On April 2nd, 2015, the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom (the P5+1 countries) reached a comprehensive outline for a nuclear agreementwith Iran. Essentially, Iran agreed to reduce its installed centrifuges by two-thirds, to not enrich weapons-grade uranium or build any facilities that do so for at least 15 years, and to reduce its stockpile of low enriched uranium from 10,000 kg to only 300 kg.
With these agreements in place, Iran’s breakout time (the time it would take Iran to assemble a nuclear weapon if they decided to opt out of the deal) would increase from 3 months right now to a year. Additionally, Iran will allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to all of its nuclear facilities with the removal of centrifuges supervised by that agency.
Once Iran has followed through on its part of the agreement, international economic sanctions that have been crippling to Iranian growth will be lifted. If at any point, Iran breaks from this agreement, the sanctions will go back in to place.
The actual deal is supposed to be signed by June 30th, but it’s uncertain whether or not that will actually happen. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said it will “absolutely threaten the survival of Israel.” Republicans openly balked at the deal and even sent a letterto the Iranian government threatening to repeal anything Obama promises.
But putting aside the relative merits of the deal’s details: why should we care if Iran gets a nuclear weapon to begin with? Do they really pose a threat to the safety of the United States? There are arguably less stable, more powerful countries that have nuclear weapons, like North Korea and Pakistan for example. Why expend so much time and effort to prevent Iran from attaining “the bomb?”
Why We Should Care
The Anti-Defamation League, an international Jewish organization that fights against anti-Semitism and racism around the world, recently released an articledetailing the reasons we should be concerned about the prospect of Iran getting a nuclear weapon.
Even though Iran doesn’t have the capability of developing a nuclear weapon that could hit the continental United States, there are American troops stationed throughout Europe and the Middle East that would be vulnerable to a nuclear attack. And just because they don’t have the capability of intercontinental ballistic missiles right now doesn’t mean they can’t develop such capabilities in the future.
More importantly, an Iranian nuclear bomb could be trouble for Israel. Their Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, has publicly stated he would like to see Israel wiped off the face of the Earth. The United States, being Israel’s closest ally, has an obligation to protect their interests. Even if the Iranian government itself doesn’t launch a nuclear bomb against Israel, it has close ties with terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas. Who’s to say they won’t give a nuclear weapon to them? Iran is an unstable country with an unstable regime that does impulsive and dangerous things.
All that being said, there’s a reason the United States has a vested interest in this deal aside from preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon: the United States and the Western world are trying to establish a relationship with Iran. Lifting economic sanctions will undoubtedly bring greater economic prosperity to the Iranian people, something that could change the way they perceive the West. Once the Iranian people see the potential for growth without the sanctions, the hope would be that they will pressure their own government to remain committed to the deal and not try to produce a nuclear weapon behind closed doors. If Iran gets a nuclear weapon, the sanctions stay in place, and there’s little opportunity to change Iranian perceptions of the West.
Why We Shouldn’t Care
Beginning with the obvious, Iran has some instinct for self-preservation. North Korea, a country far crazier than Iran, has had nuclear capabilities for years now. Granted, their nuclear weapons aren’t well designed or very strong, but they have the capability to cause havoc, especially if used against South Korea. Russia, a country with an incredibly unstable and egomaniacal leader, has tremendous nuclear capability but hasn’t used it. And finally, Pakistan, a country that has been accused of sponsoring terrorism, a country that was hiding Bin Laden (knowingly or unknowingly) for years, has nuclear weapons.
The point is that there are countries with unstable leaders in the world that have nuclear weapons, but none of them have used nuclear weapons against other countries because they understand the implication behind it.
Similarly, Iran understands that using a nuclear weapon against Israel or any European country could mean the complete and total destruction of their country. They understand that their military might has no chance against the United States. North Korea doesn’t use a bomb against South Korea because they understand the same thing. Every nation in the world understands the impact of nuclear weapons. They understand that using a nuclear weapon against the United States or its allies would mean the end of their existence.
People are also fearful that Iran would give nuclear weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas if they acquired them. However, nuclear materials are tracked and marked by the IAEA. Any nuclear material given to a terrorist organization could be traced back to Iran.
Well…Should We Care?
I can understand the perspective of both sides. I understand why we shouldn’t be concerned, even if they do get the bomb. I don’t see anything that indicates they would actually use a nuclear weapon. Israel and the United States have second-strike capabilities that would annihilate Iran. Politicians in the United States and Israel might stir up fear about the nuclear deal, but it’s largely misplaced.
Iran might be crazy, but they’re not stupid.
All that being said, I support this current nuclear agreement. Not because I have any fear whatsoever that Iran would ever use a nuclear weapon, but rather because there is a tremendous opportunity to establish diplomatic relations with Iran and help bring them into the Western sphere of influence.
A reportreleased by the University of Maryland indicates that there is substantial room for improved relations with Iran. This nuclear deal is an important catalyst because it removes the economic sanctions.
First of all, a majority of Iranians favor the nuclear agreement and only 1 in 6 oppose it. A majority of Iranians still want Iran to build a nuclear weapon, but they believe the benefits of lifting economic sanctions outweigh the necessity of a bomb. A majority also, while expressing dislike for America, favor confidence-building measures between the United States and Iran and believe that it’s good for the West and Iran to find common ground.
The United States has clearly had a troubling relationship with Iran in the past. We orchestrated the overthrowing of Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953 only to put the pro-western Shah into power. Iran took over of our embassy in 1979 and held hundreds of Americans hostage. We backed Iraq in the 1980’s during the Iraq/Iran War along with several anti-Tehran militant groups. Maybe it’s time we start repairing these relationships.
We may have had a tumultuous past, but that doesn’t mean history has to repeat itself. The future can always be brighter.