Europe has numerous concerns about Iran’s enrichment of uranium and how that product could be turned into a nuclear weapon. The United States has similar worries. That perspective led to a framework agreement in 2015 the brought Germany, France, China, Russia, the UK, and the U.S. together to create a deal where Iran would redesign, convert, and reduce its nuclear facilities.
In exchange for their acceptance of the framework, Iran would see all nuclear-related economic sanctions from the other participating countries be lifted. This deal would allow tens of billions of dollars in frozen assets and oil revenue to be freed, providing a potential improvement to the local economy.
On May 8, 2018, the Trump Administration announced a withdrawal from the deal. In 2019, Iran announced that it would be in breach of the accord until it receives the “full rights” to an economic relationship with the European Union. After the UK seized an Iranian oil tanker bound for Syria with officials from Gibraltar, the attempt was reciprocated against a British tanker, but without success.
As tensions mount around the world about the outcome of the Iran nuclear deal, it is essential to review the numerous pros and cons that are associated with this accord.
List of the Pros of the Iran Nuclear Deal
1. It would postpone the transition of Iran becoming a nuclear power.
The goal of the Iran nuclear deal is that it would delay the country from being able to obtain or develop a weapon of mass destruction for at least 10 years. When the countries began working with Iran to finalize the accord in 2015, experts from the United States believed that Iran was 24 months away from having a usable item. That was why the framework in the agreement was put into place originally.
“After two years of negotiations, we have achieved a detailed arrangement that permanently prohibits Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” said President Obama in 2015. “It cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb.”
2. The agreement stops an arms race in the Middle East.
The list of countries that have access to nuclear weapons right now is very small. As of July 2019, the United States and Russia have the most, with over 12,500 of the estimated 14,000 nuclear warheads currently in existence. France, China, the UK, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea, and India are the only other nations with this technology. If Iran were allowed to develop weapons that it could use, then an arms race in the Middle East would likely occur so that there wouldn’t be such a severe advantage.
By limiting the enrichment process with the accord, there is a prevention of potential escalation and less of a risk of war.
3. It stopped Iran from using modern centrifuges.
One of the often overlooked advantages that came with the Iran nuclear deal is the fact that there were limitations on the centrifuges defined as permissible under the accord. In July 2015, which is the month when the agreement began to formalize its framework, there were almost 20,000 active locations that were enriching uranium. Under the terms of this comprehensive plan of action, Iran was limited to the installation of about 5,000 of its oldest and least efficient processes over the decade.
Since the implementation of the accord, Iran destroyed the core of a reactor that could produce weapons-grade plutonium. It also removed almost 70% of its centrifuges and eliminated 97% of its stockpile of enriched uranium.
4. The accord brings economic adversaries together.
One of the primary arguments for the United States to stay in the Iran nuclear deal was the fact that Russia and China both like it. Russian officials were publicly encouraging the U.S. to stay in the accord in 2018 before the Trump administration decided to pull out of it. There was also pressure from Germany and France to stay in as well, which means it created another layer of peace for Americans with their European allies.
The benefits of maintaining the peace between these global powers is clear.
- It improves the prospects of global trade, adding value to the worldwide economy.
- There is more peace in the world when the two largest holders of nuclear warheads are getting along.
- An increase of political will encourages peace talks in other areas of the world.
- There are reductions in the actions of sanctions and counter-sanctions.
5. It provides bargaining leverage on North Korea.
The United States has made historic approaches to North Korea during the Trump administration to limit the nuclear threat from that Communist regime. Because the U.S. pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, then Pyongyang has no reason to trust that the Americans wouldn’t do the same to them as well. No one would be willing to give up their nuclear capability if they know that White House leadership is willing to walk away from similar deals.
The ultimate goal with the Iran nuclear deal is to use the power of economic sanctions to encourage specific state behaviors that help to keep the peace. Staying in the accord can help that result, but ripping it up will not.
6. American companies could sign contracts with Iran.
Boeing was highly supportive of the Iran nuclear deal because it ended the restrictions in place to sell goods and services to the country. Almost $20 billion in aircraft spending was placed in 2015 after the framework was approved so that Iran’s aircraft fleet from the 1970s could receive a much needed update. There was another $100 billion in oil and gas investment that might have occurred as well.
All of those deals were placed on hold after the Trump election since one of the most significant political messages from that campaign was to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal. European manufacturers like Volkswagen are still hoping to gain a foothold, since Iran was a significant market for them in the 1960s and the early 1970s.
7. It would help the United States to shrink its trade deficit.
The U.S. trade deficit grew to $566 billion in 2017, which was its highest level since 2008 and an increase of 12%. This figure is a measure of economic health because it shows how many purchases happen in relation to exports from American businesses and government activities. When the U.N. Security Council signed off on the Iran nuclear deal in 2015, the economy of Iran grew by almost 13% the next year. In 2019, the economy is expected to contract by at least 6%.
Iran has gone from exporting 2.5 million barrels of oil per day to just 300,000. Although the country’s economic output is nowhere near what China, Canada, or even Mexico provides to the U.S., having a trading partner which sees double-digit growth would help to shrink the American trade deficit over time.
8. It reduces the global nuclear risk.
Arms escalation in the Middle East would lead to more nations having access to nuclear technologies. This outcome could have a devastating outcome for the region and our planet. The threat of nuclear deployment is so great that German Chancellor Angela Merkel once said that a “bad Iran deal is better than none at all.”
The threat of a nuclear winter and our mutually assured destruction could occur with a regional exchange of small warheads. This environmental outcome would destroy agriculture, change the climate, and kill millions of people. The Iran nuclear deal reduces the global risk because it limits the actions of an aggressive regime, giving the other governments of the world time to come up with another idea.
9. There is a general agreement that Iran is in compliance.
Despite past violations of previous treaties, there is significant evidence to suggest that Iran has stayed in compliance with the terms of this accord until the summer of 2019. In June 2017, when calls for the U.S. to withdraw from the framework began to gain momentum, the IAEA and the State Department under the Trump administration, along with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, concluded that Iran was taking care of their end of the bargain.
List of the Cons of the Iran Nuclear Deal
1. It would not stop Iran from becoming a nuclear state in the future.
Critics of the Iran nuclear deal have concerns about the fact that this accord still allows the country to establish a robust nuclear infrastructure. In a perfect world, it would prevent the development of warheads and enrichment for only a decade. With no guarantees that another accord could be reached once this one expired, the framework frees up assets that Iran can use immediately while it can still process uranium using older equipment.
Instead of stopping the nuclear program and the potential for escalation, the Iran nuclear deal slows it down.
2. There are loopholes in place that allow Iran to find ways to cheat.
The inspections process included in the Iran nuclear deal provides the country with plenty of time to make it appear as if they are in visual compliance with the accord. We already know how effective the leadership is at hiding these elements of their enrichment program during previous U.N. inspections.
Even if the imminent threat of a modern nuclear program necessitated the deal in the first place, the final structure of it allows Iran to continue working without consequence. Iran has a long record of violating international agreements, doing so at least three times in 2017. The IAEA caught the country operating an advanced IR-5 nuclear centrifuge despite their obligations to do the opposite.
3. Iran was still testing missiles after signing the agreement.
After the signing of the Iran nuclear deal, there were domestic ballistic missile tests that were seen as provocative acts by the United States and the UK as being a breach of the accord’s terms. Iran states that the missiles were not designed to carry nuclear warheads, so they didn’t violate the deal with their actions. There will always be a basic doubt that the leadership of the country will ever abandon their dreams of nuclear capability, which is why critics say that a political deal that gives Iran more money is a bad idea.
“The Iran agreement betrayed America’s core values by emboldening a regime that was guilty of the full trifecta of being at once the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism, a brutal oppressor of its own people, and aiding and abetting genocide in Syria while promising a genocide of the Jews in Israel,” wrote Shmuley Boteach for The Jerusalem Post in 2018.
4. The deal could place Israel at risk of a future attack.
One of the closest allies of the United States is Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been of the strongest voices against the signing of this accord. There are long-standing tensions between the two countries to such an extent that anyone can be denied access if there is an Israeli passport stamp shown upon entry. There are also several concerns about the military buildup occurring on the Syrian border.
Because the Iran nuclear deal slows down development instead of stopping it, there is a legitimate concern from Israel that an improving economy and less attention to the enrichment program could create the potential for an unprovoked attack one day.
5. Numerous campaign donors in the U.S. are against the Iran nuclear deal.
Although politics should be free of special interest money, lobbying efforts will probably never go away. Many longtime financiers and campaign donors don’t like the idea of having a Iran nuclear deal. There are numerous reasons for this perspective, ranging from the spiritual to the investment portfolio. It’s more than a Republicans vs. Democrats debate for Americans. Some on both sides of the aisle see the accord as being a disastrous effort at control because it doesn’t provide any meaningful long-term restrictions.
6. It does not remove the fuel for creating weapons from the country.
There is a 40 MW nuclear plant that produces heavy water in Arak. The facility is known to provide Iran with enough plutonium that it could make at least a couple of bombs per year. Despite claims to the contrary, there is no need to have a heavy-water reactor in that region to have a peaceful program, yet the Iran nuclear deal allows it to remain with reduced plutonium based on verification and inspections.
One of the key goals of allies since the Bush administration was to close the nuclear sites at Arak, Natanz, Isfahan, and Fordow to reduce the threat of weapons development in the region. This accord never made that happen.
7. There is no restriction on the development of ICBMs.
Iran stonewalled international agencies about their legitimate concerns about the militarization of their nuclear programs. Despite the threats that are possible from this regime, the United States and its allies decided to drop their demands to restrict the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
This disadvantage means that Iran could spend the next decade developing ICBM technology, and then restart their uranium enrichment to create nuclear warheads that could be delivered beyond the region if they so wanted.
8. It only provides a short-term solution to a long-term problem.
The initial framework that the United States proposed for the Iran nuclear deal was 20 years. Most of the accord’s primary terms would sunset in 10 years at most. Once the agreement expires, Iran would have the capability to become a significant military and industrial power. There are more than 80 million people who live in the country that would see more allied involvement in their affairs instead of less, which would likely create a push toward long-term imperialism.
9. The Iran nuclear deal ignores the allied treaties that the country has with Russia.
Why do Russia and China want to keep the United States involved with the Iran nuclear deal? It might be because there is a military cooperation agreement in place to intensify military and technological advancements in the region that has been in place since 2015.
Sergey Shoigu, who was the Russian Defense Minister in 2015, said this: “We are in favor of long-term and multi-level cooperation with Iran, and welcome the Iranian leadership’s attempts to expanding its ties with Russia, including in military defense. We have common challenges and threats in the region that we can oppose only if we communicate.”
10. It does not make any attempt to normalize relations between the two countries.
The United States and Iran have been at odds with each other since the 1970s. The Iran nuclear deal makes no effort to change that fact. Even during the 2015 announcement of the framework, President Obama admitted that the purpose of the agreement was to trade a lifting of sanctions for restrictions in the nuclear program.
The supreme leader in Iran still calls the United States the “Great Satan.” The government of Iran still sees itself in the middle of a holy war against the ideas of the West. This effort ultimately legalized past treaty violations as a way to tamper the development process for a brief time to create nothing more than a brief political win – according to some critics.
11. The accord opened up the possibility of armament sales to Iran from Russia.
Russia immediately announced that it was ready to sell S-300 air defense missiles to Iran after the nuclear deal was reached and approved by the UN security council. Since 1992, Iran has received T-72 tanks, air-to-air missiles, and combat aircraft like the MiG-29. Even a high-speed torpedo like the VA-111 Shkval, which can destroy submarines and large warships, has play in Iran.
In June 2019, the Trump Administration declared an emergency just to expedite arms sales to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The value of that transaction was placed at $8.1 billion. There was also an announcement of stationing 1,500 more troops in the region to counter Iran. Although the Iran nuclear deal was designed to prevent escalation, it is a process that is still happening today.
Verdict on the Pros and Cons of the Iran Nuclear Deal
Whether you agree with the actions taken by the Trump Administration or not, there is no denying the fact that the president took office with a high degree of contempt toward the actions of the Obama administration. There has been a determination to destroy every vestige of the work that took place, including the Iran nuclear deal.
Several people in the Trump Administration, including National Security Advisor John Bolton, hate the idea of this accord. Bolton has a long history of trying to scuttle disarmament deals as well. It is important to remember that allegations, claims, and views are usually politically tuned.
The pros and cons of the Iran nuclear deal may be a moot point to consider in the coming years if both sides decide that being in breach of the framework is in their best interest. Enforcing the agreement without the United States as a player may be challenging as well. Until we reach that point, examining these key issues through ongoing efforts and responding to critical situations may encourage more peace in the region and the rest of the world.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.