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Analysis: Iran nuclear deal needs hard look

8:55 AM, Nov 24, 2013   |    comments
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius react after a landmark deal on Iran's nuclear program was reached in Geneva.(Photo: Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/Getty Images)
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The interim deal with Iran has some significant achievements that will halt the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, but it is also weak in some important respects, an analyst says.

"I'm surprised getting Iran to come clean on all its past clandestine programs wasn't a clear achievement in this deal," said Robert Satloff, executive director of Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

The deal makes no mention of a potential military action if Iran does not live up to its obligations, meaning a "credible use of force now seems removed from this diplomacy," Satloff said.

Suzanne Maloney, senior fellow for the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, called the deal "a ground-breaking agreement that begins to resolve longstanding concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions."

"The interim deal ties Tehran to an ongoing diplomatic process whose primary rewards remain deferred until a far more ambitious agreement can be achieved," she said.

The agreement was described as an "initial, six-month" deal and includes "substantial limitations" that will help prevent Iran from creating a nuclear weapon," President Obama said in a nationally televised address late Saturday.

U.S. negotiators said the deal addresses Iran's ability to enrich uranium and its existing enriched uranium stockpiles, but no firm details were provided. It also dealt with Iran's centrifuges, which can enrich uranium for fuel for a bomb, and its ability to produce weapons-grade plutonium using the Arak reactor, according to the White House.

Obama, both in his statement and the fact sheet issued by the White House, committed to no additional nuclear-related sanctions against Iran as long as Iran abides by it.

Many in Congress have said new sanctions are necessary to make sure Iran abandons what they consider a path toward developing nuclear weapons.

Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., said he shares Obama's desire to resolve the nuclear dispute with Iran through diplomacy but that he will continue to seek stronger sanctions against Iran to make sure diplomacy succeeds.

"I will continue working with my colleagues to craft bipartisan legislation that will impose tough new economic sanctions if Iran undermines this interim accord or if the dismantlement of Iran's nuclear infrastructure is not underway by the end of this six-month period."

The interim deal provides "the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism with billions of dollars in exchange for cosmetic concessions that neither fully freeze nor significantly roll back its nuclear infrastructure," Kirk said.

Satloff said the deal will have a major impact on how the final resolution of Iran's nuclear standoff plays out.

"A major risk involved is what is the popular perception of this deal," said Satloff.

"It is a deal that the p5+1 (world powers) sacrificed core demands over many years and a remarkable buildup of sanctions to achieve at most a cap on the Iranian nuclear program, or is this a deal that reflects Iran buckling under the weight of international sanctions and truly bowing to global pressure?"

The strength of the final deal will be buttressed if the deal includes factors such a hard deadline for a final agreement, an immediate reference to the United Nations Security Council, which passed multiple resolutions demanding that Iran suspend its production of nuclear fuel, and a threat of military force if terms are not met, Satloff said.

A different message will come across if the interim deal shows Western countries viewing this as the beginning of the end to sanctions and "chomping at the bit" to resume trade with Iran, rather than showing a united front to keep sanctions in place until the last details are in place for a final agreement that will prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon as Obama has promised, he said.

In the days and hours before officials in Geneva announced a deal had been reached, Iranian officials and journalists repeated Iran's claim that any interim deal must declare production of nuclear fuel as an Iranian sovereign right.

David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a former U.N. weapons inspector, say a final deal that effectively limits Iranian enrichment capacity and improves international monitoring may be good enough to make sure Iran doesn't secretly produce a nuclear weapon.

Satloff disagrees.

"If you have limited enrichment, you can build all the elements to achieve a nuclear infrastructure without actually turning it on," he says. "The permission to enrich will ensure the Iranian nuclear program remains an international issue for many years."


Oren Dorell, USA TODAY

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