The fallout from last week's nuclear framework agreement between world powers and Iran has seen proponents and critics of the deal loudly sounding off on its supposed merits or flaws. On Monday, 30 top nuclear nonproliferation experts took sides in the debate by issuing a joint statement that strongly endorsed the agreement.
Describing the framework as a "vitally important step forward," the statement breaks down the positive aspects of the proposed deal from a security and nonproliferation standpoint.
The statement's authors claim that among other benefits, the deal will:
- significantly reduce Iran's capacity to enrich uranium to the point that it would take at least 12 months to amass enough uranium enriched to weapons grade for one bomb;
- require Iran to modify its Arak heavy water reactor to meaningfully reduce its proliferation potential and bar Iran from developing any capability for separating plutonium from spent fuel for weapons;
- put in place enhanced international inspections and monitoring that would help to deter Iran from attempting to violate the agreement, but if Iran did, increase the international community's ability to detect promptly and, if necessary, disrupt future efforts by Iran to build nuclear weapons, including at potential undeclared sites; and
- require Iran to cooperate with the IAEA to conclude the investigation of Iran's past efforts to develop a nuclear warhead and provide transparency sufficient to help ensure that any such effort remains in abeyance.
The statement also contains a line that directly contradicts one of the talking points of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who claimed over the weekend on NBC's "Meet The Press" that a deal "would spark an arms race among the Sunni states, a nuclear arms race in the Middle East."
The nuclear security experts contend just the opposite, stating that "the agreement reduces the likelihood of destabilizing nuclear weapons competition in the Middle East, and strengthens global efforts to prevent proliferation."
Written by mostly American specialists on nuclear security, the signatories to the statement also include former diplomats and government officials as well as prominent authors on arms control.
Dr. Ali Vaez, a senior analyst on Iran for the International Crisis Group; Dr. Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey; and former U.S. ambassador Thomas Pickering are among the authors.
The statement ended by putting pressure on politicians to see the agreement through, stating: "We urge policy makers in key capitals to support the deal and the steps necessary to ensure timely implementation and rigorous compliance with the agreement."
Elsewhere on Monday, a separate statement was released by the nonprofit advocacy group The Iran Project. In a letter signed by analysts and former top officials, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, the authors welcomed the framework agreement.
The authors also warned Congress against interference in the process, saying: "We call on the U.S. Congress to take no action that would impede further progress or undermine the American negotiators’ efforts to complete the final comprehensive agreement on time."