The Nuclear Deal Framework and the Ensuing Hawkish Panic
Iran and the P5+1 have produced a framework agreement that sets the stage for a final nuclear deal in June:
Iran and European nations said here tonight they had reached a surprisingly specific and comprehensive general understanding about next steps in limiting Tehran’s nuclear program, but officials said that some important issues need to be resolved before a final agreement in June that would allow the Obama administration to assert it has cut off all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon.
It is too soon to say that the deal is complete, but a major hurdle has been overcome and the best efforts of the saboteurs of diplomacy with Iran have so far failed. Credit goes to the diplomats and officials of all governments involved that made sure that the talks weren’t derailed. Despite the increasingly desperate attempts from hard-liners to undermine the negotiations, diplomacy with Iran has once again delivered results that Iran hawks claimed to be impossible when the talks first began. If the negotiations had fallen apart this week, it would have been fairly easy for hard-line opponents of any deal to pretend that their approach would have yielded better results. The success of the negotiations clearly deprives them of that.
Here are some of the details of the agreement reached this week:
According to European officials, roughly 5,000 centrifuges will remain spinning enriched uranium at the main nuclear site at Natanz, about half the number currently running. The giant underground enrichment site at Fordo – which Israeli and some American officials fear is impervious to bombing – will be partly converted to advanced nuclear research and the production of medical isotopes. Foreign scientists will be present. There will be no fissile material present that could be used to make a bomb.
A major reactor at Arak, which officials feared could produce plutonium, would operate on a limited basis that would not provide enough fuel for a bomb.
All of these represent significant Iranian concessions, and all of them are an improvement over the status quo in terms of restricting the Iranian nuclear program. If followed up by a final agreement in June, this should ensure the peaceful resolution of the nuclear issue. Naturally, this has alarmed and angered Iran hawks. Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk’s reaction was especially unbalanced:
The Illinois Republican trashed a deal struck by global powers with Tehran, concluding in a phone interview “that Neville Chamberlain got a lot of more out of Hitler than Wendy Sherman got out of Iran,” a reference to a top State Department negotiator on the deal.
But Kirk wasn’t done, forecasting that lifting any more sanctions on Iran “dooms the Middle East to yet another war,” one that Israel will have to clean up, perhaps in a nuclear fashion.
“We should be a reviewing presence to see how this unfolds,” Kirk said of Congress’ role, adding: “Which we all know is going to end with a mushroom cloud somewhere near Tehran.”
Kirk’s views on Iran and the nuclear issue have been like this all along. Back in 2013, he was warning against reaching even an interim deal with Iran because he assumed that it would be “appeasement,” and now he has concluded that a non-proliferation agreement that imposes limits on Iran’s nuclear program is even worse than appeasing Hitler. That by itself should remove him from any serious policy debate, but we know that it won’t. As an original co-sponsor of new sanctions legislation aimed at derailing the negotiations, Kirk has more invested in the failure of diplomacy than most, and so the success of diplomacy in spite of his effort is undoubtedly frustrating to him. Hence all of his loose, ridiculous talk about nuclear explosions in Iran. I’m not sure whether he meant that he thinks Iran would soon be testing a nuclear weapon or that a nuclear weapon would/should be dropped on Iran, but either way he has proved that nothing he says on this issue should be taken seriously.