STORY BY JOSH HUGHES
In September of 1967, at the height of the Cold War, a fearful United States delivered over 5 kilograms of fissile isotopes of enriched uranium to the front lines of Soviet expansionism: Iran.
For the next 12 years, the United States continued to support and encourage the expansion of an Iranian nuclear energy program.
However, in 1979, change came to Tehran. The Islamic Revolution rose to power on the premise of a return to Shia tradition and an end to Western intervention in Persian affairs. The revolution, which held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days, upended the calculus in regional diplomacy and risked sparking the entire Middle East to conflict.
But that didn’t happen. The hostages were released, and the new regime settled into their new digs.
Over the next 30 years, Iran built up the shell of a nuclear program left from pre-revolution times. Their actions ultimately led the International Atomic Energy Commission to announce in June of 2003 that Iran had violated the Nuclear Non-Proliferation agreement that the Shah’s government signed almost 35 years before.
Iran promised to stop enrichment (which can be used for nuclear power production, or weapons), but then resumed less than a year later in 2005.
In 2006, Iran announced that it had enriched uranium to 3.6%, enough for nuclear power production. In retaliation, the United Nations Security Council imposed strict economic sanctions.
Since then, Iran’s nuclear program has stagnated. Their capacity to develop weapons of mass-destruction on the other hand, has not. In an effort to curb this ability, the Obama Administration, in conjunction with five other world powers, announced a framework to limit the production of enriched uranium in Iran in return for sanctions relief this July.
There are many misconceptions about the deal, and rightfully so: it’s essentially a 150-page nuclear physics paper, which gives lots of leeway for misinterpretation.
Under the Iran Nuclear Deal, Iran will lose 97% of its weapons- grade uranium stockpile. Today, Iran has the ability to create a nuclear weapon in 2-3 months, but after 10 years abiding by the deal, that time frame increases to 12 months. Some of Iran’s nuclear facilities will be under constant, 24/7/365 surveillance, a move which the White House has called “very intrusive,” in a testament to the flexibility of the Iranian negotiators.
The Iran Nuclear Framework compels us to take a levelheaded approach to foreign policy.
When nations at odds such as the United States, Russia, China, and Iran can all agree to a specific set of policy goals, it is likely that those policy goals are common, and mutually beneficial.
The era of heavy-handed, unilateral foreign policy in the Middle East must come to a definitive close. The United States should immediately approve the Iran Nuclear Framework.
While the deal is not perfect, it is important to remember that the alternative is a nuclear- armed Iran in 2-3 months’ time. Should we fail to act, the United States may begin its long slide into foreign policy irrelevance, or worse, war.