Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Iran Deal

As usual, Vox has a lot of information on the deal, The Iran nuclear deal: everything you need to know. Max Fisher describes, The Iran nuclear deal, translated into plain English. Here is my formulation of the bullet points:

  • Iran currently has 20,000 centrifuges and will have to get down to 7,000 older models
  • Iran will be allowed to enrich uranium to only to 3.67%, way less than the 90% needed for a bomb
  • Iran will be required to reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium from 10,000 kg to 300 kg.
  • Iran fulfills initial commitments by Oct, IAEA inspects by Dec, and only then do sanctions start to be lifted
  • A panel of 7 nations plus the EU votes periodically on if Iran is complying, the US has a veto
  • Formerly secret sites Natanz and Fordow can be used, but only Natanz for enrichment. Fordow only for research.
  • Arak will be rebuilt to only make energy grade plutonium.
  • IAEA inspectors will have full access to Iran's nuclear sites, uranium mines and mills, centrifuge factories, and supply chains and managed access to certain military sites. It will monitor dual-use technologies. It can access "suspicious sites."

The Iran nuclear deal, explained in fewer than 500 words is also really good. The Guardian has their own description of the deal complete with bullet points, Iran nuclear deal: world powers reach historic agreement to lift sanctions. Wonkblog has 13 charts and maps that make the Iran deal a little easier to understand

Monkey Cage points out, The Iran deal reflects the U.S.’s overwhelming power over the world’s financial system. Apparently the deal will limit international sanctions, US secondary sanctions, but not US primary sanctions.

The sanctions program against Iran was supported by the United Nations. The U.S. engaged in an extended diplomatic effort to get the UN Security Council to sign up to extensive sanctions against Iran. It also succeeded in getting the European Union to impose tougher sanctions against Iran, to the chagrin of European energy companies.

However, the willingness of the U.S. to impose “secondary sanctions” against non-U.S. firms that did business with Iran was arguably just as important. In a series of actions, the U.S. has imposed hundreds of millions of dollars in fines on financial institutions dealing with Iran. The European Union also required SWIFT–a key intermediary in all financial transactions–to cut Iranian financial institutions out of its system. Together, these steps effectively froze the Iranian economy out of the world financial system.

Glenn Greenwald of course presents the Iranians' View of the Nuclear Deal: Optimistic, With Significant Caveats. "The optimistic Iranian view is grounded in the expectation that the deal will usher in a normalization of relations between Iran and the west, lifting both the sanctions regime and the threat of war."

"Expectations among ordinary Iranians are very high: they expect substantial economic improvement, and if that fails to materialize, [Hooshang] Amirahmadi sees a likelihood of serious political instability which 'could go in a terrible direction for Iran.'"

Ezra Klein talked with Ian Bremmer on why the Iran deal is about much more than nuclear weapons. While he thinks there will be some compliance issues to resolve, he thinks it's better than no deal because the current sanctions would have eroded and our threat of war with Iran was weakening (because who wants that?) and because the Russians, Chinese and Europeans wanted an even softer deal. Also there are two aspects that for political reasons the administration can't come out and talk about. The extra oil will bring down prices and hurt OPEC which is good, and a stronger Iranian economy participating on the world stage might hurt the Iranian regime.

Regarding oil prices, Ed Kilgore refers to a WSJ article and points out Iranian Oil Will Undercut Prices. "Yes, as sanctions are lifted against Iran its oil production for export will resume (they were cut in half when sanctions were first imposed), and what is already a global market surplus will get larger, undercutting prices." So that's bad for oil companies and good for everyone else. Vox has more details on how quickly (or rather slowly) this might happen, What the Iran nuclear deal means for oil prices.

Zack Beauchamp found 2 tweets that explain the real debate over the Iran deal. "So that's the debate. Deal supporters think the deal, as is, is the only realistic alternative to war or a nuclear-capable Iran; opponents think the deal makes a nuclear Iran more likely and that war is a preferable alternative. This is a debate about the big pictures, not the details."

To put the anti-deal side in perspective, as Bremmer said, after Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria, war Iran is obviously less desirable for the US and a harder sell, so it's less of a deterrent. With the international coalition weakening in their support of sanctions, we had fewer and fewer options. The Economist had this chart which really put the effect of Stuxnet on their centrifuges in perspective.


As for conservative opposition to this deal, Matthew Yglesias points out Conservatives have opposed every diplomatic breakthrough for decades. As an example he shows a 1988 conservative ad that compared Ronald Reagan to Neville Chamberlain regarding the INF treat with Gorbachev! He points out many examples to make this point, "Conservatives don't believe in talking to your enemies."

Ed Kilgore points to Two Takes on the Iran Deal.

This seems like a great analysis of options and why Republicans hate this deal. Why Republicans Are So Mad About Obama's Nuclear Deal With Iran.

Kevin Drum suggests wisely, Maybe We Should All Read the Iran Deal Before We Take a Stand On It. "In the meantime, it looks like a decent agreement to me after a first look at the deal outline—certainly better than doing nothing and letting Iran build a bomb whenever it wants, anyway. But I'll wait to see what nuclear experts have to say before I go any further. A few days won't kill me." I'm in the same boat, though from what I remember from nuclear experts a few months ago, the inspection regime is way better than they were expecting.

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