As the tumultuous debate over reaching a deal with Iran over its nuclear capabilities continues, the United States and its allies came to an agreement over a framework for negotiations after a year and a half. The final agreement doesn’t have to be reached until June 30, but given the debate’s current climate, even that may not even be enough.
Facing pressure from all sides, President Obama defended his current diplomatic efforts in his weekly address on Saturday. He started by explaining how the agreement will work to keep America and its allies safe, as well as gradually meet Iran’s economic needs if they cooperate.
“This deal denies Iran the plutonium necessary to build a bomb. It shuts down Iran’s path to a bomb using enriched uranium. Iran has agreed that it will not stockpile the materials needed to build a weapon. Moreover, international inspectors will have unprecedented access to Iran’s nuclear program because Iran will face more inspections than any other country in the world. If Iran cheats, the world will know it. If we see something suspicious, we will inspect it. So this deal is not based on trust; it’s based on unprecedented verification.”
The framework so far aims to cut Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium by 97 percent, as well as cut Iran’s number of centrifuges by two thirds. According to TIME, these restrictions would cause Iran to take a full year to build a nuclear weapon as opposed to two-to-three months.
Critics of the agreement say that this is still too short a time frame, and that the United States would not be able to react in time if Iran decided to make weapons.
Part of Obama’s current headache comes from interference from Congress. Senator Bob Corker put forth legislation that would require a two-month review from Congress of any nuclear deal, and another bill by Senators Bob Menendez and Mark Kirk would put even more financial sanctions on Iran. The White House has come out in opposition to this legislation, but at the very least it will mean a bumpy road ahead for negotiations.
But Obama was blunt in his address, explaining that out of the only three available options the U.S. has, diplomacy makes the most sense.
“As we engage in this debate, let’s remember, we really only have three options for dealing with Iran’s nuclear program: bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities—which will only set its program back a few years—while starting another war in the Middle East; abandoning negotiations and hoping for the best with sanctions—even though that’s always led to Iran making more progress in its nuclear program; or a robust and verifiable deal like this one that peacefully prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
While a solution to Iran’s nuclear problem has been supported by all sides, there is no universal support for one idea. Republicans have been particularly combative; in one incident, 47 senators wrote an open letter to Iran’s leadership in a move that some say was a direct attempt to undermine Obama’s attempts at negotiations, and that others say was a purely political move.
The White House has stated that it will veto legislation that attempts to get in the way of reaching a deal with Iran, but with slightly less than three months to go, there’s still plenty of time for more obstacles.
[Image from The White House Blog]