Much risk, some reward possible in Iran accord
The possibility of reaching a peaceful agreement with Iran — after 35 years of our country being denounced as the “Great Satan” by that nation and decades of Iran trying to build its own nuclear weapons — is certainly a worthy goal.
But ... well, there are many “buts” related to the preliminary agreement reached between the U.S. and Iran in Geneva last month. The most troublesome question is whether the agreement will really do anything to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
As former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Schultz outlined in a Wall Street Journal op-ed this week, Iran already has stockpiles of enriched uranium that far exceed anything needed for nonmilitary energy production.
The Geneva agreement doesn’t require Iran to dispose of any of that enriched uranium or any of its 19,000 centrifuges for enriching uranium. And, while Iran has agreed to halt construction of its heavy-water, plutonium production plant, it is not required to begin dismantling it.
Also, Iran has a history of using temporary thaws in relations with the West to talk about cooperating on nuclear issues, even as it secretly advances its nuclear plans.
Kissinger and Schultz have both dealt with Iran in the past. They argue authoritatively that any easing of the sanctions against Iran beyond the six-month term of the Geneva agreement must be tied to serious, verifiable requirements that Iran begin eliminating its excessive stockpiles of enriched uranium and begin dismantling its plutonium plant.
That won’t be easy, even if the people currently negotiating on Iran’s behalf are sincere and honest in their efforts.
For one thing, there is a powerful group of people in Iran — scientists, engineers and politicians — that has a significant stake in seeing the nuclear weapons program move forward. In the past, they have had the support of Iran’s religious rulers.
The West’s sanctions for Iran are having an impact. Easing them too much, too quickly could strengthen the position of Iran’s pro-nuclear factions.
Additionally, even if all goes well within the country, rapprochement between Iran and the United States could lead to greater instability in the Middle East. The reason is that many of the Arab-speaking, Sunni-dominated Islamic nations fear Persian Iran, with its Shiite leaders, gaining too much power.
Already, there has been increasing violence in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq that is believed to be tied to the preliminary U.S.-Iran agreement, The Washington Post reported.
As always when dealing with that region, finding peaceful means of resolving differences is difficult, and the consequences of such an agreement are not entirely predictable.
The Obama administration shouldn’t ignore what may be a legitimate opportunity to reach a solid long-term accord with Iran. But it must move cautiously, consider the consequences and not be too eager to acquiesce to Iran’s demands just so it can claim a victory on paper.