President Donald J. Trump has, ever since the early phases of the 2016 election, lamented what is known as the “Iran Deal”, a colloquial name for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program. This was less of a deal, but was rather a nuclear framework between Iran and the six major world powers: the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, China, France, and Germany, otherwise known as the P5+1.
Concern over Iran’s nuclear program have been proliferating since the 1990s, during which Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, initiated a nuclear program to develop a bomb in the face of similar programs in Israel and Iraq, both of which are Iran’s geopolitical adversaries. A decade later, President George W. Bush’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan spurred anti-American factions in Iran, which led to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s rise to the Iranian presidency. Over the course of his tenure, President Ahmadinejad began to escalate Iran’s nuclear program at a much faster rate, leading to sanctions being placed on the energy and financial sectors of the iranian economy, hampering any economic growth.
It was in 2013 that Iran, under centrist President Hassan Rouhani, began to freeze its nuclear program, and the United States and Iran began to engage in negotiations about the future of the program. Finally, in 2015, the preliminary nuclear framework was agreed upon, and has been the subject of much contentious debate within American, and international, politics. Overall, the deal is aimed at abrogating Iran’s nuclear program through obstructing all pathways to the construction of a nuclear weapon.
The first step to halting Iran’s nuclear program is through undermining its uranium possession. Uranium is an essential ingredient in the production of nuclear weapons, and Iran possesses several mines which are used to extract the element from the ground. The uranium was then fed into centrifuges in Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities, of which are located in Natanz and Fordo. Centrifuges are the machinery used to enrich uranium, which allows for it to be used in the production of nuclear weapons.
Under the framework, Iran must reduce its number of centrifuges from 20,000 to 5,060, with only the oldest and least efficient able to be installed at Natanz until 2025. Furthermore, the amount stockpiled uranium, enriched or otherwise, must be reduced by 98%, leaving a mere 660 pounds remaining, a point at which it must remain until 2030. This uranium also must be kept at an enrichment level at or below 3.67%, a fraction of the 90% enrichment uranium must be at fitor nuclear weaponry to be produced. The other nuclear enrichment facility, which is located in Fordo, will be converted into a center for research in medicine, agriculture, industry, and science, and will remain in this stage until 2030.
Plutonium, like uranium, is also an ingredient that can used in the manufacturing of nuclear weapons. Under the Iran Deal, the Iranian government agreed to redesign its heavy-water reactor, a type of nuclear reactor, so it does not produce weapons-grade plutonium, as it initially would have. Under the deal, twenty tons the spent fuel from the reactor would then be shipped to the United States, with another six exported to other countries, and Iran is able to keep up to six tons until 2030.
Should Iran continue to comply with the terms of the deal, which it has, the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations will begin to lift sanctions that had been placed on the country since the 1990s. One sanction that is being lifted is the embargo against oil exports, which were implemented by the Obama Administration, as well as the European union. This sanction had been crippling the Iranian economy, as 80% of Iran’s exports were oil.
Further sanctions, such as prohibiting international trade, implemented by the Clinton Administration after Iran began developing nuclear weapons for the first time, and foreign investment in Iran, implemented by the Obama Administration, were also lifted. Finally, the overseas assets of the Iranian government were released after being frozen back in 2012 after Iran began to enrich its uranium and began to approach a redline set out by Israel. These sanctions all played a role in crippling the Iranian economy, leading to a 6.6% contraction in 2012, which sent the country spiraling into a recession.
However, through alleviating the sanctions, Iran may undergo an economic rebound as they are once again allowed to resume the selling of all their oil, accept foreign investment, and begin trading internationally. Such an economic recovery would also produce favorable political conditions for the Rouhani government, which campaigned vigorously on the promise of repealing sanctions that were hampering economic growth, a promise that Rouhani delivered on, which has been ushering in economic expansion. Rouhani is a member of the Moderation and Development Party, a centrist political party that is less hostile to the West. And while Rouhani is termed out in the next election, which will take place in 2021, the Iran Deal may be good news for the MDP. But Iran must accept random checks by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who will be assessing whether Iran has been in compliance with the deal, and should it be found Iran is attempting to create a nuclear weapon, all sanctions will return for up to another fifteen years.
However, many have objected to the Iran Deal, particularly President Trump and his administration, along with UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and United States allies Israel and Saudi Arabia. Much objection over the Iran Deal is founded in
Iran’s malign activities outside nuclear activities, which can be funded by the unfreezing of Iranian assets, which total in the tens of billions.
A cold war has existed between Iran and Saudi Arabia for years, with its roots in the Iranian Revolution of 1979. During the Iranian Revolution, fundamentalist Muslims overthrew the American-backed Shah and installed Ayatollah Khomeini, which created an Islamic-based government which began trying to export similar revolutions to several other countries, including Saudi Arabia, in order to acquire control over the entire Middle East. Iran vies for control over the Middle East through funneling money and weaponry to Shia-backed groups in civil conflicts throughout the Middle East, particularly in the Yemeni, Iraqi, and Syrian Civil Wars. Such activity is not addressed in the Iran Deal, but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson seeks to achieve lasting peace in the region by confronting this.
by Louis Gleason, Editor-in-Chief