Last Tuesday the United States and six other countries reached an historic nuclear agreement with Iran that places strict restrictions on their controversial nuclear program in exchange for the gradual lifting of sanctions that has crippled the Iranian economy over the past several years and isolated Iran from world financial markets.
After nearly 17 days of direct negotiations over the deal, foreign ministers from seven countries including China, France, Great Britain, Germany, Iran, Russia, and the United States reached an agreement over the terms of the nuclear deal that was provisionally worked out three months ago in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The full nuclear agreement, known as the joint comprehensive plan of action (JCPOA), has already come under fierce attack from many Republicans along with Israel that are skeptical about Iran cooperating with the terms of the deal and are upset that over $100 billion in Iranian assets will gradually be lifted through a process that releases $700 million every month.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a recent press conference in Jerusalem on Monday, one day before the final details of the nuclear were made known, “This is a bad mistake of historic proportions” and emphasized the agreement will give Iran a “sure path to nuclear weapons.”
On Tuesday U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter will arrive in Israel to discuss security issues with Israeli leaders.
Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer blasted the new Iran agreement in his article, Worse Than We Could Have Imagined, published by the Washington Post that questions what happened to the U.S. insistence of anytime, anywhere inspections.
Krauthammer wrote that under the deal, Iran has the right to deny international inspectors access to any undeclared nuclear site and noted that even if the inspectors’ request for offsite inspecting is approved across a committee on which Iran sits, a 24 day approval process is required for inspectors to access undeclared nuclear sites.
A Less Critical View
Anthony Cordesman, a defense expert at the Center For Strategic and International Studies, was quoted in an article yesterday in Wired, saying that nuclear inspectors from the IAEA monitoring Iran for compliance “will be allowed to have a better set of surveillance systems that provide much more detail on a real time and continuing basis.”
Cordesman explained that “if and when then intelligence community identifies a potential unknown facility, the equipment the IAEA has at its disposal will be able to sniff it out, even with that 24 day grace period.”
“The problem is that if you tool up and then you have to tear it down, that’s a pretty expensive game, as well as a very high risk one, when it comes down to the stuff that’s going to be detectable” Cordesman said.
“While 24 days sounds like a lot of time, if it involves any radioactive material, it is damn hard to get rid of ” Cordesman added.
U.S. President Barack Obama said last week that the new deal prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and meets the national security interests of the United States and its allies.
The White House released an outline of the historic deal that describes how it will block the so called “four pathways to a nuclear weapon.”
The White House outline shows that if Iran is successful in developing a nuclear weapon, it would need two key elements to construct a uranium bomb: 1) tens of thousands of centrifuges and 2) enough highly enriched uranium to produce enough material to construct a uranium bomb.
Currently, there are 2 uranium enrichment sites in Iran: the Nantz facility and the Fordow facility. Iran has a uranium stockpile to create 8 to 10 nuclear bombs at the present time.
But under the terms of the Iran nuclear deal, Iran must reduce its uranium stockpile by 98 percent and keep its level of uranium enrichment at 3.67 percent which is dramatically below the enrichment level needed to create a bomb.
Iran has close to 20,000 centrifuges to create highly enriched uranium for a bomb at the Nantz facility and Fordow facility.
According to the terms of the new nuclear deal, Iran must lower its centrifuges to 6,104 for the next ten years.
No enrichment will be allowed at the Fordow facility and the only type of centrifuges Iran will be allowed to use are their oldest and least efficient models.
The third way Iran could build a nuclear weapon is by using weapons-grade plutonium.
Currently, the only site where Iran could accomplish this is the Arak reactor, a heavy water nuclear reactor.
Under the terms of the new deal, the Arak reactor won’t be allowed to produce any weapons-grade plutonium and all of the spent fuel rods will be shipped out of the country.
Meanwhile, Iran won’t be permitted to build a single heavy-water reactor for at least 15 years.
Based on the new nuclear deal, Iran has also agreed to follow “extraordinary and robust monitoring, verification, and inspection” with international inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) continuously monitoring every element of Iran’s declared nuclear program, but also verifying that no fissile material is covertly sent to a secret location to build a bomb.
If IAEA inspectors become aware of a suspicious location, Iran has agreed to implement the Additional Protocol to their IAEA Safeguards Agreement, which permits inspectors to access and inspect any site they believe is suspicious within 24 days.
The new nuclear deal essentially removes the main elements needed to build a bomb while it extends Iran’s break out time from 2-3 months to 1 year- if Iran violates its commitments.
If Iran violates any aspect of the deal, the U.S., U.N, and the EU can snap back the sanctions that have damaged Iran’s economy.
Republicans have spoken negatively about the new deal thus far and will be debating the terms of the deal for the next 2-3 months.
Republicans are expected to vote against the deal.
But President Obama will likely veto a Republican led effort to block the deal.
A two third majority is needed in each House to override a presidential veto.
If all 54 Republican Senators vote to the reject the deal, then 13 Democratic Senators will need to vote with Republicans and block the deal to reach the two third level.