A year ago, Iran’s growing stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent, the level at which it could be quickly converted to bomb-grade, was a serious danger to our safety. However, a few days ago a nuclear deal was reached between Iran and the US that has been rightly called a historic development. This deal was brought about by the success of using diplomacy instead waging war, as has been threatened against Iran for years. Diplomacy has brought about the most significant agreement on nuclear weapons in recent history.
The agreement stipulates that Iran will stop enriching uranium beyond 5 percent, “neutralize” its stockpile of uranium that has already been enriched beyond its domestic needs, give greater access to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors at its nuclear sites, have no reprocessing and no further development at the “heavy water” facility in Arak. In return, the members of the U.N. Security Council (the U.S., the U.K., France, Russia, China) plus Germany, have agreed to impose no new sanctions in addition to providing limited relief from existing sanctions. The goal is that Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful and enable Iran to fully enjoy its right to non-military nuclear energy.
After a decade of attempting to totally ban enrichment of uranium by Iran, the world powers ultimately accepted that the comprehensive solution would involve a “mutually defined enrichment program with practical limits and transparency measures” to ensure the peaceful nature of the program. The parties negotiated a reciprocal, step-by step process with Iran, which will eventually lead to the comprehensive lifting of all UN Security Council sanctions, as well as multilateral, and national sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program.
Diplomacy through the efforts of the nuclear negotiation teams, have resulted in a roadmap to resolve the Iranian nuclear dispute in a peaceful environment of mutual trust. An additional positive outcome has been the direct discussions between Iran and the US. This means that the two States are now communicating at a higher level, for the first time since the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis. The deal has opened the door for a constructive engagement of the two governments regarding other current crises such as the ones in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. The expectation is that the higher level of communication during such negotiations will open up a new path toward a Middle East and world that are more secure.
The success of diplomacy in this instance gives us a reason to be optimistic about the future for better controls and limits on ”new” nuclear weapons states. However, it is worth noting that all the permanent members of the UN security council that were in the negotiations with Iran have their own nuclear arsenals. Currently, Russia and the United States each have about 10,000 nuclear warheads, of which about half are awaiting dismantlement. France has around 300, the United Kingdom about 225 and China roughly 240. Additionally, Israel’s nuclear arsenal is another obvious example of this double standard given its status as the only country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons.
Diplomacy has been successful in this instance, and non-proliferation initiatives like this are an essential part of the nuclear disarmament process in the world. However, it seems unbalanced to have so much concern about nuclear bombs that do not yet exist, and so little apparent concern for the thousands of nuclear bombs that already do. The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (P5) have all ratified the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but none has fulfilled its commitment under the NPT to give up its nuclear weapons. Perhaps the next step should be to utilize diplomacy to achieve universal nuclear disarmament.
In any event, the world should be heartened by the fact that instead of violence our governments are seeing the merits of diplomacy instead of war; and in this instance it has proven successful.