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The Weak Objections to a Nuclear Deal

Jeffrey Goldberg makes a silly objection to a time-limited nuclear deal with Iran:

Ten or 15 or even 20 years might seem like a long time in the U.S., but the people of the Middle East are patient. Any agreement that contains an expiration date is an inadequate agreement, because it will, in essence, grant Iran time-delayed permission to build nuclear weapons [bold mine-DL].

Let’s consider just a few of the flaws in this argument. First, it is quite reasonable for an agreement like this one to expire at some future date. Allowing for expiration of the agreement a decade or two in the future allows both sides to commit to a deal for an allotted period of time without locking them into its provisions forever. It makes it easier for both sides to accept a deal that they might otherwise reject. For instance, START expired in 2009, and then it was replaced by the more recent arms reduction treaty. If Iran and the P5+1 reached a comprehensive deal that expires at some future date, that means that there would have to be a re-negotiation of another agreement in ten or twenty years. There is no guarantee that a future Iranian government would be interested in renewing the deal, but then it’s also possible that the Iranian government twenty years from now will not be the same as the one currently in power. Besides, all of this is putting the cart before the horse. Ensuring that Iran’s nuclear program is being used purely for peaceful purposes for the next fifteen or twenty years would be a great success. Rejecting a significant agreement with Iran on the nuclear issue because it may expire decades from now is mindless.

As for Goldberg’s other claim, he couldn’t be more wrong. Once such a deal expired, that wouldn’t give Iran “permission to build nuclear weapons.” Iran is a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which prohibits this. The purpose of the deal currently being negotiated is not to deny Iran permission to build nuclear weapons. It can never have “permission” to do this so long as it adheres to the NPT. The purpose is restrict Iran’s nuclear program in such a way that it becomes very difficult to try to do something that the NPT already forbids.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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