All in All, Iran Nuclear Agreement Is a Good Deal

The likelihood that Iran will obtain nuclear weapons in the coming years is very low, while implementation of the agreement will contribute to Israel’s security.

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Iranians celebrate in Tehran following the nuclear deal, July 14, 2015.
Iranians celebrate in Tehran following the nuclear deal, July 14, 2015.Credit: AP

The battle over approving the nuclear agreement with Iran may be over, but it isn’t done with. Even after Congress approves the deal, international monitoring will be needed to ensure that it is implemented in full, with no deviations. That is the responsibility of all the agreement’s signatories. But Israel must also be involved in this monitoring as an active partner, in close cooperation with the United States.

The preface to the agreement contains a commitment that is the cornerstone of the deal: “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons.” The agreement, with all its detailed provisions and annexes, is meant to ensure that this commitment is kept.

Will Iran honor the deal as written? Will it try to exploit its ambiguities in order to continue advancing its nuclear capabilities, albeit perhaps more cautiously and on a more theoretical level? Will it be able to secretly amass enriched uranium? What will happen at the end of 10 or 15 years, when Iran can resume its uranium enrichment? Will it step up its support for terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas when the economic sanctions are lifted? Will the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspection capabilities be sufficient to contend with Iran’s proven wiliness?

After considering these important questions, we came to the following conclusions:

The agreement appears to ensure that for the next 15 years, Iran will not have enough enriched uranium for even a single bomb. The possibility of Iran producing plutonium has also apparently been thwarted, since its heavy-water reactor will be converted into a light-water reactor, which is meant for research purposes.

Efforts to obtain nuclear weapons take place on three tracks: the enriched uranium track, the plutonium track and the weapons development track. The weapons development track is the most sensitive, since it is one where important activity can be hidden. One focus of this track, which has been partially disclosed, was the development of sophisticated explosives at Iran’s military base in Parchin. Another was Tehran’s research on nuclear explosions by means of computerized simulations.

The agreement clearly forbids activities that would improve Iran’s capability to develop nuclear weapons. Inter alia, it states explicitly that Iran is forbidden to develop either software for conducting simulations of a nuclear explosion or mechanisms for detonating multiple explosive charges simultaneously, which are necessary for setting off a nuclear bomb via the implosion method.

According to the agreement, the IAEA must submit an opinion by December 2015 on Iran’s answers to unresolved questions about its weapons development in the past and present. If these answers don’t satisfy the agency, the process of lifting sanctions will come to a halt.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, along with the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, signed a “road map” detailing the steps Iran must take to clarify these unresolved questions, especially those related to weapons development. Iran must also approve the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which allows IAEA inspectors to enter any site they please with no prior warning and without Iran being able to stop them, even after the 15 years covered by the agreement have passed.

In general, therefore, this agreement is sufficiently unambiguous, even if it contains a few points that enable Iran to present alternative interpretations. We can conclude that the nuclear agreement will — if implemented properly — solve the problem of Iran’s nuclear program, but not its support of terror, including Hamas and Hezbollah.

It must be remembered that the agreement’s strength is in its full implementation, and for that to happen all of the monitoring and verification bodies must be united. In this context, they must not shy from conducting focused, effective intelligence activity.

The United States will have to invest thought and effort to keep its partners to the agreement playing the role of monitors and supporters. The IAEA has an extremely important role to play in supervising the agreement, and it must receive the support of the six countries that signed it. Amano has already announced increased funding and a doubling of the number of inspectors deployed in Iran.

And what should Israel do? It must once again nurture close, intimate cooperation with the United States; close ties with Washington at every level will help it integrate into the efforts to supervise implementation of the nuclear agreement. Additionally, ties with the United States and other leading countries in the region and beyond will help heighten awareness of Iran’s support for Hamas and Hezbollah and to address Iran’s long-range missiles. If Israel is wise enough to do this, the nuclear agreement and a renewal of close ties with the United States will contribute to its security.

We can conclude by saying the nuclear agreement contains more opportunities than risks. The likelihood that Iran will obtain nuclear weapons in the coming years is very low, while implementation of the agreement will contribute to Israel’s security, reassure other states in the region and bolster the United States’ standing.

The author is a reserve brigadier general who served as director of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission.

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