Criticising the Iran deal for failing to achieve zero enrichment is equivalent to arguing against any diplomatic outcome.

The more I study the Iran nuclear deal, the more deeply I appreciate its worth. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreed in Vienna on 14 July is better than all three of its antecedents. It goes beyond the political accord struck in Lausanne on 2 April, walking back from none of the parameters of that accord as described by the United States.1 Among other virtues, the verification procedures of the JCPOA are tighter than the safeguards provided for in the Additional Protocol. The constraints and obligations Iran accepts under the deal also go beyond the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The deal can be characterised as Lausanne-plus, Additional Protocol-plus and NPT-plus. 

Opponents of the agreement typically compare it to idealised concepts of a better deal, one that would restrain Iran’s nuclear programme more tightly, and, for good measure, compel better behaviour in other policy fields. Better provisions can be imagined, of course, including those that were tabled and eventually traded away in order to persuade Iran to accept the very sharp limits and intrusive verification measures in the final document. ‘Give and take’ is the essence of negotiations. Along the way, Iran gave up many of its own demands. According to one Iranian critic, 19 of the redlines defined by Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Khamenei were crossed.2 I am still amazed that Iran agreed to let go of 98% of its enriched uranium stockpile, to keep this stockpile at less than 300kg for 15 years and to only use clunky first-generation centrifuges for ten years.

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Mark Fitzpatrick is Director of the IISS Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Programme. He came to IISS after 26 years at the State Department, serving lastly as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Non-Proliferation (acting).

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Survival: Global Politics and Strategy

October-November 2015

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