Iran and the world’s six major powers reached a historic deal on Tuesday, agreeing to limit Tehran’s nuclear capability for at least a decade in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
We asked Valentine Moghadam, director of Northeastern’s International Affairs and Middle East Studies programs, to explain the ins and outs of the landmark agreement. Here, she holds forth on the deal’s biggest winners, Israel’s response, and Congress’ forthcoming review of the accord, which was roughly two years in the making.
President Barack Obama praised the pact, saying that it will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And Iranian President Hassan Rouhani likes the deal too, noting in a brief statement that Iranian people’s “prayers have come true.” Which party—Iran, the U.S., or the world at large—is the deal’s biggest winner, and what nation is the agreement’s biggest loser?
Both the U.S. and Iran are winners. The nuclear deal is a victory of diplomacy over aggression. Rational minds in Iran and the U.S. were able to overcome years of mistrust, find common ground, and hammer out an agreement that, while not satisfying everyone, benefits citizens in both countries and resolves at least one of the many major tensions in today’s world. The agreement illustrates the capacity for statesmanship on the part of the leaders and the negotiating teams of the U.S. and Iran, and it is a victory for the P5 + 1 group, which refers to the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the U.S.—plus Germany. For Iran, the crippling sanctions will be lifted; for the U.S. and Europe, there is a guarantee that Iran will not produce a nuclear weapon. The losers are the Netanyahu government in Israel and the ruling princes in Saudi Arabia.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the deal, calling it a “historic mistake for the world.” He is particularly furious over the expected lifting of economic sanctions, which, he said, would free Iran to “fuel its terror machine.” What do you think of Israel’s response to the deal, keeping in mind that the nation views a nuclear-armed Iran as a potential existential threat?
It seems that Netanyahu prefers war to a peaceful agreement. Here is what his foreign minister said: “This deal is a historic surrender by the West to the axis of evil headed by Iran. Israel will act with all means to try and stop the agreement being ratified.” Two years ago, Israel threatened to attack Iran. As a feminist and person of the left, I have longstanding grievances against the Islamic regime because of its treatment of dissidents and its discriminatory laws; I would point out, however, that Iran has never attacked, invaded, nor occupied any country, whereas Israel has. Israel’s new friend Saudi Arabia has financed Islamist extremists and today wages an aggressive war against Yemen. Israel’s record on nuclear weapons development has not exactly been exemplary. So I find its response to the deal completely wrong-headed, if not hypocritical. My hope is that one day Israel and Iran can resolve their differences and establish diplomatic relations. Perhaps the Pope can help.
Congress will have 60 days to review the accord. What parts of the deal do you think will receive the most scrutiny? And how do you think President Obama will react if the pact does not receive a congressional endorsement?
What is there not to like about the agreement? The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action states that “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will (it) ever seek, develop, or acquire nuclear weapons.” Tehran’s nuclear ability will be significantly limited for more than a decade, and sites will be inspected by the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency. Members of Congress might object to the fact that site visits could be denied or delayed by the Iranian government, even though an arbitration board would determine the outcome. They might also not accept the difference between nuclear weapons capability, which is not allowed, and nuclear energy capability, which is. If Congress does not approve the deal, or insists that sanctions remain in place, I hope that President Obama will show his determination to contribute to world peace by vetoing that decision.