Over this last summer, the P5+1 (U.K., U.S., Germany, Russia, China, France), the E.U. and Iran congregated in Vienna to lay down an undoubtedly important piece of international legislation. This group struck a landmark agreement regarding Iran’s nuclear program and its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Furthermore, they worked to address sepa- rate sanctions currently imposed by the U.N. Security Council, U.S. and E. U. on Iran in order to punish them for previous military research with radioactive material.
As influential as this agreement is, it is equally shortsighted and aspires only to delay the problems of nuclear proliferation rather than offer a long standing solution.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), colloquially known as the Iran Nuclear Agreement, is an attempt to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and would lift existent economic sanctions on Iran. Both sides certainly agree that preventing access to nuclear weaponry to certain members of the international community is of paramount importance, and that prevention should cer- tainly pertain to a regime as malignant as the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran has consistently operated as a destabilizing force in the Middle East, beginning with the current regime’s rise to power in the sectarian Shia revolution of 1979. This current deal will then enable an increase in the resources Iran can access. The current sanctions extend beyond limit- ing Iran’s ability to purchase and import ura- nium enriching materials, and restricts their ability to export petroleum, a natural resource central to their economy.
Since 2012, the oil export sanction in Iran has cost $160 billion, and the U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew predicted in April that the Iranian economy would be 15 to 20 percent bigger if not for these sanctions. With all this capital freed in the wake of the agreement, it is natural to wonder how this new money will be spent. A look at the current way Iran spends money is revealing.
At this moment, an entire laundry list is available of ways that Iran is using their money and political clout to thwart peaceable relations amongst nations in the Middle East. The most glaring examples are Iran’s apparent obsession with the complete dissolution of Israel as an organized state and their attempt to bolster the regime of Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad, a man that has been a consistent human rights abuser, known for using Sarin gas and other war crimes.
This deal will merely delay Iran’s ability to produce weapons grade Uranium by 10 to 15 years in exchange for permanently lifting sanctions on Iran’s economy. With the eco- nomic relief brought by lifting the sanctions, the agreement will allow Iran more than ever to support their allies in the Middle East. These include the aforementioned al-Assad, Hezbollah, the Houthis in Yemen and the government of Iraq. On top of more eco- nomic power, the Iranians will also finally have freedom to increase their stockpile of conventional weapons, including systems that could aid the delivery of nuclear weapons, like Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles.
The deal hinges on the assumption that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) can successfully regulate Iran. By the time the terms of the agreement begin to expire, Iran will have what political experts call a “breakout time” of only a few weeks. The breakout time is a phrase to refer to how long it would take for Iran to enrich uranium to military levels. The terms of the JCPOA allow Iran to delay the IAEA inspectors of their facilities for 24 days, in other words, long enough for them to destroy evidence or finish making weapons before anyone can inspect their centrifuges.
Supporters of the deal will often point to the feasibility of a U.S.-led military strike as a backup form of enforcement, but to bank international policy on the ability to land a death blow to a country of Iran’s size in a few weeks, especially given the impregnability of some of their nuclear facilities, seems much too large a gamble.
Although the agreement is perhaps a valiant effort at containing nuclear proliferation, it falls well short of a permanent solution and is irresponsible to the U.S.’s regional allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia. The agreement only offers a temporary solution to a permanent problem.
Scott Johnson ’18 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is from Gladstone, Mo. He majors in economics.