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National Security & Defense

We Have a Deal with Iran, and It Looks Like They Got Almost Everything They Wanted

Western powers and Iran have announced that the framework for an eventual long-term deal on Iran’s nuclear program has been reached, defying expectations that they might just entirely blow past the end-of-March deadline.

A bit of good news: Iran does appear to have agreed to ship almost all of its enriched uranium (which is a couple relatively short steps from being weapons material) out of the country, to Russia. Not great, but there had been rumors they would insist on keeping the material. (UPDATE: Just kidding — this detail has apparently not been agreed upon. It’s still up for negotiation whether Iran will give up almost all of its enriched material, or hold onto it and render it neutral in some way, which is usually reversable.)

The bad news: pretty much everything else.

RELATED: The Shadow of Munich Haunts the Iran Negotiations

There isn’t really a deal, there are just “parameters,” and much of the explicit wording of them won’t even be made public. The details of the deal are supposed to be decided by the end of June, and it’s not clear that they will become public then, either. The actual interim agreement under which Iran, the U.S., international agencies, and others have been operating under for a year and a half now has never been made public.

The details, such as they are, are seriously worrisome. Tweets by the head of an Iranian government news agency, along with some (skeptical) context:

For lack of better phrasing, that is a lot of centrifuges — Iran has more than that now, but it’s a huge number. Once upon a time, the West’s position was that Iran should have no centrifuges.

Arak is a plutonium plant that many worry could provide an alternative path to a nuclear weapon (though Iran has long said it will convert it into a harmless facility).

Fordow is a highly reinforced nuclear research facility that would be very difficult to destroy in the event that Iranian efforts to “break out” and build a bomb are detected — although Iran says it will not use those centrifuges for enrichment, just research. Perhaps Iran’s best scientists just don’t like sunlight and have a thing for heavy doors. Perhaps.

IR-8 centrifuges, for instance, are some of the most advanced ways Iran has of enriching uranium (that is, making nuclear fuel or bomb material). Really good centrifuges, just as much as a large number of centrifuges, period, offer a faster and more reliable to produce enough material for a nuclear weapon if Iran tries to do it. Again, once upon a time, concessions like this were not on the table — advanced centrifuge work was supposed to stop.

The U.S., Europe, and others had wanted the deal to be 20 years.

The hope was that sanctions would be lifted gradually, as Iran demonstrates compliance.

Heckuva job, John.

UPDATE: A summary of the parameters is here. As with the interim deal that it replaces, though, this is, oddly, not an official text of an international agreement — just a description of it. (Sorta like a Vox-splainer, except, you know, with nuclear consequences.)

Patrick Brennan was a senior communications official at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Trump administration and is former opinion editor of National Review Online.


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