The tools that succeeded beyond all other non-military means in changing Iran’s behaviour were the sanctions that this deal abolishes.

The world’s major powers once agreed that Iran was no place for uranium enrichment or the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. United after 9/11 and the jarring revelation of the A.Q. Khan proliferation network, they worked to defeat nuclear proliferation and terrorism – and the nexus of the two in Iran – without military force. They launched criteria-of-supply negotiations in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG); a moratorium on transfers of enrichment and reprocessing technology to new countries in what was then the G8; passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1887, and others demanding Iran suspend its nuclear programme; a coalition for proliferation interdiction called the Proliferation Security Initiative; assurances of nuclear-fuel supply, fuel banks and spent-fuel return, in Russia and with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); and new treaties, as well as amendments to existing ones, designed to interdict and defeat nuclear trafficking. 

The non-military non-proliferation deeds of the first decade of this century are now overshadowed by the July 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran. The tools that succeeded beyond all other non-military means in changing Iran’s behaviour were the sanctions this deal abolishes. The innovation of those sanctions was that they were not only aimed at states proliferating to Iran, or designed to apply after an Iranian nuclear test. They targeted Iran’s crown jewels of oil and other natural resources, industries and their exports, financing, shipping and banking infrastructure – including people and corporate entities – to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

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Thomas C. Moore was a Senior Republican Professional Staff Member for arms control, arms sales and non-proliferation in the United States Senate from 2003–13.

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Survival: Global Politics and Strategy

October-November 2015

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