the region’s hegemon, and it must accommodate Congress’s legitimate prerogative to review the accord. We hope Obama will make as much effort to engage in good faith with skeptical allies and domestic critics as he has with the Iranian regime.
Editorial Board, Washington Post
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Other than the obvious outcome — an Iran with nuclear weapons at some point in the not-too-distant future — two points bear noting: The first is that, for an administration that professes its affection for international law and regimes, this agreement will signal the death knell of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran used the treaty’s terms to pave the way toward nuclear weapons status, successfully defied the treaty’s enforcement agency and the U.N. Security Council and will not be held accountable for violating its international obligations. By acquiescing in Iran’s use of the treaty to facilitate nuclear weapons proliferation, the administration is effectively signing off on a road map that others in the region — led by Saudi Arabia — have made clear they intend to follow to protect themselves from the Iranian nuclear threat.
The second is that the artificial deadline the administration imposed, at least in part to deflect congressional efforts to impose additional sanctions on Iran, had the perverse effect of pressuring Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, and not the Iranian government, to make concessions. On almost every key issue, the Iranians won the day. The entire infrastructure of the Iranian nuclear weapons program (not to speak of its terrorist apparatus or efforts to destabilize the Middle East) remains intact. And the irony is, this administration has decided to throw in its lot not with the representatives of the American people in Congress or our allies in the region but with the leadership in Tehran. As Kerry said, a “big day” indeed.
DANIELLE PLETKA, senior vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute
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Though Iran’s breakout time would be a year, the concerns of its neighbors would not disappear. Several countries in the Middle East are building their nuclear infrastructure. Efforts to get commercial suppliers to establish regional uranium-enrichment services as an alternative to domestic efforts will not get much traction under the circumstances likely to play out from the Mediterranean beaches to the Gulf of Aden and Basra. There will not necessarily be a race to a bomb, but countries will be climbing the ladder of nuclear capabilities.
OLLI HEINONEN, former IAEA deputy director general. Senior fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
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Perhaps an apt metaphor for the framework agreement is a marriage engagement. The wedding is scheduled to take place at the end of June. The coming months will see vigorous debate about the size of the dowry and the terms of the prenuptial agreement. If past is precedent, the wedding date could well be postponed, and many parties — in Congress, Israel, the Arab world and Tehran — would like to sabotage it. If and when the wedding takes place, the success of the marriage will be assessed in the years to come. The bride doesn’t trust the groom. The groom doesn’t trust the bride. But for now the engagement should be celebrated. Based on the U.S. version of the agreement, it looks stronger than many anticipated. If the Iranians are working off the same document, it will be very difficult for critics of the agreement to argue they have a better alternative.
KARIM SADJADPOUR, senior associate at the Middle East Program of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace