UNL professor: 5 important things about Iran nuke deal

· 3 min read

UNL professor: 5 important things about Iran nuke deal

Tyler White, an assistant professor of practice in political science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, researches international security and nuclear policy. White has been closely watching the negotiations that resulted in July 14’s historic agreement regarding Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

Here are five things he says are important about the agreement:

It has the potential to transform Iran from a troublemaker to an economic player in the Middle East. Iran is a well-educated, homogenous and young country – the median age is about 29.5. However, its strong industrial base has crumbled since economic sanctions were first imposed in 1979, after the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, and heightened in 1996 in response to its pursuit of nuclear weaponry. To assert its dominance in the region, the Shiite nation has resorted to supporting terrorism and “trying to poke the U.S. in the eye.” With the agreement, Iran is in effect exchanging a substantial portion of its nuclear capability for economic opportunity and access to international markets.

Many conservatives in the United States and Israel were prepared to hate the deal. The GOP and its presidential candidates and Israeli leaders were quick to issue statements in opposition. Though they have legitimate concerns, on balance the deal deserves a chance to succeed. “I think they had their responses ready for a long time,” White said. “I’m skeptical there is any deal will satisfy them.”

It could push the world back from the brink. Some experts have said Iran was only three to six months away from acquiring a nuclear weapon. In addition to slowing Iran’s nuclear efforts and establishing inspection and verification programs to make sure Iran complies, the agreement could slow Saudi Arabia’s defensive acquisition of nuclear weapons. Although politics demand that the Saudis oppose the agreement, if it is ratified it could make it easier for Israel and Saudi Arabia to collaborate to destroy Iran’s nuclear programs if Iran cheats on the agreement.

The agreement benefits China and Russia, along with the United States and other nations (France, Germany and the United Nations) involved in the Iran negotiations. Russia and China have significant interests in oil and gas produced in Iran, and Russia has a military interest in the nation. Russian and Chinese investments would be threatened if Iran cheats.

Leaders on both sides of the agreement have much at stake. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni is receiving pressure from hardliners as well as youthful Iranians who want more economic opportunity. “He needs to show greater prosperity to remain popular among the Iranian people, yet he also can say ‘I made the Americans and the Brits come and negotiate with me,’ “ White observed. “That’s good for him.” Obama, in turn, considers the agreement to be part of his legacy: “What Obama’s been able to do in the past six months with regards to Iran and Cuba is historic,” White said. “It remains to be seen whether those two overtures will bear the fruits of peace he’s hoping for, but he’s done things that no president has been able to do – and he’s done it with a Congress that often opposes his initiatives.

“This thing could go either way and there is a lot of risk,” White said. “But the agreement buys time and hopefully creates a diplomatic opening that the U.S. can use to turn Iran into something better than a strategic enemy.”

Contact: Tyler White, Assistant Professor of Practice, Department of Political Science, 402-472-9443, twhite4@unl.edu

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