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By Anthony Cordesman

24 Nov 13. One needs to be very careful about the deal the P5+1 has reached with Iran. It is still not clear that the Supreme Leader will accept it or that Iran will put it into practice. It is a preliminary agreement that must be followed up by lasting Iranian compliance, acceptance by the United States and other nations, and must be maintained indefinitely into the future.

Masking the agreement work requires a delicate balancing act by the United States and other members of the P5+1. They must make it clear to Iran that any failure to honor the agreement will lead to even more stringent sanctions and that the risk of preventive strikes, extended deterrence, missile developments, and a massive military build up in the Gulf remains real, all the while showing Iran that a real opening to the U.S. and the world offers it security and significant new opportunities for economic development.

Arms control agreements fail all too often in the course of time if they do not lead to political agreements and improved relations. Time and new technologies can undermine even the best agreements, and the nuclear issue is only one issue that divides the Middle East. Iran’s tensions with Israel have already triggered an Israeli nuclear effort to deter and confront Iran with assured destruction. The Gulf States and many other Sunni Arab states see Iran as a critical threat because of its role in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, and other Arab states and because of its growing asymmetric threat in the Gulf.

As first steps go, however, the agreement that the P5+1 reached in Geneva offers what is almost certainly the best possible agreement the U.S. and its allies could negotiate, it offers Iran a new path to progress and development, and it offers the region new hope that it can avoid new conflicts and the risk of a massive arms race.

What the New Agreement Actually Offers

Press summaries tell only part of the story, and far too many commentators have already rushed to take certain aspects of the agreement out of context. It can only be judged in terms of its full contents, and the White House fact sheet on the agreement says that it offers the following terms:

A Six Month Interim Agreement Will Role Back the Most Critical Parts of the Threat

The initial, six month step includes significant limits on Iran’s nuclear program and begins to address our most urgent concerns including Iran’s enrichment capabilities; its existing stockpiles of enriched uranium; the number and capabilities of its centrifuges; and its ability to produce weapons-grade plutonium using the Arak reactor.

The concessions Iran has committed to make as part of this first step will also provide us with increased transparency and intrusive monitoring of its nuclear program. In the past, the concern has been expressed that Iran will use negotiations to buy time to advance their program. Taken together, these first step measures will help prevent Iran from using the cover of negotiations to continue advancing its nuclear program as we seek to negotiate a long-term, comprehensive solution that addresses all of the international community’s concerns.

In return, as part of this initial step, the P5+1 will provide limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible relief to Iran. This relief is structured so that the overwhelming majority of the sanctions regime, including the key oil, banking, and financial sanctions architecture, remains in place. The P5+1 will continue to enforce these sanctions vigorously. If Iran fails to meet its commitments, we will revoke the limited relief and impose additional sanctions on Iran.

It is the prelude to a lasting general agreement that would require Iran to fully comply with all the terms and concerns of the IAEA

The P5+1 and Iran also discussed the general parameters of a comprehensive

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