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Nuclear Agreement with Iran Shows the Enduring Value of Diplomacy

Written by Amelie Theussen, Ph.D. Candidate at Center for War Studies

Former United States Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns gives his inside view on the understanding on nuclear matters, which was reached in Lausanne early April, in his opinion piece The Fruits of Diplomacy with Iran in the New York Times. Burns, who led the back-channel talks with Iran on the nuclear issue in 2013, regards the reached understanding as major step towards a comprehensive nuclear agreement. 

He sees clear opportunities in the agreement: It “would increase, for at least a decade, the time it would take Iran to enrich enough weapons-grade material for a single bomb from the current two-to-three-month timeline to at least one year”. Besides reducing Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium, limiting the country’s enrichment capacity, and restraining research and development, it would also “create an inspection regime unparalleled in intensity”. Additionally, the careful relief of sanctions would “preserve ample enforcement leverage” with built-in procedures to make sure sanctions can immediately be reimposed in case of Iranian noncompliance. 

However, despite these great opportunities, Burns also sees three major challenges, which will be very difficult to overcome: first, “crucial details still have to be resolved” through further negotiations, in order to reach a comprehensive agreement, and it is of utmost importance “to get it right”. Second, it is crucial to reassure Western partners in the Middle East and take a “firm stance against threatening Iranian actions in the region”. And third, the global nuclear order needs to be strengthened, and especially the divide between military and peaceful nuclear programs needs to be fortified.

If you are interested in an insider’s take on the nuclear agreement and why the agreement “can be a significant turning point”, check out Burns’ op-ed article The Fruits of Diplomacy in the New York Times here

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