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After nearly a year of negotiations and despite major disruptions caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, American diplomats say they are on the cusp of an agreement to revive the Iran nuclear deal.
The Iran deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA, was one of the signature foreign policy achievements for the Obama administration. As part of the agreement, which was finalized in 2015, Iran pledged to severely cut back its nuclear program in exchange for relief from severe economic sanctions that had been imposed by the US and other world powers. Three years later, then-President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal, despite assurances from the United Nations and that Iran had lived up to its side of the pact.
Iran toward a nuclear weapon over the past few years, according to the UN’s nuclear watchdog. When the JCPOA was intact, the US estimated that to amass enough nuclear material for a bomb if it decided to pursue one. Last month, officials reportedly told Congress .
The fate of a potential deal was thrown into uncertainty in recent weeks. Russia provided Iran with key practical support under the JCPOA, but reportedly threatened to drop out of the new agreement unless all of its business dealings with Iran were exempt from strict sanctions that have been imposed in response to the Ukraine invasion. Moscow and is now willing to sign on as long as sanctions don’t interrupt its nuclear business with Iran.
Why there’s debate
Advocates for rejoining the Iran nuclear deal say it is the most effective way to ensure that Iran doesn’t develop the ability to produce a nuclear weapon, a prospect they argue would increase the risk of a catastrophic war in the Middle East. “You think it’s bad to have Russia as a nuclear power invading a sovereign neighboring country, imagine what happens if Iran is a nuclear power,” , D-Conn., said on Sunday’s “Meet the Press.”
Supporters of a new deal also argue that ending the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” strategy could help cool tensions across the region, at a time of a major supply crisis and provide relief to everyday Iranians who have under the weight of sanctions that were reimposed by Trump.
Conservatives in Washington are almost uniformly opposed to rejoining the deal. They argue that the US should not be making agreements with an untrustworthy Iranian regime that funds terror groups, poses a threat to American allies in the Middle East and recently near the US consulate in Iraq. They also make the case that the new deal is so weak, it actually makes Iran more likely to acquire a nuclear bomb. “The Ayatollah exploits these civil nuclear waivers to build up Iran’s nuclear program with the express intention of eventually developing nuclear weapons,” R-Texas, wrote in a statement last week.
Senate Republicans have and a have also expressed concerns about the negotiations. But there’s constitutional debate over whether the Biden administration from Congress. A unilateral deal completed without Congress would be easier for the next Republican president to rip up, as Trump did to Obama.
A nuclear Iran would cause a terrifying arms race in the Middle East
“If Iran were to get a bomb, it would set off an arms race. Ultimately, the United States would acquiesce to Saudi Arabia having a nuclear arsenal. We would probably even provide them with the technology to develop it. Actually, it looks like we already are. But if Iran were close to developing a nuclear weapon, Israel would likely jump into action to try to obliterate its capabilities.” — Jason Rezaian,
A new deal won’t transform the world overnight, but it would carry a lot of benefits
“There are some important gains to be had, such as renewed limits and inspections on Iran’s nuclear program; there are nearly no restraints at all right now. A forum where Russia and the West continue cooperating may also be a bonus. And expanding nuclear nonproliferation agreements seem more critical than ever at a time when Putin has put Russia’s nuclear forces on alert.” —Dalia Dassa Kay,
Rejoining the deal would free to US to focus on its more important foreign policy issues
“The nuclear agreement successfully blocks an Iranian bomb, and forces Iran to submit to intrusive verification and monitoring, so we know they’re not cheating. By removing the Iran nuclear threat, this deal will enable US diplomats and military leaders to focus on much greater national security threats — like Russia’s war on Ukraine.” — Michael Abromovich,
Republicans are actively undermining efforts to stop Iran from obtaining nukes
“One of the biggest sticking points on behalf of the Iranian negotiators has been the inability to ensure that any future White House won’t waltz in and rip up the renewed agreement. … So what does this do? It means that any carrots the US puts forward in the talks are devalued precisely because we are explicit about their lack of durability.” — Trita Parsi,
The US must accept a worse deal because of Trump’s decision to leave the JCPOA
“When Trump canceled the Iran deal … his fans promised that cancellation would magically lead to a better deal. Unfortunately, choices have consequences and Trump weakened the US bargaining position at the behest of psychotic idiots.” — Policy journalist via Twitter
The Iranian people deserve relief from punishing economic sanctions
“The reimposed sanctions have bitten hard into the Iranian economy, causing serious inflation, shortages of all kinds of goods (including medicine, which greatly hindered its response to the pandemic), and widespread poverty. As always, ordinary Iranian people suffered the most from American sanctions, not the elite. Removing them would help restore a modicum of prosperity to a citizenry that has felt immeasurable pain for half a decade through no fault of its own.” — Ryan Cooper,
Biden’s deal wouldn’t prevent Iran from acquiring nukes
“The deal won’t stop Iran from pursuing, or getting, a nuclear weapon. Iran could continue to make progress at secret sites that are excluded from international inspectors as it waits for the deal to expire. Meanwhile, it will be able to sell oil and cut deals with Russia and Europe to finance its imperialism.” — Editorial,
The US shouldn’t be in the business of making deals with oppressive regimes
“The agreement … would neither limit its ballistic missiles or contain its malign regional behavior. … Indeed, a deal would feed the notion that the administration is just placating another authoritarian actor.” — Aaron David Miller,
The Iran deal would undercut efforts to punish Russia for invading Ukraine
“American negotiators would like you to think they’ve stood up to the Russians by turning down their request for guaranteed sanction insulation. … But make no mistake, the US is still making appalling concessions to Putin’s murderous regime.” — Carine Hajjar,
The deal would empower Iran to cause more havoc in the Middle East
“The surging world price of oil, coupled with the Biden administration’s persistent plans to ‘reset’ relations with Iran no matter the cost, has the power to fuel a revival of Tehran’s regional ambitions — and to significantly expand the threat it poses, both in the region and beyond it.” — Ilan Berman,
It’s immoral to replace Russian fossil fuels with Iranian oil
“It’s reasonable to expect that once the Iran nuclear deal is signed, the US and others will turn to Tehran as an attractive alternative to possible disruption of oil and gas from Russia. Such a move would profanely exchange one human-rights crusher for a worse one.” — Abraham Cooper, and Johnnie Moore,
Any opportunity for a peaceful relationship with Iran has long since passed
“The era of nuclear diplomacy with Iran is over. The Islamic Republic has made clear it will not settle for any accord other than a permissive one that allows it to continue essential atomic activities.” — Ray Takeyh,
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