Power and politics: the fine print of the Iran nuclear deal

tsj column writers - power and politicsBy Zachary Toillion

Secretary of State John Kerry announced ongoing talks last week with Iran over the future of its nuclear program and ended in a historic agreement. Throughout the day, world leaders—including the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Iran and China—praised the deal as a major step in the peace process to be finalized in June.

In order for a country to build a nuclear weapon, uranium must be enriched to a level of around 90 percent, the level found in the bombs the United States deployed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Under the agreement, Iran is only allowed to enrich uranium to a level of 3.67 percent, an amount consistent with the development of nuclear energy production. So far, Iran has been able to enrich Uranium only to a level of about 20 percent.

As a part of the agreement, Iran will reduce its stockpiles to 300 kilograms from its current total of 10,000 kilograms, a reduction of 97 percent. Iran has also agreed to reduce its number of centrifuges from 19,000 to 5,060 for the purposes of enrichment. This part of the nuclear deal actually surpasses the United States’ intended goal of reducing the number of enrichment centrifuges to 6,500. However, the 5,060 centrifuges fall far short of demands by the Israeli government and congressional Republicans that Iran reduce the number of active centrifuges to zero.

In order to hold Iran accountable to all of its promises, the International Atomic Energy Agency has been granted nearly unlimited access to Iran’s nuclear material and centrifuges. As an incentive for Iran to keep its word on the agreement, the United States has decided to remove the numerous sanctions put in place when Iran was actively pursuing a nuclear weapon.The alleviation of these sanctions will help Iran in key economic areas, including international trade and the financial sector.

Republican support for the treaty remains minimal. Just last month a group of 47 Republicans sent a letter to the leader of Iran warning that Obama may not be a trustable partner. Like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, most Republicans remain highly skeptical of Iran’s commitment to a nuclear peace agreement. Convincing a portion of these Republican leaders is the next major step for Obama in making sure the nuclear agreement is adopted.

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