Who What Why: Iran Nuclear Deal

By Joseph McCann | gargoyle@flagler.edu

On Friday, October 13, Donald Trump decided to decertify the Iran Nuclear Deal.


The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the Iran Nuclear Deal, is a 2015 agreement from President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry that limits the Iranian ability to make nuclear bombs, in return for the lifting of financial sanctions.

However, there has been much debate about this since Trump spoke out against it during his campaign, and now has decertified it. Trump’s reason is admirable; he believes that we shouldn’t reward a “murderous regime” with the lifting of financial sanctions.

Ok, that’s all fine and dandy, but this deal prevents Iran from producing nuclear weapons, which is undoubtedly in our and everybody’s best interest.

In order to understand the parts of the deal, you have to know a little bit about how nuclear bombs are made. Fortunately for you, my knowledge on making nuclear bombs is slim, so the scientific part will be short. There are two radioactive materials that bombs are made with – uranium and plutonium. To weaponize uranium, it has to be concentrated to a certain extent in a centrifuge. To weaponize plutonium, it has to be exposed to radiation in a reactor. Although I’m sure you had a blast reading the scientific aspect, let’s get back to the deal.

The Iran Nuclear Deal’s most basic goal is to make it harder for Iran to weaponize these materials. For uranium, Iran agreed to limit the amount that they can concentrate uranium at to a low enough concentration that it couldn’t be used for weapons, and close about half of their centrifuges.

For plutonium, Iran agreed to de-weaponize their core reactors, get rid of the weaponized plutonium they already have, and will not produce any heavy water reactors for 15 years. To address other concerns, Iran also agreed to give access and information to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and will let them monitor their mines for uranium, plutonium, centrifuges, reactors, and storage facilities.

Now Trump has a cabinet of professionals to advise him on this type of matter, however, the Secretaries of State, Defense, National Security Advisor, White House Chief of Staff, and his top military personnel all have advised him to keep the Iran Deal in place, and that it isn’t in the best interests of the U.S. to decertify it. He is deliberately going against the recommendation of the people who he himself appointed.

Trump’s statement all along has been that Iran is not living up to what they agreed, yet this can be proved since we have the ability to monitor the Iranian nuclear program. The only problem is that the report showed that Iran was in compliance with the deal, and that there hadn’t been any breaches of it- AKA, Trump was simply wrong. Despite being presented with contrary evidence, Trump carried on. What scares me about this is that Trump disregarded facts because it didn’t fit his agenda, and that should scare you too.

I’d like to point out that Iran is very skeptical of U.S. influence, which is fair since the CIA led a coup in the ’50s and reinstated the authoritarian Shah. Needless to say, Iran is (rightfully) concerned with American presence in the Middle East.

Now there certainly are many who oppose the Iran Deal, and they have a few central claims. Opponents say that they’d rather see an Iran with no nuclear program at all, instead of an Iran with limited nuclear capability; the Iranian economy certainly sees yuge economic benefits as a result of lifting sanctions; and lastly, this deal is seen as negative because it addresses nothing but nuclear capability. Proponents of the deal have two main things to base their support on: it severely limits Iran’s ability to weaponize uranium and plutonium, and we have the ability to monitor Iranian nuclear activity.

These two together symbolize a very limited Iranian nuclear program. The deal addresses Iran’s ability to mine and weaponize the two main ingredients of nuclear bombs. It also gives an international regulatory group access to Iranian mines and plants, so the world can make sure that Iran is living up to the deal.

Now I’ll offer my opinion–something you’ve been anxiously anticipating, I’m sure.

I think Donald Trump certainly should have re-certified the Iran Deal. The Iranian nuclear program is severely limited by this deal, and it would take them up to a year to make one nuclear bomb; and if we have concerns we can easily get the information we want.  Now I have my doubts since Iran is seen as a state sponsor of terrorism, but Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had it best when she said that focusing on these issues one-by-one allows the international community to address these issues more directly, and more effectively.

The other issues certainly need to be addressed–however, if a choice has to be made, nuclear concerns (for lack of better words) trump economic concerns. I think Trump’s decision reflects a reckless ignorance for fact, and a dangerous disregard for his cabinet of professionals. I see anything that weakens the threat of nuclear war as a positive, and the Iran Deal accomplishes exactly that.

Ok, what happens now? Now that Donald Trump has made the decision to decertify the Iran Deal, Congress has 60 days to reimpose sanctions against Iran, or do nothing. Reimposing these sanctions would blow up the agreement, and undermine our closest allies, essentially allowing an oppressive regime to have weaponized  nuclear capabilities. I hope Trump is serious about America First, because if we continue down this path–turning our backs on our allies–we’ll be on our own alarmingly fast.

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