The Argument Against New Sanctions on Iran.

I’m now writing once a week for Ploughshares Fund, a foundation that supports advocacy for a nuclear weapon-free future. Naturally one of Ploughshares’ biggest issues is Iran’s nuclear program and the negotiations, which is what I’m writing about (which is cool for me, because I really like Ploughshares and getting to write about Iran!)

Following are the tops of my first two posts — they’re both brief primers for folks who feel like they need a little more background on the issue. You can click through to Ploughshares to read the rest. I hope they’re useful!

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Getting the Facts on Iran’s Nuclear Program

Americans of every political stripe are weighing the pros and cons of diplomacy right now, discussing the efforts to achieve a long-term nuclear deal between Iran and the so-called “P5+1” countries – so-called because those countries are the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council (the US, UK, Russia, China, and France), plus Germany. Too often though, among all the talk, basic facts don’t get much attention.

From I like Ike to the Islamic Republic

Iran’s path toward nuclear power actually began in 1960 under the “Atoms for Peace” plan, an American program launched by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953. Soon after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran was entrenched in a brutal war with Iraq; Iraq used chemical weapons (with American knowledge) as early as 1982, and Iran sought non-conventional means with which to respond. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Iranians were killed in eight years of carnage, a fact that shapes politics in both countries to this day.

For the rest, click here.

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The Argument Against New Sanctions on Iran

No negotiation process is easy or smooth, particularly between long-time rivals. Some Westerners are worried that Iran can’t be trusted to negotiate in good faith. Some would like to demand that the country’s entire nuclear infrastructure dismantled, or feel that if earlier sanctions were good, more would be better.

It’s now a little more than a month into the implementation of the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), the six-month agreement between Iran and the P5+1 countries (the US, UK, Russia, China, France, and Germany). TheInternational Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports that Iran is complying with the deal, stopping or rolling back critical parts of its nuclear program, and cooperating with IAEA officials who have daily access to the country’s nuclear facilities. In return, the international community has lifted or reduced sanctions imposed as part of a global effort to compel Iran away from a nuclear path.

More is Less

While these concerns and doubts might be understandable, they fail to take into consideration the fact that Iranians have concerns, too – as do the other P5+1 nations.

Imposing new sanctions now would be meeting cooperation with reprisal. Such an approach isn’t likely to build confidence with Tehran, or encourage its government to keep engaging with Western powers.

Furthermore, the JPOA commits the UN, the EU, and the US Administration (“consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Congress”) to no new sanctions. While Congress could choose to act against the spirit of this agreement, doing so would violate a commitment made not just to Iran, but to our international allies as well.

If, on the other hand, Iran stops keeping its side of the bargain, or tries to push off a long-term agreement, new sanctions could be a useful tool. Indeed, if Tehran chooses to violate the JPOA, it will do so in the knowledge that harsher sanctions await.

For the rest, click here.

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