Last Thursday, leaders from six world powers agreed to a framework for an agreement with Iranian leaders that would significantly limit the Middle Eastern country’s ability to develop a nuclear bomb for at least the next 10 years.
Diplomats from the United States, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and Germany agreed to a preliminary framework for a deal in Switzerland that proposes to cut back both the amount of enriched uranium Iran will possess, as well as the rate at which they can produce it and the extent to which they can enrich it.
Under the current terms, Iran has tentatively agreed to reduce its stockpile of 19,000 centrifuges, which are devices used to enrich uranium over time, to 6,104. In addition to a cut in the number of operating centrifuges, Iran will also not be allowed to enrich its uranium past 3.67 percent. Uranium enriched to that percentage can be used for civil purposes to power the country, but cannot be used to build a nuclear bomb.
Not only does the deal inhibit Iran’s ability to produce uranium that can be used as a weapon, but it will also provide international transparency. Iran will be forced to provide access to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to each of its nuclear facilities to ensure that it is not using its nuclear capabilities to advance military interests.
President Obama said in his press conference following the announcement of the framework that “If Iran cheats, the world will know it.” Interestingly enough, Obama’s press conference was broadcast on Iranian state television.
Beyond the fact that this deal is a step in the right direction toward ensuring that states in an unstable Middle East do not engage in a race to build a nuclear bomb; it is also a particularly historic moment in U.S.-Iranian relations. Until two years ago, the two countries had not spoken officially in 35 years.
Despite a reported sense of “mistrust” between U.S. and Iranian officials, diplomatic dialogue on a subject of this magnitude is a positive in itself. Progress toward a deal that has the potential to limit the introduction of a functioning nuclear program into the Middle East for another 15 years is even better.
The deal does not stop Iran’s enrichment program, but it does limit the country’s ability to use enriched uranium to manufacture a weapon of catastrophic potential. And if Iranian leaders are willing to continue to work toward a formal deal before the June 30 deadline, they will see a gradual reduction in the economic sanctions they face as a result of failing to cooperate with the rest of the world in nuclear negotiations beginning in 2006.