Should Iran and the US accept a Good, but not perfect Nuclear Deal?

By Hamid Zangeneh | —

We have a few days left to the final deadline (Nov. 24 target date) for this round of negotiations between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (P5+1 countries). There are some contradictory messages from both sides, some of which are unsettling. It seems that both sides are trying to get the last ounces of advantage over the other side, which is unfortunate. Both sides have been treating these negotiations as if they were zero-sum games, they are not.

I believe both sides must agree on a good bargain, which will not, in the nature of the case, be thought perfect by either Iran or the P5+1. One thing that Iranians need to learn from all these years of economic and political hardship is that being in the right does not mean sacrificing everything, being stubborn, and forcing economic and political martyrdom on the public.

What should a good deal look like?

Iran, it must receive explicit recognition of its rights to have a viable civilian nuclear enrichment program similar to what Germany, Japan, and many other countries have. That is, a nuclear program in Iran and with Iranian personnel, short of the Bomb. It must not require export of its enriched materials to Russia for safe keeping or for their transformation into fuel rods. Iran must be self-sufficient and self-reliant. Russia has been unreliable and malleable in favor of the P5+1 and has sided against Iran in many instances. This current case as well as the Bushehr project is the best evidence of Russian unreliability and lack of trustworthiness. The Bushehr project’s completion date has been postponed and cost overruns have been beyond acceptable standards. In the current case, Russia, looking for its own national self-interest, has been selling out Iran to the best bidder, which appears to feel is an acceptable norm of conduct for it. But this behavior does not encourage Iranians to put their future in Moscow’s hands.

On the other side, the world needs to have robust assurances that Iran is not interested in and will not turn to making nuclear bombs. This means that Iran must give the world intrusive access to its nuclear programs as much as every other country with a nuclear program.

I believe a stable Iran is much more in the national interest of the US and Europe than is an Iran in political disarray– the likely outcome of a failure of the negotiations. A good deal for Iran is one that Rouhani could sell to the “right-wing” of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is anxiously waiting and praying for a failure of negotiations.

An Iran in political turmoil would be an extremist and uncooperative regime, which would not serve our national self-interest. On the other hand a self-assured Iran could take bold actions that would help the region’s political stability and progress. Both sides must agree on a good deal rather than trying to force a humiliating perfect deal that does not exist and cannot be achieved.

Hamid Zangeneh is Professor of Economics at Widener University, Chester, PA


Related video added by Juan Cole

AFP: “Iran’s nuclear programme”

13 Responses

  1. R “Iran must give the world intrusive access to its nuclear programs as much as every other country with a nuclear program.”

    Does the US give “the world” “intrusive access” to its nuclear program?

  2. This article is a bit confusing: it indicates that Iran accept a compromise, but when it describes what Iran should accept, it describes no compromises. “a nuclear program in Iran and with Iranian personnel, short of the Bomb”. But, Iran has never claimed rights to more than that. In fact, the article says “not require export of its enriched materials…for safe keeping”, which is ironic, as Iran has at many points agreed to do that.

    I was a but confused by the segue into Russia’s trustworthiness. It did not seem relevant to the compromises Iran must accept.

    Then there’s what was not mentioned: what compromises must the US and Europe be willing to accept? None are indicated other than saying the agreement will not be considered “perfect by either Iran or the P5+1”.

    I, myself, am worried about the distributed nature of US decision making. The old and new congress will both try to torpedo a deal. There are many laws in-place that require prosecution of firms that do business with Iran. If a foreign firm does business with the US, then it cannot do business with Iran. This agreement cannot do-away with those laws.

    In my opinion, these negotiations are all about the Europeans. The US managed to do the impossible in getting the sluggish Europe to impose stringent trade and banking restrictions on Iran. I assume it’s Iran’s goal is to get those lifted. Sure, the US will at sometime down the road probably again try to impose extraterritorial penalties on European firms that do business with Iran, but Europe will have the size and legal clout to resist those. Being able to do business with Europe would boost Iran’s economy.

    It’s my understanding that Obama will use his executive authority to lift some of the sanctions against Iran, but I assume Iran is realistic. Even if Obama can lift some sanctions it also means a future president, i.e. Ted Cruz, will be able to reimpose those sanctions.

  3. Yes, the suggested deal would be in US interests; but it is not in the interest of Netanyahu and the Likud party, and they, after all set US policy on this issue, not Americans. A deal with Iran would remove Netanyahu’s main talking point to distract world attention from the apartheid, open air prison and Jim Crow policies of his government, therfore hw will not allow a deal in the US interest, and Obama, like the Presidents before him, will follow orders.

  4. Ever the optimist. When will they realize that sanctions are permanent and there is nothing to make a deal about?

    • Actually the sanctions are temporary and are falling apart as we speak because there is a nice profit in smuggling and money laundering.

      I used to be the customer care manager for a hardware company and was quite surprised one day many years ago to get a phone call from a person asking for some help on our product. The surprise was because we did not export our product to China. It took me several weeks and lots of digging to discover that many more than one of our products were also in China because the product was a very good solution for a specific situation and the Chinese customers had simply purchased the hardware through a front company in Asia and arranged for our product to “magically” appear in their business in China. Smuggling and money laundering has been going on for thousands of years, so why would anyone expect the US third-party sanctions to survive in the real world?

  5. Iran has asserted a “right to enrich” however there have been alternate proposals argued in the international arena.

    Since the IAEA was founded in 1957, there have been discussions of creation of a “nuclear fuel bank” which can control the production and supply of enriched uranium and avoid the need of countries to have “enrichment technology” that can be used for the manufacture of atomic weapons.

    Former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn has written about this idea:

    link to

    The IAEA Board of Governors approved the creation of the first such facility and that bank commenced operation in December of 2010 in the city of Angarsk in Siberia. The project is owned and managed by the Russian government.

    Other nuclear fuel banks have been proposed, including a second facility in Siberia which would itself manufacture enriched uranium, plus a separate bank in Kazakhstan, however this proposal has not yet been effectuated.

    Pro-Iranian advocates and other critics have countered that denying Iran its own enrichment program opens the door international manipulation and they point to what occurred in the wake of the 1979 Iranian Revolution when several events occurred which would hamper Iran from effectuating its nuclear program ambitions. They point out that the U.S. not only breached a supply agreement that would have furnished Iran with enriched uranium stocks, but that the U.S. influenced the international community from assisting Iran in these regards.

    Firstly, the U.S. openly admitted it had pressured the IAEA from continuing technical assistance to Iran to facilitate development of uranium oxide and uranium hexafluoride production technologies. Not only did the IAEA cease this technical assistance program but so did China – who discontinued its bilateral agreement with Iran in the 1980s when the United States government offered China a sweeter business deal to induce discontinuance of Chinese-Iranian nuclear development joint venture agreements. This left Iran “out in the cold” until it struck a nuclear fuel supply deal with the Argentine government and began receiving copious amounts of “yellowcake” from that country in 1993.

    • The problem is Iran has already tried to do the “purchase” thing. Both France and Russia took their money and promptly did not deliver.

      Iran has been screwed on so many LEGAL transactions with other countries they now want to fully control their own energy production.

      Also during the Iraq attack on Iran, Iran also got screwed on weapons purchases – again multiple countries took their money and did not deliver. This is why Iran has built a very viable weapons industry.

      Given how many times Iran has tried to “do the right thing” and has gotten screwed, how can anyone blame then for not trusting the “west?”

      • Hey, c’mon — how many times have our US Imperial Citizens fallen for “trickle down” and “war on Thisthatortheotherthingorgroup” and all the other times the Rulers have done the Lucy Van Pelt “pull the football away after promising not to” routine?

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