After a year of secret talks between the United States and Iran, an interim deal was reached between Iran and six world powers Sunday aimed at slowing Tehran’s nuclear program, according to CNN. In what President Barack Obama called “an important first step,” the six-month agreement will put an effective freeze on Iran’s nuclear program, from halting Iran’s enrichment capabilities beyond five percent to converting its 20 percent enriched uranium stockpile to uranium oxide, thus making it incapable of being used for military purposes. In return, the current sanctions on Iran’s oil revenues, precious metals and auto industry will be eased, with the remainder of the sanctions remaining firmly in place, according to CNN. This more diplomatic move has been met with a fierce overreaction from Israel, prompting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to dub the agreement a “historic mistake,” and liken it to the widely hailed diplomatic agreement with North Korea that proved ultimately ineffective, as North Korea conducted its first nuclear test a year later.
But North Korea is not Iran, and this deal is not a form of the international community condoning a nuclear Iran — far from it. Rather, it is an opportunity for both Iran and the West to take concrete steps in improving what has since been shaky relations. Absent of a diplomatic agreement, increased sanctions would only have alienated Iran further, which in turn could easily lead the already uneasy region into a further destabilizing situation.
Though Israel’s skepticism is understandable, their reaction to the agreement has been blown out of proportion. The deals’ fiercest critics have called the agreement a free pass to Iranian nuclear enrichment, but what they don’t understand is that this deal comes with strings — taut strings. In a nationally televised address late Saturday night, Obama reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to halting a nuclear Iran, threatening to “turn off the relief and ratchet up the pressure” if Iran were to violate any of the terms of the deal.
And while many have argued that security can only be reached through sanctions, they are quick to forget that it was only a few months ago that U.S. diplomacy led to a resolution ridding Syria of its chemical weapons arsenal that calmed Israeli fears of a Syrian chemical attack. Fast forward a couple of months, and Israel’s distribution of gas masks is expected to be significantly reduced.
Meanwhile, the very definition of this agreement is “interim” — there’s nothing permanent. Rather, the next six months are meant to be negotiated. Put simply, if Iran and the remaining P5+1 nations can’t strike a permanent treaty, then there’s nothing lost. Instead of attacking a deal that has only begun to be discussed, Israel should be supporting negotiations that can ultimately lead to its future security. Rather than prematurely attack an agreement that has yet to be finalized, it’s in both the United States’ and Israel’s interests to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. And if it can be done diplomatically — even better.
Both Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry recognize that this “historic” first step is exactly that — a first step. Such steps will likely be more and more of an uphill battle as the six months progress. But as Sir Winston Churchill once famously said, “To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.” If real, committed diplomacy is an option, than that is one all parties involved should implement.
Yasmeen Serhan is a sophomore majoring in international relations. She is also the Online Editor of the Daily Trojan.
Follow her on Twitter @YasmeenSerhan