Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Preliminary Deal with Iran

Great news from Geneva, where American and European negotiators have reached a deal with Iran to limit Iran's enrichment of uranium for six months while they work on a permanent deal:
Iran, which has long resisted international monitoring efforts and built clandestine nuclear facilities, agreed to stop enriching uranium beyond 5 percent, a level that would be sufficient for energy production but that would require further enrichment for bomb-making. To make good on that pledge, Iran will dismantle links between networks of centrifuges.

Its stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent, a short hop from weapons-grade fuel, would be diluted or converted into oxide so that it could not be readily used for military purposes. Iran agreed that it would not install any new centrifuges, start up any that are not already operating or build new enrichment facilities. . . .

In return for the initial agreement, the United States agreed to provide $6 billion to $7 billion in sanctions relief. Of this, roughly $4.2 billion would be oil revenue that has been frozen in foreign banks.
This is terrific; it at least postpones a war over this issue and, I think, makes one much less likely in the long run.

I have to say, though, that I find this rather puzzling. My contacts in the nuclear disarmament field are toward the lefty peacenik end of the spectrum, but they have always assured me that Iran is definitely pursuing the bomb. Their enrichment program makes no sense except as a bomb-making enterprise. And I don't blame them; given that America has invaded two of their neighboring countries and overthrown their governments, and various American Congressmen regularly suggest that we should do the same to Iran, I can certainly see why they want the bomb.

So what are they about? Have they decided that right now it makes sense to shelve the nuclear ambitions for a few years to get the economy back on track? Are they hoping that future events will lead to the break-up on the sanctions-enforcing coalition, enabling them to restart? Are they planning to establish another, even deeper layer of secret facilities? Is this a sign of disagreement within Iran's governing elite, between those determined to get the bomb and those who would be happy to give up the bomb in return for economic normalcy? Or have a majority of the leadership really changed their minds?

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