More on the Iran deal
In his April 20 column, Max Kleinman offers a scathing criticism of the 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement, negotiated by the U.S. plus China, Russia, France, Germany with the support of the EU .
Kleinman’s main criticisms are that the Agreement ignored Iran’s support of terrorism; it did not deal with Iran’s continuing development of non-nuclear weapons such as missiles and rockets, and that it was limited to 15 years ( 2015-2030).
While these shortcomings are valid, it is important to recall that the overriding concerns of Israel and the U.S. in the years preceding the agreement was Iran’s continuing to enrich uranium with the goal of developing nuclear bombs. The menacing omissions noted by Kleinman represented threats of a different order, to be addressed once the nuclear threat was significantly diminished. And, in fact, the Agreement reached under Obama’s leadership did lower significantly the risks posed by Iran’s unconstrained nuclear development work .
Specifically, Iran agreed to reduce the centrifuges in its possession by more than two-thirds, and was allowed to use only about 5,000 for enriching uranium. Further, the centrifuges to be used were all first-generation technology, dating to the 1950s .
Most important, the Agreement forbade Iran from enriching its uranium beyond 3.67% purity, which limits its usability only for nuclear power generation.
The Agreement included a rigorous inspections regime to ensure full compliance by Iran. The inspections were to be performed by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts, who would have full access to all of Iran’s declared nuclear sites, and would also be allowed to visit non-declared sites where they suspect undisclosed nuclear work might be going on. In fact, subsequent Inspection reports issued by the IAEA confirmed FULL compliance by Iran.
Preventing nuclear enrichment beyond 3.67% for 15 years ( 2015-2030 ) under a rigid inspections regime was unquestionably a major achievement of the Obama Presidency.
When Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Agreement, he assured us that the crippling sanctions he would impose will bring Iran to its knees and force it to end its nuclear development work. However, the actual consequences of Trump’s withdrawal were quite different: Iran proceeded to enrich its uranium to increasingly higher levels using a larger number and more advanced centrifuges. Indeed, just a few months ago Iran announced its intention to enrich its uranium to 60 percent purity. Getting from this level to 90 percent purity — the level needed to produce the bomb — is much easier. The dangers we are now facing are far more urgent, requiring intense efforts by the West to reach an agreement once again.
(Dr. Matityahu Marcus is an emeritus professor of economics at Rutgers.)