On April 2nd, 2015, President Obama offered Iran an unprecedented deal promising to lift various economic sanctions in Iran in exchange for a 10-year freeze of Iran’s current nuclear programs. Nonetheless, just as this explosive deal struck the world with a blast of excitement, fear, and surprise, many distrustful forces, such as the Israeli Prime Minister and the U.S. Congress, fret on the security of such a bold political experiment. Will Obama’s dreadfully idealistic nuclear deal work? Or will the overwhelming doubt doom his dream?
Our contention with Iran’s nuclear program has started since the 1960s. Although the U.S. helped Iran establish 23 nuclear power plants, the outbreak of Iranian Revolution and the seizure of U.S. embassy in Tehran brought U.S. aid to an end. Ever since then, the U.S. has attempted to starve Iran with numerous harsh economic sanctions while Iran relentlessly sought help to develop its own nuclear technology. While most Western nations had raised their uranium concentration to no more than 5%, Iran had declared to possess enriched uranium with a 20% concentration in 2006, 70% away from producing a nuclear bomb. Consequently, the appalled Western nations tightened their grips on Iran’s economy after Iran successively failed to comply with the supervision of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). However, in 2013, after Hassan Rouhani—known for his moderate political views—was elected as the President of Iran, Iran opened negotiations with the P5+1 and agreed to comply with the Joint Plan of Actions, a plan that consists of numerous steps regarding Iran’s gradual disarmament and the increase of Iran’s nuclear transparency.
Now, to accelerate the disarmament of Iran’s nuclear program, President Obama has bet all his trust on his recent preliminary agreement with Iran: that Iran would accept more intrusive international inspections in exchange for the alleviation of all economic sanctions. According to the deal, Iran will limit its enrichment capacity for 10 years and eliminate further stockpiling of enriched uranium for 15 years. In addition, Iran agrees to reduce its centrifuges—facilities that turn uranium into the metal core of atomic bombs—by two-thirds, and to transform its underground enrichment sites into centers of nuclear technology research. Besides such elimination of uranium, Iran must remove all plutonium reactors and heavy water reactors. To prevent Iran from cheating, Obama demanded that Iran lead the IAEA to greater access of its nuclear facilities, nuclear supply chain, uranium mines and mills. Theoretically, this deal would delay Iran’s “breakout time”—the amount of time required to produce a nuclear bomb—by a year.
Nonetheless, not everyone is optimistic about this risky deal—especially not the anxious Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. Having long feared Iran’s potential nuclear capacity, Netanyahu virulently repudiated Obama’s “inconcrete” agreement with Iran and stressed that, regarding Iran’s past connections with terrorist groups, “We must not let Iran, the foremost sponsor of global terrorism, have an easy path to nuclear weapons which will threaten the entire world.” When President Obama demanded Netanyahu for a better resolution, Netanyahu proposed to shut down Iran’s illicit underground facilities rather than to allow Iran to keep its current nuclear facilities. Furthermore, besides the anxious Israel, the U.S. Congress, irritated by lack of representation, demanded voice on the nuclear deal. Terrified by Obama’s abrupt diplomatic move, both Republicans and Democrats expressed the concern that Iran would divert from the lenient terms of the deal and produce nuclear bombs. Although President Obama threatened to veto the Congress’s bill to intervene with this “once in a life time opportunity,” he nevertheless, though reluctantly, conceded the authority of the final Iran nuclear deal to the Congress on April 14th, 2015. Unfortunately, the intervention of Congress not only disabled Obama to waive any economic sanctions on Iran within the 30 days of Congressional review, but also devastated the previously cooperative attitude of the Iran, adding more gloom to the future of the agreement. On April 15th, 2015, two days after President Obama’s defeat against the Congress, Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani assailed the Congress vote on Obama’s nuclear deal and threatened that “if there is not going to be an end to sanctions in this round of the talks, there is not going to be a deal.” As Iran’s strong opposition of Congress intervention further aggravates the tenuous trust between the U.S. and Iran, the future of the preliminary deal that President Obama had so painstakingly pursued seems quite ominous.
President Obama has a lot of obstacles to deal with. Will he execute orders according to his own will, or yield to the opposing voices? Will Obama’s Iran nuclear deal be a shameful “BOO” in American history of foreign affairs, or a progressive “BOOM” in the history of world peace? How would this game of trust versus doubt and idealism versus reality turn out? We will have to wait and see.