The Iran Nuclear Deal and the Delicate Effort Toward Compromise:  Will it Withstand Tension?

Iran’s recent missile tests strained the delicate relationship built through the Iran Nuclear Deal while questioning its effectiveness thus far.  It was implemented on January 16th since Iran met certain requirements in disassembling its nuclear capabilities thereby lifting nuclear sanctions.  However, due to the timing of these missile launches, many wonder whether Iran is testing the United States and the rest of the P5+1, China, Russia, United Kingdom, Germany, and France and if Iran will abide by the agreed to terms.

The agreement requires Iran to reduce 98% of its current uranium stockpile for 15 years thereby decreasing its capacity to build nuclear weapons from approximately 10 to less than 1.  The deal blocks Iran’s supply chains to access the materials for nuclear weapons and it will reduce its centrifuges used to enrich uranium.  Through these efforts, Iran’s “breakout time” to assemble a nuclear bomb will increase from two to three months to one year.  Although this deal does not prevent the development of Iranian nuclear power plants, the International Atomic Energy Agency monitors these plants closely.

Iran's Nuclear Capability

In return for these efforts, Iran will receive $100 billion of assets previously frozen and nuclear sanctions will be lifted such as those in the banking and oil industries.  Other nonnuclear restrictions on Iran will remain.  This will significantly improve Iran’s economy which is now projected to grow this year by 5 percent rather than its otherwise 0 percent.  The agreement moves toward free trade in global markets and encourages Iran’s comparative advantage in oil.  Iranian oil is flooding into the market and is shifting out the supply curve causing already falling prices to drop even more, significantly impacting oil exporting countries and producers, but causing further consumer surplus increases due to this fall in prices.  The cost of trading with Iran is significantly decreasing the previous 15 percent increase in costs due to sanctions.  However, Obama emphasized this agreement is based on “verification” and “not trust.”  These sanctions will immediately “snapback” if Iran violates any part of this agreement thereby incentivizing it to comply.

Diplomatic parties negotiating for the Iran Nuclear Deal implemented January 16th. Source: BBC News.

Diplomatic parties negotiating for the Iran Nuclear Deal implemented January 16th. Source: BBC News.

The Iran Nuclear Deal was possible because of Obama’s desire to improve international relations and Iran’s moderate president’s, Hassan Rouhani elected in 2013, willingness to actively work with the United States to improve his people’s standard of living.  However, there have been mixed reactions to the Iran Nuclear Deal since negotiations were announced and it is a contentious issue in the upcoming U.S. presidential election, but this agreement attempts to improve international relations and to potentially gain another ally against ISIS. This 109-page document has dramatically improved international relations as is exemplified by Iran’s recent release of American prisoners in exchange for some Iranian prisoners and the peaceful discussions regarding the American ship that accidently crossed into Iranian waters, which previously would have been an international incident.  However, this agreement jeopardizes the United States’ relationship with two critical allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, who feel threatened by Iran.  Whether the benefits of this deal outweigh the costs of the injury to these critical alliances is yet to be seen, but it is clear that it further soured Obama’s relationship with Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Although this agreement is not ideal because there were compromises, it has created a safer international environment as Iran’s nuclear programs are closely monitored and its development of nuclear weapons has regressed whereas, in the past, Iran’s nuclear capabilities were unknown.  Iran economic development due to the lifting of sanctions opens up its economy to the rest of the world and increases growth and the wellbeing of its people.  Critics argue this increase in prosperity may fund terrorist groups, but despite this and other concerns, it is clear this agreement is an important diplomatic effort.  The United States’ lack of reaction to recent missile tests is due to this occurring outside of the scope of this agreement.  However, if the United States does not react strongly to any breached nuclear regulations, then this agreement would have only been economically beneficial and would have not only injured international safety, but potentially destroyed the United States’ relationships with Israel and Saudi Arabia.

References:

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-35317159

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-32114862

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/15/world/middleeast/iran-nuclear-deal-is-reached-after-long-negotiations.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/17/world/middleeast/iran-sanctions-lifted-nuclear-deal.html?_r=0

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/11/world/middleeast/irans-missile-tests-and-the-nuclear-deal.html

https://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/foreign-policy/iran-deal

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One Response to The Iran Nuclear Deal and the Delicate Effort Toward Compromise:  Will it Withstand Tension?

  1. Ohad Elhelo says:

    I enjoyed reading your blog post. You consistently covered all of the key arguments for and against the deal, and apparently decided to support it. It has been a months since you wrote this text, and I was wondering whether your opinion has changed in light of recent events (provocations by Iranian leader, fading Israeli opposition to the deal, market reaction to the lifted sanctions, etc.).

    However, I wanted to focus on the point you brought up in your last paragraph — “opening up Iran’s economy to the rest of the world”. I, too, believe that this deal is not about preventing Iran from achieving a nuclear capacity (history proves that, over the course of time, countries that have come so close to reaching the bomb eventually get it); my interpretation is that the deal is about welcoming Iran to the family of nations, while ensuring – or abandoning, depends on who you are asking – Israel’s security in the short term i.e. until a better solution is to be achieved. This concept has implications that are complimentary (and some would argue- larger) to the well-being of the people of Iran and its economic prosperity. Welcoming Iran to the family of nations can assist the US and its allies in their justified war against ISIS and, overall, change the status quo in the Middle East, for good or for bad.

    I thought that your references to Saudi and Israel were spot on. I believe that much of the debate in the US can be attributed to the reaction of the American Jewish community to the potential implications of the deal on Israel’s security. This debate did not skip the American congress and Jewish institutions, leaving the American Jewish community more divided than ever before, at least throughout President Obama’s two terms.

    You briefly mentioned the proven link between Iran and terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah. Some believe that this connection should disqualify Iran from negotiating with the Western world, as it suggests Iran does not share the same set of values. I wonder what are your thoughts on the matter.

    Ohad Elhelo

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