Under the circumstances, the deal is not so bad. But those circumstances! The deal could end up being a really big deal or amount to nothing whatsoever.
For the Iranians, years of crippling sanctions will be lifted. Once they're gone, they're gone, thanks to the power that Russia and China can wield at the United Nations.
The plan agreed to on Thursday includes a set of parameters for a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear program due to be signed in Vienna at the end of June. They require Iran to carry out a set of tasks intended to extend its breakout time, the period it would take to produce enough fissile material for a warhead, to a year.
The tasks include:
• Removal of the core of the heavy water reactor at Arak, rendering it inoperable.
• Agreement to the application of an additional protocol, a regime of enhanced inspections carried out by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
• Cutting Iran’s installed centrifuges from about 19,000 to just over 6,000, of which slightly more than 5,000 would be used for enrichment. The remaining 13,000 would be disabled and put under IAEA seal.
• Reduction of Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU) from more than eight tons to just 300 kg (roughly 660 lbs), either by dilution or export.
• Cooperation with an IAEA investigation into evidence of past work on nuclear weaponization, specifically the granting of access for inspectors to suspect sites and people.
Of all the things we can presume about the framework agreement, the most important is that the White House believes the deal is essential to America's interests and security.
The debate over the framework agreement, and all that might follow, is a debate over two rival visions of American exceptionalism. One side, dominated by Republicans, believes our unique place in the world betokens a moral and strategic imperative to stand with smaller powers outside the orbit of our biggest adversaries. The other side, dominated by Democrats, believes almost the opposite.
After the two longest wars in U.S. history, most Americans have concluded there are limits on what U.S. military power can achieve. This doesn't mean most Americans have become isolationists. The U.S. cannot afford to ignore Iran, or ISIS, or Syria, or the Sunni-Shiite war now igniting the region. But the chaos there is an unintended consequence of the regime change we engineered in Iraq. Most folks don't want to send soldiers to fight in foreign civil wars any more. Americans know that trusting the Ayatollah is not a good option — but also that there are no good options. When all the options are bad, you can only hope to pick the lesser of the evils available.
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