Some key American corporations will have to drastically adjust to the reality that Iran will not be threat. When your raison d’être disappears it’s a difficult adjustment process, they will be in denial before acceptance during the denial period Obama will be the punching bag. The framework deal ensures that Iran becomes part of the family of nations and eliminates the need to “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” like McCain will have the US do.
The framework deal requires Iran to surrender some crucial components of its nuclear program, in part or even in whole. Here are the highlights:
Iran will give up about 14,000 of its 20,000 centrifuges.
Iran will give up all but its most rudimentary, outdated centrifuges: its first-generation IR-1s, knockoffs of 1970s European models, are all it gets to keep. It will not be allowed to build or develop newer models.
Iran will give up 97 percent of its enriched uranium; it will hold on to only 300 kilograms of its 10,000-kilogram stockpile in its current form.
Iran will destroy or export the core of its plutonium plant at Arak, and replace it with a new core that cannot produce weapons-grade plutonium. It will ship out all spent nuclear fuel.
Iran would simply not have much of its nuclear program left after all this.
A shorthand people sometimes use to evaluate the size of Iran’s nuclear program is its “breakout time.” If Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei woke up tomorrow morning and decided to kick out all of the inspectors and set his entire nuclear program toward building a nuclear warhead — to “break out” to a bomb — right now it would take him two or three months. Under the terms of the framework, his program would be so much smaller that it would take him an entire year to build a single nuclear warhead.
These terms are not abject surrender. Iran is allowed to keep a small nuclear program, and it won some concessions of its own. For example, what little uranium enrichment is allowed will be done at Iran’s facility at Natanz — a hardened, reinforced-concrete structure that was once used for covert enrichment and that the US had hoped to close.
Iran will also be allowed to do some research at Fordow, another hardened facility the US had wanted to close, though the research is restricted and will be barred from using fissile material. These are not big concessions, and they matter mostly for their symbolic value, but it’s something.
Still, when you look at many of the specifics laid out in the framework, the hard numbers and timetables and the detailed proscriptions, those all tend to be quite favorable to the United States.
Even though the agreement is only a framework, the summary released on Thursday goes into striking detail on an issue that was always going to be among the most crucial: inspections.
Whatever number of centrifuges Iran has or doesn’t have, whatever amount of uranium it’s allowed to keep or forced to give up, none of it matters unless inspectors have enough authority to hold Tehran to its end of the deal — and to convince the Iranians that they could never get away with cheating. To say the US got favorable terms here would be quite an understatement; the Iranians, when it comes to inspections, practically gave away the farm.
“I would give it an A,” Stein said of the framework. When I asked why: “Because of the inspections and transparency.”
There are two reasons inspections are so important. The first is that super-stringent inspections are a deterrent: if the Iranians know that any deviation is going to be quickly caught, they have much less incentive to try to cheat, and much more incentive to uphold their side of the deal.
The second is that if Iran were to try a build a nuclear weapon now, it likely wouldn’t use the material that’s already known to the world and being monitored. Rather, the Iranians would secretly manufacture some off-the-books centrifuges, secretly mine some off-the-books uranium, and squirrel it all away to a new, secret underground facility somewhere. That would be the only way for Iran to build up enough of an arsenal such that by the time the world found out, it would be too late to do anything about it.
Really robust inspections would be the best way stop that from happening. They would prevent Iran from sneaking off centrifuges or siphoning away uranium that could be used to build an off-the-grid nuclear weapons program, without the world finding out.
The inspections issue has not gotten much political attention. When I spoke to Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at Middlebury’s Monterey Institute of International Studies, on Tuesday before the framework was announced, he seemed worried that negotiators would not focus on it much. Rather, overwhelming political focus in Washington and Tehran on issues like Iran’s number of allowed centrifuges seemed likely to push inspections from the top priorities.
Lewis suggested that a top item on his wish list would be inspections so robust that inspectors don’t just get to visit enrichment sites like Natanz and Fordow, but also centrifuge factories. That, he said, “would be a big achievement.”
Sure enough, come Thursday, Lewis got his wish and then some: centrifuge factory inspections is one of the terms in the framework, and it’s pretty robust. For the next 20 years, inspectors would have “continuous surveillance at Iran’s centrifuge rotors and bellows production and storage facilities.”
“I was shocked to read that they got them to agree to let us walk around their centrifuge production facilities. That’s amazing,” Stein said.
It’s not just centrifuge factories. Inspectors will have access to all parts of Iran’s nuclear supply chain, including its uranium mines and the mills where it processes uranium ore. Inspectors will also not just monitor but be required to pre-approve all sales to Iran of nuclear-related equipment. This provision also applies to something called “dual-use” materials, which means any equipment that could be used toward a nuclear program.
“The inspections and transparency on the rotors, and the bellows, and the uranium mines is more than I ever thought would be in this agreement,” Stein added.