Until news broke earlier this year that a deal was in the works between Iran and other members of the United Nations Security Council, it seemed that the nuclear question had been a strictly binary argument as of late.
The compromise requires that either nuclear limitations are lightened and sanctions against Iran are lifted, or the Permanent Five nations (the United States, France, Britain, China and Russia), plus Germany, will completely restructure Iran’s nuclear program. Essentially, with this simplified argument, no deal would result from these opposing stances.
Therefore, Marc Ambinder, opinion contributor to “The Week” magazine, seemed a bit surprised when talks surrounding the impending nuclear alliance turned out to be “astonishingly rational.” He said instead of holding fast to their interests, both parties (Iran versus the world) are actually compromising. His overall impression seems to be that this is an instance of rare exemplary compromise.
Elaborating on the aforementioned binary argument, Iran essentially does want its own nuclear power — both as a symbol of the country’s power and capacity as a defensive and offensive nation, as well as to increase national pride as one of the privileged, nuclear-capable countries. These reasons are also among Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s list of concerns.
Prior to this deal, the United States and the other members of the Security Council severely limited Iran’s capability to develop radioactive uranium, and thus develop its nuclear weapons program, for fear of Iran not having the same control as those nations considered “democratic” and “peaceful.” The goal is still to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, but with some new assumptions.
Ambinder admitted that he doesn’t think the United States or European Union ever thought the resulting negotiations with Iran would ever be conditioned on the latter country’s “good behavior.” He postulates that the Security Council countries realized that Iran is not going to stop supporting the Houthi upheaval in Yemen or cease acting on tensions with Israel. Therefore, the negotiations were cut down to realistic possibilities of compromise for each party, and the talks surrounding terms of the deal were more rational.
Another assumption is that attempting to force Iran to completely dismantle all of its technology and infrastructure dedicated to development of uranium is unrealistic, and will not solve the issue of a more peaceful containment of nuclear weapons.
The compromise is surrounded by the realization of the P5 and Germany that strict containment of nuclear weapons is not attainable. Iran understandably wants all of the nuclear power it can get, but also realizes that this, too, is an unrealistic demand. The deal includes a reduction in Iranian uranium centrifuge and enrichment facilities. However, one facility will remain in operation, as per usual. U.S.-European sanctions that were previously instituted will be eliminated, as long as these aforementioned standards are followed by Iran. Thus, the two parties have engaged in highly rational discussions over a topic that has previously caused great dissidence and unsatisfying results.
Although Ambinder’s thoughts are promising for the future of highly sensitive negotiations, The New York Times contributors Thomas Erdbrink and Michael Gordon presented some pretty serious skepticism. They reported Sunday that some U.S. officials have acknowledged that there are some stipulations to the compromise that the Iranians do not yet know about. A senior U.S. administration official noted, “We didn’t show them the paper. We didn’t show them the whole list … [it was] understood that we had different narratives, but we wouldn’t contradict each other.”
Erdbrink and Gordon argue that both the UN and Iranian sides of the deal are slightly different. Although the compromises may be rational and peaceful, perhaps not all of the conditions have been let out of the bag.