Despite the criticisms of some members of Congress and some of our allies in the Middle East, the accord reached by the P5+1 members and Iran is good for the United States, Iran, the Middle East and the world. This is so for at least six reasons.
First, the agreement slows down Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon, even if the country should decide to do so. Under the terms of the deal, Iran must halt the enrichment of all uranium above 5 percent, dilute or convert its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium, stop producing or modifying centrifuges, halt activities at the Arak reactor, and permit intrusive and daily inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Third, this agreement and potential normalization of relations could allow the U.S. and Iran to cooperate on other important issues that impact the security of both nations, such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
It is important to remember that after 9/11, Iran was instrumental in enabling us to drive al Qaeda and the Taliban from Afghanistan and installing Hamid Karzai as Afghan president. Unfortunately, when President George W. Bush placed Iran on the “axis of evil” in 2002, it prevented further cooperation in Afghanistan and made it almost impossible for the two countries to work out a nuclear deal.
Fourth, the temporary suspension of some of the sanctions will enable Iran to sell more of its oil on the international market. This will drive down the price of oil, providing a needed boost to the global economy as well as that of Iran. The day after the deal was announced the price of oil dropped on the world market, and the Israeli and U.S. stock markets have gone up to reflect the diminished risk of conflict.
Fifth, the agreement provides more time for the P5+1 and Iran to work out a comprehensive agreement and demonstrates to hard liners in both the U.S. and Iran that both sides are willing to recognize the legitimate claims of the other. Moreover, it undermines the argument that the only way to deal with Iran’s nuclear program is through military force.
Sixth, the agreement enhances the nonproliferation regime. If a nation of 80 million people that is a key player on the international scene proves willing to live up to its international obligations it means that the NPT regime, which had suffered serious setbacks with countries like North Korea, Pakistan, and India, will be revitalized.
Obviously, if Iran reneges on its promises over the next six months or the parties cannot come to a permanent comprehensive agreement, this could unravel. But a year ago, no one could have foreseen the parties even developing an agreement like this. Expecting to get everything we wanted without offering anything in return — as some hardliners seemed to do — is a recipe for a war for which no one has any appetite. The P5+1 are right to pursue every diplomatic avenue and have earned a very good agreement for the international community.
Korb is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a progressive policy think tank. He was assistant secretary of Defense during the Reagan administration.