The Great Debate
President Lyndon B. Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara in the White House in Washington, July, 27, 1965. LBJ Presidential Library/Yoichi Okamoto
The success of any nuclear framework agreement negotiated by Iran and the P5+1 (United States, Britain, Russia, Germany, France and China) this week ultimately will be determined not by the signing of a final accord in June but by Tehran’s fidelity to nonproliferation in the years and decades to come.
Having failed to reach an agreement on a comprehensive nuclear accord in November, Tehran and the six world powers set a new deadline — July 1, 2015. The diplomats are to meet again on Jan. 18, though prospects for a rapid breakthrough remain thin. One big roadblock is that the International Atomic Energy Agency has set for itself the impossible goal of verifying the “purely peaceful” nature of Iran’s nuclear program.
As nuclear talks between Iran and the other members of the so-called P5+1 group are extended for another seven months, one issue is sure to remain a sticking point. The most important differences between all sides relates to the size of Iran’s uranium-enrichment program.
Iran’s past nuclear efforts are among the many thorny issues in the continuing Iran nuclear talks. But focusing on the past is a mistake. Instead of insisting on knowing all about what Iran’s nuclear program looked like 10 years ago, the United States and its allies should focus on preventing Tehran from building a nuclear weapon in the future.
The crisis in Ukraine underscores the prescience of the international efforts to eliminate all nuclear weapons and weapon-grade material there after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Their success lowered the danger of deadly nuclear assets falling into the wrong hands.
The world powers in November reached an interim deal with Iran to freeze and even roll back a portion of its nuclear program in exchange for some sanctions relief. The arrangement went into effect on Jan. 20 and is set to expire in six months. Another interim deal may be signed then, according to the agreement’s “Joint Plan of Action,” but the proposal calls for a comprehensive long-term solution by late January, 2015.