Most Iranians were sleeping when an interim agreement regarding the country's nuclear program was reached Sunday morning at 5am local time. But, as they awoke, their sleepiness was quickly replaced with jubilation and the joy of victory. Fervent chants rose up across the land: "Success, success, today we have won!"
It is no secret that Iran's nuclear program has long been a symbol of defiance against perceived western imperialism and hegemony. What was a secret however, was that this was a deal long in the making, the culmination of a long and drawn out process.
According to recent reports leaking out of the international press, this was not a hastily arranged agreement. The United States and Iran have been secretly engaged in a series of high-level, face-to-face talks over the past year. These are what had paved the way for the historic deal sealed in Geneva.
Yet it's more of a mere interim agreement, initially lasting for just six-months. The White House claims it includes "substantial limitations that will help prevent Iran from creating a nuclear weapon."
I'm less than enamored of this deal, to say the least, for the following reasons:
1) Iran will continue to produce low-enriched uranium.
2) Iran will be trusted to dilute its own current stock of medium enriched uranium.
3) Iran will not be required to dismantle a single centrifuge.
4) Iran will not need to scuttle the Arak heavy water reactor capable of producing enough plutonium for one nuclear bomb within one year of operation. Iran is only obligated to suspend work there for 6 months.
This deal means that Iran, a state-sponsor of terrorism, will ultimately continue to have a nuclear program. They will continue to enrich uranium domestically. And finally, they will continue to retain the technology needed to produce atomic weapons of mass destruction.
Of course, it's too early to declare that we have achieved "Peace in our time!" Even if every aspect of this agreement will be followed to the letter, it is unclear that Iran's nuclear ambitions, and the danger that these imply, have been effectively contained.
Israel remains steadfast in its opposition to this deal because Iran can reverse its purported effects in just a few weeks. Consequently, all that has been accomplished is the purchase of two weeks lead time for the price of $7 billion dollars, said sum being provided to Iran as relief from international sanctions. Iran thus gains time and sees the dismantling of years' worth of carefully and constructed international sanctions - sanctions that would be exceedingly difficult to reapply.
So, how did this all unfold?
According to three senior administration officials, the last four clandestine meetings, held since Iran's President Hassan Rouhani was inaugurated in August, orchestrated much of the agreement later formally hammered out in negotiations in Geneva among the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany and Iran. The officials all spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to officially discuss the highly sensitive diplomatic effort.
The talks were mainly held in Oman, and other undisclosed locations, with only a tight circle of people in the know.
A peaking point was when Obama and Rouhani spoke by telephone in September, the first direct contact between a U.S. and Iranian leader in more than 30 years. It was only after that call that the U.S. began informing allies of the existence of the secret talks.
Out of the loop until only two months ago was Israel. This might explain how the deal came through so quickly after years of stalemate and hostility between Iran and the West. Obama called Netanyahu during a Sept. 30th meeting at the White House to give the Israeli Prime Minister the news.
The next day, Netanyahu delivered his General Assembly speech, blasting Rouhani as a "wolf in sheep's clothing" and warning the U.S. against mistaking a change in Iran's tone with an actual change in nuclear ambitions. He also declared "If Israel is forced to stand alone, it will."
So now what?
If the deal is a success and Iran holds up to its end of the bargain, it will be the crowning foreign policy achievement of Obama's presidency. The U.S. president praised the agreement as opening a "new path toward a world that is more secure."
In stark contrast, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the world has become more dangerous as a result of this agreement and that Israel will not sit back and let Iran continue to enrich Uranium.
How is it then that Obama has taken such a gamble and left Israel vulnerable to a country bent on its destruction, striking a deal with a state sponsor of terrorism?
The next 6 months will decide the future of what the Iranian nuclear program is going to look like. There will be a lot of difficult discussions along the way.
Meanwhile, Obama called Netanyahu Sunday night from Air Force One, and told him that the U.S. will remain committed to Israel and its safety. Netanyahu for his part, isn't taking any chances. Speaking to his Cabinet on Sunday, the Israeli Prime Minister said the agreement endangered Israel, adding that Israel is not bound by the international community's nuclear deal and reserves the right to defend itself.