A major agreement has been reached between Iran and the world’s leading powers which will see the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program significantly, if only temporarily, scaled back.
In the early hours of this morning it was announced from Geneva that representatives of the European Union and the so-called P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) had convinced Iran to reduce its enrichment of uranium to anything beyond 5%. This level of enrichment allows for the production of nuclear energy, but is below the level required to produce a nuclear weapon. The agreement provides for a six month freeze in Iranian nuclear activity with the view to a more lasting deal to be negotiated at a later date.
The finer points have yet to be announced, however according to the BBC the steps by Iran include:
• Iran will stop enriching uranium beyond 5%, the level at which it can be used for weapons research, and reduce its stockpile of uranium enriched beyond this point.
• Iran will give greater access to inspectors including daily access at Natanz and Fordo nuclear sites.
• In return, there will be no new nuclear-related sanctions for six months.
In exchange for this Iran will see $7 billion worth of sanctions eased, which have been battering the country’s ailing economy. The regime also agreed to dilute or convert the uranium that it possesses which is currently enriched to 20%. However there will be no dismantling of centrifuges, and the US and Iran could not reach an agreement over interpretation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
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President Obama hailed the agreement and said it would provide “substantial limitations which will help prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon”. William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, said that the deal was “good news for the whole world.”
Iran’s recently-elected president Hassan Rouhani said that the deal, which has been endorsed by the regime’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini, recognised Iran’s nuclear rights. He also repeated that the Islamic Republic of Iran will never seek nuclear weapons.
However the government of Israel expressed dismay over the agreement. Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu said that the world had become a much more dangerous place following the deal, and that Israel would not be bound by it. Mark Regev, the Israeli Prime Minister’s spokesman, told the BBC that Israel had “no problem” with Iran becoming a peaceful nuclear state with regards to producing energy. However he said that Israel would not accept any deal that allowed Iran to retain its centrifuges, the components used to enrich weapons-grade uranium.
Israel has twice taken unilateral action to halt the nuclear programs of its enemies. In 1981 the Israeli Air Force (IAF) bombed and destroyed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq, which Israel claimed was being used by Saddam Hussein’s Ba`athist regime to develop nuclear weapons. In 2007 the IAF launced Operation Orchard, a midnight air raid on a Syrian nuclear facility that both Israel and the United States claimed was a secret military facility.
However both of these attacks took place with the implicit approval of the United States. In this instance it is highly unlikely that the Obama Adminstration would greenlight unilateral Israeli military action, lest it jeaprodise a deal that has taken months of painstaking negotiation to achieve.