The Vienna agreement is the most detailed non-proliferation agreement ever devised, but we will only know in a few years if it was a reasonable bet.

The luxury of being a policy analyst is that one can afford to say what politicians cannot: ‘it’s complicated’. If I had been voting on the 14 July nuclear deal with Iran, I would have had to abstain.

American and European diplomats worked hard to close most of the avenues and loopholes that Iran could exploit to advance its nuclear programme. The enriched-uranium stockpile and the number of centrifuges will be significantly reduced. The plutonium route is blocked. The list of prohibited activities is impressive, as is the scope of monitoring – from uranium mines to procurement channels. The E3/EU+3 (France, Germany and the UK, plus China, Russia and the United States) have been creative in ensuring that the threat of reimposing sanctions is not hollow. And whatever happens next, the patient efforts of the E3/EU+3 since 2006, along with the harshest non-proliferation sanctions ever imposed, will have demonstrated that illegal nuclear proliferation is costly. Simply put, this is the most detailed non-proliferation agreement ever devised. But it nevertheless includes several problematic aspects, which deserve careful scrutiny.

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Bruno Tertrais is a Senior Research Fellow at the Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique, and a Contributing Editor to Survival.

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Survival: Global Politics and Strategy

October-November 2015

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