Iran nuke deal: Wait for details
See also: Israel: Iran deal a 'historic mistake'
The deal that was inked last night between Iran and the west regarding its nuclear program appears, on the surface, to be good news for the the EU and US - at least, temporarily.
That's the first thing to remember about this deal; it's only for 6 months. The second thing that is striking about the agreement is that it puts some surprising monitoring protocols in place where Iran is supposed to allow the IAEA unfettered access to all of its (known) nuclear facilities. They won't be able to touch their stash of highly enriched uranium, nor will they be able to expand their program by adding centrifuges.
Under the terms of the deal, Iran would stop installing new centrifuges, and also refrain from using the thousands of centrifuges that have been installed but are not yet enriching uranium -meaning Iran could use only about half of the roughly 18,000 centrifuges it currently possesses.
Those centrifuges would be limited to making only low-enriched uranium, of the kind used in nuclear power plants. While Iran would continue to make the nuclear fuel, its total stockpile in six months would not be allowed to grow beyond current levels. In practice, Iran would face a choice of either halting enrichment or converting its uranium into metal fuel plates.
In a key concession, Iran agreed to halt all production of so-called 20-percent-enriched uranium, a type of fuel that can be easily converted to highly enriched uranium used in nuclear bombs. Iran's entire stockpile of 20-percent fuel-just under 450 pounds-would have to be neutralized through conversion into metal or blending with natural uranium to reduce its purity.
A sticking point during the talks involved Iran's continued work on a partly constructed heavy water reactor near the town of Arak. If allowed to operate, the reactor could supply Iran with a potential source of plutonium, which, like high-enriched uranium, can be used to make nuclear bombs. Under the agreement reached in Geneva, Iran would be required to halt work on building fuel rods or other components for the facility.
To ensure compliance with the agreements, Iran's nuclear facilities would be subject to unprecedented monitoring, with daily visits by international inspectors who also would have access to recordings by remote video equipment.
Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, interprets the agreement very broadly:
The Associated Press reported that hours after the accord was reached, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said the deal recognizes Tehran's "rights" to maintain an atomic program.
Rouhani on Sunday repeated Iran's claim that it would "never" seek atomic weapons.
His reference to "nuclear rights" in a nationally broadcast speech touches on the country's demand to keep its uranium enrichment program.
If what Rouhani says is true - that this is a de facto recognition of Iran's "right" to a nuclear enrichment program - that will be very bad news, indeed. One of the goals of American diplomacy for more than a decade was to force Iran to abandon it's enrichment program altogether. That, apparently, is now by the boards. It seems simple minded to say, but as long as Iran can enrich uranium to even just 5%, it is a threat to build a bomb.
It's clear that both sides are seeing what they want to with regard to this agreement. Until we have a handle on the details, it's probably best to hold our fire. We certainly aren't giving up much to get what, on the surface, appears to be several important concessions from Iran. And that's should worry us. How Iran views those "concessions" will make or break the deal going forward.
One more thing; this could all fall apart in the next 24 hours if Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei disapproves. It's happened before, although Iran has never gone all the way and actually signed something before backing out. It could be that this time, Iran doesn't see a six month pause in its efforts to build a bomb as necessarily crippling, while it gets some relief on sanctions that it desperately needs.