Was the Iran Nuclear Deal a Good Deal?

2864 words (11 pages) Essay in International Relations

23/09/19 International Relations Reference this

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1. Was the Iran nuclear deal a good deal?

This essay will seek to explore both the advantages and disadvantages that came from the “stunning historic mistake” (Netanhyahu Benjamin, Prime Minister of Israel) that transpired on November 24th, 2013. The Iran nuclear deal is an interim agreement for a ‘Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’ (JCPOA) that was passed during a conference between Iran and the P5+1 (UK, US, France, China , Russia and Germany) in Geneva, Switzerland. The main outcome of the deal and plan of action was to limit Iran’s ability to enrich Uranium. The essay seeks to look at the main arguments that are presented towards the Iran nuclear deal by exploring issues portrayed in the 109 page document. The issues I look to further investigate in order to create a weighted argument, (1) the reduction Iran’s Uranium stockpile (2) Uranium enrichment, (3) the reduction in centrifuges and (4) surveillance enablement for UN inspectors. The main premise, withstanding these five issues, will show for the perspective of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to be a ‘good’ deal in light of the message i believe that the deal sends; misuse of nuclear power in the process of uranium enrichment will not be overlooked equating to consequences and/or sanctions. Iran however has many gains that have shown through review of the ‘plan of action’, mostly to do with its potential economic growth leading to military advancements in Iran and therefore injecting fear of an unexpected ‘breakout’ once the economy has strengthened. The deal emulates promise from the superpowers unto their civilians with the ‘common goal’ of reducing terrorist risk and nuclear ‘breakout’ and so a more stable as well as harmonious global arena is formed. The basis of my argument is displayed up the ways in which the deal can show for its ‘goodness’ through the message it sends as well as the reasons for it, more so stopping or reducing the nuclear proliferation and so diminishing the ‘Arms Race’ by stopping those who are in non-agreement, and/or cheating their initial promises towards the Nuclear proliferation treaty.

I begin my argument by stating how the deal lead to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reporting ” between Oct. 18 and the report’s completion on Nov. 18, Iran had dismantled 4,530 centrifuges.” (Davenport, 2015). Centrifuges are an important part in creating nuclear weapons as by definition, they are machines that rotate rapidly applying centrifuged force to the contents of it – separating fluids of different densities. Iran’s centrifuges were reduced to 3.67% according to BBC news ” it must… keep the stockpile’s level of enrichment at 3.67%.” (BBC News, 2018). Tackling the question, the Iran deal is a ‘good’ deal in that it is limiting nuclear activity that could potentially be detrimental for the world, more specifically it relays a positive message in relation to reducing nuclear proliferation and maintaining a more expansive goal in creating peace and erasing the hypothetical ‘arms race’. Although Iran is being controlled – the deal would show for a positive impact on Iran’s Uranium enrichment progression as all those in favour of the deal (especially America) will acknowledge Iran’s right to enrich Uranium for peaceful purposes as guaranteed by the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT).” Iran claims that it has the inalienable right to enrich uranium as guaranteed in the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) to which it is a signatory.” ((Beeman, 2013)). The Huffington article exemplifies how Iran through validating their right to enrich Uranium by following the critical terms of the ‘deal’ will be able to continue their enrichment peacefully.

Contrastingly, America do not support the idea of Iran having the ‘right’ to enrich Uranium as ” this activity is not specifically cited in the treaty” (Beeman, 2013)). The language barrier when relating to the NPT can illustrate for the deal being disadvantageous as Iran, according to the USA, did not declare the right to enriching the amount of Uranium they were and planned to complete. This type of error can have serious consequences towards the feasibility of the deal as there is risk of ‘breakout’ once Iran has been relieved of sanctions. The promise of relief can show for the deal being bad as Iran will be able to have better financial freedom and so resources to finance terrorist groups. Such sentiment is reflected by the wider international stage, who, concerned with Iran’s lack of transparency share similar apprehension about the viability of the deal. ‘ The most objectionable part of the Iran deal, is that the US did not link the deal to Iran’s nefarious activities in and outside the region’ (Meir, 2015). I would therefore like to reiterate the JCPOA’s shortcomings in holding Iran accountable for its observed behaviour, posing potential threat as Iran as a latent power more significantly prompt scrutiny from the global community through such subversive actions. Meir describes how the deal is ‘acute’ and ‘unsettling’ (Meir, 2015) exemplified by the existence of ‘secret’ Uranium enrichment facility made public in 2009, and previous concerns by the IAEA who had concerns surrounding ‘possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear power'(Cohen 2010 p 13.) This further cementing the idea that the deal was not favourable as it arguably does not ease the concerns surrounding Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

In likeness with the abovementioned, concerns surrounding Iran’s nuclear opacity in conjunction with tensions in the international community and neighbouring countries contribute to the idea that the JCPOA was and is a bad bargain. I believe that a primary concern developed from this would be regional and potentially global nuclear proliferation, from both new states and non-state actors. In the event of this nuclear proliferation, the spread of nuclear weapons is analysed both vertically and horizontally. The deal may encourage other countries in the middle east, namely Israel to develop weapons of their own for security and regional status. Andrew Futter expresses this influence by showing how “, observers feared that greater nuclear challenge would come from the horizontal spread of these weapons to a cohort of new states (and potentially non-state actors) seeking to join in an exclusive nuclear club” (Futter. A The Politics of Nuclear Weapons, pg.110). Such fears are not random and are a clear by-product of Iran’s hostile stance towards its neighbours, as illustrated by former President Ahmadinejad in that “Israel should be wiped off the map” (Futter, 2015, p.127). These attitudes pose a threat potentially worsening tensions with Iran’s immediate neighbours (Ellis and Futter, 2015, p.80) emphasising the idea that the deal was not the best of bargains as it does not explicitly place any severe actions against de-facto non-compliance.

Furthermore, Iran’s propensity to cheat can illustrate for concerns as to why the deal was bad. There are assumptions for what may happen if cities like Tehran realize its long-standing goal to secure nuclear weapons. Iran as a latent power furthers heightened tensions internationally as they are within their means to utilize their nuclear capabilities, although, interestingly Iran as a member of the NPT has had several issues with conforming to the regulations of the International Atomic Energy Agency. With this in mind, the question of “If Iran has found ways to undermine the regulations of the IAEA, aided by examples such as Iran refusing to give design information in for a 2007 reactor, what stops Iran from cheating the regulations of the Joint Comprehensive plan of action?”. Further supporting concerns raised around the deals ability to effectively deter Iranian nuclear expansion. (Futter. A) illustrates these concerns based on the non-transparency of Iran’s nuclear ambitions ” it remains unclear what future Iranian ambitions are and perhaps a fundamental challenge for addressing nuclear proliferation in the 2nd nuclear age” (Futter A, pg.125)

Moreover, the JCPOA has shown to have many useful applications. Success achieved by the Iran Deal can be seen through the deals ability to relieve multilateral sanctions on several aspects of Iran’s state running: energy, finances and shipping imports and exports. All of which was suspended as a result of this deal. The benefits the JCPOA affords Iran indicates that the deal is good as it allows Iran to expand its state’s economy by keeping only secondary sanctions in place: these have been “imposed because of Iran’s support for terrorism, human rights abuses” (Katzman, 2017, p.2) As a result of this, Iran is able to ‘rebuild its economy as sanctions relief enabled Iran’s banks to be reintegrated into the international system’ this gave ‘Iran the option of resurrecting its civilian economy and expanding its regional influence’ (Katzman, 2017, pg. 2). This, therefore, illustrates great positivity when analyzing the deal as although is significantly reduces Iran’s sanctions, there is still disciplinary applications to ensure Iran is reprimanded for past nuclear misconduct. Demonstrating that the deal is beneficial as Iran are able to rebuild in economic power, this being (1) of the incentives given unto the country as a result of the deal if on ‘good behaviour’, thus allowing Iran to become more established within the wider community, ensuring that Iran is still disciplined for past nuclear felonies. The benefits shown are necessary for exchange for rigorous monitoring enshrined within the deal which successfully limits Iran’s potential nuclear expansion.

The JCPOA is comprised with requirements that notably “restrict Iran’s potential uranium path to the bomb by placing the Iranian nuclear program under the intrusive inspection regime every voluntarily agreed to by any party” (Tabatabai, 2017). These requirements show for how the deal succeeds in delaying the regime’ expansion for uranium enrichment. The concept of Iran being involved in the ‘most intrusive regime ever’ is seemingly unsurprising when reminded of the plethora of benefits the deal grants in exchange. Moore advocates the idea that such policies go to “the heart of the deal which is extending Iran’s breakout time” which connotes that the deal is a success as it effectively maintains monitoring the regime enough to deter and delay its expansion (Moore,2015, pg.3). Moore’s concept resonates with that of Tabatabai as they both agree on sanctions from the JCPOA extending the ‘breakout’ time of Iran. To summarise, the deal is effectively a good one as it requires Iran to proceed with caution internationally in exchange for sanction relief, using this logic, the deal is a working progress as limits imposed such as ‘zero enrichment’ which preserves but limits Tehran’s Uranium enrichment program, encourage transparency in Iran’s nuclear dealings /programme. In addition, ‘ Iran agreed to let go of 98% of its enriched uranium stockpile and to keep it at less than 300kg for 15 years’(Fitzpatrick, 2015), this being a prime example of the deal’s successes in reducing the spread of nuclear weapons internationally, more specifically in this instance, the Middle East.

Concerns based on the above mentioned are expressed by leaders such as the UN Ambassador Hayley who poses that “Iran’s leaders want to use the nuclear deal to hold the world hostage to its bad behaviour” (Beauchamp, 2017) , this potentially showing how the deal is ‘near-sighted’ in allowing Iran to provoke its neighbours unchecked. Hicks and Dalton make an interesting analysis by saying that “Iran perpetuates the conditions it deplores” (Hicks and Dalton, 2017, p.16), through knowingly severing relations with countries nearby and the wider international stage, and still expecting to be taken seriously as a nuclear power. However, the threat concerning Iran as a team-player sets to weaken the deal, although the extent to which the deal is undermined is debateable. “Throughout this time, various officials have strongly refuted the accusation that Iran is trying to produce a nuclear weapon – arguing instead that the nuclear programme is for domestic civilian purposes – which it’s entitled to under NPT” (Futter A, pg.125). This quote directly indicates that there are several parties that believe Iran is not trying to produce weapons of mass destruction(WMD’s) – when relating this to Iran’s nuclear capabilities, this is significant as it can show for an unfairness towards Iran, thus, assuming a ‘bad’ deal as the sanctions placed upon Iran may have been done from the wrong perspective, if there are various officials that can ‘vouch’ for Iran not behaving badly in relation to nuclear enforcement, then it could potentially be seen as a ‘witch hunt’ to stop certain countries from rightly enriching uranium . This bringing the US and other P5 countries into question for establishing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.  (2057)

To summarise, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action / Iran nuclear deal is somewhat good as it assumes many applications in controlling and monitoring nuclear threat, thus seemingly positive. Although the deal is not ‘perfect’, I believe there are many arguments aforementioned that indicate the deal is quite rightly the best solution as a means to an end. This best illustrated by the sanction imposed on Iran which oversee a substantial reduction of their Uranium stockpiles, centrifuges and uranium enrichment. This being the case for thirteen years, clearly indicating the deal effectively remedies nuclear anxieties neighbouring the Iran system. Despite the ability to regulate the Iran system, to many the deal is a ‘bad bargain’ as reflected by Futter through exemplifying that there were various officials refuting allegations against Iran’s improper use of Nuclear weapons – potentially leading to a ‘witch hunt’ to stop countries using nuclear weapons for their society, resulting in a bad message being sent toward the international arena, and can allude ideas of radicalisation as the countries targeted appear to be Muslim faith countries. As well as this, the bad bargain can be seen to be reflected by Moore through ‘it ends the best sanctions and its nuclear concessions are too large’ (Moore, 2015, p.3). This exemplifying that the limitations put on the deal lay in its limited scope, which, to others is not sufficient enough in checking the intentions and behaviours displayed by Iran. Evidently, the threats shown by Iran’s attitude and the global community aggravate rather than resolve tensions in the region, showing the deal would have had benefited from opacity measures to reassure and cure paranoia’s from showing clear compliance from Iran. Ultimately, although there are imperfections – the deal is better to have been made than to not as it triumphantly constrains nuclear efforts to proliferate, to which no other deal has been able to do. The Iran deals ability to monitor, in conjunction with secondary sanctions indicate the deals’ efficiency, however the true scope to which it can be viewed as ‘good’ can only been seen in the foreseeable future.

word count : 2407


-          BBC News. (2018). Iran nuclear deal: Key details. [online] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-33521655 [Accessed 8 Nov. 2018].

-          Beauchamp Z (2017) Trump’s case against the Iran nuclear deal has very little to do with nuclear weaponsVox. Vox. Available at: https://www.vox.com/world/2017/9/13/16301160/trump-iran-deal-why-cancel (accessed 01/12/17).

-          Beeman, W. (2013). Does Iran Have the Right to Enrich Uranium? The Answer Is Yes. [online] HuffPost. Available at: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-o-beeman/does-iran-have-the-right-_b_4181347.html [Accessed 11 Nov. 2018].

-          Ben-Meir A (2015) The Good, The Bad and the Ugly About the Iran Deal. The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com. Available at: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/alon-benmeir/the-good-the-bad-and-the_b_7849296.html (accessed 30/11/17).

-          Cohen NE (2010) Nuclear ambitions and issues in the Middle East. New York: Nova Science Publishers.

-          Davenport, K. (2015). Iran Dismantling Centrifuges, IAEA Says | Arms Control Association. [online] Armscontrol.org. Available at: https://www.armscontrol.org/ACT/2015_12/News/Iran-Dismantling-Centrifuges-IAEA-Says [Accessed 4 Oct. 2018].

-          Fitzpatrick M (2015) Iran: A Good Deal. Survival 57(5): 47–52. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00396338.2015.1090123?needAccess=true (accessed 22/11/18).

-          Futter A (2015) The politics of nuclear weapons. London: Sage Publications Ltd.

-          Hicks KH and Dalton M (2017) Deterring Iran after the nuclear deal. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.

-          Katzman, Kenneth (2017) Iran Sanctions. Congressional Research Service. CRS. Available at: https://fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RS20871.pdf (accessed 03/12/17).

-          Moore T (2015) Iran: Non-Proliferation Overshadowed. Taylor & Francis. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00396338.2015.1090125 (accessed 21/12/18)

-          Tabatabai, Ariane August 15, 2017 and PDF (273.04 KB) EPUB (302.48 KB) MOBI (773.3 KB) (2017) Preserving the Iran Nuclear Deal: Perils and Prospects. Cato Institute. Policy Analysis. Available at: https://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/preserving-iran-nuclear-deal-perils-prospects (accessed 23/12/18).


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