The U.S.-led deal to freeze Iran’s nuclear program is a great accomplishment on many levels. Begin with the most basic: What if the talks in Geneva had failed? If Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had gone home empty-handed, we would likely be drifting toward war. Iran’s uranium-enrichment centrifuges would continue whirling until it became unambiguously clear that the nation, if it chose, could make a “breakout” dash to build a nuclear weapon in a matter of weeks — something President Barack Obama has said he would not allow.
The president could decide to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities or he could wait until Israeli military action forced his hand. Either way, we’d be engaged in another Middle East war — one whose economic, political and human consequences could be dire.
So what did Kerry do in Geneva? He won an agreement that not only freezes Iran’s nuclear-enrichment program for six months but actually rolls it back; that prevents new nuclear facilities from coming online; and that provides for unprecedented daily inspections to ensure that Iran is living up to it commitments.
Let me restate that to make it clearer: In May of next year, Iran will be further away from being able to build a bomb than it is today.
And this achievement is being attacked with the word “appeasement” and references to Munich? Give me a break.
In return, the United States and other leading nations have agreed to suspend some minor sanctions that mean a paltry $7 billion to the Iranian economy. Even if negotiations for a permanent agreement ultimately fail, this is a bargain price for six months of peace — six months, mind you, during which the Iranian nuclear program goes backward, not forward.
Critics complain that the agreement recognizes Iran’s right to enrich uranium, if only in low concentrations that are useless for bomb-making. In fact, the Geneva accord is deliberately ambiguous on this issue. But it should be clear by now that sanctions, however draconian, will never halt Iran’s enrichment program.