A Different World

U.S. and Iran reach historic nukes deal. Is it the right thing?

Delegates from Iran and a group of six nations led by the United States in Vienna on Tuesday after agreeing to an accord to significantly limit Tehran’s nuclear ability.CreditPool photo by Carlos Barria
Delegates from Iran and a group of six nations led by the United States in Vienna on Tuesday after agreeing to an accord to significantly limit Tehran’s nuclear ability.CreditPool photo by Carlos Barria

Here’s the text of the nuclear deal: Read the nuclear accord

The U.S. announces an historic deal to try to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Do you think it is a good thing?

Related: Iran Nuclear Deal Is Reached After Long Negotiations

From the piece: In 18 consecutive days of talks here, American officials said, the United States secured major restrictions on the amount of nuclear fuel that Iran can keep in its stockpile for the next 15 years. It will require Iran to reduce its current stockpile of low enriched uranium by 98 percent, most likely by shipping much of it to Russia.

That measure, combined with a two-thirds reduction in the number of centrifuges spinning at Iran’s primary enrichment center at Natanz, would extend to a year the amount of time it would take Iran to make enough material for a bomb should it abandon the accord and race for a weapon — what officials call “breakout time.”

But American officials acknowledged that after the first decade, the breakout time would begin to shrink. It was unclear how rapidly, because Iran’s longer-term plans to expand its enrichment capability, using a new generation of centrifuges, will be kept confidential by the Iranian government, international inspectors and the other parties to the accord.

The Obama administration’s assertion that “breakout time” will be expanded to a year during the first decade of the accord, a substantial increase from the current estimate of two to three months, has been one of the White House’s selling points for the agreement. But it is also likely to be one of the most contentious questions during debate of the accord in Congress.

In an interview with National Public Radio in April, Mr. Obama said that in “year 13, 14, 15” of the agreement, the breakout time might shrink “almost down to zero,” as Iran is expected to develop and use advanced centrifuges then.

Let the hyper rhetoric begin, starting with our very own Sen. Lindsey Graham:

“If the initial reports regarding the details of this deal hold true, there’s no way as president of the United States I would honor this deal,” Graham said. “It’s incredibly dangerous for our national security, and it’s akin to declaring war on Sunni Arabs and Israel by the P5+1 because it ensures their primary antagonist Iran will become a nuclear power and allows them to rearm conventionally.”

Why the GOP hates the deal: Because it is realistic about the limits of American power

From the piece: The actual alternatives to a deal, in other words, are grim. Which is why critics discuss them as little as possible. The deal “falls apart, and then what happens?” CBS’s John Dickerson asked House Majority Leader John Boehner on Sunday. “No deal is better than a bad deal,” Boehner replied. “And from everything that’s leaked from these negotiations, the administration has backed away from almost all of the guidelines that they set out for themselves.”

In other words, Boehner evaded the question. The only way to determine if a “bad deal” is worse than “no deal” is to consider the latter’s consequences. Which is exactly what Boehner refused to do. Instead, he changed the subject: Rather than comparing the agreement to the actual alternatives, he compared it to the objectives that the Obama administration supposedly outlined at the start of the talks.

After a commercial break, Dickerson interviewed Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, who did the same thing. “We have to remember the goal of these negotiations from the beginning,” Cotton said. “It was to stop Iran from enriching uranium and developing nuclear-weapons capability.”

Again, Dickerson tried to steer the conversation away from American desires and toward real-world alternatives. “You have taken the position that if the United States just … walked away from a bad deal, ratcheted up sanctions, that Iran would buckle and come to the table with more favorable terms,” Dickerson said. But “what about an alternative explanation, which a lot of experts believe, which is that they would say, ‘Forget negotiations, we’re going to race towards a breakout on a nuclear bomb?’”

Cotton’s answer: present a “credible threat of military force” and the Iranians will abandon “their nuclear-weapons capabilities.” The senator never explained why threatening war would make Iran capitulate now, given that the United States and Israel have been making such threats for over a decade. Nor did he address the consequences of a military strike, which former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said could “prove catastrophic, haunting us for generations.”

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