Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Yellow Light for the Iran Nuclear Deal

The proposed Iran nuclear deal is 159 pages long, loaded with technical issues pertaining to nuclear physics, the inspections regime and the enforcement provisions which if they work will delay Iran's progress towards a nuclear arsenal by at least decade. A noble goal. But, this is very complicated stuff, an arms control pact with the leading state sponsor of terrorism if you will, yet proponents and opponents are rushing to judgement without fully understanding the nature of the deal.

To me it makes sense to wait and to listen to what comes out in the upcoming hearings that in all likelihood will flush out the issues mentioned above. Nevertheless I do have some priors. Because President Obama wanted the deal more than the Grand Ayatollah it is logical to assume that the U.S. could have gotten a better deal. In selling the deal President Obama uses the example of Nixon going to China, but in that episode the U.S. was allowed to establish a base in western China to monitor Soviet missile tests. There is no equivalent here.  But that doesn't mean the current deal on the table is a bad deal. As we have often noted, you can't make the perfect the enemy of the good.

My concerns with deal have to do with the inspection regime where somehow "anytime anywhere inspections" have been scrubbed in favor of a 24 day managed process. We also don't know if the IAEA is capable of conducting a verifiable inspections regime in a hostile environment. And we don't know how the inspectors and the international community will deal with what appears to be small technical violations of the deal. For that matter we don't know whether or not there will be the will to reimpose a full set of sanctions in the face of obvious breaches.

And finally the opponents of the deal have to offer a realistic alternative should they vote down the agreement. Simply put the question is will we be better off with the deal or without it? Hopefully we will be able to answer that question by the end of the summer.

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