For the first time in decades, there is momentum in the nuclear talks with Iran. A deal looks within reach.
In the recent round of negotiations in Geneva, six world powers and Iran made significant progress on an agreement that will verifiably limit Tehran’s nuclear program. But maintaining this progress and reaching an agreement is by no means a sure thing. In Washington, hawkish members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, could sabotage a deal by demanding Iran make concessions that are unrealistic.
The deal discussed in Geneva is a good first step toward addressing the international community’s concerns over Iran’s nuclear activities. This agreement between Iran and the P5+1 — the five permanent United Nations Security Council members (the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China) plus Germany — would limit Iran’s most dangerous nuclear activities and lead to a transparent, verifiable compact that would guard against a nuclear Iran. It would also be a good deal for U.S. national security interests, solving the Iran nuclear standoff without resorting to military action that would likely provoke another costly conflict in the Middle East.
It should come in two phases: an initial agreement followed by a comprehensive deal. The first part would pause Iran’s nuclear progress, limit the most proliferation-sensitive activities and impose more stringent monitoring and verification mechanisms. This is a realistic formula that will give the international community the assurance that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful. It would also establish early detection of any potential deviations.
In return, Washington should put meaningful sanctions relief on the table to address Iran’s most pressing concern — its devastated economy. The relief reportedly proposed in Geneva would amount to less than $10 billion — a small fraction of the amount Iran has lost under the crippling economic sanctions imposed by the international community, but enough to allow Iran to sell a deal domestically.