Nuclear Arms Agreements Between the United States & Iran: A reachable goal or a naïve, idealistic fantasy?

Stephanie Rosendorf — Since the overthrow of the Shah in 1979, relations between the United States and Iran have been rocky at best and non-existent at worst. Unsurprisingly, there is no shortage of tension lately between the United States, Iran, and Israel over negotiations regarding Iran’s nuclear program. U.S. and Iranian officials have been meeting in Geneva, Switzerland since last Friday, hoping to come to at least an “outline”of a final agreement by March 3, 2015.

International sanctions have been imposed on Iran’s economy since 1979 after Iranian individuals seized the United States embassy in Iran. As of late, the sanctions have mainly been used to deter future nuclear capability as well as incentivize Iran to address nuclear concerns. Specifically of concern is the State’s continued enrichment of uranium, which is the process used to develop fuel for a nuclear bomb. While Iran has always stated that it is enriching uranium for peaceful purposes, other world powers have been deeply skeptical of that assertion. Iran promised to address these concerns in November of 2013, but “little progress has been made.”

Iran is currently on the list of countries considered state sponsors of terrorism. In fact, the U.S. State Department considers Iran the world’s “most active state sponsor of terrorism.” According to Paragraph 6(j)(4) of the Export Administration Act of 1974, “once a state is added to the terrorist list, the determination may not be withdrawn unless the president puts forward a report to the committees referred to above.” If Iran were to be removed from the state-sponsored terrorism list, current sanctions that would be taken away are restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance, certain controls over exports of dual use items, miscellaneous financial restrictions, and a ban on defense exports and sales.

To add to the diplomatic complications, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to speak to Congress on March 3 after an unprecedented move by Speaker of the House John Boehner in his invitation to the Prime Minister that was neither approved nor endorsed by the White House. In his speech, he will continue to urge Congress and the White House to make sure that any deal is one that “strip[s] Iran of all the infrastructure needed to enrich uranium …” Many Democrats, including the Vice President, are set to skip the speech out of disdain for the Prime Minister not consulting the White House before setting the date for this speech.

Prime Minister Netanyahu states that the reason he is going to speak in Washington D.C. is that if Iran were to continue enriching uranium, it would be able to“finally have the means to achieve its genocidal aims.” Many Democrats, on the other hand, believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu is using this speech as a political event with the upcoming Israeli election. Politics aside, it seems unlikely that there will be any agreement that includes getting rid of Iran’s uranium-enriching infrastructure. Iran justifies its enrichment by citing to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NTP), which “allows signatory states to enrich uranium to be used as fuel for power generation.” However, being a signatory to a treaty does not necessarily equal compliance and honesty with said treaty. Given Israel’s estimated enormous stockpile of nuclear weapons, if Iran were to develop a nuclear weapon, the consequences could be catastrophic.

As March 3 comes quickly upon the horizon, it remains to be seen whether, and to what extent, any sort of preliminary or final outline will be established with regard to the development of nuclear programs in Iran. What also remains to be seen is whether Prime Minister Netanyahu will speak to Congress on that same date. It is unlikely that there will be anything set in stone on that date, based on past negotiations and the current atmosphere, but the most that one can hope for is that all parties are rational actors with the goal of peace being at the top of their lists.

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