By Fionn Adamian

This past Thursday, the US and Iran announced a historic deal to limit Iran’s

nuclear program. The New York Times reported that “under the accord, Iran agreed to

cut the number of operating centrifuges it has by two-thirds, to 5,060, all of them first

generation, and to cut its current stock-pile of low-enriched uranium fom around 10,00

kilograms to 300 for 15 years.” The agreement comes amidst continual criticism of the

Obama Administration’s treatment of Iran. Conservative darling Charles Krauthammer

called the sunset clause a “fatal flaw,” since after the 15-year period Iran could resume

enriching uranium. Unlike other hawkish nuts who have called for the repeated bombing

of Iran’s nuclear facilities, Krauthammer makes a slightly more nuanced point. He argues

that further sanctions may pave the way for negotiations in which Iran agrees to stop all

enrichment permanently.

This, unfortunately, is a fantasy. Recent sanctions were only effective at bringing

Iran to the negotiating table because the US imposed them along with a credible coalition

of states. In 2010, Russia and China joined support for UN sanctions. These mainly

targeted the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. However, Russian and Chinese cooperation is

tepid. If the US walked away from negotiations with Iran, it would paint Iran as a

cooperative actor and the US as an irresponsible one in the eyes of the international

community. Frustrated at perceived American stubbornness, Russia and China would

likely pull their support of sanctions. Their absence from any deal would provide Iran

rich trade markets that would render US and EU sanctions irrelevant. Although Russia

and China are demanding that sanctions be lifted immediately upon the completion of

Obama’s accord, this is a significantly better scenario than one in which negotiations

crash and Russian and Chinese support for sanctions collapses.

Obama’s deal is the best option on the table. While a sunset clause may not be

ideal, it makes the accord politically feasible. In addition, current cooperation with Iran

does not preclude future negotiations after 15 years. If anything, the diplomatic

achievement will help thaw US-Iran relations, making Tehran more willing to collaborate

with the US in the future. The deal has yet to be finalized but it represents an effective

effort to contain Iran’s pursuit of the bomb. It makes the US, Israel, and the Middle East a

safer place. All actors involved would be making a disastrous mistake in dismantling the

plan.

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