With likely convergence on some of the controversial issues regarding Iran’s on-going nuclear weapon’s program, which has long haunted the West, both Iran and the six global powers have struck an historic agreement in Geneva. The foreign ministers of the United States, Russia, Britain, China and Germany and Iran met in the historic city to discuss Iran’s nuclear program. The lengthy negotiations between the six nations and Iran have culminated in tough constraints imposed by the West for the first time in a decade in lieu of a partial relief, which Iran very much needed, from continuing harsh sanctions.
It is being characterized as a significant foreign policy achievement for President Obama and a major success for both Washington and Teheran. A six-month period agreed to in Geneva deal is intended to be used to negotiate a comprehensive and permanent settlement that would permit Iran to pursue a peaceful nuclear energy program.
The Geneva agreement materialized after a series of secret, back-channel bilateral discussions between Teheran and senior US officials that took place over the past year. President Obama is said to have personally authorized the secret talks even as tensions flared up between Iran and Israel. The US justifies holding direct bilateral talks over and above the P5+1 platform by suggesting, “Given that so much of the economic pressure on Iran comes from the US…it was important to establish this direct channel.”
The agreement releases just over $4 billion in Iranian oil sales revenue from frozen accounts and suspends restrictions on the country’s trade in gold, petrochemicals and car and plane parts. In return, Iran will restrict its nuclear activities over the next six months pending a final and comprehensive agreement. Iran has agreed to stop nuclear enrichment above 5 percent and dilute its stock of enriched uranium or convert it to oxide, which makes it harder to enrich. The medium-enriched uranium, in its hexafluoride gas form, is relatively easy to turn into weapon’s grade material so this was a major proliferation concern. Further, Iran will not increase its stockpile of low-enrichment uranium.
Further, Iran would not fuel or commission the heavy water reactor in Arak and will not build a reprocessing plant which could produce plutonium from spent fuel. Iran also agrees to accept more extensive nuclear inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, including daily visits to some facilities.
Against this backdrop, it is difficult to presume what the future prospect of this accord will mean. Instead, the West should be working towards the goal of making the world truly free of nuclear weapons and not just picking favorites.